Friday, August 14, 2015

Twilight Guide - Interview with Shannon Hale - On How It All Began

So, in case you didn't know, this is a seemingly eternal interview by Smeyer's buddy Shannon Hale. If you haven't read girly fantasy novels or chick lit, you probably haven't heard of Hale, but she's written a pretty respectable series of books called the Books of Bayern, set in a fantasy world. She's also a pretty good writer, which makes me scratch my head whenever she praises Smeyer's bloated oozing ego-monsters.

Another interesting note: Hale is also a Mormon. Has anyone noticed that Smeyer doesn't seem to have any writer friends/admirers who are NOT Mormons? This seems odd to me.

SH: So, let‘s look at the four different books first. Twilight—it started with a dream.

I have this horrifying vision of Smeyer doing MLK Jr's famous "I have a dream" speech, except it's all about a world where pretty teenage boys adore only her and she never has to worry about crow's feet.

I assume Smeyer would be horrified by this, since there are no black "perfect" vampires

SM: Right. Should I tell the story—and get it on record?

GET IT ON RECORD? You have the story on your fucking website and every interview you've ever done, woman! How much more "on record" can you get without actually recording it on VINYL?

SH: Do you want to?

"I mean, it's not like this is a closely guarded secret that you've got a whole section of your website devoted to."

SM: I‘d like to. This story always sounds really fake to me. And when my publicist told me I needed to tell it—because it was a good story for publicity reasons—I felt like a lot of people were going to say: ―You know, that‘s ridiculous. She‘s making up this silly thing to try and get attention. But it‘s nothing but the cold hard facts of how I got started as a writer.

  1. Well, it IS ridiculous. Not implausible, but still ridiculous.
  2. Personally, I can totally believe that the Twilight series came from a wet dream.
  3. "It's nothing but the cold hard facts... the cold... hard... silky... muscular... marblesque.... what was I talking about?"

Usually, I wake up around four o‘clock in the morning. I think it‘s a baby thing—left over from knowing that somebody needs you—and then I go back to sleep. That‘s when I would have the most vivid dreams—those morning hours. And those are the ones you remember when you wake up.

"I'm also planning to turn some of my other dreams into bestselling books. I'm already negotiating film rights for the one where I am the queen of a whole civilization of flamenco-dancing newts!"

So the dream was me looking down on this scene: It was in this meadow, and there was so much light. The dream was very, very colorful. I don‘t know if that always comes through in the writing—that this prism effect was just so brilliant.

... no. No , it doesn't come through in the writing. What comes through in the writing is... well...

with a side of

and more than a little

I was so intrigued when I woke up. I just sat there and thought: So how does that end?

Too bad she didn't sleep in a few minutes later, or she might have heard Edward saying, "We can never be together, Bella.... because my sparkly heart will always belong to Carlisle!"

SM: Yeah. There was this beautiful image, this boy, just glittering with light and talking to this normal girl.

"And this normal girl just happened to look exactly like ME, and she was just like me because she loved Arizona and was really whiny and pretentious! But she was also totally not like me because, like, her life was SO hard because she wasn't rich and had to live someplace she HATED which is totally TRAGIC and makes her DEEP."

And the dream really was about him. She was also listening, as I was, and he was the one telling the story. It was mostly about how much he wanted to kill her—and, yet, how much he loved her.

"It's my ultimate sexual fantasy! I too dream of having a man who will abuse, degrade and fantasize about killing me, but also worships the ground I drool on! It's so ROMANTIC."

In the dream I think I‘d gotten most of the way through what‘s chapter 13 now. The part where he recounts how he felt in each specific previous scene was obviously put in later, because I hadn‘t written those earlier scenes yet. But everything else in that scene was mostly what they were actually talking about in the dream.

I still maintain that Smeyer's dream was about having sex with Edward, but she can't admit it because of her image. For one thing, her first FAQ dodges the reason she won't let anyone see the original manuscript she wrote, Forever Dawn, claiming that it's because it's not YA. Wow, like The Host? She's already revealed all the "shocking" plot twists from Forever Dawn, and she will never say that it's because it sucked because... hello, this is Smeyer! Can you really imagine her admitting that she wrote something sucky?

So she's got no excuse now to not reveal her "original" vision. But because she's a squeaky-clean Mormon housewife with a reputation for writing books that promote sexual abstinence, she would NEVER admit that her dream was actually about Bella/Smeyer and Edward screwing.

Even the analogy about food was something that I got in my dream.

... which is a big argument for why you should not mine your dreams for writing material.

The only vampire food metaphor I've ever seen that works is Christopher Farnsworth's vampire poohpoohing the idea of having sex with a human by saying "Humans are our food. Do you want to have sex with a cow?" Short, smart and logical.

... I wish I were reading Blood Oath now.

I was so intrigued when I woke up.

"I had never realized how sexually alluring marble statues covered in glitter were!"

I just sat there and thought: So how does that end? Does he kill her?

We should be so lucky.

Because it was really close. You know how, in dreams, it‘s not just what you hear, but you also kind of feel what‘s going on, and you see everything that the person in your head sees. So I knew how close it was. I mean, there was just a thin, thin line between what he was going to choose.

This woman is in her late thirties.

She's also a college graduate.

And a wife.

And a mother of three kids.

... so WHY THE HELL does she always talk like a fucking thirteen-year-old with a concussion?!

And so I just wondered: How would they have made that work? What would be the next step for a couple like this?

Logically, it would probably involve either Edward sucking Bella dry, or Bella realizing that he's an abusive douchebag and dumping his ass.

I had recently started realizing that my memory was going, and that I could no longer remember whom I had said something to yesterday.

"And like, that was really upsetting and I totally was bummed out by that, because I'm so smart but not in a nerdy way... OOH, SHINY THING!"

My youngest was just passing one, and the next one was two, and I had an almost-five-year-old. So my brains were like oatmeal—there was nothing left.

Ob... D... Uh... come on, she's making it too easy!

And so I knew I was going to forget this story! That realization was something that really hurt me.

"I knew I couldn't live without the vision of my sparkly paramour! It totally hurt me like a hurting thing!"

You know, when I was a kid, I always told myself stories, but I didn‘t write them down.

And you have no idea how much joy that fact brings me. It means she isn't going to release her years-old crap to tide people over until she bothers to make a new novella!

But this one was going to get lost if I didn‘t do something about it.

And truly that would have been a tragedy.

It wasn‘t the dream so much as that day of writing that made me a writer.

... well, YEAH, dumbshit. Having a wet dream doesn't make you a writer. If it did, there would be a lot more teenage boys in the publishing industry.

Because the dream was great, and it was a good story.

It wasn't a story at ALL. It was a vignette.

But if I‘d had my memory [laughs] it would have stayed just a story in my head. And I would have figured out everything that happened, and told it to myself, but that would have been it.

I think this explains why Smeyer hasn't released anything new in years, except that crappy short novella about a character nobody cared about, and shows no signs of producing anything new anytime soon.

But writing it down and making it real, and being able to go back and reread the sentences, was just a revelation to me. It was this amazing experience: Wow! This is what it‟s like to write down stories. I was just hooked—I didn‘t want to quit.

Unless somebody sees my rough draft, in which case I'll quit immediately and throw a temper tantrum.

I used to paint—when I was in high school, particularly. I won a few awards—I was okay with the watercolors. My mom still has some hanging up in her house.

She especially likes the male nude paintings covered in glitter.

Slightly embarrassing, but they‘re decent. I was not a great painter.

Considering that she thinks she's a good writer, I can assume that "not a great painter" means her pictures looked like... this.

It was not something I should have pursued as a career, by any stretch of the imagination. I could see a picture in my head, but I could not put it on the canvas the same way it was in my head. That was always a frustration.

Uh, lady, that's pretty much how EVERYBODY who isn't a very good artist is. I can't draw a circle, dammit. I'm not going to cry over how you can't perfectly capture sparkling rocklike pecs on paper.

When I started writing I immediately had a breakthrough: I can make it real if I write it, and it‟s exactly the way I see it in my head.

... NO. No, you can't make it real. Reality does not spring from bad romance fiction. If it were possible to do that, I would be queen of my own star empire by now.

I didn‘t know I was able to do that.

I didn't know that either. And since I haven't noticed any sparklepires around, I'm going to assume that Smeyer is not actually able to do that. She's just another bugnuts UF writer.

So that was really the experience that made me a writer, and made me want to continue being one.

That and the hope that Edward would become REAL if I blathered about him enough!

SH: So you started out writing out the meadow scene. Where did you go from there?

"A seedy motel so Edward and I... I mean, Bella could bang like cheap pans."

SM: I continued to the end, chronologically—which I don‘t always do anymore.

What does it matter? None of the books have a real plot!

SM: Yeah. I was just like any reader with a story—you want to find out what happened. The backstory was for later. I wasn‘t really that worried about it—I wanted to see where it was going to go.

Yeah, I'm starting to see why Smeyer sucks at backstory. And by "backstory," I mean things like characters being introduced and supposedly falling in love. She basically put the first half of the book in as an AFTERTHOUGHT.

So I kept writing.

And baby Jesus cried.

The last chapter just kept getting longer and longer—and then I made epilogue after epilogue.

So, she doesn't even know what a CHAPTER is?! How dumb IS this woman? NO, don't tell me. I know.

There were so many things I wanted to explore—like why this was this way, and why this was that way, and how Bella first met Alice, and what their first impressions were. So I went back and did the beginning, and found it really exciting to be able to flesh it out and give reasons for everything that had happened later.

This woman is a walking advertisement for writing outlines for a book before you write the whole thing. Her book was a plotless mess made up entirely of whining, Edward-worship and Bella being a bitch, and it turns out she thinks of the book's REAL story being the whole meadow scene, with everything else being "backstory" or "epilogues." I HATE THIS AUTHOR'S STUPIDITY.

And this whole "I started in the middle and wrote the first half LAST" thing just proves that she's a shitty writer, because it means she could have dropped a lot of hints and incidents in that first half to make it seem like there would be SOME kind of actual plot. You know, like the nomadic vampires killing people, like they did in the movie?

I had lettered all my chapters instead of numbering them. So I went back and did A, and I think that I had chapter 13 being E. Because I thought, maybe, five or six chapters of material would cover the beginning... and then it was twelve, so I was surprised about that. [Laughs]

I might have been able to tolerate five or six chapters of introduction. What we got was the literary equivalent of Chinese water torture.

And that‘s where I finally ended, which was the last sentence in chapter 12. And I knew I had crossed the continent with the railroad, and this was the golden spike that was being driven. It was all linked together. And that was that moment of shock, when I thought: It‟s actually long enough to be considered a book-length thing of some kind.

... a book-length THING OF SOME KIND?!

How the hell can this woman be a bestselling author? She has the linguistic skills of a burping box turtle.

SH: You really didn‘t even consider it like a book until then?

"What tipped you off, the thousands of pages of 'perfect marble hawtness'?"

SM: No. [Laughs] No, I think if I would have thought of it as a book, I never would have finished it. I think if I would have thought, halfway in, You know, maybe I can make this into a book... maybe I could do something with this, the pressure would have crushed me, and I would have given up. I‘m really glad I didn‘t think of it that way. I‘m glad I protected myself by just keeping it about this personal story for me alone.

"For one thing, if I had planned to publish it, I NEVER would have dared to write all those explicit sex scenes involving oven spray, three goats and an American flag. Especially the one during gym class with everyone watching."
"Uhh.... okay. I hadn't heard about those."
"Well, I couldn't keep them in if I wanted my book published. I write young adult books, remember!"

SM: Yes, yes. Well, I‘m kind of shy, and I obviously had to get over that in a lot of ways. But the essential Stephenie, who is still in here, has a really hard time with letting people read things that she writes. [Laughs] And there‘s a lot of enjoyment, which I‘m sure you‘ve experienced, in letting somebody read what you write. But there‘s also the fear of it—it‘s a really vulnerable position to put yourself in.

  1. Well, it helps to be rich enough to hire your brother to scream at anyone who dares to criticize your awesomeness.
  2. Shy, my ass. She wrote a book of her repressed-housewife sexual fantasies and published it.
  3. You do NOT get to pull the "teehee, shy little me!" thing if you spend a few hundred pages drooling over a creepy teenage boy.
  4. A lot of enjoyment... as long as they adore it, and don't dare to tell you what you've gotten wrong.

SH: I was in a creative-writing class once and the teacher asked us: If we were stranded on a desert island, what two books would we take? And one of the books I chose was a notebook—an empty notebook—so I could write stories. And there was a classmate who said: "If you were on a desert island by yourself, why would you write stories?" And I thought: Why are you in this class?

Here's a tip: It probably involves needing credits to graduate. Not everyone takes a class because they LIKE it. Do you think I took an astronomy class because I plan to be an astronomer? NO. It means that I needed a science class, and that one was the least painful to me.

SH: So you started immediately on the computer, when you started writing this?
SM: Yeah. It‘s kind of funny to know exactly what day you started being a writer!

"Funny, that day also had a total solar eclipse, dead birds rained down across the country, rivers ran red with blood, and people heard Satan cackling. I wonder why."

SH: Now, how long was it from when you wrote down the dream until you finished the first draft?

No matter what she says, the answer is "not long enough."

SM: I wrote down the dream on June second. I had it all marked on my calendar: the first day of my summer diet; the first day of the swim lessons. It‘s kind of funny to know exactly what day you started being a writer! And I finished it around my brother‘s wedding, which was—he just had his anniversary—I think it was the twenty-ninth of August?

I bet her brother really enjoyed having his sister attend his wedding while drooling and mumbling about sparkly vampires. And somehow I have the feeling that she barely remembers her brother's wedding, but explicitly remembers the day she had a vampire wet dream.

SH: So this was done in less than three months—just an outpouring of words.

I would have chosen the words "vomit" or "explosive diarrhea," but "outpouring" works.

SH: Was the story going through your head all day long, even when you weren‘t writing?
SM: Even when I was asleep—even when I was awake.

... wait, why is it somehow more surprising that the story was going in her head when she was AWAKE than when she was asleep?

And I think I've figured out how this book was written. The masturbatory drooling and masochistic fantasies are from the nighttime story, and all the whining, bitchiness and boring minutiae of Bawla's life are from the daily grind of being an Arizona housewife.

I couldn‘t hold conversations with people. All my friends just thought that I had dropped them, because I lived in my own world for a whole summer.

Then I went on a killing spree.

But here was this really hot, muggy, nasty summer. And when I looked back on it later, it seemed like I‘d spent the whole summer in a cool, green place, because that‘s how distant my brain was from what was really going on.

Yeah, that sounds VERY healthy mentally. I wonder how her children coped with a mom who apparently paid no attention to them and was constantly mumbling about sparkly marble penises.

I was physically there for my kids, and I took care of them.

Well, as long as you only neglected them EMOTIONALLY. Because the psyches of small children aren't delicate or anything!

SM: A lot of the time it didn‘t feel like it was a choice. Once I got started writing, it felt like there was so much that I had been keeping inside for so long. It was a creative outlet that was the best one I‘ve ever found.

"I could unleash all my feelings of resentment and loathing over getting married, repeated pregnancies, girls I hated in high school and not being allowed to have sex with hot teenage boys!"

Being a mom, especially when kids are younger—when they get older, it‘s a lot easier—you have to be about them every minute. And a lot of who Stephenie is was slipping away.

Yeah, Smeyer's obviously got some issues with motherhood. She sounds kind of resentful here.

SM: The writing brought that back in with such force that it was just an obsession I couldn‘t... I couldn‘t be away from it.

"It was like Bella's obsession for Edward! If you had taken away my computer, I would have tried to kill myself so I could hear the story inside my head!"

SM: It was. It felt really good—it felt really, really good. And I think when you find something that you can do that makes you feel that way, you just grasp on to it.

... is anyone else thinking that she's talking about imaginary sex with Edward right now?

When I was in high school, I thought of some stories that might be a good book, but I didn‘t take it seriously,

Again, that really does say a lot. Most writers are fairly serious about what they do.

I considered it momentarily—the same way I considered being a professional ballerina.
SH: Right.
SM: Oh, and I was going to be so good [SH laughs] in my Nutcracker. I would have been fantastic—except that, obviously, I have no rhythmic skill, or the build for a ballerina, at all




Okay, I don't normally riff on authors' appearances. Not only is it kind of unfair, but authors make their living with their writing skills, not their appearances. I make fun of ACTORS for their appearances.

That said, I will say nothing, and merely provide a picture.

And then, when I was in college, I actually wrote a couple chapters of something... because I think it‘s the law: When you‘re an English major, you have to consider being an author as a career.

... or... maybe... the people who become English majors... tend to be people who want to be authors. This woman is stabbing Occam to death with his razor!

And, really, it‘s too hard to become an editor—that‘s just not a practical solution.

It means you have to, like, have critical skills and know stuff about SPELLING and GRAMMAR. And you need to, like, actually edit out stuff like the word "perfect" used hundreds and hundreds of times! It's, like, just TOO HARD!

If you‘re going to support yourself, you have to think realistically. You know, I was going to go to law school.





I honestly don't know how to feel about that. On one hand, the idea of Stephenie Meyer - who is one of the stupidest and most ignorant women to ever break into the publishing industry - as a lawyer is absolutely hilarious. I mean, can you imagine someone who can't even write an actual logical plot and bases her books around her feelings and sexual frustrations... producing briefs and contracts?

On the other hand, the idea is terrifying. Because if she HAD become a lawyer, you could be arrested for a crime, walk into a courtroom, and find THIS WOMAN the only thing between you and prison.

I knew I could do that. I knew that if I worked hard, I‘d be kind of guaranteed that I could at least get a decent job somewhere that would pay the bills.

No. No, you wouldn't. Because "working hard" isn't necessarily enough to get you through law school. PLENTY of law students who work hard slip through the cracks. And even then, they have to work their asses off with very little money on the HOPE that somebody will hire them. While also paying back college loans AND law school loans. According to wiki, over a third of law students default on those loans, and less than 40% of law school graduates have non-temp jobs as full-time attorneys within the first nine months.

And those are the ones who DO graduate. Like I said, a lot DO NOT.

Also, I am pretty sure that if you want to be a lawyer, it's not too bright to major in ENGLISH.

There‘s no guarantee like that with writing, or anything in the publishing industry. You‘re not guaranteed that you will be able to feed yourself if you go down that path, and so I would have never considered it.

There is no guarantee in ANY job. Any career with any money in it is going to be crazy competitive. So no, there's no guarantee in the legal profession! You may end up with a mountain of debts, a degree you can't use outside the legal profession, and no fucking job.

Also, is she seriously suggesting that LAW SCHOOL is easier than trying to become a publishing editor?! Law school is a terrifying thing, and you have to be really serious to get through that. The more money a job can potentially make you, the harder it is to get it.

I was—I still am—a very practical person.

"Durrrrrr... I iz smart! I reedz books! I can be LAWYER!"

Seriously, anyone else think that Smeyer just dreamed of being a big-shot attorney after watching some TV show, and decided that since she's a genius who reads (and misunderstands) Jane Austen, she must be able to be a lawyer. And never bothered to research any of the actual FACTS behind becoming a lawyer.

That wouldn't surprise me at all.

SM: I think there was this subconscious thing going on that was protecting me from thinking of the story in a way that would keep me from being able to finish it.

Or... you know... THINKING. There's a hamster on a wheel in her head, and by her own admission it napped through the writing of Twilight.

SH: Right. But, of course, you were a reader. You‘ve been an avid reader for your whole life.

"... yet you can't understand the most basic plot, themes and characterizations. And you apparently won't admit to reading anything that isn't squeaky clean."
"Did you find my secret stash of porn and Anne Rice books?! But I hid them so well!"

SM: That was always my favorite thing, until I found writing.

"Now instead of having sexual fantasies about other people's fictional stories, I can have fantasies about my OWN!"

[Laughs] You know, the Octopus Mom.

Is it just me, or there a faint resemblance?

But I always had a book. I always needed that extra fantasy world. I had to have another world I could be in at the same time.

... so her love of reading is based entirely around escapism? I guess that explains why she interprets every book she reads according to her OWN attitudes and claims to lose touch with reality if she likes the book enough.

And so, with writing, I just found a way to have another world, and then to be able to be a lot more a part of it than as a reader.

Does that mean she's given up reading?

SH: It‘s not that I‘m unsatisfied, because I love my life. I‘m a mom, too, of small kids— and I love my husband—but I also need something else beyond that. I need another story to take me away.

"Of course, I also write books with plot and characters and interesting stuff going on, not just vomiting my issues onto the page."

SM: You know, it‘s funny. As I‘ve become a writer, I started looking at other writers and how they do things, and everybody‘s very different. I read Atonement recently, and I was interested in the way Ian McEwan writes about being a writer through the character‘s standpoint.... She‘s always seeing another story. She‘s doing one thing—but, then, in her head, it becomes something else, and it turns into another story. It‘s kind of like what you were saying about writers needing that extra reality to escape to. I think that writers maybe do have just that need for more than one reality. [Laughs]

... I'm starting to think that Smeyer is incapable of understanding ANY message or subtext that doesn't fit in with her teenybopper worldview. Whenever she talks about a book she's read, she pukes out something showing that she doesn't understand it AT ALL.

Seriously, Atonement? Yeah, Briony's make-believing "alternate reality" was SUCH a wonderful magical thing, wasn't it? She ended up destroying several people's lives and happiness because of her "story-making" imagination - some of them died miserable and lonely, a man was falsely accused of rape, and the rape victim ended up married to her rapist. Not exactly a rousing advertisement for that "writer" mindset Smeyer is burbling about!

SH: You know, we‘re not really sure if it‘s insanity or it‘s a superpower.

Shannon, stop coddling the crazy lady. She really IS insane. She's like a Mormon LKH 2.0.

SM: But it‘s an insanity that doesn‘t hurt anybody.
SH: Right. It‘s kind of friendly, cozy, fuzzy insanity.

... which is also the most terrifying kind.

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