Monday, August 17, 2015

SM: Twilight - The Story

I get a ton of questions about how I came up with the story of Twilight and how I got it published.

Yes, because so many people are dying to know where she got the insipid idea of having vampires who sparkle comes from. It's just SO fucking imaginative.

I may be killing my FAQ page by doing this, but here is the whole story:

"I had this wet dream where a sparkly teenage boy was... teehee, 'talking' to me... I mean, this GIRL who was totally not me, in the middle of a field!"

(Warning: there are Twilight spoilers contained in the following; if you don't want to ruin the suspense, stop Warning #2: As you might have guessed from the length of my book, I can't tell a short story—this is going to take a while. You have been warned.)

  1. So.... is she admitting she just rambles on and on forever?
  2. It's not a good quality to be unable to sum things up concisely. It is not charming. It is not cute. It is not the sign of a good writer. GOT IT?
  3. If you need to tell people that there are spoilers for your book... when they ask how you came up with your book... then they are officially too dumb to live.
  4. Then again, these are people who are just agog to hear how Smeyer came up with the idea of Mormon vampires covered in glitter. Clearly they're not burdened by their huge intellects.

The Writing: I know the exact date that I began writing Twilight, because it was also the first day of swim lessons for my kids.

"It was also a day I ate club sandwiches. And I LOVE club sandwiches!"

Seriously, she can remember what day ALMOST A DECADE AGO that her kids started swim lessons?! We're not talking about birthdays or national holidays. What kind of dork remembers THAT?

Up to this point, I had not written anything besides a few chapters (of other stories) that I never got very far on, and nothing at all since the birth of my first son, six years earlier.

"Let's just say that I wrote a LOT of Anne Rice fanfiction, especially for that marble-like hottie Khayman. Except of course, nobody in MY fanfics was allowed to be bisexual. They don't exist! They're all searching for their heterosexual soulmate!"

I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods.

  1. If it's in a meadow, it's not in the woods. DUMB. ASS.
  2. Why do I have the feeling that "conversation" is a code word for something else?
  3. I mean, she's much too sexually obsessed with Edward for me to believe that the dream that started it all was conveniently G-rated, especially since she won't show anyone the original book she wrote because it wasn't "young adult."

One of these people was just your average girl.

"Just your average gorgeous, genius, brilliant, brave, humble, unselfish, entrancingly attractive girl who amazes and enthralls all who look upon her brilliance. Who is TOTALLY not in any way like me!"

The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire.

Most authors would have instantly discounted this idea as being absolute shit. But not Smeyer!

They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately. For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 ("Confessions") of the book.

You know, the whole "I'm attracted to your blood and I'm trying not to kill you because I love you" thing didn't HAVE to be absolute crap. I could see someone like Jim Butcher pulling it off, especially since he's succeeded at the "I love you but I can't touch you" thing with Thomas Raith and his lover Justine.

But of course Smeyer turns it into a creepy stalker thing + clumsy abstinence metaphor. So, drinking blood and killing your partner is okay as long as you're married? LOGIC!

Though I had a million things to do (i.e. making breakfast for hungry children, dressing and changing the diapers of said children, finding the swimsuits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream.

For hours, I ignored the miserable screams of neglected children who hadn't been fed and were wallowing in their own crappy diapers, for I wanted to fantasize about boning my sexy sparkly hunk!

I was so intrigued by the nameless couple's story that I hated the idea of forgetting it; it was the kind of dream that makes you want to call your friend and bore her with a detailed description.

"Mary! I just had this AMAZING dream!"
"Huh? You called me at 7 a.m. to tell me about a dream?"
"Yep! I dreamed about this girl, who looks just like me but is TOTALLY not a Mary Sue, and she's lying in this meadow with this hot sexy beautiful teenage boy, except the hot sexy beautiful teenage boy isn't really a boy, but a VAMPIRE, which makes it okay for me to lust after him instead of sounding like a creepy cougar!"
"And he SPARKLES too! He sparkles like he's covered in diamonds! And he's a vampire, but he's a VEGETARIAN because he only drinks animal blood! And drinking blood is like sex to him, except it's not when he bites men or animals because that would be totally gross!"
"... go back to bed, okay?"

(Also, the vampire was just so darned good-looking, that I didn't want to lose the mental image.)

Wow, just like Bawla. Shove a power cord up my butt and call me shocked.

Unwillingly, I eventually got up and did the immediate necessities,

Wow, that sounds exactly like Bella. I just shorted out the power grid by being so shocked.

and then put everything that I possibly could on the back burner and sat down at the computer to write—something I hadn't done in so long that I wondered why I was bothering. But I didn't want to lose the dream, so I typed out as much as I could remember, calling the characters "he" and "she."

Somehow the terrifying plotlessness of this book suddenly makes perfect sense. The entire thing was written around two completely uninteresting characters, and a CONVERSATION that seemed to go on for fucking ever. Anything like a plot was just an afterthought.

From that point on, not one day passed that I did not write something.

"My secret Cthulhu porn novel became ENORMOUS."

On bad days, I would only type out a page or two; on good days, I would finish a chapter and then some.

Wow! Whole chapters of boring, self-absorbed minutiae, marble fetishism and textbook emotional abuse! I'm just SO impressed!

I started from the scene in the meadow and wrote through to the end. Then I went back to the beginning and wrote until the pieces matched up. I drove the "golden spike" that connected them in late August, three months later.

  1. "Golden spike" sounds like something from an arthouse porn.
  2. It also sounds insanely pretentious.
  3. And it doesn't make any sense either. The "Golden spike" didn't CONNECT anything. It was just celebratory.
  4. And really, why is this supposed to be impressive? This woman, by her own admission, doesn't even write anything like a plot. She just writes whatever shit she feels like and then cobbles it together into a book.
  5. So she didn't even bother with HOW Bawla got there or any of the relevant early information, but just wrote her two characters fucking... I mean, TALKING and then had Bella playing "Happy family" with the Cullens until they have to rescue her ass from James.
  6. WHAT. CRAP.

It took me a while to find names for my anonymous duo. For my vampire (who I was in love with from day one)

I will cite someone else's opinion on why this is crazy shit:

You know, I may be the only one who thinks this, but somehow it seems really really creepy to me that Smeyer is always gushing about how hot a guy who is physically a TEENAGER is. I know he's over a century, but it's kind of icky when you consider that Smeyer is physically twice his age. I mean, if a male author in his late thirties were gushing about how sexy and hot a vampire who was physically seventeen was, you would feel kind of uncomfortable, right?

(Honestly, I suspect Smeyer's husband will inevitably divorce her when he comes home and finds her bouncing naked around the house with a barely-legal pool boy covered in glitter. She's too desperate and too stuck in her fantasies to do otherwise)

I decided to use a name that had once been considered romantic, but had fallen out of popularity for decades.

.... I don't think "Edward" was ever considered very romantic. It was just a name that people had. Like "Jane." Or "Mary." Or "Charles." And I don't think it exactly fell out of popularity.

Now when you have a character named "Aelfric," we'll talk.

Charlotte Bronte's Mr. Rochester and Jane Austen's Mr. Ferrars were the characters that led me to the name Edward.

Ah, so Smeyer doesn't actually means it was once considered romantic. She means it was popular and much-used in the 1800s, and thus popped up occasionally as the names for a sulky bigamist and a bland lump in now-classic romantic novels. Those authors didn't use those names because they were considered "romantic," they were used because lots of people had that name then.

"John" also crops up in Jane Austen novels as well as Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Why isn't THAT considered romantic? Same with "Jane." Or "Fanny." Or "Henry." Should I continue? The point is, these authors' books are almost exclusively populated by people who had pretty normal, everyday names for their time.

Also, one interesting thing about both those authors is that they don't use names to try to notify people who we should be rooting for. Unlike, say certain authors who name their protagonists "Beautiful Swan."

I tried it on for size, and found that it fit well.

It fit my character perfectly, since he is both bland AND an asshole! What perfection!

My female lead was harder. Nothing I named her seemed just right.

I thought about Serena Raven Sakura Summer Melody Crystal Arwen Selena Rianna Jessamene de Jesusesque-Valentine, but it didn't reflect how wonderful she was!

After spending so much time with her, I loved her like a daughter, and no name was good enough.

"See? Like a DAUGHTER. She's totally not a Sue! She's not ME! You've gotten believe me!"

Finally, inspired by that love, I gave her the name I was saving for my daughter, who had never shown up and was unlikely to put in an appearance at this point:

Yes, a woman is talking about how, in her early thirties, she was unlikely to ever have a baby girl. Does she think menopause kicks in at thirty? Then again, she is insane enough to think that, since she depicts turning eighteen as graduation into instant hagdom.

Isabella. Huzzah! Edward and Bella were named.

... and the fact that Bella's name means "beautiful" surely has nothing to do with that particular selection.

For the rest of the characters, I did a lot of searching in old census records, looking for popular names in the times that they'd been born.

I had to go through SO many unsexy ones like Elmer, Herbert, Hattie, Florence, Gertrude and Floyd! I couldn't possibly use a name that isn't acceptable to modern audiences!

Some trivia: Rosalie was originally "Carol" and Jasper was first "Ronald."

... but those names didn't sound like the protagonists of a romance novel, so Smeyer ditched those names.

"No!" cried Rosalie as Jasper pushed his hot, throbbing lips onto her shrinking unyielding chin. But in her heart, she craved his throbbing hardness in her soft moist womanhood!

I like the new names much better, but every now and then I will slip up and type Carol or Ron by accident. It really confuses the people who read my rough drafts.

.... so she doesn't even bother to do a search-and-replace for "Carol" or "Ron" which would instantly replace them? Oh wait, according to Twilight, Smeyer is always about ten years behind the technology curve, meaning she's probably still scribbling her books on cave walls.

Either that or she pulls the same "tee hee, I'm a woman so I don't understand this computer stuff!" crapola that LKH does.

For my setting, I knew I needed someplace ridiculously rainy.

"That was so readers would know that Bella's life is full of hardship and misery, and no one has ever suffered as she has!"

I turned to Google, as I do for all my research needs,

"I totally use google all the time! I know how the Web works! I'm totally hip about smart computer things!"

and looked for the place with the most rainfall in the U.S. This turned out to be the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I pulled up maps of the area and studied them, looking for something small, out of the way, surrounded by forest...

"Something with a name I could milk for symbolism... something my heroine could whine endlessly about.... someplace boring where even my bland vampires would seem exciting and exotic..."

And there, right where I wanted it to be, was a tiny town called "Forks." It couldn't have been more perfect if I had named it myself.

... huh?

Oh wait, she's suggesting that this name has SYMBOLISM

because Bella reaches a.... fork in her path or whatever. Yeah, that metaphor doesn't work, lady. According to Smeyer and her glorious text, Bella never actually had any choices about her relationship with Edward, because she was destined to boff a hot rich guy or whatever. We're constantly told that she has no free will in the matter, so... yeah, it isn't a fork if it only has one tine. Then it's a skewer.

Now THAT is appropriate symbolism.

I did a Google image search on the area, and if the name hadn't sold me, the gorgeous photographs would have done the trick. (Images like these of the Hoh Rainforest* (a short drive from Forks).

Ah yes, the photographs she described as being like an ALIEN PLANET, and had her Sue insist was a horrifying place to live compared to the deserty brilliance of Phoenix.

In researching Forks, I discovered the La Push Reservation, home to the Quileute Tribe*. The Quileute story is fascinating, and a few fictional members of the tribe quickly became intrinsic to my story.

Yes, that fascinating Quileute story that wasn't important to her story at all, so she doesn't bother to mention it. Basically the only thing she got from that website was that Quileute legends say they were made from wolves. That's the only part Smeyer is interested in, so it's the only part she ever mentions in the books.

Bayak the raven trickster? Not important.

Actual history involving the tribe? Who cares!

Their traditional culture involving dog-breeding, whaling, boat-making, rain gear, cooking baskets, connections to other tribes, religious beliefs, rare language and so on? Smeyer gives not one shit!

Yeah, she snatched ONE thing from this tribe and ignored everything else about their mythos, history, culture, etc. And I'm going to rant here a little - it really pisses me off when people incorporate a culture into a main character's makeup, but are too lazy/uncaring to bother with more than one or two aspects of their culture. It's like if you wrote in a Mexican character whose only Mexican characteristic is having black hair... hmm...

Honestly, I have nothing but respect for the Quileutes for actually DEALING with the Twilight fans' idiocy, especially since that idiocy is based on a misrepresentation of just ONE part of their culture. In their place I would not be so forgiving of a bunch of shrieking tweens and middle-aged cougars who charge onto our lands regularly to buy wolf merchandise, and ask stupid questions about whether they really turn into wolves or not.

And no, I am not outraged just on behalf of OTHER cultures because it's PC or because I'm being condescendingly protective of the "wittle native cultures" like Hollywood. I'm like this for just about any culture, including ones that I am personally descended from. Just ask me about Mists of Avalon, and you will see me froth like a rabid dog as I rant incoherently about how fucking offensive that entire book series is.

All this time, Bella and Edward were, quite literally, voices in my head. They simply wouldn't shut up.

Yes, this doesn't sound suspiciously like another hack vampire writer who claims to hear her characters in her head.

I'd stay up as late as I could stand trying to get all the stuff in my mind typed out, and then crawl, exhausted, into bed (my baby still wasn't sleeping through the night, yet) only to have another conversation start in my head. I hated to lose anything by forgetting, so I'd get up and head back down to the computer. Eventually, I got a pen and notebook for beside my bed to jot notes down so I could get some freakin' sleep. It was always an exciting challenge in the morning to try to decipher the stuff I'd scrawled across the page in the dark.

... yeah, suddenly the extraordinarily shitty dialogue makes much more sense than before. Lines like "You're intoxicated by my presence," were written in a half-asleep delirium, and the endless pointless rambling discussions about jackshit were scribbled down by a half-asleep hack.

During the day, I couldn't stay away from the computer, either.

"I was busy writing lemony fanfiction for my own half-finished book!"

It was your typical Arizona summer, hot, sunny, hot, and hot, but when I think back to those three months, I remember rain and cool green things, like I really spent the summer in the Olympic Rainforest.

... so, she only remembers stuff that was only in her imagination... except that she clearly remembers perfectly well how reality was.

When I'd finished the body of the novel, I started writing epilogues...lots of epilogues.

"I made Return of the King look like it had a quick, abrupt ending! I rambled on and on about stuff that nobody gave a shit about, for chapter after chapter!"

This eventually clued me in to the fact that I wasn't ready to let go of my characters, and I started working on the sequel.

I didn't have a plot or anything, but I wouldn't let THAT stop me from writing a sequel!

Meanwhile, I continued to edit Twilight in a very obsessive-compulsive way.

  1. And by that, she means she removed all the graphic sex scenes involving marble sparkly penii.
  2. "I totally edited Twilight! I didn't just vomit all my personal fantasies onto paper and stick in boring dialogue about nothing!"
  3. If she had been that devoted to editing, this drooling blockhead would have caught major errors like, say, "moats" instead of "motes!"
  4. Obsessive compulsive? She was OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE about EDITING?! 
  5. You can't EDIT obsessive-compulsively, you driveling twit. The very DEFINITION of "obsessive compulsive" is that not only is someone OBSESSING, but they have to relieve the stress of their obsession by COMPULSIVELY doing ritual actions. You cannot EDIT obsessive-compulsively, because EDITING is not a ritual action!

This woman is a bottomless well of FAIL.

My older sister, Emily, was the only one who really knew what I was up to.

"She alone knows of my deep, throbbing desire for statuary!"

It was Emily who first suggested, after I'd finished, that I should try to get Twilight published.

... well, if I ever meet her, I'll be sure to thank her with my skillet.

Getting Published: To put it mildly, I was naive about publishing.

One of many things she's totally lacking in knowledge about, methinks.

It certainly wasn't belief in my fabulous talent that made me push forward;

That came LATER.

I think it was just that I loved my characters so much, and they were so real to me, that I wanted other people to know them, too.

Yeah, this seems to be another hack-author pattern that Smeyer shares with LKH. They don't want people to read their books, they don't care about TELLING STORIES. It's all about their characters, their Sues, and how much they adore them.

I will state, for the record, that my queries truly sucked, and I don't blame anyone who sent me a rejection (I did get seven or eight of those. I still have them all, too).

I'm betting she'd hoping to use them to send a curse to those editors.

The only rejection that really hurt was from a small agent who actually read the first chapter before she dropped the axe on me.

Dear Stephenie Meyer,
We're very sorry, but we can't represent this book. The first chapter is nothing but whining, narcissism, whining, entitlement, whining, bitching, moaning... yeah, I'm seeing a pattern here. Your main character is as endearing as a sea urchin between your butt cheeks. I cleansed this from my inbox with fire.
Small Agent

The meanest rejection I got

Mean? How old are you?

came after Little, Brown had picked me up for a three-book deal, so it didn't bother me at all. I'll admit that I considered sending back a copy of that rejection stapled to the write-up my deal got in Publisher's Weekly, but I took the higher road.

Yes, how mature of you to not act like a smug little bitch. Of course, she's acting like a smug little bitch for even considering it.

Also, note how she claimed before that she totally didn't blame anyone who rejected her horrible queries, but then she talks about how she seriously considered smearing her success in someone's face for daring to reject her.

My big break came in the form of an assistant at Writers House named Genevieve. I didn't find out until much later just how lucky I was; it turns out that Gen didn't know that 130,000 words is a whole heck of a lot of words.

... so in other words, the assistant was really stupid.

I was thrilled to get a positive response, but a little worried because I felt the beginning of the book wasn't the strongest part.

It wasn't. Of course, that's like saying that San Francisco Bay isn't the wettest part of the ocean.

She'd gone back with a pen and twice underlined the part where she'd typed how much she enjoyed the first three chapters (I still have that letter, of course),

I would expect nothing less. I'm just amazed she didn't want to send it to that other agent as well. "See? SOMEONE appreciates my awesomeness!"

and she asked for the whole manuscript.

I'll add her to my "needs to be socked in the eye" list.

I tried really hard to sound like a professional and a grownup during that conversation, but I'm not sure if I fooled her.

"She probably noticed that inside, I'm just a vapid thirteen-year-old girl who sulks if anyone sees her rough drafts."

She's part lawyer, part ninja (she's working on earning her black belt right now, no kidding),

Yes, because ninjas and martial artists were TOTALLY the same thing. FAIL.

Jodi and I worked for two weeks on getting Twilight into shape before sending it to editors.

Yes, it would take months to get that book into shape.... starting with inserting a PLOT into it.

The first thing we worked on was the title, which started out as Forks (and I still have a teeny soft spot for that name).

I'm not sure why. It's a horrible title.

For a very long time, I was convinced it was a really cruel practical joke, but I couldn't imagine who would go to these wild extremes to play a hoax on such an insignificant little hausfrau.

... I WOULD! Because it would be lots of fun. Making immature egotists crumble into sputtering rage is my favorite sport!

And that's how, in the course of six months, Twilight was dreamed, written, and accepted for publication.

Funny what can happen in such a short period, isn't it? It only took a few years for the Black Death to spread across Europe!

Things keep getting crazier, what with the movie deal and all the pre-publication attention that Twilightcontinues to receive.

... yeah, why it gets all that pre-publication attention... wait, why are you writing pointless uninformative PRE-PUBLICATION stuff? This entire page really is just Smeyer talking about herself, so why would anyone interested in a book they hadn't read yet want to read the author nattering on about herself?!

I'm greatly looking forward to finally having Twilight on the shelves, and more than a little frightened, too.

They say the book might be carnivorous - it will leap out and devour wallets whole.

Overall, it's been a true labor of love, love for Edward and Bella and all the rest of my imaginary friends, and I'm thrilled that other people get to meet them now.

Yes... yes... I'm getting definite LKH vibes from this, referring to her characters as "imaginary friends" and acting like other people should be delighted to "meet" them. HOLY SHIT, Smeyer is the Mormon version of LKH!

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