Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
PROVO Edward Cullin's chiseled face resembles that of a Greek God; his skin glistens like diamonds in the sun; he loves fast cars, music and hunting. Oh, and he's a vampire with a fan club of thousands.
He's also the literal dream child of BYU graduate Stephenie Meyer. The best-selling author was in Provo to speak at the second annual Brigham Young University Midwinter Symposium on Books for Young Readers. (Her book "Twilight" and its sequel "New Moon" have been at the top of the best seller lists for the past year, with "New Moon" listed as No. 1 for 11 weeks straight.)
Meyer's characters are causing quite a stir in literary circles. In a small way, she's changing the whole vampire genre. But while her books are selling well, some aren't happy with her squeaky-clean immortals.
Who has ever heard of a vampire who doesn't sleep in a coffin, turn into a bat, love the dark or suck human blood? Edward seems nearly human and is extremely sexy, according to fans in the Twilight Internet chat room. He's been compared to Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," a character on whom Twilight is loosely based.
"Edward was born in 1901," Meyer said. "He was raised by a gentleman to be a gentleman. And he will always be a gentleman."
"Twilight" and its sequels ("Eclipse" comes out in August) center around the lives of Edward and his vampire family, Bella and her family, with a few werewolves tossed in. They all reside in and around a little town called Forks on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The story is compelling and appeals to junior high age kids and up.
"I'm not a horror person. I like to be light," Meyer said. "I don't like dark, scary things. My vampires are different. It's hard for me to imagine going on another track."
She said what she is writing is in line with her LDS values.
"I'm supposed to be writing," Meyer said. "It started three and a half years ago when my (writing) switch turned on. Everything went so fast. It was a miracle, and I see that I'm blessed."
One of her biggest challenges was to convince New York publishers that she wasn't going to put graphic sex in her books.
"Sex sells," Meyer said. "They wanted more. It took two years to explain to them who I was. They listen to you so much more when you're on the New York Best Sellers list."
Her avid fan base is helping prove the industry wrong, too. Meyer said the numerous letters and e-mails are overwhelmingly supportive of her clean, lovable vampires.
"One 15-year-old's e-mail said, 'It's so nice I have a book I can let my mother read,"' she said. She said many mothers and fathers are reading her books with their children.
Meyer knows she's unique in the publishing industry. One night she dreams of a glistening vampire, the next morning, this mother of three little boys starts writing a book. She has currently signed for her fifth, and is planning her sixth, in the series with upfront cash.Meyer values the fans who have put her at the top. In just about every place Meyer visits she attends "I Love Edward Cullen" parties thrown by fans.