Mormon writer proves she's . . . A novel writer

Published: Sunday, May 11 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Christy Hughes, left, and Michele Tolley watch as Stephenie Meyer signs one of her books in Provo.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

Best-selling author Stephenie Meyer never wanted to be a writer. In fact, if she hadn't married and started a family, she would have gone to law school.

"That was what my goals were," the Brigham Young University graduate said in a phone interview from Phoenix. "I never considered writing at all because it's too scary. You let people see what you're thinking in kind of an unprotected form and that seems like a really big vulnerability to me. But apparently I'm supposed to be a writer, and if you have a talent that's been given to you, you're not always allowed to ignore it."

Known for the popular "Twilight" series, Meyer's latest novel has nothing to do with vampires and everything to do with alien invasions and body snatching.

It took Meyer about a year to write "The Host" because she was also editing books for the "Twilight" series. "I'd have to go back and reread through all my notes and outlines and let it stew for about two days — that's about how long it takes to switch from one set of voices in your head to another — and then I'd work on it for a while until I had to go back to some clips from the 'Twilight' series.

"The only books that I've published are the 'Twilight' books so I think people think of me like those stories are the ones that are the most natural for me, but I've got a gazillion stories in my head and that's just the one that got out first."

The characters at the core of "The Host" are Melanie and Wanderer, two beings inhabiting one body. "They are two very specific, different people, and they're so different that in the beginning you can almost think of them as opposites. I guess they're as opposite as two good people can be. The two of them have really good traits and yet also kind of the bad traits that go along with those good traits. So, it was fun to play around with them coming to an understanding. The physical aspects of who we are are so secondary to the interior that they always felt very physically separated to me."

As with her other novels, love plays a major role in "The Host." But it's not just about romantic bonds. "What interests me in a story is the sort of ties between humans and why we are influenced by other people, and how they can change what we would want to do for ourselves because we are including them in our story," she said.

Because of the way love manifests itself in her novels, some people are defining Meyer's writing as Mormon erotica, a term she doesn't like. "I really don't think that is the case," she said. "Sexual tension is a part of life and part of having a human body, and some things are very potent. A lot of decisions are not always based on rational things. That's a realistic part of who we are and how we react to each other. But I think that the word erotica implies the tawdry and not exploring the retraction or the outreach of it, which I think is natural and good."

Meyer grew up on science fiction so she is used to wondering about what is beyond the Milky Way. "I've always found it a little bit silly, the 'Star Trek' idea that everyone in the universe is human — they just have a different forehead," she said. "All my inspiration comes from our world and the different kinds of ecosystems we have. If one particular species were more dominant, in which direction would it have gone? How did intelligence develop?

"Anytime there's a creation process of some world or how aliens are going to work or what something should look like, it's sheer fun. It's like furnishing a new house. You sit there and look over catalogs and think: 'Wow, this looks cool. What if we lived in this style?"'

Meyer's first priority is to give fans a good read, and she says that she doesn't write with a moral intent. But that doesn't mean that a message doesn't come through.

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