Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Author Stephenie Meyer signs "The Host" for "Vampire Girl" Kamryn Watt, 14, at Highland High School on Saturday.

Wearing T-shirts that say "Bite me" and "Vampires are forever" and "Soul Sisters," they came by the hundreds to meet their favorite author. Carrying armloads of books, they patiently waited their turn in line to meet and greet their heroine.

With friends and compatriots who share their interest (some even admit to an obsession), they couldn't think of a person they'd rather be with on a Saturday afternoon than novelist Stephenie Meyer.

The popular author of the "Twilight" series, which deal with vampires and werewolves, and a new novel, "The Host," which features an alien invasion, Meyer met with fans at Highland High School during a book signing sponsored by The King's English Bookshop.

"We were limited by the publisher to a thousand tickets," said store manager Anne Holman. "They were pretty much gone the first day."

Which was no surprise to anyone familiar with Meyer and her books.

"She's such a genuine person," says Holman. "And you feel you could put yourself in the places she has created. Plus, she's getting people to read who are not readers. That's wildly important."

But Meyer, a BYU graduate and mother of three who now lives in Arizona, has not only created some of the best-selling fantasy novels of recent years, she's also created a social phenomenon.

Web sites, chatrooms, social clubs and more have sprung up all over the country, and many of their founders and members were at the signing.

Lisa Hansen, who started www.twilightmoms.com so she could talk to other adults about Meyer's young adult novels, was there. "I thought maybe I'd find four or five people who shared my enthusiasm. We now have 6,100 members worldwide."

Hansen was pushed into reading her first Meyer book by girls in her neighborhood. "They kept telling me I had to read it. Finally I did just so I could see what they were into." Her life has not been the same since. "I was never much of a reader, but here came books that I couldn't put down," said the Springville resident.

Lori Joffs, co-founder of www.twilightlexicon.com, came from Tennessee for the event. Her Web site "is the oldest one related to Stephenie. We formed it back when her fan base was not like this," so they have been able to see the whole thing grow.

Danylle Utley is president of the Salt Lake Twighlighters Anonymous. "Message boards weren't good enough for me," she said. "I needed face-to-face interaction. I needed to giggle; you can't do that online." She invited anyone who wanted to to meet her for lunch — "at a public place, so they wouldn't think it was one of those Internet weirdos."

The club now has 25 members. "We had to cap it at that; no one has a house big enough to hold more." They meet monthly and also hold periodic themed parties.

Membership comes with its own pledge: "We pledge to adore all topaz-eyed vampires," they recite at meetings. And "to admire all wonderful werewolves ... and to avidly read and re-read anything written by Stephenie Meyer." But now, said Utley, "we have to add an addendum to cover 'Host."'

"Our families think we're crazy," she joked. "Our next step is to form a support group for our husbands."

Shelli Ashton, who is a member of the group, owns a jewelry company and has started selling "Bella Bracelets" for a central character in the "Twilight" series. "I just love the books," she said. "There's something in them that everyone can relate to. The characters have to make tough decisions."

"The characters become so real," added Utley. "You want to spend time with them."

"Stephenie deals with issues, but she stays moral," said Joffs. "I love that. And every book get so much bigger."

Those were ideas expressed over and over by the women at the signing. There were even a few men in the audience. James Clark admitted he was there because his wife made him come.

"She owes me one, but it is pretty cool," he said.

Kyle Smith has actually read most of the books. "'New Moon' was too heart-breaking, but 'Twilight' is the perfect book."

Joan Mecham, who came to the signing with her four daughters — all in matching shirts — said she resisted the books at first. "Finally, I said, 'What the heck.' Now, I can't do anything else. But I'm happy to have my kids reading books like this."

Meyer started off the afternoon to a standing ovation, followed by a brief Q-and-A session involving pre-submitted questions. She talked about where her ideas come from (everywhere); whether there will be sequels to "The Host" (there's a very good chance; she already has the titles picked out); whether Jared or Ian (two of her characters) is better-looking (it depends on your taste; they are both gorgeous); what lessons are there to be learned ("Lessons? I don't write lessons. I write so you can have a fun experience").

She passed on advice to other writers: "Don't think about being published, enjoy the process of writing. Believe in your stories. Read thousands and thousands of books."

She talked about the upcoming movie version of "Twilight," to be released Dec. 12:

"I think it's going to be awesome. I've had a better experience than many writers do with movies. But it's so surreal to see things happen."

Meyer also thanked her supporters. "I think I pretty much have the greatest fans in the world," she said.

No one there would disagree. Kadee Taylor, who had come from St. George with her mother and her best friend, spoke for many when she said, "I'm ecstatic!"

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