Last Friday I was asked at the last minute to drive to Forks to interview Stephenie Meyer, author of the famous “Twilight” books that feature the West End town.
I jumped at the opportunity, mostly because 1) I would be paid for driving rather than working at my desk and 2) the beef burrito at the Taquería Santa Anna has lately been calling out to me.
Interviewing a celebrity hardly entered into it.
As it turned out, interviewing Meyer was easily the best part of the day.
I didn’t know what to expect: I haven’t read the books and I haven’t seen the movies. Of course, everyone is quick to say that, but some folks are surely lying.
After all, Meyer has sold more than 225 million Twilight books. Staggering, I know, until you consider the four movies have to date grossed $3.35 billion!
She was in town — a surprise visit — for Stephenie Meyer Days, the annual affair that celebrates her contributions to Forks. The townsfolk and the thousands of visitors who descend on Forks for the weekend also honor the heroine of the “Twilight” novels by celebrating Bella’s Birthday.
Meyer called the Chamber of Commerce the day prior at the insistence of her husband, who said slipping into town altogether unannounced might be rude.
She spent the day busily meeting with fans and delivering signatures, except for 10 minutes she spent talking to reporters.
Most people refer admiringly to celebrities as being “down to earth.” That hardly begins to describe Meyer. She is, in a word, ordinary.
She’s slightly overweight, dresses Target-casual and is extraordinarily open and unaffected.
She is genuinely shocked and mystified by her success. She doesn’t get it and seems a little uncomfortable with it.
She is, in another word, immensely likable.
Which is why so much of what she had to say remains with me.
We are all aware that our culture today is toxic. Anyone who goes online will see ample evidence that viciousness is the order of the day.
Now imagine one day you find yourself the object of millions of deriding words. Imagine that your impact on the culture is such that you are everywhere reviled.
That’s the world Stephenie Meyer lives in.
I asked her if she would soon be writing again about Forks.
No, she said.
“Twilight has had a lot of backlash and I’m not as thick-skinned as I should be.”
When she encounters criticism of her books, she said, “I just sit there and think, ‘Oh, they’re right. It’s awful and I’m a hack and I shouldn’t write.’”
“It gets in my head. This whole ‘Twilight’ place has become so negative. I don’t go a day without seeing it.”
“I don’t go looking for it, but I can be reading an article about something else and suddenly there it is. I have to grow a thicker skin before I write about Forks again.”
Remember what she did to earn this barrage. She wrote a story.
Because she was successful, millions have turned their rage — their illness — on her.
Success has never been easy to handle. Celebrity is even more difficult.
We find it very easy to bash others, particularly public figures. We always assume they’re crying “all the way to the bank.”
But Meyer is an ordinary woman, not someone seeking notoriety. She’s a mom. And she is hurt.
I wanted to tell her that the no-talents always treat the successful with disdain. That those who can’t, criticize. But it was the wrong time and place.
So I just told her, “You’ve done this town a great service.”
She said thank you and seemed genuinely pleased.