I get a ton of questions about how I came up with the story of
and how I got it published. I may be killing my FAQ page by doing this, but here is the whole story.
(Warning: there are Twilight spoilers contained in the following; if you don't want to ruin the suspense, stop reading.....now. 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.)
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. So I can say with certainty that it all started on June 2, 2003. 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.
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. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. 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.
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. 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. (Also, the vampire was just so darned good-looking, that I didn't want to lose the mental image.) Unwillingly, I eventually got up and did the immediate necessities, 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."
From that point on, not one day passed that I did not write something. On bad days, I would only type out a page or two; on good days, I would finish a chapter and then some. I mostly wrote at night, after the kids were asleep so that I could concentrate for longer than five minutes without being interrupted. 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.
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 decided to use a name that had once been considered romantic, but had fallen out of popularity for decades. Charlotte Bronte's Mr. Rochester and Jane Austen's Mr. Ferrars were the characters that led me to the name Edward. I tried it on for size, and found that it fit well. My female lead was harder. Nothing I named her seemed just right. After spending so much time with her, I loved her like a daughter, and no name was good enough. 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: Isabella. Huzzah! Edward and Bella were named.
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. Some trivia: Rosalie was originally "Carol" and Jasper was first "Ronald." 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.
For my setting, I knew I needed someplace ridiculously rainy. I turned to Google, as I do for all my research needs, 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... 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. 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. Also see forks-web.com ). 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.
All this time, Bella and Edward were, quite literally, voices in my head. They simply wouldn't shut up. 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.
During the day, I couldn't stay away from the computer, either. When I was stuck at swim lessons, out in 115 degrees of Phoenix sunshine, I would plot and scheme and come home with so much new stuff that I couldn't type fast enough. 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.
When I'd finished the body of the novel, I started writing epilogues... lots of epilogues. 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. Meanwhile, I continued to edit Twilight in a very obsessive-compulsive way.
My older sister, Emily, was the only one who really knew what I was up to. In June, I'd started sending her chapters as I finished them, and she soon became my cheerleading section. She was always checking in to see if I had something new for her. It was Emily who first suggested, after I'd finished, that I should try to get Twilight published. I was so stunned by the fact that I'd actually finished a whole, entire book, that I decided to look into it.
Getting Published: To put it mildly, I was naive about publishing. I thought it worked like this: you printed a copy of your novel, wrapped it up in brown paper, and sent it off to a publishing house. Ho ho ho, that's a good one. I started googling (naturally) and began to discover that this was not the way it is done. (Movies lie to us! Why?! A side note: you will not be able to enjoy the new Steve Martin version of Cheaper by the Dozen when you know how insanely impossible the publishing scenario it contains is.)
The whole set up with query letters, literary agents, simultaneous submissions vs. exclusive submissions, synopsizes, etc., was extremely intimidating, and I almost quit there. It certainly wasn't belief in my fabulous talent that made me push forward; I think it was just that I loved my characters so m