I was aware that it was taking Bella in a new direction that wasn‘t as relatable for a lot of people.
SH: I loved Breaking Dawn. It‘s hard to pick a favorite, but it might be my favorite. It was so the book I wanted, and so what it felt like it needed to be for me. And I have to say I loved the pregnancy and birth stuff, because I love the horror. Your books are romance, but there‘s also this real, wonderful undercurrent of horror that‘s different from any kind of horror I‘ve read. And I love what horror can do: shine a light on what is real. And you make it bigger and more grotesque—just so you can see more clearly how grotesque what really happens is.
SM: I do think that sometimes I put horror in unusual places for horror to exist, and I take it out of places where it might have been easy to have it. You know, that birth scene really was horror for me. We live in a time where having a baby is not much more dangerous than giving blood. I mean, it‘s horrible, but it‘s unlikely that you‘re going to die.
But that‘s something new for this century. You know, there was a time when childbirth was possibly the most terrifying thing you could do in your life, and you were literally looking death in the face when you went ahead with it. And so this was kind of a flashback to a time when that‘s what every woman went through. Not that they got ripped apart, but they had no guarantees about whether they were going to live through it or not.
You know, I recently read—and I don‘t read nonfiction, generally—Becoming Jane Austen. That‘s the one subject that would get me to go out and read nonfiction. And the author‘s conclusion was that one of the reasons Jane Austen might not have married when she did have the opportunity... well, she watched her very dear nieces and friends die in childbirth! And it was like a death sentence: You get married and you will have children. You have children and you will die. [Laughs] I mean, it was a terrifying world.
And Bella‘s pregnancy and childbirth, to me, were a way to kind of explore that concept of what childbirth used to be. That made it very specific for readers who were interested in that, and it did take it away from some of the fans who were expecting something different. I was aware that it was taking Bella in a new direction that wasn‘t as relatable for a lot of people. I knew that it was going to be a problem for some readers.
SM: My agent and my editor and my publisher all said: ―Um, can we tone down the violence here? It‘s making me a little sick.‖ [Laughs] But I was kind of proud of myself. I was thinking: I actually wrote something violent enough to bother anybody? I‟m such a marshmallow. Wow—you go, Stephenie! [SH laughs] And I toned it down for them, and I made it a little bit less gruesome. Although I kept some of the gruesome stuff in, too.
SH: I know you hate spoilers. You don‘t want any leaks.
SM: You know, though, I wonder with this last book... I wonder if it would have been an easier road for readers who have difficulties with Breaking Dawn if they‘d known more in advance. If people had asked me, ―Can vampires have babies with humans?‖ And, instead of saying, ―I can‘t answer questions about those crazy things that might or might not happen‖— which is what I said because I didn‘t want to make it super-obvious it was going to happen; Imean, that just seems wrong—I could have just said, ―Yeah, they can.‖ Maybe it would have been easier for them if they‘d been expecting it.
My scientific reasoning works for me, but for people who don‘t buy into it, I can only agree.
SH: So you knew, even before Twilight was published, that in your world a vampire and a human would have a baby?
SM: Oh yeah. I‘ve got it all worked out in my head. My scientific reasoning works for me, but for people who don‘t buy into it, I can only agree. It‘s true. Vampires cannot have babies... because vampires aren‘t real. [Laughs] And vampires can‘t have babies with humans, because humans can‘t actually copulate with vampires—because vampires are not real. [SH laughs] It‘s a fantasy.
SH: Right. And yet people believe those characters, and the possibility of those vampires is real enough that they have to say: Wait—those aren‘t the rules.
SM: It‘s flattering in a way, that this is so real to them that they feel like there are things that can‘t happen in this fantasy.
SH: Now I have a nerd-girl question. Does Nessie‘s bite do anything? Did it do anything to Bella, when Nessie bit her?
SM: Nessie is not venomous.
SH: You did say in the book that Nessie wasn‘t venomous. I mean, it‘s just about food. [Laughs] Extreme nursing. [Laughs] But I guess when Bella did so well with the transition, as the new vampire, I was thinking: I wonder if Nessie‟s bite did that for her.
SM: [Laughs] I hadn‘t even thought of that. No, Bella‘s transition was unique among new vampires, in that she knew what was coming. None of the other Cullens had any warning. It was just, all of a sudden, this overwhelming need to drink blood—just without any kind of readying. You know how sometimes you have to brace yourself for something? Bella was braced—she was ready. And it wasn‘t like it was easier for her than it was for them. She‘d just already made up her mind that that‘s the whole key to everything. She‘s the only person in the entire history of the Twilight universe who chose beforehand to be a ―vegetarian‖ vampire.
SH: I liked that Jasper had a hard time with that. His personal struggle was that it wasn‘t inevitab le.
SM: You know, when you‘re really used to giving in to instant gratification, that makes it harder not to. If you‘ve never given in, it‘s easier to keep it that way.
Just to have Bella and Edward really be able to understand each other—that made it worth writing four books.
SH: I remember when you were writing Breaking Dawn, you told me that this story made you happy. What is it about this story that made you happy?
SM: Well, it goes back to what we were talking about before, about Edward. And it‘s an interesting thing to me, how I worry about my characters like they‘re real people. Like how after I wrote Eclipse—even though I knew exactly what was going to happen in Breaking Dawn— until I actually got to the part where Jacob sees Renesmee for the first time, and his life comes together for him, I worried about him all the time.
And Edward, this whole time, has had a lot of happiness—and, yet, he‘s not trusting any of it to last. He‘s feeling like he‘s doomed, and there‘s no abating it—that something bad is going to happen to him because of who he is. And now I could finally watch that change and watch him come to accept happiness—even more than Bella does. Because Bella sees the end coming and sort of loses hope, but he never does.
After he accepts that he can have happiness, he just clings to it. And I really enjoyed that, and I enjoyed writing the end. I had to write all four books to get to those last two pages. Just to have Bella and Edward really be able to understand each other—that made it worth writing four books.
SH: And he really makes the journey—even though vampires, as you‘ve said, are frozen sort of in that moment when they first become vampires. But he changes so much in Breaking Dawn, and so quickly in becoming a father. What was it like to take him through that journey, as well?
SM: You know, all that really changes is his outlook—which, of course, changed everything. But who he is, what he loves, how he does things—it all stays the same. He did get a lot of things that he hadn‘t even let himself think about wanting, though. I mean, getting to have this daughter that he had never envisioned—that he never could have conceived of—was this unbelievable thing for him, you know. And he accepts it pretty quickly. But the bigger wonder for him is Bella being happy. He thought he was going to ruin her life, and he made her happy. And that really was everything for him.