Every book has its audience. SM: What surprises me is not that there are people who don‘t get my book—because that
seems really obvious and natural—but that there are people who do. And I do think that, as the series went on, the story started to get more specific, and possibilities were getting cut out. As you define something, all the ―might have beens‖ die as you decide things. And so I‘m not surprised that people had problems with wrapping it up, because it became more specific to me as time went on.
Every book has its audience. Sometimes it‘s an audience of one person—sometimes it‘s an audience of twenty. And every book has someone who loves it, and some people who don‘t. Every one of those books in a bookstore has a reason to be there—some person that it‘s going to touch. But you can‘t expect it to get everybody.
SM: And you can‘t say: ―Well, there‘s something wrong if this book didn‘t mean the same thing to everyone who read it.‖ The book shouldn‟t make sense to some people, because we‘re all different. And thank goodness. How boring would it be if we all felt the same way about every book?
People bring so many of their own expectations to the table that a story can‘t really please everyone.
SH: I really believe that, as writers, we do fifty percent of the work—and then the reader does the other fifty percent of the work—of storytelling. We‘re all bringing experiences and understanding to a book.
When you start with Twilight, you‘ve got one book and one story. There‘s still an infinite number of possibilities of where that story can go. So if you‘ve got, maybe, ten million fans of Twilight, by the time you get to New Moon, you‘re narrowing what can happen, because these characters are making choices, and so maybe you‘ve got seven million possibilities. By the time you get to Eclipse, you‘re down to, say, three million people who are going to be happy with the story. After Breaking Dawn...
SM: There are only twenty people who are going to get it. [Laughs] I think it‘s a weird expectation that if a story is told really well, everybody, therefore, will have to appreciate it. People bring so many of their own expectations to the table that a story can‘t really please everyone.
SH: But is it still hard for you? Do you still have a desire to please everyone?
SM: Of course. I would love to make people happy. It‘s a great thing to hear that your book made someone‘s day brighter. It‘s amazing to think that you‘re doing some good, with a thing that just brings you joy in the first place. It‘s not why I do it, but it‘s a great benefit. It‘s the frosting.
It‘s hard when people who really wanted to like it don‘t. That makes me sad, because I know that there was a story for them, but it‘s just not the one that I could write. I think that sometimes for people who are that invested, it‘s because they‘re storytellers themselves. And maybe they need to cross that line—cross over to the dark side... join us!—and start creatingtheir own stories. I don‘t question the characters, which is why I‘m able to maintain my voice when I
write—because that, to me, is the one thing that‘s rock-solid. SH: That is an impossible situation, though. Because here you‘ve created these characters
in Twilight, and then readers are creating their own versions of those characters. So then you go on and write another book, and what your characters did... isn‘t necessarily what their characters would do. Maybe from their point of view, you‘re manipulating their characters into doing things they wouldn‘t do, even though of course you‘re not.
SM: It is funny.... I mean, it‘s hard because I am very thin-skinned. I don‘t take anything lightly. When I read a criticism, I immediately take it to heart and say: ―Oh my gosh—maybe I should have done that! Oh, I do do this wrong!‖ I question myself very easily. I don‘t question the characters, which is why I‘m able to maintain my voice when I write—because that, to me, is the one thing that‘s rock-solid. It doesn‘t matter what my doubts are—they are who they are. And that‘s a good thing.
SH: It is. And despite all of the criticism, there are so many more fans than there are people who are angry about the books, but you hear the negative stuff so much louder.
SM: Oh, always loud. You know, it reminds me of the movie Pretty Woman. Whenever that comes on TV, for some reason I can‘t change the channel. [SH laughs] And there‘s the one part where she says: It‘s easier to believe the bad, you know.
SM: That‘s one of the things that I think is a constant struggle: to make the negative voices not as loud as—or at least just equal to—the positive voices. I know a lot of people who feel the same way. It‘s easy to doubt yourself.
Maybe the answer is not to write a sequel. I‘m considering that. You know, write one- shots—just one contained story, which I have a hard time doing. I guess I‘ll just have to end it by killing the characters—because then it‘ll be over, right? [Laughs] But if you kill off your characters—even minor characters—you still sob for everything that they were and could have been.
But if you kill off your characters—even minor characters—you still sob for everything that they were and could have been.
SH: In the book I‘m writing right now, there is a death—a major death. And every time I do a rewrite, as I get near that scene, and I know I have to face it again, my stomach just clenches and I get sick with dread. And as I go through that scene, I‘m sobbing the entire time. It is not easy....
SM: No. When you know in advance that you‘re going to put yourself through that, it gives you some pause. And then you also have to know that it‘s a different story than what people are expecting. That‘s also the trouble with sequels.
SH: The most letters I get from fans is for one book called Princess Academy, and the most requests I get from fans is for a sequel to that book. And then they tell me what happens in the sequel, you know? [SM laughs] And that‘s how I know that I shouldn‘t write it.
SH: Because they‘ve already told their own story. And that‘s what I want, anyway... because I didn‘t tie everything up completely. I just gave them an idea of where they might go in the future.