Interview with Stephenie Meyer

Posted by Goodreads on November 7, 2016
The author best known for the Twilight series is back this November with The Chemist, a spy thriller for adults.

Stephenie Meyer is a publishing phenom who penned the wildly popular four-book Twilight collection, which has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Those books were then made into a blockbuster series of movies. Meyer is followed by more than 49,000 fellow Goodreads community members, and her work has been ranked by more than 8 million Goodreads readers.

Goodreads got Meyer to spill her secrets on her obsession with fictional spy Jason Bourne, how Twilight's fans helped her embrace her own inner fangirl, and how she finds inspiration in both dreams…and sleep deprivation.

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Goodreads: You've written a spy thriller! How long have you wanted to bring these characters and this story to life?

Stephenie Meyer: The idea for this story came to me about six years ago; I was on a night shoot for the Breaking Dawn film. I remember talking over the idea with another producer on our lunch break. At the time, I was thinking of it as a movie rather than a novel. We have an ongoing joke about ideas conceived during night shoots never being good ideas, but I made a few notes about it anyway and then promptly forgot about it.

I didn't revisit the idea again until January 2013. It was a story that moved very quickly for me, and I got it finished in time to give it to my mom for Mother's Day.

GR: You've dedicated your new book to Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross, former black ops agents in the book and film series spawned by Robert Ludlum's 2005 spy thriller The Bourne Identity. You can't always tell much about a book by its dedication, but yours says a lot.

What do these two fictional espionage experts mean to your story? Could they fit into the world you've created, or could you imagine them picking up a copy of The Chemist and enjoying it on a plane ride?

SM: In a very real way, Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross are why this story made it out of my brain and onto paper.

My best friend/business partner and I were obsessed with The Bourne Legacy in the see-it-in-the-theater-five-times, make-matching-necklaces way obsessed. (I used to keep my inner fangirl strictly in check out of some misplaced sense of decorum, but being part of the Twilight fandom showed me what I was missing. I've been a lot more open to embracing that inner fangirl since.) I'd always loved Jason Bourne, but adding in the sci-fi element of the supersoldier is what pushed me over the edge into obsession.

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My sister-in-obsession's birthday was approaching, and I thought I would surprise her with her own tailor-made resolution to the story. For the first (and only, so far) time in my life, I wrote fan fiction.

It was super fun, and also pressure-free, because I knew that it could never be published. But another part of the fun was writing something fast-paced and full of manhunts, bullets, and assassinations.

When I was done, I found myself craving another similar outlet. I unearthed the notes I'd made back in 2010 and found some things I really liked. I got to work on the story, and it flowed quickly. I love that kind of writing, when the story just pulls you along with it.

Now, as to whether Jason or Aaron would fit into this world or enjoy reading about it on a plane—yes to the first. This is the kind of world, similar to the Bourne movies, where the people in power have no compunctions against casually murdering people when they become inconvenient. Naturally they'd need a lot of assassins on hand to facilitate that removal process.

As to the second part of the question, it's hard to say. For myself personally, if I were an assassin, I probably wouldn't want to spend my free time mentally "on the job." If I killed people for a living, I would read high fantasy or chick lit on a plane—things that take me out of my world rather than pull me back into it.

But again, I've never been paid to kill anyone, so I can't be sure. If any real-life assassins want to chime in on this one, I'd love to know the answer.

GR: The expression "dressed to kill" takes on an extremely literal meaning in The Chemist. From belts equipped with hidden spring-loaded syringes to delicate earrings packed with poison, getting ready turns into a stylish act of war. Which one of the dual-purpose accessories do you wish you could own in real life?

SM: I would want the knock-out spray that my protagonist carries in a perfume bottle. It works in a dangerous situation, if someone attacks you, for example, but it's also great if someone is just being really boring.

Also, I have occasional insomnia, and I could use it on myself. So versatile.

GR: Your acknowledgments give a peek into how much research you did into the tantalizing world of secret agent science. What was your favorite part of this research stage?

SM: The research stage was actually really uncomfortable for me. I'd written the story straight from my imagination, with no compromises due to what was actually possible. Then as I got into the editing, I had to reach out and ground the story in the realm of reality.

It was so frustrating to have to cut pieces of the plot and scenes I loved because they were medically unsound or violated the laws of physics. But ultimately it became a much better story.

It was also a slightly frightening experience, because all of what I'd intended to be science fiction turned out to be totally possible and already in existence. This knowledge did not make me sleep better at night.

GR: Besides the obvious trappings of an action-packed tale featuring a brainy lead, what were you hoping to do in this book that you weren't able to do in your previous work?

SM: I don't ever write that way. I've never sat down to write thinking, "What do I want to accomplish here? What holes have my previous works left that I need to rectify?" I write the same way I read—to live in a story I want to experience.

GR: Names seem to matter a lot to the woman we first meet as Chris Taylor in The Chemist. As an author, what do names mean to you? What comes first for your characters—their personalities or their names?

SM: I think that names don't matter to my protagonist very much at all. Yes, she thinks about the safest way to craft her monikers, but she's so removed from them. They don't apply to her, not even her actual birth name.

That's one of the things that fascinates me about my main character. She's completely comfortable without a defined identity. I think that's very difficult for human beings in general; we get so fixated on the little things that make us different from the rest of the world, our names, our birth dates, our favorite colors.

When writing, names tend to come to me after personalities, sometimes long after. I've written characters with placeholder names, knowing that I hadn't found just the right sound, for months—sometimes until long after the novel is finished. Rosalie (Twilight) was like that. I didn't find the right name for her until I had started editing the novel.

Occasionally some characters come into the story with their name already in place. In Twilight Alice was that way. In The Chemist Kevin came with name intact. I have no idea why, but he just was Kevin. The name felt like part of the personality rather than a separate fixture.

GR: Goodreads member Samantha says, "I just saw your writing desk featured on Little, Brown and Company's Instagram. Fangirl moment! As a writer myself, I'm always intrigued by published authors' writing process. How has your process changed since first writing Twilight to drafting The Chemist?"

SM: My writing process has morphed mostly in smallish ways—for example, I have a hard time writing to music with words now. I usually listen to classical music and movie scores. I save the metal for editing.

I've gone in and out of different outlining phases. The Host had the longest outline, a huge, constantly changing and growing entity. The Chemist was more streamlined, and its outline was mostly backstory timelines.

One change that I can't seem to shake, which I really dislike, is that I always write chronologically now. I used to be able to skip in and out of the story and fill in the missing pieces and transitions later. I enjoyed that style better, but I can't seem to find my way back into it. I'm not sure what got broken in my brain or how to repair it.

GR: Goodreads member Elena asks, "What fictional heroines are you most inspired by and why?"

SM: So many heroines have inspired me, it's hard to narrow it down. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre) is one of my favorites. I love her integrity, her total lack of compromise when it comes to her code of ethics. I love Anne Shirley's (Anne of Green Gables) kindness, her optimism, her passion for stories. Jo March (Little Women) is my spirit animal; even before I was a writer, she felt like my friend and my mentor in so many ways.

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Lessa (Dragonriders of Pern) is driven to the point of obsession; she doesn't let anything get in her way when she wants something. (Also, she has a dragon, which is my least attainable life goal). Polgara (The Belgariad) has such enormous power, and she wields it so wisely and gracefully. And then there is Wanda (The Host). I created her from who I wished I could be, and she remains an inspiration for how I should improve.

GR: Goodreads member Jennifer says, "I loved how your characters from Twilight came to you in a dream. (I must not be dreaming to my full potential!) Did the characters in The Chemist come to you in a similar way?"

SM: In a way, the characters in The Chemist came to me through a lack of sleep, so kind of the opposite of Twilight. (As I mentioned earlier, I thought of this story during a night shoot.) I'm not sure if sleep deprivation is ever a good place to draw from, but in this case it certainly was a lot of fun.

Sadly, I don't remember the actual genesis of the idea. Similar to The Host, I was well into the story inside my head before I stopped and thought, I might just have something here. I have no idea in either case what sparked the inception.

My head is a messy place, and I'm almost constantly spinning some kind of story in my brain. I get easily bored with reality, and I escape from it as much as possible. I know it drives the people I spend time with crazy. "Could you start over from the beginning? I missed all that" could be my catchphrase.

GR: Goodreads member Sharon asks, "What's the hardest or most surprising part of being a novelist?"

SM: The hardest thing for me is not being able to fix published books. You edit and edit and edit, and you think you've gotten everything as right as it will ever be, but as soon as the story is in print, you find a million things that could be better.

I have a hard time reading my books after they're "done." It's just so frustrating not to be able to make more changes. When I recently rewrote Twilight for the tenth anniversary, it was very emotionally fulfilling. I got to fix all the little things that had been driving me nuts since 2005. Of course, if I ever read the printed copy of Life and Death, the cycle will start again.

GR: You're no stranger to film adaptations of your work. Do you think about the possibility of watching your story on the big screen as you draft it? Does that ever affect how you write a particular scene or description?

SM: I definitely think about the movie version of the story during the writing process. Not so much when I'm actually typing out the words, but more often when I'm plotting in my head.

Before I'd ever had a book adapted, before I'd had one published, I still thought that way. I've always been an armchair casting agent. When I read books or when I watched movies, I'd frequently think about which actors I would have picked for the roles.

However, it doesn't affect how I write the story. If it did, there wouldn't be so many hard-to-film aspects, like the fast-growing baby vampire-hybrid who is born with the predeveloped intellect of a grown adult. That didn't make things easy for the effects department.

With The Chemist, there are definitely elements I would have compromised on if I were writing a script rather than a novel. But that's the beauty of writing a novel: no budgets, no limits, no human frailties, no restrictive external factors at all. You don't ever have to compromise.

GR: What are you currently reading?

SM: I just finished The Giver by Lois Lowry. My kids have all had to read it for school, and they've all loved it. I was proofreading an intriguing paper my youngest recently wrote on it, and I thought, I need to just read this book already! I was not disappointed. I am still processing it now.

GR: Do you have any writing rituals?

SM: None, really, besides time of day. I can never get truly immersed in writing during the daytime. I know it's a product of being interrupted by work calls and emails, children's and husband's questions about where fill-in-the-blank is located, and the dog's bladder needs.

Subconsciously my brain believes that there is no point in trying to focus when my office door is just about to slam open in three…two…one…. So now, even when I'm in a quiet, private environment, I can't make my brain accept that it is possible to write while the sun is out. When I'm in the middle of a story, I do my self-editing during the day. That part handles interruptions better.

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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message 1: by Louisa (new)

Louisa Gah, I wish one of the questions asked and answered was if The Host was getting any sequels! it's been a burning question! Otherwise, great interview!

message 2: by Kiki (new)

Kiki Hamilton Great interview! THE BOURNE IDENTITY is also one of my favorite books, as is TWILIGHT. Looking forward to reading THE CHEMIST!

message 3: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Fulton Louisa wrote: "Gah, I wish one of the questions asked and answered was if The Host was getting any sequels! it's been a burning question! Otherwise, great interview!"

I totally agree!! The Host is one of my favorites and I've been desperately wanting a sequel!!

message 4: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Fulton I admit I preordered The Chemist based solely on the fact it was written by Stephenie Meyer! After purchasing, I read what it was about and it made me that much more excited to read it. It came in the mail yesterday and I'm about to crack it open now, can't wait!!

message 5: by Corinne (new)

Corinne Nikki wrote: "Louisa wrote: "Gah, I wish one of the questions asked and answered was if The Host was getting any sequels! it's been a burning question! Otherwise, great interview!"

I totally agree!! The Host is..."

I was asked if there was any questions that I had for her and I did ask about The Host series, but apparently they never asked her. Very disappointed that they didn't consider that to be an important enough question to be asked!

message 6: by Ovidiu (new)

Ovidiu Löwe Gosh, I hope it isn't another one of those stupid love stories where a chicky girl loves two men that hate each other and she is "Switzerland". Three of these were quite enough, I think.
Good luck with this one, Steph.

message 7: by Kamal (new)

Kamal Syed Ovidiu wrote: "Gosh, I hope it isn't another one of those stupid love stories where a chicky girl loves two men that hate each other and she is "Switzerland". Three of these were quite enough, I think.
Good luck ..."

Definitely, it doesn't sound like it so far, but as long as there is a market for it, there will be a million more books like this.

This new book sounds interesting, I'll added it to my list. I haven't read the Host, we watched part of the movie and gave it up about 1/3 of the way through.

message 8: by Donna (new)

Donna I was wondering whose music you hear when you wrote The Chemist? Thanks for introducing met to Metric and Muse. Paramour video the best too.

message 9: by Christie (new)

Christie Adams Great interview, where would we be with out Jason Bourne, watched the film last night!

message 10: by Malaki (new)

Malaki Great interview. Looking forward to this.

message 11: by Tabitha (new)

Tabitha Matthewcross87 wrote: "Wow , I've been waiting many years for part 2 of her host trilogy , never happened , been waiting years for her to finish midnight sun , never happened and because el James wrote 50 in Christian's ..."

I agree. I gave up on her while waiting for the second installment of the host. I didn't realise she stopped writing midnight sun. I love her books. But if she's not going to bother writing the next installments to her books. Then she should stop giving us cliffhangers. It's rude. It's like getting invitation to someone's life. Some thing happens to the people you've come to know. Only to get locked outside. Not cool.

message 12: by Juhi (new)

Juhi I am one of the biggest fans of the Twilight series. I got it's craze from my sister who is a big Twilight fan. We both sisters are also the "Edward lovers". After finishing Breaking Dawn, I searched for further books and found the link for Midnight Sun in Stephenie Meyer's site. After reading the draft, I was insane for reading more. I'd like to request Stephenie to please finish the book and write the rest of the series from Edward's prospective and also produce them into films. This is something many are waiting for... Please do see to it ma'am.

message 13: by Juhi (new)

Juhi Ovidiu wrote: "Gosh, I hope it isn't another one of those stupid love stories where a chicky girl loves two men that hate each other and she is "Switzerland". Three of these were quite enough, I think.
Good luck ..."

Ovidiu, this was one of those books which was a blockbuster, selling over a billion copies.

message 14: by Alexis (new)

Alexis Kamal wrote: "Ovidiu wrote: "Gosh, I hope it isn't another one of those stupid love stories where a chicky girl loves two men that hate each other and she is "Switzerland". Three of these were quite enough, I th..."

Uffda there is no need to mock the twilight series. What you said kinda shocked me And I know there are going to be those people but you don't have to be one of them. Personally your comment was kinda offensive to me and I'm sure other people who haven't seen or said anything about your comments but for me, I have read and reread the whole series 23 times and am on my 24 time this week. I love the series so sorry if my comment was disappointing to some people but these are the thoughts that j have on people mocking something that i love

message 15: by Elyse (new)

Elyse <3 Polgara

message 16: by Vasu (new)

Vasu Borkar when the book will be out in book house

message 17: by Océanegr (new)

Océanegr Same question as Vasu. Any idea?

Beny ⚯͛ △⃒⃘ can you please continue twilight series with another book or another series about Jacob and renesmee ....Like after harry potter the fantastic beast and where to find then series.

Please because we love twilight series so mush

message 19: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Buckmaster Chronister Is there or will there be another book after twilight breaking dawn

message 20: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn Leroux I just finished reading "The Chemist" - loved it! Random burning question: is the Hideaway Bar and Grill mentioned in the epilogue a reference to the real Hideaway Steakhouse in Westminster, CO? It totally sounded like it (except for the karaoke) especially the excellent food, and since I live here, I can't help but ask . . . thanks!

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