Stephenie Meyer Talks ‘Twilight’ Gender-Swap, ‘Midnight Sun’ And The Iconic Bella Quote She’s ‘So Tired’ Of Seeing
To call “Twilight” a pop culture phenomenon would be an understatement. Over the last decade, Bella and Edward’s epic love story has captured the imaginations (and hearts) of thousands of enthusiastic fans. On Tuesday, bestselling author Stephenie Meyer surprised her devoted fans with a new, gender-swapped version of the epic vampire love story, titled “Life And Death.”
Despite what you’ve heard, Beau and Edythe’s story isn’t a retelling, per say. Meyer insists that it’s strictly “fun bonus material” for “Twilight”’s 10th anniversary edition. That didn’t stop fans from freaking out upon its release.
MTV News sat down with Meyer at New York Comic Con today (Oct. 8) to talk about “Life and Death,” her whether she’d ever revisit the characters of “Twilight” and why she’s “so tired” of Bella Swan’s most iconic quote.
MTV News: In your forward for “Life And Death,” you say that Bella has received a lot of criticism for being a “typical damsel in distress.” We recently uncovered an interview of Kristen Stewart from her “Breaking Dawn: Part 1″ press tour, and she had said that if the roles were reversed, and Bella was a man, that people would have seen him as “so courageous.” Do you feel the same way?
Stephenie Meyer: It would have been interesting to know that she said that because we could have had a whole conversation on that. But really, that question of whether Bella was a strong female character had come up a couple times, and you kind of give the canned response because you’ve said it enough, but I really strongly thought that if Bella was a boy, it doesn’t change anything. Yet, you’d tell that to someone and they’d nod, like, “Yeah right.” So it felt like an unanswered question. This is what I’ve been trying to say, it just takes me 400 pages to do it. This is how it would be, and see? It’s really very similar.
MTV: A lot of fans online have a lot to say about the names you’ve chosen for these characters. Where did Beau and Edythe come from?
Meyer: Edythe was similar to Edward, where I was looking at names from the time period, and I wanted something that wasn’t popular that people kind of shied away from because it sounded so old-fashioned. Although, I think “Edith” is about to hit a resurgence — I don’t find this out until I use it, of course. I suppose I could have chosen something worse like Edna.
Meyer: The spelling is fun, and that really existed on a census report back in the day, so it’s legitimate. With Beau, one of my brothers had a friend named Beau and I always thought it was such a cool name. And then it has the awful longer version. I wanted Beau to have a name that he really, even more than Bella, hated — the long version is the worst for him. As I was playing with it, I realized that it was kind of just the boy version of her name, which works really well.
MTV: Was there any one character who you felt was really fun to write from this new perspective?
Meyer: Like, all of them. I had so much fun with Royal because he’s such a pill. I’m trying to picture him as so over confident and so aware of how beautiful he is. It’s obnoxious in a woman, but it’s so obnoxious in a man, just that sense of “I am so much better than the rest of you.” And he exudes that, which I love. Eleanor is super fun. I always wanted to hang out with Emmett, but I think Eleanor and I would be girlfriends. That would be so fun. And Archie is Archie. What can you say? He’s amazing.
MTV: You also made some changes to Archie in “Life And Death” that are a little bit different than Alice’s journey in “Twilight.” At what point did you realize the extent of Alice’s abilities?
Meyer: When I first wrote “Twilight,” there was a lot of mystical nature to what Alice could do because I hadn’t applied it to a lot of different situations. Then as time went on, it refined, especially with “Breaking Dawn” and “New Moon” where there were all of these new limitations. It made it a concrete superpower. So then, going back to “Twilight,” I was like, “Wow. They should have talked about this and this conversation should have happened.” I have to say in “Midnight Sun,” telling it from Edward’s side, some of the conversations that he had with Alice about how she felt about Bella before they met, I enjoyed a lot and I wanted to include that in this. That was one of my favorite things to add to the story.
MTV: Speaking of “Midnight Sun,” did you expect the flood of fan reactions on release day? I think a lot of fans were somewhat disappointed.
Meyer: Of course! This is why the first thing I say in the intro is an apology. This is why I didn’t want to advertise the book at all, except for calling it the 10th anniversary. I knew that as soon as people knew there was some big thing, they would assume it was “Midnight Sun” and I didn’t want a long lead time before disappointment, which happened right away.
MTV: One scene I want to talk to you about is the scene where Beau gets harassed by several gang members. When I first read “Twilight,” as a teen girl, I remember feeling very afraid for Bella when she was harassed by a group of drunk men. For a women, there is nothing more terrifying. When I read “Life And Death,” I noticed that scene changed quite significantly. Why did you change that narrative?
Meyer: As I was working on it, it made me think of the campaign Because All Women because boys don’t have the same worries. I had to go a little farther. Now we have, instead of a group of four drunk men roaming the streets and being obnoxious, we have drug dealers who are upset to be caught in the middle of a buy, and they’re armed. These aren’t just college-aged boys. These are older criminals with guns on them. To make it dangerous for him, I had to elevate it so much more because women don’t generally band together to harass young men in the streets. That just doesn’t happen. So it was really interesting for me, to see how far I had to go to make it dangerous for him.
MTV: At the same time, it was great to see how you subverted some gender stereotypes. The scene in the meadow where Edythe is like, “Get on my back and I’ll take you for a ride,” and Beau is like, “How are you going to be able to carry me?” is amazing.
Meyer: I love that for her, it’s as natural as it is for Edward. It’s like, “I can show you…” My kids just saw “Aladdin,” so I’m thinking of the song right now. But, it’s like, “I can show you the world. Let’s get on my magic carpet, and I’ll show you how I travel.” For Bella, it’s embarrassing enough, but for Beau, it’s like, “How? Why? Are you kidding me?” It’s a lot more embarrassing for him. Poor boy.
MTV: Something I found interesting is the difference in how Bella and Beau talk. You say that Bella is more poetic…
Meyer: Yeah, but she needed to unclench the Thesaurus, and I got to do that with Beau and just make it a little more natural.
MTV: One line of dialogue that’s significantly different is that iconic scene where Bella lists all the things she knows about Edward and she says, “I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.” That’s drastically different from Beau’s perspective. Why did you make the change?
Meyer: You know, it’s funny. That specific quote, my editor was so sad because she didn’t want me to change it. But because it was used so much — I mean, it’s on the back of the book — I was very tired of it. It was too heavy. It was too overwrought. It was too painful. So I got to just relax it and sound like what a boy would say. I have three teenage sons, so I have some experience there. To me, it feels a lot more organic than the other quote. My editor wouldn’t agree.
MTV: Was there anything that was particularly difficult for you to change?
Meyer: If I loved it, I kept it. It wasn’t like I had to sacrifice something I loved because it didn’t sound like Beau. Mostly, every change I made is one that I’ve been dying to make, so I was just really happy. As I read [“Twilight”] here and there, there would be a word that seemed out of place, but by the time you’ve finished editing it, you’ve gone through it 200 times and you just want to set it on fire.
MTV: Personally, I really liked that reference to The Rock. Do you know that he saw it and responded to it? He said you call him The Whistler now.
Meyer: Did he really? Oh my gosh. That’s so funny. That is so weird. You know, you write these things, and you never dream… I can’t believe he actually saw that! I’m kind of embarrassed right now. I was trying to think of the manliest, toughest guy in 2005, who wouldn’t be scared of anybody, and The Rock is the guy who came to mind. He seemed like an obvious choice. And I’m not saying that I think he would whistle at women; I’m saying that Beau can’t imagine him being afraid of anyone, except maybe Edythe.
MTV: Has this experience inspired you to revisit any characters, whether in this story or “Twilight?”
Meyer: It’s kind of a funny thing because I’ve seen a little bit of what fans are saying online. There’s that attitude of, this isn’t a new book and this is such a lame thing to do. But when I wrote this, my publishers did want to do it as a separate book, but it’s not a new book. It is very much bonus material. Just a new way of looking at things. It belongs in the same volume. So this, to me, is not revisiting. It was just something fun to add to the 10th anniversary edition.
So, if I was gonna ever go back, and really go back, I would continue the story with Renesmee because that was the story that was still there. That’s really the only story where I could tie up loose strings. But I don’t know. I don’t know if I ever will. There are stories there, and I have promised that on my death bed, I will tell everybody what happens. It will be bullet points, but at least it’s something.
Spoiler alert: Everything beyond this point contains MAJOR spoilers for “Life and Death,” so if you don’t want to know how Beau and Edythe’s story ends, look away now.
MTV: Did you always know how you wanted Beau and Edythe’s story to end?
Meyer: No, no. There were a couple of things that influenced it. As I was going through, I was enjoying the changes, but I wanted to change more. There were things I wanted to add, and by the end, it had grown on me so much that I just decided to go for it. And the other thing is, I don’t want to write the whole series from Beau and Edythe’s perspective. I don’t think I could do it that way. It wouldn’t work. So I ended it. It gave me a nice ending.
Meyer: No. Renesmee cannot happen, and that changes everything. “Breaking Dawn” really can’t exist. It would be a really tricky thing to do.
MTV: Can you at least humor us and tell us what his name would be? I suggest Chearnest, a combination of Charlie and Earnest.
Meyer: I saw that! I saw a couple that would be interesting, but I think that would have to be the middle name. I think, regardless of gender, you still have to name them for your moms. I’m sorry. Mom prejudice. Moms come first.