Stephenie Meyer, the author of the "Twilight" series and "The Host," was in Washington for approximately 19 hours this week promoting "The Host" film, which will premiere next month. A collection of scenes, observations and stray meditations marking the occasion:
1. What must it feel like to be Stephenie Meyer? Today, people have driven multi-hour radii -- Buffalo, Richmond -- to be in her presence. They arrive at 8:45 p.m. the night before the Thursday book signing, and they sleep in pastel comforters outside the Politics & Prose bookstore in Northwest Washington to ensure admission. What must it feel like to be on the sponge end of that much devotion? How many pounds of worship can one human body withstand before collapsing under the fervent, pawing weight?
2. Does it feel like an endless stream of sitting? Is that what it feels like to be her? She sits for a sneak-preview screening of "The Host" at the AMC Loews in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood, and the next morning she sits in a Ritz-Carlton hotel room undergoing a steady drip of journalists, and then she sits at the book signing at Politics & Prose, where attendees are limited to two autographs at a time, but then loop through the line again and again and again. "It's always interesting, the relationship between reader and writer," she says at the hotel.
3. At some point in the past five years, her hair got really good. Stunningly, shinily good. What is in her conditioner? Avocado? Also her skin. Up close and personal, it looks like the texture of semigloss paint.
4. This new movie, "The Host." Is it good? It's about a woman named Melanie, one of the last "wild humans" in a future society in which most people's bodies have been taken over by an alien species. When Melanie also succumbs, she must fight for control over her own person and future. It stars Saoirse Ronan, with several achingly pretty boys -- two of whom have come to Washington with Meyer, and one of whom is Jeremy Irons' son. It's beautifully filmed, and infinitely more adult and more complex than any of the "Twilight" stories. At the screening, people want to talk about the "Twilight" stories.
Is she ever going to finish "Midnight Sun," the "Twilight" companion novel that she abandoned after it was accidentally leaked to the public in 2008? Everrrr?
5. Her fans are so pure. When she walks in a room, the fans go -- oh, you already know what they go. Everybody already knows what happens at a Stephenie Meyer appearance. The fans go "Eeee!" or "Squeee!" or "Bleeee!"; the fans burst into tears and explain their obsessive love for "Twilight." Sometimes a journalist who brags that he's too smart for "Twilight" (even though he's never read it) parachutes in to write a scene story about these women, and they open up their hopeful hearts because maybe this time he won't make them look crazy. He always makes them look crazy.
"I do a lot of deep breathing," Meyer says. This is how she adjusts to the decibel level of a public appearance. She's grown more used to it now. The public appearances used to make her nervous. She used to pep-talk herself: "I am going to live through this. Nobody is going to kill you today."
6. Does she realize how polarizing she is? Does she realize that her fans' love for her work is equally balanced out by -- "This passionate hatred that it spawns?" she suggests, in the Georgetown hotel room. She laughs.
7. Stephenie Meyer: "I don't really consider myself much of a writer. I consider myself a storyteller. . . . I can definitely agree with the critics, because I see all the flaws" in the stories. She wakes up in the middle of the night, agonizing over the word choices that are too late to change. To her critics, "I just want to say, trust me, guys. I know."
Nobody ever assumes that Stephenie Meyer knows. There's a viciousness when her work is discussed in literary circles. A dismissive sneer, as though her books cannot be taken seriously simply because people enjoy reading them too much. An impulse to write rambling, blistering blog posts about her use of descriptive speech tags (She glowered).
She is a victim of a Madonna/Hack dichotomy. Her fans will always believe she can do no wrong. Her critics will always believe she can do no right. The truth must lie somewhere in between, but nobody wants to think seriously about Stephenie Meyer as a writer. It makes one feel indignant on her behalf.
8. But then, why would we ever feel sorry for someone whose net worth has been estimated at $170 million?
9. Really, will she ever write "Midnight Sun"?
10. How is the future going to look at Stephenie Meyer? The future, which seems increasingly incapable of viewing entertainment as just entertainment. Everything must be allegorical. Everything must be about chastity ("Eclipse"?) or abortion ("Breaking Dawn"?). Every book must be dissected until there is nothing left, nothing but valiant, bullied speech tags.
11. "There is a value in writing things that people just enjoy," she says. "I don't know what movie won the Oscar the year that 'Star Wars' came out, and I probably haven't seen it. But 'Star Wars' has affected culture around the world. There is power in the masses, and in joy for enjoyment's sake."
12. Is Stephenie Meyer trying to tell us that her next paranormal romance will involve Ewoks?
13. "We met in Falls Church, sleeping outside for a Jamie Campbell Bower thing," says Ava Rhodes. Jamie Campbell Bower plays a bad vampire in the "Twilight" series. Rhodes is at the signing with her friend Rachel Stone. She has tattoos around her wrist of all of the titles of all of Meyer's books. Her whole body is a story of tattoos. "My family is on my foot."
Since then, the pair has been to conferences and conventions around the country. Rhodes has vacationed in Forks, the two-lane town where the "Twilight" books are set.
This is how the future is going to look at Stephenie Meyer: as a spirit-guide travel agent. In the 1970s, people followed the Grateful Dead, and in the 1990s, they followed Phish, and in the 2010s, which we'll be calling "the teens," they formed communities by following around a Mormon mother of three, and by huddling in blankets in the cold.