I never thought I’d be a novelist. Writing books seemed too daunting a task for the likes of lazy old me. All those words. All those pages. Filmmaking is what interested me. There was an immediacy to film, a pleasure in framing a shot, editing a sequence, and layering in a score that far outweighed any thrill composing a perfect sentence might bring. I wanted to make movies, not write books.
In 2008, I was 29 and not any closer to being a filmmaker. I’d shot some short films and written dozens of screenplays. Nothing of note. Certainly, nothing that might have lead to a filmmaking career.
To make money I was working as a graphic designer for an advertising agency. My days were spent creating press ads for banks and surfing movie websites. On one of these websites, I came across a teaser trailer for a movie called Twilight, a horror/romance flick based on a YA novel. I’d never heard of it.
I watched the trailer and thought it looked interesting. Not exactly the sort of movie I’d line up to see on opening night, but perfectly watchable. On my way home from work that day, I passed a Borders bookstore which had a new window display. It was for the release of the fourth book in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn. Evidently, this Twilight thing was popular. I liked the look of the book covers in the window. The monochromatic colour combination with a splash of red was smart. It appealed to my graphic design sensibilities. I decided to buy the book and see what all the fuss was about.
It was an easy read. I didn’t hate it. The author’s take on vampires was original, the human characters were well-realised (if a little insufferable), and the story moved at a decent clip. It felt like the fever dream of a horny sixteen-year-old girl whose point of reference for vampires was the film version of Interview with a Vampire. There was nothing of Bram Stoker’s devil in Edward Cullen, no hint of the necrophiliac revulsion shadowing the myth.
I’d read plenty of better vampire novels, Stoker’s Dracula, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, Anne Rice’s aforementioned Interview with a Vampire, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let The Right One In, but Twilight was perfectly adequate. It did the job it set out to do. Offer readers a discreet brush with darkness without being too confronting. Or too scary.
A curious thing happened to me while I was reading the book. I was not particularly moved by the story, but something about its rawness, its simplicity spoke to me. This felt like something I could do. This felt like something I should be doing. Writing a story about love and monsters, darkness and light.
I’d been so focused on writing screenplays that I’d forgotten why I was drawn to filmmaking to begin with. Storytelling. I wanted to tell stories and felt like my skills lay with the moving image. Not with the written word. Oh, I could write but I could never write as well as my literary heroes, so why try?
Unfortunately, films aren’t made by one person, no matter how dedicated or talented they are. Films require a team of people to make them. They require money. The problem I’d faced time and time again is that I did not have a team of people to help me. I did not have any money.
The shockingly obvious epiphany I had while reading Twilight was this – books do not require a team of people to write them. Books do not require money. Only time. And patience. And discipline.
I had time and felt like I had the patience and discipline to see a longer writing project through. And thanks to Stephanie Myer I had something even more valuable – permission. If she could write a book then I could. I didn’t need to be the greatest writer in the world. I just needed to have a story I wanted to tell.
Three years later my first novel, Winter’s Shadow was published and I found myself no longer feeling like a frustrated filmmaker. Instead, I was a successful novelist.
In the wake of Twilight’s pop culture dominance, it has become something of a literary critic’s punchline. Mention Twilight to a sophisticated reader (or another author) and chances are they’ll roll their eyes. Some of that criticism is deserved, some of it isn’t.
I don’t think Stephenie Myer wrote the book for critics. She wrote it for herself and, for whatever reason, the book resonated with a large group of people. I was one of them. I admit that without shame.
Without Twilight, I wouldn’t be writing these words. I wouldn’t have three books to my name and another on the way.
I wouldn’t be an author.