The three books in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series have already sold more than 5 million copies in the United States and now dominate bestseller lists for children's books. Still, Meyer can't get used to people calling her the next J.K. Rowling, because she loved the Harry Potter books before she even thought about being a writer.
"I think the reason why we get the comparison is because our fans are actually similar," says Meyer. "They have that same fanatical thing going on. They dress for the events. They come out early. They're just so into the characters."
About 1,000 fans turned out to see Meyer Tuesday, when she kicked off a tour supporting her first adult book, The Host, at the gigantic Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis, Minn.
Few writers can imagine this kind of commercial success. And what may be even more frustrating for those who write in obscurity is Meyer's insistence that she never set out to be a writer. The way she tells it, the Twilight series began with a dream about a vampire and a teenage girl. Meyer wanted to remember it, so she wrote it down and then began expanding on the story.
"It was just this little hobby of mine," says Meyer. "To me, it always was a story, and I enjoyed writing it so much that there really didn't need to be another purpose for it."
A devout Mormon, Meyer has built her empire around a story of adolescent desire: Bella, the teenage heroine, falls in love with Edward, a vampire who refuses to drink human blood. But Edward must constantly fight his bloodlust for Bella.
Time magazine described the sexual tension inherent in the story as "the erotics of abstinence." Meyer calls it a sort of passionate restraint:
"It's really just my experience with the world and my experience with passion," she explains. "When there is restraint involved, there's so much more to it. I think a lot of fiction and movies these days, they're really missing that beginning stage. They skip right past it."
Her new book, a science fiction romance, is geared to the adult market. It tells the story of two women — one an alien from outer space — who inhabit the same body and are in love with the same man. Just as Meyer writes about "good" vampires in the Twilight books, she's created kinder, gentler alien invaders in The Host.
"Some of my friends [who] read The Host back when I was working on it in the rough draft stages told me... 'Am I supposed to be rooting for the humans? Because I'm kind of not!" she says.
Meyer wants to attract an adult audience with her new book, but she also hopes her young fan base will give it a chance. At the book signing, 14-year-old Noorann Matties says the author has nothing to worry about: "I pretty much think she could write about a retirement community and we'd read it!"
Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in the Twlight series, is due out in August, with a first printing of 2.5 million books. Advance orders already have put it on bestseller lists.