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Dawn of the Undead

Why Stephenie Meyer gave her vampire book (and soon-to-be film) series a rock & roll soundtrack of Muse, Linkin Park, Blue October and more

August 8, 2008 9:39 AM ET
Twilight Author Stephenie Meyer on Her Upcoming Movie and Mermaid Dreams

It's a humid August afternoon outside the Nokia Theater in the middle of New York's Times Square, and a hundred girls have already been in line for up to 16 hours. They're holding posters, screaming and wearing T-shirts identifying themselves as members of Team Edward or Team Jacob. Most passersby assume Edward and Jacob are part of a band, with one confused father asking his teenage son, "Is Jacob a Jonas brother?"

Edward and Jacob aren't real, though. They're the creation of author Stephenie Meyer, and they live inside the world of her Twilight series, where Edward is a vampire and Jacob is a werewolf and they're battling for the love of a human girl named Bella.

Tonight, 2,000 rabid fans showed up to see Meyer debut her Breaking Dawn Concert Series, four events scheduled around the release of the fourth and (for now) final installment of the Twilight saga. More than just a typical stop on a book tour, the concerts are a chance for Meyer to explain her stories through the music that's inspired her writing.

"One of my problems with going on tour generally is that you get all these kids screaming for a rock concert, and then they get me," Meyer, 34, says in a New York hotel room the day before the tour begins. "When [my publicist suggested] we do a rock concert, I was like, 'Yes! That is what needs to happen!' " They reached out to some of Meyer's favorite acts, including power-pop treadmill dancers OK Go, electro-pop band Shiny Toy Guns and rockers Blue October, ultimately constructing a show that's part performance by Blue October's lead singer, Justin Furstenfeld, part Q&A with Meyer and part Behind the Music, where Meyer discusses the impact Furstenfeld's songs had on her books. It was unconventional, unintentional and a huge success — much like Meyer's career thus far.

Meyer's ascent to literary stardom began just over five years ago, on June 2nd, 2003. That was the morning Meyer — who dabbled in painting, majored in English at Brigham Young University and considered becoming a lawyer — woke up from a vivid dream about a male vampire and a female human in a meadow, talking about how they were falling in love even though the vampire thirsted for the human's blood. "It was so singular," Meyer recalls. "I really don't think you get a dream like that more than once in your lifetime. And I didn't need it; once I had the story and it unlocked the writer inside me, I had enough ideas on my own."

The book became an all-consuming task for Meyer, a then-29-year-old married mother of three young boys living in Arizona. Meyer says she was "obsessive all the time," hiding her writing from her family while she ferried her kids to swimming lessons and refilled juice cups. "I'd hear the characters say things that I'd want to write down, so I was scribbling on the corners of envelopes and napkins, anything I could get my hands on so I wouldn't forget." After three months, the tale was complete.

On the recommendation of her older sister Emily, Meyer landed an agent and signed with Little, Brown and Company, publisher of the mega successful Gossip Girl series, all before New Year's Day 2004. "My life twisted around into 'I have an agent,' 'I have a book deal,' 'I have a career' and 'Wow, I'm going to be a writer, how odd is that?' " Meyer remembers, laughing.

Twilight hit shelves on October 5th, 2005, and New Moon, the darkest chapter of Meyer's vampire love story, arrived 10 months later and spent more than 30 weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list, but nothing could prepare her for 2007. "Last year was like 10 years' worth of stuff crammed into one," she says. Meyer put the finishing touches on Eclipse, the third volume in Twilight, and penned both Breaking Dawn and The Host, her first adult novel. She embarked on another book tour to promote Eclipse's release and saw her audience multiplying. But she still didn't want Little, Brown to put out Eclipse on August 7th, just two weeks after the final Harry Potter book hit stores. "It was the summer of Harry Potter. I thought I'd get steamrolled," Meyer confesses. But Eclipse's first-day sales of 150,000 copies bested Potter, and the media appointed Meyer the next J.K. Rowling, a title she's still uncomfortable with. "I forget all the time I'm supposed to be some kind of minor celebrity because that's not who I am," she says. "I'm a very normal, quiet person, and then I had to say, 'OK, I really am a writer now. I'm not just playing at this.'

"The sad part was, I'd be writing and it would be one o'clock in the morning, and then it would hit me: Edward's not real. But for the last six hours, he was," she says. "And then he would not be real again. Oh, it was heart-breaking." While she was writing, Meyer also began hearing songs to match her characters' personalities and created chapter-by-chapter soundtracks for each book on her Website. "I listen to music always when I write," she says. "When I hear music on the radio, I'm like 'Oh! That's a song for this character' or 'This one would so fit that character in this mood!' "

Though her current tastes lean towards alternative and progressive metal, Meyer cites strict parents as why she didn't listen to much music during her Mormon upbringing ("They wanted to listen to everything before we listened to it, so basically we wound up listening to Lionel Richie and Chicago"), and says college was a crash-course in music ed. Interpol, My Chemical Romance, Vampire Weekend and Stars are among her current favorites.

Meyer's Twilight saga playlists are culled from a combination of what she was listening to as she wrote and songs that spoke to her from a particular character's perspective. The soundtracks are so indicative of the plots that Meyer waits to post the song titles until after each book is released, for fear the song choices offer spoilers. Frequent appearances are made by Linkin Park, and Meyer's favorite band, U.K. prog-rock trio Muse, who she discovered while listening to Sirius radio in her car one day while working on New Moon.

" 'Time is Running Out' came on and I was just like, 'Wow, what is this?' " Meyer recalls. "And I turned it up and made everyone in the car shut up. I Googled them immediately and listened to 'Hysteria' and I was like, 'Where has this been all my life? How have I lived without this?' " She dedicated Breaking Dawn partially to the band, "for providing a saga's worth of inspiration" and jokes, "I'm probably the only mom driving a minivan with a Muse sticker on the back."

Meyer discovered Blue October in a similar way: she heard the bitter farewell of their single "Hate Me" while in the car and "it was like Edward was singing out of my radio." When Justin Furstenfeld, Blue October's lead singer-songwriter first heard about the Breaking Dawn series, "the way they explained it to me was that she's got the pull of Harry Potter, but with more of a dark atmosphere," he says."It totally made sense to me. My songs are romantically dark, and her books are romantically dark." Meyer flew to Austin a month ago, where Furstenfeld was at work on Blue October's next album, to hear the band's new music and go over the songs that inspired her writing, including "Hate Me." Though Furstenfeld had heard Meyer's name, he'd yet to read her books and dove in immediately. "To me, it's this whole new world I'm opening up to," he says in his dressing room before their debut New York show.

"You can see from the line around the building that these kids have been involved in this world for quite a while, and they're pretty obsessed with it. It's like there's a show to see Jesus and I'm just the disciple," he jokes. He isn't far off: When Furstenfeld opens the show later that night, the screams are ear-splitting and the crowd is silent when he plays — but it's sheer chaos when Meyer walks onstage to answer questions. Cheers interrupt every answer, whether she's talking about what pushed her to get Twilight published or whether she shared Bella's wishes of wanting to become a vampire. Meyer jokes all she has to do is say her characters' names to get a response. "Edward!" she tries. The noise is deafening.

After the Q&A, Meyer brings Furstenfeld back onstage. She talks about the first time she heard "Hate Me," and sits on a couch next to him, silently mouthing the words as he plays. "It's an honor," Furstenfeld tells Meyer. "It's really weird," she responds. "To have amazing musicians want to come and do this with me is crazy!"

On the next page: Meyer explains her Twilight playlists The Music Behind Twilight
Meyer explains how she picked each book's playlist

Twilight (2005)
"Linkin Park was really kind of the undercurrent of that novel for me. I had Hybrid Theory and Meteora on a mix, and I just listened to them over and over again. They have a great rhythm for writing; aside from the tone of the song, the beat keeps you moving fast."

New Moon (2006)
"New Moon was when I discovered Marjorie Fair, this little band that just writes soul-crushing, heart-breaking music very prettily. I was listening to that and I could hear Bella in her depression; it was so perfect. This was also when I discovered Muse, and they just fit every moment. During 'To the End of the World,' I can hear Bella pushing through the underbrush looking for [Edward after he leaves her]."

Eclipse (2007)
"The most solid example of songs on the playlists being the ones that shaped the book was when I was working on Eclipse. I was in the car with my sister listening to 'Hysteria' by Muse — we were out of town and I had my Absolution CD because I don't travel without it. We were listening to 'Hysteria' and the kiss scene between Bella and Jacob choreographed itself in my mind, down to the number of steps. I can hear him in the beat as he's walking towards her. The scene is not everybody's favorite, but I certainly enjoy it."

Breaking Dawn (2008)
"When I went to Austin to meet Justin Furstenfeld and talk about the Breaking Dawn concert series he played a bunch of songs that aren't out yet. There's a song that he played called 'My Never,' that I can tell you the page in Breaking Dawn where I should have have heard it to write. I went home and re-did the playlist after that."

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