Posted: 10:23 PM- Stephenie Meyer's meteoric publishing success story seems as supernatural as the plots of her young adult vampire love stories.
The Brigham Young University graduate's first adult novel, the sci-fi thriller The Host, has already topped the New York Times best-seller list after its release just last week.
In 2005, the 29-year-old Phoenix stay-at-home mom had three sons younger than 5, and hardly had time to finish a scrapbook page, let alone write a novel.
She had never taken a creative writing class and never written anything other than English papers, yet she started a story based on a vivid dream about a klutzy young woman, Bella, who falls in love with a dreamy teenage vampire, Edward.
"I'm not a horror person. I like to be light," Meyer said in an interview. "I don't like dark, scary things. My vampires are different. It's hard for me to imagine going on another track."
In just three years, Meyer has become one of the nation's most popular authors. Twilight, her three-part series about Bella and Edward, has sold more than 5.5 million copies, a debut so phenomenal that the only valid comparison for book sellers and publishers is to that other young adult phenom, the Harry Potter series.
Meyer's books are especially popular in Utah, where fans snatched up tickets within just hours to this weekend's two sold-out 1,000-seat readings at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi and Highland High School in Salt Lake City.
"This is every publisher's dream, but it doesn't happen very often," said Megan Tingley, the senior vice president of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, who discovered Meyer's work. "We don't have a comparable debut on our lists."
The release of new book is spurring sales of Meyer's earlier books. "It is just flying off the shelves," said Catherine Weller, new book buyer at downtown's Sam Weller's Books. "The vampire series is still flying off the shelves. I think they can only feed off each other now. It's not Harry Potter good, but very, very, very good."
The Host is a popular request at the Salt Lake City public library, which owns 20 copies and has another 30 on order. "Right now, we have 96 holds," said Andrew Shaw, the library's assistant manager of community affairs.
Ask fans why they like the books, and you'll hear a variety of answers. "It keeps me wanting to read more," said Amelia LaFiguera, 14, an Ogden eighth-grader, who described herself as "not really a regular reader." "I could feel like I could sort of relate to the girl's feelings about the boy. She feels like she's being rejected, but she can't stay away from him."
For some readers, one element of the book's appeal is the unusual genre-busting twist to the book's central relationship, that Bella is pushing for more intimacy, while Edward proposes marriage. "That's the appeal of Stephenie Meyer," said Drew Goodman, who heads general books sales at the University of Utah campus store. "Although it's billed as an erotic novel, it never really gets into what you see on TV. It's much more tame."
Others describe the books as a guilty pleasure. "Everyone was reading them, and then everyone was in love with Edward. It was like being in a club," said Erin Hayes, 27, of Salt Lake City. "At one point, I asked my husband if I could call him Edward, and he did not appreciate that at all. That's the only thing my husband liked about the book: It definitely put me in a more romantic mood. They're not dirty books, by any means, it's all just tension."