As Stephenie Meyer, creator of the Twilight novels, makes her first UK appearance in five years, Alice Vincent meets her biggest fans.
As the sun sets on rush hour London, 150 people sit on Piccadilly pavement. They’re not protesting, or about to storm Fortnum & Mason, but waiting patiently to meet Stephenie Meyer, an author of life-changing proportions.
Meyer is the creator of the $2 billion Twilight franchise – the three novel, five film, Fifty Shades-inspiring publishing wonder – and this is her first UK appearance for five years. On March 29 The Host, the film of her bestselling novel, will be released, and she’s at Europe’s biggest bookshop to sign doorstep-sized paperbacks.
The Host replaces vampires and werewolves with Souls, alien parasites that have invaded Earth and the bodies of its human citizens. It’s possibly the most emotional and romantic dystopian novel ever, and may spark another blockbuster trilogy.
Meyer first put pen to paper a decade ago, but her fantasy love stories have created a vast, and valuable, fan base. Waterstone’s Piccadilly only announced the signing five days ago, prompting some fans to book flights, overnight buses and time off work to get their 30 seconds with the author.
Elaine Pilkington, 36, has come from County Clare in Ireland and is a regular at the bi-annual Twilight conventions. “It’s a very passionate fan community,” she tells me. “Her books have made a big impact on all of our lives. It’s just a love story, everyone can relate to that.”
Michael Sheen, who plays a kind of vampire pope, Aro, in two of the Twilight films, explained the love story appeal: “[Meyer] really explores what it feels like to be a young teenager, what it feels like to go through your first love, your first break-up.”
Most of the fans I speak to are in their twenties. For 23-year-old Hana Jo Gilmour, who is dyslexic and sixth in the queue, the Twilight books were the first she felt confident enough to tackle: she read all three in a week.
Alex Brown is from Bristol, and is one of the few men queuing. “When I started going to conventions the other fans thought I was a member of staff because I was a man,” he explains. Alex is fascinated with Meyer's writing, and says he wants to ask Meyer about her inspiration for The Host: “I’d like to know what was in her mind, what sparked her idea. She’s one of the best authors.”
Others’ connections with Meyer go beyond books. Lucy Callier and Bethan Thomas, 15 and 16, discovered Twilight after the first film was released in 2008, and enjoy the escapism Meyer provides. Bethan says: “Her books take you to a different place. I’m praying I don’t cry when I meet her.”
Meyer appears, on time, to a cheering crowd. The chatter about werewolves and battles subsides into gasps. Someone shouts, “I love her!” The author is all wide, lipsticked smile, graceful demeanor and has hair to rival the Duchess of Cambridge's. She chats with the fans, poses for pictures. Appearing human and slightly ethereal, Meyer gives them what they’ve been waiting for.
For Emma Clark, it was a handshake. Emma is known among the Twilight community as nuttymadam3575, a YouTube user whose Twilight videos have gained 15 million views since 2007. She filmed a very tearful reaction immediately after meeting Meyer.
She tells me, “This is a last chance situation, it means that much to me. The fact she shook my hand is huge.
“It was difficult to get the words out but I wanted to thank her for making it all possible and giving me a life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
The signing wrapped up around 7.30, after 200 fans had had their moment with Meyer, who will do the same thing in Paris this week, before returning to her native America for another publicity tour.
Alice Vincent Telegraph.co.uk