Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Open Letter to Stephen King
Dear Mr. King (or can I call you Stephen?) -
I have read many online articles of late with advance information about your upcoming interview to be published in the Weekend edition of USA Today, March 5-6. Apparently you're not very pleased with the work of one Stephenie Meyer, the millionaire author of the Twilight series. While I realize that everyone has his or her opinion, don't you think it's a little harsh to say that she "can't write worth a darn"? Yes, you give her credit for finding an audience - teenage girls who may not be ready to deal with the idea of actual sex as much as the flush of first love. You give her credit for her pace and stories (though that back-handed compliment is lumped in with the same observation made of James Patterson). But really, couldn't you be just a little bit nicer?
After all, every writer has to start somewhere, and I'd say that for a new writer to find such a massive audience is saying something about her. You started out by throwing Carrie in the trash, did you not? It was your wife who believed in you enough to pull it back out and let the story live. Look how that turned out! (Hmm, weren't you also writing about teenage girls who were dealing with awkwardness, fear, and *gasp* high school locker rooms?)
I'm not sure that your low opinion of Meyer is going to make a dent in her sales, though. I started out being appalled at the big hullabaloo going on at my local Borders when Breaking Dawn was coming out, mostly because they were blocking the entrance. The only thing I'd heard about the series was from a friend of mine (who is several years older than I) who had read the first three books over the summer. I thought, "What is a woman your age doing reading teenager books?" It was the same confusion I had over why people my age were so into Harry Potter, and no, I still haven't read those books. I simply didn't get it.
And then the movie came out, and many more of my blog buddies were talking about the books. I had to take a chance. I read Twilight. Though the writing, granted, in book one was a little weak and full of superfluous adverbs, I continued. Meyer is very wordy, too. But the story sucked me in (no pun intended) and kept me along for the ride. Bella's character was sweet and awkward and stuck between two parents who were not adult enough to really be good parents. Instead of getting into drugs, she chose to watch out for her parents, taking care of them (and boy will her therapy bill be high...). The thing I found unbelievable about her character was that she liked to clean. I have never met a teenager like that, unless he or she was in a manic phase of bipolar disorder.
Now in the third book of the series, I find I am still hooked. I just passed the part in which Jacob kisses Bella, which I was really hoping would leave her confused and maybe a little more drawn to staying human. Time will tell how it all resolves.
If you'll notice there are some classic themes in the books. There is the Romeo & Juliet tragic thread. In the end, both characters end up dead (or will she?). There is the love triangle. Bella can't quite let Jacob go, though she claims there is no one for her but Edward. There is the message that beauty isn't everything, as illustrated by Rosalie's story. We learn that there are rules, even for the wildest among us. We follow along Bella's modern tale of being a child of divorce and geographic distance. And there is the matter of her short-sightedness at believing there is nothing more to life than what she feels in this moment. She has no concept of how life can change.
This isn't the first time I've cringed at something you've said, you know. In your book, On Writing, which I really enjoyed for the most part, you took a crack at technical writers by saying that if you (as a budding writer) weren't willing to sit down and actually put in the hours to produce pages, then you should give up and become a technical writer. Oh boy. Where do I begin on that one?
It hurt. I make my living as a technical writer, and while it isn't perfect -- it does steal my love of sitting down at the computer -- it takes creativity and stamina. It takes talent in many areas: writing, grammar, technical topics (engineering, computer science, etc.). And it is darned hard work. It doesn't deserve to be represented as being any lower than anything else a writer does to pay the bills (working in a retail shop, practicing law, etc.).
You can't fault Meyer for her hard work, based on your own measure of a writer's dedication. You can't say she didn't put in the hours at the computer (or typewriter) or that she didn't work at her craft, can you? But like I said, we each have our own opinion of different writers. I'm not fond of some of your books because they seem like regurgitations of others. In some cases they were simply too gross for me. Others of your books, like The Stand and The Green Mile, were pure inspiration. That is to say that every writer has his or her ups and downs and his or her audience. Meyer has gone far beyond just "writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books". She's also writing to us middle-aged women who haven't - for a second - forgotten what it was like to be that age and to want a little adventure.
And really, is there anything so bad about leaving out the sex? Aren't kids bombarded on every side with pressure about sex, gangs, drugs, horrifying crimes, and terrorism? I think it's about time someone wrote something that addresses the fact that it's okay, sometimes, to delay gratification, even if your boyfriend is a vampire.
With all due respect, I think maybe you should give her books another try. Or maybe not. She's doing just fine without your approval.