The other day I saw an interview with 50 Shades of Grey author E. L. James where she said that she was inspired to write her book by the success of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. As I understand it, the book actually had its beginning on a Twilight fan site.
I had to laugh. Not at James, who is clearly parlaying this inspiration into incredible success; no, I was laughing ruefully at the latest and (probably) most famous example of what I call the Meyer Effect.
Visit any group of writers, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll meet at least one who will admit that Stephenie Meyer and the phenomenon that was the Twilight series gave her the impetus to write her own book. I myself am a member and admin of a writing support group that was once, in our early years, called the TwiWriters; we all met on the huge Twilight fan site Twilight Moms. While many of us have drifted away from that fan site, a small strong core of us are still writing.
What is the Meyer effect and how does it work? It is the situation wherein someone (almost always a woman) has read the interviews with the Twilight author wherein she describes how she came to write the books. Meyer talks about a vivid dream and having to fit in writing down the dream between swim lessons and other mom activities. That dream became a pivotal and well-known scene in the first book.
I believe that the way Meyer entered into authorhood–the juxtaposition of a story that would become a world-wide hysteria with the very ordinary elements of suburban mom–somehow made the idea of writing more accessible to millions of people. The most commonly heard words are, “I decided if Stephenie Meyer could do it, so could I.”
We all of us hung on her stories of typing late into the night and at poolside during swim lessons. . .dropping the huge manuscript into a mailbox (that to this day gives her butterflies when she sees it!). . .getting miraculously discovered in the dreaded slush pile by an editorial assistant (who has since become a literary agent). Again, it echoes in our minds: If it happened this way for Stephenie Meyer, it could happen for me.
Had Twilight happened ten years ago, or ten years from now, I don’t think the Meyer effect would be as widespread. The combination of her story with the rise of independent publication has come together to create a perfect literary storm. For instance, JK Rowling’s stories of writing the Harry Potter books on a train didn’t launch a motherlode of new writers. I never heard anyone say, “If JK Rowling can do it, so can I.”
The ramifications of the Meyer Effect will be felt for a long time, as many of the authors whom she inspired are just now hitting the bookshelves. Will it ultimately be a negative or a positive result? Stay tuned.