Stephenie Meyer, a sensation with teens because of her million-selling “Twilight Saga” vampire novels, wonders how readers will feel about her first adult book, “The Host.”
“It would just be cool if my existing fans liked it,” the 34-year-old Meyer told The Associated Press. “And I hope to get some new readers who would never go into the YA (Young Adult) shelves.”
For the young adult author, even one as famous as Meyer, there is no guarantee of grown-up success.
Meyer’s “The Host,” a science fiction story about warring beings within the body of one woman, will be released next week by Little, Brown and Company. The publisher has announced a first printing of 750,000, huge for most authors, but not so special for Meyer. She has more than 7.5. million books in print worldwide, according to Little, Brown, and is currently enjoying a Harry Potter-like presence on Amazon.com.
All four of her “Twilight” books are in the top 40, including “Breaking Dawn,” which does not come out until August. As of the end of April, “The Host” was at No. 33.
“We are not going to assume that every reader who loved the ‘Twilight’ series will love this book right away,” said Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch. “This is a different kind of book in a significant way and we don’t want to oversell it. But we do want it to be available at an appropriate level. This is probably the biggest printing we’ve had for a first adult novel.”
Adult authors from E.B. White to Sherman Alexie have nicely managed the transition to writing for young people but once a writer is defined as a children’s author, aging isn’t easy. “Winnie the Pooh” creator A.A. Milne, a successful playwright in his early years, once confessed that he was forced to say “goodbye to all that” after his beloved books about the bear and friends. Margaret Wise Brown, author of the classic “Goodnight Moon,” tried for years to write stories for The New Yorker.
“But she could never write about people her own age in a convincing way,” said Brown biographer Leonard S. Marcus, who has written numerous other works about children’s authors. “There’s an example of someone who by temperament could only write for children.”
Among contemporary writers for young people, Judy Blume has likely had the greatest luck, with such million selling novels for adults as “Wifey” and “Summer Sisters.” Others remain more identified with children, such as “Lemony Snicket” writer Daniel Handler and “Sisterhood” novelist Ann Brashares, whose adult novel, “The Last Summer (of You & Me),” came out last year and soon will be released in paperback by Penguin Group (USA).
The book has sold around 150,000 copies, according to Penguin, a very good number for most writers, but far less than sales for her “Sisterhood” stories.
“‘The Last Summer (of You & Me)’ was aimed at readers of a different age, had a different price point and wasn’t a part of her best-selling series,” Penguin said in a statement that praised Brashares as a “versatile and accomplished” author.
“The book hit The New York Times best seller list in its first week, and we are very happy with its publication and Anns future in the adult market.”
Meyer said she began “The Host” around 2004-2005 as a “side project” while she edited one of her “Twilight” novels. She did not consciously write “The Host” for an older audience and did not think of it as an adult book until she had completed it and showed the manuscript to her agent, Jodi Reamer.
“I told her that I didn’t think this was a YA novel and she said, ‘No, it isn’t,’” Meyer said in an interview from her home in Phoenix, Ariz., where she lives with her husband and three children. “I didn’t write it differently, but some of the issues are different. I had the chance to explore a mother-daughter relationship, and that’s not really a YA thing.”
The country’s biggest superstore chain, Barnes & Noble, Inc., plans to display “The Host” together with Meyer’s vampire novels on tables near the front of its stores. Bob Wietrak, a vice president of merchandising, said, “Many of her fans are now adults and are excited to hear that she is now going to writing adult titles.”
Other booksellers also believe Meyer’s chances are promising, thanks, in part, to J.K. Rowling, who has said she might write an adult book. Twenty years ago, adults came to children’s books sections almost exclusively to buy books for their children. Now adults are far more likely to seek books for themselves, especially vampire books and other works of fantasy.
“I would say it started changing with Harry Potter,” said Rose Joseph, co-owner of the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, Ill. “You had this tremendous amount of publicity and excitement and people saying, ‘You’ve got to read this.’”
“The Harry Potter books are responsible for a lot of adults who would not necessarily have considered reading a young person’s book to enter that world,” said JoAnn Fruchtman, owner of the Children’s Bookstore in Baltimore.
Citing Shakespeare and Jane Austen as greater influences than Anne Rice or Stephen King (“I’m too much of a chicken” to read King, she says), Meyer noted that she already has some older readers, “’Twilight’ Moms,” she calls them. Her new book runs more than 600 pages, but thanks again to Rowling, she doesn’t expect the length to keep readers from trying it.
“J.K. Rowling—we owe her so much,” Meyer said. “First of all, she got publishers to believe that millions of people will pick up an 800-page book. She also got adults reading YA literature. What a gift: She got kids reading and she got adults reading.”