By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Word spread quickly that author Stephenie Meyer made a spur-of-the-moment decision to mark the 10th anniversary of a dream she had “about a girl and sparkly vampire” that inspired the saga.
Coincidentally, it was Stephenie Meyer Days.
Meyer's four fictional romance novels set in Forks and environs became a global phenomenon with the release of five hit movies between 2008 and 2012.
The 39-year-old author from the Phoenix area informed Forks officials Thursday that she was going to show up for the festival — her first visit to the West End since the Twilight franchise hit it big.
And she revealed another secret: Twilight might have been named Forks instead.
Stephenie Meyer Days is celebrated annually in Forks on the weekend nearest Sept. 16, the birthday of the novel's protagonist, Bella Swan.
The seventh annual celebration continues today sans the author with a highlight of Bella's birthday cake celebration at 1 p.m. at Forks Outfitters/Thriftway, 950 S. Forks Ave.
“Originally, the first draft of the book was called Forks,” Meyer said during an interview at Forks City Hall.
“I liked the idea that this was [Bella's] big fork in the road, like which direction she was going to go in her life.
“I thought it was a great title, but my editor did not agree with me.”
The Twilight name, which was inspired by a line from Anne of Green Gables, has become synonymous with tourism on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Forks Visitor Center officials credit the saga for drawing tens of thousands of visitors every year.
“It's really mind-blowing,” Meyer said of the phenomenon.
“It's hard to realize it has anything to do with me. I tend to really disassociate.”
Meyer, who had never been to Forks or even Washington state before she wrote the first book in the series, Twilight, described the West End logging town as “a real find.”
“One of the nice things about people coming out here for Twilight is that it's worth coming to for itself,” she said.
“Then they get to see how beautiful it is.”
Meyer said that Twilight books and related movies have had “quite a lot of backlash,” and confessed that she is sensitive to online haters.
“I have to grow a thicker skin before I write about Forks anymore,” she said.
In addition to Forks, LaPush and the Quileute tribe are featured prominently in the Twilight saga.
Although she worried about how her depictions of Quileute wolf legends would be received by the tribe, Meyer said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“When I wrote it, I didn't think anyone would ever see this but me,” Meyer said.
“I do remember when we started talking about publishing, I said maybe we should change the names. You know, I'm starting to get worried that somebody's going to see this and be offended.
“But they've been super nice to me and really, really loving about the whole thing — which is a relief.”
Other portions of the saga are set in Port Angeles.
Swan and her 107-year-old vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen, had their first date at Bella Italia restaurant.
Meyer and her sister were surprised to find a real Bella Italia restaurant in downtown Port Angeles when they toured the area prior to the release of the first novel.
“I named it that in the book without realizing that was real,” Meyer said.
“We went to dinner there and we're like, 'This is so crazy.'”
Meyer include Port Angeles in her books as a slightly larger town where teenagers would go to have dinner or buy a prom dress.
“Forks was always the center of it,” she said.
When asked to comment on Twilight's influence on teenage notions of love and marriage, Meyer said she never set out to influence anyone.
“There is a story that I've heard different reiterations of from girls who were in a relationship that was not very good to them,” Meyer said.
“And when they read Twilight, they felt like: 'You know what? This isn't love. Love is something better than this, and I'm getting out.'
“And that makes me happy.
“It's a really serious kind of situation to be in an abusive relationship, and I'm glad for whoever it helped, for sure.”
Meyer confessed that Edward Cullen's character is seen as “a bit of a stalker,” but conventional rules don't apply to vampires.
“I think that he puts her well-being before his, and that's rare in a relationship,” Meyer said.
“That's what you're really looking for. And if that helps anybody to look for somebody who is really about them and not about themselves, that's a good thing.”
Meyer said she is particularly fond of LaPush, where dozens of Twilight fans were assembled at a campground for Stephenie Meyer Days.
The author signed autographs and took pictures with her fans, some of whom came from as far as Austria and Ireland.
Tracy Capoccia of Boston attends Twilight-themed events throughout the nation, but she and Jessica Wheeler of Pittsburgh had never seen the North Olympic Peninsula prior to this year's Stephenie Meyer Days.
“The scenery is breathtaking,” Capoccia said, while scanning the Pacific Ocean from First Beach.
“It's more than I ever expected it to be.”
Wheeler added: “It's beautiful, and I could see how Stephenie could set a love story here, because it's very romantic — just in the way it feels and the way it looks.”
Like many Twilight saga fans, Wheeler and Capoccia met online and have become good friends.
“We can never thank [Meyer] enough for what she's brought into our lives,” Capoccia said.
“She hasn't just brought the characters into our lives, we've made lifelong friends.”
Back at City Hall, Forks Mayor Bryon Monohon presented Meyer with a proclamation of appreciation.
“It is an absolute skill to be able to come in to an area, especially one that you don't know, and capture it,” Monohon said.
“You got it right.”
Marcia Bingham, customer service director for the Forks Chamber of Commerce, asked Meyer the same question that many visitors ask:
Will there be another book in the Twilight series?
Meyer said she left the series open and knows what happens next, but is hesitant to pen another book because of the negative press and Twilight “backlash.”
“If were to write it, I know that I would get creamed in the reviews and that it would just be a new wave of fresh hate,” Meyer said.
“So for me, that kind of puts me off of it.
“Maybe when it dies down.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.