Over the years, I’ve had several reporters ask me, “What’s a question you wish someone would ask you, but no one ever has?” And I can never think of an answer. It feels like every question possible has at one point or another been asked. However, during the Midnight Sun press tour, I got several questions that were either totally new to me, or an unexpected twist on an old question. It was a lot of fun for me to think about some new angles. Since most of these questions are from international interviews that probably won’t be available to everyone, especially in English, I figured I would share them here. This is the opposite of the Frequently Asked Questions page (which you can read here). These are the One of A Kind Questions:
Midnight sun is coming out in a pandemic. It is a time of great fear. Not only of catching a disease, but also of accidentally passing it on to those we love. We can kill people by touching them. Do you believe that the experience of these difficult times gives readers an even greater understanding of the drama of Edward and Bella?
That’s a very interesting question, and I’ve never considered that viewpoint before. Perhaps the pandemic will give readers a new level of sympathy for Edward’s situation.
What are you afraid of?
I’m afraid of the current pandemic. I worry about all the people suffering now and I’m afraid things won’t go back to normal, that I’ll never be comfortable in a crowd again and I’ll always have to think twice about hugging someone. Long distance relationships—friends and family—are not very satisfying.
And you are a mother of three boys. What did you teach your boys about love? And what recommendations did you give them on the way?
I taught them that my love is something they can always rely on. They know that I love them unconditionally and would do anything for them. I hope that knowledge helps them see themselves as people deserving of love. I hope they never compromise for someone who doesn’t love them the same way. I hope they’ve learned how to love others. I’ve tried to teach them to really listen to other people’s stories, and to be open to different experiences.
What do you do after you finish work? Treat yourself to a glass of champagne or something like that?
Well, I don’t drink alcohol, so not that. Usually I will binge a TV show I’ve been wanting to watch. After Midnight Sun, I finally watched Downton Abbey. I’m a decade late, but glad I finally got to see it.
Thanks to your books, you are considered a love expert. What is your best advice for a working relationship?
I’m only an expert at fictional love, which is much easier than actual love. In real life, I’ve only had one long term relationship, my twenty-five year marriage to my husband. It’s not an easy thing, and we still have to work at communicating and compromising every day. Real love is never as perfect as fictional love, but it has the advantage of actually existing.
How, where and when do you write? What must always be on your desk?
I still mostly write at night after everyone is asleep. I am very easily distracted, so I need to know the phone isn’t going to ring and no one is going to pop into my office to ask me where their shoes are. I write in my office, which is just a tiny little closet-sized room with a desk, a printer, and a set of shelves. I always type (on my ergonomic keyboard)—I used to handwrite scenes in journals, but my right hand can’t take that anymore; carpal tunnel syndrome has caught up with me. The contents of my desk depend on which stage of writing I’m currently in. When I’m editing, I have sticky notes stuck to everything—the desktop, the walls, the monitor—with things I need to fix. When I’m writing I have sketches of floor plans and maps and lists of names scrawled on scraps of printer paper. I usually have my headphones (I like the cheap wired ones because I lose them too often to get fancy ones), a bottle of water, several pens, and gum. I’m usually chewing gum while I work.
“My whole body was overflowing with light and electricity again.” Edward says of his first real kiss with Bella. What was your real first kiss like and, if I’m not indiscreet, who was the recipient?
I’m not going to name names, but my first real kiss was kind of funny. I didn’t date a lot in high school, and so I’d never kissed anyone before I got to college. Some girlfriends were indiscreet and it got around that I was a member of the “virgin lips club,” as they called it. I was teased about this, although fairly gently, but I wasn’t really super sensitive about it. After a night of some friendly ribbing during a card game, a very cute boy took me aside and offered to teach me to kiss. I took him up on that. It definitely wasn’t a life changing, soulmate situation, but it was a lot of fun. Edward’s first kiss was much more meaningful.
I know you are a great lover of music. Do you recommend a song or a group for these strange days?
Maybe because these days are strange, my mood is all over the place, and there are lots of different kinds of songs that appeal to me. A few bands that I’ve been listening to most: Wintersleep, Temples, Beach House, etc.
The story is about impossible and immortal love. Do you have a romantic soul?
Mostly, I would categorize myself as a pessimistic realist. My theory is that if you always expect the worst, you’re usually pleasantly surprised. But I do love fictional romance. Fiction is really the only place for good romance. It doesn’t ever work that way in the real world.
Did you ever face impossible love as a teenager?
I would say that finding love as a teenager was the impossible part. I didn’t date much at all in high school, and the few dating experiences I did have were not very romantic. I got my romance in books then, too.
What fascinates you the most with vampires? Do they still fascinate you, after all the work you have done on the theme?
I didn’t choose the vampires, they chose me. I guess my subconscious was more fascinated with them than my conscious mind realized. So, as it was my subconscious that gifted me the story, I can’t be 100% sure what it was about vampires that appealed. I would guess it was the duality of vampires: they’re dangerous enough to be truly frightening, but at the same time they have all these desirable qualities: they’re beautiful, they’re immortal, they’re powerful. Things we all want, but with a heavy price tag attached. I do still enjoy my personal mythology of vampires, but I wouldn’t say I was “fascinated.” It’s now a comfortable place, with well-established rules.
Growing up, did you have a favorite library or bookstore?
My first library was a tiny little box in north Phoenix that no longer exists. I remember checking out picture books there; my favorite book to get again and again was The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright. I loved the photograph illustrations. The city built a bigger library when I was nine, the Mesquite Library, and that became my favorite place in the world. That was where I first got my hands on L.M. Montgomery’s books and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books and Paula Danziger’s books and etc. My mom would take me and my siblings there once every two weeks. I was always the one who had to be dragged out. I would check out the maximum number of books allowed, and I would usually read them twice before I had to return them. My favorites I would read three or four times. If I could have lived in that library I would have.
The feeling of connecting to a book or to a protagonist can be a powerful thing to experience when you’re young. As a teen, was there a book or a fictional character you felt a particularly strong connection with?
There were so many. Jo March was my idol. I wanted to be brave and buck convention and follow my own path, like she did. Anne Shirley had so much imagination and sweetness. I wanted to see the best in the world, too, and make magic out of ordinary things. Jane Eyre was another hero; she had an iron will and an unshakable commitment to choosing the right. It wasn’t the love story that I responded to as much as it was her self-discipline. I wished I could be that strong. I tend to be drawn to aspirational characters rather than characters I feel I have things in common with. And, though at the time I didn’t dream of becoming a writer myself, I often fell in love with fictional authoresses.
You’ve mentioned your love for Jane Austen, and you produced the film adaptation of Shannon Hale’s Austenland. Who do you think is the most underrated of Austen’s heroines? Why?
Definitely Fanny Price. For many, she is too much a doormat, too much a weakling. (It’s funny that the characters in the novel often respond to her in the same way.) But to me, she seemed so real and understandable. After all those years of being told she was less than, of being kept in her place, it seems natural that she would be quiet and self-effacing. Not everyone can be brave all the time, and bravery can mean different things besides standing up to your abusers. It can be enduring, surviving. It can be holding on to your principles under pressure when your whole life you’ve been conditioned to give in.
What’s a book you’ll never tire of rereading? When did you read it for the first time? What do you draw from it when you revisit it?
I have always been a rereader. Once is never enough for me when I love the book, and I don’t think I’ve ever tired of a book once I’ve loved it. Little Women was the first book I read over and over again (I read it first when I was eight). My family owned a copy, so that made rereading convenient. I read it again about once every two years (most recently after watching Greta Gerwig’s excellent adaptation staring my favorite actress, Saoirse Ronan). Over the years, I’ve added lots of other books to the reread rotation. The most recent additions have been the works of Rainbow Rowell, particularly Attachments (my go to reread when I’m sad or worried), and the Strange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor.
Who are some authors/what are some books you’ve read recently that you think deserve more attention? Why?
It’s difficult to judge as to which book is getting too much or not enough attention—I don’t really keep up with what is popular or well known—but I can recommend things I’ve enjoyed. I recently binged my way through the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells (twice), which was just pure enjoyment. I’m so glad someone recommended them to me. As mentioned above, everyone should check out Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor. Also, Leigh Bardugo and Holly Black. I read a ton of Georgette Heyer’s regency romances during quarantine and I don’t know how I missed them until now. The next thing on my to-read list is Deathless Divide, the sequel to Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation, which I loved.
The series is most notably popular among females, and has a huge fanbase with mothers. Is that surprising to you?
Not at all. I was a mother when I wrote it, and the only audience I was trying to please was myself. So it makes sense to me that other people in the same circumstances would be in my audience now. Originally, Twilight was just my personal big mental escape from reality. It’s not just teenagers who want to escape.