**A note: I don’t pull any punches here, so if you haven’t read New Moon and you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this.**
Writing a sequel is a very different experience than writing a story. It was for me, at least.
If you’ve read the story behind Twilight, then you know that I didn’t set out to write a novel or begin a career as an author. I was just writing down a story for my personal enjoyment, letting it grow as it would and lead where it would. No pressure, just fun.
The first sequel I wrote to Twilight—Forever Dawn—was more of the same. I wasn’t planning a sequel any more than I was planning to write a book in the first place. Originally, Twilight had a more defined ending. But, when it was ended, I started writing epilogues. After I’d written three epilogues, all of them over a hundred pages long, I realized I wasn’t ready to stop writing about Bella and Edward. One of those epilogues turned into Forever Dawn.
(People often ask me if I’m ever going to make Forever Dawn public. The answer is no. For one thing, it’s not great—it’s downright embarrassing in some places. However, some of the content will work as a loose outline for book four, so I can’t tell you what happened, either.)
I was about three hundred pages into Forever Dawn when my life got turned upside down. Twilight was going to be published. People were going to read what I was writing. More specifically, young adults were going to be reading what I was writing. Unintentionally, I’d written a young adult novel. I realized pretty quickly that Forever Dawn did not follow the rules of YA. Because I was caught up in the story, I finished Forever Dawn anyway, knowing that it would never see the light of day; I gave it to my big sister as a birthday gift. And then I started on the real sequel.
The biggest non-YA thing I’d done with Forever Dawn was this: I’d pretty much passed over the rest of Bella’s high school experience entirely, skipping ahead to a time in her life with more mature themes. So, as I began to sketch out New Moon, I went back to Bella’s senior year of high school and asked my little cast of characters, “What happened?”
I swiftly regretted asking them for the story. Because they gave me a story I wasn’t expecting. More specifically, Edward told me something I didn’t want to hear.
I should probably mention here that I am not crazy (that I know of), it’s just that I am a character writer. I write my stories because of my characters; they are the motivation and the reward. The difficulty with strong, defined characters, though, is that you can’t make them do something that is out of character. They have to be who they are and, as a writer, they’re often out of your control.
As I started plotting New Moon (untitled at that point), it became clear that Edward was Edward, and he would have to behave as only Edward would. And, because of that, Edward was leaving.
NO! I didn’t want Edward to leave. I pitched a fit every bit as violent and tearful as those I’ve seen in New Moon discussion forums. I tried to talk him out of it. I presented him with other plot options. I begged. Edward remained unmoved.
Someday, when Midnight Sun (Edward’s version of Twilight) is available, I think you’ll understand better what was going on in the boy’s head. See, just as Bella doesn’t think she’s good enough for Edward, Edward sees himself as a soulless monster destroying Bella’s life and endangering her afterlife. The incident with Jasper acts as a catalyst, forcing him to act. He is determined to save Bella. He thinks the best way to do this is to take the vampires out of her life.
Is he being silly? In some ways, yes. But he can’t see any other way to protect Bella. Edward’s dealing with the idea that if he hadn’t been quick enough, if he hadn’t read Jasper’s thoughts just in the nick of time, then would that—death—have been better for Bella than a life with Edward? If she died at eighteen and went to heaven, wouldn’t that be better than an immortal but soulless and damned existence? Edward thinks so. However, he knows he’d never be able to watch her die. Consequently, he’d better get away from her before something happens that makes biting her a necessity…
So there I was, with Edward leaving. It was a hard pill to swallow, but once I accepted the inevitability of it, I had an interesting question on my hands. (And writers live for interesting questions.)
WHAT IF… What if true love left you? Not some ordinary high school romance, not some random jock boyfriend, not anyone at all replaceable. True love. The real deal. Your other half, your true soul’s match. What happens if he leaves?
The answer is different for everyone. Juliet had her version, Marianne Dashwood had hers, Isolde and Catherine Earnshaw and Scarlett O’Hara and Anne Shirley all had their ways of coping.
I had to answer the question for Bella. What does Bella Swan do when true love leaves her? Not just true love, but Edward Cullen! None of those other heroines lost an Edward (Romeo was a hothead, Willoughby was a scoundrel, Tristan had loyalty issues, Heathcliff was pure evil, Rhett had a mean streak and cheated with hookers, and sweet Gilbert was much more of a Jacob than an Edward). So what happens when True Love in the form of Edward Cullen leaves Bella?
I let Bella answer the question for herself, writing to see what she would do. It was hard to write her pain, because I had to live it to write it, and I was often writing through my tears. At the same time, it was always interesting. Bella surprised me with her grit and dogged determination. She pushed through the agony, living for others—Charlie in this case—as has always been her style.
(Side note: there are those who think Bella is a wuss. There are those who think my stories are misogynistic—the damsel in distress must be rescued by strong hero.
To the first accusation, I can only say that we all handle grief in our own way. Bella’s way is no less valid than any other to my mind. Detractors of her reaction don’t always take into account that I’m talking about true love here, rather than high school infatuation.
I emphatically reject the second accusation. I am all about girl power—look at Alice and Jane if you doubt that. I am not anti-female, I am anti-human. I wrote this story from the perspective of a female human because that came most naturally, as you might imagine. But if the narrator had been a male human, it would not have changed the events. When a human being is totally surrounded by creatures with supernatural strength, speed, senses, and various other uncanny powers, he or she is not going to be able to hold his or her own. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. We can’t all be slayers. Bella does pretty well I think, all things considered. She saves Edward, after all. Side note/rant over. Back to the story.)
And thus was born the basic premise of New Moon, and with it the title. To follow after Twilight, I needed a time of day to reflect the mood of the sequel. As this is the blackest period of Bella’s life, I thought it appropriate to name the book after the darkest kind of night, a night with no moon.
When the advanced reading copies began to fall into the hands of my fans, I asked people read New Moon twice, promising that I would explain why later. It’s later, and this is why: the first time through New Moon, I’ve found that readers are so anxious about the absence of Edward that they can’t settle into the middle portion of the book. They skim and speed read and flip ahead until, at last, they find him again. However, at that point they’ve missed the main section of the novel almost completely. On a second reading, knowing that Edward will return to the story at the proper place and time, the reader can slow down and enjoy the wondrousness that is Jacob Black.
And with that as a segue, on to the benefits!
I didn’t realize until I was working on the resolution how much my characters had gained from this experience. Vital stuff. Without this painful separation, Bella might never have realized that Edward really is hers to keep. No matter how perfect she thinks he is, or how imperfect she thinks she is, he belongs to her. Words can’t quite capture the life-changing nature of this knowledge for Bella.
Equally as cataclysmic—Edward finally realizes the intensity of Bella’s feelings for him, something he has always underestimated. Here’s the thing about Edward: he knows human nature pretty well. He’s seen a hundred thousand human relationships from the inside, and none of them have come close to touching the depth and everlasting devotion of Carlisle’s and Esme’s love, or Alice’s and Jasper’s, or even Rosalie’s and Emmett’s. Can you blame him for thinking himself—after one hundred years of immortal experience—capable of a more profound love than his eighteen-year-old human girlfriend? Edward is, understandably, a bit of a know-it-all. He learns a lot through this experience, the most important being that Bella’s feelings for him are an exception to the human rule. Something else he learns (not quite as important, but still good to know) is that, despite all his knowledge, he is fully able to make hideous mistakes in judgment.
Ah, and then there is my favorite gift that New Moon gave to me: Jacob Black.
Jacob’s development into a major character was a strange journey. Originally, Jacob was just a device. In Twilight, Bella needed a way to find out the truth about Edward, and the conveniently located Quileute Tribe, with all their fantastic legends, provided a cool option for that revelation. And so Jacob was born—born to tell Bella and Edward’s secret.
Something happened then that I didn’t expect. Jacob was my first experience with a character taking over—a minor character developing such roundness and life that I couldn’t keep him locked inside a tiny role. (Since Jacob, this has reoccurred with several other meant-to-be-minor characters. I really love it when this happens, though it often destroys my outlines.) From the very beginning, even when Jacob only appeared in chapter six of Twilight, he was so alive. I liked him. More than I should for such a small part. Bella liked him. Her instinctive trust and affection came without my intervention. And it wasn’t just us; my agent did, too. “I love that Jacob kid,” Jodi said (or something to that effect-this all happened in 2003). My editor agreed. “Can we get more Jacob in the story?” Megan asked.
Oh yes, we could!
I was writing New Moon and editing Twilight simultaneously. So, when Jacob Black started taking over New Moon, I was able to go back and weave Jacob and Billy throughout Twilight more centrally.
Lots of people give me more credit than I deserve; they think I knew Jacob was a werewolf from the very beginning. This is not the case. Twilight was supposed to be a stand alone novel, remember. There was no thought of werewolves in my mind as I wrote it. The Quileute (Quill-yoot) legends Jacob tells Bella in chapter six of Twilight are all genuine Quileute stories that I learned when I was researching the tribe (which is a real tribe with a truly fascinating and mystical history). All actual Quileute legends, except for the vampire myth about the ‘cold ones.’ I latched onto the wolf story (the actual Quileute legend claims that the tribe descended from wolves transformed by a sorcerer) because it fit with my sketchy knowledge of vampires and werewolves always being at each others’ throats (ha ha, pun intended). The dream Bella had of Jacob transforming into a wolf to protect her had no foreshadowing significance at the time. It was just my way of letting Bella’s subconscious articulate the situation.
Of course, I of all people should know that dreams can have a serious impact on your life.
Bella’s wolf dream was always one of my favorite visual images from Twilight. When I started working on New Moon, that image stuck with me. And I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if it was true—if ALL of Jacob’s legends were founded in absolute fact? What if Jacob was descended from wolves?
It all started to come together then. Sam on the beach in Twilight was no longer just a believer in old traditions—he was the first contemporary wolf. Billy’s warnings were more vital—he had concrete evidence on his hands, rather than just suspicions. And Jacob, my poor, sweet Jacob, had a whole secret heritage just waiting to come crashing down on him.
At that point all the crucial supports of the story were in place, and I only had to write it. Ha. Easier said then done.
It’s hard to explain how joyous the writing process was for me when I was creating Twilight. It was something I did for fun and excitement, with no concern for what anyone else might think, because no one else was ever going to read it. With New Moon, I knew people were going to read it. And some of those people were going to have bright red pens in hand while reading. I knew enough about the editing process to know that there were painful changes ahead; the parts I loved now might not make the final cut. I was going to have to rethink and revise and rework. This made it very hard to put the words down, and I had a horrible feeling much like stage fright the whole time I was writing.
It took about five months, but the editing process was much longer and more difficult than the same process with Twilight. New Moon was a very hard story to tell, not only emotionally, but also functionally. It needed a lot of work. The New Moon outtakes I posted explain some of the bigger renovations that I had to make.
The good news is that I got over—or rather got used to—the stage fright. Book three was much easier in a multitude of ways. I learned a lot through the New Moon experience, and I grew as a writer. Even better, my characters grew and matured in interesting ways that gave me so much to work with throughout the rest of the series! I’m writing book four at this moment in time, and let me tell you, Forks is a very exciting place to be these days.