In a recent article with USA Weekend, Steven King says that Twilight author Stephenie Meyer “can’t write worth a darn.” He goes on to point out that young girls feel safe reading her books because they’re “not overtly sexual” and that they’re a “shorthand for all the feelings that [young girls are] not ready to deal with…”
I’ve got to tell you, I know lots of people who have read and loved the Twilight books, and not one of them is a teenaged girl. Most of them are thirty-something married moms, but I also know a fifty-five year old woman who loved it and a thirty-seven year old guy who loves it.
I’m not here to say that Stephenie Meyer’s writing is brilliant, but it is good. She has a straightforward style without any flourishes or tricks. She’s not going to win the Pulitzer, but she does know how to tell a story. The books are impossible to put down. I know that Virginia Woolf is a great writer, but I can put her down.
It’s long been a debate in the writing community, would you rather be a great writer or make money? Ideally, the answer is both. But realistically, the two don’t always go hand in hand. Is writing an art or a business? There have long been rumors that some famous writers who crank out a book every year have teams of writers working for them that they oversee. When I first heard this, I was aghast. But it all depends on why you write.
I write because I love to write. I need to write. I need to create and be productive and tell stories. And I want to share those stories with other people. Lots of people. I write historical fiction because the relationship between the past and the present fascinates me. I think history is relevant and it has shaped who we are today, and I want to make people mindful of that. I also love to read, and I love how good books make me feel. I want to do that for other people.
But I’d be lying if I said the money didn’t matter. I would rather sell books than have critics love me. I would rather have millions of people buy my books than win a writing award. I would rather write a book that people talk about at parties than a book that makes college students groan.
Stephen King has managed to marry good writing and commercial success. Good for him. But I’m pretty sure that, though Stephenie Meyer won’t be winning any writing awards for her prose, she’s laughing all the way to the bank.