First off, let me say that I am a fan of the Twilight books; while I probably won’t be putting them on my bookshelf next to Jane Austen any time soon, they were by no means difficult to read. In fact, I sucked all four of them down like Jell-O shots.
Part of the initial appeal–at least for me–was the story of the author: a young mother with three boys under the age of ten manages to crank out a 500 page novel in three months. And no, she wasn’t helping herself to her children’s Ritalin–she doesn’t even drink coffee. Naturally, as a fellow writer with young children, this piqued my curiosity–as well as made me insanely jealous. And so I internet-stalked her, hoping to find interviews where she might reveal the secrets behind her “writing with children” success.
Does she put NyQuil on their pancakes instead of Mrs. Butterworth’s? Do the kids have a playroom that is so well sound-proofed that it makes the gun shop basement in Pulp Fiction seem amateurish by comparison? Is there, perhaps, a nanny?
The answer to all of these questions was, surprisingly, “no.” In fact, in one interview she talked about how she “liked to write out in the middle of the house, so she could keep an eye on what was going on.” That’s when I realized that, unfortunately, I was never going to be able to glean any useful “writing with children” tips from her, because apparently she and I were of two completely different species.
First: who wants to “keep an eye on their kids”? If you know what they’re doing, then you are obligated to get up and stop them. If there is one thing that I have learned from my kids, it is that “I didn’t know” is an almost foolproof excuse.
Secondly, though, there is the fact that if you are somewhere where you can keep an eye on them, then that means that they can keep an eye on you. This totally negates a parent’s greatest weapon: the illusion of omnipotence, also known as The Wizard of Oz ploy. Letting your kids know that you found out about their transgressions using traditional methods (“I saw you hit your brother”) is the same as having the curtain pulled back on the Great and Powerful Oz. It’s so much better to cast the illusion of being at the center of an extensive network of spies, all of them willing to sell out your child at any time. (“My sources tell me that you were hitting your brother today. On the head. With your right fist. Repeatedly.”)
Of course, perhaps Ms. Meyers doesn’t have to be quite as sneaky as the rest of us; after all, she does have three boys, and, as everyone knows, even the brightest of boys displays a Homer Simpson-like oblivion about the powers of direct observation. Take, for instance, the fact that windows are see-through: while a girl will usually at least glance up at the house to see if she is being watched before wacking her little brother on the head, a boy will stand in front of a plate glass window big enough to drive a Hummer through and wack away with abandon, thinking that, just because they are outside and you are inside, you don’t know what’s going on.
“I wasn’t hitting him!”
“Yes you were–I saw you through the window.”
Come to think of it, if you take the “female sneak gene” out of play, maybe it is feasible that Stephenie Meyers regularly keeps tabs on her children while sitting out in the middle of the house. But writing from there? No way.
I’m still going with the NyQuil on the pancakes for that one.