To celebrate the upcoming publication of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner on 5 June (at 5:05am!), Stephenie Meyer answers all about Bree! Have you been wondering how the publication of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner came about? How did the novella influence the movie? What happened when Stephenie found out that her “short” story was almost 200 pages? We’ve got your answers here:
STEPHENIE MEYER Q&A:
Bree only appears in a couple pages of Eclipse. What was it about the character that made you want to explore her story further?
In the beginning, I wasn’t fascinated specifically by Bree—it was the newborns in general. While I was writing Eclipse, there was a lot going on behind the scenes, of course, things Bella didn’t know about. Because I was focused on Bella, I couldn’t delve too deeply into the newborns’ story, however, there was always in my mind a general idea of what they were up to. I had to think about that while I was pacing the plot: Bella is at this point, the newborns are doing this. To keep it all straight, eventually I made a calendar of the months of May and June—which is all Eclipse deals with—and wrote down on each square what was going on with Bella that day and what was happening in Seattle. So the story of the newborns was always a big part of the story of Eclipse. And it made me kind of sad that there was no way to express any of that in the book.
Bree is the only newborn mentioned by name in Eclipse, the only newborn who has contact with the Cullens (aside from being killed by them), and the only newborn who encounters the Volturi in the clearing. She lives the longest, so she is the narrator who can tell the full story. She was a natural choice to chronicle the story of the newborns. Once I started writing from her perspective, she really came alive. So much so that, as the inevitable end got closer, it was really depressing going ahead. It was harder for me to kill Bree than any other fiction character I’ve ever killed, even though I was killing her for the second time. (Before Bree, the saddest was Walter in The Host.)
At what point did you realize that the “short story” you were working on for The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide was going to be a separate book?
I didn’t realize my “short” story was a novella until I handed it into my publisher. All I knew was that it was 80,000 words less than most of my novels. I was surprised when I was told it was almost 200 pages long and couldn’t fit into the Guide. However, I had always wished that people would be able to read Bree’s story before the movie came out. So when I was approached by the idea of publishing it as a standalone novella, it seemed like a great opportunity.
Why do you feel it is important for people to read Bree’s story prior to the release of the Eclipse movie?
Eclipse is told from only Bella’s perspective. That has some limitations; when there is so much going on off-stage (so to speak), it leaves a lot of mysteries. The films have the advantage of seeing the story from outside of Bella’s head. The viewer can see things—like the wolves hunting Victoria in New Moon—that the reader only gets hints of. Of all the Twilight books, Eclipse has the most going on outside of Bella’s view. For the movie to work, we have to see and understand some of these things.
Knowing that elements of Bree’s story were being incorporated into the movie, I hoped the story could somehow get out first. Personally, I always want to read a book before seeing the movie. I like to make my own mental pictures before someone else’s picture intrudes. Probably most of my readers don’t have the same hang up, but for those who do, I wanted to give them the chance to create their own mental pictures of Bree and the gang.
How did the story in the novella influence the Eclipse movie?
Around the time I started working on the story for the Guide, Melissa Rosenberg, the screenplay writer for the Twilight movies, began work on the Eclipse movie. She came to me with a ton of questions about what was going on in Seattle. Because the movie wasn’t tied to Bella’s perspective the way the book was, she was free to explore the newborns, but she wanted to keep it consistent with the story in my head. I told her about the piece of Bree’s story I’d written, and she was very excited to see it. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I started really focusing on that story. By the time pre-production had begun on the Eclipse movie, the Bree story was finished. I sent it to the David Slade, the director, and he asked if I would also let the actors involved in the newborn’s part of the movie read it. Of course I said yes.
So the novella wasn’t responsible for there being scenes about the newborns in the Eclipse movie, but it was responsible for those scenes matching up somewhat with the story in my head. Hopefully it also gave Xavier, Bryce, and Jodelle some extra insight into their characters.
We know Bree dies before we begin the story. How did it feel to explore the Twilight universe from a darker angle?
At first I thought it would be fun. I was focused more on the plot than on the character—very rare for me—and I was looking forward to spending time with some real vampire-y vampires. I had a lot of scenes of destruction in my head that I wanted to get down on paper. But as I started looking at those scenes through Bree’s eyes, the character started to become more important than the fun destruction. The more I fell in love with Bree and her friends, the more heartbreaking it felt to go forward. It ended up feeling dark in an entirely different way than I expected.
What was it like writing from a different Twilight character’s point of view? Did it cause you to see anything about Eclipse/the previous novels differently?
This is the third time I’ve written from the perspective of a Twilight character other than Bella—I’ve also written from Edward’s and Jacob’s perspectives. All three times, this has felt really natural; when I write from Bella’s perspective, I always know the thoughts of the other characters involved, I just don’t get to share them. So it’s fun for me to let those other voices out. One of the things that I enjoy most when writing from another perspective is looking at the characters I already know through new eyes. Things really came together when I got to the clearing with Bree. I loved being able to describe Bella and the Cullen’s from her perception.
In Breaking Dawn, Bella feels what it’s like to be a newborn and now readers will get to see Bree do the same. Were you thinking about Bella’s experience while writing Bree’s, or vice versa?
Absolutely—I was always comparing the two in my head as I wrote, because they have very different experiences as newborns. Bella goes into her new vampire life with a ton of preparation, expectation, and stubborn determination. Bree didn’t have any idea of what was happening to her; she goes in blind. But both do exceptionally well given their circumstances. I imagine Bella’s behavior would have been very similar to Bree’s if she had been changed in a similar way.
Over the course of the Twilight Saga, we are introduced to a rich hierarchy of vampires. Is Bree the only vampire outside of the core Twilight cast you’ve established such a firm story for? Is there any other character you would enjoy exploring in a similarly involved way?
Given all the time in the world and no distractions, I could write a short story for every one of my characters; some would turn into novellas and some would turn into novels and some would turn into series. Some of the stories are pretty firm—Aro’s early days for example, Marcus and Didyme, Jane and Alec, Charlotte and Peter, Alistair, the Denalis—and some I haven’t given as much thought to. Most of these stories don’t feel as necessary as Bree’s, because Bree’s story affects the central story so directly. I don’t know that I’ll ever do a companion story like this again. It was a lot of fun, though.
Was it easier or more difficult to write about the Twilight universe after seeing it brought to life in a movie?
All of the core Twilight story was written before the first movie came out, so I can’t really say. The movies are a fun and interesting supplement to the books, but they’ve never affected the look of the story in my head.
In which order would you recommend one read The Twilight Saga with the addition of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner? Should they follow Eclipse with the novella or finish Breaking Dawn before cracking the pages of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner?
If I were going to read the Saga for the first time, I would probably read Bella’s story straight through before launching into other perspectives.