I’ve told the story here and there, and decided to write it up well to have in a central place.
I will preface this by saying, this could all be an AMAZING coincidence. Could be. I doubt it is. But it COULD be.
So… in 1999, I ran a Geocities (remember them?) website called The Leaking Pen. It was a writer support and critique page. We had a website with some resources and a guestbook, and we had a yahoo groups email group.
I lived in Mesa, Arizona at the time. At that time, one of the best ways to get people on a website was word of mouth and more traditional advertising. (Yes, really! I printed up flyers with the web address and put them around places. That coffee shop that did open mic poetry. The bulletin board on campus at the college I went too. I had friends share them around as well. One of them is Mormon, and put several flyers up at his temple. As I was later to learn, he went to the same temple as a certain well known writer of Vampires and Werewolves. Coincidence 1.
People would often post text files with their work in progress to the email group, and people would critique them.
One user was a woman whos online name was Stacy Meyerson. Coincidence 2! (yes, really. its a ‘close enough’ fake name)
She had a draft of the first half of a book that was very obviously Buffy pastiche. The main character was a “hunter” who made a living keeping supernaturals under control. The two main types were werewolves and vampires. This main character was a MESS. Alcoholic, she “drank a bottle of Jack every night to get to sleep”, engaged in a lot of dangerous behavior, and had a love triangle going on with the head of both the local werewolf pack and the oldest vampire in the area, having sex with both of them while simultaneously threatening to kill them and telling them how easy it would be.
Sounds nothing like Twilight, right? Other than a couple bare bones things? Well… The main character’s name was Bella. The head vampire was Edward. The head werewolf was Jacob. (this is 1999, maybe early 2000)
Everyone reading it had the SAME reaction. The prose was pretty good. The dialogue wasn’t bad. But Stacy fully admitted that she had only ever made love to her husband, and had no experience with drugs and alcohol. And it showed. The number one suggestion was to cut the sex and alcohol from the book entirely. And take it back in time. The book opened with Bella already an established hunter. We all had the same thought, especially as she, the writer, was young and innocent in relation to what she was writing. She should give us the story of young and innocent Bella, before getting jaded and turned hard. Show us Bella learning about werewolves and vampires, and then later, when she’s a bit older, rewrite the current book as book 2 in the series. She thanked us for the advice, and vanished from the group. (Which was usual. we had a LOT of people come in, get some basic crits, and then vanish)
Sadly, the website and email group is long gone. I have no record of this, or the original draft she posted. But one of these days, I want to go to a signing, and say, “make it out to, the leaking pen. And I bet you are happy we told you to stop having Bella drink bottles of Jack, right?” Just to see her reaction.