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But it did. Around four in the morning, she woke up from an extremely vivid dream.

"It was very clear. I was an observer. When I woke up, I sat there with my eyes closed, thinking about it," she says. "It was like reading a great book when you don't want to put it down; you want to know what happens next. So, I just laid there imagining."

With three kids, she couldn't lie in bed imagining all day so she decided to write her dream down.

By breakfast, she was at the computer, where she typed the first line: "In the sunlight, he was shocking." It's now the first sentence of Chapter 13 in Twilight. Reluctantly, she got up to take her kids to the pool.

"The whole time, my mind was just churning," she says. "It was a really sleep-deprived summer, but one of the best of my life."

When she came home from swimming, she made lunch and kept writing. By the end of the day, she'd completed 10 pages. From that day forward, she wasn't able to stop.

The Meyers were coming off a depressing year. While she was pregnant with her youngest son, Eli, she'd fallen over —"I was realllly pregnant," she says — and broken her arm badly. Five weeks later, her husband, Pancho, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

"It wasn't a great time in my life. I'd put on so much weight with the two babies. My 30th birthday was coming up and I was so not ready to face being 30," she says. "I didn't feel I had much going for me. I had my kids, but there wasn't much I was doing."

Meyer needed a creative outlet. She'd painted in college, but with the kids, it was too hard, and the scrapbooking parties she went to with friends from church were fun but not exactly fulfilling

"When I switched to writing, it was a much fuller outlet for me," she says. "There was a whole lot of pleasure in that first writing experience. It felt like a dam bursting, there was so much that I couldn't get out, and then I could."

She's not the first writer to turn a dream into a novel and find success on her first try. Mary Shelley is rumored to have dreamed about Frankenstein before she wrote it. But the pace of Meyer's writing that summer and the wild success that followed are rare.

She didn't tell anyone what she was doing. She dropped out of her scrapbook club and didn't even go to the movies because the thought of three hours away from the computer was unbearable.

"I lost a lot of friends that summer," she says, laughing.

She didn't even tell her husband, though he'd started to wonder what she was up to.

"I was really protective and shy about it because it's a vampire romance. It's still embarrassing to say those words — it sounds so cheesy," she says. "It's not like I was going to tell him that I was writing this story about vampires, because he was just going to be even more perturbed."

Their marriage didn't exactly suffer, but they did get in little arguments.

"We're not either of us very docile people," she says. "We argue all the time because that's our personalities. We didn't get in mean arguments, but I'm sure we argued over it because we argue about everything — we argue about milk."

These days, Pancho is happy to play the proud husband. Because of his wife's success, he was able to go back to school to become an accountant, and while he was a little frustrated in the beginning, he beams when he talks about her.

"It's fun to watch," he says. "Before she wrote an international bestseller, she was just a creative and intelligent woman. She's extremely blessed."

The person who finally got the secret out of her was her big sister, Emily Rasmussen. The two have been extremely close since childhood, so when Meyer dropped off the face of the Earth, forgetting to make or return phone calls and ignoring e-mails, Rasmussen got worried.

"It was abnormal that she wasn't talking to me," says Rasmussen, who lives in Utah with her husband and daughter. "I called her and said, 'What's going on? Why aren't you calling me anymore?'"

Meyer took a deep breath and blurted it out.

"I don't keep secrets from Emily," she says. "I thought she'd laugh, but it turns out she's a big Buffy fan, which I didn't know. She wanted to see it, and, on the one hand, I was very shy about it, but on the other hand, I was in love with it, so I wanted her to see it."

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Megan Irwin
Contact: Megan Irwin