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"It's almost rock-star status," says Hochhalter. "I want to start calling her fans Steph-Heads. She has people who go to every book signing."

Libby Scott, a teenager from New Brunswick, Canada, has followed Meyer all over North America. Scott has been to Utah, Washington, Tennessee, and Arizona to meet up with her favorite author. She remembers shaking and stuttering the first time she met Meyer.

"I couldn't even get coherent words out," she says. "She hugged me, and I was, like, 'Oh, my gosh! Stephenie Meyer is hugging me,'" she says.

Scott got Twilight as a gift from her mother in 2005 and has been hooked since she read the first page.

"I just obsessed. For a couple of months, that was all I wanted to read," she says. "I liked it because it wasn't stereotypical. The relationship wasn't what you normally get in a teenage romance novel. The boy isn't perfect, and it brought you into this world where you think that this could really happen. I like that she wrote fantasy in such a real setting."

Her mom, Barbara, says the family has traveled more than 22,000 miles and spent more than $10,000 so that Scott can travel to signings. Meyer even came to Scott's birthday dinner in Nashville, bearing Twilight-themed gifts.

"Because of Stephenie, we've seen parts of the continent we wouldn't have thought to go to. I mean, I'd never seen the desert," Barbara says. "It's been quite an investment, but a good investment. We told Stephenie we'll follow her until the last book."

The Scotts aren't the only family who's gone crazy over Meyer's books. Her following is international.

Meyer's had to learn some hard lessons as a result of her massive popularity, and she's become a lot more guarded as her fame has increased.

Before the release of New Moon, a librarian leaked spoilers from her advance copy onto the Internet.

"It was two days of straight crying [after the spoilers were posted]. I wouldn't have minded if she went online and said she hated the book without posting the spoilers. That wouldn't have bothered me," she says. "But somebody linked to it, everyone read it, and then started e-mailing me. I couldn't defend myself, so I had six months of e-mails in all caps saying 'WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?' It was like being attacked."

In addition to the spoilers, some people who had access to the galley started selling it on eBay. One copy sold for over $350. It's not the fact that her book is being sold illegally that upsets Meyer (though it certainly angered the publisher) — she's just worried that whoever bought it was getting ripped off.

"There's no way they're going to be happy with that purchase," she says.

With Eclipse coming out this summer, the publisher decided to be much more careful. Absolutely no advance copies were distributed. Still, Meyer ran into a problem.

She lent a copy to her sister-in-law, who then asked if her other sister could read it. Meyer said okay, but it soon was passed on to another sister who passed it on to a 14-year-old friend, who made a copy for her friends. And so on.

"My fans are extremely loyal, and one girl e-mailed me. I flipped out. I was horrified," she says. "I found out it was through my sister-in-law's copy, and I met with the girls. I told them I can't write with this kind of nightmare. I can't deal with the stress, so if you guys can't keep your mouths shut, I'll have to stop writing."

No one wants to be the girl who killed Twilight, so they've kept Meyer's secrets under wraps. Still, she didn't get as angry as other writers might. Showing a dazzling understanding of the teenage female psyche, she didn't just threaten them, she also made them a promise.

"I told them, if they don't talk, when Eclipse comes out, we'll have a party and I'll make them shirts that say 'I kept the Eclipse secret,'" she says.

Still, because of the leaks, she won't even let her kids read book four. She used to read them her books as bedtime stories, but she now worries they may start talking.

"I never thought about it before, because who listens to them? But Gabe knows them really well," she says. "And the last thing I need is him trying to impress some girl . . ." she trails off in horror.

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Megan Irwin
Contact: Megan Irwin