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On her Amazon.com profile, when asked for a list of influential books, she included the Book of Mormon.

Though she wasn't a writer until Twilight, Meyer says she was always a storyteller. The family took a lot of trips to Utah to visit her grandparents, and she used to tell herself stories to stay entertained.

After she graduated from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, she went to college at Brigham Young University in Utah, majoring in English.

"I don't know if I ever considered anything else. That's what I love. I love reading, and this was a major I could read in," she says. "I figured I'd go on and go to law school, but I wasn't super-concerned with supporting myself because I wasn't thinking beyond being a student."

During the summer break before her senior year, she started dating Pancho. They'd known each other since they were kids at church but were never friends until that summer.

"It's funny, because in 20 years of knowing each other, we never had a conversation. But we got along so well," she says. "On our second official date was when he proposed. He proposed a lot. Over 40 times. He would propose every night and I would tell him no every night. It was kind of our end-of-date thing. Mormons get married a lot faster. The no-sex thing does speed up relationships."

Though she doesn't write overtly Mormon literature, her religious upbringing filters into her stories. She won't, for example, ever write graphic sex. And the theme of free will throughout her books draws from Mormon doctrine.

Still, she thinks people make a bigger deal out of her religion than they should.

"I think it's because Mormons are rarer in other parts of the world," she says. "But I get more of, 'What's a Mormon girl doing writing about vampires?' from the Mormon community than I do the outside. I was more worried about [friends at church] thinking I was doing something cheesy and lame."

Don Evans, spokesman for the Mormon Church in Phoenix, says the church has no position on Meyer's books.

"Her works should not be judged by her religious affiliation. She could be Catholic, Baptist, or atheist," he says. "It shouldn't matter."

He adds that his wife and daughter are both fans.

Meyer isn't the first Mormon writer to go mainstream with "edgy" material. Science fiction writer Orson Scott Card is another well-known Mormon who's vocal about his religion but has found success in both the secular world and among his faith. He's also one of Meyer's favorite authors.

Jana Reiss from Publishers Weekly says it's become a point of interest because Meyer isn't afraid to mention her faith.

"Why does this keep coming up? There are a couple of reasons," she says. "She brings it up. She outs herself as a Mormon writer in a way other writers don't. The other reason is Mormonism is an exoticized religious minority. We see it with Mormon politicians, too."

Meyer got to talk to Card when he called her to try to persuade her to shop a science fiction novel she's working on to his publisher. Card didn't seal the deal, but Meyer got some great advice.

"He said, as a prominent Mormon author, you're never going to please everybody. You're going to get people who will tell you your stories cross the line — how can you be a good Mormon and write this? Then there will be other people who will say that you're limiting your art because you're letting your religion control what you write," she says. "So far, I haven't gotten it bad from either."

She does remember one Mormon woman who reviewed Twilight and analyzed how it tied into the Book of Mormon. She was dead wrong on every tie-in, Meyer says, though there was one deliberate Book of Mormon reference, Meyer says, that the reviewer missed.

Growing up, Meyer's favorite Book of Mormon story was the one about the 2,000 stripling warriors, from the book of Alma. In the story, the parents of a small group of boys are under attack but have taken a blood oath never to fight again after their conversion to Christianity. They consider breaking the oath but are persuaded not to by a prophet. Their sons, who never took the oath, go to fight instead, and because of their faith, not a single one is harmed.

Meyer sees her werewolves as her stripling warriors.

"In the history of the Book of Mormon, they [the warriors] would have been dark-skinned, the ancestors of the Native Americans who are here now. So for me, the Quileute [tribesmen, the wolves in her books] are kind of these sons who have taken on the responsibility of taking care of their families."

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Megan Irwin
Contact: Megan Irwin