Stephenie Meyer was a stay-at-home mom whose life changed with a dream she had on June 2, 2003, about a sparkly young vampire and a human girl in a field. The next day she started writing what would become "Twilight," naming the two characters only "he" and "she." Within six months, she would finish the book and have it accepted for publication; five years later, "Twilight" would be brought to life on the big screen.
In "Twilight," awkward Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to the rainy town of Forks, Wash., to live with her dad (Billy Burke). She meets the mysterious and impossibly beautiful Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a forever teenage vampire who, with his family, foregoes drinking human blood. Edward and Bella have an immediate, soul-mate like connection. Also introduced is Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a family friend and member of the Quilete tribe who will also grow to love Bella, thereby creating the love triangle that fuels the story. A trio of "normal" vampires arrives, putting Bella's life in danger.
"New Moon" takes Edward's exquisitely tortured soul to a new level. Fearing for Bella's life, the self-sacrificing Edward leaves her heartbroken in Forks, where she grows much closer to Jacob. Later, told Bella has died, Edward begs the royal family of vampires, the Volturi, to kill him. Bella will not only have to save Edward, she learns Jacob is a wolf and in love with her.
Coming up in "Eclipse": Bella will have to choose between Edward and Jacob, plus face the ever-present threat to her from powerful vampires.
New to read: "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella" by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown, 192 pages, $13.99).
Released to coincide with the opening of "Eclipse," this novella is about one of the newborns -- the young vampire army created to destroy Bella and the Cullens. Bree lived on only a few pages in "Eclipse," but that doesn't matter. Reading this novella is like watching "Titanic": We know it will end tragically, but we read it anyhow and feel pity for this young vampire who never stood a chance.
Next up: Summit recently made official one of the worst-kept secrets in show biz: That the nearly 800-page fourth book in the series, "Breaking Dawn," would be made into two movies. Both will be directed by Oscar winner Bill Conden, the guy behind "Dreamgirls" and "Chicago." An odd choice on the surface, but he does have a passion for the vamps going back to "Dark Shadows," and early in his career he worked in horror films. (On his Facebook page, he promises that there won't be any musical numbers.) Look for Part 1 to be released Nov. 18, 2011, with the second in 2012. Also just announced: the movie(s) will carry a PG-13 rating by toning down the graphic content of one of the most painful births ever written in literature.
More reading: Say what you will about Meyer as a writer, she has an easy-to-read style and created characters straight out of the great romances of classic literature, and that can't be bad. Just look at the two men who inspired Edward's name -- the tormented Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" and the loyal and selfless Edward Ferrars in Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility." Do those traits sound familiar? Plus there are multiple references to Shakespeare, especially "Romeo and Juliet," as well as Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights." Start reading.
The Cullen clan
This peaceful group of vampires - each with a special power - has vowed not to hurt humans. Their natural attraction to human blood tested when brother Edward falls for a human.
The Wolf pack
The arrival of vampires activates a wolf gene in young members of the Quileute tribe. Though vampires and wolves are sworn enemies, they join forces to save Bella.
These new vampires are hard to control and dangerous. Their mission in "Eclipse": to destroy the Cullens and Bella.