the twilight effect?

March 30th, 2009

I’m not sure whether I’m flattered, amused, annoyed or a little bit of all three.

When people first started comparing If I Stay to Twilight, I think it was pretty much magical thinking, in that the publishers, movie execs, and, let’s be honest, me, all hoped that it might have one-zillionth the impact of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire love story. But let’s have a look at the intersecting plot points, shall we?  Twilight features an intense love story between Edward and Bella and If I Stay features what I hope is a romantic love story between Adam and Mia. Both are set in the Pacific Northwest. As far as I can tell, the similarities end there. 

But between Summit, the studio that produced Twilight, optioning film rights for If I Stay, and then, miracle of miracles, Catherine Hardwicke coming on board to direct it, suddenly the comparisons are irresistible, even if they are not quite right. I don’t think that when Erik Feig, of Summit compared the two books, he meant it literally. He talked about both books being “emotionally moving.” I hope that my book is as addictively readable as the Twilight books, but I know how fast I raced through the series so even though If I Stay is a slender 208 pages, I still think that is a pretty high bar.

Never mind. Now all of a sudden, If I Stay is all over the web—for which I’m endlessly grateful—being described as a “fantasy drama.” This makes me laugh. Though I have never personally had an out-of-body experience, I have met many people who have. I have not, however, ever met anyone who was a vampire or a werewolf. Well, actually, I have. But they were crazy. Still, I never considered this a fantasy book. Or a paranormal book. 

And now there’s a bit of a backlash brewing, with snarky remarks about how If I Stay could NEVER be the next Twilight (No duh) because who wants to go see a movie about a comatose teen? Or as Entertainment Weekly put it recently: (Spoiler alert)

Judging by the fanfare over the news that Twilight‘s Catherine Hardwicke will direct another young-adult novel (Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, out April 2), you’d think she’d already found her next blockbuster. But Stay, about a comatose teen who mulls whether life is worth living after a car accident, isn’t exactly box-office bait.

To which, I’m like, Dude, how do you even know? Have you read the book?

I’m not saying it WILL be a blockbuster. Who the hell knows? In fact, I don’t really care about the movie stuff right now. As overjoyed as I am about Catherine Hardwicke’s involvement—for the record: not because she directed Twilight, per se, but because she did such an amazing job of directing Twilight; she just does teen well—with T minus three days till release,  I’m  worried less about the book being box-office bait than about it being book-store bait. About it living up to some of the hype. On the other hand, I totally recognize that to have there be hype in the first place is a pretty awesome and priviliged position to be in. To have your name uttered next to Stephenie Meyer’s or Alice Sebold’s? Yeah, I’ll take that.

There’s an old adage in Hollywood that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. That your name in print is all that matters, so long as they spell your name right. (And in my case, it’s F-O-R-M-A-N. I’ve seen it spelled wrong, with an E, lots of times, but in my case it doesn’t matter if they spell MY name right, so long as they spell the book’s title right. Like don’t go talking about that new book, If I Leave.) And this is my third book, and no one paid enough attention about my first two to compare them rightly or wrongly to other books.

So, at the end of the day, I guess I’m flattered and amused and not annoyed but grateful. To be part of the conversation is incredible. It means that people are actually reading what I’m writing. That’s all a writer wants.

  1. I wouldn’t worry about the comparisons or any kind of snippy remarks from hardcore Twilight fans about how If I Stay couldn’t possibly be the next Twilight. Harry Potter fans get just as defensive about Twilight being the next HP. Personally I think your book is 100xs better than Twilight (please please please write a sequel). Anyway, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what anyone on the internet says because whether its good or bad, it’s publicity. You wrote an amazingly heart achingly beautiful story that has the ability to deeply touch people and all you need is for your book to end up in the hands of the people it’s meant to reach. So ride the publicity wave-even if it is Twilight’s!

  2. ‘Cause Twlight is the hottest thing right now, so it’s easy people will try to relate everything with Twilight. Firstly, your book is unique and beautiful in its own way. Secondly, the attention, talents, and resources that it has been attracting will only help your book to reach/touch more readers and audience. I think that is what matters most.

  3. Thanks, Frankie and Jo.
    I agree with you guys. I guess I’m just nervous that I’ll disappoint. But with readers like you watching my back, I’m golden no matter what!

  4. I read this book in one sitting. I’m a 35 year old mother of two who is an avid reader and a sucker for a good love story and adores YA Books especially.
    I read the last 3-5 pages of this book through my tears and when I closed the book, the first thought that came to mind was “this is the most beautiful, well written story I’ve ever read”.
    This is a book that I will tell every single person I know to read!
    I too would love a sequel to this story! Thank you.

  5. I don’t understand the comparison between If I stay and Twilight. Both are amazing YA books but there are totally different.
    I’m French and I’m sure that Si je reste (If I stay in french) will be a success in France. ;)

  6. Thanks Tracy and Francesca. I really appreciate your words of support.
    As for sequel, well there’s no If I Stay Two in the works per se. That said, I’m not ready to let Mia and Adam go just yet, either, so who knows what may happen down the road.

  7. Hi Gayle,

    I have to admit, I heard about If I Stay from, after they announced that Catherine Hardwicke was directing the movie. I’m a huge fan of her (not only from Twilight, but from Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown) and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book that she deemed so cool.

    As far as the Twilight thing goes, I think you had it totally right! If I Stay is heartbreaking and beautiful and devestating and hopeful AND REAL. Twilight, as much as I LOVE it, is not. I do get the comparison, though. When you read Twilight for the first time, you feel it. And I couldn’t help but feel the same way reading Mia’s story.

    Thank you thankyouthankyou for this amazing book. I cried all weekend reading it, telling my friends and family about it, even just thinking about it. And I just felt myself tear up again at the possibility of more stories from Mia and Adam :)

  8. Lindsay
    Thank you so much for your message.
    I’m so glad you liked the book! And I think you nailed it about the Twilight comparison. I’m flattered by it.

  9. Your book was amazing. It was well written and for sure a page turner. I practicly started tearing up at the end. I would LOVE if you wrote a sequal for If I Stay. I’m starting You cant get there from here and i know it will be just as great. Thanks for writing! I one day would love to be just like you, and have inspirational books out on the shelves.

  10. The book was A-Maze-Ing!!! i absolutely loved it. I was crying after about 50 pages. I really adored Mia. She’s interesting and i fell in Love with Adam. I’m definately hoping you’ll make a sequel. Thank you for sharing.

  11. ok i am going to say it…i loved this book!!! It was awesome. i’m really not one to cry when i read but i totally did and loved every second!!! But i have an honest question..IS THERE GOING TO BE A SEQUEL?? (spelling? lol) and yes Twilight was good…If i Stay was good but no reason to say they r exactly alike or bashing the book…they r both awesome awesome awesome! But seriously guys grow up i am that all the people bashing it have never written a book so no need to freak..they r both good and can totally be put in the same category..i really hope that there is a sequel tho!! :) I am officially a Mia-Bella-Adam-Edward lover!!

  12. I’m also a Mia-Bella-Adam-Edward lover. But not Jacob. I mean, I like Jacob enough but totally team Edward over here!

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