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Stephenie Meyer on The Host, Body Image, and Her James McAvoy Fantasy

Stephenie Meyer. Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Stephenie Meyer’s The Host features a world of aliens, not vampires. And unlike Twilight, the central relationship is not a love triangle, but a love square, or a love box, because one of the bodies involved inhabits two people — a human and her alien body-snatcher, both played by Saoirse Ronan. (It’s complicated.) Meyer chatted with Vulture about letting go of Twilight, body image, and her James McAvoy fantasy.

Do you have an eye obsession? In both Twilight and The Host, your characters end up with glowy eyes.
I don’t know! It seems to come out a lot, right? I don’t consciously do that, so I must really be into eyes. My brother’s an optometrist, so I pick up on that. But by the time they had to wear the really awful contacts, everybody’s miserable, and it’s my fault. Although, in this, in The Host, it’s not quite my fault. In the book, it’s not as obvious, which would make it easier for the aliens to invade. It’s only when you shine a light at them that you get an odd reflection, and you wouldn’t know otherwise. But Andrew [Niccol, the director] wanted something very pronounced, so it’s his fault. And it was hard, with the dust storms in the desert. We had lens techs out there constantly putting drops in their eyes, and it slows production down. We did that with Twilight, so many years of contacts and pain, crying and anguish. You think you would learn!

Apparently you got the cast T-shirts that said “Love Box” to describe the love triangle involving two-persons-in-one-body geometry.
I didn’t know that was considered dirty in England! The boys came up with that. Anything dirty came from them. The thing I like particularly about Saoirse’s portrayal of this, is that when you’re writing it, these two characters are every bit as distinct as two characters in two different bodies. Writing it is one thing, portraying it is another, and Saoirse made it look really easy, and she has a different chemistry with each of the boys, so it’s really easy to remember that these are two separate relationships. But it gets complicated, because there is a love triangle between Melanie and Wanda and Jared, and then there’s another triangle between Wanda and Jared and Ian, so it goes all over the place.

Someone might want to take the part of Melanie/Wanda just for all the kissing scenes.
But you don’t know who they’re going to cast as the boys, so it’s a real gamble! They could cast a really horrible kisser, somebody that you maybe already have a feud with, who knows? There could be a lot of reasons why you wouldn’t want to kiss somebody.

Somebody who eats tuna fish beforehand, like James McAvoy did on Wanted with Angelina Jolie.
Oh! I love James McAvoy! Why would he do that? There go all my fantasies of being in a film with James McAvoy. Ruined! There goes my acting career. I’m not even going to start now. I could never be an actor. Cameras are my nemesis. I hate them. And it doesn’t seem fair to me as a writer that I should be exposed to them so often, because really, you should only have to do an author photo once every ten years, and that really should be it. But they’re always around. It’s so sad.

But you look fabulous now! You’re camera ready.
Oh, thank you! But I don’t feel camera ready. I was doing Good Morning America, and they had this show beforehand, have you heard of this thigh gap thing? It’s like this new obsession with young girls, being so skinny that their thighs don’t touch, and there’s a gap there, and the bigger the gap, the more excited they are. They post pictures on Tumblr, and they’re starving themselves, becoming anorexic to do this. And they’re already so thin. So in a world like that, do you ever feel … ? I mean, girls that are size one already feel too heavy. And so I always feel bad on camera, which I probably shouldn’t. I should just embrace it. But I see pictures of myself, and my stomach just drops: “Oh, do I really look like that?” Ugh, it’s hard.

Did writing this and producing the film help cure any post-Twilight depression you might have had?
I totally thought that was going to be a thing! I waited for it, and when it didn’t happen, I thought, Oh, it’s because we still have all this stuff ahead. We got to the last premiere, and it didn’t hit. I felt nothing but relief. Analyzing that since then, I feel like it was because I was ready to walk from that world. I don’t miss the characters. Now, I may someday feel like, “Oh, I miss Bella. I want to hang out with Alice” or something. But right now, I’m happy it was what it was, I’m happy to be done with it, and I don’t feel any depression about it, which is nice. And it is nice to have another world to be excited about.

You’re expanding this world into a trilogy?
I’m working on a second book, we’ll see where it ends. I hate to predict anything, even if I have this great outline. You know how they say if you go one degree off, by the time you get to Iceland, you’re 5,000 miles away from where you intended to be? I do that in writing all the time, one little degree change and there goes your ending!  

Stephenie Meyer on Body Image and James McAvoy