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Q&A Stephenie Meyer: ‘Twilight’ Author Trades Undead for Well-Bred in ‘Austenland’

The Y.A. author's Fickle Fish Films keeps the focus on romance in Keri Russell starrer

Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer is moving on. She’s put a stake in the heart of her megahit vampire franchise, and saw modest results ($48 million worldwide) earlier this year from an adaptation of her romantic sci-fi novel “The Host.”

These days, instead of writing, she’s more focused on being a producer — a skill she gained from assuming that role on the final two “Twilight” movies and “The Host.” Her two-year-old shingle Fickle Fish Films, launched with co-topper Meghan Hibbett, is readying its first release, “Austenland,” starring Keri Russell as a die-hard Jane Austen fan who plans a vacation at a country house steeped in the world of the 19th century British romance writer. The film, adapted from Shannon Hale’s novel of the same name, and directed by first-time helmer Jerusha Hess, will be released Aug. 16 by Sony Classics, which snapped up U.S. rights to the quirky $6.5 million comedy following its Sundance debut.

Meyer spoke with Variety’s Dave McNary about the rigors of producing the work of others vs. the expectations of her own, the end of the “Twilight” series, whose five films generated $3.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales, and her shingle’s next two projects.

Dave McNary: What kind of name is Fickle Fish?

Stephenie Meyer: (Laughs) Meghan (Hibbett) and I settled on it because we could not find a name that wasn’t already taken. We’d be eating grilled cheese sandwiches and try “grilled cheese,” and find that someone else already had it. We picked Fickle Fish because we kind of feel like fish out of water.

DM: How was it being a producer on “Austenland” compared with “Twilight” and “The Host”?

SM: There was zero pressure, since this was not my novel. It’s a comedy first and foremost, so there was a lot of laughter. Keri was five months pregnant and the least pregnant woman I’ve ever seen.

DM: What was it like at Sundance?

SM: I had the kind of Sundance experience you read about. (“Austenland”) got great reviews, and Sony Classics bought it right away.

DM: What kind of pressure was there with the two “Breaking Dawn” movies and “The Host”?

SM: It was very intense because you have a mental picture of scenes and characters, based on the book. My role was to keep (things) as close (to the book) as possible.

DM: Fickle Fish has optioned two ghost stories, Lois Duncan’s “Down a Dark Hall” and Kendare Blake’s “Anna Dressed in Blood.” Which will you do next?

SM: We’re much further along on “Down a Dark Hall” and we’re looking for a director. And we’re not just doing ghost stories.

DM: What about a return to “Twilight?”

SM: I get further away every day. I am so over it. For me, it’s not a happy place to be.

DM: Is the door completely closed on that?

SM: Not completely. What I would probably do is three paragraphs on my blog saying which of the characters died. I’m interested in spending time in other worlds, like Middle-Earth.

DM: How are you spending your time these days, other than promoting “Austenland”?

SM: I’m spending 75% being a mom and a human being. I have a great son who’s a junior in high school, who makes me feel like I’m 112 years old. My other boys are in the sixth grade and the eighth grade.

DM: What are you writing now?

SM: I’m kind of decompressing and figuring that out.

DM: Is there a lot of blood, sweat and tears with writing?

SM: That would be editing. For me, there’s a real joy in writing because the world is what you want it to be. With a book, when you’re done reading it, the characters go away once you’re done. When you’re writing, the characters can last much longer.

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