Every once in a while, the publishing industry ends up with lightning in a bottle.
It happened when Oprah Winfrey established her book club and a few years later when Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" created a worldwide sensation. Of course, the mother of all publishing success stories would be the "Harry Potter" series that turned J.K. Rowling into the second wealthiest woman in Britain after the queen while also launching a hugely popular film franchise.
The most recent publishing phenomenon has to do with a pair of star-crossed lovers named Edward and Bella.
If A) you work in a bookstore/library/school or, B) happen to be the parent of an adolescent girl, you already know about Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series. In just a few short years, the books "Twilight," "New Moon," "Eclipse" and "Breaking Dawn" have tapped into the zeitgeist and mesmerized a legion of teen fans everywhere.
Technically considered young adult novels, the series actually has a huge crossover appeal much like the "Harry Potter" books before them.
For fans of romance, the appeal is obvious. Think Romeo and Juliet, but if Romeo were a vampire.
In the books, Bella Swan is a normal teenage girl forced to leave everything familiar behind when she has to move in with her dad. At her new school, she feels disconnected until she encounters Edward Cullen, and there's something about him that she finds compelling.
Soon she's caught up in the painful wonder of first love. Everything becomes amplified and shaded with a thousand different meanings. The emotions are so huge, there's a constant ache inside.
Edward, at first, is distant. He acts like he can't bear to be near Bella, and then you realize why. For him, she's irresistible. It's that simple. And that dangerous.
Edward's family may be vampires, but they don't feast on humans. Instead they use animals to slake their thirst, and the bloodlust becomes something they learn to control. To be around Bella is torture. He wants what he can't have, so he tries to stay away. Except that he can't. Edward's falling for her, too.
So there you have it. The classic romance conundrum of loving someone you know you can never have. It's a conflict that has been the cornerstone of countless storylines and one that never fails to engage readers. Throw in a "hero" who's perfect in almost every way, an almost Gothic atmosphere and plenty of sexual tension, and it's no wonder Edward and Bella have captured the imagination of so many people.
"Twilight" the movie opened Friday.