An Improper Proposal

Lady of Skye

Portrait of My Heart

Where Roses Grow Wild

As Meg Cabot:

The Princess Diaries: Book One

  The Interviews
Meet Author
Patricia Cabot
by Cathy Sova
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Meggin Cabot is one busy writer. As Meg Cabot, she pens young adult fiction; as Patricia Cabot, she writes adult romance. And then there's the pen name Jenny Carroll... but we'll let Meg tell you about that herself!

Tell us a bit about Meg/Patricia Cabot.

I was born in Bloomington, Indiana. My childhood was spent in pursuit of air conditioning. A primary source proved to be the Monroe County Public Library, where I whiled away many hours, reading the complete works of Jane Austen, Judy Blume, and Barbara Cartland. I had a passion for drawing, and eventually, armed with a fine arts degree from Indiana University, I moved to New York City, intent upon pursuing a career in freelance illustration.

Illustrating, however, did not prove as lucrative as I'd hoped, so I abandoned it and got steadier work as the assistant manager of a freshman dormitory at New York University. I started writing stories--like the ones I'd read in the library all those years earlier--during lulls in the runs to the emergency room with drunken frat boys. After I'd finished writing four or five novels, I figured I should try, at least, to get them published, rather than let them sit there on my hard drive. And the rest is history.

I now write full time, and currently live in Greenwich Village with my husband and our one-eyed cat, Henrietta.

We recently reviewed THE PRINCESS DIARIES. How did you get into the head of a fifteen-year-old and make her sound so authentic?

I think my years working in a freshman dorm definitely helped shape my teen characters. And I do believe my natural inner voice is about 14 and a half. There has to be some reason I am drawn so inexorably to the WB night after night.

Mia, your heroine, is quite humorous, and one gets the feeling that she views her world with a sense of wry disbelief at the ridiculous actions of those around her. Is Mia partly based on Meg?

Not consciously, but people who know me seem to think so. Although I am not, and never have been, a vegetarian.

Tell us what's planned for the PRINCESS DIARIES series.

"The Princess Diaries" was originally conceived as a series, which is why I made the main character a freshman: I hope to follow Mia through all four years of high school. The first book in the series ("The Princess Diaries") came out last October, and the second, "Princess Diaries 2: Princess in the Spotlight," comes out next month (June 2001). The third book, "Princess Diaries 3: Princess in Love," will be released in the US next May (2002). We'll see how popular the series proves, and then go from there, as far as future books go.

Film rights to "The Princess Diaries" were sold pre-publication to Disney, and a feature length film based on the book will be released this August (2001), with Pretty Woman's Garry Marshall directing, and starring Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Heather Matarrazzo, and Mandy Moore (to view the trailer, check out The Princess Diaries website). I have heard it mentioned that, if the movie does well, a sequel or TV series might be in works.

The first book, "Princess Diaries 1," was named a Best Book 2000 by the American Librarian Association, in addition to a Top Ten Book for Reluctant Readers. Foreign rights to all three books have been sold to 13 countries so far, including England, Japan, and Germany. This summer Random House (which has bought audio rights for all three books in the series) will be putting out the Book on Tape, read by Anne Hathaway, who plays Mia in the movie. I've heard the first tape, and it is a hoot--a must-have for anyone playing a long car trip with teens.

Which did you start out in, young adult or historical romance?

My first book was a historical romance written under the name Patricia Cabot (http://www.patriciacabot.com) "Where Roses Grow Wild," which came out in 1998, followed shortly after by its sequel, "Portrait of my Heart," then "An Improper Proposal" and "A Little Scandal," all of which were published by St. Martin's Press.

In the year 2000, I began writing historical romances for Pocket's Sonnet line. My first, a novella, appeared in the Christmas anthology "A Season of the Highlands," and was followed in January 2001 by my Victorian 'medical mystery' "Lady of Skye."

Also in the year 2000, I began being published in YA. In addition to "The Princess Diaries," which I write under the name Meg Cabot (http://www.megcabot.com) I am currently writing two other series of books for young adult readers for Pocket Books, including a series about a girl who can see and talk to ghosts--"The Mediator" (under the name Jenny Carroll, http://www.jennycarroll.com) --and "1-800-WHERE-R-YOU," also by Jenny Carroll, about a girl who develops the psychic ability to find missing children. Both "The Mediator" and "1-800-WHERE-R-YOU" have been optioned for film and television.

What made you decide to take the plunge into YA after a successful start in romance?

I began writing for teens after my dad died and my mom started dating one of my teachers, with whom she now lives (yes, just like Mia's mom in "The Princess Diaries"). One day I sat down at my computer, and boom, Mia was born. I didn't tell anyone about it, because I thought it was sort of weird.

Then one day my mother-in-law called and asked me out of the blue, "Are you writing books for teenagers?"

Shocked-because I hadn't even told my husband what I was doing-I said, "Yes. How did you know?"

It turned out she had been to see a psychic, who'd told her that her daughter-in-law who lived in New York was writing a book for teenagers that was going to be very successful. I don't really believe in psychics, but when I heard that, I hurried to finish "Princess Diaries," and gave it to my agent, and, well, you can see the results for yourself: that psychic was totally right!

What drew you to writing romance?

The first romance I ever read was "Romancing The Stone," because I'd loved the movie. After that, I was hooked. I read every romance I could get my hands on. I read--and write--romances as an escape specifically to get away from real life problems.

Do you work on several books at once, or do you need to keep the historical romance completely separated from your YA writing?

I work on one book at a time. Ideally, I like to switch back and forth: one book for adults, then one for teens. It keeps me from getting bored or burned out.

Elements of humor have been noted in many of your books. Deliberate? Or is it more a reflection of your own personality and view of the world?

I was drawn to the romance genre because it offered an escape from my real life problems, which at times have been very serious. One thing I don't think there's enough of in real life is humor, so I try to instill as much of that as possible into my work, as well as the rest of my life. Some readers don't like humor in their romances--or their life. I am not one of those people.

When you begin writing a book, do you have the story all outlined in your mind or do you wait and see where the characters take you?

I sell most of my work these days on proposal, so I usually have to write a brief outline or summary. But I don't make detailed notes before I get started, and often, in the middle of the book, I will completely change course. Editors love it when authors do this!

What role does the Internet play in writing and marketing your books?

I think romance readers and teens have one thing in common: they are both very web savvy. I get TONS of email from both adult and teen readers. Email is a super way to market your upcoming books. And of course, I think every author should have a website. I have a separate one for each of my pen names. It takes a lot of maintenance, but it's worth it.

Do you write full-time?

Now I write full-time, but I have had a varied job history. At one time, I worked in the American offices of a Swiss boarding school; as the salad-bar girl at a Rax Roast Beef; a receptionist in a Wall Street investment bank; and most notably as Gertie the Gorilla for a public park's children's camp (yes, I actually wore a gorilla suit).

What's coming up for Patricia/Meg/Jenny in the near future?

Glad you asked that! This summer, in addition to the release of "Princess Diaries 2," the paperback of "Princess Diaries 1", and the movie of "The Princess Diaries 1," I'll be celebrating the publication of the third book in my "The Mediator" series, "Reunion."

Then in September the second book in the "1-800-WHERE-R-You" series, "Code Name Cassandra," will be published. In November, look for my second historical romance from Pocket's Sonnet line, "Educating Caroline," about a young woman who finds her fiance in the arms of another and determines to win him back. Along the way, she discovers a few things about him...and herself! I'll be posting the cover, synopsis, and sample chapter on http://www.patriciacabot.com soon.

Readers can also look forward to some historicals I'll be writing for a new YA romance line at HarperCollins...a happy combination of two of my favorite genres! But I'm not abandoning my adult readers...far from it! I'll be looking forward to the publication of my first adult contemporary romance sometime in 2002.

How can readers contact you?

I am always available at meggin@erols.com, and can be visited online at http://www.patriciacabot.com, http://www.megcabot.com, and http://www.jennycarroll.com.

Snail mail-wise (and this is where anyone interested in receiving Princess Diary or Mediator stickers/newsletters can send a SASE) I can be reached at 532 La Guardia Place, No. 359, New York, NY 10012.

Meg, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with all your upcoming projects!

May 16, 2001


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