More Q&A with Meg Cabot
Published: February 26, 2010
The April 2010 issue of The Writer featured an interview by Melanie Florence with bestselling young-adult author Meg Cabot, author of the Princess Diaries series and many more books. Following are some additional insights for writers from Cabot.|
Q: Do you have a writing routine?
Photo by Ali Carter
I’m just really lazy, and I like to work in bed with my laptop. I don’t really stray from that. Isn’t that sad? I do get out of my pajamas and I put on different pajamas, like the daytime pajamas. I always see People magazine doing “The Author in Her Office” and I’m like, “She has an office?” I’m so dreading if they ever ask me, because then I’d have to make a fake desk. But really, right now, I’m in bed. It’s where I like to write now.
Q: You write a lot of series. How do you know when you’ve reached the end?
I always have an end in mind before I start, so when I get to the end I can go, phew, I’m done, and then I think, oh, gosh, I need to think of something else. The weird thing is when people ask why I ended it. But I don’t have any ideas for what happens after that. I really envision there being this end, and to me, the characters end happily ever after.
The problem, I think, is that readers think you can just make it go on, but you can’t because there would have to be a conflict, and you don’t want to do that to your characters because they’re happy now. I don’t want to have to make them break up or whatever, because that’s what would have to happen in order for there to be another book. I don’t want to do that. I want them to be happy. You think of them as real people and you end it on a happy note, and the only way to start it up again would be to make something bad happen. So I’d rather start with new people and make them have bad things happen to them.
Q: Did you know the Princess Diaries was going to be a series when you started writing it?
Oh, yeah, definitely. I had it all planned out. That’s why it starts in the first month of her first year of freshman high school. I thought, this is going to be a series until she graduates from high school. But, of course, nobody wanted to buy it. And then when my editor did buy it, I told her that I was writing it as part of a series, but she told me they just wanted to buy the one book. So she wasn’t going for it at all. We actually sold it in England first and they said they’d take three.
Q: You created such a vivid, real world in the Princess Diaries books. How did you create your vision of the fictional kingdom of Genovia? Where did the details come from?
It’s actually based on Monaco, which I was obsessed with because I love princesses, and I was very into Princess Grace and Princess Diana and all that. And actually my husband and I got married in a little Italian town right outside of Monaco, and we got a tea towel that had the names of the towns around that area, and one of them was called Genova, which was actually Geneva, but in Italian it’s Genova. So I always looked at that tea towel and I was like, so I’ll just call my fake country Genovia, and that’s how I thought of that
Q: How involved were you in bringing The Princess Diaries to the big screen, and how did you feel about the final result?
I was not involved at all; in fact I didn’t even really know that it was going on. They said they optioned it, and I didn’t believe it because everyone told me that they option everything. They gave me a little, tiny option fee, and everyone said they always do that, they’re not making it, don’t worry. And they didn’t absolutely at all say, “Do you want to do the screenplay?” or anything like that. That was never an option.
It was such a small movie and every once in a while I’d get a phone call, and they’d say that they had to kill off one of my characters. They wanted to give the dad’s lines to the grandmother and I was kind of like, “Well, that’s bad.” Then they told me, “The thing is, the grandmother is going to be played by this really great actress, and I think we should just let them do what they want.” Then they told me it was Julie Andrews, and I thought, “Oh, my God ... go ahead and kill the dad.”
But no one asked me to come to the set. They did ask if I wanted to go to the premiere, and I paid for it myself. It wasn’t a big deal. It was during the day, and there weren’t reporters, and nobody thought it was going to be a big deal at all. We only figured it out when the producer asked if I wanted to go see it in the theater on the day it opened. So we tried to go to the theater and every theater was sold out in Beverly Hills. We couldn’t get into our own movie. And then it just exploded.