Meg Cabot is the famous, talented, and best-selling author of a ton of books, including the Princess Diaries series, the 1-800-Where-R-U series, the Mediator series, All-American Girl, and more. She is very busy and writes more books each year than most people manage in a lifetime, so we are very lucky to have her here today for an interview! Thanks so much for doing this, Meg.
You write so many books compared to most authors, who can take years to write one book, but yours are still so great! Do you think there’s any sort of “secret” to writing quickly? What’s your writing process like?
Thanks so much! I guess if there’s a “secret” to writing quickly it’s that I have a great husband who does all the cooking (he’s a chef) and also does all the financial stuff involved in my work. Thank God, because if there’s anything I suck at more than making dinner, it’s number crunching! Also we don’t have kids so it’s not like I have a lot of responsibility outside my writerly duties.
Oh, and my mom made me take typing in 10th grade. I hated it then, but now I write 80 wpm.
My writing process is to dream up a story idea, mull it for up to year, then write it in a huge burst–usually a month of just writing, no going out! So I’m basically a hermit. But I order nice clothes online so at least I’m a well-dressed hermit.
Mia, from the Princess Diaries series, is the character you’ve written the most about, and more than any of the other characters, she and her voice remind me of you, the way you present yourself on your blog, for example. Do you see much of yourself in Mia?
That’s funny! Mia’s internal voice is the probably the most like mine, but I wasn’t really at all like her in high school. I was probably the most like Suze from the Mediator series, in that I was an outcast with a few good friends…though I did have a lot of boyfriends. I was quite a bit racier than most of my characters. But it was the 80s.
You write both series books and stand-alones. What’s the difference in how you write them, and how you decide if a character needs one book for her story or more?
I honestly don’t know. Story ideas pop into my head either as a stand alone or a whole series. Princess Diaries popped into my head as a full 16 book series. Airhead, 3 books. But Teen Idol? One book. Done. It’s sad, really, that I don’t have more control over it.
What was your path to publication like, and how is being a published (and rather famous) author different from how you imagined it would be?
I must have sent out 10 query letters a week for 3 years, and just got rejections. Then one day after the 3rd time I’d queried this one agency, an agent there took me on. She’s still my agent today.
I wrote for a long time while also working my day job before I was making enough money to quit and write full time. I always thought I’d get a huge advance right away like authors I’d read about, but it didn’t work that way for me! My advances were all very tiny (including for the Princess Diaries, Mediator, and 1800 books). Basically just a quarter of what I was making working as an administrative assistant at NYU.
This was NOT at all the way I envisioned it! Where was my fancy limo with a built-in hot tub? Thank God for Disney, which gave me enough money to put in the bank to live on for a while (but I don’t get DVD money or theatrical gross or anything from the films). But the Princess Diaries movies got people to buy the books, even though quite a few of them were really mad that the books weren’t anything like the movies. Oops.
Being published now doesn’t feel all that different from being published then except that now I get more than $4,000 per book, and I get rejected less often (although I still get rejected, just in a nicer way). It still feels great. Plus I got to quit my day job and I get to write full time, which is a dream come true! (Still no limo with a built-in hot tub though.)
What are the best and worst parts of writing for a living?
Obviously the best part is being able to write all the time. Making stuff up is my absolute favorite thing to do (don’t tell anyone, but I’d do it for free).
The worst part is doing satellite radio tours at 6 in the morning, when you get on these radio drive shows where the DJ has totally never heard of you or your books, and he’s yelling in your ear, “Hey, you’re with Mike and the Dog Catcher on WBXZ and you are in the DOGHOUSE. Now, BARK LIKE A DOG!” and you’re like, “Um…okay,” and you just start barking because…well, why not?
What jobs have you had besides being a writer? If you couldn’t be writer, what job would you choose to have?
My primary job besides writing was working as the assistant manager of a 700 bed freshmen dorm at NYU for 10 years. Other jobs I’ve had include au pair (on the Upper East Side, just like in Nanny Diaries!), assistant to a private investigator, Rax Roast Beef salad bar attendant, freelance illustrator, and receptionist at a Wall Street investment firm.
Is there a way to get paid to watch TV? Because I would like to have that job. If not, I would like to work at Urban Outfitters. Everyone there always seems to be having a lot of fun.
What are some of your favorite books or authors?
Hyper-chondria by Bryan Frazer
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbon
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13-3/4 by Sue Townsend
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Walloo
Ask yourself a question (and answer it)!
Oh, wow. How many pages have you written today, Meg? Zero? Get to work!
Thanks so much, Meg!
Thanks for having me, Jocelyn!