We thought it would be nice to serve our own little Thanksgiving feast this week, and what better way than to have fabulous guest author Meg Cabot, author of Big Boned (being released today!), the last in the hilarious Heather Well’s Mystery series, to dish with us today.
A little background on Meg:
Meg Cabot was born on February 1, 1967, during the Chinese astrological Year of the Fire Horse, a notoriously unlucky sign. Fortunately she grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, where few people were aware of the stigma of being a fire horse—at least until Meg became a teenager, when she flunked freshman Algebra twice, then decided to cut her own bangs. After six years as an undergrad at Indiana University, Meg moved to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator, at which she failed miserably, forcing her to turn to her favorite hobby–writing novels–for emotional succor. She worked various jobs to pay the rent, including a decade-long stint as the assistant manager of a 700 bed freshmen dormitory at NYU, a position she still occasionally misses.
She is now the author of nearly fifty books for both adults and teens, selling fifteen million copies worldwide, many of which have been #1 New York Times bestsellers, most notably The Princess Diaries series, which is currently being published in over 38 countries, and was made into two hit movies by Disney. In addition, Meg wrote the Mediator and 1-800-Where-R-You? series (on which the television series, Missing, was based), two All-American Girl books, Teen Idol, Avalon High, How to Be Popular, Pants on Fire, Jinx, a series of novels written entirely in email format (Boy Next Door, Boy Meets Girl, and Every Boy’s Got One), a mystery series (Size 12 Is Not Fat/ Size 14 Is Not Fat Either/Big Boned), and a chick-lit series called Queen of Babble.
Meg is now writing a new middle grade series called Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls, as well as an edgy new YA series called Airhead, both of which debut in Spring of 2008, for Scholastic Books, as well as a new paranormal series, Abandon, which debuts in summer of 2009.
Meg currently divides her time between Key West, Indiana, and New York City with a primary cat (one-eyed Henrietta), various back-up cats, and her husband, who doesn’t know he married a fire horse. Please don’t tell him.
With a little luck, Meg will stop by throughout the day to reply to your comments, so we look forward to your comments!
Without further ado…
JG: welcome to the Debutante Ball, Meg! We’ve got lots of questions for you, so I’ll get right to them. First off, what is one thing you remember about your debut as a novelist?
MC: Wow–I guess it was the In Your Face to all the people who thought I’d never make it. Sadly, with my advance of $5,000 (my first book was a historical romance), I wasn’t able to quit my day job. But I did have a really great book signing party, and I invited everyone I knew to it. There was one woman in particular from work who’d been really doubtful that I’d ever publish, and she came and was completely unimpressed. But I didn’t care because I knew she was just jealous. Although looking back I don’t think she really was! OK, maybe she was…in my head.
JG: What has changed the most for you about your writing process since you became published?
MC: I guess the big difference is, before you get published you can write whatever you want, whenever you want, and obviously once you publish and get put on a publishing schedule, you have to write what your publisher tells you to, which isn’t always that fun because you might feel like writing something completely different, like a sci-fi, but you’re scheduled to finish up that romantic comedy you pitched a year ago.
On the plus side, at least somebody is paying you to write SOMETHING! So, that’s great. On the down side, It’s hard to remember what it was that was so great about that rom-com!
JG: Any advice for new writers?
MC: Well, besides the usual, read a lot and write a lot, don’t give up, I was rejected ninety million times, blah, blah, blah, it’s important to remember that I WAS REJECTED NINETY MILLION TIMES. Yeah, I think that about sums it up.
JG: On your blog you once mentioned how you hate the revision process. What part is your favorite part of the publishing process?
MC: The publishing process? Or the writing process? My favorite part of the writing process is the first draft. My favorite part of the publishing process? I guess that’s when my editor accepts my first draft with no revisions…but that’s only happened a few times! Maybe twice.
JG: How did you set out to write for teens? Does your process differ when you writes adult titles?
MC: My first book for teens was THE PRINCESS DIARIES and I didn’t know it was a book for teens. I actually wrote it for myself and my friends. I was kind of surprised when my agent said she thought it was for younger reads. I honestly didn’t write it, nor do I write any of my books for younger readers, any differently than I write my adult books, except that I no longer use swear words or sex scenes in them, because my editors always take them out.
JG: You are extremely prolific as a writer yet you find time to generously correspond with your legion of fans, you are out there making appearances, you reach out to aspiring writers–you really earn your keep as a writer. How do you do it all?
MC: Hmmm, well, they make you do the appearances–no offense, anyone I met during an appearance! But once I’m out there it’s fun to meet readers and talk books and stuff. The corresponding part is fun, too, because you get to meet other authors and compare notes. As for how I do it all, well, don’t kid yourself, I have a ton of help. I’m very lucky because I have a husband who works full time to take care of the business side of things, leaving me free to do the creative stuff. Not to mention Team Cabot which also includes my editors, publicists, literary agent, film agent, lawyers, web administrator, housekeeper, and assistant! I hope I haven’t left anyone out.
JG: How do you stay in touch with your inner teen in order to tap into it for you YA fiction? I find I can barely reach past about 2 weeks ago…
MC: Ha! Well, I did save all my journals and the notes my friends and I exchanged from those days. So it’s not that hard to get back into the mindset of a sixteen-year old. Plus that was a pretty rough period in my life, so it’s pretty much ingrained on my memory….
JG: is it hard to maintain your privacy when you’re out there so much? And if so, are you able to remain a little more incognito when you traveling abroad?
MC: Privacy? What privacy? I don’t really mind and it’s not like I have any secrets anyway. And being the author of the Princess Diaries, an almost universally beloved movie, tends to works to one’s advantage. I only wish I’d get recognized more often!
JG: You really are one of those generous successful authors who gives back to the community and to other authors–clearly that’s important to you—why?
MC: Wow, thanks. I remember what it was like when I was just starting out. There were a few “big name” authors who were less than kind to me when I was seated next to them at various signings and functions. It couldn’t have been that they felt threatened, because at that time, with one historical romance under my belt, there was nothing for them to feel threatened by. I’ll never forget how mean they were–and how kind, in contrast, other authors, who were even bigger names, were. I want to be like the kind ones, whom I’ll never forget!
JG: The one thing you convey both in your writing voice and on your website/blog is that you’re a really fun person. To me you’re like Beach Blanket Bingo—let’s have fun! Are you on like that most of the time—are you usually ready to have a good time?
MC: Ha! Tell that to my husband, who thinks I do nothing but work all the time. Seriously, to me, most of the time, writing is the most fun can you have. Besides watching really bad television and lounging by the pool and of course eating a lot.
JG: How do you get by with no sleep? Seriously, how do you handle such demands on your time?
MC: I have to sleep nine hours a night or I’m useless! And I’m really lucky because I have Team Cabot, mentioned above, to help out. But you do have to make sacrifices. I turn down a lot of invitations to speak at writer’s conferences, librarian conventions, etc, in order to make my deadlines, and I’ll confess I’ve missed a few personal and family events, as well. I’m fortunate that I have a family who is very understanding about their eccentric writer aunt!
JG: Do you write in spurts or do you write X amount per day?
MC: I write when I have something due. Then it’s 9-5 until it gets done! I usually don’t go by pages, just until it gets done.
JG: are you a pantser [a writer who just makes it up as they go along, writing by the "seat of their pants"] or a plotter [a writer who plans and organizes and charts out the book from start to finish]?
MC: Oh, I plot. I don’t use notecards or anything like that, but I plot in my head. I think the idea of just sitting down and trying to write a book without knowing where your characters are going to end up is as ridiculous as heading off on a family vacation without starting the car. You have to know your destination, or you’ll just end up right back where you started.
JG: Do you find that a bit of you can be found in most of your heroines?
MC: Absolutely, although I try not to make them TOO much like me, or they’d all be forty year old married novelists! But they definitely all have a few things, at least, in common with me.
JG: Okay, let’s talk pies. It is the holiday sseason and all. While I could be accused of being passionate about banana cream pie (i.e. I could eat an entire one in one sitting), apple and blueberry are pretty close seconds. Where do you weigh in on the matter?
MC: Well, I would have to say pumpkin pie is probably my favorite out of all the pies. But I would take sweet potato if pumpkin was not available (although I would be able to tell the difference and feel I was getting an inferior product).
JG: Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us at the Ball—I know we have lots of regulars here who absolutely love your books (And Deb Eileen might well lick your book if given the opportunity!), and we look forward to chatting with you throughout the day!
MC: Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your site!