A Feast with All the Trimmings, with Guest Deb Meg Cabot by Deb Jenny

Big Boned by Meg CabotWe 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!

Meg Cabot photo

44 thoughts on “A Feast with All the Trimmings, with Guest Deb Meg Cabot by Deb Jenny

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  4. Thank you so much for being here, Meg. As a new author who’s been rejected eighty million times, I so appreciate you coming here and reminding us that successful, famous authors started in the same place as the rest of us.

    And thanks to Deb Jenny for bringing Meg to us.

    Here’s a question to get us started: What is the single most exciting, heart stopping moment you’ve experienced in your career?

    p.s. I’m not much of a pumpkin pie baker, Meg, but if you wanted to come and hang out, I’d be happy to make you a kugel from my grandmother’s famous recipe (yes, Jenny, I know you’re on your way).

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  6. We took a family vacation to Toledo, Ohio (from Massachusetts) one summer. I guess my parents hadn’t plotted that one out at all! Great interview, Deb Jen. Meg, I enjoy your books as both reader and writer. Eighty nine million, nine hundred and ninety thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine….

    Happy Thanksgiving. (Blueberry pie. Hands down.)

    Kim

  7. Toledo! My Mom liked some home builder and we drove out to see his houses. I ended up living in Cleveland for many years (happily so) and visited Toledo a few times. It’s a nice little city on the Maumee River. But I’m not sure even their own Chamber of Commerce would call it a “destination!”

  8. What a fun interview! Thanks Jen and Meg, and Happy T-giving!

    Meg, I enjoy your work, and am especially into the mystery series. Do you have a certain number of books in that series already planned? Hope it’s a looong run of them!

    Light,
    Nancy

  9. Meg,

    Thanks so much for stopping by the Ball! I love the Heather Wells series — I have to tell you, when I was at the bookstore cashier a few years ago purchasing SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT, there were three women behind me who started cheering at the title. Right in the middle of the store. Full-on WHOOPS! and howls, Yee-HAWS! and Woo-Hoos!

    They caused quite a scene, had me laughing all the way to my car.

    Great picture, although you’re awfully skinny to be such an accomplished author. When you’re on deadline, don’t you inhale Cheetos & Snickerdoodles like the rest of us? 🙂

    Maybe THAT’s how you’re able to write so fast. You don’t have to stop every few hours to vacuum the Cheeto dust out of your keyboard.

    Thanks again for being here. We’re honored.

    Lisa

  10. Hey Meg!

    Great interview! It was a really good read, so yay for Jenny and Meg! And yay for Jenny (and then Meg’s blog this morning) for reminding me that this was going on, lol. I’m so forgetful!

    For those who want to see a review of Big Boned, you can head on over to my blog where I posted a review a few days ago:
    http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=205076665&blogID=329599726

    Don’t really have any questions for Meg, but I hope you (and everyone else) has an awesome Thanksgiving. 🙂

    Book Chic

  11. Thanks for coming, Meg!

    I find it particularly interesting that you didn’t write The Princess Diaries thinking it was a YA and that you don’t consciously change your “voice” for YA.

    You said here that at this point you’re having to write the books you’ve promised your editor, etc. Does this mean there’s something that you’re really dying to do, something you haven’t tackled yet?

    Danielle

  12. Thanks, Deb Jenny!

    As a Hoosier fire horse mother of a Meg Cabot addict, I’m way too excited about the chance to comment here. You can fully expect whatever follows to contain at least one totally humiliating mistake. (Which no one is going to show my daughter, okay?) Good.

    Meg, since I read your blog all the time and it never fails to be one of the highlights of my reading day, I’m sure Big Boned is wonderful. I hope it’s a huge success.

    Have you thought about the small boned curse, though? Because you might not realize this, but if certain people find out that you’re small boned and you should thus be on the hummingbird side of those sadistic arbitrary weight ranges when, in reality, you’re feeling just fine on the normal human side, it can be a problem. It’s mostly their problem, but still. Those wrist measurement guides can be the devil, I say!

    Also, I wanted you to know that you’re making a difference in ways you might not realize. Last night we were clawing our way through the dreaded homework (with which I don’t usually interfere, but we’ve had some trouble lately), and we had a disagreement that went something like… Me: You have to close your A’s when you’re writing…. Her: Oh my god, Mom, you’re so picky…. Me: What picky? When you don’t close the A it’s a U. The U is a completely different letter. You use it to make other words. Words with U’s in them!… Her: Whatever, Mom, it’s not like the teacher wouldn’t figure it out…. Me: It’s Language Arts. You’re teacher’s going to care if it’s an A or a U…. Her: But, Mom!… Me: (admittedly a little frustrated at this point) I’m, I’m — I’m totally sending a copy of this paper to Meg Cabot.

    I wouldn’t actually send it and I know I’m evil, but it worked. So thanks!

    xo,

    Robin

  13. Hi! I’m back from vacuuming up the Cheetohs dust from my keyboard 😉

    I think you should look forward to Meg’s next venture: STAR TREK: THE PRINCESS JOURNALS. William Shatner will star as the Princess in the movie version…

  14. Welcome Meg! So honored you joined us for the day. I loved Princess Diaries and now look forward to reading everything you’ve written. Great photo!

  15. Isn’t that a fabulous photo? I did try to make it a little smaller but I could only make it teensy and you’d have needed a microscope to see it, or this size, in living color!

  16. Thanks for having me, Debs! What a welcome! Hi, everyone!

    In reply to Joanne, hmmm, probably just getting published at all has been the most thrilling. I really never thought that was going to happen–although my agent search took the longest of anything, so getting an agent is way up there too!

    In reply to Nancy, I only have one more book in the mystery series planned…I really was going to stop at three, but a fourth one occurred to me all of a sudden! So right now, we’re stopping at four. But who knows?

    Lisa, that was a hilarious story about your local bookstore! I wish I had been there!

    Danielle, there are tons of things I’m dying to tackle. It seems like the minute I pitch something I think of another thing I want to try. But it has to wait until I finish up the stuff I’ve got contracted. I just have to hope I still feel enthusiastic about my other ideas by the time I get a window to tackle them. Doesn’t this happen to all of you? I think the grass is always greener over by that other idea you’re NOT working on. At least for me.

    Robin, I get sent a surprising number of homework papers. Now I finally know why. Thanks for clearing up that mystery!

    Thanks for providing me with such a fun way to spend my pub day!

    Meg

  17. Hi Meg, waving from Harpercollinsville, My daughter, Mary, who has been on your mailing list since she was five I think, finally became old enough to devour everything you’ve ever written. It is such a joy to see a kid read like that. Anyhow,thank you so much for putting yourself out there and having fun writing so my daughter and I can enjoy your work. I particularly love the part where you talked about being rejected ninety-billion times, and yes, for me, the grass is always greener on the OTHER book I’m not finishing at the time!

    Your next round of projects sounds fabulous! Write on! Happy Holidays, Suzanne

  18. Meg, we’re thrilled you’d have us on your publication day! Though we’re an easy group to please, just don’t go practicing your cursive with Robyn though…
    Also Robyn, not to worry but once a member of the big-boned club, always a member of the club, through thick or thin (literally) (trust me, I’ve tried to resign my membship repeatedly but it keeps hunting me down!)
    And I forgot to tell Book Chic howdy for stopping by! So Howdy for stopping by! Glad you could make it!
    (and Nancy–love your surfer Duuuudette picture on your website 😉

  19. Great interview Meg and Jenny!

    Meg, you should check out the film “Eve and the Fire Horse”. An adorable film about another Fire Horse, set in the 1970’s. (I assume Eve, the main character, was born the same year as you, now that I think about it…)

    I love what you said about choosing to be an author who’s nice to other writers starting out. It always amazes (and apalls) me how badly a few authors can behave. And conversely, how incredibly generous and kind others can be.

    Thanks for stopping by and having a dance with the debs!

    Maureen

  20. Meg & Jenny,
    Howdy from Edmond, Oklahoma. (We’re actually an upscale suburb, but hey, when you think of Oklahoma I know you still have visions of boots and spurs on your brain!) Great article. Enjoyed it. As an author myself who wants to write for diverse audiences, I feel so inspired that you are doing what you love and writing what you love. Adult! YA! And now middle grade! Congrats! You’re reputation is stellar. Big thanks to authors like you who give a darn and help out the lil guy. You set a great example for all of us.
    Happy holidays!
    Malena Lott

  21. Malena–spurs on the brain sounds like it would hurt 😉
    Thanks for coming by to visit!

    Maureen–I so agree with you, and honestly, Meg Cabot is the real deal. She is as nice as she seems and she is certainly the type of successful author I would choose to emulate (of course I made a leap there into successful authordom, but we can hope, right?!). Pay it forward, IMO.

  22. I think it is best that we meet like this Meg. It is possible if I met you in person I would simply fall to the floor, roll over and expose my belly in submission. This could be awkward depending on the venue. Maybe I should just make you a pie. Reading your books inspired me to try my first YA. I adore your books and am thrilled you would share you pub date with us.

  23. Happy Pub Day, Meg! And welcome to The Debutante Ball. Your visit has been greatly anticipated and your interview was lovely. Your whole:

    “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!”

    …really resonates, and is a big part of why we started the Ball to begin with. We’re all trying to be the kind ones, too! And, btw, we did meet once a couple of years ago (what? you mean you don’t remember?!), and you were very kind, especially since my voice was shaking (as were my knees, though I hope you didn’t hear them) and I quickly ran away.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, and I’m looking forward to Big Boned.

    Jenny, wonderful Q&A 🙂

  24. Hi Meg, if you ever stop down my way I make a heck of a great pumpkin pie topped by whipped cream made from…well, real heavy cream whipped with honey. — Not a bull whip (my stupid joke).
    I am so hugely jealous you are a Fire Horse, given horses, fiery red horses are some of my very favorite creatures on the entire Earth, probably the Universe. Hey, I’m just a Water Rabbit, metal variety.
    I would like to say thanks for being kind. I know that would mean the world to me as a new author. And thanks for sharing, hope springs above the zillions of rejections.
    May your writing star keep soaring higher and higher.
    Hey! Jenny, Whoever is writing this, I wanna a piece of the trekkie action !!!
    ‘I think you should look forward to Meg’s next venture: STAR TREK: THE PRINCESS JOURNALS. William Shatner will star as the Princess in the movie version…’
    Talk about a comedy of crazy errors with good ole William Shatner in a world few want to enter far, far away.

  25. Thanks, you guys (or, I should say, gals, except for Book Chic, of course)! You’ve all been so generous and kind!

    Hi, Suzanne, sorry about all the postcards!

    I didn’t know they made a movie about a fire horse, Maureen, I’ll have to check that out (although I know in some countries they drown them at birth)….

    Happy holidays to you, too, Malena, and my condolences if you’ve been truly sucked into the world of YA, Eileen!

    Kristy, I never forget a Kristy (thanks to the book “Christy”, do you hate that?)!

    Is there really such a thing as a Water Rabbit, Savanna? It sounds kinda kinky. What do you debutantes DO here all day, exactly????

    Stephanie, I just got over that cold, I’m sorry if I gave it to you.

    I’m running out of M&Ms, I have to run to the store…

    Meg

  26. Great interview, Debs. Meg, I just watched your “neck” video and almost (almost!) wet my pants. I’m heading over to the Vaseline store right now.

    Congrats on Big Boned!

    Lisa

  27. Terrific interview. Meg, I’m a big fan of yours, from your historicals to your Heather Wells’ books. I’m looking forward to reading Big Boned. I love your voice. 🙂

  28. Meg, thank you so much; we are just tickled pink to have you here! You rock. I also love your voice…And what a gorgeous picture! I can’t wait to read Big Boned. Happy Pub Day and Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

  29. Waving hi to Suz–I didn’t see ya up there! And Savanna, thanks for dropping by (perhaps you ought to pen that Star Trek adventure?)
    Meg, it’s a good thing they don’t drown fire horses in this neck o’ the woods (sounds sort of gruesome–would they also do that to lefties? in which case I’d be sunk!)

    And what do debutantes do all day? Why, we flounce around in our tulle and wear sparkly crowns and twirl our pearls and straighten our long gloves and drink sweet tea when we’re not dancing the minuet with dinner-jacket clad young society men. Whatever did you think we did?!

    Lisa, thanks for visiting, and Stephanie and Edie too! Hope I didn’t miss anybody!

  30. Jenny — I’ve had trouble before, though I don’t know if it’s the same problem others are having. I have found that if I minimize and then restore (maximize) the page, I can then scroll all the way to the bottom (otherwise it will only scroll a little way down). I have no idea what the deal is there, but it works.

  31. “And I forgot to tell Book Chic howdy for stopping by! So Howdy for stopping by! Glad you could make it!”

    Thanks, Jenny!! Howdy to you too. 🙂

    I’m back home for Thanksgiving break! Unfortunately, it’s no rest for me (except for maybe right now, but I’ve been in a car for 5 hours!!) as I have a term paper and essay to do, a Children’s Lit project to work on, and lots of books to review for the site.

    “would they also do that to lefties? in which case I’d be sunk!”

    You’re a leftie as well?! ME TOO!!! 🙂 Go lefties!

    And, by the way, Meg really is the sweetest person ever. I message her a lot (and she responds back) and I’ve met her in person (BEST. DAY. EVER.) and she is just amazing. Meg, if you read this, you really have achieved that kind, made of awesome author status. Thanks for saying hi to me too. 🙂

    Jenny- As a feminine gay guy, I must say that what you debutantes do all day sounds AWESOME and I wish I could do that. lol.

    Alright, well, I’m off! Gonna lay down and read a bit. 🙂

    Book Chic

  32. Book Chic–you are cracking me up!!! I know how you feel–a girl (or the right guy) could do worse than lounging in tulle all day 😉 (I’m a big fan myself!). Hope you enjoy your break without too much work to do!

    And Robin, thanks for letting me know–I swear, one of these days technology will NOT intimidate me! (Yeah, right!). I think on certain days when we have a lot of visitors the system gets a little backed up, and we’ve had a LOT of people hitting here today!

    Everyone, thanks so much for making Meg feel at home here at the Ball! I hope you all have a wonderful, restful Thanksgiving!

  33. Thanks Jen & Meg for a terrific interview! Meg I am huge fan of your work, especially the Heather Well’s series and the Princess Diaries. Your interviews are always funny, insightful, and encouraging to yet-to-be-published writers. Thank you for giving so much of your self to your readers and to the writing community.

    BTW: Awesome publicity shot. 🙂

  34. Jenny- I’m glad I could crack you up. I seem to do that to Lisa all the time, lol. I don’t think I’ve worn tulle before (or, heck, even know what it is- I know, I’m a bad gay guy for not knowing, lol), but just the idea of lounging around in pretty dresses and doing nothing sounds very appealing, lol.

    Lisa- No wonder I *heart* you too!! 🙂

    Also, psst, I think Meg might be a leftie too. But I might be wrong about that. 😉

    Perhaps lefties are taking over the world? Or at least this blog?

    Anyway, it’s 1:05am. Time to grab something to drink and then it’s back to sleep with me (I woke up a lil while ago due to not feeling well 🙁 )

    BC

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