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Meg CabotFame & Fortune: Meg Cabot
'Princess Diaries' author won't take fliers

For a generation of teenage girls, Meg Cabot is the totally awesome combination of best friend, smart-alecky older sister and ribald aunt, without whose optimism, encouragement and zany sense of humor, life would, like, totally suck.

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As a teen, the tall, effusive 39-year-old native of Bloomington, Ind., was a self-described geek who made frequent pilgrimages to the local library in pursuit of air conditioning and emerged with a career founded on her favorite summertime authors: Jane Austen, Judy Blume and Barbara Cartland.

When her fine arts degree from Indiana University didn't turn up any illustrator positions in New York City, she put her pen to work instead, writing romantic novels under the pseudonym "Patricia Cabot," one of four pen names she has used over the years.

Switching to novels for young adults, she tapped into every young girl's adolescent daydreams and insecurities with her 2000 blockbuster, "The Princess Diaries." The tale of New York everygirl Mia Thermopolis -- who discovers at 14 that she is actually the princess of the fictional principality not unlike Monaco -- went from bestseller to hit Disney film and sequel and spawned a book series that is in its seventh installment.

Cabot has tapped into other adolescent fears and fantasies with two other popular series: "The Mediator" features a girl who talks with ghosts and "1-800-WHERE-R-YOU" features a girl who, when struck by lightning, acquires the ability to find missing persons. She has also written adult fiction, including "Every Boy's Got One" and "Size 12 Is Not Fat."

Bankrate hooked up with Cabot for the 411 on the care and feeding of a princess.

Bankrate: Let's begin with the obvious: Every girl at some point has the princess fantasy. Your inspiration for Mia actually came about following a traumatic event, the death of your father, right? How did that lead to "The Princess Diaries?"

Meg Cabot: I was actually 26 when my father died of throat cancer (from smoking). A few years later, my mother started dating one of my former teachers, a man whose wife had died of lung cancer (also from smoking). I was happy for them, but also secretly horrified -- my mom was dating one of my teachers! Ew! Since I couldn't really talk to anyone about how weird that felt, I started writing a book about it that eventually became "The Princess Diaries." I am happy to say they are still together, living in Annapolis, Md., where I set my latest teen paranormal, "Avalon High," and having a blast.

Bankrate: What was your childhood in Bloomington like?

Meg Cabot: My father was a distinguished professor of computer science at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington. We were taught from an early age that if we wanted something, we had to get part-time jobs and then save our own money in order to buy whatever it was. I remember saving to buy a PC in the days when very few teens even knew what PCs were (I thought a PC would be more useful than a car). Today, I own four Macs and still don't drive, so I was right. Every seven years, my father received a sabbatical year, and my mom, two younger brothers and I would all move somewhere else for 12 months while he worked on a book or taught at a different school, leaving us to make all-new friends and get used to an all-new school. We hated it! Some of the places we moved were Seyssins, France, and Carmel, Calif. I used Carmel as my setting for "The Mediator" series. I still remember how awful it felt to be the new girl.

 
 
Next: "I told you I have no competitive nature!"
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