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