Books

Interview: Meg Cabot, author of ‘The Princess Diaries’ series — and more

Author Meg Cabot, who lives in Key West.
Author Meg Cabot, who lives in Key West.

When Meg Cabot published Forever Princess in 2009, she figured she was done with the Princess Diaries series and the world of Genovia, the fictional principality where Mia Thermopolis is royalty, a fact she learns in early adolescence.

The books were popular and adapted into two movies starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. But they were young adult books, and when Mia had graduated from high school, there didn’t seem to be a lot more to say.

Cabot, a prolific writer, didn’t stop writing. She published books including her Ally Finkle series for kids, a couple of vampire novels for adults and a young adult trilogy based on the Greek myth of Persephone. The “Abandon” trilogy was set in Key West, where Cabot lives.

Two years ago, though, she was ready for a break. She’d been publishing multiple books a year since 1998. She was successful enough that she could retire if she wanted to, and she considered that. So she gave herself a sabbatical.

“I just went out on the water here in Key West, and I laid in my pool, and I read a lot of books that I’d never read before,” Cabot said. She got recommendations from the local bookstore, Key West Island Books.

“I read a lot of Florida writers that I’d never read before. John D. MacDonald — I read the entire Travis McGee mystery series,” Cabot said. “I read a lot of Carl Hiaasen. And I got recharged.”

Around the same time, interest in royalty was rising again with the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in the UK. Cabot started thinking again about the world of Genovia and started working on two books. Both were published this spring.

Royal Wedding (Morrow, $14.99) returns to Mia’s story but this is a novel for adults (Cabot appears Wednesday at Books & Books in Coral Gables to talk about it). Mia is 26, coping with crises in Genovia, a father in the midst of a nervous breakdown and her always impossible grandmother. She’s also trying to get private time with her boyfriend.

She also learns that she has a previously unknown half-sister, Olivia, who is the subject of Cabot’s other new book, From The Notebooks of A Middle School Princess (Feiwel & Friends, $16.99). As the title indicates, the book is intended for middle school readers.

It’s not a reboot of the series, exactly, but it does address some demands from readers, especially those who learned about the series by way of the movies. The books were young adult fare about adolescents. The movies, made by Disney, were rated G, and inspired parents to go out and buy the books for their kids a little younger than Cabot had expected.

“Suddenly they were finding out about French-kissing and things that maybe they weren’t necessarily interested in or prepared to find out about,” Cabot said. “So I got a lot of mail at that time.”

From The Notebooks is notable for another reason. It’s heavily illustrated — by Cabot, who was an art major in college. While Mia’s story is told through her diary, Olivia’s is told through her sketchbook. An aspiring wildlife illustrator, she’s constantly drawing.

Cabot’s recharge apparently worked. She’s already working on another installment in Olivia’s story and is planning an adult addition to another of her popular YA series, Mediator, which started around the same time as the Princess Diaries.

There are no immediate plans for any more Florida-set books like the Abandon trilogy. But Cabot says Key West provides an almost irresistible inspiration.

“It’s just the lushness, when you’re out at night and there’s not many people around — you get the feeling that anything could happen. It’s very romantic and a little bit haunting,” she says.

“The beautiful smell of the night-blooming jasmine and, if you’re walking down by the cemetery and you see all the raised tombstones, it’s beautiful. And it’s very hard not to start writing about it. Even if you’re on deadline for a different book that has nothing to do with it, it’s very hard not to start writing a new one.”

Nancy Klingener covers the Keys for WLRN-Miami Herald News.

Meet

the author

Who: Meg Cabot

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

Info: 305-442-4408 or www.booksandbooks.com

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