Writer Meg Cabot is best known for the Princess Diaries series, made famous by two movies starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. But she quit writing that series in 2009, when Princess Mia graduated from high school.
More recently, Cabot has taken a break of more than a year from publishing altogether — an unusually long period for the writer, who has often published four books a year. Now Cabot, who lives in Key West, is back with two new books in the Princess Diaries series. The first, "From The Notebooks of a Middle School Princess," is for kids. The second, "Royal Wedding," returns to Mia's story as an adult and is intended for adult readers.
Before setting out on a book tour for the two new titles, Cabot sat down with us to tell us about the books, her sabbatical from writing and why she lives in Key West.
Read an edited version of our interview below.
You've got two new books coming out. The first, "From The Notebooks of a Middle School Princess," is a return to the world of Genovia. Tell me a little bit about the book.
"Notebooks" is a book that I've been thinking about writing for a while. It's geared toward younger readers. When the "Princess Diaries," the original series, came out, there were two movies made by Disney that were rated G. But the books were actually for teenagers. So a lot of parents went and bought those books for their kids who were maybe 6, 7 years old and suddenly they were finding out about French-kissing and things that maybe they weren't necessarily interested in or prepared to find out about.
So I got a lot of mail at that time. I started thinking it would be great to have a book that introduced younger readers to stuff that was maybe a little bit more appropriate for them. So this book, "The Notebooks," is about a girl who's 12. And she is not interested in boys, but she's very excited to find out that she's a long-lost princess of Genovia.
It's been an unusually long period between books for you. How did that happen?
I actually took a sabbatical. I wanted to maybe do the fallow field thing, to let myself have some time off. I had been writing and publishing books steadily since 1998, and I had never had a year when I didn't have at least two or three or four books coming out under various names.
And I got to a point where I realized I could actually retire if I wanted to. So I kind of considered doing that. And I will admit that I just went out on the water here in Key West and I laid in my pool and I read a lot. I read a lot of Florida writers that I'd never read before. John D. MacDonald — I read the entire Travis McGee mystery series. I read a lot of Carl Hiaasen. And I got recharged.
And that was when I got the idea to start writing the new Princess Diaries.
You have another series, the "Abandon" trilogy, which is a retelling of the Persephone myth but set in Key West. Do you find the island to be a particularly fertile setting for fiction?
Of course I do! I think Key West has long been known as a place that attracts writers, and there's something about it. It's the people — the people are amazing, they're super-creative and super-laid-back and open. And I think that is certainly a place that is going to be welcoming to writers. But there is also 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. 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.