I first had the pleasure of meeting Meg Cabot back in 2003 when we appeared together on Live with Regis & Kelly as part of the Reading with Ripa book segment. Since then, her career has literally taken off. A New York Times bestselling author, she writes for a wide audience including young adult as well as mainstream fiction. Her highly successful series The Princess Diaries has even made it up on the big screen. Honestly, it couldn’t have happened to a kinder person.
Nowadays, Meg is busy chasing vampires in her latest release OVERBITE. As all of her devoted fans know, it’s the highly anticipated sequel to her 2010 hit release INSATIABLE. If you haven’t read the first book yet (pick up a copy today!), no worries. Meg provides plenty of back story to catch you up to speed. In her usual quirky and lovable charm, she writes a funny, breezy story perfect for lounging by the pool.
As part of this interview, Harper Collins has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the column. And by the way, you may want to grab some garlic and a trusty stake! I hear the vampires are quite active this time of year. :
Jen: A New York Times bestselling author of various genres, your exemplary award-winning career distinguishes you as one of the best in the business. Describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you made the decision to pursue a career as a writer.
Meg: Aw, thanks! Actually, though I always loved to make up stories, I never dreamed I could become a professional author. I grew up in a college town and thought you had to have a beard to do that!
Instead, I decided to become a veterinarian. Unfortunately, I flunked algebra and got a 410 on the math portion of my SATs. So after high school, I decided to study art (because I loved to draw). After college, I moved to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator. But I had a hard time finding work. I was so happy when I landed a job-any job!-as a freshman dormitory assistant manager at New York University, which gave me plenty of free time to return to my early love: writing.
But it took a long time for me to believe in myself enough to focus on what I really loved. It wasn’t until my own college professor dad died, in fact, that I started sending out my own stories. They all got rejected, but I figured the worst thing that can happen to you isn’t getting rejected for trying to do something that you love-it’s that you could die never having tried at all. So I kept trying until I succeeded. It took half a decade of no’s before I got a YES, but I never gave up.
Jen: Over the years, you have written young adult (THE PRINCESS DIARIES) as well as adult novels (The BOY NEXT DOOR). In terms of nuts and bolts, which genre is the most challenging to write and why so? And, which is your favorite and why?
Meg: I always like to say I love all my writing the same-just like moms love all their kids their same! But the truth is, I always love the manuscript I’m working on the best. It needs my attention the most!
I love to write for teens because they’re in a time of their lives when it is okay for them to still be undecided about who they are or where they’re going in life. When you’re an adult, this isn’t such an OK thing (although secretly many of us feel this way). Plus, there’s often a dance in YA books, and then the characters get a chance to dress up, and it’s always nice to give your characters a chance to shine. Adults never get to go to dances (except weddings), and so hardly ever get a chance to dress up. We lead such boring lives. Except those of us who are professional wedding planners, or spies (ha, ha).
But in adult books, my characters do get to have sex and swear more, so that’s a lot of fun.
I don’t make any adjustment to my writing style when I’m writing for non-adult readers . . . except that I usually leave out the swear words. I don’t like books for younger readers that “talk down” to the reader.
Jen: In terms of your writing process, do you concentrate on one project at a time or do you juggle a few? Do you outline first, or do you simply allow the project to take on a life of its own?
Meg: I tend to go weeks without writing a word, then suddenly, weeks where I can’t STOP writing. I don’t always outline, but I definitely know where the book is going to end before I get there.
I wish I were more even — I’ve heard of writers who write a page or two a day, every day. I wish I could do that. But with me it’s usually feast or famine. I focus on one project at a time, and I always listen to really loud music in headphones as I write.
I love writing that first draft. For me, writing started as my favorite hobby, so it’s especially fun for me when the manuscript I’m working on is spec, meaning I haven’t pitched it to anyone yet, and no one knows about — or is paying me — for it. When I don’t have to think about anyone’s expectations but my own, that’s when I really love my job.
Jen: Your latest adult release OVERBITE is in stores now. Please describe for us its premise.
Meg:OVERBITE is a sequel to INSATIABLE, my 2010 hit summer release and pseudo-sequel to Dracula, in which Meena Harper-a dialogue writer for the soap opera Insatiable-finds out the vampires her producers were trying to force her to incorporate onto the show in a bid to save it from cancellation are actually real!
Now Meena’s been asked to join the Palatine Guard, a demon-fighting unit of the Vatican, in their effort to eradicate demons from the earth. There’s just one hitch:
Meena’s in love with Lucien Antonescu, the Prince of Darkness…but her new partner, Alaric Wulf, wants nothing more than to see all vampires dead. Meena’s trying to prove that there may actually be some good in some demons, just like in us humans.
But she’s having a tough time!
You don’t have to have read INSATIABLE to enjoy OVERBITE, but unlike a vampire, it won’t kill you!
Jen: Where did you get the idea for this series?
Meg: Well, it kind of all started with a dog . . . . you can see a picture of him here: http://www.megcabot.com/insatiable/faq-new.php#meenasdog
We found him one morning sitting on our front porch. We thought he was a stray and we took him in, but then quickly realized he must belong to someone, so started looking for his real owner.
Unfortunately when we found his real owner, he turned out to have as many issues as his dog (who was totally paranoid, except when in the company of myself or our cat, Gem).
Although Jack’s owner turned out to be good looking and charming and did a lot of entertaining, he only came out at night. Obviously, we suspected that he was, in fact, a vampire . . .!
. . Clearly, we could not keep Jack Bauer (we called him Jack Bauer because of his severe anxiety problems. He seemed to think a nuclear bomb was going to explode at any moment, and was always looking over his shoulder for one. Jack Bauer was the name I gave him, not his owner, because of his state of constant agitation).
Sadly, Jack was not ours. Every time he showed up on our porch, we had to take him back to the vampire, although Jack cried piteously at this, and tried to phone Chloe at CTU.
We thought about keeping and hiding Jack, but since the vampire lived across the street from us and would see us every time we took his dog for a walk or to the vet, there was no real way we could do this.
The last time Jack Bauer ran away, however, we were not home to take him back to his owner or handlers at CTU. We were told by witnesses that he waited for us on our porch for hours. When we didn’t come to the door, he finally took off down the street in search of Chloe. No one saw where Jack went after that.
Jack Bauer never returned to our neighborhood.
I was distraught. Being a vampire, Jack’s owner did not seem to care very much at all.
Not much later, Jack’s owner was evicted. He left behind a small cat (who was thankfully adopted by the next tenant).
Months after giving up hope that I would ever see Jack Bauer again, I was eating in an outdoor restaurant when a neatly-dressed, pretty, short-haired girl came out of a nearby office building, walking a happy, rambunctious dog on a leash.
I was astonished to see that it was Jack Bauer. He looked totally different personality-wise. He seemed carefree and unworried about the impending nuclear annihilation of our country.
Physically, however, Jack was the exact same dog. He glanced up and wagged his tail when I said his old name.
The dark-haired girl who now owned him (and who had cured him of his crazed paranoia) tugged on his leash and said, laughing, “Come along, Charlie!” They got into her car and drove away.
Charlie -aka Jack Bauer – had saved himself (with the help of a cool career girl) and found a good home at last.
Inspired by how sometimes good does conquer evil, I went home and started writing what would become Insatiable, with the cool girl who saved him the model for my main character, Meena.
Jen: Aren’t readers tired of hearing about vampires?
Meg: This is a strong argument for why vampires might need to be eradicated. Only someone who happened to be in love with one of them might disagree.
Jen: In OVERBITE, you suggest that New Jersey is a hellmouth. Aren’t you being a little hard on my home state? :And, you also mention Minetta Stream. Does it truly exist?
Meg: A hellmouth is described as any place from which evil creatures draw energy! (This obviously explains the success of The Real Housewives franchise.) New Jersey isn’t the only place like this by far! Look at Las Vegas! And my home state of Indiana, and of course where I live now, Florida.
Also, in OVERBITE, New York City’s hellmouth is in the form of the Minetta Stream, a real waterway which used to run down the center of Fifth Avenue, but has been paved over for centuries. The Minetta Stream-both in OVERBITE and real life-does still rise up when the weather gets rough. A fountain that was said to have once been fed by the Minetta still stands in the lobby of the NYU dormitory where I worked for ten years while struggling to get published (Hayden Hall, 33 Washington Square West). A similar fountain with a much creepier history is featured in Overbite. http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M125D/highlights/7320
Since the 19th century, there’ve been rumors about an elusive creature that lives in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey (and I’m not talking about the many bodies buried there by Tony Soprano and his cronies). The New Jersey Devil has been blamed for cattle mutilations as well as other strange events, including Teresa Guidice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jersey_Devil
Sorry, New Jersey! But rest assured, there are many even more evil states in America.
Jen: OVERBITE features a demon-fighting unit of the Vatican called the Palatine Guard. Is this a real organization?
Meg: The Palatine Guard was a military unit of the Vatican during the 19th century. It is said to be defunct, but the Vatican says a lot of things we know not to be true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatine_Guard
Jen: The vampires in OVERBITE are a bit old-fashioned. They can’t go out in the sun without bursting into flame or enter a home unless invited. Why did you choose to create your characters in this way?
Meg: The vampires in OVERBITE are modeled after Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic Dracula, who is said to have been inspired by Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). Thanks to the popularity of Stoker’s book, there’ve been thousands of books, comic books, graphic novels, plays, television shows, and movies about vampires ever since. Vampires swing in and out of pop culture popularity (Salem’s Lot, The Lost Boys, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, Twilight, True Blood), but they never truly go away.
Jen: A question I just have to ask, what’s the best way to get rid of a vampire?
Meg: I recommend a steady diet of garlic, especially in Italian food of any kind. And a good stake of course (STAKE, not steak).
Jen: Will there be a third book in this series?
Meg: Not if Alaric Wulf, vampire-hunter, does his job!
Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about some promotional information. Please take us on a tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Meg: On megcabot.com, you can read my diary, and of course about all my books and get lots of special sneak peeks and extras. For example, right now you can read three chapters from my newest book, Overbite! And there are links to lots of fun videos and book trailers, as well as “leaked” documents from the Palatine Guard, a secret demon-fighting unit of the Vatican featured in INSATIABLE and OVERBITE. http://www.megcabot.com/insatiable/book2.php
Jen: In terms of social media, are you on Facebook? Twitter? Do you blog?
Meg: Absolutely! Readers can check out my blog at megcabot.com and read my tweets at @megcabot. Lately, I’ve been tweeting a lot from the Romance Writers of America conference in NYC, and posting fun photos of having tea at the Plaza with a librarian who donated $1600 (!) towards diabetes research to have tea with me! So nice.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next project? If so, what can you share with my readers?
Meg: Two new Heather Wells books are due in stores in 2012 and 2013. So I have to write them! When the last book ended, I left Heather in a dressing room trying on wedding dresses. I have to go rescue her! And of course, I have the next two books in the Abandon series coming out, as well.
Jen: As always, it’s a pleasure having the chance to catch up with you! I wish you the best of luck with OVERBITE! I highly recommend it to all of my readers. Happy summer!
Meg: Thanks, Jen! Great talking to you!
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot. Please stop by your favorite bookstore, library branch, or website to pick up a copy of OVERBITE today. It is also available in eBook format which can be downloaded in mere seconds!
Then again, how would you like to win a copy instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win!
OVERBITE is the sequel to what previous Meg Cabot release?
In August, I will be bringing to you my interview with New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery. You won’t want to miss it.