At last, Meg Cabot found the time to meet with yours truly for her "blog tour", just before I was whisked off to California by my gentleman friend.
It was not exactly what I had expected…yours truly had composed a number of questions, working unusually hard, at least for moi. But then the publicist informed me that Ms. Cabot would only answer FIVE. (This was, of course, the same day that we were to meet.)
Your faithful correspondent was not exactly thrilled, but one must roll with the punches. So that meant we would not discuss readers’ questions about “The Princess Diaries.” My apologies for asking you to send them in. However, you can find a great deal of information on her website, http://www.megcabot.com/.
One online biography claims that she is able to write an entire novel per month, so presumably I could have interviewed her for at least six weeks without staying on a single topic. But Ms. Cabot did answer more than five questions, as you shall see.
As is obvious from her stature in the industry (fame, not height), Ms. Cabot is an extremely canny woman, adept at giving her readers what they want. And that includes her image, which is quite a bit more, er, folksy than I expected. Be that as it may, I put on my Leslie Stahl hat (a wide-brimmed red straw) and we began.
Elisa: I read Queen of Babble and quite enjoyed it, particularly the sections about vintage clothing, and your depiction of the French countryside. (And a sex scene in a wine cellar is certain to win points with moi.)
Meg: Thanks! You'll find a lot more vintage clothing references, as well as an entire plot built around Lizzie's attempt to start her own vintage wedding gown restoration business, in the sequel to Queen of Babble, Queen of Babble in the Big City, which comes out June 26 (Editorial aside: subtly done plug, don't you think?).
Elisa: As I have often stated here, Vintage clothing is Fashion In The True Sense. I particularly appreciated that you put your heroine, Lizzie, in an Alex Colman dress, as that is a designer very rarely mentioned anywhere.
(I myself am in possession of quite a few Chanels, Vionnets, and a rare Balenciaga gown under glass that if anyone tries to touch, Bucky the Wonderdog is trained to attack on sight. The trespasser, not the Balenciaga. But I digress. )
My first questions concern your absolutely terrifying productivity. (Editorial note: I refrained from asking if she uses performance enhancing drugs, as they refer to them in the sports world.)
Your faithful correspondent can hardly keep up with this blog. I mean, forty books, Ms. Cabot?? For kids, teens and adults? How to explain to the endless fountain of prose running from your computer?
Meg: Well, I can't really. I've just always loved to write, and have been doing it as a hobby since I was seven. Now I get paid to do it. Which is really just icing on the cake! (Editorial aside: quite expensive icing, one imagines.)
Elisa: Is it some sort of supernatural automatic writing, channeling a writer from beyond? (I am quite a fan of séances; in fact I met one of my best friends, dear dead Lana Turner, at one.)
Meg: Ha. Not that I'm aware of. A lot of effort goes into writing each book and I will admit around page 150 I don't ALWAYS feel like doing it anymore and want to quit and start working on something new, so it would be really nice if a ghost or something finished it up. But so far that's never happened.
Elisa: I’d recommend Lana, but all of her plot knowledge is pre-1945 and you would certainly never have a sex scene in a wine cellar. Is there a disadvantage to being so productive?
Meg: I've heard occasional complaints about glutting the market. These don't tend to come from readers, however, but rather from other people in the industry. But that's their problem, not mine.
Elisa: Back to your novel, Queen of Babble. You write about vintage women's clothing with the feeling of the True Believer. Did you have to do a great deal of research, or has vintage clothing long been an interest of yours?
Meg: I have been collecting vintage since the mid-eighties. I will admit Cyndi Lauper and Madonna were huge influences, as was Desperately Seeking Susan! (Editorial aside: no comment.)
Elisa: Ms. Cabot, as you know, I am a fabulously plus-sized woman with a creamy decolletage', long legs, and naturally golden hair. In my blog I feel it is my duty-no, my calling-to combat the fashion industry's obsession with gauntness. And I make it a point to sell larger-size vintage for the more fully endowed female.
At the beginning of Queen of Babble, Lizzie Nichols has lost 30 pounds, and much is made of her changed looks. She is mistaken for some person named Jennifer Garner, and is mortified that one of her boyfriends remembers her as fat. I well understand that being on the heavy side would make it impossible to fit into a Lilly Pulitzer bikini. But, I was puzzled by why this was so important to the plot. What are your feelings about young women's' body images and the message a book like this sends them?
Meg: Well, as I'm sure you know if you're at all familiar with my body-not to mention my body of work (my Heather Wells mystery series featuring a plus-size sleuth, Size 12 Is Not Fat, Size 14 Is Not Either, and the upcoming sequel, Big Boned), I too am a larger gal at five feet eight who has at times has topped two hundred pounds on the scale (and no, I've never been pregnant), so I know whereof I speak. It's really crappy how hard it is to find pretty designer clothes in large sizes.That's why I learned to sew-I had to alter all the shrinky-dink vintage size 4s I was finding (ah, the things you can do with a well placed panel).
Having been both large and not so large, I can attest that people DO treat you differently when you're large vs. not large. And it's not right, nor is the constant bombardment we receive of Thin is Best. Because it simply isn't true. (Editorial aside: note how gracefully Ms. Cabot has not directly answered my question and managed to plug three more books! Mon dieu, I am in awe.)
Elisa: Do you genuinely feel that a young woman has to be slender to be eligible for her Prince Charming?
Meg: You're really asking a happily married former size 18 that? A true Prince Charming is one who loves you no matter what your size.
Elisa: Given her adoration of food, will Lizzie be able to stay slender in future installments? Somehow the French chocolate sandwich stays in the mind.
Meg: No. Thank God. In the sequel, Queen of Babble in the Big City, Lizzie gains back the weight, and consequently finds herself in quite a different predicament than she is in Queen of Babble. Although--spoiler for Book 3, Queen of Babble Gets Hitched, due out next summer--she may not realize who her true Prince Charming is until it's almost too late.
Elisa: Thank you for your time, Ms. Cabot. I recommend Queen of Babble to my faithful readers. It is an amusing light read, as they say nowadays. And vintage lovers will simply drool over the descriptions of the clothes!
Meg: Well, thank you! And if they liked Queen of Babble, they'll love Queen of Babble in the Big City, due out in just two weeks!
I bade Ms. Cabot a gracious farewell. And then, dizzy from the sheer amount of marketing whizzing around for the last half hour, I collapsed on the divan.
Forty books...as my maid would say, dios mio.
Elisa and Bucky the Wonderdog