It’s funny how we still refer to Meg Cabot as “author of the Princess Diaries,” even though she’s written tons of great books since then for both young adults and grown-ups. We still think of Anne Hathaway as Princess Mia, too, so it figures. But many of her characters share that same indomitable spirit in a quirky package, though their stories differ drastically. Take Heather Wells, the plus-size former teen pop star-turned-assistant-director of a college dorm/crime solver at the center of Size 12 and Ready to Rock, the fourth in a five-part series. She’s the kind of character you want to follow into a protest rally as much as sit at home and watch chick flicks with. And it turns out she has a lot in common with Meg herself.
“When I started writing [the Size 12 books] that’s the size I was, and I was having a lot of problems finding cute clothes in my size, which I actually think at the time was bigger than 12, but um, there’s a lot of stores that don’t go up past 14, um, particularly the bigger designers – the ones that make the really cute clothes,” Cabot told VH1 Celebrity on the phone from Florida this week. “So I wanted to write about a heroine who, you know, has the same problems that I did ’cause I just found that I couldn’t find books like that but [whose heroines] also still have romances and sex and don’t need to lose weight to find guys, because I never had that problem, you know. I always got guys.”
Not that body issues are really the point of the story here. Instead, it’s about how Heather manages to adjust to life after losing her fame and her boyfriend, and winds up solving murder mysteries in the process.
“I actually did work at the dorms in NYU for 10 years, so a lot of the stories are based on real things that happened, although no one actually got murdered — the murder part I just make up,” Cabot told us, explaining how in her job, she witnessed quite a few students getting involved in abusive relationships. “When I worked in a dorm and girls would occasionally come in and be beat up, and I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, did you get mugged?!’ and then of course, no. And they said, ‘No, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have …”
Another character in Ready to Rock finds herself at the mercy of a murderous stalker, which surprisingly is another element based on Cabot’s real life. “I have had stalking incidents unfortunately,” she shared. “It’s not fun at all. It’s a horrible feeling, and I actually wanted to write a little bit about, because I don’t know, I kind of thought that would make it feel better … but it didn’t.”
Because Size 12, and several other of Cabot’s novels touch on the pitfalls of fame, we wondered if she keeps in touch with the actress whose success we think she’s partly responsible for, Ms. Catwoman herself. “You know every once in a while we give a shout out to each other but she just skyrocketed, she’s so busy,” Cabot said of Hathaway. “She did actually the books on tape for The Princess Diaries, so that was really really sweet of her, and I’d go in the studio and see her when she was doing them and I just felt so sorry for her because those are really hard. But you know, I see Julie Andrews much more often because she writes books so we see each other at book conferences all the time. She’s hilarious. She’s a hoot.”
Cabot’s poised to make some new young people famous when some of her other projects reach the big and small screens. There’s a script for her Mediator books, a YA ghost series, “that’s very, very close to having something that’s hopefully television related.” And “there’s a lot of excitement” about her Abandoned trilogy, a retelling of the myth of Persephone. We can’t wait!
[Photos: Facebook, William Morrow]