Author Meg Cabot, who comes to town this month as the guest speaker at Broward Public Library Foundation’s LitLUNCH!, talks about living in Key West and her friend, Judy Blume.
You have nearly 80 books. How do you come up with the story concept for a new novel?
Most of them just come from things that have happened to me personally. I have to admit, I’m not really a princess and I cannot see or speak to ghosts. Generally, I just take things that are happening in my life and just spin them—make them more interesting.
What research do you do for each book?
In a recent book, it’s set in Carmel, California. I lived there as a kid. But I went back to research it. You want to make it feel realistic to the reader, so that when a reader is enjoying the story, it feels like they’re there; it feels like they’re experiencing it themselves. A lot of writers nowadays, just go on Google maps. I feel like you have to be there.
Some of your fans have credited you with helping them overcome their “dislike of reading.” What does that mean to you?
You know, it’s not something that I expected to happen. [Some have] dyslexia; they find my books easy to read. I first heard this from a reviewer who wrote that readers connect with my books because they feel like they’re reading a note from a friend. I understand that some writers might not find this flattering, but I write my books in the way that I would want to read about something going on in someone’s life. I did take writing classes in college. I just tried to write a story the way I would want to hear it.
How did your life change after Disney picked up The Princess Diaries?
I got to move to Key West, which really has been the best thing that happened to me. … We came here on vacation. We just decided to save up our money. I love the feel and people, especially. They’re so friendly, laid-back. Key West has that zany vibe. There are so many writers that live down here, [like] Judy Blume. There’s a very big literary festival that happens in January. It’s a great little town. I call it the Greenwich Village of Florida. You can bike everywhere; walk everywhere.
Do you have a favorite spot?
Fort Zachary [Taylor Park]. You have to pay $3. It’s a great state-park beach. Also, Judy Blume and her husband opened an independent movie theater here—The Tropic Cinema. It’s really fun. We watch a lot of movies there.
So would you call Judy Blume a close friend?
Well, I’ve been to her house for Christmas Eve dinner. She invites a lot of friends over who don’t have family in town.
What was your favorite book of 2015?
I read so many great books. I’d have to say The Martian. I don’t know if it came out in 2015. But I found it very enjoyable and funny. The character keeps a positive attitude in the worst possible situations.