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'Princess Diaries' crowned Meg Cabot with literary success

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Stretched out on her bed with her computer in her charming 1850s home on the Florida island of Key West, Meg Cabot slaves away at her 9 to 5.

It s tough work if you can get it. And she s got it in spades.

A vivacious brunette who has published about 50 books for girls, teens, and

women, Cabot will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Great Hall of the Stranahan

Theater as part of the Authors! Authors! series sponsored by The Blade and the

Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

I lived in New York until 2004. Before 9/11, I wrote at a desk. Then I went to bed, says Cabot, 41, adding that she gets dressed before returning to bed to write. I think it s really bad for your back.

Where ever she writes, she s prolific: between now and December, she ll publish

four books. Airhead, a teen novel, was published last month. Her expanding niches include chick lit for teens (the Princess Diaries series and others) and women (Queen of Babble), Manga (comic) books (the Avalon High series), and a new series

for girls from age 8 (Allie Finkle). She also churns out paranormal chick lit and mysteries, and has written seven Victorian romances with perfumey titles in scrolly type, under the moniker of Patricia Cabot.

I think I d get tired of doing one thing all the time.

Using as many exclamation points in conversation as she does on her girly-girl

Web site (www.megcabot.com), Cabot worked for a decade as an assistant manager of a 700-bed freshman dormitory at New York University.

Her Heather Welles mysteries are set in a New York dormitory. During those years she was writing books, sending out query letters daily, and getting boatloads of rejections. When she became disheartened, her husband, Benjamin Egnatz, cheered her on, telling her to keep writing because she loved it.

He s the very fellow who, when she was in high school in Bloomington, Ind., and met him, an English major at Indiana University, at a party, advised her never to enroll in creative writing classes if she intended to be a writer.

So I studied painting and drawing, she says.

After graduating from IU, she moved to New York City, where he lived, and met up with him again. He s also a writer and a cook who has built an industrial kitchen in their home, and he runs her business and does her taxes. Married 15 years, they also own a home outside of Bloomington.

In 1997, Cabot obtained an agent who helped get her first book published in 1998. She describes Where Roses Grow Wild as smutty but romantic, Victorian, and set in the British Isles, where she had never been.

The Princess Diaries, published in 2000, was the right book at the right time. Walt Disney Pictures wanted to make a movie for girls and selected The Princess Diaries, producing films of the same name in 2001 and 2004 starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. The 10th book in Cabot s Princess Diaries series is due in December.

A hug from Disney being as marketable as a hug from Oprah, Cabot s success was launched. Almost everything she s written is optioned, she says.

She undertakes a new book with a one-page synopsis and a mental outline, including characters, a beginning, and an end.

I tend to follow it but I don t have it super detailed. I know what s going to happen at the end. It s like you have to know where you re going.

She wrote one novel entirely in e-mail, which, because of its narrow parameters, makes it a difficult format for telling a full story.

The down side of working at home (especially when the house is old and needs repair) means constant interruptions. Indeed, during our telephone interview, a bug exterminator showed up.

Two days after her Toledo appearance, she ll speak to girls in Memphis at a luncheon/fashion show presented by teen magazine Justine.

Yes, she says, her teen characters are sometimes sexually active. One in four girls have an STD (sexually transmitted disease). If they re going to have sex, they ve got to use a condom, says Cabot, with emphasis. Her mother worked for Planned Parenthood; her father was a business professor at IU.

Cabot and Egnatz love being outside, swimming (they have a pool), riding bikes (their main transportation on the island), and watching movies. I m trying to get into boating, she says, but I m afraid of drowning.

Meg Cabot will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $10; $8 for students. Tickets can be purchased at library branches and at the door. Information: 419-259-5266. A Gordon Lightfoot concert is scheduled at the same time that night, so the Stranahan complex parking lot may be busy.

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.

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