Book Talk: Author Cabot shares rejection with Rowling

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - American writer Meg Cabot is touted as one of the authors who could help fill the gap left by Harry Potter and she already has one thing in common with J.K. Rowling -- multiple rejections.

In this photo handout, American author Meg Cabot, author of the best-selling "The Princess Diaries" series, is photographed by Benjamin Egnatz in 2006 in Key West Florida where she lives. Cabot is touted as one of the authors who could help fill the gap left by Harry Potter and she already has one thing in common with J.K. Rowling -- multiple rejections. REUTERS/Handout

Rowling is known as the world’s first billon-dollar author due to the success of her Harry Potter novels with the last in the series just released, but her first Harry Potter novel was rejected by nine publishers before making it to print.

Cabot, 40, the bestselling author of “The Princess Diaries” series that sparked two movies, said she faced rejection after rejection for three years before finding a publisher -- and she has kept all her rejection letters in a bag under her bed.

About 40 books later, Cabot has just released the second in a three-book adult series, “Queen of Babble: In the Big City,” will release the first in a new children’s series, “Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls” next year, and ends “The Princess Diaries” series with Volume Ten in 2009.

Cabot spoke to Reuters about princesses -- and rejection:

Q: So you found it hard to break into writing?

A: “It was. I’d always written novels as a hobby because I love to write but I grew up in a college town and knew lots of professors so knew how hard it can be to publish. It never really occurred to me to try. When I got married and was working at NYU (New York University) my husband said just try and I did. I started to sending novels out and it took years of rejection but I had nothing to lose. It went on for about three years until I got an agent and she managed to sell something.”

Q: Even with “The Princess Diaries” (a modern day fairy tale where heroine Mia learns she’s a princess by birth)?

A: “The Princess Diaries was rejected by everyone in Manhattan then the publisher who took it folded and Harper Collins took it. It wasn’t an overnight success by any means.”

Q: Do you really keep your rejection letters?

A: “I do. I have a giant U.S. postal bag with rejection letters in my New York apartment, under the bed. I can’t even lift it. There’s certain editors who are still in town whose names are in it. It’s not like I am ever going to refuse to work with them again but I like to remember who they are. Some of them were really, really mean -- unnecessarily. One said “The Princess Diaries” was just not suitable for children. It’s funny how they are really nice to me now.”

Q: Your “Queen of Babble” series is for adults rather than teens. Was the shift difficult?

A: “I’d noticed that my readers were getting a bit older. They are now going to college and looking for something a bit more mature and this caters for them. There’s not a lot of books in fiction about high school and entering the real world. Those were the worst periods in my life.”

Q: Volume Ten of “The Princess Diaries” is due out January 2009 when Mia turns 18. Is that her end?

A: “I love her and her friends but I don’t have any big plans to go back. I’m going to take a break.”

Q: Why do you think the series was such a hit?

A: “I think it is the princess thing -- that everyone dreams they are royal or a princess and (Mia) is so down to earth. It came from the idea that I thought I was a princess and my real parents would come and get me and take me away from these awful people. My mother used to joke about it.”

Q: What are you reading?

A: “Harry Potter Seven of course, but it is so long. I read what everyone else is reading. I am very into popular culture -- mysteries and chick lit. I don’t like to read sad stuff.”

Q: Any advice to aspiring writers?

A: “Don’t give up. If you do get any kind of input, consider it. Don’t take it too much to heart if you don’t agree with it but I got some good advice in my rejection letters. Write all the time and read as much as you can.”