Princess Diaries author on her new middle-grade book — and joining Star Wars canon

I was gonna ask. … There aren’t very many murders in Key West, and if there are, they’re usually, you know, domestic disputes. Is this all from the   New Hope   perspective or timeline? Well, she’s dead obviously, so she’s looking back over her whole life, so it doesn’t include some of the stuff that happened in the prequels. … Some parents didn’t agree, so this is a nice way to kinda ease into it. And Hector Elizondo’s in all of Garry Marshall’s movies, so that was a really nice role for him. How do you enjoy writing for each audience in different ways? I mean, first of all, she’s one of the only other female characters [laughs], which is a little bit of a problem — there’s not been that many other females. And I still have them. And they said, “Well, we have this actress, who’s a really big actress, that we want to play the grandmother. Yeah, and he wanted to be closer to his grandkids while he was filming, and so when they called and said, “Is it okay? I do — I actually get my local paper here in Key West [which] has a really great police   beat; they write the different crimes that have happened overnight in the neighborhood. I was ecstatic. I like kind of feel like I’ve said all I have to say…
For mysteries, where do you usually get your inspiration for those? Yeah   [laughs]. They were “Disneyfied.”
Yeah, I totally got “Disneyfied,” which I did not mind at all, and I don’t have kids, so I didn’t really see what the problem was with discussing French kissing. Thank you. When I was 10, I saw the first movie,   A New Hope, in the theaters, and just, right there, my love for all things   Star Wars   was born — particularly Princess Leia. I tape it sometimes. So I just took that dream and kinda switched it up and made it be Princess Mia [who would] just like, take you away from your horrible school and the bullies that are so mean to you and whisk you off to your kingdom. And I also have a lot of readers who’ve become teachers, and they want stuff for their students that… are a little less racy. And yet, for me, of course, disguise it so that people won’t know that I’m really writing about my own friends and family, or whatever. I actually specifically wanted Princess Leia to come and save the day. How did you come up with any of their relationship problems in The Princess Diaries books? Garry Marshall lived in San Francisco. Everyone   watches   Dateline, oh my gosh. So I get a lot of ideas from that, because it’s just enough information to tantalize you, but not enough to fully describe what actually happened. And Kathleen Marshall, who played Charlotte, was in   Pretty Woman. … [The two little girls] Anne Hathaway gives [her autograph to at the school], those are his granddaughters. You know I actually did have an idea for an adult book with Mia and Michael solving a mystery around the palace   [laughs]. Show Full Article … I was like, “Oh, oh, my God, what did he do?”   [Laughs] I forgot it was Disney and they always kill all the fathers   in like every movie [laughs]. But when you’re writing for adults, that’s a different challenge, ’cause that’s really from how do you incorporate maybe stuff that’s even going on in your own life, in an entertaining way, that the reader’s gonna find satisfying. The acclaimed author of the Princess Diaries series is introducing a new generation to Genovia. Yeah. I can be anyone.” I’ve been them all, but I   really   wanted to be Aunt Beru because I just love her. And that was actually why they switched it from New York — ’cause all the books are set in New York — to San Francisco. You’re one of the writers contributing to the   Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View   anthology. You know, I hope you’re not gonna be upset if we move it from New York to San Francisco, but that’s where Garry lives, and he wants to be close to his grandkids,” and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s — obviously, I’m fine with that.” I was so excited just to know that Garry Marshall was doing a movie version of my book. Royal Crush, the third installment in Meg Cabot’s middle-grade series, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess   — “written” by Mia Thermopolis’ pre-teen, half-sister, Olivia — was released earlier this week. But also, if it wasn’t for her sadly, spoiler alert, passing away, you know, Luke would never have gone off and saved the universe. How’d you get involved with that project? How did that come to be? EW chatted with Cabot about the real-life inspiration behind her books, joining the Star Wars canon, and what Genovia’s Queen Julie Andrews is really like. [Laughs.] So they want stuff that’s at a reading level for their kids. So I had to be all the other characters [laughs]. And, I mean, I think they tried to make her as horrible as they could, but it’s Julie Andrews. So I — this is so embarrassing, but I just took chunks out of my own diaries and put them into   The Princess Diaries. So I had all the action figures, and I would try to get the other kids over and play with me, but all the girls wanted to be Princess Leia, and they would only play if they could be Princess Leia. They were kind of exaggerated. [Laughs.] I was not a vegetarian either. I mean that was literally my dream, so this book is basically for me. [Laughs.]
‘Cause I watch   Dateline   all the time, so. … I felt like she’s really an important character and never got to really be glorified in the way that she needed to, so, that’s my character. Yeah, and I think that she’s his daughter. I’ve always had this problem where the books were slightly racier than the movies. … I’ve kind of been steering clear from [YA], because it’s just, I feel like the market is really saturated right now. I have siblings, so I thought it would be fun to tell the story of Genovia from the point of view of another sibling. … I started writing   Star Wars   fanfiction, of course, because that’s what you did back then. And she is just so—such a nice, fun person, and great to be around. That’s actually right, he had [a] much more kind of fatherly role, and then that ended up giving them a romance for Julie Andrews. … She’s a lot sassier, let’s put it that way, than anyone would think from   New Hope, and she maybe had had other plans, you know? I think that really helped me as a writer, because I had—
You had to do the different perspectives. Oh my God! Yeah, a little bit. She had Joe though. … She may have had some dreams in her life, other than just raising this kid, although she loved him very much   and was happy to do that in the end. And we wanna make her role much bigger, and kinda raise the stakes, and give her a lot more lines, and we think we can give her a lotta the dad—the dad lines.” And I was like, “Well who’s the actress?” And they were like, “Julie Andrews.” I was like, “Oh my God, kill the dad.”   [Laughs] I was like, it’s Julie Andrews, sure. Exactly. Kind of like   Hart to Hart   style, like—I just really aged myself. And also because, I need to be honest, I have so many readers who are always asking me for books that are at a slightly lower reading level for their younger brothers and sisters. You’ll do anything for Julie Andrews. It really helped me to become a writer, and then, little by little, I started making up my own countries — as you know, Genovia was the country I made up — and made up my own princess. That really is how that came about. It was really funny, ’cause I was working my day job still when I got the phone call that Disney had optioned the rights to the movie—I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke, but it turned out to be true. What made you decide to tell   The Princess Diaries   story from Olivia’s perspective? From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess: Royal Crush is available now. I mean he is completely alive in all of these books—which is why there is this character of Olivia. Yeah. Was Olivia inspired by your own siblings? Do you think you’ll have anything where Olivia is solving a little royal mystery, or? [Laughs.] And then they said, “There’s just one thing,” and that’s they had to kill off the character of the father in my book. Thank you! Do you watch   Dateline   or—? I just kept a diary until, I think, probably my senior year in high school. Yeah, so when they actually contacted me about being in the   Star Wars From a Different Point of View, I was like, “Oh I can do it. When I get to write an Olivia book or a book for a middle-grade audience, I really enjoy the challenge of trying to make it exciting without having, you know, naughty words, or sex   [laughs], but you get to have, like, a dance, or the anxiety of “Does this person hate me?” Because that’s a big thing when you’re 10 or 11 — the peer pressure kind of stuff — and navigating those waters. He plays a big role in the books. I actually have a biracial younger brother. [Laughs.] I also really enjoy writing mysteries, so I like to incorporate some dead bodies, every once in a while, and that’s always really fun. Back to Genovia, Clarisse in the book is   so   different than the Julie Andrews incarnation. … So all of her weird anxieties — almost all of them — really did come from me. Everything’s canon. So that was kind of a nice, sweet, and very Garry Marshall-esque little touch. And this has always been my dream that I would find out that I was really a princess, [and would be] whisked off to a palace. And he plays a big role too. But now — this makes me feel so old — but now, I have some readers who have kids! Right?