All this week, we’re featuring Abandon by Meg Cabot — the first book in her brand-new paranormal trilogy. We LOVE this book (and its roots in Greek mythology & Dante), and we LOVE Meg, too. So we were delighted when our friends at Scholastic helped us set up today’s exclusive interview with the best-selling author.
You’ve said that you’ve always loved the story of Persephone. What about the story do you like so much?
I actually really started liking this story as a teen . . . I think it was the idea that there is someone out there–maybe even living beneath your feet–who adores you just as you are and wants to take you away from the crummy place in which you live (and away from your crummy school and the bullies who torture you every day).
The fact that the guy lives in the Underworld and has the power to smite those bullies is a total bonus.
Do you have a favorite “telling” or version of the Persephone story?
Well, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology was the first one I read, and that is the one that stuck. I loved the illustration that came with it of Hades coming up through a chasm in the earth and carrying Persephone off to the Underworld in his chariot.
There are several versions floating around where Persephone clearly eats the pomegranate seeds that force her to have to stay in the Underworld for 6 months of the year on purpose (in other versions, Hades tricks her into eating them). I could totally relate. She went from being forbidden by her mom from going to Olympus (her mom was always a worrier) to being Queen of the Underworld! Why would she want to leave?
There’s something very magical about the setting of Isla Huesos. How do you think ABANDON would have been different if it took place somewhere else?
Actually the book went through a number of drafts, and in several of them the book was set on an island off the coast of Maine. I think it was just as creepy, just in a different way. I did a ton of research on the New England setting (my mom spends ever summer on Little Deer Isle, and the book was set on a facsimile of that island. I went there and ate a lot of lobster and crab rolls).
But when I heard a bunch of people complaining about Key West’s Coffin Night, which is a real event, I got that sinking feeling only writers get.
When the Europeans discovered it, Key West was actually covered in human bones (Cayo Huesos is the original name for Key West), which may be why Key West High has a Coffin Night–when the senior class hides a coffin somewhere on the island, and junior class has to find it. No one really knows why (I interviewed a zillion people, and everyone had a different explanation).
Naturally, this fit so well with the plot of the book I’d already written (about the Underworld), I just had to completely rewrite the whole thing.
In your mind, how are Pierce and the “original” Persephone alike? How are they different?
I feel like we really don’t know anything about Persephone. In so many versions of the story she plays a very passive role, and the myth is really more about her mother, Demeter, and the trials she goes through rescuing her daughter after she’s kidnapped by the Lord of the Dead and taken to the Underworld.
I always wanted to know more about the journey of this very human character, who manages to tame the Lord of the Dead and then ultimately becomes empowered by ruling over the Underworld herself (at least part time. Although that’s just what happens in the myth, I’m not telling what happens in my book series).
Besides the obvious influences of Greek mythology and Dante, it’s also pretty clear that recent events in the Gulf influence aspects of ABANDON. At what point in the writing process did that happen? What made you decide to incorporate the oil spill into the story?
Pierce’s dad was always supposed to be a Zeus-like CEO of a large Halliburton-type company, and her mom a nature-loving environmentalist. The reasons for this actually have nothing to do with the oil spill but with something that happens in a later book in the series.
Then the oil spill happened. It wasn’t supposed to be part of the book, but there was no way I could ignore it, since, once I moved the setting to the Florida Keys, I had to incorporate all aspects of the Keys, and so much of the Keys is the rich eco-environment in which it exists, and the people who depend on the water for their livelihood.
Later on Pierce’s dad may have a chance to redeem himself (it will not, however, be by magically cleaning up any dispersant or oil. Mr. O is not actually Zeus).
We know you can’t give away too much, but can you tell us a little about what we can expect from books 2 & 3 in the series?
Readers will find out why Pierce’s cousin Alex is so mad at everyone, why Pierce’s Uncle Chris went to jail in the first place, how John got stuck being the lord of the Underworld beneath Isla Huesos, and why Pierce may be the only person in the world who can save him–and the entire island of Isla Huesos–from being destroyed by the forces of evil.
What interview question do you always wish someone would ask?
Vampire, werewolf, or Lord of the Dead?
Now answer that question!
Lord of the Dead, of course!
If they made a Meg Cabot candle, what would it smell like?
The ocean or the pool, because I’m an Aquarius, and I love the water. That’s why I live on an island!
As a kid I loved Underdog. But I had a Josie and the Pussycats lunch box.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Your personal theme song?
A song I always listen to in order to get pumped up is “Neutron Dance” by the Pointer Sisters. It’s a great motivational song because it’s about how there’s no money falling from the sky, and the man is going to steal your heart and rob you blind. But if you work hard, believe in yourself, and, obviously, burn the neutron dance, you’ll get that pot of gold in the end. So get dancing.
You’re on a deserted island and have to read one book for the rest of your life. What is it?
Probably Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. It’s my favorite comfort read. It’s funny, romantic, and profound.
Favorite book as a child?
It was The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
I’m psychic but no one believes it–basically like my character in my adult paranormal books, Insatiable and Overbite. And it only works sporadically. But I did convince my friend not to go to Morocco this one time, so he cancelled his trip and then the hotel where he was going to stay blew up. That is my most successful prediction to date (besides the fact that I was going to get published someday).
Thanks once again to Meg for answering all our questions, and to Charisse at Scholastic for setting this interview up for us!