Katharine McGee: “It’s crucial for writers to read in a wide variety of genres.”

5 Questions with...

Katharine McGee

[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the opportunity to interview author Katharine McGee and ask her five(ish) quesitons. Take it away, Aurora!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Katharine McGee: Majesty is the sequel to American Royals, which reimagines present-day America as a monarchy. Among historians, George Washington is often referred to “the man who could have been king.” In the American Royals books, I ask the question—what if he had become king? How would modern America, and today’s world more broadly, be different? The series follows all the romance and drama of the American royal family, focusing on the young woman who will be America’s very first queen.

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?

I’m probably the most similar to Beatrice. I’m also an oldest child, and while my relationship with my younger siblings is far less complicated than Beatrice’s relationship with Samantha and Jeff (after all, there’s not a throne at stake!), I couldn’t help writing some aspects of our dynamic into the book. Like Beatrice, I am the studious and cautious rule-follower, while my brother and sister are spontaneous, adventurous rule-breakers. Also, my sister lives in LA, and some of her funky fashion sense (like necklaces worn as bracelets, or her love of sequins) made its way into Sam!

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I watch a lot of TV, especially hour-long dramas (some of my current favorites are Succession, The Crown, and The Wire), so it may not surprise you that I’ve always gravitated toward character-driven stories over plot-driven stories. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good save-the-world action saga! But as an author, I’m most excited by narratives driven by a strong cast of characters, especially when those characters’ lives are tangled in complicated or unexpected ways. Bring on the messy family trees, the enemies-to-lovers, and the love triangles (or better yet, love quadrangles!)

We’re seeing a resurgence in these types of stories right now, especially among romance and young adult novels. I think this is because character-driven stories lend themselves to examinations of interpersonal dynamics. They force us to consider what it means to be part of something bigger than ourselves—a community, a family, or even just a romantic pairing. Given everything that’s happening in the broader world, these are timely and poignant questions to think about.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from it.

Majesty picks up directly after American Royals, with all the main characters reeling from the dramatic events at the end of the first book (I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read!) Once again, the members of the American royal family are struggling to reconcile the demands of their positions with their own hopes and dreams. Majesty is full of drama, unexpected romance, and villains you love to hate. It also features some fun new characters, and explores new corners of the American Royals world!

What’s next for you in the bookish world? 

I’m working on a new project which is still in the early stages, so I can’t say much about it, except that it’s full of all the things I love best: complicated relationships, forbidden love, glamorous parties, and a few dark secrets. My husband and I are also expecting our first child this month, and prepping for our baby boy’s arrival has been a project in itself!

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

One series that I return to again and again is Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I first read those books in middle school, and they completely changed the way I thought about fantasy stories. Aside from an action-packed plot, rich characters, and truly spectacular worldbuilding, they also raise powerful questions about spirituality and what it means to grow up.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers? 

Never stop reading! It’s crucial for writers to read in a wide variety of genres—not just their favorite types of books, but things outside their comfort zone. (I am constantly pushing myself to read horror and graphic novels, for instance!) The more you read, the more you’ll get a sense for your own voice, and discover the stories that you want to tell.

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