Rad Reads

YA author Katharine McGee talks Majesty and gives writing advice

Katharine McGee is the *totally* rad author of The Thousandth Floor series and American Royals (which you can check out in Chloe's Book Club!). "I've been an avid reader my whole life and always dreamed of becoming a writer," Katharine spills. "Books can transport you out of your own life and into someone else's, even in a foreign country or fantasy world. They're the closest thing we have to real-life magic"—and we can't help but agree. 

We chatted with Katharine about how she got her start, her newest novel Majesty and her advice for aspiring young authors (including, yes, how to tackle writer's block). 

GL: Best part of being an author?

Katharine: There's a moment in every book (for me, it usually comes in the third draft) when the story starts to really click. There's nothing more thrilling than watching a jumble of scenes turn into an actual story. I'm very lucky to do a job that brings people together and brings them joy.

GL: Hardest part of your job?

Katharine: Unquestionably the last draft of the book before it goes to the printer, when I have to do an in-depth review of the text with a copy editor and proofreader. It's an important stage, because we do find errors—but it's painful to read your own writing sentence by sentence!

GL: If you could spend a day with a literary character, who's your pick?

Katharine: I can't choose between Albus Dumbledore, Arya Stark and the Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey (I know she's not *technically* a literary character, but I'd love to go to tea with her!). 

GL: How do you beat writer's block?

Katharine: For me, the best way is to leave my writing desk and clear my head. I'll go for a walk in the sunshine, get lunch with my sister, maybe even take a nap. When you're deep in a writing groove, you can [get] too close to the story—unable to see the forest for the trees. Taking a step back can help you realize where your story took a wrong turn. Plus, it helps keep the creative well full! 

GL: How did you learn to write and become an author?

Katharine: In college, I mostly wrote critical essays for my English classes, not works of fiction. I regret that I didn't take a single creative writing class while I was in school. After graduation, I moved to New York and worked in publishing as an editor of young adult books (Fun fact: I helped edit Sara Shepherd's Pretty Little Liars series!). Many authors learn to write in a classroom, but I actually learned during my years as an editor—studying the way other writers built their stories, and how those stories changed from the first draft to the final draft. A business background isn't a requirement for authors, but it certainly helps me negotiating the non-writing aspect of my job, from reviewing my sales documents to strategizing the publicity for my book.

GL: Give us some insight into your writing process—especially for your latest release Majesty.

Katharine: My stories are character-driven, so I start with the characters. Once I figure out who they are and what they want, I brainstorm the relationships and set some in opposition to one another. The best story tension comes when two characters want the same thing! In Majesty, Daphne is one of the easiest characters so write. Every time I approach a scene, I have to figure out what the character wants and what she's willing to do to achieve it. This can get muddled with some of the Majesty characters—Samantha is usually her own worst obstacle and Nina struggles to figure out what she wants—but with Daphne it's inevitably clear. What does she want? Prince Jefferson. What is she willing to do to win him? Anything.

GL: Advice for aspiring teen authors?

Katharine: Focus on being a teenager! Explore the world and figure out your place in it. These are the years to learn, grow friendships, have adventures. The richer your experience, the more writing material you'll have someday. Also, never stop reading. It's important for writers to read a wide variety—treasured favorites and things that go out of their comfort zone. The more you read, the more you'll discover your own voice and the types of stories you want to tell.

GL: What do you hope readers take away from Majesty?

Katharine: Confidence, happiness, hope and a healthy dose of girl power!


Images provided by Katharine McGee. Aspects of this interview were edited and condensed for clarity.

by Elina Graham | 9/2/2020