American Royals IV: Reign is the end of one of the series of young adult literature that has delighted millions of readers around the world. We sat down to chat with Katharine McGee about the book’s gestation process and the most exciting moments while we reviewed the entire series. Ready?
Here we go!
Every writer has a way of telling stories that makes them unique and Katharine McGee is no exception. We were curious about her writing process and she explained to us that she “outline it because there are so many characters in the books I find that I cannot just write look at a blank page and just make it up as I go. I do have to have a plan. So, first, I write a chapter-by-chapter outline. And then I use that when I write my first draft and my editor takes a look at it before I ever get started.”
“So that’s also good because if she has any questions or problems with where I’m taking the story, I catch them before I write an entire draft so I do end up inevitably changing things along the way. As I write, I realize that there are places where I need to flip chapters or where someone’s story is getting too slow or the outline is just not working. But for me having a plan really helps. So especially, with so many characters and all of their stories tangling together and impacting one another, it’s really important for me to know ahead of time where I’m headed,” she explained.
Over four books, the American Royals series conquered us through its characters. We followed their story and the way they grew and matured at every opportunity, in every book. But which of them is Katharine McGee most proud of?
“I love them all. I have a special place in my heart for the first book because that is the one that I lived with the longest. I had been working on the idea for this book and this concept for so long. I originally tried to write it over 10 years ago in 2011 when Prince William and Kate Middleton got married and could not figure out the right way to do it. And then, I ended up working on what became my first series which was the first floor but it always stayed with me so I have a lot of fondness for the first book,” she shares.
That said I do think the third is really fun. I love the finale and I love Reign and I am very happy where everyone ended up. But I always enjoy writing cliffhangers. In the third book, I think I got to do a really dramatic cliffhanger and put all of my characters in very fun situations with The League of Kings, the foreign royals, and the fake dating. There was just a lot to juggle there like Daphne and Nina, surprising friendships…so that I think Book Three was probably the most purely fun,” she continued.
Not only did Katharine McGee’s books evolve along with her story, but also the characters who made us feel so many things. And she “cannot choose one. I will say Daphne is the easiest to write. So I’ve talked to a lot of authors who have the same opinion where the villain or the character who has the more negative motivations is usually the easiest to write because her plot is always very clear,” she commented.
With the other characters, I often figure out their story in revisions because I don’t get it quite right the first time. Their motivations need to shift. Their stories are more based on friendship and family and falling in love and Daphne’s story, for so much of the series, is so purely ambitious and very clearly goal oriented of what she wants you know, she wants to be a princess so her chapters never really changed,” she continued.
They’re the ones that kind of stay the same from the first draft all the way through the final and it’s really nice to have a character like that because I’m often revising up until the end so at least I usually know that my Daphne chapters are good from the beginning because, as I said, her motivations are clear and her voice is very distinct,“ she ended.
Focusing squarely on American Royals IV: Reign, Katharine McGee shared four words to describe the book. For her, Reign “is a surprising but fitting conclusion. That might be five words [laughts] But yes, I do think there are some twists and turns in it but I think every character ends up where he or she needs to at the end so that’s good.”
American Royals IV: Reign has moments where we all scream, whether in surprise or happiness. But there is one particular moment that Katharine McGee couldn’t wait to share with all of you and see the fans’ reaction. And is “the epilogue. I can’t wait to hear what people think. I feel like I knew from the beginning of the series, sort of how everyone would end, at least emotionally. And so I am very excited to see if the readers agree with me.”
American Royals IV: Reign is the last book in the series but we need to know — especially after reading that epilogue — if Katharine McGee plans to return to this universe at some point, like in a spin-off or something like that.
“I don’t know. Right now, I’m working on a new project that will come out next year in the fall. Hopefully, I can stay on schedule, I’m having a baby in four days, as you know. So it’s definitely a busy time, but I never say never, I love the American Royals characters. And I’ve had so much fun building the world and exploring the different parts of this alternate history. So I would certainly be open to writing more if the opportunity ended up coming up. But right now, I am focused on my new project, which should come out next year,” she answered.
So, we have hope for more American Royals! Speaking about the series, Katharine McGee explained to us what the book’s publication process was like and how it went from manuscript to printed book.
“I’m lucky in that I actually used to work in book publishing. I’ve worked for four years in editorial for young adult fiction. So I actually assisted a team that worked on the Gossip Girl books, on Pretty Little Liars, I was very closely involved with The 100, which was a TV show on the CW, so I worked on a lot of really fun young adult series that had TV adaptations. For that reason, I didn’t come into writing books, the way that most authors come in, which is not knowing anything,” she explains.
“That is to say, like, I had seen publishing from the other side, I had seen it from the editorial side, so I knew a lot about the process. So for me, the process was not as unfamiliar or frightening, because I had done it as an editor before. I loved my job but I realized pretty quickly that I wanted to be the creative one and write the story, instead of editors having to juggle and project manage so many different manuscripts and different books, that it’s not the same as getting deeply involved in one thing, and sort of building the characters yourself.”
And that has been a lot of fun for me. My editor always says that the author is the parent of the manuscript of the book. The editor is the cool aunt who is there for milestones like weighing in and gives a lot of guidance but is not doing the day-to-day heavy lifting. So it has been different. But as I said, I was lucky, I knew I didn’t have a ton of surprises as far as just the process goes of like how deadlines work.”
“At least, I have seen it from the other side, which I think has helped a lot because I do think there are a lot of authors, especially if you’re a first-time author, where it can be a very intimidating process and there’s not a lot of information out there about how books are made so having seen it helped me a lot,” she pointed out.
Taking the opportunity, we ask Katharine McGee if she would like to see American Royals adapted to the small screen, either in series or movie format.
“I would love a TV show or a movie. That would make me happier than anyone. I have a really wonderful agent in Los Angeles named Gina, who is working on making it happen. So we will see I’m keeping all my fingers crossed. She is trying more for TV right now. She’s closely affiliated with Warner Brothers Television Group. So that’s more her expertise. And I think the story and the characters do lend to TV very well. But I would certainly not say no to a movie deal,” she answered.
With the writer strike, there’s not going to be any news in Hollywood for a while. So everything that Gina was working on is sort of on a standstill. But I am still hopeful that it could happen someday. I would love love love to see these characters on TV or in a movie, Katharine shared. And we’re crossing our fingers for this to happen!
Finally, Katharine McGee took advantage of our last question to send a message to new writers.
She “always tells aspiring writers two things. And they sound very obvious. But the first is to keep reading, to just read all the time. and to read different types of things. I think it’s very easy, as a reader to just gravitate toward the same, whether it’s romance, or young adult, or historical fiction, or fantasy to sort of gravitate toward the same type of story over and over. But I think as a writer, it’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and read other types of things. Because it keeps your creative voice fresh, and it sort of keeps your wealth of ideas full,” she commented.
“I think that’s really important to hear. And to hear the text in another kind of cadence, as opposed to just the same type of thing over and over. So for me, sometimes, it ends up being that I’m reading poetry, or that I’m just to shake myself out of a writing slump, or that I’m reading a science fiction book, which I don’t typically read a lot of two, just to get me back into a fresh mindset.”
“And then the other thing I would say is just to keep writing, I think it’s really easy. My old co-workers and I always called it sort of the Act One, the Act One fade out or the Act One burnout, where, if you think about a story in three acts, which is the way I do, which is sort of a screenwriting trick, but act one is kind of the setup. And that’s always the easiest to write. It’s a lot of people who have ideas for books, they can see the world they can see the character, and they can see the beginning of the action. But then act two is where most of the action happens. And it’s easy to get bogged down in it,” Katharine continued.
“And so I think a lot of people end up writing Act One, starting Two, and then just going back and saying, I’m just going to revise Act One, and you can end up just rewriting this first 90 Pages for a year if you’re not careful. So I think the advice would be to just keep going, just push through and keep going and write a whole book, even if you know it’s wrong, even if you don’t like where your story is going.”
“Once you have a whole book, then you have something that you can edit and you can change. But if all you have is the first quarter of a book, you never really have a manuscript because you can just you can spend forever kind of tweaking what you have. So long story short, my advice is to keep going, don’t get bogged down in the slog of Act One, and just keep pushing through and keep reading new things then, once you have something written, it’s so much easier to change it than to just stare at a blank page, as I’m sure you know, Katharine pointed out.
Talking to Katharine McGee was an absolute pleasure. She is really charming and you can count us among her loyal readers! We will definitely keep track of her new projects.
American Royals IV: Reign is available to buy now here.