When we launched the Official FFL book club back in April, we know we wanted to start it with a bang–a book we could all fawn over and talk about and a book that would make us beg to know what happened next. Our first pick, American Royals, met those criteria and more, and now, we’re celebrating it’s success with our readers by reading the sequel, Majesty, which wraps up the stories of Beatrice, Samantha, and those in the sphere of the American Royals.
Each month, we talk to our authors about their writing process, their favorite moments in the books, and even though we talked to Katharine McGee back in April, I was so excited to talk to her again now that I’ve read Majesty and I know how it all ends!
We see Beatrice take the throne in this and get to experience some of her reign. What do you think was your favorite part to write of Beatrice’s story in this? Were there any moments you had in mind but couldn’t include in her first year?
In the first book, Beatrice was pulled in two different directions, struggling to reconcile the demands of her position with what she really wanted. That conflict is even more intense now that she’s the queen! I loved getting to write Beatrice’s journey as she discovers new things about herself and grows into her power. Not to mention the way her relationship with Samantha changes over the course of the book—and how they team up at the end to take down their opposition.
Obviously, Beatrice being the first queen is a parallel to the fact that soon America may have its first female president. How did that influence your writing of her story, and how were you freed by the fact that America never has had a female leader and Beatrice would be unique in her own right?
When I first turned in the manuscript for American Royals, my editor asked if I was absolutely certain I wanted the king to die. She worried that it was simply too sad an ending. I agreed that it was sad, but it was also necessary in order for Beatrice to fully come into her own. The story wouldn’t be as impactful if we only ever saw her as a princess—we needed to watch her becoming the queen regnant, the first woman to lead America.
Even though American Royals takes place in an alternate version of the modern world, it is still inevitably influenced by the things that happen in our real world. The fact that we haven’t had a female president has definitely helped shape Beatrice’s arc. I hope that the book inspires its female readers to get involved in politics in some small way, whether it’s volunteering or simply reading up on the issues and being informed voters!
Let’s talk about Connor versus Teddy. How did you decide which way to fall? Did you change your mind throughout the writing process or did you know from the get-go who Beatrice would end up with?
Beware that this answer includes spoilers! I’d decided Beatrice’s romantic trajectory before I started writing book one, but I must have changed my mind a dozen times over the last two years. It was hard not to fall in love with Connor as I wrote him (especially once he proposed to Beatrice in the garden), and I began to wonder if I should change my plans and let Beatrice end up with him after all. Then again, that was the ending everyone expected, and the last thing I want my books to be is predictable.
So as I started working on Majesty, I asked myself how Teddy might be the right fit for Beatrice in a way that Connor never was. After all, her romance was Connor was very much the whirlwind of first love, emotionally intense and thrilling but also draining. Her relationship with Teddy is a more grown-up love; the type of relationship that doesn’t take anything from you, but instead makes you into a better and stronger version of yourself. If I’ve done my job right, by the end of Majesty readers will love Teddy for Beatrice even more than they loved Connor.
Daphne’s arc in this story is so fascinating to me, and I loved her ending, to be honest. Why do you think it’s so fun to write a character like Daphne? What can writers do to get inside of heads like hers?
This may surprise you, but Daphne’s chapters are the easiest to write, and her story always changes the least from first to final draft. That’s because Daphne has a very clear drive, unlike the other characters, who are still figuring out what they want. She already knows what she wants—to be a princess—though of course, this doesn’t come without a cost.
I’m thrilled that you loved her ending! It felt so right to me. After all, sometimes the greatest punishment is getting what you thought you always wanted.
Samantha’s growth in this book is astronomical, and I loved following along for the ride. How did introducing a new potential love interest for her open the doors to her growth and how did it limit it in particular ways? Did she have any real world inspiration?
I always knew that Sam needed to end up with someone who was “her match”: that is, someone just as smart and provocative and fun as she is. The original draft of American Royals had a character who was basically Marshall in a different form—back then his name was Joaquin, and he was the second son of the King of Spain (a spare dating a spare!) but his snarky character and the sparks-flying sarcastic dialogue was all the same. I obviously ended up taking the first book in a different direction, but I repurposed all that content into Marshall. I love the way that he and Sam challenge each other, and that her feelings for him are balanced by the emotional growth in her relationship with Beatrice.
Your last series was a trilogy, and this one is a duology. How does that decision come about? What, in your experience, was the difference in plotting a series over 2 books versus 3? Did that limit you in anyway, or open up new doors?
My last series was purchased as a trilogy, so I was able to plot the whole three-book arc from the beginning. This time, the publisher only bought two books up front, with the option for more. It made the writing experience for Majesty particularly challenging. I wanted it to conclude in a satisfying place, in case it’s the end of American Royals—but I also left some doors open, so I have room to reenter the story if the publisher wants a third book. I would love the chance to revisit the Washingtons and their world!
How did you decide where to end this book? It seems like it could have gone on forever, just showing us their lives, but obviously, every book has to end somehow. How early did you know the ending, and how did you decide which ends to tie and which not to?
One of my favorite writing quotes is from Oscar Wilde: “The good ends happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” I feel like it’s very applicable to where I left things at the end of Majesty! All the stories are wrapped up more neatly than book one—I’m not leaving you on a dramatic, Game-of-Thrones style cliffhanger this time—but they also aren’t too resolved, because where’s the fun in that?
What’s next for you? Are you working on another series?
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 family relationships, forbidden romances, glamorous parties, and a few dark secrets. My husband and I are also expecting our first child in September, and prepping for our baby boy’s arrival has been a project in itself!
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