Book Nerd Interview
Photo Credit: Chris Bailey PhotographyKatharine McGee is originally from Houston, Texas. She studied English and French literature at Princeton University and has an MBA from Stanford. It was during her years in New York, working as an editor by day and writing by night, that she began a manuscript about life in a futuristic skyscraper. The Thousandth Floor is her first novel.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
It’s so hard to pick a favorite! One series that I return to again and again is Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I love the universe he’s created, with different worlds layered over one another, so painfully close and yet impossible to reach. Lyra is a flawed protagonist: reckless and impulsive, and dismissive of authority—but also curious and brave, and loyal to the people she cares about. I loved watching her grow up over the course of those three novels.
Aside from fantasy/sci-fi, I love to read historical fiction—especially novels with epic, sweeping drama and a sprawling cast of characters! Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies were two of my recent favorites.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
One of my favorite quotes is “A life without stories would be no life at all.” Stories are literally what make us human. They are the reason we invented language in the first place, to bridge the distance between two people, in some small way. You tell dozens of stories every day without even realizing it: in class, at work, when telling your friend how bad the traffic was or convincing your dad to watch a new tv show! In my opinion, stories are the only real magic that exists; because they enable us to slip out of our lives and into someone else’s—to understand the way that another person sees and experiences the world—for a brief enchanted time. The minute we stop telling and reading stories, we’re doomed.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
To not worry when the first draft doesn’t come out perfect (because it never does—in fact, it’s far from it. Thank goodness for editors J) Also, to take a lot of naps on book tour!
In your book; THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
The Thousandth Floor is set in New York City, a hundred years from now, when most of Manhattan has become an enormous thousand-story skyscraper. The book opens on an unnamed girl falling from the roof of this massive supertower. As the reader, you don’t know who she is or why she’s falling: was it an accident, did she jump off, or was she pushed? The book then backtracks three months, to tell the interlocking stories of five teenagers, leading up to the moment that one girl ends up on the roof…
Although The Thousandth Floor is set in the future, it was important to me not to set it in a dystopia: there’s no cruel dictator or caste system, no battles to the death. Instead, it’s still our world, just fast-forwarded a hundred years both technologically and socially (think computerized contact lenses and hovercrafts and antigravity yoga!). It’s not a utopia either, though, because human nature isn’t perfect. Ultimately, my characters are still motivated by the same things as teenagers today: loneliness and desire and heartbreak and love, and all the other things that make us human.
For those who are unfamiliar with Leda, how would you introduce her?
Leda is proud, manipulative, insecure, and addicted, to a drug that she should give up… and a boy who isn’t good for her. She’s also clever, shockingly insightful, and fiercely loyal to her friends.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
The Thousandth Floor is the first in a trilogy, with book 2 coming out in August. I’m almost finished with final edits for that book, and then I’ll get started on book 3!
If you could introduce Watt to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I read SJ Kinkaid’s Insignia trilogy this year and I have to say, I really wish Watt could meet and befriend Wyatt! (Similar names are completely a coincidence!) They’re both computer geniuses, both misunderstood, and both harbor crushes on people who don’t seem interested… I don’t think Watt and Wyatt would ever work as a couple, but they would definitely be great friends.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Rylin?
Rylin has a younger sister, Chrissa, and I have a sister named Lizzy who’s eight years younger than me. One of my favorite things about Rylin’s story was seeing what parts of my relationship with Lizzy made their way into Rylin’s feelings about Chrissa. Rylin is incredibly proud, and fiercely protective of, her sister in the way that I am of Lizzy. She would give up anything for her sister—which she does, when their mom passes away and Rylin has to drop out of school to take care of the family. Sisters are also the only people who can deliver the really hard truths. As my mom always says, you can never fool your sister, because she knows you better than anyone else in the world. Which is why I make Chrissa say what she does to Rylin at the end of the book (you’ll understand once you’ve read it)!
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Keep reading! Read everything you can get your hands on, not just the same genre, but a wide variety. Your “writing muscle” needs to be stretched the same way you would stretch and workout to train for a marathon (and writing a book is definitely like running a marathon!) I always find it useful to read something outside my comfort zone, especially when I’m stuck. Shakespeare or other classics from my high school and college bookshelf are particularly useful for this. I know a lot of authors who take breaks to read poetry! Anything to help get your brain into a different cadence or sentence structure. The more types of writing you see, the more varied and interesting your own unique voice will become.
What part of Eris did you enjoy writing the most?
Eris’s story was particularly tricky, because she has the most going on over the course of the novel—a family story and a coming-of-age story, not to mention a new romance! I have to say that I particularly loved her birthday party at Bubble Lounge. If only we could drink out of floating bubbles in real life.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I went to an all-girls summer camp in Texas for ten years, from age 7 to 16, and then was a counselor for two summers, living in a cabin full of teenagers and teaching horseback riding. It was the most incredible experience of my life, and I wish every summer that I could go back!
Tell me about your first kiss?
As Avery would say, a lady doesn’t kiss and tell ;)
What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?
I think it would be terrible to have to tell someone who loved you that you didn’t love them back. I’ve actually only ever told one person that I loved him (aside from my family) and he ended up becoming my husband! So that was a very fun “I love you” to say, because he had already said it first, and it all ended happily!
When was the last time you cried?
I’m an easy crier when reading books or watching movies. Just this weekend I watched Harry Potter 7 part 1 with my family, and I definitely shed a few tears when Dobby died at the end. Dobby is a free elf! He got to die fighting with his friends! See, I’m tearing up just writing it right now!
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I feel like I would have loved the eighties, all that big hair and neon sparkling clothes and loud music. Though I’m not a fan of the nineties grunge look that followed!
What is your greatest adventure?
I think being in love—really in love, with the person you’re going to spend your life with—is the craziest adventure of all. The moment you stop living your own life for yourself and start building a joint life together is deeply scary, and exciting, and rewarding. My husband and I got married a few months ago, so the journey is only just begun!
Where can readers stalk you?
I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @katharinemcgee, and my website is http://katharinemcgee.com!
A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future where anything is possible—if you want it enough.
WELCOME TO MANHATTAN, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.
LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.
ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.
RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?
WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.
And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.
Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you're this high up, there's nowhere to go but down....
PRAISE for The Thousandth Floor
“The luxe lives of Manhattan’s elite are even more extraordinary in Katharine McGee’s futuristic, highly addictive page-turner. The Thousandth Floor will give you vertigo and leave you eager for more.” --Cecily von Ziegesar, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Gossip Girl
“Katharine McGee’s vision of glamorous twenty-second century teens makes for an addictive and compelling read that left me longing for the second installment!” --Alyson Noël, #1 New York Times Author
“Twenty-second century Gossip Girl-like fun. Sexy and engrossing!” --Melissa de la Cruz, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
“An unparalleled mash-up of romance, mystery, and science fiction unlike anything I’ve read before. Katharine McGee gives the speculative fiction genre a much-needed make-over with a novel that’s as glamorous as it is fiercely intelligent.” --Kass Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of The 100
“A gleaming future where a dirty secret still has pull on any human heart.” --Anna Godbersen, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of THE LUXE)
“Compelling and imaginative - I loved everything from the fascinating vision of the future to the scandalous lives of the characters.” --Amy Tintera, author of RUINED
“A confident debut, replete with romance, jealousy, and enticing future fashions and tech, McGee’s story delivers more than enough drama and excitement to hook readers and leave them anticipating the next book in the trilogy.” --Publishers Weekly
“A clever construction, readers who love uncovering scandalous secrets will find themselves staying up late. This is a towering debut.” --Booklist
“This will be gobbled up by fans of “Gossip Girl”. An excellent hook and familiar tropes make this title a likely hit.” --School Library Journal
“McGee has done her work in world building and character development to make a juicy, memorable future that readers will want to revisit.” --Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books