Everyone, meet Katharine McGee, author of the upcoming Science Fiction novel, The Thousandth Floor! Sadly, she has just left the Bay Area for the East Coast, but I reached out to her to ask if she'd like to answer a few questions for us!
1. Did you have an elevator pitch for The Thousandth Floor, and what was it?
Absolutely! My elevator pitch was “Gossip Girl meets The Jetsons”—Gossip Girl because of the dramatic, emotional nature of my characters’ secrets, as well as the fact that it’s set in a glamorous New York world. The Jetsons I added to convey that while the novel is set in the future, it isn’t a dystopian or post-apocalyptic future: there are no dictators or caste systems or children competing to the death. The futuristic technology in The Jetsons is fun and lighthearted, never brutal or scary, and that’s the tone I hope to capture in The Thousandth Floor
2. What was the hardest part of getting published for you?
I used to work in publishing, on the editorial side, so I luckily understood the industry and what it takes to get published! As for many authors, the most painful part for me was waiting for news after I knew that my agent had pitched my novel—I was constantly checking my phone, anxious for a phone call or an email with news!
3. Was there something about the process of getting publishing that you didn’t expect?
The community of YA authors is incredibly strong, especially among debuts. It’s been a lovely surprise to see how warm and supportive everyone is of one another’s work!
4. Who has been your biggest supporter?
My fiancé Alex has definitely been my biggest supporter. He has read every draft of the book (and gives me notes!), helps me talk out plot questions when I get stuck, and when I’m really down to the wire on deadline, he cooks for me to make sure that I have writing fuel! We’re getting married in October which means that he’s signed on for many more years of listening to me vent about fictional characters misbehaving J
5. What was your inspiration for The Thousandth Floor?
The jumping-off point for The Thousandth Floor was an article I read about Sky City, a building in China. It’s an enormous, self-contained “vertical city” just like the Tower in The Thousandth Floor—complete with schools, apartments, parks, and even farms! After I read the article I couldn’t stop wondering what it would be like to live in one of those cities. And because I love New York, it became the setting for my new future Tower.
6. How many versions did you write?
I did four full revisions on the manuscript, so I have five drafts saved on my computer—eek!
7. Are any of your characters based off of friends or old acquaintances? You don’t’ have to say who….
There are pieces of my personality in all of the characters, and probably little tidbits of my friends and family too, although those are harder to pinpoint. I’m very close with my younger sister (and fiercely protective of her, as all older siblings are) so a lot of our relationship went into Rylin and Chrissa. Also, I know this is cheesy, but there’s a moment where Avery says that she first realized she loved Atlas while they were both standing on the lift platform… um, I first realized that I loved my fiancé on a New York subway platform.
8. How many publishers did you go to before it was picked up?
There were several publishers interested in The Thousandth Floor when my agent submitted it, but in the end, HarperCollins was the right fit. They have been incredibly supportive of the project and really understand my vision for the series!
9. Who was your favorite character to write? Did you have one that was hard to pin down, with the voice or their back-story?
I was worried that Watt would be hard to write simply because he’s a boy, but his chapters flowed surprisingly easily! I think Nadia helped. J Some of Eris’s chapters ended up being the trickiest, only because she deals with so many emotional conflicts throughout the novel, and I wanted to make sure that I gave her space to process each of them in turn.
10. What are some of your favorite books or authors?
The formative series of my youth were Harry Potter, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and all the Tamora Pierce novels. I also read a lot of historical fiction and love big, sweeping epics like those by Philippa Gregory, Diana Gabaldon, and Karleen Koen.
11. Do you have favorite tropes or topics that you like to read?
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I love books set in interesting or unusual worlds! So I read a lot of historicals, fantasy, and sci-fi.
12. Favorite/ preferred place to write? Do you listen to music?
I’m a home writer! For some reason I can’t focus in coffee shops. Usually I just make Nespresso at home and curl up in yoga pants to write in silence. Plus, when I’m home there’s a constant supply of snacks J
13. Coffee or tea?
Coffee!! The best coffee in the world is Philz Mint Mojito iced coffee. I used to live in California and I think the hardest part of moving back to the east coast was giving up my Philz addiction!
14. Did you write in a linear fashion or do you jump around?
I have to write in chronological order! Because my story is multi-POV, if I skip around I start to get really confused. It helps me to write linearly since so many of my chapters build on the one previous—it’s hard to write a reaction to something (like a kiss!) if you haven’t written the scene where that something happens.
15. If you hosted an author dinner, who would you invite?
J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Philip Pullman, and Rainbow Rowell.
16. Are you a part of any “fandoms”?
Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and all the Shonda Rhimes shows! I’ve also recently become addicted to the TV show Unreal, which is a hilarious tongue-in-cheek satire on The Bachelor.
Katharine McGee is from Houston, Texas. She studied English and French literature at Princeton and has an MBA from Stanford. It was during her years living in a second-floor apartment in New York City that she kept daydreaming about skyscrapers . . . and then she started writing. The Thousandth Floor is her first novel and is available August 30th. You can catch her on Twitter at @katharinemcgee .