If you’re looking for a fun thing to do tonight, join us and our friends at the Revue Cinema in a tweet-a-long! We’ll be watching the classic Amanda Bynes film, What a Girl Wants. Featuring a world where Colin Firth is an English lord running for Prime Minister and Amanda Bynes is his estranged daughter who grew up in the US, What a Girl Wants is an ideal teen movie – and it pairs perfectly with Katharine McGee’s American Royals.
We’re pleased to bring you a Q&A with Katharine ahead of the screening – keep reading for her thoughts on how Canada would fit into her reimagined world and who would play the conniving Daphne in a movie adaptation. And don’t forget to tune in tonight at 7pm EST – we’ll be tweeting too!
Given this is a film screening series, imagine American Royals is a film and give us your elevator pitch.
American Royals is Gossip Girl meets The Crown! It’s a fun, escapist story of romance, drama, family tensions and forbidden love set in a world where America has a royal family.
The seed of the idea behind the book comes from a real historical moment: American revolutionaries offering General George Washington the crown (which he refused). How much real American (and British) history went into the book? Is there a Canada in this alternate reality?
The worldbuilding was definitely one of my favorite parts of writing American Royals. I’m such a history nerd, I could have spent years teasing out all the what-ifs! I tried to acknowledge the real historical timeline whenever I could, such as mentioning that the British burned part of Washington Palace during the War of 1812 (in the real War of 1812, they burned the White House!).
I had such fun plans for Canada, but didn’t have space to get into them in the book. One of my favorite moments of British history has always been the Jacobite Rebellion—I have a soft spot for displaced royals trying to reclaim their thrones (I rooted for Daenerys throughout Game of Thrones!). In American Royals, I had hoped to rewrite history and send Bonnie Prince Charlie to Canada, making modern Canada an independent monarchy ruled by the descendants of the Stuarts. I pictured a brooding Stuart prince as one of Beatrice’s suitors at the Queen’s Ball!
The relationship between Princess Beatrice and her father is one the most engaging in the book. What drew you to this father-daughter dynamic?
One of the strangest parts of being the future king or queen is surely the fact that you spend your life training for a job you’ll only take on when your parent dies. It builds an extremely unusual conflict into the parent-child dynamic! I loved exploring this tension through Beatrice and the king. He is a dad talking to his oldest daughter, but at the same time a monarch addressing his second-in-command. And even though Beatrice adores her father, and would never want anything bad to happen to him, she will also never be fully empowered until he’s gone.
Daphne is ostensibly a villain, but her motives are entirely understandable and complex. What was it like writing Daphne?
This may surprise you, but Daphne is the easiest character to write! Every time I reach a new scene, I have to ask myself what my character wants and what she’s willing to do to get it. That can get muddled with some of the other characters—Samantha is often her own greatest obstacle, and Nina struggles to figure out what she wants—but with Daphne it’s inevitably so clear. What does she want? Prince Jefferson. What is she willing to do to win him? Anything.
The book was written before there were actual royals living in America. How does the context of the book change now that there is an American Royal, Meghan Markle?
I actually started working on this concept back in 2012, before Harry and Meghan were dating! I always knew that there would be an “everygirl” character who fell into a romance with the prince. More recently, when I started the first draft, I found myself working parts of Harry and Meghan’s relationship into the pages: particularly since Nina, like Meghan, is a person of color. The criticism that Nina faces from the media echoes many of the headlines about Harry and Meghan.
Americans have been fascinated by all the trappings of monarchy, the palaces and tiaras and big ceremonial occasions, because we don’t have any of our own. But I do think that Harry and Meghan have sparked a renewed flood of American interest in the royal family. Now that we have a duchess living on the west coast, the concept of my book doesn’t feel quite as far-fetched as it once did.
If you had to cast a film of American Royals, who would be your dream Beatrice, Samantha, and Jefferson?
This is such a hard question! I don’t know who I would cast as the royal siblings, but I could see Madelaine Petsch (Cheryl from Riverdale!) as Daphne—I think she’d capture both her ruthlessness and her surprising vulnerability. Also, I frequently have readers reach out asking if I can cast one of the Hemsworth brothers as Connor!
Without giving too much away, what can readers expect to see in the sequel, coming this fall?
Majesty has more of everything! More drama, more romance, more secrets coming to light. You’ll also see some fun new corners of the American Royals world.
When is the last time you saw What a Girl Wants? How do you think it connects to American Royals?
I love What a Girl Wants! I’ll watch anything with Colin Firth (he’ll always be Mr. Darcy in my mind… sorry Matthew Macfadyen). Like American Royals, What a Girl Wants follows a young woman struggling to figure out who she is, despite what the world expects of her. It’s got romance, family drama, and social commentary, set in a world of ballrooms, titles, and glittering tiaras.
By Katharine McGee
448 Pages | Ages 14+
ISBN 9781984830173 | Random House BFYR
When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American.
Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown. Two girls vying for the prince’s heart. This is the story of the American royals.
Can’t make it tonight? Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of chances to catch up with the Penguin Teen Canada team and talk YA books – check out our full schedule of #PenguinTeenSocial events coming up this month!