If you haven’t heard of Katharine McGee, you must not spend much time on BookTok. The Houston novelist is the buzzed-about mastermind behind American Royals, a young-adult series that spins an alternate universe wherein the United States is a modern monarchy, complete with a stoic queen, a naive college-age prince, and a princess who can’t stay out of the gossip rags. In McGee’s world, the U.S. is split into duchies, with ruling families running regions with familiar names such as “Orange” and “Canaveral.” It’s a treat to see how the author twists our timeline, and in her newest installment, American Royals IV: Reign (August 29, Penguin Random House), readers finally get to meet the Duchess of Texas—whose ranch-slash-kingdom is based in the Hill Country. “I felt very strongly that I wanted the leader of Texas to be a woman,” McGee says. “She’s your classic, strong Texas matriarch who gets things done.” McGee herself, who spoke to me via phone days after her book launch party and days before she was due to give birth to her second son, fits that bill. Below, she shares the work-from-home essentials that powered her through the writing of nine novels.
McGee’s commute consists of walking downstairs to her office, and her version of a work uniform includes this cozy hoodie from yogis’ favorite athleisure brand. No matter the temperature, she zips it up every morning. “It’s Houston, so I blast my air conditioning. And then I end up wanting my hoodie on, even though it’s 110 degrees outside,” she says. The brand’s items are pricey, but have a shockingly long shelf life, especially for articles of clothing you’ll end up wearing and rewearing.
Freshly Picked Diaper Bag in Navy
“You’ll laugh, but I don’t carry around a grown-up tote bag anymore,” McGee says. Instead, she uses this understated backpack/diaper bag, which has a storage pocket just big enough for the Macbook Air she brings everywhere, just in case inspiration strikes while she’s at toddler gymnastics. And because it doesn’t have the lumpy, bulky, patterned design of an old-school diaper bag, it’s easy to hand off to anyone else on her caretaking team. “It’s a Texas mom thing,” she says. “Everyone I know has it in either navy or gray.”
Jura E8 Espresso Machine From Bering’s in Houston
When McGee and her husband sorted through their wedding gift loot, they noticed an abundance of wine glasses. In lieu of overstocking their bar cart, they traded them in for “the highest ROI item in the house”—a barista-quality espresso machine. The machine takes in whole coffee beans, then small-batch grinds them for each cup. “It’s very decadent,” she says.
For the four years McGee spent in New York, now almost a decade ago, she turned to the macarons at this Parisian (and Soho) bakery whenever it was time to celebrate. Now, from afar, she still orders them for special occasions for herself and her friends. (Naturally, their melt-in-your-mouth goodness was part of the book party for Reign.)
McGee tops off her morning latte with a bit of lavender syrup, which she picked up at Houston Botanic Garden’s spring garden party. She originally tasted it in a cold drink, accompanied by sparkling water and lots of lime juice, but appreciates it most as a coffee flavoring.
If the hoodie’s on, so are the UGGs. McGee wears these comfy shoes—with a one-inch heel for a dose of cozy glam—around the house, around the clock, until her husband buys her a new pair for Christmas. “New year, fresh slippers,” she says.
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