Thursday, September 27, 2012

Scary Stories, Come Back: Interview with Gretchen McNeil

Hey all!

Continuing our Horror Week theme, today we have the pleasure of welcoming Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess and the upcoming Ten.

Gretchen, welcome!

Your new book, Ten, came out September 18th. Can you tell us, in your words, what it is about?

Easy! Ten teens trapped on an island with a serial killer.

How did you go about writing Ten? Did you come up with the plot or the characters first?

Plot was first.  It's an homage to Agatha Christie's masterpiece And Then There Were None, in a throwback style to the Christopher Pike novels I loved as a teen.

Is there a particular character you especially relate to?

That's always difficult for me, especially in TEN because the main character Meg is very unlike me. However, I can definitely relate to her difficult, codependent relationship with her bipolar best friend Minnie.  Only too well. 

The synopsis is quite different from that of your first book, Possess. What would you say are the main differences between your debut and sophomore novels?

Well, the biggest difference is that TEN is contemporary horror, as opposed to the paranormal elements in POSSESS.  In some ways, it was more difficult to write a novel based in the "real" world, without magic or demons or powers to fall back on.  But I loved it and look forward to writing more contemporary-based novels in the future!

How did you go about creating the mythology in Possess?

I read a lot about demonic possession, especially as related to the Catholic church.  I used first hand accounts of exorcisms along with the Apocryphal texts of the Bible to create the mythology.  I'm a research junky, so it was loads of fun!  Er, except reading about demonic possession before I went to bed at night.  Not one of my better ideas.

Now, onto more general book-related stuff ;)

Would you say your background in opera influenced your writing?

Definitely.  Opera is showing a story on the stage; writing is showing a story on the page.  (Rhyming is fun!)  They both employ a similar set of skills, mainly, knowing what your characters' motivations are every moment of the story.  On stage, that keeps you present in the character, active and alive for the audience.  Same thing in a novel!

Is there anything you wish they told you before you went into publishing?

The big thing is that it never gets easier.  You always think "If I can just land an agent" or "If I can just get a book deal" then everything will be awesome!  Well, it is awesome.  But every step up the ladder you get it gets harder, and harder, and more stressful.  There's no finish line in this race.

What would you say the YA genre needs more of?

SCARY BOOKS!!!!!  So many of the things that scared me as a kid – vampires, werewolves, ghosts – have been romanticized.  Which is totally great, except I miss the scary stories I'd read as a teen that would make me want to sleep with the light on.

Finally, can you tell us what can we look forward to after Ten?

My next book is scheduled for Fall 2013.  It's called 3:59 and it's a parallel universe doppelganger story about two girls who are the same girl but different, who discover that their parallel worlds connect every twelve hours at exactly 3:59.  After that, I just announced my next two books, GET EVEN and GET DIRTY, books 1 and 2 in the Don't Get Mad series, for 2014 and 2015.  I pitched them as Revenge meets The Breakfast Club, about four girls who form a secret revenge society for bullied classmates which goes well until one of their targets turns up dead.

Getchen, thank you!

Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown.  Her YA horror POSSESS debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011.  Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – will be released September 18, 2012, and her third novel 3:59, sci fi doppelganger horror is scheduled for Fall 2013.  Gretchen's new YA contemporary series Don't Get Mad (Revenge meets The Breakfast Club) begins Fall 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in 2015, also with Bazler + Bray.

You can follow her on twitter @GretchenMcNeil or check out her website at She's also Monday on the YA Rebels on youtube.

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