Today, today, today! Today is the day that horror authoress, Gretchen McNeil, not only releases her latest novel GET EVEN into the wild, she is also visiting YASQ! I have devoured all of Gretchen’s books. They are creepy stories that leave you gripping the pages, desperate to get to the end, and then your curse that the book is over. She is a multi-hyphenated ball of talent, and she has even built a fierce army of devoted readers (her Army of Ten) to spread word of her books.
About GET EVEN (Don’t Get Mad #1):
The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in Gretchen McNeil’s witty and suspenseful novel about four disparate girls who join forces to take revenge on high school bullies and create dangerous enemies for themselves in the process.
Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers.
When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.
YASQ: You’ve tackled supernatural horror (POSSESS), serial killers (TEN), and sci-fi horror (3:59). What kind of horror has been your favorite to write and why?
Gretchen: They each tapped into a specific “horror comfort zone” for me. I’ve always considered The Exorcist to be the scariest movie in the history of film, so channeling my own fear for and fascination with the subject went a long way toward upping the tension in POSSESS. In TEN, the paranoia of being trapped took over. I always picture myself in the situation, and let’s face it, I’m probably one of the first to get killed because I’m clueless and usually wearing inappropriate footwear. Again, it’s a personal sense of fear that drove my writing. And with 3:59 I tapped into my childhood fear of the dark and what might lurk there.
But if I had to pick a favorite writing experience of the three, I’d pick TEN. I had to write the draft fast, really fast, and I think the frenetic pace made its way into the energy of the story.
You’ve had some great hooks to your books with POSSESS featuring a teenage exorcist, a re-imagining of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE in TEN, and not the Don’t Get Mad series pitched as John Hughes with a body count. What comes first for you, the characters or the story concept?
Story concept, for sure. Story and plot influence the characters for me, not the other way around. For example, in POSSESS, once I had the concept of “teen exorcist” I began to think how it would feel for a fifteen-year-old girl to hold these powers. What kind of a person would she be? What was she like before she discovered this power? How does she feel about what she’s become? And Bridget was born.
Same for the Don’t Get Mad series. I knew I wanted a The Breakfast Club-style group of revenge seekers – girls that had nothing in common except their secret society. I set out to pick four girls who would, on paper, seem diametrically opposed, and before I knew it, Kitty, Margot, Olivia, and Bree were alive on the page.
Online and in person, you have such a “Let’s have some fun!” personality, and it contrasts with your books. Can you tell us about how your writing process and why you seem to be drawn to writing darker fiction?
Oh, come on. Is there anything more fun than a good scare? 😉
Actually, I get that all the time. “You’re so bubbly! I was expecting someone dark and brooding.” I don’t write dark things because I’m drawn to them in real life, I write them as escapism. I want to write the things I liked to read as a teen – books that you couldn’t put down, and when you did, made you sleep with the light on all night.
With GET EVEN, you shift gears a bit away from writing horror and more into murder mystery fiction. The idea of getting revenge is probably every bullied teen’s fantasy, and of course, the girls of GET EVEN see their plan for revenge go horribly awry. Can you talk to our readers about the challenges as well as the fun in writing a thriller versus horror?
It’s similar. I’m still dealing with a mystery. Still dealing with suspects and red herrings. Still killing people off. But this time, with comedy! Basically, I’m building the same tension but in a different way. Think Heathers vs. Scream. The biggest challenge was in balancing the suspense and the comedy so that one didn’t overshadow and undercut the other. My editor and I worked so hard on that and I’m really happy with the result.
Finally, who would you name as your literary godfathers and godmothers, and how have they influenced the writing of your books?
Agatha Christie for sure. And the gothics like the Brontes, M.R. James, Wilkie Collins, Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, Sheridan LeFanu, and even Sir Walter Scott. Like I said, I love a good scare!
Thanks for hanging out with us, Gretchen! You’re a total scream!
Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist 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 – was a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, a Romantic Times Top Pick, a Booklist Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth, a finalist for the 2015 Evergreen Young Adult Book Award, and was nominated for “Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012” by Romantic Times. Gretchen’s 2013 release is 3:59, a sci-fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions who decide to switch places. Gretchen’s novels have been optioned by Hollywood production companies, and have sold internationally in Chinese, Spanish, and Turkish.
In 2014, Gretchen debuts her first series, Don’t Get Mad (pitched as “John Hughes with a body count”) about four very different girls who form a secret society where they get revenge on bullies and mean girls at their elite prep school. The Don’t Get Mad series begins September 16, 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in the summer of 2015, also with Balzer + Bray. In addition, Gretchen has contributed an essay to the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books.
Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4’s Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and was a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels. She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Gretchen’s online haunts:
Now if Gretchen’s interview isn’t fun enough, she’s super gracious and giving away a winner’s choice of a signed copy of any of her books! One of the following books is up for grabs: POSSESS, TEN, 3:59, GET EVEN, or DIEZ (Spanish language of TEN). All you have to do is follow the rafflecopter below for your chance to win!
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