Friday, October 26, 2012

Feature Friday: Gretchen McNeil

I am also hosting a YA Mythology giveaway/hop HERE.

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 released September 18, 2012, and her third novel 3:59 – sci fi doppelganger horror about two girls who are the same girl in parallel dimensions who decide to switch places – is scheduled for Fall 2013. Gretchen's new YA contemporary series Don't Get Mad (Revenge meets The Breakfast Club) about four very different girls who form a secret society where they get revenge on bullies and mean girls begins Fall 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in 2015, also with Balzer + Bray.

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 is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels where she can be seen as "Monday." She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Interview:
A.L.
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Gretchen:
Learn to deal with rejection.  It's really hard at first.  We all love our books, and want everyone else to love them.  But the reality of publishing is that NOT everyone loves your writing, and the sooner you learn how to let that go, the happier you'll be.  Learn from criticism, but don't let it discourage you!

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Gretchen:
My favorite book of all time is Anne of Green Gables.  It was like the twelve-year-old me was reading about a turn of the century version of herself!  Anne is smart, imaginative, fearless and constantly getting into trouble.  Let's see… me, me, me and me.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Ten?

Gretchen:
My editor, actually.  We were talking about what my next project should be, and she mentioned that one of her favorite things about my style is my ability to write scary, suspenseful novels.  Then I started thinking about why I enjoy writing that genre.  Basically, I'm a junky for a good mystery and anyone who can spin me along on a tenuous thread of suspense and expectation, turning the screws and upping the ante with every page.  Agatha Christie and Christopher Pike were huge influences on my writing and clean, direct style of storytelling.  And of course, the masterful cinematic storytelling of Alfred Hitchcock.   Put those pieces together and you have TEN!

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Ten?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Gretchen:
TEN was pretty tightly plotted from the beginning, so along those lines I was fine.  The biggest "snag" I ran into was my deadline!  I only had ten weeks (oh, the irony) from when TEN sold to when my editor was going to need a first draft.  It was really tough, writing to a deadline like that. I had to break up the process into smaller, more manageable pieces and just knock them out one by one.  About halfway through I didn't think I was going to make it.  Then somehow – boom!  I was done!

Remind me never to do that again.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Ten is your favorite and why?

Gretchen:
I love Gunner.  He's, um, not too bright, but he has the knack of saying the right thing at the right time, with total and complete bluntness.  Love it.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Gretchen:
I've only been writing for about five years.  I spent most of my life training to be an opera singer.  High school, college, grad school…  I worked as a struggling singer for many years before stepping aside.  Writing filled that creative gap for me!

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequels?  Something new?

Gretchen:
My next book (Fall 2013) is another stand alone, more sci-fi horror this time.  It's called 3:59 and it's about two girls who are the same girl in different dimensions, who discover that their worlds connect every twelve hours – at 3:59 – for one minute.  When they decide to switch places for a day, all hell breaks loose. Literally.

After that I just sold a two book series, also to Balzer + Bray, for 2014 and 2015.  GET EVEN and GET DIRTY are books one and two in the Don't Get Mad series about four very different girls who have formed a secret revenge society, getting back at bullies and mean girls who have terrorized their classmates, which all goes well until one of their targets turns up dead and the society is implicated in the death.

A.L.:
In your first novel, Possess, you write about a girl who can communicate with and banish demons.  In Ten, your latest novel, you write about a bunch of teens trapped on an island with a murderer…We have to ask:  You’re into horror movies aren’t you?  Which one is your favorite and why?

Gretchen:
Easy.  The Exorcist.  I've never seen anything so terrifying in my entire life, which is one of the reasons I decided to write about demonic possession in POSSESS.  It's a mix of good vs. evil and that haunted house vibe where the house itself is a character in the film.  It's amazing how the tone of the whole house changes once Regan starts playing with the Ouija board…

A.L.:
So, you get +10 because I’m totally in love with everything circus and carnival related.  Can you tell me a little bit about how you became a member of Cirque Bezerk?  Do you think any of those experiences have influenced you as an author?

Gretchen:
Cirque Berzerk is just one of the awesomest experiences of my whole life.  It was a fluke that I got involved, actually.  A friend of a friend knew that this little home-spun circus troupe was going to be putting together a full, through line show with a live band and three singers.  They had two rock vocalists, and wanted a classical singer to round out the sound.  My name came up, emails were exchanged and there I was, a circus freak.

As for inspiration, let's just say that there's a circus story bouncing around in my head…

A.L.:
You’re a former coloratura soprano.  Most of us have no idea what that is, can you enlighten us and tell us a little bit about your training and career as one?  Are you ever going to write about a singer?  Maybe a modern day retelling of Phantom of the Opera?

Gretchen:
No Phantom retellings.  There are plenty of them out there!  But yes, I've actually considered a story with a classical singer as the main character, but I haven't quite come up with the right plot yet.

A coloratura soprano is a high voice – one of the highest – who usually sings the fast, florid passages in opera.  Think of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute.  My favorite role, one that I was lucky enough to perform twice, was Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos.

Opera is a tough business.  Tougher, in some ways, than publishing if you can believe it.  The pool is so much smaller, and there are SO many fish swimming around in it.  But the music, the stage craft, the ability to show a story on stage.  I miss all those things dearly. 

The Giveaway:

TEN:  And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives – three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, both of which involve Kamiak High’s most eligible bachelor, T.J. Fletcher. But what starts out as a fun-filled weekend turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly, people are dying and the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

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