Author Interview with Gretchen McNeil



IMG_7315_resize (1)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 which released September 18, 2012 – 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, and was nominated for “Best Young Adult Contemporary Novel of 2012” by Romantic Times.


Gretchen’s 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 September 17, 2013. Her new YA contemporary 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 begins Fall 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in 2015, also with Balzer + Bray.  Gretchen also 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 is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels.  She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.


Untitled-7.inddCake or Pie? Cake.  I’m a whore for frosting.

Horror or Sci fi?  Horror, as long as it’s not slasher horror.

Best movie you’ve seen recently? The Conjuring

The Vampire Diaries or Once Upon a Time?  Neither?

Ryan Gosling or Tom Cruise?  Neither are my type, but I’d pick Gosling since he’s not batshit crazy.

Favorite Celebrity Couple?  Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest, married for 29 years

Favorite TV Show? Mad Men


Can you tell us about your book, 3:59, in 5 words or less?

Sci-fi doppelganger horror


What was your inspiration behind 3:59?

This is so cliché, but I was driving home from work one day, and there was a traffic light turning red. I had a split second to decide: gun it or slam on the brakes.  I braked, because I’m ever so responsibly like that, then spent the rest of the time at the stop light wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t stopped.  The idea grew in my head as I drove home, the idea that there would be two girls who are the same girl but in parallel universes, living out similar but different lives.  While I was walking the dog, I started asking myself questions: What happens if these two girls meet? What happens if they switch places?  The moment I got home, I emailed my agent.


3:59 definitely has a few science terms throughout it. How much research did you have to put into it?

I did a lot of research into superstring theory, quantum mechanics and multiverse theories.  I didn’t always understand all of it, but I at least tried.  😉


You are the Queen of standalones. Can readers expect a sequel to 3:59 or is the story finished?  Possess hc c highrez

This question is going to come up a LOT due to the nature of the ending, but 3:59 is a standalone novel.  There will be no sequel.


I haven’t read Possess, yet, but I know that both TEN and 3:59 had their horror/gore/suspense moments. Do you ever freak yourself out when writing those scenes? 

Actually, writing them doesn’t freak me out, but research does.  And the exorcism and demonic possession research that went into POSSESS gave me some sleepness nights.



I have to admit that you are one of the only authors who can stump me with endings. I would have never guessed what happened in TEN! It wasn’t quite as hard for me in 3:59 but there was still a lot I didn’t guess. How do you do it? Do you plan the ending before you start a book or does it just eventually come to you while writing it? 

A lot of fine tuning.  I think in a first draft, I end up telegraphing the reveals too much, and always have to tone it back. Also, the liberal use of realistic red herrings.  My editor is fantastic at pointing out when my twists aren’t twisty enough, and helping me fix them!



ten HC c hirezWhat was your favorite scene to write in 3:59? 

The last one.  It was the second scene I wrote.



I’ve noticed in your books that you just avoid the love triangles. What’s your stance on love triangles? 

In my experience, love triangles aren’t as prevalent in real life as they are in fiction.  Teen relationships are hard enough without introducing a triangle into the mix.  I like to explore who characters come together (and break apart) on their own.  Also, since I’ve written mostly standalones, I haven’t needed to add the triangle element in sequels because, let’s face it, once your romantic interests get together, the story lines can get rather dull unless you can invent another way to keep them apart!



What’s next for you? Any works in the making that readers should know about?

I’m just finishing edits on GET EVEN, book 1 in the Don’t Get Mad series (yes, you heard that right – series!) due out fall 2014.  .  I pitched this book as “John Hughes with a body count” which meant I got to write a lot of funny dialogue, but still murder people. 


GET EVEN is about four girls at a private school who come from totally different social strata: the student leader, the A student, the drama queen, the loner punk.  Publicly, they aren’t friends.  Privately, they’ve formed a secret society (Don’t Get Mad, or DGM for short) where execute revenge missions against bullies, mean girls, and teachers who have wrong they’re classmates.  It goes well until one of their targets turns up dead and DGM is implicated in the murder. The girls don’t know if one of them is the killer, or if someone else knows their secret, and they have to find out which before someone else turns up dead.


What is the best book you’ve read recently? 

THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas


What is currently in your TBR pile? 

If I list them all, I’d be here all night.  But next up to read, once I turn in these edits, is LONG LANKIN by Lindsey Barraclough.

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