I first met Gretchen McNeil in October, 2011 at her Stages on Pages YA Tour  at Vromans.

With Author Gretchen McNeil at her TEN book launch

Gretchen was bubbling with energy when she spoke about her affinity for the stage during the panel. I thought it was so cool that she was a trained opera soprano and a singer for the L.A. based circus troupe, Cirque Berzerk. I was also very intrigued by the teen exorcist concept for her debut novel, POSSESS.

Since then, I’ve bumped into Gretchen at various SCBWI events, and book signings. Most recently, I had the pleasure of attending her book launch for her latest suspense novel, TEN.

And now I’ll train the spotlight on POSSESS & TEN’s talented author, Gretchen McNeil.


Author’s Bio from her website gretchenmcneil.com

 Singer ~ Writer ~ Clown

I write.  Scary stuff, mostly. My YA horror/paranormal POSSESS debuted with Balzer and Bray for HarperCollins in 2011.  My second novel, TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on an island with a serial killer – will be released September 18, 2012, also from Balzer and Bray.

I’m a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4’s Code Monkeys and I currently sing with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. I’m a founding member of vlog group theYARebels where I can be seen as “Monday” and an active member of both The Enchanted Inkpot, a group blog of YA and middle grade fantasy writers, and The Apocalypsies, a group blog of 2012 children’s book debuts.


 The Talented Gretchen McNeil


1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself.

Despite currently girliness, I was a huge tomboy growing up.  My dog is named after Mozart.  I am a massive San Francisco Giants fan.

2. A genie has granted you three wishes. What would these wishes be?

The continued ability to do what I love: write awesome stories that people want to buy.  A long healthy life for my friends and family.  Universal tolerance of religion, race, gender and sexual orientation.

3. What books and movies inspired your love for horror/suspense?

The most influential books in this genre were the ones I devoured in high school: Christopher Pike and Agatha Christie, mixed with a heavy does of gothic like LeFanu, DuMaurier, Shelley, Poe, Collins and the Brontes.

4. Why do you love writing scary books? Would you ever consider writing a book in another genre?

Oh, I have!  My first book was actually a rom com, and I have a YA historical spy adventure sitting on a shelf somewhere.  But I think I’m drawn to horror and suspense because I love crafting tension: the setting, the tone, atmosphere – it all combines to create a visceral reaction of fear in the reader.

5. When did you know you were going to be a writer?  What prompted you to take your writing seriously?

I started writing about five years ago. I was going through a difficult time in my personal life, and I was floundering a bit. I woke up one day and said, “I’m going to write a novel!”  I did.  And it was horrible.  But I got addicted to the process of storytelling and before I knew it, I was reading every book on writing I could get my hands on, and plotting my next book.  That book landed me an agent. 


6. Does your training as an opera singer ever influence your writing?

 In several ways, I think. First, the idea of having to WORK at your artistic endeavor is very important.  Singing – like writing – is hard work. You’re always improving, changing, adapting.  You can never just sit back and feel like you’ve made it.  Second, performing opera is storytelling to the extreme.  You’re telling a story in a foreign language, and in a mode that is slightly archaic to the modern viewer.  It’s important to really show the story, your character, her motivations, her obstacles, and her actions to overcome them.  It’s the same in writing, just on the page instead of on the stage.


7. Do you have a playlist when you’re writing? What were some of the songs you listened to while writing POSSESSS or TEN?

 Actually, I can’t write to music!  I know, crazy.  But my musician’s brain kicks in and suddenly I’m focused on the music, not the writing.  Instead, my favorite thing to write to is sports.  It’s like slightly interactive background noise.


8. Where did you get the story idea for your first novel, POSSESS?

I wanted to write something scary and the thing that scares me the most is the idea of demonic possession and exorcism. I started doing some research on it, and BOOM!  The plot bunnies got to work.


9. What inspired you to write TEN?

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!


10. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

Publication is a tough road.  I just want to put that out there.  The book that landed me an agent didn’t actually sell, so I had to write another – POSSESS – before I actually had a publication deal. 

As far as my favorite thing about being an author?  Definitely the other authors I get to meet and hang out with!

11. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

Until recently, I worked full time, so my writing “day” was really the two hours or so I could squeeze into an evening.  No rituals or quirks, really.  I’m more untilitarian.


12.  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

I’m a social kinda girl.  So I’m out a lot with friends and family.  I also love live theater, opera, concerts, museums, and road trips.

13. Are you currently working on any other projects?

My next book (Fall 2013) is another stand alone, 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.


14. What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

Get used to criticism, because you’re going to get a lot of it.

15.  What would you like to say to your young readers? Is there any advice that you would like to give them?

You can do anything you put your mind to. I honestly believe that.  I decided I wanted to be an author.  I worked at it, I learned from my failures, I adapted, I improved.  It’s not easy, but if you’re willing to put the work in, I firmly believe that you can accomplish anything.


Visit me again on Friday. I’ll be giving away a copy of Gretchen McNeil’s POSSESS!

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23 Responses to “Spotlight Week: Author Interview with Gretchen McNeil”

  1. Kelly Polark says:

    Gretchen is so talented!
    Love the cover for TEN and 3:59 sounds fascinating!

  2. Ava Quinn says:

    Fun and informative interview, ladies! The books sound great!

  3. mooderino says:

    That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of someone writing to sports! I’d be too distracted especially if someone scored.

    Moody Writing

  4. Science fiction horror! That sounds cool. And she started writing at about the same time I did.

  5. Brinda says:

    Ten has been on my TBR list ever since I first saw it on another blog. It sounds SCARY!! :)

  6. Both books sound super!

  7. Nas says:

    A great interview. I enjoyed reading this. The books sound good as well!
    Thanks for sharing!

    All the best,

  8. Karen Lange says:

    I’m so glad you introduced me to Gretchen! Appreciate you sharing the interview too. I learn so much from your interviews. :)

    Happy almost I Love to Write Day!

  9. Leslie Rose says:

    What a neat interview. Opera and horror – I get it – heightened emotions on both fronts. Way to go, Gretchen.

  10. That’s awesome that you got to do the interview in person!

  11. Laura Eno says:

    Awesome interview! I’m off to check out her books. :)

  12. Great interview! I haven’t read any of her books because I’m a pansy when it comes to scary stuff, but I loved hearing about her process. Maybe I’ll have to try, because her ideas do sound awesome (if not amazingly scary!).

  13. Fun interview, Nutschell. And Gretchen your books sound like something I’d like to read! :-)

  14. Mary says:

    I love the photo. You both have similar dimples. Nice.

    Congrats to Gretchen!

  15. What a talented person. Singer and writer. Love the title of your next book and it has a very clever, unique plot.

  16. Lydia K says:

    Love Gretchen! She has such great ideas for her books. :)

  17. Lynda Young says:

    Fabulous interview!! I love Gretchen’s story ideas. All her books sound really interesting.

  18. What a great interview!I loved hearing about where she gets her ideas. It makes sense to write about things that scare you. I can’t write with music on either!

  19. Julie says:

    An opera singer, and a science fiction horror author sounds like a winning combination! I really enjoyed your interview, and the cute photo too. Thanks Nutschell, and best of luck Gretchen!

  20. Julie says:

    An opera singer, and a science fiction horror author sounds like a winning combination! I really enjoyed your interview, and the cute photo too. Thanks Nutschell, and best of luck Gretchen!

  21. A mighty fine interview. “Write awesome stories that people want to buy” — that’s the stuff!

  22. Heather H. says:

    Great interview! All the suspense and tension is a reason why I’m drawn to horror, too, both as a reader and as a writer. Really love Gretchen’s answer to the genie question, especially for the third wish. If only universal tolerance could happen that easily!

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