Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS about a teen exorcist debuted with Balzer + Bray for Harper Collins 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, 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. 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 was a founding member of the vlog group the YA Rebels. She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd. To learn more about her books, visit her website.
What have you tried in life, and simply were not good at?
Riding a bicycle. I mean, I did it all the time as a kid, and fell of with a frequency that alarmed my poor mother. I think it was more daredevil than klutz, but I’ve pretty much been afraid to get on one of those two-wheeled death machines since I fell off and broke my arm when I was in junior high.
If you were to sell something at an auction, what would you sell?
I own a baseball signed by the 1963 New York Yankees. I think that might be worth something…
What is the strongest bond you have with an inanimate object?
I have an unholy love for my LG G2 smartphone, though I’m not entirely sure it’s inanimate.
What is your favorite movie line?
“Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!” – Ghostbusters
What one word describes your bedroom?
What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your art?
In my writing? I think it’s the solitary nature of the beast. I’m an extrovert, the kind of person who recharges by being out with others – parties, large crowds, even happy hours with friends. The fact that the majority of my writing and revising must be done alone in a quiet place is a struggle for me.
How did you pick your writing genre?
First off, YA picked me. My first manuscript was an adult chick lit novel, but several of the agents who rejected it suggested that my voice sounded like YA. Since there was no YA section when I was a teen, I checked out the wall of YA books at my local bookstore and read a few. Lo and behold! It did sound like my voice! Five contracted novels later, apparently it was the right choice.
As for horror and suspense, that just happened to be my favorite genre to read when I was a teen.
What life experiences have inspired your work?
My previous career as an opera singer has been wildly influential to my writing. Basically, all those years of stage training were really teaching me how to tell a story. I don’t think I’d be a writer now if it wasn’t for my years on the stage.
How do you know when a book is finished?
When I’d rather bang my head against the wall than read it one more time.
Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?
I find that non-fiction (television, film, and books) jump-start my imagination more than fiction. If I’m reading a novel, it means someone else has already told that story. But when I read a non-fiction book on, say, forgotten places, or abandoned mines of the Pacific Northwest, or female journalists, or whatever, I can feel my mind twisting reality into fiction.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?
I’ll give you the advice the director of my opera graduate school program told us all on Day 1 – If there is anything else in this world that you can do and still be happy, do it. This business is hard, harder than you can possibly imagine, so you’d better love it more than anything else in the world.