I can’t think of a more fitting person to feature in today’s Halloween edition of the W.O.W. then Gretchen McNeil, the author of the recent YA horror/thriller release, TEN.
I recently did a review of this spine-tingling read, and can honestly tell you that TEN is one of the best books I’ve read in 2012.
Here is a quick blurb….
And their doom comes swiftly.
It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives — an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze
and fun-filled luxury.
But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.
Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, 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.
I asked Gretchen about her writing journey and her decision to write in the YA genre. Here are her extraordinary answers…
Amy: What drew you to write Young Adult novels that have a horror/paranormal theme?
Gretchen: I love scary stories. I love to read them and I love to write them. There’s something amazing about crafting suspense, building tension, orchestrating those GOTCHA moments! I love it.
Amy: Was POSSESS your first completed manuscript?
Gretchen: No, my third. There were two trunked novels – an adult chick lit and a YA urban fantasy – that came before it.
Amy: How long did it take to complete?
Gretchen: I wrote most of POSSESS during National Novel Writing Month in 2009, then finished it two months later. So all together, about twelve weeks.
Amy: Did you use critique partners for your upcoming release, TEN? If so, how did that affect your writing process?
Gretchen: I did. I had to. TEN was written under a tight deadline and I wasn’t sure it worked, so I had a fleet of readers give me feedback. I incorporated many of their suggestions into the draft that went to my editor.
Amy: When you first wrote your query for POSSESS, did it come easily, or did it go through many drafts?
Gretchen: I didn’t have to query POSSESS (thankfully) but the novel that landed me my agent – THE WITCH’S EYE – had a pretty decent query. I think my entertainment industry background helped me with the pitch process. I’ve always enjoyed writing queries – it really helps me boil the book down into its basic components!
Amy: How many queries did you send out for THE WITCH’S EYE?
Gretchen: About 20.
Amy: Did you receive immediate response, or did you have to twist your hands, and wait a while?
Gretchen: I had all my offers very quickly, within the first two weeks. The first request for pages came within four hours of sending the query. But in fairness, I was targeting fast responders with the first five I sent out, to be able to “test the waters” and see how the query did.
Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?
Gretchen: I think it was a unique premise and a sleek, compact way of pitching it. I answered all the big questions, and teased the end: Who is the main character? What does she want? What’s in her way? What actions does she take to get around her obstacle? What’s at stake if she fails. If you can do that in a query, agents will pay attention.
Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Ginger Clark?
Gretchen: She called me out of the blue. I had three other offers, and another phone call already scheduled, and she just up and called me. She was super direct, no chit-chat. Which I loved.
Amy: As a performer (I know you were a former coloratura soprano), you’ve most likely dealt with the ups and downs of rejection. Did that experience help you wade through the difficulties of the querying process, and what kept you motivated to keep writing?
Gretchen: Definitely. The biggest part it helped me with was not taking the rejection personally. Our novels are personal to us, the writer, but not to an agent. To an agent, this is a business and they view potential manuscripts and clients with a professional, business eye. So you can’t take it personally.
Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror POSSESS 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 – will be released September 18, 2012, and her third novel 3:59, sci-fi doppelgänger horror is scheduled for Fall 2013. Gretchen’s new YA contemporary series Don’t Get Mad (Revenge meets The Breakfast Club) 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.”