Thursday, August 18, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Gretchen McNeil, author of POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil, author of POSSESS

Wait, what?

Shhh. Just go with it.

Um, okay. So I’m ever so pleased to welcome the amazingly talented, dazzlingly charming and absolutely perfect in every –


Too much?

Yeah, tiny bit.

Fine! Sheesh. What’s the point of interviewing myself if I can’t have a little fun with it? Anyway, I’d like to welcome Gretchen McNeil to the blog.

Here’s the scoop on her YA horror/paranormal debut POSSESS from Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.

Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.
Sounds awesome, right? Okay, here we go!

So Gretchen, how did you come up with the idea for POSSESS?

Why are you asking me questions you already know the answer to?

Well, technically, this is for the blog readers. And since they, hopefully, aren’t in our head, I think you’ll probably need to elaborate a tad.

Oh. Right. Sorry, this is already getting confusing.

Tell me about it.

Anyway, I wanted to write something creepy and in the horror vein. Some of my dearest reading memories from my childhood and teen years were reading scary stories. Everything from SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK to R.L. Stine to gothic tales like WUTHERING HEIGHTS and THE WOMAN IN WHITE. Reading with a flashlight under the covers, that creepy cold feeling spreading down your spine, every hair on the back of your neck standing straight up. Love it!

So I wanted to do that and when I started to think about the things that scare me the most, exorcisms and demonic possession were right at the top of the list.

Do you think being possessed is kind of like hearing more than one voice in your head? Or interviewing yourself on a blog?

I can only assume so. Only less annoying.

Right. Now, exorcism and demonic possession are sort of out of the common realm of experience for most people. Did you do a lot of research?

I did. I’m a big, nerdy researcher by nature, and I amassed a wild collection of first hand accounts by exorcists and demonologists from all around the world. I found the most compelling books to be the ones written from a skeptic’s viewpoint.

And did you attend any exorcisms? Maybe try one out on yourself.

*glares* No, but maybe I should have.

Moving on, tell us a little about Bridget Liu, your protagonist.

Bridget’s kind of a wounded bird in many ways. She has a secret she’s hiding from everyone close to her, she’s dealing with a traumatic personal loss, she has problems at home, a non-existent love life and a girl at school who’s making her life a living hell. She’s fiercely protective of her feelings and tends to push people away, rather than let them in.

Unlike you.

Yeah, well that might change. Move over, you’re hogging the sofa.

Sorry. And why did you choose to make Bridget bi-racial?

You mean what made us decide?


Simmer down. POSSESS is set in my hometown of San Francisco, and I wanted it to look like the San Francisco I know. My high school was 40% Asian. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Taiwanese. There was a tremendous range of diversity just within the Asian community. I wanted my characters to reflect that heritage.

So, scary story, set in San Francisco, half-Asian main character. Huh. What else do you want to talk about?

Aren’t you supposed to be driving this interview train?

You mean aren’t we?

Whatever. This joke is getting old.

Fine. How about you explain why you’re simultaneously an Apocalypsie and a 2011 debut author?

You had to go there, didn’t you?

Kinda hard to avoid it, given the circumstance.

Well, POSSESS was originally scheduled for Winter 2012, then got bumped up to Fall 2011. Funnily enough, I do have a book scheduled for Fall 2012 now. It’s called TEN, also with Balzer + Bray. It’s a horror/suspense novel about ten teens trapped on an island getting hunted down by a serial killer one-by-one.

Ah, I see. So a light and fluffy follow-up to POSSESS.


I try.

Try harder.

Well, I’d say it’s about time to wrap up this little exercise in schizophrenia. Why don’t you tell us – them – everyone – what I is you do in your free time.

Sure! Before my writing career, I was an opera singer. Oh, and a television producer. Oh, and a voice over artist. I don’t really do any of those things anymore, but I do sing with a circus troupe here in Los Angeles. Cirque Berzerk. We’ve been performing since 2008 and it’s an incredible, amazing, whacky and utterly fulfilling experience.

I don’t think anyone is surprised that you’re in the circus.

Yeah. Probably not.

Okay! So a big round of applause for me and be sure to look for POSSESS on shelves August 23, 2011 from Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins.



Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror/paranormal POSSESS debut with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins, August 23, 2011. Her second novel, TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – is tentatively scheduled for a Fall 2012 release. Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she currently sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. Gretchen is also a founding member of the vlog group YARebels where she can be seen as "Monday."