Monday, August 27, 2012

Guestopia: Gretchen McNeil

Today we have a guest post from Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess and the forthcoming Ten. Check out the bottom of this post for a unique street team opportunity! Take it away, Gretchen!

What is scary?

Is it a giant spider lurking under you bed, just waiting for you to crawl in before it silently creeps out into the darkness of your room to envelope you in it's deadly web?

Is it a waking up to find yourself buried alive in a close, black coffin, utterly sightless in the dark, the only sound a muted thud of shovelful after shovelful of dirt as it's tossed onto your living tomb?

Is it a darkened stretch of forest you must walk through that seems to breathe with living creatures that dart and flutter just out of sight?

Is it getting a flat tire on a deserted mountain road, where the nearest structure for fifty miles is a dilapidated farmhouse that appears to have no phone, cable or electricity lines, just a trickle of smoke rising from a toppling brick chimney?

So many different levels of scary.  The things we fear most come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the physical – like spiders and sharks – to the esoteric – like claustrophobia and paranoia – to the otherworldly – like demons and vampires and witches (oh my!). 

When I wrote POSSESS, I chose something that I actually found terrifying – demonic possession – and tried to convey that terror to readers who might not have the same sensibilities. In TEN, I wrote about something I don't intrinsically find scary – being trapped on an island with a killer, but also tried to portray the tension and horror.  To me, conveying fear isn't just about describing a situation, object, or person that someone might find scary, but giving a blow-by-blow of the event and actually detailing the fear reaction in the characters. 

We all know exactly what it feels like to be scared.  First you have the anticipation: What's behind that closed door?  What's making that scratching noise in the attic?  What's lurking in the deep, dark waters?  It's the tensing of muscles like you're expecting a blow, that stretching of all your senses, trying to see/feel/hear/smell danger before it pounces on you.  The higher the tension is pitched, the bigger the wallop.

Next, the reveal.  The door opens to expose a dead body that spills out on top of our poor heroine the moment she turns the doorknob.  The scratching noise in the attic inexplicably moves through the ceiling, down the stairs and manifests in a dark, demonic entity.  The dorsal fin of a great white shark breaks the surface of the water in which you're swimming.  The terror has been revealed in one jarring, scream-inducing moment!

But that's not scary enough, not for the expectant reader.  You need the next step in the process – experiencing the fear through the eyes of the main character.  We need to feel their bodies tremble as they break out into a cold sweat.  We need to hear the blood-curdling scream that explodes from their mouths.  We need to internalize the sick, sinking feeling in their stomachs as death closes in around them.

And lastly, the action.  Our heroine's panicked flee from the house, our hero's desperate attempt to out maneuver a man-eating shark.  Will they survive?  Will they escape?  Hearts pound in anticipation with every turn of the page!!!!

What is scary?

The answer, I think, is anything.  If you tell it right.  ;)

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 horror pitched as The Parent Trap meets Event Horizon, is scheduled for Fall 2013. 

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."

And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives – three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, both of which involve Kamiak High’s most eligible bachelor, T.J. Fletcher. But what starts out as a fun-filled weekend turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly, people are dying and 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?

Want to help Gretchen get the word out about Ten and win some awesome prizes - including the chance to get your name in her next book? Check out The Army of Ten!

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