Top TEN Things That Scare Gretchen McNeil

What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.

Today’s guest author is Gretchen McNeil, whose new YA horror novel, Tenloosely inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None—is about ten teens who head to a house party at a remote island mansion off the Washington coast . . . only for them to be picked off one by one by a killer.

What scares Gretchen? Read on to find out.

The Top TEN Things That Scare Gretchen McNeil:

1. Spiders. Holy crap. SPIDERS!!! I kinda freak the hell out when I see one scurrying across the floor—or worse, across the ceiling above my bed just waiting for me to fall asleep before it rappels down and bites my face!!!!

2. Demonic possession. Which is how Possess came about—when I decided I was going to write a scary book, I went with one of the things that scared me the most.

3. Fanny packs. And socks with sandals. ’Nuff said.

4. Sharks. After seeing Jaws as a child (thanks, Cousin Steve! Way to win Babysitter of the Year with that one!), it took my mom months to convince me that there were no man-eating sharks in the freshwater lake where we took our vacations. I’m still not sure I believe her…

5. Wide-open spaces. I’d rather walk through gang territory at night than through a field or forest 100 miles from the nearest human. It’s like space—no one can hear you scream.

6. Being on a sinking ship. This is why I hate Titanic. That ship sinks for like a whole freaking hour! Torture.

7. Did I mention spiders? My boyfriend tries to remind me that they’re good because they kill the “bad” bugs, but they move so fast and have you seen the video for “Lullaby” by The Cure? I’ll just be huddled here under the table, rocking back and forth.


9. Swimsuit shopping.

10. Zombie Apocalypse. Hey, it could happen! And let’s face it: As a girl with the impractical shoe collection, a fluffy white dog, and literally no survival skills, I’m the first to go.

Thank you for revealing your top TEN fears, Gretchen! (p.s. Gretchen, have you read yesterday’s post?? Readers, is it cruel of me to point her to it? Make her feel better by sharing the top ten things that scare YOU…) 

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—was released on September 18, 2012, and her third novel 3:59, scifi doppelganger 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.”

Visit her online at

Follow @gretchenmcneil on Twitter.

Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:

And come back Monday for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Adele Griffin, author of All You Never Wanted and more!

Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.


Turning Points: Guest Post by Gretchen McNeil

This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? I’m honored and excited to host their stories. Read on as Gretchen McNeil shares an incredibly moving, personal story about how she became a writer…

“Everything happens for a reason.”

My mom used that line so many times over the years I’d forgotten what it really means. Miss the bus and late for school? Everything happens for a reason. Soccer injury prevents you from playing ever again? Everything happens for a reason. Boyfriend dumps you the week before prom? Everything happens for a reason.

It’s like an emotional Band-Aid, something to alleviate the sting of a situation. But I’d never really internalized its meaning until just recently.

I’m divorced. There, I said it. I tend to keep details of my personal life off the Interwebz if at all possible, but this momentous event had such an impact on my writing life, it’s virtually impossible to keep it quiet. In fact, if I hadn’t gotten divorced, I wouldn’t be guest blogging for Nova now. It was, truly, my turning point.

He was my college boyfriend, the love of my young life. We’d been together for thirteen years when it all fell apart. I didn’t see it coming and I was crushed. Devastated. The end of the marriage was bad enough, but my entire identity had somehow gotten wrapped up in that relationship. I was a trained opera singer, but I’d stopped singing professionally. I’d lost touch with a lot of old friends during the last years of the marriage, so my support network was rather depleted. Even my career was tied up in him: we ran a business together that occupied the majority of my time, and when he left, the job left too. We had no children. My cat died. I had nothing.

It was odd, really, for someone like me. I’m a glass half full kinda girl, muddling through life with a generally positive, find the silver lining, let’s make the best of it mentality. My friends call it “plucky Irish.” I’m used to barreling through the bad periods of life with full confidence that something good is just around the next bend. But not this time. This time I found myself utterly, unbearably alone.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Then one morning I woke up and said to myself, “I’m going to write a novel.” It sounds so corny when I tell the story, but yes, it really did happen just like that.

“I’m going to write a novel.”

I’d never written before. Not a short story, not a poem, hell, I’d never even kept a journal. But for some reason known only to my psyche, I decided I was going to write a novel.

And I did.

And it sucked.

Harsh, but true. That novel, an adult chick lit romantic comedy, will never see the light of day. It was full of newbie writer mistakes, clichés, overused tropes, and perhaps more Mary Sue than I’d care to admit. Still, it ignited the storyteller in me and suddenly I was hooked. Fiction-writing junky. I read some books about writing—Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees, and the best of all Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I took a step back. I looked critically at what I’d written. I internalized feedback from agents who rejected the manuscript. I learned how to write. I learned how I write. And I tried again.

That was three and a half years ago. Now I’m a published author, with books lined up for 2012 and 2013. Talk about a turning point.


It’s taken some getting used to, this idea of describing myself as a writer. Until just a few months ago, when someone asked the inevitable “What do you do?” question, a stumbling, roundabout answer spilled out of my mouth.

“So, Gretchen, what do you do?”

“Er, well, I’m an opera singer, but now I sing with the circus and oh yeah, I write too.”

“Um, okay.”

It wasn’t that I was ashamed of being a writer, or confused by my own self-labeling. It was more like my brain wasn’t dealing with the transition. Since I was seventeen years old, my only goal was to be a performer. It’s a difficult mentality to change. But as my debut date crept closer and closer, I forced myself to make the mental transition. Now, I say with confidence: “I’m an author.”

I wouldn’t wish a divorce on anyone. It’s a dark, soul-crushing experience, even when it’s the best possible thing for you. Like cleaving off a gangrenous limb—you have to do it in order to survive, but it’s going to hurt like hell. Still, at the distance of four years, the memory of the pain and misery faded, I realize that it was the best possible thing for me. It changed my life for the better.

Heh. Don’t tell her I said this, but Mom was right.

Everything happens for a reason.

—Gretchen McNeil

Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer, and clown. Her YA horror/paranormal Possess debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011. Her second novel, Ten—YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer—will be released September 18, 2012. 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.”

Visit Gretchen at

Follow @gretchenmcneil on Twitter.

Want more in this blog series?

The Turning Points series will continue with new guest posts three times a week. Subscribe to distraction no. 99 to keep up with the series, or read all the posts with this tag.

Here are the posts in the series so far:

You can keep up with all the open giveaways on the giveaways page!

Series images by Robert Roxby.