Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Author Guest Post: Gretchen McNeil

Dropping in today is Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess and the upcoming thriller Ten, to talk about what exactly makes something scary.

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 it is scary?

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

So what do you guys think, is Gretchen right? Judging by the books she's written, both with a great creep factor to them, I'd say she definitely knows what she's talking about. Ten is the perfect kind of thriller that gets in your head, and keeps you on your toes. Also, there's hot boys. Yay.

Ten is hitting shelves September 18, so make sure you check it out! You can find the full book info on Goodreads (and add it to your shelf!) as well as find out more about Gretchen (and all the ways you can stalk, I mean contact her) at her website or twitter! And be sure you check out all the tour stops Gretchen is doing, leading up to Ten's release!

1 comment:

  1. I've been wanting to read Possess for a LONG time. I own her giveaway of a necklace that has the cover in it and it's beautiful! Ten sounds really good as well. If it comes out soon, that means I definitely should read her first book soon. =D I like to read books by publication date a lot.

    Great guest post! =D Really looking forward to reading both.