Interviews, Reviews

Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Bridget Liu’s life used to be normal. Sure she wasn’t popular, but she had a few reliable friends. She had a strong family that was always there for her, no matter what. But when her father was murdered almost a year ago, Bridget’s life was turned upside down. And now, all she wants is some peace and quiet.

She’s tired of her mother always nagging her about school and friends. She’s tired of handsome Matt Quinn butting into her life any chance he gets. But above all, she’s sick of a new “talent” she’s developed – communing with demons. Some talent, it’s more like hell.

Enlisted by Monsignor Renault to help perform exorcisms, Bridget is thrust into something she’s not really sure she wants to do. But when she receives a message from a demon, she heeds it. If she doesn’t, Bridget won’t be the only one in trouble.

Possess, a debut novel for author Gretchen McNeil, is a thriller unlike any other thriller. Possess will both engage and scare readers simultaneously.

Full of demons and exorcisms readers will appreciate the amount of research that McNeil must have put into this book, making it an even better read. Examining the ins and out of exorcisms and demonology, Possess isn’t weighed down by facts. Instead, McNeil skillfully weaves pertinent information seamlessly into the strong plot.

At it’s core Possess is about good versus evil, and the place both of those elements have in our very own world. Quick paced and smoothly told, McNeil’s writing thrusting the strong storyline forward. Full of authentic characters and dialog, readers will be able to relate to, not only heroine Bridget but the raw emotions pulsing through this book.

Extra! Extra!

I recently had the opportunity to ask author Gretchen McNeil a few questions about her first novel Possess. Please read on to find out all about Gretchen and her amazing her book, Possess!

BookBandit (BB): Can you tell me a little about yourself, your background as a writer, and why you wanted to be a writer?

Gretchen McNeil (GM): Funny story.  I never actually wanted to be a writer.  I was a performer – a singer, to be exact – and my dream was always to be an opera singer.  Unfortunately, that didn’t work out.  It happens.  Then about four years ago I was going through a very difficult personal tragedy, and I just woke up one day and said, “I’m going to write a novel.”

Totally ridiculous, I realize.  And it was a horrible novel.  But I was hooked.  Totally hooked on writing.  The story telling, the plotting, even the
revising.  HOOKED!

BB: Possess is your debut novel, correct? How did you come up with the storyline? What was your inspiration for Possess?

GM:Yes, POSSESS is my debut and it was inspired by the books I loved to read as a kid.

Some of my fondest reading experiences from my childhood and teen years involved scary stories.  Horror, gothic, ghost stories – anything that would send a chill down my spine, make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and force me to sleep with the light on.  I wanted to write
that kind of story.  And when I thought about what scared me the most, exorcism and demonic possession was at the top of the list.

BB: What was the most difficult part of writing Possess?

GM: Getting the pacing right.  There’s a balance in POSSESS of tension and light heartedness, but always with an underlying sense of foreboding and danger.  I wanted that tension to always been increasing – the turn of the screw, so to speak – and it took a lot of work to get it just right.

BB: A lot of demons are named in your book, were they solely made up or were they ancient demons of mythology and/or religion?

GM: There’s a mix.  I did a lot of research – ancient texts, modern angelology, etc.  Some of the demons, like the demon kings,
were taken straight from these texts.  Others I made up, but tried to keep their names as authentic as possible.

BB: What kind of research did you have to do to write Possess.

GM: First off, I read a lot of first hand accounts of demonic possession and exorcism.  There’s sort of a bell curve of believability in what’s out available.  With some books, I found myself rolling my eyes a lot, but with others, I was totally hooked.  I also read a lot about demonology, medieval witch hunters, and old texts on summoning and controlling demons.

BB:  Bridget is a really strong character. What was the best and hardest part of creating her?

GM: There’s a fine line between snark that comes from being wounded and guarded with people, and snark that’s just…snark.  Bridget is definitely the former, but I had be sure to show enough of her vulnerability, enough of her pain and sadness, to make her relatable.  Otherwise, she might just come off as a wise-cracking pain in the ass.

BB: Not only is Bridget a strong character, but I imagined her to be a really hip funky kind of girl. What music would be on her iPod?

GM: There’s a playlist of Bridget’s favorite songs on my blog (http://gretchenmcneil.blogspot.com/2011/08/countdown-to-getpossess-day-4.html).  Her favorite band in the world is Franz Ferdinand, and she also loves Florence + the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, Foster the People, Muse and Arctic Monkeys.

BB: Possess has a real thriller, horror vibe to it. There a moments when, I think, readers will be scared. Do you watch horror movies? If so, which are your favorite, and which would you say inspired Possess?

GM: I don’t like slasher horror, but I love a good suspense-filled horror movie.  The Exorcist, obviously, is a huge favorite of mine.  Also The Omen, The Birds, Silence of the Lambs, Poltergeist and The Ring.

BB: As a writer, why do you want to write for a young adult audience? In your opinion, what are the pros and cons?

GM: I think my “voice” lends itself to YA.  My first novel was chick lit for the adult market, but agents I queried kept telling me it sounded like YA.  So in that way, I’m a perfect fit.  The struggle for me is in getting into the mentality of a teenager.  Their wants and needs, fears and insecurities are different that mine, and I have to recall that time in my life to remember what it feels like.

BB:  A lot of writer’s say that in order to write, you have to read a lot. What are some of your favorite young adult novels?

GM: My YA reading kind of stalled out when I was about 14 when I read Wuthering Heights.  After that I didn’t want to read anything
that wasn’t written in the 18th or 19th century.  However, I loved the Anne of Green Gables series and all of the Little Women books.  I went
from Emily to Charlotte Bronte and fell in love with Jane Eyre, then naturally picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice.  All favorites, to this day.

BB: If any, what advice would you give to up and coming/aspiring writers?

GM: There’s no finish line to this race. When you’re unagented,
to you think “If I can ONLY get an agent.”  Once you land one, you think “If I can ONLY get a book deal.”  Once that’s signed you think, “If I can ONLY have great sales.”  At every level there’s a new challenge, a new set of pressures.  Be prepared for that.

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I just want to send out a big THANK YOU to Gretchen for taking the time to talk and answer some questions for the BookBandit Blog! Want to know more about Possess and Gretchen McNeil? Check out these links:

Gretchen McNeil’s Website

Get Possess on Amazon