The time it was about writing

Posted September 21, 2014 by Stacee in Signings | 3 Comments

Going to a Gretchen McNeil signing is always a given. If I can get to her, I’m going to go. Naturally, when she had a tour date scheduled at Mysterious Galaxy with Anna Carey, it was a sure thing.

I got to the store around 1pm. The parking lot was jam packed, but I was the first one there. People started coming in and I quickly claimed a seat.


Gretchen got there early and of course she teased me for sitting front row. We chatted a bit about different things while waiting for Anna to get to the store.  She got there right at 2 and they started.


Anna started talking about the Eve trilogy and the synopsis of the series. Then she started talking about Blackbird and how that story opens up. She went back to the Choose Your Own Adventure books and they didn’t hold up. With Blackbird written in 2nd person, it makes the reader the main character.

Gretchen started talking about all of her books before discussing the synopsis of Get Even. It has something like 54 named characters and it was a lot of fun fleshing all of them out.

Anna and Gretchen both did a reading from their books.

Gretchen had to fight to keep the herps joke in the first chapter. There’s a struggle with content. There’s a lot of graphic death in Ten, but Hunger Games has more. Because it’s set in the future, it seems like it’s okay.

Gretchen had to cut a lot of the swearing in Possess. She was allowed to keep more in Ten. She struggles to put romance in the books. In a first draft scene in Ten, one of the characters ran out of a graphic death scene and starts vomiting, then starts kissing the love interest.  Her editor told her she had to get rid of the vomiting.  Gretchen doesn’t always think the romance is realistic when people are running around almost being killed.


Is it getting easier to write?

A: The connections happen easier.

G: You know what’s coming from your editor if you’ve worked with them for a while. I feel like my books have become more complicated. Maybe I’ve felt confident enough to expand into a sort of writing that I wouldn’t have done earlier. With every book there’s a new set of problems, but it’s familiar.

A: Yes. Every book is new an exciting. This book gave me problems with the tense I wrote in. I wondered if I could tell it around her. I played with past tense. It was about 8 months of figuring it out.

G: A trilogy has it’s own set of problems. The second book is messier, but you still have to have a book in there. And then then have to tie it all up.

A: I think that’s why I became a writer. It’s a job that I couldn’t master.

G: So you’re a masochist.


How did you get into writing?

A: I always wanted to be a writer, but I never said it out loud. When I was 9 years old, someone {I think she said it was the son of some of her parent’s friends, but I’m not sure.} had said that he wanted to be a writer and I said that everyone wanted to be a writer. His answer was “there’s a lot to be written.” I just thought it was something that was innate. We all feel like we have a story to tell.

I studied creative writing and then worked in publishing. I thought I would be an editor and it help me to see the inside. It really helped demystify everything.

G: I was never a writer. I didn’t keep a journal. I was a performer. I have multiple college degrees in singing and I couldn’t make it. Writing chose me.  You think writing is hard? Try opera. They’ll tell you that you’re fat. They’ll tell you the part of your voice that is ugly. Yet, there’s enough people who will take the abuse.

I got into tv production. My ex husband was a show creator and when we broke up, I lost my career and my relationship at the same time.  I queried 120 agents with my adult chick lit book with not enough sex for it to be adult. Someone told me to try writing YA. I went into the store and picked up the 2 best sellers and read them. I had a new book in 2 weeks and 4 offers.

I had to find the right voice and that’s where the luck comes in. It’s not about who wrote the best book or who is the best author. If Possess came out now, it probably wouldn’t sell since paranormal is on the decline.

A: I love these stories. You can have all of these other lives before you become a writer. Amy Plum worked at Sotheby’s before she started writing.


How do you feel your education helps your writing?

A: You know there’s a big debate about this. I think you come to writing however you do. I know bartenders who write before they go into work. I know people who are editors.  I know people who wake up earlier than they need to and write.

What I got out of an MFA is generous people who were really inspiring. It was really exciting to be surrounded by people who love writing. There is a downside. I think they try to push you to write literary fiction. I feel like there’s not enough attention on plot driven books or beautiful books that fall outside of literary fiction.

The program director was really supportive and told us there would be enough people out there who were going to rip us down as writers. So in the program, we all needed to be supportive of each other.

G: I have a masters degree in opera singing. The guy who ran the program it wanted it to be a non-competitive environment.  Everyone got a part.  He wanted it to be more about the training. There’s a lot of debate about it, do you need a degree? No. But I wasn’t ready to audition in front of major houses. It taught me about storytelling because it all about showing.  You’re on stage singing in a language most people don’t understand and you have to constantly think about the character and what they’re doing.

From there, it was time for the signing.

I got up to Anna first and we talked about the last time we had seen each other.  I told her how I loved Blackbird and admitted that the 2nd person tense threw me off at first, but once I found the rhythm, I loved it. She was excited to hear it because there has been a bit of a divide on it.

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When I was done with Anna, there was a line up for Gretchen, so I started putting the event chairs away.  I was the last person in line and was able to chat with Gretchen for another minute or so.  She thanked me for coming and said she was happy that I didn’t need to drive so far because she always feels bad.  We talked about Vegas Valley Book Fest that’s happening next month and how I would see her then.

We were so busy chatting, I forgot to take a photo of her signing, so I made her pose like she was signing.   And her inscription is hilarious… The part about Billy is referring to Hubs who decided not to come with me to see her.

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These two ladies are delightful apart and even better together.  If you’re not reading their books, you need to.

And a huge thanks to Patrick, who let me go in the back room and take some pretties home.

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3 responses to “The time it was about writing

  1. hi!!! I’m a writer, book blogger, teacher, reader and all the many things we women are….I saw this interview and just want to saw I’m glad u made it into the ya market. do you feel bad about not making it to the adult market?

  2. I love when you do these event recaps! And what a fun event with those two authors. I’ve always wanted to meet Gretchen McNeil and I have Blackbird buried in my TBR pile…really need to get on that! So glad you enjoyed the event, Stacee!!

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