Gretchen McNeil has a skill with writing both comedy and horror, which makes her one of my favorite authors. I featured her back in 2017, and I especially love her new series, starting with #MURDERTRENDING, a sci-fi thriller with a very interesting premise:

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.
When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?


WELCOME TO WHO WANTS TO BE A PANIAC?, the latest reality TV show on the hunt for the next big-hit serial killer. But don’t worry—no one is actually going to murder anyone, as real as the fake gore and pretend murder may appear . . . uh, right?

Seventeen-year-old Becca Martinello is about to find out. When her perfectly normal soccer mom dies in a car crash, a strange girl named Stef appears to let Becca know that her deceased mom was none other than one of Alcatraz 2.0’s most popular serial killers—Molly Mauler. Soon, Becca ends up on Who Wants to Be a Painiac? to learn the truth about her mom’s connection to Molly Mauler, but things turn sinister when people are murdered IRL. Will Becca uncover dark secrets and make it out of the deadly reality show alive? Or will she get cut?

In our last interview, you mentioned that your book #MURDERTRENDING would be a “horror comedy.” In what ways are you able to find comedy within the horror genre?

In the same way that salted caramel feels like the combination of two diametrically opposed things, horror and comedy are, in fact, complimentary flavors.  They both represent heightened states of emotional exhibitionism, and in that way, tend to make people uncomfortable.  A belly laugh can so easily turn into a terrified scream!  Plus you can use the one to enhance the other, or as a red herring to obscure a punch line or a horrifying revelation.

What a great analogy–and I’ll never look at salted caramel the same way again! I love how #MURDERTRENDING is set in a version of Alcatraz. How did you know that this would offer the best backdrop for the story? 

I love a locked room mystery.  In my novel TEN, I followed Agatha Christie’s example and took the locked room to the extreme – an isolated island with no escape.  Instant tension!  When I was looking to create a suburban prison environment, and island seemed like the perfect setting.  I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where Alcatraz looms large.  I remember on a class field trip, learning about how former inmates of Alcatraz reported on that still nights, they could actually hear the sounds of the city drifting into their prison cells.  That totally stuck with me.

But the actual topography of Alcatraz didn’t fit with what I wanted to do with this book, which led me to Treasure Island.  It’s a real place and so many of the buildings I describe – from the Barracks to Gassy Al’s Pavilion to the former Navy yards – are all real.  And there.  You can visit them (if you dare…)

How could you not? The sequel to #MURDERTRENDING, entitled #MURDERFUNDING, is set to debut in August. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet?

So yes, #MURDERFUNDING is very much a sequel, but it has a new main character: Becca, who is trying to find out whether or not her recently deceased mom was actually the Alcatraz 2.0 executioner known as Molly Mauler.  This quest will cross paths with the survivors of #MURDERTRENDING as both are investigating different aspects of the same problem!

I will also add, that while I loved my serial killers from book 1, the thematic “Painiacs” and wannabe Painiacs that I came up with for Book 2 might be some of my favorite characters of all time, like John Carpenter, Actual Carpenter; Princess Slaya; and the blood thirsty folk singing duo Psychoman and Gorefunkel.

Awesome. If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?   

TAKE YOUR TIME.  Publishing is not a race.  It’s not like doorbusters on Black Friday where you have to be one of the first people through the door if you want to score that 60″ flat screen for $40.  Publishing will always be there.  Book deals will always be there.  Take your time.  Don’t rush.  Enjoy the journey.

For Gretchen McNeil’s other books, go here.
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