Hillary Monahan: UNLEASHED

Today here at OneFour KidLit, we’re talking to Hillary Monahan, author of UNLEASHED, coming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall of 2014. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

I can’t really tell you the circumstances behind me starting the Bloody Mary novel because I have a mind like a sieve and I forget the details, but I know it stemmed from my abject terror of playing the game as a kid. My hometown didn’t have Bloody Mary as you know it. We had Mary Jane, and there was a local spin put on the story that Mary Jane was a girl who’d died during a fire at our middle school in the fifties. If you went into the school bathroom and said, “Mary Jane, Mary Jane, I believe in you Mary Jane and your golden blood,” she’d appear in the mirror. Also, if you saw four of a matched anything, it was a sign she was near – leaves, trees, rocks, squirrels.

I spent two or three of my formative years afraid of quadruplets.

I wrote the book in 2010 in about four or five months and went out on sub in January of 2011. I’d initially crafted the book with five chapters of present day horror and then a time jump back to uncover Bloody Mary’s origin story. To make a very long story short, over the course of the next year, I got one pass on the book and everyone else was manuscript sitting. Finally something broke for me in April of 2012 when a house asked me for a rewrite nixing the past stuff and making it a completely contemporary horror. Imagine my surprise when this news sparked five other requests all asking for the same thing. I spent June and July of 2012 rewriting 50,000 words in six weeks. Within two weeks of the modified manuscript being on sub, I had my first offer and the rest, as they say, is history.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

Shauna O’Brien is a seventeen-year-old girl who’s talked into summoning Bloody Mary by her best friend, Jess McAllister. With the help of two of their friends and classmates – Anna Sasaki and Kitty Almeida – the girls bring the impossible to life. In the impenetrable darkness of Anna’s basement, they conjure the legend herself.

The summons are under control until Jess begins to experiment with the nightmare creature. After a particularly harrowing ritual, Shauna finds herself stalked by the murderous, blood-thirsty ghost who can find her in any glass, in any mirror, anywhere. The girls must unravel fact from fiction before Bloody Mary comes to collect her ultimate prize: Shauna’s life.

Do you have any writing quirks?

People watching me work would probably have a conniption fit that I’m getting published. It’s an ugly process. I write a paragraph or two, get up to let out the tribe of basset hounds, go get a drink, come back, watch a YouTube video, message a friend, link said friend a weird internet cat, write another sentence, pick my nose, etcetera.

While I’m doing all of these super bizarre, squid-like things, I’m plotting, and I don’t put the words down until I know they work. It’s this absolute frenzy of non-writing activity strewn intermittently with paragraphs and half-thoughts that eventually — somehow, someway — become a quasi-functioning story. It works for me, though – I’m not a huge redrafter and my submission draft is usually eerily similar to my initial draft, so I must be doing something right. I’m just not sure what exactly.

What inspires you to write?

This lady:


That’s my grandmother, Dorothy. She was a professional writer and a huge presence in little Hillary’s zygote years. I remember hearing her tapping away at her typewriter in the front room. I also remember going near the writing room as a kid meant taking my life into my hands. The woman was fierce before fierce became a thing. I learned a lot from watching her work, though – her ethics, the importance of humility and humor in the industry, and perseverance. I was (and am) lucky to have had such a lovely, wise woman in my corner.

At night, when the lights are dim and the creepy crawlies scuttle through the shadows, Hillary Monahan throws words at a computer. Sometimes they’re even good words. A denizen of Massachusetts and an avid gamer dork, she’s most often found locked in a dark room killing internet zombies. UNLEASHED, her YA horror about four girls who summon Bloody Mary, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in Fall of 2014.

10 thoughts on “Hillary Monahan: UNLEASHED

  1. HAHA!! Your process sounds weirdly like mine…except I only have one Jack Russell terrier. I played Bloody Mary one New Year’s Eve. Still not sure I’m over it. Your books sounds awesomely creepy. Definite TBR.

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