By: Margo Kelly
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: October 1st, 2016
17-year-old Hannah is losing her grip on reality, which is affecting not only her but her friends and family too. She wrecked the car when bugs crawled over her hands, but were the creepy things even real? Now someone is moving Hannah’s possessions around in her room, or is she imagining that also? Why does she feel like she isn’t in control of her own brain anymore? Hannah is terrified she’s headed for a horrible life in and out of the mental institution, just like her dad.
When her friends bail, Hannah is left floundering. Her boyfriend, Manny, doesn’t believe her wild stories, and new girl Chelsea is practically replacing her at school. Only artsy outsider and self-proclaimed occult expert, Plug, agrees to help Hannah discover the truth, but even he can’t help Hannah reclaim her mind from whatever is taking over. She’ll have to do that on her own, especially if she wants to save her friends, her mom, and herself.
If you emptied out your purse what would we find?
I carry a tiny Brighton purse, and I love it so much! But … it’s bursting at the seams with receipts, because I’m terrible at cleaning out my purse. There’s only two dollars cash inside, but there are plenty of credit cards to choose from. Oh, and I always have bookmarks to give away!
What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Writing the first draft of UNLOCKED is what converted me from a “pantser” (just see where the story takes me) to a “plotter” (detailing major plot points in an outline). I was having a blast writing that first draft of UNLOCKED until I wrote myself into a corner. I stopped and brainstormed for days, wondering where I’d gone wrong with the plot. Once I figured it out, I had to delete 10,000 words. TEN THOUSAND words. Deleted. That turning point in the story happened when Plug and Hannah stopped to watch the firemen at Manny’s house. In the original draft, Hannah was arrested right there. In the final draft, she’s not. And that one change altered the entire outcome of the story. I will always be an outliner from now on. One of my favorite quotes from the story comes from that very scene in the book. Hannah said to Plug in the story: “We just fled the scene of a crime. … What does that make us?” Plug replied, “Determined.” Really, it was me, the author, feeling very determined in that moment to make the story work.
Describe your book in 5 words or less:
Hypnotist leaves girl’s mind open.
What are some fun facts you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
In the original draft of UNLOCKED, Lily was working with the bad guy. It wasn’t until around draft number three that Lily reverted to a friend and someone else took over her role as accomplice.
Do you have a special story behind your inspiration for the book?
When I was in college I attended my first hypnotism show. In an auditorium along with a couple hundred other students, I watched as fifteen guys and girls went on stage and participated in the show. The audience laughed and clapped and hooted when the hypnotized students did ridiculous things such as quack like ducks or sing like rock stars. It was great. Terrific. Until the end. While the participants were still completely hypnotized, the hypnotist turned to the audience and spouted his political views. He didn’t even try to hide what he was doing. He spoke clearly and abruptly. The people to my left and to my right sat in shock. My own mouth dropped open in disbelief. The hypnotist went so far as to tell everyone exactly how to vote in the upcoming election. I was dumbfounded. I felt like my trust had been violated, and I wasn’t even on the stage. I was not hypnotized. I was not in any sort of suggestive state. But those students in the show still were. And I bet there were plenty of others sitting in the audience who were impressionable from watching the hypnosis being performed. That’s the exact moment when I decided I would never willingly take part in hypnosis. Sure, that was an isolated incident. Some hypnotists are trustworthy. But not all. Some do not have a very high ethical code. And because of that, to this day, I hate giving up control to anyone, under any circumstances. I’ve never forgotten that college night, and it inspired my novel, UNLOCKED.
Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
My favorite character to write was Plug. Earlier reviewers seem to agree. Kirkus Reviews said, “His quirky independence and willingness to accept Hannah, flaws and all, are endearing.” The character that gave me the most trouble was Chelsea, because I didn’t figure out until I wrote the ending (and then I changed the ending about five times) who she really was. As a result, I had to keep revising the entire manuscript to get her character right.
If you could ask a character of your choice from UNLOCKED one question what would it be?
I would ask Manny why he didn’t have more faith in Hannah, and then I’d probably whack him upside the head.
What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
The climax. It was very emotional to write because of the mother and daughter relationship.
Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book?
I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read it yet … so consider yourself warned here. The hardest scene to write was when Hannah and Plug were separated. It was a challenge to figure out a believable way to leave Plug behind and make Hannah solve the rest of the mystery on her own. I loved Plug, and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him!
What is your number one writing tip?
I know it sounds cliché, but honestly, my number one writing tip is: revise, revise, revise.
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Her critically acclaimed debut, Who R U Really?, was published by Merit Press (an imprint of F+W Media) in 2014. Her second novel, Unlocked, will be published by Merit Press in October 2016. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.
Margo Kelly loves to be scared … when she’s reading a good book, watching a good movie, or suffering from the hiccups. She loves writing thrillers for young adults and hopes her stories give you the goose bumps or the itchies or the desire to rethink everyday things. Margo is represented by the not-so-scary, but totally awesome, Brianne Johnson of Writers House.
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