PLUS a Giveaway of Elissa’s debut novel, Stray!
Elissa Sussman is a writer, a reader and a pumpkin pie eater. Her debut novel, Stray (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins), is a YA fantasy about fairy godmothers, magic and food. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks. You can see her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED.
She currently lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil. Stray is her first novel.
I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.”
Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.
When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray. But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take. After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
Stray is the first in a collection of intertwined stories, all set in a world where magic is a curse that only women bear and society is dictated by a strict doctrine called The Path. A cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Wicked, with a dash of Grimm and Disney thrown in.
Elissa Sussman has a unique author voice. I felt like Stray carried a similar tone to The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, and Melanie Dickerson’s fairy tale retellings. Aislynn isn’t your typical, snarky YA heroine. She was raised as a princess, so even when she is forced into a life of servitude as a fairy godmother, Aislynn still has an air of poise and grace about her. I liked that. Strong female heroines don’t need to sacrifice femininity. Aislynn was a nice break from Katniss-types. Not that there’s anything wrong with hard core chicks. But there’s not anything wrong with the opposite either. Strength doesn’t always mean being Dauntless. I think if I had to put Aislynn in a faction I might put her in Amity or Abnegation–we all have our gifts, and I enjoyed that Elissa chose to go a different route with her heroine. Yay for baking! (PS Check out this link to see the recipe for Tahlia’s Cinnamon Bookbinder Bread–my favorite recipe featured in Stray.)
The story was well paced, and Aislynn had a nice arc. She definitely grew during her time as a fairy godmother, but she has some growing to do yet. That made the story believable for me. So often I see a heroine reach her peak by the end of a first book in a series, leaving little to look forward to in the following books. Stray has some romance (which you all know I LOVE), but it’s sweet and budding. It was refreshing, to be honest. As this is more of a “coming-of-age” story, it focused on Aislynn’s budding independence and courage, but left room for possibilities in the romance department as well.
I also have to mention that I loved the parallels to the land of Oz and the musical Wicked (my all time fave). The world building was awesome, but also familiar enough that I wasn’t constantly flipping to the map at the beginning of the book.
I give Stray by Elissa Sussman 5 out of 5 hearts for well paced, drawn-out romance, for being similar to other fairy tales, but refreshingly different as well, and for reminding those of us who love spending time in the kitchen that baking should not be overlooked as a unique gift all it’s own.
Natalie M. asks, “How long does it take you to write a book, start to finish, including drafting, revising, editing, critiquing, until you have it where you want it?”
I thought about writing STRAY for YEARS before I actually did. When I finally sat myself down to write it, the entire process from first draft to publication took about four years.
Laura P. asks, “Do you have any new year’s resolutions? If so, what are they?”
Write more! I always feel like I should be working on more projects and being more productive with my time, but alas, I am a terrible procrastinator.
Racahel L. asks, “What is your inspiration?”
I love history and always find myself inspired by it. My favorite topics are women’s rights and social sciences. I also find that most of the things I write about have to do with my three favorite f’s: fairy tales, feminism and food.
Gabrial J. asks, “By the time your first book was published, did you already have a second book ready for your publisher?”
STRAY has always been part of a larger story, one that will continue in BURN, which I’m currently at work on. By the time STRAY was published, I had my first draft of BURN completed and with my editor.
Jenelle R. asks, “What would be your fantasy job- aside from being an author, of course ;)?”
I’ve been incredibly lucky because I’ve actually had both of my fantasy jobs! Before I started writing full time, I worked in animation production. Since I’m a huge animation buff, being able to work at studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony, and on movies like Princess and the Frog, Tangled, The Croods and Hotel Transylvania was a dream come true.
Thanks so much for sharing with us on the blog today, Elissa! It was a treat to feature you!
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Have you read Stray? What do you think makes a strong female heroine? I love hearing from you! Connect with me in the comments below or tweet to me @SaraEllaWrites. Until then, happy reading!