Elissa Sussman’s debut fantasy, STRAY, just came out this month, and she kindly took a few moments out of her very busy schedule to answer a few of my questions. Please welcome her to the blog!
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a bit more about Stray and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you! Stray is an original fairy tale about fairy godmothers, feminism and food. I came up with bare bones of the story – a school for fairy godmothers – when I was in college and re-watching Disney’s Cinderella for a paper I was doing on the representation of women in animated films (I’m a huge animation nerd). It struck me how little we know about fairy godmothers within the scope of fairy tales and how strange it is that characters with such extraordinary powers seem to exist only to help others.
Why do you think readers will root for Aislynn, and what did you enjoy most about writing her character?
I love how much Aislynn changes throughout the book and how much she doesn’t. She’s faced with a lot of unexpected change and at times is very naïve and scared. I really wanted Stray to be a story about how confusing and complicated it is to question the life you’ve always known.
Stray is strongly influenced by fairy tales…what was one of your favorite fairy tales or stories when you were young?
One of my favorite fairy tales is East of the Sun, West of the Moon. The first half is a cross between Beauty and the Beast and the story of Cupid and Psyche, the second half is a good old fashioned quest, only it’s the young woman who has to go rescue the prince from the troll queen’s curse. It’s somewhat similar to Rosamund Hodge’s excellent Cruel Beauty, though with a different kind of quest and curse.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede is one of my favorite books and though I re-read it at least once a year, it would be so much fun to experience that first reading again.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on Burn, which will continue the story started in Stray. We’ll be following new characters, though Aislynn and her friends will play important roles in this next installment.
Epic and provocative, STRAY is an original fairy tale in which magic is a curse that only women bear and society is dictated by a strict religious doctrine called The Path.
Princess Aislynn knows all about the curse. Its magic is a part of her, like her awkward nose and thin fingers. It’s also something she can’t control. And girls who can’t control their abilities have a tendency to disappear. So for her own protection, Aislynn is sworn into the order of Fairy Godmothers where she must spend the rest of her life chaste and devoted to serving another royal family.
Tasked with tending to the sweet, but sheltered Princess Linnea, Aislynn also finds a reluctant friend in the palace gardener, Thackery, who makes no secret of his disdain for her former life. The more time they spend together, though, the more she begins to doubt the rules she has observed so obediently. As Aislynn’s feelings threaten to undo the sacred vows she has taken, she risks not only her own life but Linnea’s as well. With the princess engaged to a devoted follower of The Path, there are some who would do anything to keep Aislynn from straying.