Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a great day. It's gorgeous here--mid 70's--so it's hard not to be great. Had a nice quiet weekend getting a lot done with some time with friends.


Carol Riggs just signed a contract with Entangled Teens for her YA sci-fi debut THE BODY INSTITUTE to be published in Fall, 2015.

Also here's a great link to a post by Angela Ackermann at Writer's  Helping Writer's blog on 5 Steps To Find Your Book Audience. I'm bookmarking it for future reference.

And I have some winners to announce:

The winner of TUT is Akossiwa!

And the winner of the Stuck In A Good Book giveaway is Janhvi who chose the $10 Amazon Gift Card!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I have get you your prize. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Elissa Sussman here to share about her YA fairytale retelling STRAY. I loved the whole idea of the fairy godmothers and the way the world building explores the role of women, which was dark but very interesting.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

“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, this original fairy tale will be released October 7th, 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins.

Hi Elissa! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you for having me!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Like most other writers, I was a kid with a big imagination and an even bigger appetite for books. When I was eleven or twelve, I read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, which inspired me to start keeping a journal. It also was the first time that I truly understood that a writer was a person – that people wrote books. And so I wrote. Hannukah plays and terrible poetry and romantic novellas and gritty short stories. I wrote and wrote and wrote and a few years ago, I had the idea for what eventually became STRAY.

2. I read this about the same age too. I found it incredibly inspiring, but didn’t start journaling. Where did you get the idea for STRAY?

I owe it all to a feminist history course and Disney’s CINDERELLA! Being the animation nerd that I am, I had chosen to write my thesis on the representation of women in animated movies, so I was re-watching some of my favorite films with a much more critical eye. For the first time, I realized how the most powerful person in the film – the fairy godmother – is portrayed as a rather silly, incompetent character. The wheels just started spinning from there.

3. That sounds like an awesome thesis. And what fun research you got to do. You take the concept of fairy godmother in a totally different direction tied into women’s role in following the Path. I found it a frightening but fascinating world with such definite roles for women. Share about your world building process and how you tell a fairy tale retelling in a very different fashion than some books out there.

Thank you! I love that you call the world “frightening, but fascinating” because that’s how I feel about most of the fairy tales I really love. There’s a delicious darkness to older versions of stories that I wanted to be present in Aislynn’s world. But I always wanted to redefine those fairy tales, to twist them into something familiar and modern. Because the Path, with all of its awful misogyny, is based on a mentality that is still very present in our society today, especially in the way we treat teen girls.

4. We sometimes forget the dark parts of these stories if just watching the Disney versions. I always love when fairy tales are twisted like STRAY. One of the things I really enjoyed about STRAY was the diversity. But I read that it didn’t start out that way. Share what made you change STRAY in the revision process so dramatically.

It wasn’t as dramatic as you might imagine, mainly because I made the change so early on. In fantasy,
especially in fairy tale-based fantasy, there’s this belief that if you’re basing a story off of a largely European-style fairy tale (as I did with STRAY) that you should maintain some sort of “historical accuracy”. Of course, it’s totally fine to add magic and fairy godmothers, but people of color? Well, that’s just too unbelievable. And because it’s such a prevalent assumption, it doesn’t always get challenged as much as it should. Well, when I was writing STRAY, it was being challenged through the BBC’s MERLIN. There were a lot of smart people saying a lot of smart things about how silly it is that we have have dragons in fantasy, but no people of color. And I realized that I was doing exactly that and had no excuse to continue it.

5. That is one of my favorite parts of MERLIN. Sad the series was cancelled. I know you worked in the movie industry, including on Tangled and The Princess and the Frog. How has this influenced how you write and how you revise?

It’s mainly influenced how I schedule myself, actually. I worked in production management, which is a nice way of saying I got to boss a lot of people around to make sure they made their deadlines. As a chronic procrastinator in my personal, creative life, I learned how to harness my management skills in order to focus and complete my own projects. Most of the time.

6. I read that you had some influence on the creation of your very awesome cover. How cool! Share a bit about how your cover was designed and your influence in creating it.

I owe my cover to pinterest and the amazing artist, Melissa Nucera (aka ThisYearsGirl on etsy). As an avid pinner, I had created a STRAY inspiration board and her piece “The Queen” was a pretty big part of it. When the awesome folks at Greenwillow asked if I had any ideas for the cover, I immediately sent them Melissa’s piece. They loved it, contacted her and the rest is history. Lucky me!

7. Yes, that’s extremely luckly. Your agent is Samantha Shea. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I took a very traditional road to both getting an agent and getting published. Once I had a version of STRAY that I was confident in, I started researching agents and the querying process. There are so many wonderful online resources, including QueryTracker, which I especially love because of its built-in spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets). Samantha was one of sixty agents that I queried over the process of five months and I absolutely adore her. Once she took me on as a client, we spent another several months polishing the manuscript and then she sent it out on submission. It sold to Greenwillow Books a few months later.

8. How are you planning to market your book? Has your experience in the film industry affected at all your plans to spread the word about your book?

I have an amazing publicist and wonderful support from HarperCollins. Keep your eyes out for some fun videos and interviews in the weeks around STRAY’s release. And if you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can come to the launch party and reading at Skylight Book in Los Feliz on October 12th at 5pm.

9. Wish I lived there. I’d come for sure. What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on the follow up to STRAY, titled BURN. Set in the same world, it will follow a new pair of characters (one of whom is introduced at the end of STRAY). But don’t worry, we’re not leaving Aislynn and her friends behind just yet.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Elissa. You can find Elissa at:

Website: ElissaSussman.com

Twitter: @ElissaSussman

Tumblr: elissasussman.tumblr.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/ElissaSussmanBooks

Elissa has generously offered a copy of STRAY for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 11th. I’ll announce the winner on October 13th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US only.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Wednesday I have a guest post by debut author Andrea Pyros and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK

Next Monday I have a guest post by long time follower C. Lee McKenzie and a giveaway of her YA contemporary DOUBLE NEGATIVE.

Next Wednesday I'm giving away a number of recently released Harper Collins middle grade books that I know many of you would enjoy.

And the Monday after that I have a guest post by another long time follower and debut author Kim Van Sickler and a giveaway of her YA contemporary SNACHED IN GULLYBROOK.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Theresa Milstein said...

I'm so happy for Carol--especially after the place who was going to publish her book went under. I'm glad she found a home for it!

Stray sounds like my kind of book. I'm a big fan of the We Need Diverse Books campaign.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love the premise of this story. You know what I'm going to ask. Is this going to be an audiobook?

*off to check Audible*

Donna K. Weaver said...

Squee! It is!


Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats! Stray sounds intelligent and imaginative.

Greg Pattridge said...

It's always interesting hearing authors describe what got them first hooked on reading and writing. Good luck Elissa with your debut.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's wonderful she got to choose her cover artist.

Kim Van Sickler said...

I'm so intrigued!!!! When I first started writing fiction, I tried writing fairy tales and they weren't very good and then I tried writing two fairy tale novels, and they were okay, but not good enough, and nowhere near as dark as I wanted (my fault for listening to critiquers who didn't get what I was trying to do and I was green enough that I thought when people critiqued, the polite thing to do was incorporate their opinions into your work.) Congrats to Elissa for creating the kind of book I would have liked to write!

Karen Lange said...

It's nice to meet Elissa. It's great to hear about her journey. Wish her all the best.

I'll pass on the giveaway. Have a good week!

Unknown said...

Oooooh this book sounds wonderful. I'm very intrigued. Also it was cool to get to know Elissa a little. :)

Sharing the giveaway!

Ann Finkelstein said...

STRAY is definitely on my to-read list. Thanks

~Sia McKye~ said...

Most fairy tales were anything but cute stories that Disney made them. Fairy tales were some seriously scary worlds to live in when you analyze them. I can tell you, I'd have hated to live in the world of Sleeping Beauty.

Enjoyed the post.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Unknown said...

I was fascinated with Elissa's life, job, inspirations, school, and road to publication as well as the premise of her book. I love feminist messages and believe we need more of that for our younger girls to combat bad role models in other very famous books. Good luck!! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Like that she went for diversity in the book. And I'm a procrastinator as well. Congratulations, Elissa!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Congratulations, Elissa! I am very interested on this new approach to the re-told fairy tale genre. Going to get this on my TBR list right away!

Suzanne Warr said...

Another great interview, thanks so much to both of you! Love this twist on old fairy tales, too!

Thanks for that link at the top, Natalie, on finding your book's audience. Super helpful stuff!

Vivien said...

I am just loving the sound of this book. It's really hitting on all levels!
GFC: Vivien

kellis_amberlee at yahoo dot com

Patchi said...

This sounds like a wonderful story! I've added it to my TBR pile.

Beth said...

Great interview - and the cover turned out beautifully! Congratulations to Elissa.

David P. King said...

Stray is an excellent read. I can't wait to get my hands on the hardback and read it again. Excellent interview, Elissa! :)

mshatch said...

I adore twisted fairy tales and would love to read Stray. Congrats to Elissa and Carol :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I love your inspiration for Stray. The book sounds great!

And congrats to Carol!!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Love the inspiration for your book. Maybe I need to look at my animated fairy tale pet peeve more seriously!!

Brenda said...

Stray sounds excellent, I always enjoy authors who twist up these fairytales. Lovely interview, have a great week Natalie.

Christine Rains said...

I love dark fairy tales myself. Congrats to Elissa! And to Carol. :)

Jenni said...

Such a beautiful cover! I found it fascinating that this grew out of Elissa's thesis, and I loved what she said about including people of color. Congrats, Elissa and Carol! Thanks for another great interview, Natalie!

Rosi said...

This sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for such an interesting interview.

E.G. Moore said...

Thank you for your interview, Elissa. STRAY sounds like a wonderful retelling that I can't wait to get my hands on.


Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the interview and great giveaway! I always enjoy reading about an author's road to publication. Can't wait to read this book!

Kel said...

Haha, I can completely sympathize with Elissa. I'm super organized at work, but I'm also a chronic procrastinator in my personal and, especially, creative life. Glad to see she found a schedule that worked for her and the book!

Thank you for the giveaway!
bookedtiltuesday (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read this book. Great concept!

Britt said...

This was a FANTASTIC interview. I loved hearing how she preps for writing with utter silence. My kinda gal! I'm even more excited for STRAY then I was before (which is a ton!) I also tweeted
Thanks for this chance

erin said...

Congrats to Elissa on the new release!!! This book sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Angie Quantrell said...

Love the cover! Excellent choice. Can't wait to read this book. Congratulations!

S.P. Bowers said...

The cover is amazing! And the story sounds great. I'm glad to hear people are still using the traditional road to getting an agent.

Mirka Breen said...

Congratulations, Elissa- it's a winner!

Jeri Baird said...

STRAY sounds wonderful - my kind of book!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book! I'll mention this giveaway in my blog newsletter.

Unknown said...

This sounds really great!!! Congrats Elissa! :) it's on my TBR list!!!

Thanks for the chance to win!!!

Jill the OWL said...

Love to hear where authors get their inspiration! Thanks!

I follow :)

Carina Olsen said...

Yay :D I love this interview. <3 thank you both for sharing. I'm not entering the giveaway, as US only, just wanted to share that I loved this interview :) And I just read this book yesterday, and it was all kinds of awesome. <3 dying to read BURN :D

Anonymous said...

I love the cover. I also love the darkness in fairy tales.

Manju Howard said...

Elissa, Thank you for sharing your story with us. Love the concept and cover. I will Tweet.

Jocelyn Rish said...

I love Elissa's inspiration for the book, and the premise sounds fantastic. And the cover is really haunting.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats Elissa, your book sounds wonderful. The title is intriguing.

holdenj said...

I love the premise of the book. Thanks for taking the time to share so much of it with us.