Aspiring teen novelist from Richland takes that first, big step
Elissa Cousins grew up reading all sorts of books, but her favorite genre was always fantasy.
Whether it was Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, she loved delving into mystical worlds with magical creatures where things may not always be as they seem.
Now, the 18-year-old Richland resident is the author of her own self-published young adult fantasy novel “Journey to Sevaretrem.”
“It's about a girl who, growing up, her father was always away but she was never getting answers as to why he was away all the time, and he was very secretive about what he did for work,” she said. “She ends up sneaking away and following him and ends up in this alternate universe. She gets separated from him, and she has to survive and along the way she learns secrets about herself and her family that she didn't know about.”
Cousins, who was home schooled, started writing the book when she was just 12 years old and finished it this past spring to celebrate graduating from high school.
Initially, the story centered around magical horses from the Bella Sara trading cards. As she continued to write, however, it morphed into something completely different. She drew inspiration and ideas from other books and authors she loves, including J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, Rick Riordan, who wrote the Percy Jackson series, and Gail Carson Levine, who wrote The Enchanted series, including “Ella Enchanted.”
Cousins said both her grandmother and mother were essential in the development of the story. They not only helped with grammar and structure but also alerted her to plot holes or trouble with logic when something didn't make sense.
Her grandmother, Judy Lickert, once taught English and later worked as a librarian. She helped with Cousins' homeschooling, and when her granddaughter told her she'd started writing a book, Lickert thought it would be a great way to work on learning grammar.
One thing she was cautious about, Lickert said, was allowing her granddaughter to develop the plot on her own.
“What her ideas were at the beginning changed along the way, but I never asked her what she intended because then it would have been much too likely that I might influence where the story went,” said Lickert, also of Richland. “I wanted the story to go where she wanted it to go, then we'd look at it together.”
Lickert said once the book was finished, Cousins took an online course on self-publishing and even did her own artwork.
“It really was start to finish her project; she did the whole thing,” Lickert said. “I was really impressed with that and very excited to have the opportunity to do that with her.”
She published the book through CreateSpace and it's now available in paperback on Amazon for $13.50.
“It's amazing,” she said of seeing her book listed on the book-selling giant. Although she admitted having a little anxiety putting it out for the world to read, it was more exciting than anything else.
“I've had a lot of people read it. I received positive feedback so I wasn't as nervous as I would have been if I hadn't let anyone read it before,” said Cousins, who plans to continue authoring books. “I was more excited about taking that leap.”
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.