Rachael Craw on Predestination: Guest Post + Stray

Stray by Rachael Craw
Young adult: contemporary science fiction, romance, thriller
September 2015; thank you to Walker Books Australia
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It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone-deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA.

Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die – not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option: risk losing everything and everyone – including Jamie – and run.

Rachael Craw catapulted the Spark series into the stratosphere with Stray. Grander in scope in every aspect, Stray's pacing is accelerated and its emotional stakes higher. The romance is sexier and more anguished, the menacing Affinity Project more insidious.

Evie remains a formidable heroine, determined in her struggle against the removal of her agency, and willing to do anything for those she loves. With Kitty free of the immediate and urgent threat to her life that the rampant Stray presented in the first book, we get a greater sense of her agency and defiance (spoiler: she's fabulous). Meanwhile, Evie's love interest Jamie continues to be utterly charismatic and loveable (even as he's angry and bull-headed? How do you manage that, Rachel?!)

I loved Spark, so I had high expectations for Stray: these Rachael Craw has met and exceeded. Fiercely emotional and compelling, Stray left me desperate for the series finale, Shield, due next year from Walker Books Australia.


I'll move along now, because to celebrate the release of Stray, I asked the delightful Rachael Craw to share some thoughts on predestination, a theme central to the Spark trilogy, and faith. Here's what she had to say:

On Faith and Predestination

Sophie has asked me to share a little bit about my faith and the question that hangs in the air of the Spark trilogy around the idea of ‘predestination’.  I really appreciate the opportunity to speak about both as my Christian faith is central to all things in my life and the topic of destiny and free will is one of my favourites. Whether I have the answers or not is a whole other matter but I enjoy thinking about/exploring the ideas.

If you’ve read Spark or Stray you’ll see in the acknowledgments I mention my thanks to my Heavenly Papa. This whole journey began with a desperate prayer. I was sitting on my bed one night and feeling very overwhelmed with the need to do something creative. This unction is fairly common in my history, the physical need to do something creative, especially with words. It grips me in the chest, makes me all twitchy and I can’t settle. I knew I needed to write. I knew I wanted to write YA, that I wanted my story to have some kind of fantastical element, that I wanted to write a kick-ass girl protagonist but I didn’t have my BIG idea. I prayed hard. I shed tears. I fell asleep. I had a dream. That dream became the prologue of Spark.

I was the one running through the dark forest with crazy speed and reflexes and heightened senses, I felt that terrible urgency to get to the person lost and in danger in the woods. I felt that dread that I wasn’t the only one out their searching and I knew if I didn’t get there first that person would die. I woke up and knew I had my idea. Thank you, Jesus. Literally. Let the good times roll. By good times I mean 5 years of blood, sweat and tears in the desert. HA! For me it was a journey of faith, seeing my dream become a reality, and an experience of partnership with my Heavenly Papa in developing my craft, learning patience, surviving disappointment, exploring my creativity. Not meaning to sound spooky but for me it was as much a spiritual journey as a practical one. It taught me so much about trusting the creative gift and the giver of the gift and that I’m not alone in the process.

The question of freewill is one of the recurring themes of Spark. It’s a fairly big ticket item in religion and mythology too. Personally, I don’t believe in predestination in the extreme theological sense. I do believe in divine will, so to speak, and that each of us has been created with purpose but my theological stand point is that we are free to choose our path. However, I think the idea of removing freewill from the equation makes for fantastic high-stakes storytelling. For me, the idea is horrific, to not only be robbed of agency but to be compelled down a path against your will. I studied Classical Studies at Uni and I was very drawn to Greek Tragedy. Oedipus fated to kill his own father and marry his mother! Cassandra doomed to prophesy correctly but never be believed. I love it!

I think it’s a big part of what I love about the hero archetype. As much as I want to be Buffy, it’s the horrific reality of her life that makes her a source of fascination and me glad I get to watch and live vicariously from my armchair. Evie suffers this loss of freewill through the synthetic gene Optimal, that overrides her system when she triggers in response to a Spark. The mutation in the gene causes the Fixation Effect and the Fixation Effect compels her to protect the Spark. She is bound to her destiny. The overwhelming sense of injustice and futility is crazy-making. That’s what I love seeing her fight against throughout the story. Stray focusses particularly on her fight against a ‘prescribed’ outcome for the lives of those impacted by genetic manipulation.

Now I’m about to launch into the rewrite of book 3, Shield. Needless to say, I’m praying hard.

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Stray Blog Tour

September 1
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  1. Fantastic post, Rachael :)
    I am SO EXCITED for Shield!

    1. Isn't it?! The interplay between creativity and faith is so interesting! :) Especially since Christianity informed the predestination theme in the Spark trilogy so strongly.

  2. I'm dying for Shield now, the series just keeps getting better and better and so glad you enjoyed Stray Soph, it was absolutely epic wasn't it. I think so many of our young adult, science fiction especially, tends to lend the topic of faith with that mixture of science thrown in. It's subtle, but it makes characters far more interesting though doesn't it. Awesome guest post and review, really enjoyed it ladies <3

    1. It does just keep improving! Thanks for reading Kel :)