Debut Author Interview: Laura Rueckert and A Dragonbird in the Fern Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Laura Rueckert here to share about her YA fantasy A Dragonbird in the Fern. I’m looking forward to reading it because it has some unique story features, like a mystery to be solved, and has gotten great reviews already.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.

Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.


 Before I get to my interview with Laura, I have my IWSG Post.

 

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the July 7th posting of the IWSG are  PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

Optional Question: What is your favorite craft book? Why?

Before I answer the optional question, I want to share some exciting personal news. My daughter and her boyfriend bought their first house and moved in the Saturday after our July IWSG post. And after their friends, his parents, and I helped them move in, her boyfriend proposed to her in front of us all. It was such a happy day! And I can’t believe I have a 24 year-old daughter who also owns a house and is in such a great relationship. I really like her boyfriend. They’ve been together since they were in high school and were friends since middle school. He lived down the street from us.

Now onto the optional question. One of my favorite books on craft is Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. I turn to it often because it explains the three-act structure of a story so clearly and by using good examples.

I’m going to share another book on plot structure that I recently read that also explains the three-act structure that an author recommended to me. It’s Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. What I really liked about this book was that it discussed the 12 (I think) plot points that you need to include in the three acts of your story. I’m going to buy it before I write my next first draft because I can see it will help me get the outline of my story more filled out before I start writing.

What’s your favorite craft book?

Interview With Laura Rueckert

Hi Laura! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you for having me! I'm originally from Michigan, USA, but I moved to Germany long ago to be with my husband and have lived over half my life here. I was the type of kid who never went anywhere without a book. I've always loved writing, but I got busy with a career and family after college. Once my kids were no longer toddlers, the writing bug bit me again. I finally managed to write an entire novel, and I haven't stopped since.

2. I always had to have a book with me too. Still like to. Where did you get the idea for A Dragonbird in the Fern?

The original inspiration came years ago, when I was touring a castle somewhere in the German countryside (I forget which one!). The tour guide told us that the original lady of the house had been a highly educated French woman who spoke multiple languages, but not German, and was not happy to be stuck where she was due to an arranged marriage. So it made me wonder what it would be like to marry and move to an area where no one speaks the same language as you.

3. I’d love to tour a castle. What was your world building process like? What tips do you have for writers who write fantasies?

I started with having a kind of tropical Venice as the inspiration for the country of Azzaria, and a landlocked Scandinavia for Farnskag. I wanted my main character Jiara to feel very "fish out of water" when she arrived, so there had to be some obvious differences, but also some she discovered after living there longer, and through the contrast, understood her own culture better. I decided that the countries' religions were very important to them and considered how those religions would impact everything, from marriage, to the legal system, to their interpretations of natural phenomena, to life after death.

My tip is to remember that culture is like contact lenses. You might not even remember you're wearing them, but they impact everything you see, how you explain the things around you, how you judge people.

4. That’s a great way to think of a fantasy word’s culture. I love that you combined genres by adding the mystery that Jiara must solve. Share how you plotted that into your story.

The idea for A Dragonbird in the Fern started with a royal marriage where neither spoke the other's language. That brought me to King Raffar originally planning to marry Jiara's older sister Scilla, who was the only one in their family to study his language. But something had to happen to make him propose to Jiara instead and for her to agree to go to his country, and that was Scilla's murder, and the fact that Jiara could find clues leading to the killer there.

5. Jiara is dyslexic, which you don’t really see in fantasies. It certainly makes the plot interesting since she’ll be travelling to a new country to live where she may not be able to learn the language. What made you decide to include this as something Jiara must live with? How did you work on weaving it through her story without making it an “issue” book?

Both of my children were diagnosed with dyslexia, but not before hearing for years from the school that they just needed to work harder/longer at practicing reading and writing. It's hard when dyslexia is not recognized, as in Jiara's case. We live in Germany, and once we had the diagnosis, some people (not experts) tried to convince me to stop speaking English to them, thinking concentrating on only one language would make reading and writing easier. I did research and found that plenty of dyslexic people are multilingual, and I wanted to depict that.

Why does Jiara have to live with it? Because anyone who has dyslexia has to live with it. :) It's not an issue book because Jiara's main problem isn't dyslexia. It's her violent ghost of a sister, a killer on the loose, and a husband who doesn't speak her language. I definitely didn't want to come up with some kind of miracle cure. I just wanted Jiara to become more confident in herself, including dealing with dyslexia.

6. What was your road to publication like?

I started writing seriously around ten years ago and sent my first (bad) query in 2012. After several manuscripts and literally hundreds of queries and passes, I got an agent for Dragonbird, but it didn't end up selling, and the agent and I parted ways. I still believed in Dragonbird, so I made major revisions based on editor feedback and submitted to some publishers that accepted unagented submissions. I was thrilled when Flux offered! My story is definitely an example in sticking with it!

7. That’s great that your perseverance paid off. What was something that surprised you about getting published? Why?

I knew publicity is expected to be done by the author, but I didn't realize the extent of the pressure, or how much of their own money some authors spend on publicity. Despite knowing that most of a book's success depends on the publisher's marketing budget, we all want our books to do well and work hard to promote them, and we have to figure out where to set limits. Also, I never expected a pandemic would postpone my planned release by nine months!

8. You live in Germany. How are you planning to market your book and reach librarians, teachers, and readers in the U.S.?

This is a really tough one. You're right that I can't run down to the local bookstore to sign books or give a reading or visit schools in person. Even sending books or bookmarks by snail mail is extra expensive! In addition to efforts by my publisher, I'm promoting on Twitter, Instagram, and even trying my hand at TikTok. One good thing to come out of the pandemic is that people are now used to online events. I'm from Michigan, so I've planned an online launch with Schuler Books on August 8. If you order from Schuler Books, you'll receive a signed bookplate and bookmark. In addition, some other Europe-based authors and I hope to have a series of online panels and interviews this summer. So stay tuned for details!

9. Yes, I love all the online events. What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on a speculative alternate history set in 1980s West Germany (so much retro fun!), slowly drafting a new YA fantasy, and trying not to get sidetracked by a very nebulous idea for another YA fantasy.

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

Website: www.laurarueckert.com
Twitter:
@LauraRueckert
Instagram:
@laura_rueckert_writes
TikTok:
@laurarueckert
Linktree:
linktr.ee/LauraRueckert

Giveaway Details

Laura and her publisher has generously offered a hardback of A Dragonbird in the Fern for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by August 21st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S..

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Monday, August 9th I have a guest post by debut author Rochelle Melander and a giveaway of her MG nonfiction Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing 

Wednesday, August 11th I have an agent spotlight interview with Sera Rivers and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 16th I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop and have an interview with debut author Christyne Morrell and a giveaway of MG fantasy Kingdom of Secrets

Monday August 23th I have an interview with debut author Jessica Lewis and a giveaway of her YA contemporary fantasy Bad Witch Burning

Monday, August 30th I have an agent spotlight interview with Renae Moore Tobias

Hope to see you on Monday!