In Conversation With Laura Rueckert // A Dragonbird in the Fern Book Tour

Hey fellow ramblers! I know I haven’t been very active for the last few days and I probably won’t be for the next few because of exams but hopefully I’ll be back soon! Anyways, welcome to my stop for the A Dragonbird in the Fern Book Tour organized by TBR and Beyond Tours! Today I’ll be interviewing the author, Laura Rueckert. You can take a look at the tour schedule by clicking the banner below!

Author: Laura Rueckert

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publishing Date: August 3, 2021

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.

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Hi Laura! I’m so glad to have you here! To start us off, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your book?

Laura: Thank you for having me! I’m an American who moved to Germany for love, and I’ve now lived here longer than in the US! In A Dragonbird in the Fern, my main character Jiara also moves to a different country, but for a very different reason.

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost torments their loved ones, and the violence won’t stop until the killer is brought to justice. For political reasons, a young, foreign king requests that Jiara take her sister’s place as his betrothed. Jiara’s terrified: due to dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, she believes her chances of learning a new language are slim.

But then she discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin came from the king’s country. Marrying him would allow Jiara to hunt the murderer and save her family from Scilla’s bloodthirsty spirit. But it will also make Jiara the killer’s next target.

The protagonist, Jiara is said to be dyslexic. How did you go about writing this representation through her character?

Laura: Yes, Jiara has dyslexia, although in her society, people don’t understand it and don’t have a word for it. They just think she doesn’t apply herself. In the real world, a lot of people have dyslexia, and there are so many different symptoms and degrees to which you can have it. For example, some dyslexic people love reading, some don’t. Jiara falls into the “don’t” category. She gets headaches and eye strain when she concentrates on reading. Because of that, she avoids it, and she’s convinced herself that she can never learn a new language. Spoiler: you can be dyslexic and multilingual!

But dyslexic people also tend to have certain advantages, like keeping the big picture in mind and solving problems, which helps Jiara’s quest to find her sister’s murderer.

What inspired the story of The Dragonbird in the Fern?

Laura: The original inspiration came years ago, when I was touring a castle somewhere in the German countryside (I forget which one!), and 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. So it made me wonder what it would be like to marry and move to a rural area where no one speaks the same language as you.

The second spark came because I live in Germany, and when my kids were diagnosed with dyslexia, a lot of well-meaning people (not experts) suggested I stop speaking my native language English to them, to avoid confusing them. But the research I did said plenty of dyslexic people are multilingual. So I wanted to depict that.

Which character, according to you, did you have the most fun writing and which one was quite a task?

Laura: I liked writing all of them! Whether they’re funny or arrogant or devious or kind, I love them all. Obviously, I loved Jiara as my main character, but I also enjoyed writing Raffar with his strong principles, and ambitious but caring Freyed. I think Scilla was the hardest. She’s a ghost going through an intensely traumatic experience and she doesn’t have much possibility to communicate, but I still wanted her character to come through.

What do you look for in a good book? What makes you immediately pick up a book and immerse yourself in it?

Laura: That’s a great question. The first thing for me is the premise. A book with a fascinating premise I recently read was Your Life has Been Delayed by Michelle L. Mason. It’s about a girl who gets on a plane in 1995 and when she disembarks three hours later, 25 years have passed. Beyond premise, I need to feel like I want to spend time with the characters. They don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) perfect people, but I have trouble reading stories with characters I don’t like at all.

What does a normal day as an author look like for you?

Laura: I’m not a full-time writer, so my day job, and of course my family come first. Beyond that, I write in spurts. So I might spend a month or three drafting for one to two hours most afternoons. At other times, I’m not writing at all, or I’m waiting for a critique partner to get back to me. During these times I either critique for my partners or read (refilling the well!). Once I have feedback, instead of drafting, I revise. Currently, I’m working more on promotion and my drafting is unfortunately being a bit ignored, but I hope to jump back into my current manuscript soon.

And lastly, what advice would you like to give to aspiring authors?

Laura: How about three pieces of advice?

1. It’s important to get feedback on your writing. Critique partners are great because you not only learn from their comments, you learn from analyzing their work and writing down your opinions. It might take a while to find the right fit with a critique partner though, and it’s okay to stop working with someone if you’re not a good match.

2. Read, whether it’s within your genre or outside of it.

3. Keep working on the next thing. Maybe you’ll have success with your first novel. But maybe it’ll take until your sixth novel. That doesn’t mean any of that time was wasted. You learn so much from every project.

And that ends the interview! Thank you once again for taking the time to be here!

Laura Rueckert is a card-carrying bookworm who manages projects by day. At night, fueled by European chocolate, she transforms into a writer of young adult science fiction and fantasy novels. Laura grew up in Michigan, USA, but a whirlwind romance after college brought her to Europe. Today, she lives in Germany with her husband, two kids, and one fluffy dog.

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That’s all for today! What did you guys think? Have you read A Dragonbird in the Fern yet? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

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