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  • 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.

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

Giveaway Details

Laura and her publisher has generously offered a paperback 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!




Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

"Culture is like contact lenses"...great way of putting that! Congratulations on the book. :)

Cathrina Constantine said...

Congratulations to your Daughter!! That is so exciting!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Big congratulations to your daughter!
Save the Cat - my favorite.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congratulations to you and your daughter.

I've heard so much about 'Save the Cat.'

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Just added all the books to my TBR! Congrats to your daughter :-)

Ronel visiting for IWSG day Being Busy vs Being Productive

Sandra Cox said...

Many congrats to your daughter and you. If our kids are happy, we're happy:) Also congrats to Laura on what sounds like a great read.

Computer Tutor said...

Great interview. I too love the idea of a dyslexic heroine. I have an almost-blind MC for similar reasons to yours. The story is intriguing!

Tonja Drecker said...

So glad your daughter's doing great! Save the cat is my favorite. And I loved A Dragonbird in the Fern. It is really well done.

Laura Rueckert said...

Thank you so much for having me on Literary Rambles! Just one correction: A Dragonbird in the Fern is only available in printed form as a paperback. :) Regarding the craft books, I found Save the Cat Writes a Novel really helpful, and also Story Genius by Lisa Cron and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

Danielle H. said...

I just added this exciting book to my Goodreads this past weekend. The cover is eye-catching and the premise sounds exciting. Congrats to the author and to your daughter, Natalie! I follow Natalie on Twitter.

Pat Garcia said...

Congratulations to your daughter. I felt your joy as I read your good news.
I have both Plot and Structure and Save the Cat. However, I don't refer to them much at all.
Wishing you all the best and take care.

Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

cleemckenzie said...

First, that's great news about your daughter. I understand how excited you must be to see her on her way and doing so well.

Save the Cat is the first writing craft book I ever read. I appreciated it so much and it helped set me on the road to learning my craft.

I loved this phrase Laura used to describe culture: "culture is like contact lenses." If you get it right you're unaware it exists. Great interview. I wish her well.

Stephanie Owen said...

Congratulations on your new book, Laura! I would love to add it to my school's library.

Olga Godim said...

Congratulations to your daughter, Natalie.
I think I need to read Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. It might help me with my 'ending-a-story' problem.

Fundy Blue said...

What happy family news, Natalie! I wish your daughter and boyfriend happiness. I've added Bell's book to my list. I really enjoyed Laura's interview. My father and other members of my family have dealt with dyslexia, and of course I had students dealing with the same challenge. It's great that Laura incorporates it into her book ~ Which I'd love to win (Can't be greedy though!). Happy IWSG Day!

Sherry Ellis said...

That sounds like a great ghost story!

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel seems to be a popular choice for writing books. I selected that one as well.

Carol Kilgore said...

Woo-Hoo!!! Congrats to your daughter! I know everyone in the family is over-the-moon happy. Exciting times ahead for all of you. Enjoy ♥

Chrys Fey said...

I have read Plot and Structure.

A big congratulations to your daughter!

The cover of A Dragonbird in the Fern is stunning.

Jemi Fraser said...

Laura's cover is beautiful!! Congrats.
And congrats to your daughter on her house and engagement - such wonderful, exciting times!

Loni Townsend said...

I liked the original Save the Cat! though I haven't checked out the novel one. Might have to give it a try. Grats to your daughter! That's awesome!

Samantha Bryant said...

Congrats to your daughter . . .and thanks for the books to check out!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's wonderful they were childhood sweethearts and will soon be married.

Jemima Pett said...

Lots of lovely thoughts in there, but most of all - congrats on your family news! How exciting! :)

Melissa said...

Congrats to your daughter!
STCWaN is next on my list, too.

Beautiful cover, Laura.

Liza said...

Congratulations on your daughter's engagement, Natalie!

Anonymous said...

I love James Scott Bell! I have several of his books. He really has an unconstructed way of looking at things. And Save the Cat is timeless!

Congrats to Laura on the new release! I love a ghost story, and what an interesting way to work in dyslexia into the story line, while subtly raising awareness.

tetewa said...

Congrats on the book and your daughter! Sounds like my kind of read and from one Michigander to another "GO BLUE" Can't imagine living in Germany must have been a big change!

Jenni said...

Congrats on your daughter's engagement! Friendship is the best foundation for a good relationship. That is so cool that they've known each other since middle school!
I love Save the Cat--but haven't read the one for novelists. I need to get this!
Congrats to Laura! I really like how dyslexia is part of the story line, and yet the story is not about dyslexia.
Count me out of the giveaway, though, as I've won a lot lately.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Congrats on the new life step for your daughter!

I need to read Save the Cat Writes a Novel, because I had some difficulty relating to the original, not being a movie person at all.

kimlajevardi.com said...

Congrats to your daughter!

I enjoyed Bell's book as well.

Congrats, Laura!

PK HREZO said...

Congrats to you and your daughter!! How exciting!!
I do love STC too! I always use the beats when plotting. I took one of their master classes once and it was excellent too.

Pat Hatt said...

That is great news about your daughter indeed. Congrats to her. STC is a good one too.

Sounds like quite the road to publishing too.

Nancy Gideon said...

What a romantic start to a Happily Ever After for your daughter!! Does this romance writer's heart good! Thanks, as always, for your monthly insights and information.

Gwen Gardner said...

Laura, great idea to give your mc dyslexia, and to see her grow in confidence.

Natalie, congrats to your daughter and sil to-be!

Jamie Krakover said...

So excited for this book!

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

Great interview! This book sounds like an excellent read, and I'm thrilled to see representation of people with dyslexia in a book where it isn't the main focus. And that's wonderful that you were able to sell your book even after parting ways with your agent!

Natalie, congratulations about your daughter—all of that is such exciting news! And the craft books you've shared look like really valuable reads. I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks so much for the great post!

nashvillecats2 said...

A wonderful read as always Natalie, today I actually solved my Blogger problem.
Hope all is well with you.
Take care.

diedre Knight said...

Hi Natalie!
What a wonderful story about your daughter! Congratulations to all.
The more I hear about “Save the Cat” books, the more I’m convinced to get them.
Very best wishes to Laura for “A Dragonbird in the Fern”! I’m already in love with the title, and the premise sounds fantastic.
Happy August!

Liz A. said...

I love that title. And I'm glad to hear that being dyslexic doesn't prevent someone from learning a new language. That sounded hinky when I read it, so I'm glad to know it's not true.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I'm so happy for your daughter!!

Oh yes, I love Plot and Structure. Haven't read Save the Cat Writes a Novel, though. I really should.

A Dragonbird in the Fern sounds like a great read. I love that cover!

Denise Covey said...

Happy news about your beloved daughter. What an achievement for a 24-year-old. Both your recommendations are stellar.

Rosi said...

Thanks for another great interview. I will pass on the giveaway. Too many books. Too little time.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Nice interview!

I love Save the Cat Writes a Novel. I attended a class on it that Jessica Brody taught. Wonderful job!

Leela said...

I'm a follower.

kjmckendry said...

Congratulations to your daughter! So exciting!

Also that was a great interview and I would love to read Dragonbird!
I am a follower! :) kjmckendry@yahoo.com---

Tyrean Martinson said...

Congratulations to your daughter (and you)! It sounds like you have a wonderful family!
I love the books you picked and the interview. I would love to read Dragonbird, and I'm a follower. tyreantigger@gmail.com

Sandra Cox said...

Isn't Dragonbird's cover marvelous? And what an intriguing cover.
Hope you have a great weekend, Natalie.

J.Q. Rose said...

Thanks for the tips on those 2 books. I've heard about the Save the cat book and I love Bell's informative books on the craft of writing. Congratulations and best wishes--you will soon be a mother-in-law!!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Congrats on you daughter's new home and fiancé' HOW EXCITING! Some happy news in such a stressful time.

Thanks for you suggestions on writing plot and structure. I should check them out. After writing three books, I honestly should read at least one crafting book.

Lori said...

Congratulations to your daughter!

Thanks for the suggestions on the craft book. Can't wait to read "Save the Cat"

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like Laura has a great premise and worldbuilding in this story. And the idea of including dyslexia and even language as a factor at all is original - we read so many fantasies set in far-out and imaginary places where it's just taken for granted everyone speaks English.

Congrats to your daughter - a double celebration with the engagement and house. How wonderful!

Kristen said...

Always looking for a new book :)

Angie Quantrell said...

Oh, congrats to your daughter! yay!

Thanks for the great interview. This book sounds wonderful! Thanks for the help-book suggestions as well. Congrats, Laura!

Sharing on Twitter. :)