Today, I welcome Laura DeBruce. She is the author of The Riddle of Prague. This young adult book provides an equal mix of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural. One’s interest is heightened as Laura skillfully weaves together European history with a modern day adventure. Each chapter leads quickly into another. The reader cannot stop wondering what will happen to the main character, Hana, while simultaneously struggling to figure out the identity of a mystery character.
Laura is visiting my site as part of her virtual blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. I received a complimentary copy of the electronic version of this book prior to this interview. Commenters will be eligible for a giveaway.
Laura, you had an interesting childhood. Can you share with my audience some of the highlights of traveling all over the world as the daughter of a US Embassy employee?
My fifth birthday party, in New Dehli, India, featured a bear-wallah – someone who performs with bears – and elephant rides. I graduated from high school at the foot of the pyramids in Cairo. In between those two events, I had many opportunities to experience unique places in the world. I am very grateful for that.
As a child expat, what was your greatest challenge?
On the flip side of the amazing travel experiences, I had a very difficult time saying goodbye to friends and having to make new ones. It was tough being the new girl every couple of years. The first few weeks in most places could be lonely and awkward.
Did your childhood experiences influence your adult decision to spend twelve years living abroad?
Definitely. As much as my family traveled the world, we hadn’t spent much time in Europe. In fairness to my husband, who is from a small town in Illinois, he was the one with the plan to go to Prague. He was inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in then-Czechoslovakia We thought we’d go for just one year, but one year turned into another and then another.
While you were in Prague, you worked as a lawyer for the first private nationwide television station in the former Communist Bloc. What did you experience during your time in Prague that influenced your decision to write a book that was set in Prague?
Prague in the early ‘90s was a magical time and place. There were thousands of young Americans pouring into the ancient medieval city. We went thinking we could make a difference and ‘help’ the Czechs who had been suppressed by Communism for forty years. Instead, I think, Prague changed us. When friends and family came to visit – which was fairly constant – I would happily shift into tour guide mode. I needed to know what I was talking about so I read a number of books and talked to my Czech friends to learn about the legends and history.
Why did you choose a teenage/young adult audience?
In some ways, you could say that the teenage/young adult audience chose me. I had originally written the book as a thriller for adults with The Da Vinci Code audience in mind. Two of my most enthusiastic early readers were the teenage daughters of two of my best friends. The girls, Esmé and Andrea, loved the characters and story so I decided to write the book for them instead. I made Hana 18 instead of in her early thirties, and I added Alex Williams, the son of Ben Williams. I am so happy that I did. I can’t imagine the story any other way.
The Riddle of Prague is the first book in the Quick Silver Legacy Series. Can you provide a brief overview of the series? How many books will be in the series? When will the next book be published?
In The Riddle of Prague, Hana Silna goes to Prague and quickly becomes enmeshed in a centuries-old mystery regarding Edward Kelley’s riddle and a buried flask.
The second book of the series, The Temple of Paris, will be published in 2014. I am aiming for a summer release. The sequel takes place primarily in Paris where Hana and Alex search for clues that could lead them to the legendary Valentina.
The third book, The Fountain of Ragusa, should be out in 2015. In this book, Hana and Alex travel to Dubrovnik, the walled city by the sea that used to be called Ragusa. This is the grand finale of the series.
The planning of a book can be overwhelming. Can you share 3 helpful tips that you used during your organization process?
1. Research, research, and more research. I spent many days reading and researching the characters and history of the 1600s for the part of the story that takes place in that time period.
2. I sketched out the entire story in a very rough form in a notebook. Even though I strayed from this path, I liked having a map to guide me through the process of writing.
3. I had a few very good friends read early drafts to help ensure that the story made sense from start to finish.
The Riddle in Prague is filled with historical references. How long did it take for you to research the facts? Where did you do the research? What language(s) did you use during your investigation?
I spent months researching the background for the story. I read books about Edward Kelley and John Dee, I read much of Elizabeth Weston’s poetry, and spent hours learning about Rudolf the II. These are some of the main historical characters in The Riddle of Prague. I had the opportunity to travel back to Prague while I wrote the book where I did some additional research. While I love the Czech language, and I wish I spoke Czech better, I used English during my research and investigation. I have the benefit of dear Czech friends who helped me out along the way.
Many authors draw from their life experiences when they write fiction. Are any of the modern day characters based on actual people?
A number of my characters are based, in part, on actual people. For example, Denisa in the book shares many characteristics (as well as a name) with my friend Denise in Prague: both are beautiful and kind but also fiercely strong-willed; Ben Williams, the diplomat in the book, was modeled on my friend Douglass: both are intelligent and charming and Douglass used to work at the American Embassy in Prague. Alex is a tall tennis player who wears baseball caps and likes to bounce tennis balls. If you met my 6’4 son, you’d know right away where I found my inspiration for Alex… except Alex rides a motorcycle and I wouldn’t let my son do that.
A significant number of your reviewers have complimented you on your ability to keep your reader engaged. Can you share 3 techniques that you used to insure a quick paced book?
1. Constant editing to whittle away excess words that weight down a scene.
2. Reading other thrillers to understand pacing.
3. Ending as many chapters as possible with a thought-provoking, or worrisome, idea or event.
As a first-time young adult author what was the greatest obstacle that you encountered?
I wanted to write a book that would appeal to young adults and to adults, like me, who love YA books! Once I decided that this would be YA, I struggled with certain scenes. For example, when Hana meets David on the flight to Prague, he offers her Becherovka (a Czech liquor) to help deal with her anxiety over flying. I would strongly advise all of the young people in my life never to accept a drink from a stranger! But, of course, Hana does take the drink from David… even though she shouldn’t have.
You chose to use CreateSpace to self-publish The Riddle in Prague. Have you been pleased with the self-publishing process and do you plan on self-publishing the rest of the series?
This has been an amazing learning experience. Every step has been rife with questions and issues that I did not anticipate. There are many benefits to self-publishing, or, being an “indie” author, as they say. My husband and I started our own company fifteen years ago. I’ve also been making independent documentary films. I like the freedom of calling the shots and hiring the people I want to work with to design the cover or edit the manuscript. On the other hand, if a publisher wanted to pick up The Quicksilver Legacy Series, I’d be happy to discuss that option, too.
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
I am thrilled and heartened by the overwhelmingly positive response from readers. I have definitely been hurt by negativity from certain quarters; however, those feelings are easy to put aside when a certain gentleman in his 70s or a 15-year-old neighbor eagerly inquires about when the next book is going to be out.
Thank you Laura for taking the time to answer the questions. If you are in the market for a young adult book that is filled with many twists and turns, check out The Riddle of Prague.
One randomly chosen commenter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card during this Rafflecopter Giveaway. Don’t forget to leave a comment today. Commenting frequently will improve your chances of winning. Follow the Goddess Fish virtual book tour here.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.