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Laura Matthias Bendloy: Meet Laerka

Today, we welcome Laura Matthias Bendloy to the blog. So happy to have you here, Laura! Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m excited to be part of your blast. Though I am a Midwesterner by birth, I lived the better part of the last two decades in Georgia. As a born again southerner, I fell for the old south in a big way, particularly its Colonial cities, of which there are a good number. Savannah really took hold of me in 2001, when I first visited. It is there that I set my second novel, Laerka. Like most of my young adult fantasies, this narrative focuses on the real life of city residents, but twisted a notch toward the macabre. I bring in a supernatural element to the traditional telling of “what I did last summer,” both in this novel and in my first, The Estate (2014), which features a 16-year old’s first visit to Scotland. I enjoy the use of regional folk tales, the local environmental risks, and the less told urban legends of historic quarters — which abound in old Savannah. I have been writing since college, when I fist discovered my love of satire while I was an undergraduate at Notre Dame University. I have been writing for adults and young people ever since. My favorite aspects of creating stories is world building and the discovery of old world legend. There is a backstory of both Russian fairy tale in Laerka and the real and very urgent crisis of human trafficking. A portion of the sales of Laerka will go to The Salvation Army’s mission to rehabilitate survivors of this modern slavery epidemic. I live in Columbus, Ohio with my husband and two children. As well as writing, I love photography, hiking, kayaking, cycling, and visual art.

Can you tell us about Laerka? Share the blurb with us.

Laerka is my new YA Southern Gothic urban fantasy. Here is the blurb: Who is Laerka? Who indeed. She’s a stowaway, and though charming, an illegal alien–the laughing girl beside you and the spray of glitter in her wake. Savannah high schooler Stella Delaney finds Laerka in the swamp and learns that she has jumped six stories from a container ship. To con her way across boarders? Or because she’s being hunted? Savannah shipping crates are said to wail at night, crying for the girl washed up in the marsh, perhaps. Laerka wears a prison tattoo, a double headed dragon. Can Stella trust her? A girl at once vulnerable and fairy tale wild.

Sounds like an amazing tale. On your blog, you’ve written a post for our wonderful readers, as well, which includes some amazing pictures and shares your field research, which even includes information about the Cracken, as taken from Greek mythology. Definitely worth a read. Here is an excerpt from the post:

A large part of the pre-writing of this story involved research in and around the city of Savannah. I would be curious to know who out there in the audience has visited. It would be great to compare notes. What first strikes you about the city is its history, which is storied. There are the fairy-tale mansions and the crumbling slums literally side by side, sometimes. The poor are desperately so, the rich, outrageously so. In between is a mix of middle class, retirees and military families (there’s a base to the west of town), who both do and don’t get along with the historic downtown (read more)

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