16 October 2011

Guest Blog: Wendy Laharnar

This week, we're welcoming author Wendy Laharnar, who is celebrating the release of her debut title, The Unhewn Stone, set in medieval Switzerland. Wendy is here to talk about the novel, answer questions and give away a copy. Here's the blurb:

Life in the Middle Ages is a dangerous game, even for Üserwäälti, the Chosen One.

When modern day Swiss teen, Stefan Gessler, answers the call to restore his family's honour, he discovers it takes more than superior education and pride to equip him for life in the Middle Ages. His dangerous adventures test his courage and challenge his beliefs.
Immersed in the turbulent events of the Wilhelm Tell legend, Stefan pretends to be a wizard when an avaricious sibyl mistakes him for an alchemist. The shape-shifting sibyl and an evil knight have diabolical reasons to want the wizard dead. So, faced with his own demons and those of medieval Switzerland, how will Stefan complete his mission and escape the fourteenth century...alive?

In what way is The Unhewn Stone an unusual historical novel?
The Unhewn Stone begins in the present. A modern Swiss youth is transported by magic (or is it advanced physics?) through a wormhole back to 1307AD. So, The Unhewn Stone has an element of magic and time travel. It is an unusual historical in other respects too.
·            It takes place inside a legend even the locals think may or may not be true.
·            While it provides a vivid experience of daily life in the Middle Ages, it combines myth and fantasy in a shape-shifting sibyl and a prophetess both of whom are linked to the Olympian god Apollo.
·            In The Unhewn Stone, Stefan is the hero who belongs to the wrong side. His ancestor is the tyrant governor, not the hero Wilhelm Tell. Rather than exalting the freedom fighter of history, the novel asks if there really is any difference between freedom fighters and tyrants and which side would you follow. 
·            And, on the surface, this is a fast paced hero's journey, but there are deeper philosophic layers in the novel which question if there is really much difference between alchemy, religion, science, myth and magic. 

Can you tell us a little about the main character?
The Unhewn Stone is Stefan’s story. He is a young entertainer who has a lame leg and a disfigured face from birth. He feels he needs to hide behind masks to fit in. Living in the narrow Swiss village, he envies the tourists who stay at his parent’s guesthouse and he really wants to escape.

He gets his wish but lands in big trouble in the medieval world when, dressed as a harlequin, he becomes trapped inside the Wilhelm Tell legend.

This medieval historical challenges Stefan ideas on many levels: friendship, love, mercy, honour, faith, courage, pride and humility, but primarily we follow him in his search for identity through contact with his ancestors. Stefan thinks he must change the course of a well-loved legend; he must prevent the legend from happening to restore honour to his family name.

How did you come to write this particular novel?
A teacher, where I worked, asked me to give a talk on writing short stories to her junior high English class. She taught History, too, so I thought I’d write a short story using a medieval setting for her class to experience life inside History. To entertain myself in the process, I chose the Wilhelm Tell Legend, (1307), because I wanted to learn more about it, and that would require some research, which I enjoy. The short story Tell, the Truth, and that talk didn’t happen, but the germ of the novel was born. However it stalled for five years until I was able to visit Switzerland (from Australia) and figure out exactly what it was I was trying to say. From then, it took four years to write the novel under the new title The Unhewn Stone.

It was published by MuseItUp Publishing as an e-book in August and should be in print in a few months.

Did you have to make any drastic changes to the story after the first draft?
When I began The Unhewn Stone, I created Stefan as a farmer’s son who loved the land, because I knew about farming. But he fell foul of those fallow fields and the novel stalled. When we took our granddaughter to Switzerland with us, from Australia, on my research trip, I discovered that tourism rather than farming was more obvious in the foothills of the William Tell birthplace. So, one of the hotels or guesthouses was a more likely home for Stefan. Also, my granddaughter felt intimidated by the high snow clad mountains. She worried about an avalanche and wanted to get away. I realized young Stefan, the innkeeper’s son, could feel trapped here and would want to escape the pressure of life, symbolized by the solid ring of sharp peaked mountains. He might want to travel like the tourists who stayed at his inn.

In this case, it was Sara, and not my muse, who put me on the right path and the story began again.

What do you hope your readers will remember after finishing The Unhewn Stone?
I would love my readers to remember the adventures they had with Stefan and his medieval friends and enemies in the beautiful Swiss setting. But more than that, I hope they learn to value themselves and also remember that "True liberty means limiting your own, when it affects the liberty of others.” 

Wendy's e-book, The Unhewn Stone, is available from the MuseItUp Bookstore, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook Book and  Smashwords

Her blog is Wendy L .


Jen B. said...

What a neat concept. I love the story of William Tell. I don't think I would like to be dropped into the past and smack in the middle of a story like William Tell's! Thanks for the giveaway.

Wendy said...

Hi Jen,
Thanks for commenting. I had a lot of fun making life difficult for Stefan in 1307AD. :)

gail roughton branan said...

Wendy,I love the twists of your hero actually being a descendant of the "other side" and not the hero, the chance to set things right theme.

Wendy said...

Hi Gail, that twist gave me plenty of opportunies to develop internal conflict as well as the external ones.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Stefan's conflict and adventure is compelling on so many levels. Wendy not only throws the best book launch parties, at her blog, but The Unhewn Stone with it's layers of symbolism and intriguing plot proves that Wendy writes with a magic pen.
I love returning to Stefan's adventure.

Pat McDermott said...

Wendy, I think it's wonderful that your visit to Switzerland affected the story so much. I'm getting a sense that Switzerland summoned you. Perhaps you'll receive similar calls for your forthcoming stories. A great excuse to travel, and there's nothing like hands on research! All the best with The Unhewn Stone.

Wendy said...

Thank you Rosalie, I'm so glad you enjoyed The Unhewn Stone as much as I enjoyed your Exiled: Autumn's Peril. I'm sure your Caleath and my Stefan would be great friends.

Wendy said...

You are so right, Pat. Hands on research makes writing so much easier and pleasant, especially for me who sweats blood over every word and often finds the process of actually sitting down to write daunting. Not only did Switzerland beckon me to study the setting but I made two wonderful Swiss friends in Connie and Antonia who continued to help me with setting details, dialect and photos. One day, we might meet again. I hope so

Beth Trissel said...

Fascinating post. I love unusual historical settings. You're in the right place, Wendy. this is a great blog.

Wendy said...

Yes this is a wonderful place to be, Beth. I owe a lot to Lisa not only for making me her guest today, but also for being a wonderful critique partner.

Thank you, Lisa!

ccarpinello said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ccarpinello said...


First I had to remove my original post. Hate finding typos when I read.

I loved reading about The Unhewn Stone. Writing in and about medieval times is my focus for my middle grade novels. However, I have never thought about there being a medieval Switzerland. Thank you for reminding me that I need to broaden my horizons!

I use the King Arthur legend for my stories, but I can't wait to read yours with the Wilhelm Tell legend. It sound exciting and intriguing.

I will be sure to pass your title on to my daughter who teaches 6th grade. She scrambles for good historical fiction for her upper level readers, and those kids love reading about legends of the past.

Best of luck.

Cheryl Carpinello