Guest Post with Wendy Laharnar of The Unhewn Stone

Let’s have a warm welcome for Wendy Laharnar, author of The Unhewn Stone. She is here to give a tour through one of the legend of Switzerland and how it plays into the novel.

Behind the Scenes of The Unhewn Stone
By Wendy Laharnar

Having decided to write a story set in the Middle Ages, I chose to base it on the Swiss legend of Wilhelm Tell (1307AD), because I knew nothing about it, other than some tyrant made Tell shoot an arrow through an apple on his son’s head. I wanted to learn more.

I studied everything I could find about the legend made famous by Friedrich Schiller’s play and thought perhaps History had short-changed the tyrant, Governor Gessler. After all, he was responsible for law and order; just doing his job. In fact, I got to wondering about Wilhelm Tell’s nature, too. He killed the ‘tyrant’, so was there really much difference between Freedom Fighters in the medieval world and the Terrorists of today?

The best way to examine this question, in The Unhewn Stone, was to place my hero, Stefan, on the wrong side of the heroic scene, making him a Gessler descendant, and then I sent him back to 1307. Stefan, a modern youth, bore the stigma of the hated name, even in his home town, because he came from Tell’s own village.

The story grabbed me by the throat and held me for the length of a 94,000-word novel – actually, for 117,000 words, which I chiseled back while editing and polishing.

Hohle Gasse

By means of a magic orb and a wormhole, I transported Stefan back 700 years, so he could try to prevent the legend from happening and restore his family honour. Stefan was reluctant to go, at first. He was comfortable being a loner, hiding behind fancy costumes to cover his lameness and his scarred face. After I ‘introduced’ him to the time-travelling alchemist, who is Governor Gessler’s brother, Stefan takes up the challenge and becomes the Chosen One, the Messenger, on a mission to warn Hermann Gessler not to arrest Tell, because Tell would kill him at the Hohle Gasse, the Hollow Way.

What a joy for me to play in the medieval era, but what a dangerous place for my Stefan with only a Swiss Army knife and a PB100 (Swiss screwdriver) for protection against a shape-shifting sibyl, and an evil knight, who were both determined to kill him.

When my story stalled as early as chapter eight, I knew I needed more information…about the area.  I travelled from Australia to Switzerland, with my husband and granddaughter, Sara. We spent a lot of time in Bürglen and around Lake Luzern in Central Switzerland.

Burglen in Winter

Sara, at fourteen, felt intimidated by the towering mountains and the threat of an avalanche. She wanted to get away from there. Also, in beautiful Bürglen, there was more evidence of guesthouses and hotels than farms. So, I re-evaluated Stefan, a farmer’s son who loved this narrow valley. He became claustrophobic, like Sara, and I changed him into an innkeeper’s son who wanted to be like the tourists escaping to greener pastures. He escaped all right, on the promise he’d lose his complex and gain his heart’s desire. He desired his unrequited love, Ursula.  But, oh dear…poor Stefan.

Since I was reinventing the legend, my main problem was in not offending the lovely

Swiss friends I made while in Bürglen. They treasured the Wilhelm Tell legend.
When they learned my hero was a Gessler, they were horrified and sought reassurance I’d give the story a happy ending. Well…this is Stefan’s story, so The Unhewn Stone has the inevitable ending, but I hope they won’t be disappointed if they get to read the novel, which would need to be in German translation for them.

Thank you Wendy for stopping by and giving us an insight into the background of  The Unhewn Stone.

Blurb from Amazon:
When teenager, 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 threaten 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.

Faced with his own demons and those of medieval Switzerland, how will Stefan complete his mission and escape the fourteenth century…alive?
Life in the Middle Ages is a dangerous game, even for Üserwäälti, the Chosen One.

Wendy Laharnar can be found at her Website.
The Unhewn Stone can be purchased at Amazon, Smashwords, and MuseItUp Publishing.

Images were provided by Wendy Laharnar.

Posted on May 8, 2012, in Interviews and Guest Posts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. Wonderful article on the evolution of a fantastic book and the perseverance and commitment of a great writer. Having read Schiller’s play and Wendy’s modern time travel adaptation of it, I much prefer the latter.

  2. That was a masterful stroke to travel in the area you were writing about with your family. How wonderful that you used your own daughter’s fear to give your main character angst. Challenged characters make the very best reading. I look forward to reading your book.

  3. Thank you, Persephone, for the opportunity to appear on your lovely site. It’s been a joy to be here.

  4. The Unhewn Stone sounds fascinating. Love the cover, too. Well done, Wendy.

  5. Excellent posting. I really enjoyed this.:-)

  6. Ooh! Sounds interesting 🙂

  7. An interesting post, Wendy.

  8. I can’t imagine the research you had to do! I love history but the Middle Ages is something I don’t know a lot about. Thank you for sharing your process with us!

  9. Great post Wendy! I liked learning the background for your characters in relation to your research.

  10. Wendy, very interesting account of how you researched and honed your story. I especially liked how you changed the main character when you found out your own daughter was feeling claustrophobic. What a great place for researching, though.:)

  11. Wendy, your research sounds amazing! I’m impressed with your dedication to editing 117,00 words down to 94,000.

  12. It woirked! I can leave a comment! This is a wonderful world to visit and all the research you’ve done seems authentic. This is on my to read list.

    • I’ll try this again… Great post, Wendy. Cannot imagine the research you put it, truly admire your dedication to your art. And speaking of art, love the cover!
      Joelle Walker

  13. Hi Wendy! I am such a fan of yours – talk about the fascinating world you live in. How exciting. Great to see you here and CBB says hi!

  14. You historical researchers never cease to amaze me! What dedication to your art. And speaking of art, I love your cover!

    Joelle Walker

  15. Hi Wendy,
    I love time travel stories. Bringing old characters into the future sounds like fun. I’ll be sure to put this on my TBB list.

  16. Love these types of stories. Love the premise. It’s on my TBB list.

  17. I’ve read the book and your research enhances the story in ways that surpasses most novels, yet doesn’t even get into “teaching” mode. It’s so much a part of the story world–Stefan has a lot to learn and it’s fun to see how he copes with each new adventure. Amazing book.

  18. Love the story behind your backstory for The Unhewn Stone, Wendy. Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  19. Hello everybody! Aw, Edith. That’s so lovely of you to say. I’m hoping the Swiss will feel the same way after reading the two versions of the legend, too.:)

    Francene, How we writers ‘punish’ ourselves for the sake of our books. Poor me, hahaha. Holidaying in beautiful Switzerland – twice. Winter and Summer. And I’d do it again! 🙂

    Marion, Thank you. Yes, I love the cover. The symbolism in that cover blows me away. Designed by Tiger Matthews (he got 2nd place for this cover in the 2011 Preditors & Editors Readers Awards)

    Kat, so glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for stopping by.

    Beth, that’s good to hear. If the novel encourages others to travel to the Uri canton and Tell’s birth place, I’d be stoked.

    Waheed, thank you for stopping by. I’m glad you liked the post.

    Stacy, the Middle Ages is fascinating. I tried to show peasants and nobles in everyday life, and how strange it was to a ‘stranger’ as strange as modern-day Stefan.

    Jenna, thanks. I loved learning their background, too. Not only Stefan’s but his namesake’s the alchemist.

    Barbara, Thanks. My main character did not fit until I placed him in his true setting and looked at him through the eyes of his contemporary, my g’daughter Sara. Yes Switzerland is a wonderful place to spend time on research.

    Heather, The medieval era is a wonderful world to research. I spent happy hours that crept into years ‘inside’ the alchemist’s lab and monastery in particular. Loved it there.

    Karen, you always know how to warm a person’s heart. 🙂 I’m a big fan of yours, too, and CBB.

    Joelle, for me historical research helps to frame my story and make it real. I’m not able to pay enough attention to the right detail required for contemporary novels. I admire the writers are. I’m glad you love the cover Tiger designed. In the last edits, I changed Stefan’s grandfather’s clothes to match those of the magician on the cover and they fit him perfectly. And the two masks…so apt.

  20. rosalieskinner

    Hi Wendy and Persephone, Great post. It’s fascinating reading how research uncovers new ideas and perspectives to a story. Your travel to the area gives The Unhewn Stone an authentic voice. Reading Stefan’s story it shows how you incorporated your impressions and the feelings your family experienced. It brought back memories of travelling through the area as well as invoking great visions from history as well.
    The symbolism in Stefan’s adventure is just another gem, polished to a brilliant shine. Really there is nothing unhewn about The Unhewn Stone.

    • Thank you Rosalie, I truly appreciate what you said, especially since I know you’ve read the book. Symbolism is important to me, and it tends to surface even when I hadn’t intended any.

      • Hi again, Wendy,

        I’ve followed the posts and based on having studied in France at the U. of Grenoble…after many magnificent, mountainous bus trips to “Geneve”…and then on occasion having the opportunity to return and ski the Swiss Alps…The Unhewn Stone just hit the top of my TBR list.I’m sure to revisit many wonderful memories. Thanks in advance!

        Joelle Walker

        • I can imagine the wonderful memories you created during your Uni days in Grenoble and sking trips into Switzerland. I’m pretty sure TUS will reignite those memories when you read it, in a medieval sort of a way, hehehe. You might even decide to take another trip to Switzerland, and follow the map Rosalie Skinner made for the front of book, and walk in Stefan and Tell’s footsteps around Lake Luzern. So happy TUS has hot the top of your TBR list. 🙂

  21. Hi Wendy, I have purchased your book and can’t wait to read it. What a fantastic way to research! As others have said, I love the way you changed your character based on your Granddaughters reaction to the town. I hope you get the chance to go back there and share your book with your Swiss friends.

    • I’m thrilled you bought my book, FireMummy. Thank you. Yes, it would be nice to return to Tell’s birthplace and visit the lovely friends who helped me with the Uri dialect and sent me their own photos of the mountains they love. One of those friends and her family visited me in Australia. It’s wonderful how far ‘Writing’ expands our horizons.

  22. Hope it’s a great success, Wendy!

  23. Loved hearing the story behind your backstory Wendy. Thanks for sharing and best of luck.
    Mike Hays

  24. Having grown up with the legend of William Tell, the title of one of my favourite books when I was a child, I was really pleased to read The Unhewn Stone and to learn more about Wilhelm Tell from how Wendy saw him. Though I always thought Wilhelm Tell’s son, the boy without a name in my book, who stood bravely with the apple on his head, waiting for his father to shoot it in half, was my hero.
    Wendy’s book is a great read for mature readers as well as for young adults. The battle of good against evil is always a wonderful theme for a book and there is plenty of that in The Unhewn Stone.

  25. Hi Mindy, I didn’t see you there. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by. I was impressed with that feat too, lol. The funny thing is, I lost almost nothing of the story, only extraneous words and repetitive and passive passages. I hate the word ‘went’ and was sure I had none, but I had 2. So they went, quick smart 🙂 Then I submitted it yo Muse.

    Lorrie, great to see you here. I hope you won’t be disappointed that I only brought one old character forward and sent one back. They did have the same name and the same birthday. 23rd December; the day know as the Secret of the Unhewn Stone.

    Thank you Jacquie, It’s warming to know you enjoyed The Unhewn Stone. I wanted the reader to actually live inside the legend rather than watch it unfold from the sidelines. You are so right, proud Stefan had a lot to learn, all right. hahaha. I had so much fun ‘helping’ him.

    Jen, thanks for your good wishes.

    Coachboy, Mike, glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you.

    Laurel, thanks for your lovely comment. I agree, young Walter Tell was the real hero in the Schiller version of the legend. Mine was written for a mature audience, but somehow it got labelled as YA by a different editor and the label stuck.

  26. I think a YA like this layered with adult insights makes great reading for all ages. I love historical novels and was not disappointed. Thank you so much Wendy for sharing the background to writing the novel.
    I’ll be reading it a second time in the light of everything extra I now know.
    And thanks too to the mysterious Persephone. What a lovely blog this is..

  27. I love stories that capture me so all I want to do is curl up and read. The Unhewn Stone is such a tale. I thoroughly enjoyed Stefan’s adventures, the tip of the iceberg of all Wendy’s writing and research, which shine on the pages. I hope you’re working on another book, Wendy!

  28. Hello, Wendy,

    Sorry to be so late in dropping by to read your fascinating post. Turning the tables on the traditional or assumed roles people played in history is a great way to develop an original premise. Like the other people who left comments, I’m impressed that you traveled all the way to Switzerland to research your tale – not to mention a bit jealous!

    Best of luck with the book!

  29. Annie, my dear editor, Your guiding hand is on The Unhewn Stone. I’m glad you liked this personal information. Since you know this book inside out, I’m delighted to hear you’ll read it again. Thank you!

    Pat, thanks for your lovely compliment. I’m trying to organize 3 works in progress and make them ready to sent through some critique groups. This is a chore I don’t like. I’d rather be writing something new – but then I’d have another wip to tidy up… 🙂

    Lisabeth, It’s never too late in cyberspace. I’m so happy to see you here. I agree about turning the tables on History. I do try to keep to the everyday essentials and attitudes but actual events, especially legends our contemporaries no longer fully believe, can be examined in a new light. I travelled to Switzerland twice, oh well…someone had to do it 🙂 The 2nd time we took my 2nd granddaughter, Gabriela, to walk in Stefan’s footsteps after she read the final draft of the manuscript.

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