In our 6th post of this series, we are happy to speak with Laurie Theurer, who has recently launched her non-fiction children's book on Swiss history, Swisstory.
Tell us about your new book
Finally, the real history of Switzerland for clever kids and clever kids-at-heart: dukes slaughtered by filthy peasants, innocent “witches” hung up by their necks, secret gold, female mountaineers and, of course, all those murderous cows. Not the fake history of Heidi and William Tell, but Swisstory—from ancient cave people right up to women’s right to vote. Hilariously illustrated by bestselling Swiss artist Michael Meister, Swisstory is outrageous, fascinating, gruesome—and completely true.
What inspired you when working on this project?
The initial concept for Swisstory was actually as an activity book with word games about Switzerland. The publisher was interested in the idea, but not completely sold on it. So, we ended-up brainstorming together for the next six months, going through idea after idea and trying multiple formats. During this time, I started researching bits of Swiss history and discovered that it was just as gruesome—if not more gruesome—than for most of the rest of Europe. That’s when it occurred to us... Swisstory wanted to be a history book. Not being a historian, I was naturally a bit concerned about tackling this task. However, I quickly found that my inexperience in Swiss history actually helped me. Through my research, I came across people and events that truly shocked me; not fitting in whatsoever with my pre-existing concept of a clean, organized, humanitarian Switzerland. I applied this sense of surprise, shock, and horror to each chapter, presenting it for children and adults alike who might appreciate knowing the “less-savory” sides of the history of Switzerland.
Tell us about the creative process for this book.
As mentioned above, the creative process for this book changed out of necessity time and again until we finally realized what the book actually wanted to be! Of course, the creative process didn’t stop there. There are twenty chapters in Swisstory, each addressing a different aspect of Swiss history. We pre-selected many of the chapter topics, as it’s nearly impossible to have a book about Swiss history that doesn’t include the unique Swiss political system, meat and dairy industries, or something about banks. However I discovered many more interesting topics during my research that the editor had not previously considered...especially those that were particularly shocking or totally gross. He had me checking my resources more than once to make absolutely sure that what I was writing had actually happened. More traditional history books are unlikely to go into the types of details that I explore in this book.
Did you encounter anything unexpected while working on this project.
About 90% of my research took me completely and totally by surprise. I’d call that encountering the unexpected! Like most people, I had a pre-existing image in my head about Switzerland as a tidy, organized, wealthy country. However, that image really only established itself in people’s minds within the past 100 years, or so. I’d had no idea of what had come before and how different Switzerland was prior to this time. This pre-conceived notion is so strong that many choose to overlook the less savory things that have happened in Switzerland within the past 100 years, as well.
Now for something completely different! Beach Resort or City Getaway, Why?
Neither! I’m a country person at heart. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy beaches and cities for a short time, and then find myself dreaming of green pastures, towering mountains, sparkling blue lakes, and walking along country paths. I guess I’m living in the right place.
Thank you, Laurie, for this in-depth look into the creation of Swisstory. History is indeed a fascinating aspect of any country and to discover shocking things about a country is very intriguing. We wish Laurie all the best as her book goes out into the big wide world.
Bio: Laurie Theurer
Laurie grew up in southern California, graduated from university, and then set off as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, teaching English in a secondary school in rural Thailand for two years. After returning to the U.S., she promptly met a Swiss man...finding herself moving to Zurich a short time later. She’s lived there ever since, working as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry and raising two gorgeous girls.
After dreaming about writing for years, Laurie finally decided to pursue her dream in 2012. Since then, she’s had work published in literary magazines, anthologies, and is finally about to see publication of her debut book, Swisstory: The Untold, Bloody, and Absolutely Real History of Switzerland, takes a humorous look at Switzerland and Swiss history and will be available in both English and German on October 15th, 2019.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Benvenuto! Bainvegnì! Welcome!