Author’s name: Laurie Penner
Title of book and/or series: Secrets of Gwenla
Brief summary of the story: Trapped inside a towering fortress, young Julyiah seeks to understand Gwenla’s ancient riddles. As truth is revealed, Julyiah’s heart takes her to both breathtaking and terrifying places. Evil forces try to stop her, for she has discovered how to free the enclosed community from some old and deadly deceptions.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
Victory Valley is a lot like a peaceful secluded valley on Earth, except that it is completely enclosed within fortress walls, and has been for 400 years. No one is allowed outside the walls, so no one knows what is out there. A spring rises from the upper end of the valley and runs through the lower end, providing water for farms. The ranchers raise cows, sheep, and goats. Only a few horses and dogs were permitted inside before the walls were sealed. Tall trees are rare, because the Agricultural Authority only allows edible or useful plants to grow in the limited space.
Underneath the ground level, the city of Durnee lies in a huge cavern, where the wicked master of the Underground enslaves the poor, and profits from his evil deeds. Valley leaders teach that people who live down there have been deceived by the Lying Wind, but some valley dwellers still travel there by night to gamble, drink, or visit the infamous Durnee Hotel.
If we were to visit Victory Valley as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there? Be sure to see the towering North Wall, where the wealthy leaders live. It has some spectacular stones and other rich ornamentation. The Listening Hall is available for hearing the Music, but you have to get past the guards, who check you for unwanted air movement when you enter. Near the Listening Hall are rooms where you can read the sacred books and listen to safe music anytime, for a price.
What dangers should we avoid in the Valley? Stay out of the Underground and be wary of any breeze, because it might be the Lying Wind.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in the Valley? Yes, be sure to try the napcot fruit, good fresh or dried. Several of the women make excellent breads, plus you’ll want some leaky root for dessert. Nutritious chakia roots are abundant in the Underground, but they don’t have much flavor.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in the Valley? Weapons have not been needed much yet, though a time is coming when they will be. The Valley Law maintains order by carrying swords, though they have rarely been needed (yet).
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in Victory Valley? Horses, wagons, and carriages.
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Victory Valley that we don’t see on Earth? Teka bushes provide valley dwellers with dinner-plate sized leaves for paper, and they grow prolifically both above and below ground. One can write on a Teka leaf with a piece of charcoal, erase it and reuse it several times. When it grows limp, it makes a sturdy cleaning cloth, never wearing out completely.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in the Valley? If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used. All of the adults in Victory Valley have an unusual ability to live both in the real world and in their hearts, at the same time. A child reaches this ability after he or she passes through the Understanding, which might be a good or bad experience. Whenever an adult hears true Music, his or her heart takes off to breathtaking places, and at that moment, amazing things might happen in the physical world as well as in the heart.
Is there any advanced or unusual technology in the Valley? If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples. Light rocks come in various sizes and qualities, but any light rock will glow after being charged in the sun. One can carry a small one to light a pathway. Larger, clearer ones light a house or entire area. Warming rocks are used both to heat and to cool, depending on how they’ve been temperature-charged. Sound rocks can record music. Many songs were recorded back in Gwenla’s time on these rocks and put into boxes. When someone opens the box, the song plays back. The music cells and Listening Hall have plenty of music boxes for the people to listen to while studying the sacred books.
Is there a particular religion practiced in Victory Valley? Please describe what it involves. Music is a major part of a valley dweller’s life in worship of the One, and the leaders expect the people to attend the Listening Hall every week to hear teaching from the sacred books and listen to songs from the music boxes. Listening to the Music or the Voice outside of this format is considered wayward, even though the books themselves talk about this phenomenon. The kind of music people hear in the valley is a matter of great importance and plays a key part in the outcome of the story.
What is the political or government structure in the Valley? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she? Normally there are five male leaders in charge of the community and the religion, although when Gwenla was alive, her word was dominant. If a leader gains distinction or seniority, he might be included as one of the three high leaders.
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit the Valley? When you greet someone, be sure to ask, “Where are you?” rather than, “How are you?” Since you can’t see into someone’s heart, the person could be falling off a cliff or in the middle of a fire and you wouldn’t know it, other than by studying their emotional state or asking them.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book? What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book? In my own life, as in many others, there is often a question of how much we should be controlled by government or religious leaders. This theme is represented in the book.
Author Autobiography: Laurie has been writing for over forty-five years, starting when she was fourteen years old on her first inspirational mystery/romance novel. Whether it’s non-fiction or a novel, Laurie’s goal is to encourage people with personal issues to build character in the midst of their trials.