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Guest Post From Author Mara Lynn Johnstone

Today's guest post is from author Mara Lynn Johnstone on the inspiration for her fun new book Sweeping Changes!


Sweeping Changes began with a song on the radio. The chorus was "I used to rule the world / Seas would rise when I gave the word / Now in the morning I sleep alone / Sweep the streets I used to own."

My first thought was that the song was probably about a breakup, but it would make a fascinating story if taken literally. A while later, I was doing a writing challenge with friends that we called February Fracas —the goal was to write a bit of something each day that month. I'd had practice at this sort of thing (I've been doing NaNoWriMo for years), so I had a fun time writing scenes and short stories.

Near the end of the month, I found myself writing about the same character day after day, exploring the vague ideas that the song had inspired. It was a lot of fun. I wound up with several good scenes, and hoped to turn them into something bigger one day.

That day came with the next National Novel Writing Month. Using the scenes as flashbacks, I managed to build a story around them. I ended up revealing those flashbacks in the reverse order from the way I'd written them, since that turned out to be the best way to cover this sort of time span. It was surprisingly easy to write. I edited the book in later months, and it didn't need as much work as other things I'd written.

Somewhere in the process I found the music video for the song that had started it all: Viva La Vida by Coldplay. I incorporated the lead singer's appearance into one of the flashbacks. Interestingly enough, I discovered a second official music video, with a more literal interpretation of the song — it features a man in a king's crown and robe wandering around with a painting that appears to be all he managed to save from his castle.

Maybe it wasn't about a breakup after all. Amazing! I'd love to know what the band thinks of the novel that the song inspired, but of course they're a little busy. Maybe someday. Another fun fact: I chose the name Hesperus because it was the closest real name to the sound that I was using as a working title / nick name in the first short story. It was only after I finished the book that I looked it up. I was surprised to find that there were several coincidentally perfect reasons to use that name! It was the name for the Greek god of the evening star, half-brother to the morning star — which were in actuality both the planet Venus. The Greeks assigned two different personalities to the same thing, which definitely plays into the story. Also the many legends about people turning into birds; there's a bit of that. Really, I couldn't have chosen a better name if I'd tried. Hallelujah!

I had a great time writing the book. People are saying good things, so apparently I'm not the only one who enjoys it! (This is of course a relief to hear. No matter how much I like it, the rest of the world has to agree for it to go anywhere.) If you'd like to join in the fun, it's available on Amazon as both a paperback and an ebook, and also from a variety of other sellers listed on my website: MaraLynnJohnstone.com. (There are short stories and other fun stuff there too — more to come!)

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