Guest Post: The story behind ‘Going Home’ – Harry Potter, Spy School & Dystopia

GoingHomeThe lovely Emma Lindhagen is one of my favourite writer friends. In this post, Emma talks about her inspiration from the Harry Potter series, and how her ideas morphed (again and again and again) over time to become her debut book, Going Home.

I very vividly recall when the first seed of what was to become Going Home, my debut novella, begun growing in my mind. It was in 2001 and I was visiting my grandmother over Easter. I’d arrived a few days before the rest of my family and spent a good part of that time on gran’s sofa reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which had just been released in Swedish. My mind wandered and I decided that I, too, would write a book about an amazing school. Unlike Hogwarts, my school would be a school for spies, where they would learn things like scaling walls and hand-to-hand combat, foreign languages and cracking codes.

I never actually wrote anything from this version of the story, not a single scene, but I drew pixel dolls in black catsuits on my computer and made time-tables and floor plans for the school.

Over the years, the idea morphed and morphed again. The spy school became, like its inspiration, a school for magic. It moved from some high-tech building to an underground city, and then to a manor in the country side (with an underground city attached in some versions). It was around this time that Orryn, Thea and Kella, Going Home’s protagonist and most central secondary characters, came into being.

Originally it was Kella, tall, powerful and confident; her physical appearance inspired by Tia Carrere in the TV show Relic Hunters, who was the main character.  She was to be the principal of the school, and her lover’s estranged and messed-up older sister Orryn was just a side character. From that point on, I really can’t say which order things happened in. Characters came, went, changed.

A dystopian society, based on the ideal that homogeneity is the ideal and heterogeneity is dangerous, sprawled out around the school, its details and peculiarities popping up here and there in my head, its bloody birth coming to me in a flash of inspiration one afternoon. Magic shrunk from being a central part of the story to being just one of the many deviations that could warrant persecution in this world.

Gradually, and I’m still not quite sure how, Orryn came to be the central character of the story. With every change I made in her backstory, and I made a lot of them, she called to me more and more until, somehow, the story was hers.

Even with my main character firmly established, I struggled for years with what the first book in this world would actually be about. Many different ideas were sketched up, maybe sampled in a scene or two and then scrapped. Dragon fossils, vanished uncles and lawless prison island all got tossed out the window.

Then one afternoon in early 2013 I was sitting in my kitchen complaining to a friend over a cup of tea about how badly I wanted to write Orryn’s story during the upcoming Camp NaNoWriMo but how I just couldn’t think of a good main plot for the book. Exasperated, I found myself saying “I wish I could skip all the action and just talk about these characters!” In the next breath, I realized I could. And the rest, as they say, is history.

You can get your copy of Going Home from Amazon, and you can follow Emma on Twitter @emmalindhagen. To learn more about Emma and her writing, go to her website,

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