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Thursday, April 2, 2009

First lines with Anya Bast

Hi all – Thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog today!

My name is Anya Bast and I'm the author of over twenty five published works of fiction, mostly of them paranormal and most of them scorching hot. I write for Berkley Sensation, Harlequin Spice and Samhain, among other houses.

Today I thought I'd talk about that critical first line. I love writing that very first line of a novel. Actually, I obsess over them, rewriting them several times before I end up with the final version.

The first line is the first impression the reader gets of your work while they're standing in the bookstore deciding whether or not to buy your book. It's pretty important! It needs to hook the reader and make them want to read on. Your objective is to intrigue the reader, make them wonder what's going on and why.

If you can accomplish that much, then it's your job in the next few paragraphs to dig that hook in a bit deeper and add a dash of emotion, make the reader care about one of characters enough to invest even further.

Here is a sampling of some of the first lines from my books…

1. He looked like sin and seemed like salvation. Salvation for her sluggish libido, anyway. (Witch Fire, June 5, 2007 — Berkley Sensation)

2. How to Catch a Warlock 101. Isabelle could teach that class. (Witch Blood, March 4, 2008 — Berkley Sensation)

3.) Twenty years as a daaeman's handmaiden had prepared Claire for many things, but not this. Nothing could've prepared her for this. (Witch Heart, January 6, 2009 – Berkley Sensation)

4.) Sarafina might've been named for the angels, but she'd always known one day she'd end up in hell. (Witch Fury, June 2, 2009 – Berkley Sensation)

5). Alejandro leaned against the bar and watched the crush of dancers gyrate to the pounding beat in the Blood Spot. Lights flashed through the dark interior of the building, periodically illuminating bodies clad in almost nothing. (The Darkest Kiss, October 2008 — Berkley Heat)

6). The brown-haired businessman beside Cassidy at the roulette wheel held up a chip. “Kiss it for luck?” He gave her smarmy grin and a slow head-to-toe perusal. (The Deal, What Happens in Vegas…. May 2008 — Harlequin Spice)

I guess the reason I feel so strongly about my own first lines is because that's usually how I judge whether or not I'll buy someone else's book. My purchasing test goes something like this if the name on the spine is someone unfamiliar to me:

  • Cover art…yeah, I'm shallow. ;) A good cover will get me to investigate a book further. Doesn't mean I'll buy it, just give it a closer look.
  • Back blurb – Does it sound like "my kind" of book? My kind of book invariably being something of the paranormal or fantastical nature.
  • First line – Does it catch me?

If the book passes all those tests, I skim the first page. If that looks good…GLOM. It's mine. *g*

How about you? What are your buying criteria when you encounter an intriguing book at the bookstore by an author you've never heard of? Some people pay attention to the cover quotes, others have a complicated test of flipping through the book at every forty pages or so and reading.

And how about those first lines?

If you're an author, I invite you to share some of your opening gambits in the comments. If you're a reader, what's your buying criteria and do first lines figure into them? Got any fav first lines you'd like to share from anything you've read lately?

I'll give away an autographed copy of my latest release, Witch Heart, to one commenter.


Becky said...

Hi Anya! I normally choose my books by the back blurb. Second would be the cover. The only time I would choose by the cover first, would be if the cover is facing me and catches my eye. Sometimes I read the first couple line, but normally I do this after I get the book to decide which book I will read first.

Tami said...

Ok, I can't help it.....I choose the cover first. And oddly enough if it "feels" right in my hands. Then the back blurb. I have read way too many though based on cover alone!

My first lines (which isn't nearly as GREAT as yours):

He stormed into his office again. It seemed as if that's all he did lately. He couldn't find his tie last week, his son was constantly bothering him when he was at home, and his meetings were going to be back to back all day long.

Redz said...

first lines, well I cant say I have read some memorable ones lately........ though anything involving abs and a hunky guy will usually stick with me lol

Jaxon said...

I am such a cover judger. If it has a snazzy cover, I will more than likely pick it up. It usually takes a lot of will power for me not to pick up a book, but if the blurb is really good, my will power can lose.

Dianna F said...

The cover art does have something to do with it, along with the blurb on the back. That is if I do not know the author from previous experience reading them. I do not think that I have ever tried to read just the first few lines, cause if I pick up a book and like it I usually do not want to put it down.

Lisa F. said...

I've been in a bookstore and opened a book to the first page and before I realized it, I was through the first chapter. You just have to buy the book after that! Covers can grap my attention but I've never bought a book just on the cover. With the economy the way it is, I'm more particular about buying new authors. I know I'm probably missing some great books, but word of mouth by friends who share the same taste in books is more an indicator on whether or not I'll buy it.

Lauren Dane said...

Hiya, Anya. No need to enter me into the contest since I've got the book but I wanted to come over and say hey.

I love covers. I do. I know, from experience, that authors don't always have a say so I'll still pick up a book with an ugly cover, but a stunning cover calls to my hands...pick me up!

Back blurbs are the same - some are fabulous and others aren't descriptive of the book at all.

I don't usually choose by first lines though. I usually flip to page 40 or so to see what's goin on there. I also like to read excerpts, more for voice than actual story.

As for my own personal first lines? One of my personal faves from Stripped (What Happens in Vegas antho:)

The low, sensual beat brought her onto the stage like a siren

Jamie said...

I have to say that im pretty shallow myself, I go for Cover art, The Name of a book also helps. Then the Back to see if it's interesting, and if it is, i look inside. Sometimes a random page, sometimes the first. just depends on my mood. I loved you books, i havent read Witch Heart yet, but it's next on my list! Isabelle was my fave. She had a great personality. I want to see what happens with Micah! He sounds like a quiet, smart, and super sexy hunk!

Patricia Altner said...

Book covers are first for me. One that is attractive makes me want to investigate more.

I skim the back synopsis and comments by critics, but I don't place a lot of importance there. The best selling point is the beginning of the story. I need to read more than a catchy first line. I will read the first 2-3 pages. By that time I can tell if I like it.

Not a fool proof method, but it works most of the time.

Enchanted Crystals said...

Great Lines!

Barbra Annino

Lea said...

Hi Anya!

Great post and what a lovely blog. :)

I guess I am shallow too, because I zoom in on those great covers as well. However, then I usually read the synopsis and probably the first page of the book. If I'm pulled in then it's on the way to the cash! :)

Best Regards

Greta said...

Just wanted to come by and say hi Anya. I'm a cover junkie. I lov cover art - that is usually what draws me to a book. However what I will remember most from the book is the first lines.

akrasamhainmoon said...

I took Creative Writing several times in college so many, my parents got upset at the cost. But, I learned so much from a great man. Who taught us the first few lines of a book are the most critical to an author. I am in the midst of my first book. I will give away what the first sentence WAS.. before I tore all 6 chapteres to hell and came at it from another angle. "Whoever said being Immortal meant never dying, LIED."
A hot cover catches your eye but, it is what is in the book that I look for. I think the first chapter is the most important. It can catch you or you can't simply say "I can't get into this" and put it down. The first chapter sets the tone for the book, the first line is what hooks the read, the chapter the bait. The cover just nice eye candy or intriguing to call to you to say " Hey check me out."
I already have my cover in mind it will different with each of the three books. I will do a triqueta of books. LOL
I hope that you are at RT Convention. Your books are hard to get at Borders and take weeks to get them in. So really hope I can win this one.
If you want a reminder of who I am I can be found on myspace, you added me as a friend. AkraSamhainMoon. I have had SamhainMoon name for almost 10yrs so yes I have my sights set on Samhain publishing when I get an agent.
BB my friend and you do have great books hook,line, and sinker lol.

Deb G. aka SamhainMoon

Y. Bressani said...

For me, it's a combination of: cover art, title, back blurb, and - strangely enough - how it ends. (I'm a little weird like that)

It's always that combination, though never in the same order.

tetewa said...

Covers and blurbs always attract me to reads by authors I've never read before!

Estella said...

I don't pay much attention to covers. First lines are what convinces me to buy a book of a new author.

Chris said...

Covers, skim the back blurb, sometimes read the first line and sometimes not. I give the book a lot more slack if it has a Nathan Kamp cover. *admits to shallowness and moves on*

I have a friend who decides based on how attractive the spine of the book is on the bookstore shelf - no pressure there, huh?

nightdweller20 said...

I always look at the blurb, that way I get a feel for what the book is about. I don't judge a book by its cover, so that's not a dealbreaker for me. If I like a cover, then kudos to the book, and I don't think I've ever bought a book solely by it's cover. I don't really look at the first lines all that much, because not every author writes really really good first lines, but the rest of the book is awesome, so I don't tend it to judge it by the first few words all that much either. Just mostly the blurb.

Raonaid Luckwell said...

I've had covers snag my attention enough for me to investigate by checking out the back blurb. I never buy according to the front. I first have to read the blurb to see if the book will be something I'd like before I purchase. If its a bust, then I just put it back and look for something that will appeal to me.

And really, no I have never read the first page or first couple lines. I just fear that if I do, then I'll have to have it there, then and now because I wouldn't wanna stop.

Amy S. said...

Hi Anya! Witch Heart sounds great! I usually look for a excerpt to read when I buy a book.

Jessica Kennedy said...

This is one of my most favorite series. Anya does an amazing job with all her witches. I cannot wait for the next book to come!

Sue A. said...

I like to read the blurb and go online for excerpts if I've never read the author before.

Karin said...

When it comes to randomly choosing a book at the bookstore from an author that is new to me, my selection process looks a lot like yours. However, instead of just relying on the first line, I usually scan a few pages in to make sure I'll find the story interesting.

As for first lines, though, I agree they can capture attention. If the first line is bad, I sometimes don't even move past it to find out if the stuff that follows is any good. One of my favorite first lines is the opening line for Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice.

CrystalGB said...

Hi Anya. For me, what gets me to pick up a book is the cober, the back cover blurb, and the excerpt inside the front cover.

Pamk said...

Usually it's the cover that grabs my attention first either the total cover or the title one of the two. And if the back cover blurb does it for me then I buy it.

blackroze37yahoo.com said...


blackroze37yahoo.com said...

i choose alot from covers, and the back, but now iknow more author names and watch for those authors,
came from your blog

flchen1 said...

Hi, Anya,
Although first lines can be real attention grabbers (or not!), I tend to go more by the blurbs and the first few pages, plus any buzz I've heard and author interviews and that sort of thing. And because my memory is generally terrible, even those terrific first lines don't tend to stick with me very long--how sad!

shtteredglass said...

Some things I take into consideration when purchasing books:
1. Has Amazon told me I would like this book based on my purchase/browsing history.
2. Does the back of the book sound like something I would enjoy?
3. Is the cover art appealing. While less appealing cover art won't stop me in the end, I may take longer to pick it up. Or I'll get it at the library instead.

Sara M

Regina said...

I like cover art well enough and blurbs are great, but I am devoted to certain authors and series and will purchase no matter what! LOL I am OCD about reading series and in order ; ) And if I like an author, I generally will try almost anything they write. At least once.

Angela said...

I like the covers and blurbs too but I also choose books by author. If I like an author I read all they have written and will search until I find all their books to read. So guess what led me here? A friend recommended your books to me and now you are in my "must read" file.

Lisa F. said...

Was a winner chosen for the copy of Witch Heart?

Nicole said...

If the cover catches my eye, I will read the synopsis of the book to decide whether I want to read it. Then, if the price is right I buy it.

Tami said...

Congrats to Patricia Altner for winning the copy of Witch Heart! I have sent contact info to you and Anya!

Thanks for all the comments.