It’s here! After a cold, gray winter, spring has (finally) sprung. In fact, the showy Bradford pear blossoms have come and gone. The daffodils I bought in a pot weeks ago just dropped their yellow flowers. The dogwood and redbud trees’ lacy displays adorn the valley behind my house, and the majestic purple irises are coming out all through my neighborhood. Can you tell I like this season? It’s especially beautiful here in Tennessee. This is my white viburnum in bloom and the lawn looking green before the summer heat browns it out.
With winter behind us, I’m into new beginnings—and as a writer I love great first lines in books. I’m remembering a favorite I’ve reread so many times I can quote from it. Katherine by Anya Seton is an historical novel based on real people (the hero is John of Gaunt, son of Edward III) and events, but it starts like this:
“In the tender greentime of April Katherine set forth at last upon her journey with the two nuns and the royal messenger.”
Wow. That first line does a lot of work. Who, What, When. Because of the nuns, we can guess Katherine is leaving a convent where she has been raised and educated. “At last” tells us she’s eager to go. Having escorts was the norm in medieval times so that’s not unusual, but what’s this about a royal messenger? The Where and Why are answered on that same page—and every time, I’m hooked.
In my own writing, I try to come up with opening lines that set the tone for the book. I’m not sure I get them right that often, but this is from Danny Boy, my first cowboy book: “There were only three songs that could make Erin Brodey Sinclair cry.” She then explains what they are, and why. “Old Lang Syne” (she’s spent so many New Year’s Eves alone), “My Funny Valentine” (she’s had one memorable romance in her life--guess who), and “Danny Boy” (the song, like the man, can make her weep buckets).
More recently, in the third book of my Kansas Cowboys series (Heartwarming, November 2017), “Olivia watched her ex husband dance with his bride.” The divorce was painful for Olivia in the first book of the series so I thought his second wedding made a good place for her to start.
The fourth book (Wannabe Cowboy, awaiting its new title) will come out in January 2019, and I just tweaked a new proposal for a fifth book in the series.
Do you have any books on your keeper shelf that you’ve reread until the pages are falling out? Any favorite first lines to share?
And, oh, here’s another from Cheryl Reavis’s book, A Crime of the Heart: “He hadn’t thought it would hurt so much to see her again.” Honestly, that one just sent a shiver down my spine. Again. Lovely.