Tuesday, May 01, 2007


How do you start a book?

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the first words you write will set everything moving at a cracking pace and you never look back, or stop to think “Where did that come from?” until it's all done and suddenly the book is out there and being talked about.


“Good book?”

A deep velvety voice penetrated the cold, swirling mists of the Yorkshire Moors, jerking Ellie back into the twenty-first century.

Those words never changed.

I wrote them and the book galloped away. Unfortunately, it was in totally the wrong direction. I was supposed to be writing a Harlequin Romance. This was rapidly turning into a Katie Fforde style chick-lit. Totally female focussed, with batty characters coming out of the woodwork, but the hero a shadowy figure waiting to appear when I could find somewhere to cram him in.

I’d written two and half chapters when I realised that it just wouldn’t do. And no matter what i did I couldn’t fix it. For the first time in years, I abandoned a book and wrote something else. (The Sheikh’s Guarded Heart, if you’re interested.) Then I was committed to The Valentine Bride. But Ellie (because she was a true heroine) just wouldn’t quit and I thought about what was wrong, and how I could fix it.

It all went wrong, I finally realised (dumb author moment) when I let her walk out of the house. The solution -- how simple it seems in retrospect -- was to keep her there. Have her move in . Which also took her out of the orbit of the batty neighbours who were taking over the book, solving two problems with a single solution.

Then, because I needed to build up to the initial meeting, invest it with more importance, I wrote a new beginning. It started out as a prologue, but just grew . But even then Ellie would keep walking away. So I nobbled her knee and gave the hero a conscience, which that fixed that problem.

Keeping the hero and heroine together is one of the most challenging parts of writing series romance. When it becomes almost impossible, you need to find yourself a crucible, something that keeps them locked together. In this case it was the house. Ellie’s inspiration; Ben’s fading, empty home and finally, I had a book.

Oh, and just in case you're interested, here’s the new beginning –

‘LADY March?’

Ellie’s tongue was glued to the roof of her mouth. This was such a mistake. She wasn’t a “lady”. She shouldn’t be here. She should own up right now...

‘I apologize for keeping you waiting,” Jennifer Cochrane, continued, but there was a crisis at the printers I had to deal with.

Unable to speak, she attempted an answering smile. Even in her borrowed clothes, hair swirled up in a sophisticated style and wearing more make-up than she’d normally wear in a month, she’d been expecting someone to point a finger at her, shout “impostor” the moment she’d stepped within the hushed portals of the offices of MILADY magazine.

She’d never meant to take it this far.

And if you want to know what happens after Ellie takes her head out of those nineteenth century clouds, check out the excerpt at my website

THE SECRET LIFE OF LADY GABRIELLA is on sale now in the US and UK and will be available in Australia and New Zealand in June.


Linda Conrad said...

Hey Liz,

Great opening! (both the old and new) I'm impressed by how you grabbed the runaway back and made it behave -- nice work!

I actually dreamed a first line once. :) It was for the first book in my Night Guardian series and it started the whole thing off! Wish I could do that again, but mostly I have to fight the first lines.


Liz Fielding said...

Linda, I once woke with the opening of a book in my head and dashed to the computer and got it down. (Dating Her Boss, because I know someone will ask!) I keep hoping it will happen again, but like you, mostly I just have to wrestle them down on the page.

Lois said...

Very cool! :) There's only one first line that I remember reading that really sticks out. . . "Ah hell, it broke." LOL Very cool. :)

Oh, and it's from Baby I'm Yours by CAtherine Mann. :)


Maureen said...

I rarely remember the opening line of a book but I like yours. I never thought that characters in a books wouldn't behave and do what you wanted.

Mona said...

Hey Liz,

It's a very interesting topic though I'm afraid I'm not very much of a first line person. But I liked your idea in writing, that sometimes the opening lines are the way to move everything in a book for the writer.

Liz Fielding said...

Loved it Lois!

I do collect favourite first lines and have some on my website (I think). Susan Elizabeth Phillips has some that are just fabulous.


Liz Fielding said...

Maureen -- my characters never do what I tell them. Sometimes I write an entirely different book to the one that I carefully plotted out. I could probably use the same plot outline over and over it's so utterly pointless me making one.

Michele L. said...

What an interesting subject! I never thought about the opening line but I have heard it is the hardest one to write sometimes. I review books and I find that the first paragraph is always the hardest to write.

I don't have a favorite opening line but I sure have a lot of favorite books!


Unknown said...

Hm...Even though I have read tons of books and will hopefully read tons more in the future, I dont think I have ever given much though to the 1st line of a book...or that the characters wouldnt act the way the author wished them to...

Thinking back...I dont have any special/favorite lines either, but like Michelle I also have lots of favorite books.


Unknown said...

What a great opening! I always enjoy hearing how ideas come about.