Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ANYA BAST is Our Special Guest Today

Hi all – Thanks so much to Inspiration, Ink 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, most 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.

Available NOW from
Berkley Publishing
ISBN-10: 0425225534
ISBN-13: 978-0425225530


Charlene said...

Good morning, Anya and Pink Ladies:)

When I'm picking out a book, I am drawn by the cover, read the back, and the first paragraph.

Will you give us a preview about moving from EPub to Print? I'm looking forward to the book signing and workshop.

Devon Matthews said...

Hi Anya! Nice to "see" you again!

First lines, even first pages, drive me nuts, too. I obsess over them.

The only first line of someone elses that's stuck in my mind for any length of time is from K.M. Moning's Dark Highlaner.--"Dageus McKelter walked like a man and talked like a man, but in bed he was pure animal." The line is actually an author intrusion, but who cares. ;o)

When browsing authors I haven't read, I look at covers first. If one catches my eye, I pick up the book. Then I skim the first page, trying to get a feel for the author's voice. If there are too many things that jar me--head-hops, author intrusions that aren't exactly riveting, or just a plain weak voice--I know I'll never make it past the first few pages and I put it back.

Cover quotes mean nothing to me because, well, we all should know by now that an endorsement by a well-known author does not guarantee a great read. It's usually an author doing someone she knows a favor. But it looks nice to have one on the cover.

Best of luck with "Witch Heart!" Hope you sell tons!

Charlene said...


Dark Highlander sounds like it would be a fun book to read!

Anya Bast said...

Charlene -- I thought I'd talk about my experience moving from epub to NY print. I was in epub for years first and probably never would have landed a NY contact if I hadn't been.

I thought I'd talk about the similarities and the differences in the process and over experience.

But I want to keep in informal and answer as many questions as people have to ask. :)

Devon -- AWESOME first line. (And I obsess too much too)

Charlene said...

Thank you for answering my question, Anya! What I like about Witch Heart is that the heroine is wonded and must learn who she is as a person. It will be exciting to see how she will change!

Jessica Kennedy said...

Anya! I <3 you. I've read Witch Heart already so no need to enter me....but if you've got ARCs of Witch Fury, that I'll take!

Anywho, I read on a Kindle so I hardly ever pick out a book because of anything you mentioned above. Basically, I read a TON of blogs. I read others reviews, I follow authors I'm familiar with, and I <3 series w/ a passion.

If I'm in the store, and a cover catches my eye, or the title of the book, I skim somewhere towards the middle to get a glimpse of what's happening in there. I NEVER read the first line of the book. Why? Sometimes it's too much about what's going on or it's not. Either way the first line doesn't usually influence my purchases.

After reading your first lines above I'm finding that I like your first lines. :)

Then again, you're one of my favorite Witch authors! :)

Looking forward to Witch Fury!

kalynnick said...

I have to admit, one of the first things that attract me to a book is its cover art. If I like the cover art then I will give the book a try , which sometime isn't a good thing since the book doesn't end up being hot as the cover was. I also look at the back blurb and if I like it then I will give the book a try. These two rules only apply to new authors for me but if I already read books by an author I like then it doesn’t matter about the book cover or the back blurb, I will read the book anyway.

Anya Bast, I'm currently reading Witch Blood (by the way I LOVED Witch Fire) and I been dying to know if are you planning on writing a book about Stefan Faucheux? I know he is the bad guy and all but so far in Witch Blood, I feel really sorry for him. It looks like he had really bad life and that’s why he is the way he is but I really think he has a good heart deep inside and that he just need a good women to make him see that. I haven’t finish reading Witch blood and maybe it turns out you have killed him in the end book so if that’s the case then disregard my question.

Future Mrs. Ashley Rose said...

Hi Anya!

Thanks for blogging today. =]

When choosing a new book, the title and cover is what catches my eye first. If it looks like something I would like, then I turn the book over to the back or open the cover and read the blurb. It's funny because I hardly ever read the first line. I never realized it until I read your post. But I have to say, my favorite opening lines are from Christine Feehan's Dark Prince..." "I will give you one last chance, little one." He spoke the words in a harsh, hoarse voice, as if they tore painfully in his throat. "I will find the strength to let you go if you say it. Now. Right now." " How could you not be persuaded to read more with an entry like that, haha!
I refuse to pay attention to reviews or cover comments because they are a waste of time. I'd rather judge a book myself than have someone do it for me.
I write a lot but have gone no where near the steps to publishing. Maybe one day I will push out something brilliant =]

Thanks Again!
Ashley C.

Anya Bast said...

Jessica -- Thank you! I hope you enjoy Witch Fury. :)

kalynnick -- Thanks for you comment! I won't give any Witch Blood spoilers in my answer.

I've been fielding that question pretty frequently. I considered redeeming Stefan because I love redeeming the bad guys when I can (I LOVE my bad guys and Stefan is by far one of my favs) But Stefan just too BAD to be reformed. I took an inventory of everything he's done and decided he's not redeemable.

Ashley -- That's a great opening. So romantic! Good luck with your writing. :)

kalynnick said...

aww :( sure your wouldn't change your mind about Stefan?..I mean sure he is bad but like you said, I too love bad boys.


vickie said...


I'll admit the cover draws me in, but I also look at character names, and read the blurb. That gives me an overall feel for what to expect, and builds anticipation.

If its an unknown author, I flip to the first few chapters, and read the first paragraphof each chapter. Of course that's after reading the blurb. Then, I look for a love scene to see how its written. (for a feel for the author's voice) If its a series, I give it a perusal in the pages for other character names that may show up in the next one. (Series, gotta love 'em)

Julie Garwood is an author who comes to mind with her first line zingers opening each book. She also opens each chapter with a catchy phrase or sentence.

"He would never belong. It seemed to him this was one of the truths of his life." For some reason this opening has always stuck with me. Its Beyond a Wicked Kiss by Jo Goodman. The complete opening paragraph sold it to me.

Actually, I never know when I pick up a book, if I'll be taking it home or not. Usually I pick it up and hope for the best. But, when all is said and done, if I hate to put one back on the shelf, I know its a keeper.

I'm not an author myself, just an avid reader, who recognizes the talent and determination that goes into creating a work of genius that will give us hours of entertainment.

Thank you and best wishes.

Fantasy Dreamer said...

If the book isn't by an author I have already read, I'll be the first admit that the book cover grabs my attention first then I read the back cover. I really don't pay attention to quoted reviews on the book itself. If the back cover pulls me in, I buy it! If I'm iffy about the buying the book, I'll see if there is teaser in the front pages.

Marnie Colette said...

Well if its an author I am familiar with it goes like this..

1)Back Blurb
2)Opening line
3)Cover Art

If its an author I am NOT familiar with...
1) Cover Art (Draws you to it)
2) Genre Classification (spine)
3) Back Blurb
4)Opening Line

Cate Masters said...

Hi Anya:
Great post! Thanks for the invitatino to post opening lines. Here are mine from Reflections, to be released in October from Shadowfire Press:
When Lissa removed the pan of popcorn shrimp from the oven, the tiny forms reminded her of mangled body parts, twisted and mutilated. She scraped the image from her mind as she scraped the shrimp onto a serving platter. Such thoughts had plagued her since Selena had set her grandmother’s old crystal ball on the dining room credenza and hung the matching mirror above it.
Looking forward to reading Witch Heart! Best of luck with the release.

Future Mrs. Ashley Rose said...

I know this is Anya's day, but I am curious to see how the lovely ladies of Inspiration, Ink. answer this post. =]

Also, Anya, I visited your website and downloaded the free reads, Fury and Tranquility. I started reading Fury when I was in class and I must say, whew! I look forward to reading it when I am alone, haha!

Ashley C.

Teresa Reasor said...

Hey Anya:
I'm so pleased you could join us.

If it's a writer I don't know, usually the cover art will draw me in, then I'll read the blurb, and then I'll open the book at random and read a few pages. And the first line doesn't hurt.

Damn thing fits like a coffin lid. Lieutenant “Hawk” Yazzie eyed the edge of what had once been an outer wall of a building balanced above him.

That's the beginning of the contemporary military romance I'm submitting now.

I hope it catches the imagination of some editor.

I'm really looking forward to seeing you at the KYRW workshop!!

Teresa R.

Karin said...

Your process of choosing a book sounds a lot like the way I choose a book, Anya. It's really the first line that grabs me. However, I go one step further. If the first line grabs my attention, I'll usually peak a few pages in and use that as the ultimate deciding factor on whether or not I'll be buying the book by a new author.

Marnee Jo said...

Hi Anya!
I'm new to this blog, but I think I buy like you do. Cover art snags me. Then the first lines and back copy convince me. I also read the first couple paragraphs, if the first lines are good.

I tend to prefer third person to 1st person stories, so that's something else.

I also read from recommends, both reader and writer recommends.

I just finished reading Witch Fire and I'm going to pick up Witch Blood and Witch Heart at B&N this weekend. I really love the heat and the world building you do!

Leah said...

Hey Anya! It was great seeing you Saturday! Hope you had a good time at the signing.

You have some wonderful first lines and they definitely draw the reader into the story in a hurry.

I have to admit I love a good book cover. I always read the back blurb too but that's it. I read so much and figure I'll give the author a try. If I don't like it, maybe somebody else will. Of course I have so many auto buys and I don't even bother to read the back blurb before snagging them. What can I say, I'm a bookaholic.


Amy S. said...

Hi Anya! Great post! I like books that have excerpts on front page. First lines really do draw you into the book too.

Kytaira said...

The way I choose books in print is different than with ebooks. I first read you when you were only in ebook. Love the Nordan books BTW! I choose ebooks by searching the genre on the pubs website. Then I read the excerpt.

For a print book at the store, my eye is first caught by the cover. Then I look at the spine to make sure what genre. I avoid romantic suspense but love paranormals. Then I read the back blurb and inside one if there is one. I rarely read the first line.

Thanks for the interview!

Anya Bast said...

Thank you all so, SO much for stopping by and for your lovely comments. :) This was a lot of fun.

Marnee -- I like limited third the best. I like third person too. I dislike omniscient, and usually pass on those books.

Debby said...

Your books are so great. I a m missing some though.

Genella deGrey said...

Hello Anya -

The cover art usually catches my eye first. I read the back cover next and if I'm intrigued, then I try and zero in on the time period within the first few pages.


Chris said...

The title and then the cover art catch me first. (Mmmm... Nathan Kamp covers...) Then the back cover blurb. I don't often get to the first line when I'm perusing books like that.

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