Favorite First Lines

When the manuscript for In Hot Pursuit came across my desk, I read the first line and immediately knew I was going to like this book.

The life path for Quinn Wells encountered a major detour on an afternoon in mid-May—one of those close to scorching afternoons when office workers shuffled paper or checked movie times, waiting for the clock to tick-tick to going-home time.

The rest of the book was just as awesome, and it ended up as one of our launch titles.

I asked Karen Sue Burns, the author of In Hot Pursuit, to tell Crimson how she got started writing. Here’s what she said:

Karen: The certainty that I would grow into an author solidified in middle school, and stayed with me for a good six years.

I eagerly began college with my major as journalism, no creative writing degrees in those days. My goal was to be an investigative reporter for a big city newspaper, uncovering scandal and corruption. After being wildly successful as a reporter, I saw myself moving on to fiction and becoming a world famous author.

At eighteen, I had no doubt I would achieve these goals. However, women’s liberation came to the college campus and I switched my major to business and accounting, where very few women dared to tread. By golly, I’d show those boys I could hang with debits and credits and macroeconomics. Right on.

Fast forward a couple of decades working as a CPA and two children leaving home … finally, free at last … to get back to writing.

I love romance stories with gutsy heroines and larger-than-life heroes. I like lots of action and dialogue and less of those long narrative passages of setting, inner thoughts, and clothing description. I enjoy the plot moving forward with lots of stuff happening to the characters and forcing them, especially the heroine, out of their comfort zone and into new and uncontrolled situations. Heroines with moxie grab my attention.

To write a novel with such a heroine, I decided to “write what you know.” I’m the controller at a liberal arts university in Houston and at work one day thought: What would be a truly awful thing to happen to my employer? We were in the middle of a fundraising capital campaign and I knew without a doubt that losing the premier gift for the campaign would be a disaster. In my musings, the heroine would catch the thief and hook up with a sexy man.

I decided have the chase go to Las Vegas as I love Sin City and then to Rome as it’s my favorite city in Europe. Yes, I’ve walked the same streets as Quinn and Logan. In Hot Pursuit is definitely the product of “write what you know.”

Crimson: I love that Karen used her work background to write her novel. In Hot Pursuit rings true because of that. But accuracy isn’t all that matters in novel writing! So is being able to grab a reader’s attention — which is why I thought her first line was so promising. It made me believe I was in the hands of a good storyteller. So, what are the first lines of your favorite novels? Or, what are your favorite first lines of any novel? Tell Crimson in the comments.

In Hot Pursuit

10 thoughts on “Favorite First Lines

  1. Inés

    I can see why those first lines drew you in. I’m intrigued…
    Favorite first line: In second grade, I was tormented by this older girl who loved to chase me and spit on my legs for some reason. I hid out in the library one day and grabbed a book, so I looked like I belonged there. The first line of the novel was: “Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.” I still remember how excited I felt because I knew I’d be somewhere else for a while.

  2. KristinaKnight

    What a great line! Ines, love that line from Wizard of Oz, too.

    One of my faves is from Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me – Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of a loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men.

    I like it because it sets up the story so well – Minerva’s been used, Minerva still believes in love…and she’s going to find one of the last, good men.

  3. Micah Persell

    Excellent question! The book that made me absolutely love reading was The Outsiders, which I read for the first time in eighth grade. The first line and the last line are exactly the same, which is such an amazingly cool thing for an author to do:
    “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
    P.S. ALL of those characters are so dreamy. I had fictional crushes on all of them at some point. Still do…

    1. Erin Richards

      The Outsiders was the book that inspired me to write. I love it. Love that first line!

      Good post and it was great getting to know Karen a little more. In Hot Pursuit sounds like a fantastic book! Love the first line too.

  4. Sharon Clare

    I love your first line, Karen, I can feel the heat and hear the clock. Nice! You hooked me too!

    Your opening reminded me a bit of Harlan Coben’s chapter one in Just One Look: There are sudden rips. There are tears in your life, deep knife wounds that slash through your flesh. Your life is one thing, then it is shredded into another. It comes apart as though gutted in a belly slit. And then there are those moments when your life simply unravels. A loose thread pulled. A seam gives way. The change is slow at first, nearly imperceptible. For Grace Lawson, the unraveling began at the Photomat.

    1. KarenSueBurns

      Sharon…Wow, I’m honored that my first line reminds you of Harlan Coben. He’s one of my favorite authors as well. I follow him on Twitter and he really seems like a good guy. Also, speaking of Twitter, Patricia Cornwell is a great author to follow…she’s very generous with what she tweets.

      Thanks everyone, your kind words mean a bunch to a new author!!