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Those hard-working gnomes at Puddle (HQ), recently tracked down the top three finalists in last month’s Meager Puddle of Limelight Award for Best Opening Line. Authors Chris Redding, Jaine Fenn (aka [info]maeve_the_red) and the eventual winner, E.F.Watkins, answered some pretty searching questions about their work, writing in general and of course, opening lines.   
 
Which came first, the opening line or the story idea?
E.F.Watkins: Absolutely, the story idea. ONE BLOOD will be an 80,000-word novel, so there’s a lot more to it than the opening incident! But the concept of the scene—something that appears to be a grisly murder but is not quite what it seems—did come to me early on as a good way to kick off the book.

Jaine Fenn: The story was one of those rare ones came to me almost fully formed, and once I’d moved on from the random-scribbling-of-notes stage and sat down to write, the first line just arrived in my head and came out of my fingers, which was great. Things got rather harder after that … 

Chris Redding:
The story idea. That always comes first, but I cannot begin the story until I have the opening line. This was the second one for this story and I love it because it describes me. 
 
If the story idea came first, how many times did the opening line change before you settled on the one you use now?
Jaine Fenn:The opening line is one bit of the story I’m happy with; since finishing it a few weeks ago I’ve realized that this story will need a lot of work before I send it out, not least to reduce its length.

Chris Redding: Answered that above. Sorry.  Two opening lines that's it. 

E.F.Watkins: I wrote the first chapter and then fiddled with the line a bit. I knew what I wanted to suggest, but it took some work to make it also sound good. You hear so much about the importance of opening lines that I wanted it to be a grabber.

Tell us a little about the story/novel ie: Is it finished/published?
Chris Redding: It's a novel, ALONG COMES PAULY, finished and was contracted by a publisher that went out of business. I plan on expanding it a bit in 2010 and shopping it around. It's a romantic comedy. 

Jaine Fenn:
THE SHIPS OF ALEPH is a novella based on an idea I had while world-building for my fourth novel, BRINGER OF LIGHT. The events in it bear no direct relation to the novel, but I hope this story might one day see print in its own right, though given its length (the first draft stands at approx. 13,500 words) it’s likely to be a tough sell.

E.F.Watkins: I wrote the first chapter and then fiddled with the line a bit. I knew what I wanted to suggest, but it took some work to make it also sound good. You hear so much about the importance of opening lines that I wanted it to be a grabber.

I’ve just finished the first draft, and my biggest challenge now is to get an equally strong ending! ONE BLOOD will be a prequel to DANCE WITH THE DRAGON, which was my first published book. OB is a paranormal thriller/dark romance with a vampire or two, but any resemblance to TWILIGHT, etc., is purely coincidental. It’s a romance in the sense that it brings together the hero and heroine of DWTD. But it’s dark because they don’t plan to end up together, and for most of the book she’s seriously not into the idea. First, it could be very hazardous to her health, and second, everything she knows about this guy is awful! So for most of the book, you’re pretty much expecting one of them to kill the other--you’re just not sure which one will “get it in the neck,” so to speak. 

As a reader, does a good opening line make a difference to you?
E.F.Watkins: At least a “good” one, yes. A very slow opening, or a first line that’s badly written, can put me off a book. But I certainly read beyond that to see if it picks up, or if I misunderstood something. A really great first line does give me confidence that the writer knows what he/she is doing and the rest will be a good read. 

Jaine Fenn: Yes, but only if the rest of the story delivers on the promise of that opening line. If a writer sets something up I want them to pay it off, otherwise I feel cheated. 

 Chris Redding: Yes and no. I won't put a book down because of a so-so opening line, but I've been known to just read that and decide if I'll buy the book. 

What are your long term goals as a writer? 
Jaine Fenn:Most of what I currently write is set in a single future timeline. At the moment I’m enjoying working on the Hidden Empire series of novels, which are set 7,000 years into that timeline. I’m lucky enough to have a book deal with a major UK publisher (Gollancz) who are putting out the first five books. Obviously I would like the series to be picked up by a US publisher, but I realise things are pretty tight across the pond right now. At some point I’ll move on from the Hidden Empire stuff, but there’s still a fair few books to go.
As I cut my teeth on short stories I hope to be able to continue to write – and ideally sell – shorts too.
And it goes without saying that whatever the future holds, when it comes to the craft of writing, I hope I’ll keep learning and continuing to improve. 

 
Chris Redding: NY Times Bestseller list?
I'd like to make enough to not have to work my part time job. And if my boss is reading this, I still love my job and am not going anywhere.  

E.F.Watkins: To be able to make at least part of my living from my fiction, and ideally my whole living! For most of my life, I’ve written my novels while working full-time, and I dream about the luxury of being able to do it full-time. Doesn’t everyone? In the short term, I have never written a series before this, but if ONE BLOOD gets published it will be part of a series (the “first” in terms of the events). I can envision a third and last book in that line, though the idea is still fuzzy. I’m also working on a mystery series that involves a reluctant-psychic sleuth; it’s lighter, first-person and with more humor.  
   
You can find the second half of this interview here. 
 



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Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there


No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there















 











THE MEAGER PUDDLE OF LIMELIGHT AWARDS


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