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Today, I’d like to share with you my musings about those very first pages of a novel. As we all know, it’s not an easy task to create a stunning first chapter, to hook our readers. Some of us would say that we needed to produce an extraordinary first page or maybe even better, a spectacular first paragraph, if not an impressive first sentence. Well, this pursuit of excellence may lead to a kind of fixation. For a writer. But what our readers really think about that?
A few years back, I brought two books with me on my vacation: Da Vinci Code and Memoir of a Geisha. Lying under the sun of Virginia Beach, I devoured Arthur Golden’s book cover to cover in no time. Then I turned to my husband for a switch. He adored reading Dan Brown’s thriller and now was looking forward to a pleasant time with the Japanese Geisha.
Some two hours later, my husband came back from a beach volleyball party and he found me asking him a very odd question.
- You told me this is a thriller?
- Yeah, isn’t it great? My husband grinned.
- You must be joking. It started with a prolog, then a wake up scene in the first chapter…
- Why don’t you just enjoy it as it is, I mean as a reader? Trust me, you’ll love it.
I opened my mouth but no word came out. My husband was right, Da Vinci Code became one of the best thrillers I have ever read, although I’m still not sure about its beginning. But funny thing, my husband confessed later on that he hated the first few chapters of Memoir of a Geisha. He wished he could bring Chiyo to Kyoto Geisha House himself. He just got enough of that small fishing village. I laughed and realized how a reader’s taste can differ from one individual to another. They don’t think about rules, they want to be entertained, discover new things, find the characters likable. They want to have a good time.
Knowing that fact, I relaxed and strived to become a good storyteller instead of worrying about my first sentence, or my first paragraph, or my first page. Of course, I do feel something special when a sentence, a paragraph is just right, when the opening scene is relevant to the plot that follows and it sets the tone of the writing style but without the entire story being convincing and well-written, it means no more than a smart sentence.
I’m almost done and my husband is reading over my shoulder—with a wicked smile. I often heard the award-winning authors say thanks to their spouses. We marry them because they know too much about our weakness, right?
As for my story, the opening paragraph of Heavenly Cursed is…
Every single soul in Chairman Mao’s new China was taught that liberated women must hold up half the sky.
‘Tried and true,’ Mei Yanli recalled the supreme leader’s famous mantra as she held a heavy glass door open for her boss. He walked through it, lips curled in a self-satisfied sneer. Not quite put off by his rude behavior, Mei only rolled her eyes and followed him outside.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I live in Montreal, a cosmopolitan city in North America.
My life is mostly a long, tranquil river, and I use my imagination to change the course of this quiet existence.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Heavenly Cursed is a story of epic, though peculiar, love between two unlikely people who have special abilities beyond that of ordinary humans. One of them relishes to the newfound, limitless freedom while the other one just tries to matter.
The idea came to me first one sunny afternoon, on a hiking trip. A small vixen crossed my path and, for the fleeting moment our eyes met. I blinked and the animal disappeared into the bushes. Yet, a strange feeling remained with me for a heartbeat—as though the vixen passed to me some kind of mysterious power.
I laughed and soon forgot all about it until the very evening when I sat down and began to write. And the strange vixen eyes came to life again.
How do you create your characters?
I love to create controversial protagonists that can’t be easily fooled by anyone. Emotion, audacity and willfulness are the key to their actions.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
When I went to boarding school, one of our teachers made us write a diary. But since my daily routine was so uneventful, I came up with an idea to begin each sentence with what if…
My teacher admonished me for making fun of him and my friends said what if I wrote something funny and pictured him as a villain.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I write in my living room listening to the music that inspires me. It’s absolutely essential. On the other hand, drinks make me drowsy pretty fast and after two glasses of wine I’m dead to the world.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
By trying to figure out which of those ideas that run hither and thither in my head may appeal to the reader: more action or more tension, what my protagonists are going to do next?
What do you like to read?
I read everything that I consider well written and compelling. Just to mention a few of my favorite books: the Count of Monte Cristo, the Hunger Games, Bonjour la Tristesse (Hello the Sadness), Pride and Prejudice, David Copperfield, Wuthering Heights, and so on, and so forth.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Write with passion and create something unique, because we are first and foremost storytellers.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you for having me in your website. I’m very honored.