Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Guest Post: Best Selling Author K. A. Tucker

Welcome to the Pearls of Wisdom Author Tour! 

Our very last guest in this awesome tour is none other than our super star Best Selling Author K. A. Tucker, represented by Stacey Donaghy at the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Kathleen is the the author of Ten Tiny Breaths and its soon to be released sequel, One Tiny Lie (order your copy before June 11!), both published by Simon & Schuster, and the Casual Enchantment Series. Her post is titled "Know Where to Start Your Story."

Kathleen's Post:

As an author, you get one chance to hook your reader. One chance to capture their attention; to wow them with your wit, your style, and your imagination. That is with your story’s opening. This holds true for those pitching to agents and/or editors, and to those who have self-published. So, don’t muck it up (that’s the censored version of my warning.) 

Knowing where to begin a novel is my number one biggest challenge. I sweat, I toil, I bang my head against the wall (literally...) until I find the perfect stage. I look for the best way to run and jump in with two feet, while weaving in just enough character introduction and back story to keep the reader knowing what’s going on. It’s the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter. It’s all of it. I firmly believe that if you don’t struggle with finding that perfect stage, then what you have on your screen probably isn’t it.

And you can’t muck that up because readers have very little patience. 
Readers today carry an entire library in their hand, thanks to e-publishing, one-click buttons, and wireless technology. They also lead very busy lives. This means they can and will put your book down and pick up another one if you don’t grab them right away. I’m finding that fans of the YA and the NA genres, especially, are prone to this (myself included).

So how do you find the right stage? If there’s an exact science, someone, please share it with me because I have no clue. In general, I would recommend that you decide what the critical backbone of the story is—a relationship, an event, a chance meeting—and tie closely to that. Directly to it, if you can. Back story should be woven in seamlessly. Don’t bog your reader down with ten pages of details that can be fit in as you develop your plot.
I thought I’d give three examples of very different books where I believe the authors found the perfect opening to tell their stories.

The first book is one I finished last night and is still fresh in my mind. The Opportunist, by Tarryn Fisher. Without going into too much detail, the hero in the novel suffers from amnesia due to a car accident. There’s a whole back story to the two main characters that is important (as you will find as you read on). However, Fisher chooses to begin the story at the exact moment where the heroine runs into the hero and finds out he has amnesia. She grabs you by setting the stage in this accidental run-in, giving you just enough info to know that whatever the heroine did in the past was heinous and if the hero finds out, he is going to hate her guts all over again. She then works the back story in, throughout. Enticing. I stayed up until 2am last night reading it.  

The second example is If You Stay, by Courtney Cole. This is an edgy duo-POV New Adult book. Cole begins it in the male POV, writing a very graphic but gripping scene to demonstrate the character’s state of mind that leads him to an accidental overdose. It’s a punch to the gut but it sets the stage for the rest of this story well.

The third example is Seduction and Snacks, by Tara Sivec. This book is very much about the character, her personality, and how her personality gets her into the situation that she’s in. Sivec spends the entire first chapter in, basically, a rant about why the heroine never wants to have children, before even touching the plot. It’s graphic, it’s crude, and my jaw dropped at least ten times by the time I was through it. I also had stomach pains from laughing so hard. It grabbed my attention immediately. I wanted to know this character. 
I hope this post helped stress how important your opener is. Don’t lollygag your way into a story. You need to grab your readers’ attention right away.

About Kathleen:

Born in small-town Ontario, Kathleen published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She is a voracious reader and the farthest thing from a genre-snob, loving everything from High Fantasy to Chick Lit. Kathleen currently resides in a quaint small town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

Four years ago Kacey Cleary’s life imploded when her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her parents, boyfriend and best friend. Still haunted by memories of being trapped inside, holding her boyfriend’s lifeless hand and listening to her mother take her last breath, Kacey wants to leave her past behind. Armed with two bus tickets, twenty year old Kacey and her fifteen year old sister Livie escape Grand Rapids, Michigan to start over in Miami. Struggling to make ends meet, Kacey needs to figure out how to get by. But Kacey’s not worried. She can handle anything—anything but her mysterious neighbor in apartment 1D.
Trent Emerson has smoldering blue eyes, deep dimples, and perfectly skates that irresistible line between nice guy and bad boy. Hardened by her tragic past, Kacey is determined to keep everyone at a distance, but their mutual attraction is undeniable and Trent is determined to find a way into Kacey’s guarded heart—even if it means that an explosive secret could shatter both their worlds.

Connect with Kathleen:

~ * ~

I would like to give Kathleen and all of the wonderful authors who participated in this wonderfully enlightening tour. Each and every one of you is so very busy, and yet, you've taken the time to share your Pearls of Wisdom with us. You are all truly appreciated. May your generosity come back to you ten fold. 

Thanks also to all of the readers who stop by and share their time with us reading our words. Together, we've all made this tour an amazing success. I hope that you enjoyed it! 

To all of the authors who wanted to contribute but never made it on, thanks for trying! You're welcome to share your wisdom with us anytime.

Happy writing my friends!


  1. i enjoy this. I know how demanding the current reader is, since I am one. I want what I'm reading to take me away and get me back in tme for dinner. I'm nearing the completion of my own memoir, at the shuffling stage...what chapter goes where, etc., and because I'm writing about life in an orphanage, I'm reading Jane Eyre. I've seen every possible movie rendition and thought I knew the story well, but now, reading the book, I am struck by how it simply cannot be rushed, but eaten in dainty bites, chewed carefully and washed down with a swallow of bourbon, not a fine wine. It occurs to me to think this story would be hard pressed to succeed in today's market. It refuses to be rushed. It digests slowly. Push it and you miss things. Charlotte would today be seen as tedious. And in truth, I require serious discipline to slow down and savor her fine writing. And I do see comparisons: poor food, meager amounts, everyone's hair shorn. I think today's reader would forfeit a fine piece of writing. Not that I don't understand this side of the market; I do. But I think it dumbs down both writer and reader. Quickies might be better reserved for other subjects!

  2. Thanks, Kathleen! Even though I'm a little late in responding ... Finding just the right opening has been my bane as a fiction writer. I'm usually pretty good on concepts, enough to get requests from agents for pages. But then I'm rejected because the first few paragraphs didn't grip them. I'm learning, though, to begin in the middle, as some "textperts" advise--a moment of conflict, discomfort, confession ... something to keep e-readers from clicking to some other book, as you point out. Sometimes, I'll come up with an opening sentence out of the blue that grabs me and won't let go. One time I was walking around and this went through my head: "We were attracted to the margins in those years and all our best friends wore tattoos." Eventually, it spun itself into a story about a strange picnic among two couples. Unfortunately, the story was too dark for the tastes of at least one e-zine editor. Well, thanks again for your thoughts. I'm not sure this will ever get back to you, but I'll recommend your book "Ten Tiny Breaths" on my FB page. It's the sort of character-driven literary mystery that appeals to my sensibilities as a writer and reader.