Monday, December 16, 2013

4 Inspired Openings: Hook Your Readers Without Them Knowing Why by Helen M Douglas

AFTER EDEN is British author Helen Douglas' debut novel, which came out November 7th. It takes a look at how perspective changes the way we see things in the world, and Eden's world is about to change drastically. Please welcome Helen to the blog!

Hook Your Readers Without Them Knowing Why by Helen Douglas

Eden Anfield lives in a hamlet five miles away from the small town where she goes to school. Her parents died when their car came off the edge of a narrow coastal road and plunged into the sea, almost killing Eden as well. Since then, she’s lived a quiet life with no risk-taking. Her aunt is over-protective and Eden has accepted that this is what’s necessary in order to stay safe.

Her world is small and insular. Life consists of the cottage she shares with her aunt and her school.

When Ryan Westland, the new boy, arrives at her school, everything changes. He’s from somewhere very different and as she gets to know him, the world (and universe) starts to open up.

This is not the description you’ll get on Goodreads or Amazon. But this is the description that best explains the inspiration for After Eden. I grew up in a smallish town and went to a smallish school. When you’re young, you perceive the world as it’s presented to you by your friends, family and circumstances. It’s only as you grow up and break away that you realise other families are unlike yours and other people view the world differently.

Obviously TV and the internet open the world up enormously these days, but we are still very influenced by the people in our lives. I wanted to write about a character who is just on the cusp of realising there’s a big world out there and she knows nothing about it.

I’d just received a telescope for my birthday when I started writing this book. It opened up the universe for me. It’s one thing to know there are other planets in our solar system; it’s quite another to see them with your own eyes. Seeing the four little dots that are Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s grainy rings made those planets feel more real to me than any full-colour image in a glossy magazine.

And that was the feeling that inspired After Eden. There’s a big world out there. Go explore it.

The book opens with a prologue set in June 2012. Eden, the main character is dancing with her best friend Connor. He likes her as more than a friend and completely misreads the situation, thinking she likes him back. After his humiliation, he leaves and decides to go stargazing. What he sees changes everything.

The rest of the book tells the story of the three months leading up to this time. And once again, everything changes.

My personal favourite opening lines are those that either establish a strong, personal voice, set a mood or raise questions. I like them to flow naturally into the story and not feel that the writer is trying too hard. I want to be hooked without knowing why.

With After Eden, I went for the unanswered questions approach. And the line is:
She was dancing with somebody else.

About The Author

Helen was born in a small beach town in Cornwall, much like the fictional town of Perran that appears in After Eden. As a child she enjoyed reading, building dens and writing stories of her own. Helen's teenage years were centred around the beach. Summer days were spent swimming and body-boarding. Summer nights meant beach parties with bonfires and barbecues. When it rained, which it did a lot, she read lots of books and dreamed of being a writer.
After leaving school, she lived in many different places including London, California, New York and New Jersey. Helen is now back in Cornwall where she lives midway between the woods and the beach. When the sky is clear, she can usually be found walking in the woods, hanging out at the beach or looking at the stars. When the sea mist rolls in or it’s raining, Helen spends her time reading books, writing and dreaming up her next story.

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About The Book

Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she's hooked. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So why doesn't he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he's taking in her.

As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


  1. Adding another book to my TBR list! This looks fascinating!

  2. You pack a lot into one line! Well done.

  3. what a wonderful opening line!! Thanks for the backstory about it.

  4. Wow. This book is going right onto my TBR list. Thanks for a very informative post.


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