First Line: Maggie and the Mountain of Light

As part of my blog series, I want to dive a little deeper into the first lines of novels. For this week, I have chosen “Maggie and the Mountain of Light” by Mark Snoad. (I reviewed this book last week on the blog. Click here if you missed it!)

First lines are so important. A good first line draws the reader in and sets the tone of the story. I’m extra excited today because the author himself has agreed to give us an insider view of how he decided on this particular line to begin his middle grade fantasy novel.

“Welcome to the apocalypse!” the sign declared in large, cheerful red letters.

First thoughts:

  • This sentence piques my interest immediately!
  • Why are they so excited about the apocalypse?
  • Who are they welcoming?

Why I love this line:

  • It’s funny!
  • I have an amazing visual of a bright and cheerful sign welcoming me to the end of the world.
  • The beginning of a novel shows us the main characters “status quo” world — what their world is like before the events of the novel unfold. This line shows us Maggie is already in way over her head (or so she thinks)!

And now some words from author Mark Snoad!

What did you hope to convey with your first sentence?

Mark: I wanted my first sentence to convey the sense of fun that is characteristic of my book. A first sentence needs to grab the reader’s attention and also hold some promise for what is to come. There’s the sense of mystery and danger in “Welcome to the apocalypse” and then a dose of humour in “Please register here.” I’ve hopefully established the sense that Maggie and the Mountain of Light will be an entertaining read.

How many rewrites did it take to nail the perfect first line?

Mark: My first line has been rewritten many times, as has the first scene. The initial drafts of Maggie started with the scene that is now at the end of Chapter 4 of the book. I’d been swayed by the instruction to grab the reader with heightened action from the start. And I did. Although it didn’t allow the reader to enter Maggie’s world. It didn’t set the scene enough for the reader to feel connected to Maggie and thus, the action lost some of its power. The challenge then became how can I grab the reader’s attention if I have to build the story without necessarily getting straight into the action.

What is your favorite first line?

Mark: I think my favourite remains the classic “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” It is such a matter-of-fact line but it immediately creates some questions: What is a hobbit? Why are they living in a hole in the ground? And then the fact that this very simple first line introduces us to a fantastical world that is rich in history and mythology. I love it. It draws the reader in. And it’s a good lesson. Readers have to connect with the character and the story, it is our job as writers to draw the readers into our worlds.

Oh, good choice!

I want to thank Mark for taking the time to share some of what went into making “Maggie and the Mountain of Light” such an enjoyable read. I always think it is fun to get a peak behind the curtain.

“Maggie and the Mountain of Light” launches on April 4, 2023 and will be available everywhere books are sold online. You can pre-order today on B&N and Amazon!

If you have a favorite first line, please share in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

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