Author Interview: Tosca Lee
Tosca Lee is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have won numerous awards and have garnered critical acclaim. Her debut novel, Demon: A Memoir was nominated for a Christy Award, and her book Iscariot won the 2014 Christian Book of the Year award. She has also co-written the critically acclaimed Book of Mortals series with Ted Dekker. Tosca has been gracious enough to take a few minutes to talk with me. MB: You've written in a few different genres, including Christian fiction, historical fiction, supernatural suspense, dystopian fiction, and medical thrillers. There is a spiritual thread that runs throughout all of your books. How does your faith influence your writing?
TL: I think the biggest thing is that I like writing redemptive stories—stories where the character is changed for the better. I love to see my characters come to a place where they not only know themselves better (and at the end of the day, stories are all about identity), but where they have some kind of spiritual revelation as well that will serve them for the rest of their days.
MB: Your first two books were critically acclaimed, but came with some controversy from some conservative readers, specifically around the darkly spiritual nature of Demon and the sensuality in Havah. How did this criticism impact you and your future writing?
TL: Thankfully, I was kind of blissfully ignorant of this as it was going on. I was just doing my thing. But when I did realize it, I kind of froze up. This is a big reason why, when I teach writing workshops and speak on writing, I tell aspiring authors that the time before they’re published is wonderful because they’re not getting criticized or rated on Amazon like one more blender. That undiscovered state is a gift—one they can and should use to write as authentically and audaciously as they need to do service to the story without fear!
MB: Let's talk for a moment about an obscure fact from your biography. You were named Mrs. Nebraska America in 1996 and Mrs. Nebraska United States in 1998. What was that all about?
TL: LOL! So that was about one person saying, “You should go do that,” and me saying, “Okay!” I’d never done pageants before, but apparently I’m game to try anything once! And you know what, even though you compete in a swimsuit and evening gown, which soooo goes against my Smith College education, I call it a really weird means to a good end. That “end” being that you’re out there advocating for charities and causes you believe in. Because you have an instant platform. Also, you’re on the radio and TV and speaking to groups, and so it turned out to be great media training for this author gig!
MB: Every writer has specific nuisances when it comes to writing. Some have special places set aside where they write. Some are "pantsers" who fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to their plot, while others are plotters who feverishly outline their stories before writing a single word. Talk for a moment about your writing process.
TL: I tried to be Steven James (friend, bestseller, and a famous “pantser”) when I wrote my thriller, The Line Between. The result: I ended up rewriting it three times. Verdict: I am not Steven James. I am a plotter. That said, I like to leave room for mystery. So I do loose plotting. What I say to other writers is that you need to know your strengths and how you work best. I work best with a basic outline, and I have to write in silence. With Cheetos.
MB: Your latest book, A Single Light has just come out. It is the second in a series that started with The Line Between. Without giving away anything, can you tell me something about the new book that I won't find on the book jacket or PR material?
TL: A Single Light contains my new favorite character I’ve ever written. I love, love, love this new character named Otto.
MB: What can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
TL: I am! During a schedule lull between Firstborn and The Line Between, I co-authored a WWII book that we’re hoping to find a home for now. I’ve also got some new ideas and a medieval thriller in the works. Stay tuned.
MB: Let’s finish this up with something a bit offbeat. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
TL: A monkey with a fistful of candied bacon.
MB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Good luck with A Single Light.
To learn more about Tosca Lee and her books, visit her website at www.toscalee.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/toscalee and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authortoscalee.