Interview with Author Tosca Lee
Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of eleven novels including A SINGLE LIGHT, THE LINE BETWEEN, THE PROGENY, THE LEGEND OF SHEBA, ISCARIOT, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages and been optioned for TV and film. A notorious night-owl, she loves movies, playing football with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband. You can find Tosca on social media or hanging around the snack table. To learn more, please visit toscalee.com, @ToscaLee on Instagram and Twitter, and @AuthorToscaLee on Facebook.
In this gripping sequel to The Line Between, which New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava calls “everything you want in a thriller,” cult escapee Wynter Roth and ex-soldier Chase Miller emerge from their bunker to find a country ravaged by disease, and Wynter is the only one who can save it.
Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I actually spent my early life pursuing classical ballet. I had been published as a young person and had won several writing contests, but I really wanted to be a dancer. It wasn’t until after a major injury and subsequently starting college that I realized I wanted to do something with my love for books—that I wanted to see if I could provide the same kind of adventure and escape that books had given me to someone else.
What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?
Headlines. Specifically, a news story I came across about a reindeer carcass that thawed in the permafrost and was infected with anthrax and got an entire nearby village sick. What I didn’t know then, as I wrote this pandemic story about a hotspot in Washington, edicts to stay home, cancelled flights… is that so much of this would play out in real life a short year later.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
The main characters of my thrillers are made up, though a historical figure, “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, helps form the mythology of two of them (The Progeny and its sequel, Firstborn). The subjects of my historical fiction are based on biblical and historical characters, such as the Queen of Sheba and Judas Iscariot.
What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?
Travel is always my favorite part of research—most notably to Israel for my novel, Iscariot, and to Hungary and Croatia for The Progeny and Firstborn.
How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?
It’s about the same—idea to research. Research informs the outline. Outline to the first draft, and first draft to edits. About three to six months for research (Iscariot took 18 months) and about three to four months to write the first draft. The editing process takes several more months as I receive subsequent edits from my publisher.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book? Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?
My primary advice for new writers is to write through to the end. Don’t redo the beginning over and over—just get to the end. My second piece of advice is not to worry about promotion while working on the book. So much of that and the vehicles for promoting books may change by the time their book is finished, polished, and ready to publish or submit to an agent.
What is your favorite work of literary fiction and why? Do you have a favorite literary author?
I have favorite works of fiction—those that inspired me early on to want to write: The Mists of Avalon, Clan of the Cave Bear. Memoirs of a Geisha. But it’s really hard to say just one favorite author—so many of my friends are authors!
Who is your favorite contemporary author? Are you currently reading any contemporary novels?
I am! Once again, tough to name favorites, but I’m reading Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon, and Strike Me Down by Mindy Meija.
What’s your writing schedule like? When do you find time to write?
It changes day-to-day depending on what phase I’m in with a book. If I’m writing, I write hours a day toward deadline—through the night sometimes. If I’m marketing, then it’s interviews and speaking engagements. In between, I teach when I can.
Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies?
I tend to write at night a lot. And usually finish my books at 7:30am in the morning after writing through the night. Somehow it always happens like that. I celebrate with champagne breakfast.
What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? ~ POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?
It used to be overwriting my books and having to pare down the word counts. But this is something that I’ve learned to overcome just from time and experience—after a few books like that when you’re writing for a living, you learn how not to repeat many of the same mistakes!