Dec. 8, 2020
Tosca Lee is the New York Times bestselling author of The Line Between, The House of Bathory Duology (The Progeny, Firstborn), Iscariot, The Legend of Sheba, Demon: A Memoir, and Havah: The Story of Eve. Most recently, A Single Light, the sequel to The Line Between, came out September 2019.
Q. You’ve said elsewhere that you’re an unreformed “plotter” when it comes to your writing. How does your choice of writing architecture affect your writing style? And have you ever tried “pantsing?”
Tosca: Haha, I did try it! And… disaster struck! Seriously, I tried it with The Line Between, which was my (tenth?) published novel. I was like, “Hey, I know what I’m doing now. This is instinctual, right?” No, it’s not, at least for me. I had to do another draft and it delayed the publication of the book for three months. My good friend, Steven James, is a famous pantser. But I learned that I am not!
Q. How does writing a historical thriller differ from something more contemporary?
Tosca: It’s the same, really—the same kind of things are at stake (lives, love, the world). But historical readers love also reading about time periods that fascinate them—which is also why the pressure to get the details right is so great and why paying attention to pacing is important while world-building more than you might so for a contemporary novel.
Q. Famously, Demon: A Memoir faced six years of rejection before finally selling and receiving critical acclaim. How did you handle that?
Tosca: I just carried on, which is the only thing you can do. And what I would say to other writers is to write the next project while you’re waiting to publish the first. I wish I had done that. And beyond that, just keep trying. This is a professional where tenacity and patience win in the end. But also, take advantage of that time before you’re published to write boldly and without fear. You’re not out on reviewers’ or radars yet—you’re still in this protected space. Take advantage of that to stretch yourself.
Q. Strong female characters run through your body of work, along with ideas of redemption and perseverance. What other themes do you feel especially drawn to?
Tosca: I think I’m drawn to the idea that there’s always more to the story. We think we know people and their stories and situations—even in real life with people we know. But how well do we REALLY know people and their lives? I promise you, there’s always much more to it!
Q. What are you working on now?
Tosca: A WWII story about three teenage friends and defenders of Bataan in the Philippines and a medieval thriller. With about three other ideas simmering on the back burner. 🙂