Tosca Lee is the award-winning, 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, Havah: The Story of Eve, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker. A notorious night-owl, she loves watching TV, eating bacon, playAing video games with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband. You can find Tosca hanging around the snack table or wherever bacon is served. A Single Light, Tosca’s highly-anticipated sequel to The Line Between, releases September 17 from Simon & Schuster and is available for pre-order now!
Caleb: Why did you choose to write thrillers?
Tosca: So I think sometimes we feel like we should write certain kinds of things. And I feel like a common mistake we can make at the beginning is to feel like we should write certain kinds of things when what we really like to read is something else. I’m a big advocate of write what you like, and I enjoy thrillers. I really like keeping readers reading late into the night, way past bedtime.
Caleb: One thing that impressed me about the Progeny was how you were able to weave suspense and mystery throughout the story even after some of the initial questions were answered. How did you accomplish this?
Tosca: So I think there always needs to be some kind of story questions. It doesn’t have to be your classic type thriller question of “who did it?” It can be a question of “will the girl get the guy,” or “will they get the job,” or whatever the goal is. I think there’s an overarching question, but then it’s really important to put those little hooks in along the way and pull the reader along.
Caleb: Do you do a lot of outlining ahead of time, or are you an organic writer?
Tosca: Well I’m a little bit of a hybrid, but I have to have an outline, and I learned that the hard way. I would love to be a panster. Steven James is a friend of mine and he’s a panster, and that’s the fun part for him. The fun part for me is not getting lost. And I will just get lost and write myself into a corner without an outline. I think people who can pants it are amazing, and I’m so jealous!
Caleb: How do you come up with your characters and discover their motivation?
Tosca: I always have to think about what are the stakes for this character, and I always think about what is the outside goal. But I’m always thinking too about the inner journey, and you know that’s something you hear writers talk about a lot, and so the inner journey is basically who does the character think they are, versus who are they really? So who do they think they are, who are they really, and how did they come to that at the end?
Caleb: How do you come up with your stories? How do you keep track of your ideas and what to make into a novel?
Tosca: I have folders on my computer where I will have sometimes longer documents with notes, and sometimes it is just one or two words, but I know what those one or two words mean. Ideas that you come back to a lot, that you circle back to are the ones that probably you should look into.
Caleb: How do you research your setting and immerse the reader into that environment? Even little details that most people don’t think about can plunge the reader into a setting.
Tosca: For the Progeny, every single place that is mentioned, I traveled to write that book. You draw from what you’ve got and then you MacGyver it together with duct tape and a paper clip.
Caleb: Do you have any parting words of wisdom?
Tosca: I have just a couple of rules for writing:
– Write like no one will ever read this, because it gives you permission just be bold and not worry about what people will think.
– Get the clay on the wheel. Don’t keep perfecting the part you’ve already done. The temptation is so very strong, but [for a first draft] just let it be a total mess and just get to the end.