January 2014 through December 2014 - Page 12

N by Londa Hayden ew York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee doesn’t believe in writing what she knows. In fact, she claims such advice to be the worst. “If I did that, then I’d be writing about pageant tricks you can do at home with duct tape, and the best place to use the bathroom at Chicago O’Hare airport.” This former first runner-up to Mrs. United States and international consultant globetrotter, who currently resides in the Midwest, once lived in Virginia and studied at Oxford University. The Books of Mortals, a series she wrote with Ted Dekker, carries a post-apocalyptic theme in a world where the walking dead rule. Other titles by Tosca Lee are Demon (a Christy Award Finalist), Havah, Iscariot, and The Legend of Sheba, all of which are Biblical-based and reference ancient religious times. This requires extensive research on her part. She chronicles her research trips in travelogues and provides photos along with interesting trivia about the various places she visits. However, Lee claims the stories actually choose her. In her video “How do you know if an idea is bookworthy?” Tosca explains, “When it will not leave me alone. I have to write it down. That’s the only way I can get rid of it.” Tosca’s writing method is less rigid. Her research is kept in a notebook as a random collection, in which she highlights pertinent information. However, her desk is the place most of her writing happens now. “It’s hiding behind a barricade of research books, dirty plates, and mail.” She writes in spurts, anywhere between 2000 and 10,000 or more words at a time for several days. Most of her ideas are conceived while driving or doing other mundane tasks such as laundry and cooking. “Deadlines are the antidote to perfectionism.” Her best advice to other writers is “Don’t edit as you go,” and “Write like no one is going to read it.” First published while yet in third grade, little Tosca Lee won a young author’s contest that year and again the following years on up through high school. “I never meant to become a writer. I was going to be a ballerina. And when 12 Southern Writers that failed, I was going to become…wait for it…wait for it…a news anchor.” Iscariot was suggested to her by an editor friend who acquired Lee’s first two novels, Demon and Havah: The Story of Eve, which both won Forward Magazine’s Book of the Year Silver and Bronze Awards. “I rejected the idea immediately. Too much research. Too hard. Too controversial. But a few months later I was eating dinner in a New York restaurant and found myself scribbling a scene between Judas and his mother on a paper tablecloth. I realized then I was a goner. I called my agent, hoping he would talk me out of it. He didn’t.” The book took a year and a half of research, a trip to Israel, and another year and a half to write and rewrite. The final draft was over 200,000 words. In between research trips and revisions, Tosca switched publishers and coauthored Forbidden, a Christy Award Finalist and the first in The Books of Mortals series with Dekker. “Halfway through Iscariot, I realized I was no longer writing Judas’s story, but my own.” Lee admits she finds herself in all her characters. Iscariot (Howard Books) won the 2014 Christian Book Award for fiction by the (ECPA) Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, formerly known as the Gold Medallion. In 2013, Iscariot won the Library Journal’s Top Christian Fiction Award. Tosca advises new authors to start the next book while waiting to sell the first one. This is the one thing she wishes she had done. “Write that second book—and third, if need be—while you’re finding a home for the first.” Her newest release, titled Ismeni, is a prelude to The Legend of Sheba (Howard Books) and is offered as a free download on her website. Teaching tools, also excellent marketing, include discussion guides for her books as well as an extended day-by-day Lent devotional for Iscariot, signed book plates, and other free gifts. Sign up for her newsletter just for writers at www.toscalee.com. n