New York Times bestselling author, Tosca Lee keynotes the 2017 Wordsowers Christian Writers Conference, April 28-29th. Tosca graciously carved time from her hectic schedule to visit with us today.
Jeanie: Tosca, between writing deadlines, family responsibilities, book signings, upcoming conferences, and the May 2nd release of Firstborn, your plate seems full. How do you fit everything in?
Tosca: Haha. I keep wondering this, and the answer is I drop a lot of balls. My standard e-mail signature line should read: “I’m so sorry for the massive delay in getting back to you…”
After getting married last year and becoming an insta-mom to four, it’s definitely been a learning process for me! But they are teaching me well. 😀 Seriously, having kids has really put so much priority-wise into perspective. Writing is what I do. It’s how I’m wired. But it’s not who I am, or the end-all, be-all. Still, they are very understanding of the times that I’m holed up in the attic of the old farm house on deadline. I also surround myself with some incredibly understanding and massively helpful individuals—namely, my husband and my assistant (whom I call my Asylum Warden), Cindy.
Jeanie: Whenever I pick up one of your novels, like The Progeny, I literally stay up all night reading it. And it’s not just me. Your books are enjoyed world-wide. How did you get started?
Tosca: You know, I was writing for a long time before I ever thought of it as a thing. As a young teen, I danced with the Omaha Ballet and spent my summers dancing out of state. That was my consuming passion. When it became clear that it wasn’t going to be the path for me, I went off to college thinking I’d go into business or become a news anchor (???) or something like that. But during a trip home my freshman year, I was talking about what I loved about novels and how they’re such an emotional ride, and how cool it would be to design a roller coaster like that for readers. I just blurted out: “I’d really like to write a book.” My dad made me a deal: he’d pay me what I would have made that summer as a bank teller (which I was horrible at) if I’d devote myself to writing my first novel. So I did. I never sold it—it’s in the basement with the skeletons—but I sure learned a lot!
Jeanie: I admire (OK, envy!) how you’ve traveled the world. How does that international aspect impact your work?
Tosca: I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family that traveled a lot. Part of that was being a bi-racial kid with half my family in Korea. (Which made the fact that I used to get massively airsick until I hit high school a big bummer!) For me, getting out of my paradigm and geography is a way to get perspective. Think, dream, see how other people think, dream and live. It’s very inspiring.
Jeanie: What do you see as your biggest quirk?
Tosca: I have OCD. It has at times crippled me and shut me down completely. It’s been one of the biggest challenges in my life, and I hid it for years, and really went through some tough times in silence. Last year I decided to become more open about it, and to encourage others that whatever you may struggle with—whether it be anxiety, depression, ADHD, a chronic health challenge, or whatever it is—informs the unique way you see the world. That you are unique, special and able to use that. And the craziest thing happened when I “came out” with my OCD. Tons of people wrote and said, “Thank you,” and “Me too!” and “I have XYZ…” It was really awesome to be able to just be real.
Jeanie: What do you feel is your greatest strength?
Tosca: Aghhhh… that’s always a two-sided coin. I’m a perfectionist. It drives me crazy. But it’s really good for editing, cleaning (I can clean out a closet like nobody’s business!), or any productive application. When it comes to writing, my characterization and prose are things that readers mention the most. And research/attention to detail. That might be part of the OCD. ;D
Jeanie: What are you working on now?
Tosca: Another thrill ride! Get ready to hold on to your hats!
Jeanie: If you could share only one piece of information with a writer, what would it be?
Tosca: My number one rule of writing is write like no one will ever read it. Why do I say this? I’ll be talking about this at the conference!
Jeanie: Thanks for sharing with us today.
Experience Tosca Lee’s keynote address, “Burn the Fear- Release the Fire: Writing for an Audacious God” at the Wordsowers Christian Writers Conference, April 28-29. 2017. Tosca will be on hand after to sign books and visit with conferees.
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