Featured Author: Tosca Lee

Many readers hear “inspirational fiction” and think of Amish romances and Biblical historical fiction. While those reads are definitely examples of the genre, inspirational fiction is much broader. Inspirational suspense is one of the fastest rising subsets of inspirational fiction. Like other suspense novels, inspirational suspense is fast-paced fiction that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The novels often involve a quest for justice, a race against time or characters in peril.

Tosca Lee

Tosca Lee writes inspirational fiction with stories about the apocalypse and the descendants of a legendary serial killer. Readers of suspense and action will find plenty to enjoy in her books. Lee notes that her books are often a bit outside the line of what would traditionally be considered inspirational fiction.

Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of 11 novels including  Firstborn, Iscariot, Havah, and The Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker. Her books have been translated into 17 languages, and she has been featured on several best lists including the IndieBound Bestseller List, Library Journal “Best Of” List and Christian Booksellers Association Bestseller List.

“I’ve written the first person account of characters at the opposite end of the Amish spectrum (i.e. Judas Iscariot, and a fallen angel in Demon: A Memoir),” Lee said. “They do adhere to the tenants of the Inspirational market in that they are considered ‘clean’ reads (no graphic sex or profanity). My most recent thrillers are written for both inspirational and mainstream markets.”

Connecting with Readers

Lee’s writing for any reader who comes to her story, not just a target market. She writes to connect with readers, to show them that they are not alone in this world with their emotions or trials.

“I always say that we write and read for similar reasons: to know that we’re not alone,” Lee said. “And we read fiction in particular for escape—to feel like we’ve stepped into someone else’s shoes so we can see the world through their eyes, or to feel like maybe we’re not so weird after all, that there are other people with similar struggles and hurdles to overcome. To be inspired by their strength and their journeys. I believe a big part of our decision and joy in taking the journey with a story’s character is seeing how they overcome challenges that resonate with us—whether it’s feeling invisible, or like a freak, or powerless, struggling with life changes, or grief, or contending with mental illness.”

Two of Lee’s series are in development for television. The Line Between and A Single Light are dystopian works, while The Progeny series is about the descendant of serial killer Elizabeth Bathory, and the organization working to wipe out all of her blood kin.

Meet Lee at the Library

Lee will visit the library on Sun, Feb 23 to meet readers and tell the stories behind her inspirational and suspense novels for adults and teens from 2 to 3 pm. Q&A and book signing will follow her presentation. Writers, you can learn how to keep readers on the edge of their seats with a workshop on writing suspense from 12:30-1:30 pm in the library learning center.

Read on for an interview with the author.

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An Interview with Tosca Lee

In a 2019 interview, you mentioned that you wrote your character Wynter with OCD, because you have OCD yourself. Can you expand on why you think it’s important to show characters dealing with mental illness in fiction?

I always say that we write and read for similar reasons: to know that we’re not alone. And we read fiction in particular for escape—to feel like we’ve stepped into someone else’s shoes so we can see the world through their eyes, or to feel like maybe we’re not so weird after all, that there are other people with similar struggles and hurdles to overcome. To be inspired by their strength and their journeys. I believe a big part of our decision and joy in taking the journey with a story’s character is seeing how they overcome challenges that resonate with us—whether it’s feeling invisible, or like a freak, or powerless, struggling with life changes, or grief, or contending with mental illness.

I really enjoyed The Line Between! I’m a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and this one is a page turner, which you describe as a “run-for-your-life thriller.” What drew you to write in the post-apocalyptic genre? Are there PA novels that you’ve enjoyed or would recommend?

Thank you so much, Miranda! I think I’ve always been a fan of the genre. I don’t know why, but it’s interesting (dare I say “fun?”) wondering how we’d survive in various doomsday scenarios. (We can’t be alone in this—look at all the literature and movies!) I think at the end of the day, though, the great appeal is this: that all the noise of modern life melts away and our priorities become very clear: survive and protect the ones we love. There’s so many great apocalyptic books—from The Stand to Station Eleven. Lately I’ve loved reading A G. Riddle, who has a couple such series.

You are shelved as Inspirational Fiction, but your books don’t fit the usual idea of this genre—no Amish, for example. Why are your books categorized as Inspirational? Are there up- or down-sides to being labeled as this genre? Do you think you reach readers you wouldn’t, or miss readers that might pick up your book if not for the label?

I came from the Inspirational market, though my books have sometimes skirted the edge of what is commonly considered traditional Christian fiction; I’ve written the first person account of characters at the opposite end of the Amish spectrum (i.e. Judas Iscariot, and a fallen angel in Demon: A Memoir). They do adhere to the tenants of the Inspirational market in that they are considered “clean” reads (no graphic sex or profanity). My most recent thrillers are written for both inspirational and mainstream markets.

On this note, who are the Inspirational authors that you enjoy and recommend? Or, favorite Inspirational novels?

I have a lot of friends in the market, so this is tough to answer! For those who enjoy biblical stories fiction, Rebecca Kanner, Mesu Andrews and Jill Eileen Smith. But there’s also great biblical fiction in the mainstream market—most notably, perhaps, Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. Probably most exciting to me is that there’s a growing speculative (sci-fi/fantasy) segment of the inspirational market with some unique and truly imaginative titles from authors like Kerry Neitz (A Star Curiously Singing) and Carrie Anne Noble (The Mermaid’s Sister).

Your work has been optioned for screen! Any updates to share on the adaptations?

Our production team of Radar Pictures (Jumanji) and Ed Burns’ Marlboro Road Gang Productions is in the process of pitching The Line Between to networks now, so hopefully we have some news in the near future!

What books are on your nightstand right now?

Literally on my nightstand: Girls Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Elvelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, and Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough.

A note on libraries! Have libraries played a role in your life?

Tosca: Growing up, my friends and I used to ride our bikes to our nearest library in the summer where I’d roam the stacks and often find myself in the sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery sections. It never failed that I ended up with far too many books for the basket on the front of my bike and so there I’d be, balancing book bags from my handlebars, peddling uphill! Most recently, libraries have become an important part of my book tour schedule as a way to connect with readers and their communities.

 Anything else you want to share that I haven’t asked? 😀

Yes!

First, I love book clubs and make every effort to video chat with clubs that read my books when I can’t join in person.

Next, I’m super excited to share that The Legend of Sheba is coming out in audiobook this February 11. My first and second novels, initially released over a decade ago, have also recently released in audio.

I have a regular newsletter in which I share giveaways, new releases, and news—the next one is coming out with the release of the Sheba audiobook on Tuesday. I also have a newsletter just for writers. Those interested can sign up for either one here: http://bit.ly/subscribetoTosca

Miranda is your Readers Librarian. She loves to talk books, and to connect readers with their next great reads. Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-leads the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.