Tosca Lee joined us in our Behind The Pages Goodreads group and shared some insight into her writing process and her The Line Between Series The Line Between & A Single Light. I am excited to share some of Q & A here today on our blog.
Brenda: Thank you, Tosca for joining us!
Tosca: Hello, Traveling Sisters!! Thank you for inviting me to join you this evening!! It’s been such a pleasure to get to interact with you this last year as these books have come out, and I so appreciate your readership, reviews, and the way you advocate for books, readers and authors!
Brenda: How did you choose the names for your characters? I personally love the name Chase. It’s my son’s name.
Tosca: I’m starting with the question of how I come up with character names, and the answer is that some of my choices are very deliberate, and some just happen. On the deliberate side, there’s Wynter, who is named after my step-daughter, who was the same age when I began writing The Line Between. Chase (love this name!) was a name that came along as I was looking for something that would go with his rugged but restless spirit.
Then there is the Reverend–a minor character who was named Carolyn Richtel after the real Carolyn–a hospice worker in AZ–bought the spot in a charity auction. I haven’t always gotten to do this, having written books that were biblical or historical in nature in the past, so it was really fun for me to be able to offer a spot up in this way.
One of my favorite names was for Piper’s husband, Jax–nicknamed Jax Daniels. Btw, Piper was original Carolyne before the charity auction happened.
Brenda: How did you go about creating your characters? Were any of the characters harder for you to write than others? Do you have a favourite character that you liked writing more than any others?
Tosca: In the sequel, my new favorite character, Otto, was named after one of my longtime fans’ last name. I really love incorporating the first and/or last names of fans and sometimes post while I’m writing asking for volunteers–with the caveat that I reserve the right to make them jerks or kill them. ;D
I really like the idea of slipping into another character’s shoes and skin. Generally, writing characters is one of my favorite parts of creating stories because it seems like you can never make them too complex or multi-faceted–because real people are like that. Every now and then I have to revisit a character because I just know there’s more to them–and I need to dig that out a bit more. This was the case with my initial pass with Wynter. I had to find where she was walking that line between knowing something was off in the cult, but also trying to adhere to the only world system she knew. It took a few tries, and ultimately I had to rely on my own very strict and sometimes difficult religious upbringing for reference. It was hard to go there, but once I did… things made more sense. That’s the common ground I met Wynter on.
As for favorites… Otto in A Single Light has become my new favorite. I knew there would be someone to come along in that story–I just didn’t know who or what he’d be like until I got there. And then there Otto was. I don’t think I’ve giggled quite as much as I did writing his scenes
Brenda: What does your writing day look like to you? What is the one thing you struggle with the most in your writing process?
Tosca: I don’t have much of a typical writing day–every day can be different depending on what stage of writing I’m in: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, rewriting, editing… And often in between books, I don’t write–mostly because I’m playing catch up with everything else and trying to pick up all the balls I dropped while working. That’s the hard part for me: I seem to only be able to focus well on one thing at a time!
The other thing that makes my schedule unpredictable is that when I married my single father husband (you can learn more about him at @TheFarmerBryan on Instagram), I became an insta-mom to four. So this-single-city-girl-turned-farmer’s-wife-and-mom-of-four has had some steep learning curve lessons in country life, kids, and trying to find time for everything! 😀 But I’ve loved every minute of it
I can tell you that drafting is probably my least favorite part of writing. I know that’s where the magic happens–and fun, unexpected things do occur! But it’s also a very messy process and is the least contained part of it. I really love rewriting because finally those sentences start to sound smoother and things make more sense. 🙂
As for “typical,” though, don’t be fooled by images from awards banquets and trips to NYC–98% of this job involves sweatpants with dog goobers on them and ponytails with dirty hair. 😉
Brenda: How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Tosca: I was on my way to meet with my publisher about what my next two books should be and I had just seen a headline a few nights before about a reindeer in Siberia that melted in the permafrost. The carcass turned out to be filled with anthrax and a nearby village got sick and a young boy died. I remember thinking this was fascinating and terrifying, and added the idea of a disease coming out of the permafrost to my list of idea scenarios–which also included a story about a young woman leaving a cult and starting over in the outside world, among others.
My publisher, when we met, said, “I like these two. I think you should put them together!” I thought he was crazy at first. But then I went home and started putting it together, and really enjoyed the story!
Brenda: Did you plot out the stories or did it come together as you were writing? Did you have The Line Between completed and then wrote A Single Light or did you mapped out them together?
Tosca: Hahaha, I ought to let my editor friend who goes through all my manuscripts before I turn them in to my publisher answer this.
The short answer is that I normally plot a little more than I did on my initial draft of The Line Between. There are two genera camps in the novel-writing community–the plotters and panthers (who write by the seat of their pants). I am a plotter with some pantsing tendencies. But I still have to plot. So the initial draft of The Line Between did not come together. It was a mess. I had to rewrite it from the ground up a couple times before it finally worked.
My editor friend said, “Um, we need to talk before you start the sequel.” And we did, and I laid that baby out in enough detail that I knew what was going on and the writing flew by and was SO much easier. You’d think after a dozen books (I’ve got a couple that haven’t sold yet) I’d know better, but we all keep learning along the way.
To the other part of your question: the smart thing to do would probably be to plot the second book before writing or at least finishing the first one. But in both my duologies, I did not do this. So by the time I finished the first one, I knew I had written myself into a challenging corner, and that my job in the second book was to write myself out of it–preferably at a faster pace with higher stakes than the first book, if possible. 🙂 And I think that was kind of the fun of it–that I was in the same situation as my characters. But I have to admit that it has made for sleepless nights. I remember gearing up to write Firstborn (the sequel to The Progeny) and thinking, “How does one take down an entire European cabal???” 😀
Brenda: Things get pretty intense in A Single Light and became quite the action-packed race against time. How were you able to maintain that tension? Was that something you mapped out or did the story guide you?
Tosca: So this time I mapped it–mostly. I always leave some wiggle room and I didn’t realize that there’d be as much to the drama underground at the beginning of the book. But when I got in there, I really loved exploring it and the claustrophobic feeling of the situation. So there’s always a little discovery along the way, but in order to make up for the time I spent rewriting the first book so many times and to maintain the relentless pace of the action, I had to be very cognizent about events and the passage of time vs. the stakes Wynter and Chase were up against. It was a very intense three months of writing for me with a lot of all-nighters or 4am bedtimes.
Brenda: Is there anything you hope readers will get from your books?
Tosca: The first thing is entertainment. I really hope readers who come to my stories get the escape that we look for in fiction. Beyond that, I hope they get a few heart palpitations (:D), or that they sigh or laugh or are just so in the moment that time slips by and suddenly it’s well past bedtime. I hope they’re inspired and learn or think about something new, too. But above all, I hope they enjoy themselves.
To read more of our Q & A with Tosca Lee you can find here
Thank you so much Tosca for our copies of both books!