If there’s one thing you should know about New York Times Bestselling author Tosca Lee, it’s that she is brave.
From tackling novels from the viewpoints of Judas Iscariot or a fallen angel, an heir of “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory or the Bible’s Eve, she has gone where most writers dare not go.
To boot, most celebrated authors would be okay staying in their lane after finding an equation that repeatedly works: historical research plus Lee’s unique imagination and voice have equaled a well-celebrated writing career. But at the height of her success, Lee decided to change lanes, voyaging into the world of thrillers.
“I feel like I have a lot of stories inside me in a lot of genres,” she said. “I started in the Christian market because my first story was about a fallen angel. And then I also had a story about Eve. So it made sense because I relied heavily on Scripture and theology for those books as well as with Iscariot and The Legend of Sheba. But I like the challenge and pleasure of writing in different genres. Nobody wants to eat cheeseburgers every single day, right? Sometimes you want sushi. Sometimes you want chicken. It’s a completely different animal to do thrillers, and it’s fun.”
Calling them “super intrepid souls,” Lee’s fans have readily trusted her, going along for the ride. She knew it was a risk to switch genres, even weathering some resistance from publisher Simon & Schuster, but in the end, her gut instinct has proven correct.
Her first novel in the thriller genre, The Progeny, about a young woman with amnesia who slowly discovers she’s a descendant of history’s greatest murderess, Elizabeth Bathory, debuted to rave reviews and a deal to be adapted for television with Edward Burns’ Marlboro Road Gang Productions and Radar Pictures. This past fall, the CW was so excited about the story, the network purchased rights on the pitch meeting room floor, a phenomena in the television world.
“People ask me, ‘Is that weird?’ Because I’m not doing the writing,” Lee said. “‘Is it hard to let go?’ And the answer is no. I have great confidence in our show runner, Chris Roberts, who’s also our writer. He wrote for Orphan Black, which I love. Big fan of that show! And yes, the show is different. But the book is one thing and the show is another thing. It’s exciting to create a playground and then watch how others play on the playground. It’s fun for me because I also am a consumer of stories. So I want to see what happens, too.”
Marlboro Road Gang Productions and Radar Pictures so like Lee’s stories and voice, news recently broke that they will likewise be developing her two upcoming novels, The Line Between, newly released January 29, and sequel A Single Light, due for release in September with pre-orders starting this month.
Already into a second printing before it was released, The Line Between takes readers on the adventure of a lifetime through the viewpoint of 22-year-old heroine Wynter Roth, a character lovingly named after Lee’s stepdaughter.
In the headline-inspired thriller, an ancient disease re-emerges from the melting permafrost to cause madness in its victims. As the mysterious medical cases spiral toward pandemic and an opportunistic cyber-attack plunges the nation into chaos, doomsday cult escapee Wynter utilizes her survival skills to lead those with her to safety in a harrowing new reality.
A Nebraska resident, Lee enjoyed incorporating familiar state settings into this story. “The Line Between takes place across Iowa, the Chicago area, and across the state of Nebraska into Colorado,” Lee explained. “So that’s fun for me because I get to set it in places that I know and live and where a lot of my readers live too.”
With former stints in the Omaha Ballet and as Mrs. Nebraska, Lee has a rich history with the state, as well as familial heritage tying back to the state’s original homesteaders. “It’s also been fun to include an agricultural aspect about the state, which was inspired by the fact that my husband is a farmer. I have inside knowledge there now. It definitely informed the story,” she said with a laugh.
Lee voices pride in her home state’s talent. “There’s amazing talent in Nebraska. On the front of The Line Between, there’s a blurb by Alex Kava. She’s a New York Times bestselling thriller writer who lives in Omaha. It’s really special to me to have that blurb from her on the front of this book. I’m very honored by that.”
But Lee hasn’t always been met with success, support, and applause. When asked about failures and lessons learned, she recounted the six years of writing and waiting as she worked to get her work published. “You go through your rejection letters and some of the names on those letter are agents and editors who are now are my friends,” she said. “And they’re avid readers of my books. So never get bitter. Stay positive, keep going, and always plug ahead because things turn around. You have to be very tenacious.”
Asked about advice for people who would love to do what she does, she said, “Before you’re published, you’re in this protected space. So I always tell new writers, be bold in your writing. There will be other considerations of critiques and reviewers later. But right now, write, be bold, and do it a lot. Sure, there’s insecurity and fear. I still contend with, ‘Oh no. Am I up to this task? What if this one doesn’t measure up?’ It happened with my new book, The Line Between. Big time! And actually that fear happens with every single book.” But wherever Lee’s journey takes her, she’s sure to be just fine. Because after all, she is brave.