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Interview With Tosca Lee

Her first book, Demon: A Memoir, finaled for a Christy award, placed second in the speculative fiction category in the 2008 ACFW Book of the Year contest, took the 2008 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Award, and is a finalist in the 2008 Clive Staples (S.C. Lewis) Award for Christian Speculative Fiction. Her new release, Havah: The Story of Eve, promises to be another innovative tale, taking a unique look at man's fall through the eyes of Eve.

Tosca, Demon's unexpected perspective made the story so unique. Havah does the same thing. Can you tell us how this idea came about and what writing the story from Eve's perspective was like?

At some point several years ago-before I sold Demon—I wrote what basically became the prologue to Havah. I was just doodling with Eve's point of view as an old woman facing her own death after Adam's passing, wondering what that would be like.

And then I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. A few years later, when Demon picked up interest and editors (Jeff Gerke in particular) began asking what else I had, I pulled it out in panic. There I was with these ragged pages of spiral-bound notebook paper in my fist-about three of them. I put them together into a one-page prologue and sold the Eve story along with Demon.

Writing the rest of her story was hard from the contextual standpoint, but very familiar and comfortable from a human perspective. A reader recently wrote to me "I am Eve. We are all Eve." And she's right.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey thus far?

The entire process has so many milestones—even waiting is significant. (I hate to admit it-pretend you didn't just read that). The thing that stands out to me the most, though, is something I didn't expect. It's this idea—this reality—that you can work on something and write something and turn it in and have a fairly good idea of what you've just written...but God is really in the process—before, during, and after. When I get letters from readers about parts of the story that stood out to them, about ways that the book impacted them, it's pretty humbling and all kinds of weird. My misshapen puzzle piece of a story fit some larger picture. I wish I could take credit for that, but I can't. There's something bigger and bizarre and mysterious that goes on, particularly in the creative process, I think.

As I read back over that last paragraph, it occurs to me that I should probably remember what I just said and try not to freak out so much. But when it comes to remembering God's Big Picture I have—what's the name for that weird amnesia where people can't remember more than a few minutes at a time? Whatever that is—I have that.

You're a Leadership Consultant, part time model, and you've held several beauty pageant titles. How do you work in your writing time?

It's sleep that's the hardest to work in. Writing goes in fits and spurts for me. I'm not writing anything at the moment—well, except blogs and random thoughts mostly while I'm on the road eating dinner by myself. I operate on panic and fear a lot. I also operate on passion and love. The work I do as a consultant is important and impacts people's lives beyond the workplace. My writing impacts people's lives, too, I hope. I guess that's it-I'm mission driven. I want what I do to matter and last.

The modeling I do just because I like it. It's one of the few things I do just for fun—along with going to movies, eating donuts, and cleaning out junk drawers. Unfortunately, I've been too busy to do much modeling the last six months.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture?

I'd like to say I have a disciplined approach to my daily spiritual life, but I don't. I forget my Bible. I oversleep on Sundays. But God is the relentless pursuer and wooer of souls and has blessed me and drawn me close, teaching me a lot just through the process of living this crazy life, of dealing with doing so much, and in loving other people. I turn to God in moments of fear and frustration and joy—there are some of those moments every day. In the last few years, I've learned a lot about grace that I did not know before. It's been a tough road-but one I wouldn't un-travel.

What would you describe as your biggest obstacle in writing and how do you overcome it?

I've been pretty open about the role fear plays in my life and in my writing. I face fear, on some level, every day. And every day I'm writing, I face it twice.

I don't know the secret to overcoming it. The encouragement and prayers of friends guard and uplift me. The knowledge that God is somehow in control of this entire process comforts me (if I remember that, which I often don't). Experience helps. I am particularly given to anxiety. So being able to say, "I've felt this before. I know what's happening," is immensely helpful.

And even when I'm out of my mind with anxiety, there are always those who are there-I think first of staunch friends, but God has often provided complete strangers with hearts to encourage and pray for me in tough moments. It's amazing. In those moments I'm always a little blown away that God knows I'm here. I know that sounds stupid. But it's true.

What do you consider the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

Book signings are a natural high for me. Meeting just one person who has read and found meaning in the story is amazing. Having someone "get" the work you do is incredible. Lately, reading reviews of Havah has been pretty surreal—that book was tough for me. There is a real disconnect for me sometimes between what I think I've turned in—I see all the flaws and problems—and what God causes to resonate with others. It's surreal. Humbling, too. God can do things in spite of us. Usually does.

Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?

Inspiration comes from moods or feelings, from random, driving-inspired thoughts. Or from thinking of unique perspectives to game from, in the case of Demon. I was still gaming a bit when I came up with Lucian as a character.

I like thinking of the unlikely perspective, the unlikely person. God is the creator of the unlikely. So this makes sense to me.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?

Maybe it's that I like to look at things from the different or unlikely point of view-that seems to be a common thread with me. I like to put myself in that other character's shoes-whether it be a man, a demon, or Eve herself. I like to tell the scathing truth of that person's reality, even if it's ugly or sensual, scandalous or morbid. Maybe that's it.

Finish this question. My favorite part of writing is...

Being finished!

Wait. I'm sure that's totally the wrong thing to say.

Um, maybe it's the things that show up on the screen, unplanned. I used to really mock this idea and the people who talked about it, but it really does happen. Julia Cameron suggests it's not about "thinking things up" so much as "taking things down," dictation-style. There is a true inspired part to all creative processes. It's the legacy of the Creator. It's in all of us. Or maybe it's reading back over stuff and finding something that you don't hate. That you maybe even like a little. That you might actually be proud of and read to a friend or spouse, though you'd never admit it to anyone else.

Actually, I think it might be writing something that connects with someone else. Knowing that you're not alone in your thoughts, that you're not the only weirdo in the world to think that, whatever "that" is.

Any parting words for up-and-coming writers?

Writing is not glamorous. It will probably not make you gobs of money. It is hard, tiring, stinky work. People may not be that helpful or willing to invest in you. More than half of what you write won't be good. One thing you can be assured of: this process will not go the way you think it should. And to answer your question: yes, you probably are mentally ill to some degree/dying of gout/losing touch with life and it would indeed be much more interesting to call a friend and go to a movie.

If, despite all of this, you feel you must it with all your heart.

Thanks for sharing with us, Tosca!

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