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Interview with Tosca Lee

Before we get started with the interview, here’s what Tosca says about herself: “I'm a notorious night-owl who loves movies, playing video games with my kids, and sending cheesy texts to my husband.”

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
Inspiration. The true stories that motivated this novel are as inspiring as they are harrowing. Faith, friendship, and hope were often the determining factors between those who survived the Bataan Death March and life in POW camps and those who did not.

Also, a great read. Let’s be honest; if all we wanted was to learn about something, we’d read nonfiction. We read fiction to be transported. To walk in someone else’s shoes, and experience a life other than our own.

What do you love about this book?
I love this opportunity to shine a light on the heroes of Bataan and their stories. But this isn’t just a war story. This is a coming of age tale about three young best friends. I adored writing their backstory, watching them grow up, their young hopes and loves, and how those early years together sustained them through all the tough things to come.

I also loved the nostalgia. Writing a WWII story is very different for me; my historical fiction usually takes place 2000 (Iscariot) or 3000 (The Legend of Sheba) years ago, at the beginning of the world (Havah: The Story of Eve)—or before the beginning of time (Demon: A Memoir). This is my first foray into an era that our grandparents remember, that people alive still talk about.

How do your faith and spiritual life affect your storytelling?
Pretty much in the same way they affect my life. I’m very interested in the role of the divine in the stories of my characters. I’m very interested in the moral questions that they encounter, and the way God shows up in unexpected ways.

As far as writing itself, I pray every day before I begin. It sounds a lot like begging.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
It would be easy to say the first time I made the New York Times bestseller list. But honestly, the best moments are quiet and uncelebrated. They’re the ones where you’re in the flow of things and it just feels so good. When you’re creating and you aren’t even sure where some of the stuff you came up with even came from, because maybe it didn’t occur to you until it came out your fingers. That’s pretty awesome. And I love it, because the rest of the time is hard and it can be a real grind. Those moments of flow, though, they remind me that we’re made in the image of the most creative being in the universe and that it’s in our DNA and that we’re made to create—in whatever form it may take—in conjunction with the Creator.

The other, and probably more awesome moments are when someone tells you what your book has meant to them. That they chose to forgive someone after reading one of your books. They gave their marriage another shot. That it changed the way they prayed. I don’t think it gets much better than that—mostly because I’m hearing this purely as a spectator. I know that those outcomes have nothing to do with me and just think it’s so cool that you can never guess what happens when you sit down to work in conjunction with the Creator—who has bigger, more amazing plans for your words than you.

Where do your story and character ideas come from?
An editor suggested I write about Judas. A fan asked me to write about Elizabeth Bathory. Half of the storyline for The Line Between was inspired by a news article. The Long March Home was a story my coauthor, Marcus Brotherton, had simmering on the backburner for seven years before he invited me to join him. Lots of places. Sometimes it’s just curiosity—something, or someone I want to learn about.

What is your writing routine? Any quirky habits or must-have snacks?
I am no good without snacks. And caffeine. I try to eat clean and watch my carbs when I need to stay mentally sharp… but that all eventually falls apart and I’m pouring Cheeto crumbs from the bag straight into my mouth in between pizza deliveries.

If you could have coffee with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be? What would you ask him or her?
That is so hard. There are so many authors I admire, who have inspired me since the very beginning. Anne Rice. Anita Diamant. Anne Lamott. (Lots of women whose names start with “A”.) I’ve never met Anne Lamott—gosh, I’d love to have coffee and a cream cheese pastry with her.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as an author?
During one of my first library readings I realized that even though I knew how to spell and correctly use the word “conflagration,” I had no idea how to pronounce it. That has happened to me a lot, actually. I’m much better at typing things than saying them.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I write a lot in first person because I really like to get inside the skin of my main characters, so the point of view is very intimate. I did this with Eve, and I did this with Judas. I also like doing this in present tense, so everything is happening right now.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Binging TV. Traveling. Hanging with my husband, Bryan, and our boys. Eating. Cooking. Posting funny pictures of our 160-lb. German Shepherd, Timber, online. I really like goofing off and sleeping in.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Aimie K. Runyan’s upcoming A Bakery in Paris, Andrew Kaplan’s Scorpion Winter, Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library.

Finish this statement: If I were not an author, I would be Marie Kondo.
Because I can clean and organize a drawer or closet like nobody’s business. I’ll throw half your stuff away, but it’ll look great when I’m done.
Kathy McKinsey lives in Lakewood, Ohio, with her husband Murray and the oldest of their five children. Besides writing, she enjoys activities with her church, editing for other writers, braille drawing, crocheting, knitting, and playing with their rambunctious cat.

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