A NY Times bestselling author of supernatural thrillers and historical novels, Tosca Lee may or may not also be a vigilante who keeps her current community safe. Despite being incredibly busy, Lee has recently published Firstborn, the sequel to her thriller The Progeny. Wanting to learn more about her amazing background and Firstborn, I was lucky that Lee allowed me to interview her for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some stories you loved experiencing? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Tosca Lee: Absolutely. I was hugely influenced by what my friends were reading. Luckily for me, my friends had great taste. I read Lord Valentine’s Castle, Clan of the Cave Bear, Flowers in the Attic, and The Mists of Avalon—which remains one of my favorite books of all time.
Yanes: Writers often struggle to find the right words. Given that you have a Korean and American background, are there any Korean words or concepts you wish English had?
Lee: Great question! Though unfortunately my Korean isn’t fluent enough for me to know. I know the basics: “I’m hungry.” “I’m going to throw up.” “Kiss me.” “Don’t touch me.” And “How much does it cost?” 😀 I do wish that we had more of a reverence for our teachers, which is something deeply ingrained in Korean culture.
Yanes: When did you know you wanted to be professional writer? Was there a specific moment in which this goal crystallized for you?
Lee: I was hanging out with my dad during spring break my freshman year of college and talking about one of my favorite books (The Mists of Avalon) and how a great book is like an emotional roller coaster. And I wondered for the first time what it’d be like to create such a roller coaster for someone else’s enjoyment. I blurted out that day, “I want to write a book” and my dad made me a deal right there: that he’d pay me what I would have made at my summer job working as a bank teller if I spent my summer writing that book full-time. And I think it was during the process of trying to get that book published the following summer that I knew I really wanted this as a career.
Yanes: You managed to write and publish a few of your novels while working a full time job. Could you take a moment to discuss your writing process? Specifically, how did you manage to find time to write on a regular basis?
Lee: Well, it was hard. I used to travel nearly every week for my job as a consultant, so I was working on planes and in hotels an in the wee hours—and then days straight at home in between. I’ve never been good at routine, so that probably suited me very well. All I can say is that if something’s important enough, we all find ways and time to do it. These days I write in spurts and fits. If I’m between projects, I may not write at all. But when it’s go-time on deadline… I’m usually writing 15-20 hours a day.
Yanes: I am really excited to have the opportunity to talk to you about The Progeny. What was the inspiration for this novel?
Lee: The Progeny is the story of Emily Porter, who is living a quiet existence in the North Woods of Maine after having the last two years of her memory erased… only to realize she’s being hunted as one of the descendants of the “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory—and that everything she erased to protect is what she now needs to survive. And it was born from a fan asking if I’d ever consider writing something about Elizabeth Bathory.
You can learn about The Progeny by reading its first four chapters here.
Yanes: When you were developing The Progeny from idea to book, were there any characters or themes that took on a life of their own?
Lee: It’s really a story about identity and what we think makes us who we are. Is it our family? History? Our roles, the people around us, our jobs? What happens when all that is stripped away—who are we really?
Yanes: Firstborn is the sequel to The Progeny. When did you know that story you wanted to tell would take up more than a novel? On this note, what steps did you take to make sure The Progeny ended in a manner that told its own story but still left the reader wanting more?
Lee: Haha, well, I unapologetically ended The Progeny on a cliffhanger. But I think that’s fun (especially if the second novel is available, which it is now!). I always knew it was too much story for one book, but I didn’t want to do trilogy, quite frankly because readership always drops from book to book in a trilogy.
Yanes: What are your long term goals for The Progeny and Firstborn? Would you like to revisit any characters? Do you hope to see either of these books on television or in theaters?
Lee: The books are actually in development for TV right now, so I’m hoping we get all the way through that process and I get to watch them one day. That would be so cool! If there was demand for it, I’d do another book. I never say never!
Yanes: When people finish reading The Progeny and Firstborn, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Lee: I just hope they say, “Wow, that was super fun.” It’s such a privilege to get to help people escape the rigors of life for a few hours at a time.
Yanes: Finally, what are you working on that people can look forward to?
Lee: I’ve just finished edits on my new thriller, The Line Between, about a young woman who escapes a doomsday cult just in time for a pandemic to hit the U.S. in what looks like the end she was always told was coming. It comes out in January and a follow-up (haha, no cliffhangers, I promise) comes out later in the year.