About Tosca Lee
“One of the most gifted novelists writing today.” —Steven James, best-selling author.
Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of Iscariot; Demon: A Memoir; Havah: The Story of Eve, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times best-seller Ted Dekker (Forbidden, Mortal and Sovereign). Her highly anticipated seventh novel, The Legend of Sheba, releases September 9, 2014.
Tosca received her B.A. in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with studies at Oxford University. She is a lifelong world adventure traveler and makes her home in the Midwest. To learn more about Tosca, visit www.toscalee.com.
An Interview With Tosca
On The Legend of Sheba:
Links for the book:
- You are known for your meticulous research. How did researching Legend of Sheba differ from your other books?
After a year and a half of hard research for Iscariot, I thought research for Sheba would be much easier. Not so! It is much harder to fill in the historical record of 1000 years earlier than the time of Christ due to the death of archaeological progress in history-rich and troubled Yemen, natural phenomena such as the encroaching sands of the desert, and a lack of historical records recording any queen in the Southern Arabian region.
- What do we actually know about the Queen of Sheba?
We know something about the Sabaean (the Israelite Sheba = ancient Arabian Saba) people: that they had a capital in Marib, a sovereign “federator” who united the kingdoms of Saba, an elegant and evolving script, a sophisticated dam near the capital that turned Marib’s dusty fields into oases, and that there is great evidence of Sabaean settlement in the area of Ethiopia near what would become Aksum. We know the Sabaeans of the 10th Century BC worshiped the moon god, Almaqah, though experts do not agree whether this was a male or female deity. We know that in terms of the ancient world, they were quite rich due in large part to their cultivation of frankincense in the southeastern region, and that they had an extensive and evolving trade network that extended as far north as Damascus, as far east as India, and as far west across the Red Sea as Ethiopia and the continent beyond.
- What do we actually know about King Solomon—I understand that the academic opinion varies quite a lot from the biblical account.
Again, we know more about the region, people, language, culture and ethnic history of the Israelites than anything, archaeologically-speaking, of the king himself. It would be such a help if something were unearthed from the City of David or the Temple Mount that could be linked to Solomon’s temple or directly to Solomon himself! There was an item—a small ivory pomegranate that was once thought to top the scepter of a priest of this time period, with an inscription indicating so… but this was later ruled to be a forgery, though the carved pomegranate did date to the correct (early to mid-900s BC) time period. I say more about this question in the Author’s Notes of Legend of Sheba.
- The queen is a very minor character in the scope of the biblical narrative, but you assert that her famous visit to King Solomon is vitally important in the scope of Old Testament history. Why?
For two reasons. If the story of the United Monarchy (the kingdom of David and his son/successor, Solomon) is not true, then the bedrock of three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) collapses into fiction, and the claim of Jews to the land of Israel with it. Perhaps the authors of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles knew that, because they took the opportunity to basically say, “Hey, this queen from the ends of the earth, that famous Queen of Sheba, came and brought tribute to our king, and blessed him and our god and said ‘All that I heard was true, and I never even heard the half of it!’” This is fascinating. It begs the question: what was it that was so great about this female sovereign—in a time when the world was ruled by men—and a pagan, no less… what was it about her that was so outstanding that her endorsement of Solomon, his riches, wisdom, and god, held so much weight as to be included in the Old Testament narrative? Who was this woman who matched wits with the wisest man in the world—whose throne was so secure that she could leave it and make the 1400 mile journey of half a year to visit this king… before making the long trek back? Well, this must be a woman worth knowing something about.
- I understand you created a special bonus for your readers with Legend of Sheba. Can you tell us more about that?
Ismeni—a free eBook short story prequel to The Legend of Sheba—will be available August 26. This is the story of Sheba’s mother, and sheds some light on the man who would become the queen of Sheba’s right-hand councilor. It’s about 34 pages long, and also includes a preview of the Prologue and first chapter of The Legend of Sheba.
Links to Download FREE:
- You recently won the 2014 Gold Medallion for fiction—what people may not know is this is the only award given each year by the ECPA for Christian fiction across all genres. And yet you’re known for your controversial points of view and pushing limits of the category. What is it about your books that you believe resonates so much with Christian readers?
I think it’s that I’m willing to go there and get gritty. To admit that halfway through the writing of Iscariot, I realized I was no longer writing his story… but my own. Havah is also my story. They all are. And we’re not that different, you and I. I like writing about these maligned characters because even though we may not want to, we can often identify with them far more readily than the good guys, who seem so untouchable. We all feel let down at some point by the way God fails to adhere to our agendas for Him. We all have moments when we think, “if you knew me—really knew me—you would not love me.” We all fail with the best of intentions, and we all want to be embraced exactly as we are. We are all as capable of darkness as we are of light—and often the darkness is far more tangible. The stuff in the Bible isn't sterile—far from it. It’s gory, violent, sexual, and messy. But so is life. I want to be honest about fear and compromise as I am about hope, beauty and redemption.
- You've also co-authored the Books of Mortals series with Ted Dekker. Aside from the obvious, how does co-writing differ from writing solo?
It takes twice as much time. You have to spend a lot of time talking, planning, plotting, and going over what you've done. When you write solo, there is no need for consensus, and for making sure you are sharing the same vision of character, plot, and resolution. But writing solo is also scarier; you don’t have the safety net of a partner to catch your writing foibles, pick up the slack where you are not as strong, and to get you out of bed and into the chair each day. They both have their pros and cons.
- You get approached by a lot of writers early in the process of trying to get published. What is your best advice for writers and for those hoping to pursue a career in writing?
Finish the work first. Far too many people write to me asking how to get an agent/editor/publishing deal and they haven’t even finished a novel or built up a body of work to sell. Finish the novel, and start another. And another, even after you approach agents or start to self-publish. Agents, in particular, want to know what else you have to offer and if you can produce on schedule. If you haven’t completed at least one sell-able book, you are not ready to approach the industry. Finish the work. And please don’t send files to an author you don’t know personally to ask for his/her opinion of your writing. Many authors teach, edit or offer critiques as a business to support themselves. Sending them something out of the blue for their opinion presumptuously asks them to work for free.
- It’s probably no surprise that you used to be a freelance writer. But you’ve also been an online gamer, a pageant queen—were first-runner up to Mrs. United States—a model and a leadership consultant to Fortune 500 Companies with the Gallup Organization. How have each of these seeming disparate experiences informed your experience as a best-selling author?
Online gaming, when I was doing it—before avatars and the time of EverQuest, even—was solely text-based. We’re talking about the early 90s, during the time of dial-up modems when online gaming boiled down to collaborative story-telling. I spent nine years writing about imaginary characters online. I don’t know how many words or pages that amounted to (hundreds and hundreds), but I assert often that everything I learned about characterization happened from role-playing in text and writing online—from slipping into the skin of characters I could only portray with words. The pageant thing, the modeling thing, gave me invaluable training in media. The year I was Mrs. Nebraska (1996) was when I started public speaking. Suddenly, I had a platform, and people assumed I had something to say. Well, I did, and that led to me going to work for Gallup. Working as a consultant, my primary job was as a speaker and teacher. This, too, has proved invaluable when it comes to speaking on writing and to the media. I’m very comfortable in front of an audience of 20 or 1000.
- Where can readers meet you in person?
I have several events coming up—my schedule is posted and always being updated at toscalee.com.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
I spend time with my family, hang out with friends I neglected on deadline, travel, go out to eat, and clean out my closets.
- What are one or two things that your readers don’t know about you?
I danced semi-professionally as a classical ballerina in my teens. I also used to be a concert pianist. I have the greatest fans in the world, am terrible at math, can’t work if my house is messy, and am a crack shot with a deer rifle.
- What are you working on next?
I’m taking a break from biblical historicals. My next two books will be something different. And then I’ll delve back into the biblical world again.