Sunday, September 21, 2008
Welcome, Tosca. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
Sometimes I wonder that same thing. I think because I like to turn things inside out or upside down. I’m interested in new perspectives and vantage points of the same familiar truth. I’m tired of the pat, cliché answers. I want the depth that comes from re-examining the things we take for granted in our faith and in our lives.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
It’s got to be any one of the days that I was signing my first book, Demon, and looked up to see that there was a line. Holy cow. If they could bottle and sell that euphoria, everyone would be hooked on it. It was amazing. But contrary to what you might expect—what I might have expected—it didn’t make me feel all look-at-me important. It was actually very, very humbling. For days, for weeks afterward, I thought, “Who am I to have these people want me to sign this book?” Even now, when I get an amazing letter or nice review, I think, “Who am I?”
The coolest and really the moments that have broken me are the ones where I’ve realized God knows who I am. I saw this chiropractor, Dr. Bo, for the first time while working on Havah. A friend referred me—I think she was tired of me complaining about my back from all the travel I do for my work. Dr. Bo is a Christian chiropractor. Anyway, he asked how I was and I broke down. And he gave me a Bible verse, this man who had never met me, and said, “You know, God is really pleased with the work you’re doing.” I just lost it and I’m sure he thought I was a nutcase. He asked if he could pray for me after he cracked my back. Poor guy.
How has being published changed your life?
It’s been the fulfillment of a dream. It’s also made life more stressful. I have about three zits waiting to happen as I type this. With my consulting job, which I travel almost every week for, and then the pressure of deadlines, edits, and marketing efforts, it’s a constant sense of something hanging over my head. That is the biggest challenge for me: learning how to manage that. I have sort of lost any semblance of a social life, which is really ironic because when Demon came out, a bunch of my former high school and college and other friends from the past heard about it and we reconnected. Now I’m trying to find more time in a tighter schedule to try to catch up with more people. But that’s a good problem to have, I think.
I’ve also felt a little more private about myself, which is weird considering that you have to get out there to promote the book and be accessible, and share your thoughts on your blog and things like that. Being single, I’ve felt a little more protective about my privacy and making smart decisions.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve been waiting for Havah to get done so I can hunker down and savor a stack of books by new friends. It’s a huge, growing stack. Actually, my friends are really prolific and I secretly hate them a little bit. I’ve also got Michael Crighton’s Next, and some Philipa Gregory on my nightstand. The Tudors just started up again on Showtime and I’m really into the Henry VIII thing right now.
What is your current work in progress?
Havah: The Story of Eve. It’s finished. Thank God. Literally. This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I fell friends that I feel like that Russian woman who gave birth to that 17 pound baby. That’s how I feel—like that woman. And even more importantly: who in their right mind would ever want to do that all over again? Seriously. When I finished the draft, I said, “That’s it. I’m done. I don’t want to do this any more.” Though just tonight I was scribbling ideas for another book here in my New Jersey hotel room. I mean, bare, bare bone ideas. But still.
Meanwhile, as soon as copy edits are done for Havah, I’m going on a social binge for a while. Between trips for work. And closet cleaning. And mail sorting. And dishes.
What would be your dream vacation?
A week alone in my house. With a stack of books. And a personal chef.
Barring that, I’d like to go back to Bora Bora or to one of the Cook Islands. There isn’t much to do out there other than lay in the sun and eat so much that your bikini won’t fit. It doesn’t get much better than that.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
I chose Boston for Demon because it was readily accessible for me—my sister lives there, and I visit frequently enough to research. I went to college west of there at Smith, so I’ve been there off and on for years. The other option was Lincoln, where I live. This didn’t seem the book for that. I’ll set something in Lincoln in the future though.
For Havah, the location came with the story.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
I probably ought to say Jesus, but I’m going to be cheesy instead. I’ve got a new significant other—someone I so eloquently called my “Significant Dating Person” in a moment of great eloquence when faced with the question of who this person was at a time that I was unprepared to answer—so right now it’d be him.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
Cooking. Eating. Catalog shopping (you can browse on the plane, in airports, in the bathroom…). I like shopping at Whole Foods. Seriously, that place is like Disneyland to me. Traveling. Movies. Eating—especially stuff that other people cook.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Procrastination. Perfectionism. Oh, terrible perfectionism.
Anne Lamott really helped with the perfectionism thing. Well, a little bit, anyway. She talks about ugly first drafts in her book, Bird By Bird, and I took a great deal of relief in reading that we have to write some real garbage to find something good and lovely. It’s really true. At least for me. I really dislike anyone it’s not true for. And once the perfectionism monster is stalled, that seems to help with the procrastination.
The thing is, it’s really a challenge for me to regard the process of writing as great fun. It’s not. It totally sucks. I’d rather pick my cuticles to a bloody pulp than write most days. Some days I do both.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Don’t do it. Put down the pen and back away slowly. I don’t want any more competition than I already have. Help me out here.
You are so funny, Tosca. Tell us about the featured book.
Havah is the story of Eve told from her point of view. What did she really think about Adam the first time she saw him? Why did she eat the fruit? How does a woman love one son who murdered her other?
I wanted to know these things. I wanted to get away from the flannel board, pale-skinned Adam and Eve holding leaves over their groins, and see what it could have been like. Just like the story of the angelic fall, I believe there’s got to be more to this one as well.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Easily! Find me at www.toscalee.com, www.demonamemoir.com, or www.havahstoryofeve.com
Tosca, thank you for spending this time with us. I can hardly wait to read Havah. I loved Demon.
Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Havah. Then check out all three of Tosca's web sites.
Posted by Lena Nelson Dooley at 1:27 AM