CHRISTINA: I started following NY Times bestselling author Tosca Lee on Twitter earlier this year when I saw buzz about an upcoming novel from her and Marcus Brotherton, The Long March Home, and the words Bataan Death March popped out at me. My uncle Bernardo, a Filipino scout for the US Army, survived the Bataan Death March, and I am always eager to read historical accounts and historical fiction about the battle of the Pacific or anything, really, about the Philippines. I knew I had to read her book and I was over the moon when Tosca agreed to this interview.
What inspired you to write THE LONG MARCH HOME?
TOSCA: Wow, Christina, what an amazing legacy. And those Scouts were amazing, incredible soldiers, and so very respected. I have to admit, I didn’t know much about this chapter of history until my coauthor, Marcus Brotherton, called me up about five years ago and asked me to write this book with him. A deep dive into years of research ensued. And today, I’m so honored to share this story and more about the often less-told history of the Pacific. The Long March Home is fiction, but it’s inspired by true accounts.
CHRISTINA: What comes first, plot, or characters?
TOSCA: Just a premise. A girl gets kicked out of a doomsday cult and has to start over in the outside world (The Line Between). The Queen of Sheba (The Legend of Sheba). A girl is fleeing a secret society fueled by a 400 year-old blood vendetta (The Progeny). I build it out from there.
CHRISTINA: Is there one of your characters you most identify with and why?
TOSCA: Wynter in The Line Between and A Single Light—she has some of my humor, and she also has OCD, as I do.
CHRISTINA: If you could tell your 21-year-old self anything, what would you share?
TOSCA: Don’t date that guy.
CHRISTINA: Hahahhahahah. Seriously. I get that.
What do you think is your strength as a writer?
TOSCA: Gosh. It’s hard to see ourselves clearly. I’m told my research and bringing characters to life. But that is hard for me to reflect on. I just know I try to tell the story as evocatively as I can.
CHRISTINA: I am reading The Long March Home now, and I agree. Your research is impeccable and, yes, your characters are multi-dimensional. They read like real people.
What makes you get up in the morning? What do you love?
TOSCA: Food. LOL I’m not kidding—I’m all about breakfast.
CHRISTINA: Well, they do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Best advice for new writers:
TOSCA: Write like no one will ever read it. I’m serious.
CHRISTINA: I saw on your social media recently your best wishes for the reigning Mrs. Nebraska at nationals as you were a former Mrs. Nebraska. And while researching for this interview, I came across a Q&A on your website.
Q: About that pageant thing…
A: You know, that was one of those things where someone saying, “You should do that” opened a possibility to me that I never would have considered. It was a fascinating experience. And by doing it, I had the privilege to represent numerous local charities and women’s causes, including breast cancer.
I love that answer. I went to Miss USA in 1988, representing Delaware. People will say what they will about pageants, but the experience is, as in anything, what you make it. Using the title for good, to help elevate awareness for organizations and causes you care about, is a positive. From one pageant sister to another, well done.
What does literary success look like to you?
TOSCA: I used to think it meant bestseller lists, big advances, and awards. I’ve had all those things now and I can tell you real success is touching the lives of others.
CHRISTINA: As a writer still in the query trenches, I think that is a beautiful way to look at success as an author, almost like Maslow's hierarchy of needs. How once you have reached and even surpassed many writing goals, your philosophy has also transcended.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
TOSCA: Anywhere from three months to five years.
CHRISTINA: Being biracial (my father is Filipino, and my mother is a blend of Austrian, Slovenian, and Polish), I enjoy reading about characters of mixed heritages. Do you feel you need to write characters who look like you or have your unique perspective?
TOSCA: I’m biracial, too! Half Korean, half mostly Scottish. And no, not necessarily. I’ve written as a white man living in Boston, a African/Arabian queen living 3000 years ago, a Jewish disciple of Jesus Christ, a mixed-race young woman leaving a cult, the modern descendant of a Hungarian serial killer, and the mother of all humanity. I do think sharing our ethnic experiences is very important and am so glad for increased diversity and inclusiveness in storytelling and publishing. I also feel that we all are united in our hopes and dreams and humans.
CHRISTINA: Thank you, Tosca, for taking time to answer these questions and for your candor. I can't wait for my book club to read The Long March Home, too, and hopefully meet you, even via an online event.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Line Between, The Progeny, Firstborn, Iscariot, The Legend of Sheba, Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of Eve, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker.
She is the recipient of two International Book Awards, Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion, ECPA Book of the Year in Fiction, and the Nebraska Book Award. Her work has finaled for the High Plains Book Award, the Library of Virginia Reader’s Choice Award, two Christy Awards, and a second ECPA Book of the Year. The Line Between was a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery/Thriller of 2019. In addition to the New York Times, her books have appeared on the IndieBound bestseller list, and Library Journal’s “Best Of” lists..
Tosca received her B.A. from Smith College and lives in Nebraska with her husband, three of four children still at home, and her 160-lb. German Shepherd, Timber.