By RICK BROWN, Yard Light Media
KEARNEY — Best-selling author Tosca Lee often encounters fans who assume that she must live on either the East or the West Coast.
“When I go to events or conferences, a lot of people assume that if you’re a bestselling novelist you must live in New York or someplace like that,” the author said from her home in Fremont. “As you know, Nebraska has a rich literary tradition. There are such wonderful writers and authors living here. I’m always glad when one of us gets an award so we can help draw the focus to the talent in the state.”
An announcement by the American Book Fest currently highlights Nebraska’s literary tradition — along with Lee’s contribution to that legacy. In July the organization honored Lee’s work with two International Book Awards, one for mystery/suspense for “A Single Light” and another one for science fiction for “The Line Between.” The International Book Awards celebrates excellence in all sections of the publishing industry. More than 2,000 entries were submitted to this year’s awards.
The books feature Nebraska settings.
“I consider myself a novelist who has lived almost all my life in Nebraska,” Lee said. “These two books are my first novels that I’ve been able to set in the area just because of the subject matter I’ve written about.”
Both books tell the story of Wynter Roth, a 22-year-old woman who has escaped a Midwest cult just as a frightening disease spreads across the country. Both stories have been optioned for development for television/film.
Lee is the author of 11 novels. Her books have been translated into 17 languages.
During this time of COVID-19 shutdowns, Lee sees this as a perfect time for enjoying novels.
“This is a great time to be reading fiction, especially during this time of quarantine and lockdowns,” she said. “It’s all about escapism. I think that’s why you also saw a lot of people binge watching shows on Netflix. I’ve read varying reports; some people are reading a lot and others are having a hard time concentrating because of the current climate.”
Lee feels that fiction’s main goal is to entertain.
“It’s meant to act as a portal away from the current reality to somewhere else,” she said. “It’s meant to usher us out of reality and help us escape. This is a good time to be reading fiction as a way to deal with the stress of living through a pandemic and through uncertainty of the financial stresses that so many people are undergoing right now.”
What about reading pandemic fiction?
“That’s a different question,” Lee laughed. “In a normal time I think people turn to pandemic fiction just out of curiosity. In the back of their minds they are wondering, would I be able to survive? What would I do in these situations? I think the ‘fun’ of that literature is that it does away with the noise of everyday living. It boils everything down to the simple question of survival.”
Booksellers noted an uptick in pandemic fiction in mid-March and April.
Part of the driving force of her books relies on understanding the motivations of the characters.
“Figuring out who you can trust in a novel makes the story really fun,” she said. “It’s also something that makes our jobs, as writers, so difficult. Readers are now so savvy these days. It’s hard to pull off twists and turns that readers won’t see a mile away. That’s the challenge, especially with books like ‘Gone Girl’ where you have an unreliable narrator. Finding new ways to surprise and thrill readers — or throw a wrench into the works — is the fun and challenging part of it.”
Lee considers winning the International Book Award as a big encouragement.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had two books that have garnered quite as many awards as these,” she said. “That’s been really exciting. Practically speaking it’s also very good because I’m up for a new publishing contract now. Coming off the heels of an award like this is very good for getting my next book contracted.”
Lee co-authored a WWII story. She’s currently in the process of revising the manuscript.
“We hope to find a home for that story,” she said. “After that I plan to dive into medieval thriller. I have some other suspense ideas that I’m really excited about but it will probably be later this year before I start proposing that. We’ll just see what publishers are interested in.”
August 13, 2020 | Kearney Hub