Author Crush Month: Tosca Lee

I’m so excited to introduce you to one of my favorite new authors! When a friend at a writer’s retreat raved about Demon: A Memoir last summer, half of us bought the book immediately on our Kindles. Unfortunately, the one time my husband was listening while I was talking was when I told him about the book. Next thing I knew, my Kindle was gone and I had to wait until John finished before I could read the book. I knew I had to ask author Tosca Lee if she would join us this month! I hope you enjoy her witty description of her writing routines! Ah, I don’t feel so alone.

Demon LRMy routine: I get up by 5:30am. I take green tea at my desk as the first glow of dawn hits the juniper outside my window. I work through the morning, write a minimum of 2000 words before breaking to hit the treadmill at noon.

In my dreams.

I really wake at 9 or 10am. Maybe 11. Because I went to bed at 3. Possibly 4. A half hour later after lurching from bed, I stagger into the coffee shop near my house. They’ve seen me coming, my triple-shot iced latte is nearly ready by the time I get to the counter. I gulp it down on the way home.

Back at home, I clean up the kitchen. I’m obsessive about my counters. It’s crucial to writing to have clean counters. I just haven’t found out how yet.

Wade through e-mail, scratch unkempt hair. I am wearing the same clothes I wore yesterday. And perhaps the day before that. I make eggs, eat in front of something on DVR. You can learn a lot about pacing from the likes of 24. Or Dollhouse. Or Fringe. You can also do your expenses from the business trip you took last week.

I respond to voicemails (left on my phone before resurrecting), take calls and respond to e-mail from my consulting job, e-mail my agent, editor, web team, print a request from a book club, note an interview appointment for next week. I check Facebook. Decide no one loves me. Write a desperate plea for attention—er, a blog. Schedule the blog for tomorrow. Accidentally post it today. Twitter about something. Retweet something. Respond to something that just got responded to in my response. This all seems very important.

So is Pilates. I have my regularly-scheduled butt-kicking today, during which I realize I still haven’t combed my hair. Afterwards I run errands, pick up lunch, which I eat at home at my desk on top of the binder that holds what can only loosely be referred to as an outline for my current work on Judas Iscariot.

Somewhere in the afternoon, I realize the day is getting away from me. I’ve missed a guest blog deadline. I’m supposed to meet a friend for dinner tonight, but I’ve nowhere touched the six hours I meant to get in before then. I’ve not returned all the business-hour calls that must happen before 5pm. I berate myself for my nocturnal schedule, vow to  learn to live by the light, swear off coffee, decide I am delusional, never really learned how to write, and that I quite possibly stink.

Suddenly, there it is, blinking from my inbox—the exact thing to jolt me from stupor, funk and self-absorption alike: a letter from a reader.

I have the best readers in the world. How much they mean to me! I may be biased, but I believe them to be the most courageous and encouraging humans alive. For them I will seek out the dark crannies of this story, will pick at my sentences, will craft quirks in characters that I hope will delight them.

I cancel dinner, clip back my hair and get down to business. It is by now 6 or 7pm. Here, finally, is how I work:

  • I often pray by the side of my desk. It is a short, desperate and pleading thing. God must be so tired of me.
  • I read a few pages of another book by another author. Something—anything—to take me from here.
  • I read back, from where I left off the night before. I do not edit, try not to fill in the brackets where I have left space for details that I dare not stop to look up now.

And then I stare. I push back in my chair. I pick a dry spot on my lower lip, pull at my eyebrow, rub at my forehead. No. Nothing. This is not good.

At last, I resign myself to writing something truly terrible. That’s what I tell myself: that it will be terrible but at least it is something.

And so I write. I find it takes about twenty minutes before it fully comes on—whatever “it” is. I do my best not to stop, throwing in brackets wherever I need to add detail later. Anything to keep going. Everything is fair game right now. Much of what I lay down will get hacked in later revisions. Most of it will change. A few prized sentences I will actually keep as they are.

Every now and then I stop and count. I’m aiming for 2000 words. I run to the bathroom at 2400. I creep up on 3000. I near 4000. It is after 2am.

When I get stuck, I wonder what Anne Rice or Ted Dekker or Joss Whedon would do. I idly wonder what they eat for breakfast, if they wear the same clothes day in and out, if they have picked a little hole in their lower lip as they work. I feel very alone.

By 3 or 4am, my eyes are crossing. I have forgotten myself—there is only that boy that will grow up to be Christendom’s greatest traitor, and that man who will be his mentor and foil. There is only joy and pain and the road to Sepphoris, the set expression on the face of the High Priest. By the time I go to bed and stare at the ceiling in the dark, I wish I could, in fact, write until tomorrow. But I am exhausted, and so sleep… well past morning.

Again.

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Jeans2b2 Tosca Lee is the critically-acclaimed author of Demon: A Memoir — Christy Award finalist and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Award winner — and Havah: The Story of Eve, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and 4.5 stars from Romantic Times. Both novels have been newly acquired by B&H Publishing Group and will be repackaged and re-released next May. Tosca’s highly-anticipated third novel, Iscariot: The Traitor, releases Fall of 2011. You can also follow Tosca on her blog.

8 thoughts on “Author Crush Month: Tosca Lee”

  1. What great routine! I find myself in the same fix. Too many distractions, wearing the same clothes, realizing I forgot to comb my hair when I go out. I vary writing times, trying to find my niche, but procrastinate revisions. I pray too. The hours slip by and suddenly it’s 2 AM and I’ve spent the last two hours reading about an amazing author!

  2. How ironic that I am reading this at midnight while I procrastinate completing the overhaul on a proposal I promised to send to my agent. Looks like I will have to read Demon again to see what you’ve added/changed. 🙂

  3. Another Fringe fan! I’m always finding reasons why watching TV is helpful for my writing. LOL! When reading this, I was thinking, “Oo, a new bracelet idea – WWJWD? What Would Joss Whedon Do?” LOL!

    Thanks for joining us, Tosca! 🙂

  4. LOL, love it. I’m a night writer, too. But you’ve got me beat on those 3-4am times! I enjoyed reading about your pre-writing process leading to finally getting immersed in the story. That’s the good part of writing we all crave 🙂

    (BTW I’ve just joined a book club and Demon is on the schedule for May. Don’t know if I can wait that long to read it!)

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