The author explains how her dystopian fiction is inspired by the world around us.
Tosca Lee is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including co-writing the Books of Mortals series with blockbuster author Ted Dekker. She also has a penchant for writing complex characters, as demonstrated in her biblical novels about Judas and Eve.
Her latest novel is the dystopian thriller A Single Light (Howard Books), which follows the harrowing events of The Line Between. Cult escapee Wynter Roth and ex-soldier Chase Miller emerge from their bunker to find a country ravaged by disease, and Wynter is the only one who can save it.
In this exclusive interview, Tosca outlines the origins of the word she created for this series, shares the real-life challenges behind writing the novels, and reveals why her faith compels her to write about broken characters in need of redemption…
Tosca, The Line Between is a conspiracy thriller that details the impact of a mysterious outbreak. What inspired such a frighteningly plausible setup like this?
Scarily enough—the headlines! The book was inspired by actual news articles about diseases, bacteria, and microbes—even “zombie worms”—lying dormant in permafrost that is melting around the world today. Just a few years ago, a reindeer carcass infected with anthrax thawed from the Siberian permafrost, infecting a nearby village and killing a little boy. Scientists are wary about what else a good thaw might produce.
Wynter Roth is a recent escapee of a doomsday cult who is now racing to save the world. What made you want to tell her story?
I’ve always been fascinated with cults—what causes people to join them, and how they find the wherewithal to leave. I wanted to tell the story of a young woman trying to fit in to a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, and where and how she finds grace in it.
What can you tell us about former military man Chase Miller?
What was the most challenging part of writing this novel?
I wrote this book right after a time of professional upheaval—my imprint’s entire office in Nashville, Tenn., was let go right before the release of my previous novel, Firstborn. I struggled with the first draft of The Line Between—and the second, and the third. I had to rewrite it enough times that its publication was actually delayed by several months.
When it started to garner pre-release reviews, I told myself not to read them; I was writing the sequel and things were finally clicking along and I couldn’t afford to fall apart. I read them anyway. And then got out of my chair and fell on my face in gratitude.
What kind of research did you do to get the details in The Line Between right?
I’m very lucky in that my sister is a practicing and teaching physician. She spent hours explaining how diseases can make the jump from animals to humans, and recombine, and scary things like that and helping me create the disease in the book. Beyond that, I spent time studying cults, ancient seeds and seed vaults (which factor into the story), doomsday prepping and bug-out shelters. Stuff that sounds kind of off the wall, but that I found extremely interesting.
Click thru to find out how Tosca continues the story in the new book…