From Nebraska Beauty Pageant Queen to the New York Times Bestseller List: Learn All About Festival Author Tosca Lee

Lee Featured at October Event in Deadwood with Other Members of Midwest Author Group "The Traveling Pens"

By South Dakota Magazine & South Dakota Humanities Council
Editor's Note: A version of this feature story appears in our 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books guide produced by South Dakota Magazine. Download a free copy of the Festival Guide below!

New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee has an arc to her life that may even rival some of the characters in her novels.

From ballet dancer to beauty pageant winner to the New York Times bestseller list, she's played a lot of roles in her life (see Q&A section below for more).  

Meanwhile, her novels, which are of broad interest to the thriller crowd, cover the span of human history with settings ranging from the Garden of Eden in her 2008 book, "Havah: The Story of Eve," to a barely pre-apocalyptic America in her most recent thriller, "The Line Between." But no matter what time period Lee explores, one constant remains — her characters' actions are rooted in basic human nature.

"As humans, we are very much the same," Lee explains. "We all have feelings."

"When you tap into the emotions of those experiences in your own life — not what they were, but what they 'felt' like — you're no longer making something up, but reminding your reader of the emotions already within them," she says.

Lee is a member of The Traveling Pens, teaming with Midwestern authors Kimberly Stuart and Nicole Baart to share the joys of writing and reading at fun-filled events around the region. All three authors will be featured at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books.

"What I love about Kim and Nicole isn't that they're bestselling, award-winning authors (which they are)," Lee says. "It's the way they love people, God, and the power of story to elevate and inspire us."

To learn more about what makes Tosca Lee tick as a writer and as a person, read the below Q&A from her website,

Tosca Lee Q&A

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?
A: I love getting to pour it onto the page. To look back, re-read, and say, "Yes. That's it!" And I love hearing from readers. I seriously have the best readers in the world.

Q: What is your writing day like?
A: When I'm working on a project, I'll spend three to six months researching and another three to six writing, depending on the topic. When I'm on deadline, I write up to 20 hours a day, between 2,000 and 10,000 words a day. Between projects, I may go days without writing a thing. Weeks. Let's just say routine is not one of my virtues.

Q: What is life like when you're not writing?
A: I sleep. And wash my hair (well, sometimes.) I hang out with my kids and obsessively catch up with all the friends, cleaning, projects, e-mail, TV shows and errands I neglected while I was writing. But even then writing has a way of creeping in-–especially when I travel.

Q: What's the best advice you've received on writing/publication?
A: Do your part, do the work and then surrender the results. Of course, your part goes far beyond the actual writing.

Q: What is the worst piece of writing advice you've heard?
A: Write what you know. If I did that, I'd be writing about how to watch Hulu on your phone and catch your dog drinking out of the toilet.

Q: Can you read my writing if I send it to you?
A: Unfortunately, no. Please don't send it as it will be deleted. I can, however, refer you to several professional mentors and editors.

Q: What was your road to publication like?
A: What? There was a road?

Q: About that pageant [Lee was Miss Nebraska America 1996] 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.

Q: You seem to travel a lot. Where is your favorite place you've been?
A: The place I haven't been yet. Though I admit a special love for Bora Bora, New Mexico, and my mom's kitchen.

Q: Do you still model?
A: I do–when I have time.

Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
A: I was a ballet dancer until height and injuries conspired against me. Despite the fact that I won writing contests in school and published my first piece in third grade, it wasn't until I went to college that I began to seriously consider writing a "thing."

Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I sleep. Eat. Shop. I have three boys at home, so I play a lot of football and Call of Duty.

The Traveling Pens are made up of (left to right) Nicole Baart, Tosca Lee, and Kimberly Stuart. All three will be featured at the 2019 S.D. Festival of Books.

The Traveling Pens are made up of (left to right) Nicole Baart, Tosca Lee, and Kimberly Stuart. All three will be featured at the 2019 S.D. Festival of Books.

Tosca Lee's 2019 Festival of Books Schedule

Friday, Oct. 4

Saturday, Oct 5

  • 1:00 pm - 1:45 pm
    63 Presenters (including Lee)
    Deadwood Mountain Grand - Event Center

Click the buttons below for the full schedules of the other two members of The Traveling Pens, Nicole Baart and Kimberly Stuart.

More About Tosca Lee

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of 10 novels, including "The Progeny," "Firstborn," "The Legend of Sheba," "Iscariot" and, with fellow NYT bestseller Ted Dekker, the Books of Mortals series. Her work has been translated into 17 languages and been optioned for TV and film. A notorious night-owl, Lee loves movies, playing football with her kids and sending cheesy texts to her husband. "A Single Light," the highly-anticipated sequel to her thriller "The Line Between," releases in September.

More About the Festival of Books

To read more about authors who will be appearing at the 2019 Festival of Books, click below to visit the Festival of Books website, which includes information about authors, venues, events and more.