Tosca Lee, on her new book, Iscariot.

Confession time:
When I was younger,  I’d occasionally imagine getting to ‘interview’ the authors of my favorite books.  How cool it would be to sit down over coffee maybe, and ask them any question I could think of about the book. And of course, they’d answer, and then I’d be on cloud nine because I knew something about the book that no one else did.
How ridiculously cool would that be?!
Now, here I am 15 years later, and guess what?  Thanks to a sweet gesture by one of my favorite authors,  I’m blessed enough to have that opportunity. Only, minus the coffee, but substitute a stellar internet connection. (And for the record? Still think it’s the coolest thing in the world. )
Tosca Lee is an author that I’ve gotten interested in fairly recently, discovering her when Ted Dekker announced they were going to work together on the Books of Mortals trilogy.  (Which, so far  is amazing. Just saying. And I doubt the final book will be anything less than stellar..)
The first book I read anything about while looking her up,  was called Iscariot.
Which of course, did nothing but intrigue, and confuse me a little.  Iscariot?!  As in.…. Judas, Iscariot?
Yup. The one and only!
How intriguing.  I was drawn instantly. Loved the idea.. but I couldn’t help but be a little confused. Why would a Christian writer devote an entire book to Judas? He’s essentially the guy who killed Christ. I can’t imagine that being a subject most would want to dwell on for an entire book.  Regardless, I had to read it.  It sounded beyond interesting. Controversial, if nothing else.  And let’s face it, controversial, is always fun, right?
Unfortunately for me, the book wasn’t out yet.  According to her website and some notes on Facebook, it was already delayed, for one reason or the other.
 Naturally.
Flash forward a few years , and here we are! Not only is there a concrete release date (February 5th!), but there are interviews all over the place, and a very thought-provoking trailer, which I’m more than  happy to share with you all.
  Crazy, huh?
The sheer fact alone, that she’s not painting Judas as this horrible, one-dimensional, evil character who betrayed Christ is fascinating.  It’s probably off-putting to some, as well.  I know a few of my Christian friends I’ve mentioned it to have seemed very wary. I can’t say that I blame them, it’s a bit of a radical idea. Especially in a largely conservative Christian mindset.
Lucky for me, I’m not easily scared away. 🙂  Reading interviews about the book made me even more fascinated with it.  How on earth was she going to do this? How do you take arguably the most hated person in the bible, base an entire book around them, NOT make them an evil character, and not alienate readers?? (Or, publishers, for that matter!)
So, when Tosca offered the opportunity to do interviews with different blogs, I jumped on it.  It didn’t matter that I’m not a “blogger.”  I don’t have a popular blog, or get a ton of traffic, or have followers who hang on my every word….
But I had to.  I can’t help it. There’s something about this book that just draws me in. I don’t know if it’s strictly the fact that it’s so controversial… I don’t know if maybe I’m relating with the main character a bit too much,  or if it’s just my wanting to see the author do well.  I couldn’t tell you why..  But I’m here, and will be morbidly fascinated with the book until I’m able to read it.  (And after that, I’ll be a lost cause.  I’m apologizing in advance, you poor things will probably hear all about it.)
Sadly, I wasn’t one of the lucky few to have read the book in advance, it’s safely pre-ordered, and will be in my clutches the first week of February. Until then, here is what Tosca had to share with me about the book.
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On Iscariot,did any one person’s reaction surprise you? 

One of the reactions was a review I read on Goodreads, where someone wrote that if you don’t understand Judas in context (I assume, meaning the Jewish Everyman of the time and the paradox, danger and questions all 12 disciples must have struggled with in following Jesus) that you don’t fully understand Jesus in context. And I thought that was very succinctly said. Because our reactions to Jesus as modern Americans (or modern any nationality) looking back 2000 years through the lens of church history is vastly different than the perspective on the ground at the time.

As an author, what are you wanting people to take away from Iscariot? There’s obviously the overarching concept of, “Would I really have done any different?” But, what would thrill you to hear from someone at one of your book tour stops this year?

I am thrilled every time a reader writes or says to me, “I understand Jesus so much better now! I understand the context of what he was saying in a way I didn’t before.” Because ultimately, this book is really a story about Jesus. Judas is simply acting as the lens.

 Iscariot is a look at Judas’ life, but in the end, it’s a fictional account. Not that any of us can actually know the answer in this life, but, in your opinion, do you think the book is close to being historically accurate? Or, is it more of a ‘what if’ story?

It was very important to me to get the historical setting and context as accurate as possible. I spent a year and a half doing diligence on that–which informed the plausibility of character actions  and motivations for me. Ultimately, what a character like Judas might have thought and what would have motivated him is conjecture, but it was very important to me to make sure they were plausible in context. And it’s the context that is mostly lost on us as modern, free readers today.

Between Demon , Iscariot, and the Books of Mortals, you’ve written plenty of villain-esque characters. Which are more fun to write: Heroes or villains?

Villains who are heroic… and heroes with a dark side. 🙂

If you could talk face to face with Judas, what would you ask him?

I’d love to hear from him in his own words why he did it.

And finally…more of a bonus question. Inquiring minds really must know. Is there any bacon concoction you’ve discovered so far, that you haven’t been excited to try? 🙂

Yes! Bacon ice cream. I mean, ewww??!
Tosca Lee is a New York Times Bestselling author.  She can be found on Facebook and at her own corner of the web.  (Interesting fact for anyone who teaches school, or Sunday school – there are discussion guides for both of her solo books on her website!)
What do you think? Will you be reading Iscariot when it comes out?   Why, or why not?

Book Review – Tosca Lee – Demon: A Memoir

 “My story is very closely connected to yours. My story is ultimately about you. ” 
Two lines of text had never had such an impact on me before. So much foreshadowing… not only for the characters in the book, but for you and I, as well.
And I almost completely missed it.
Demon: A Memoir was the first solo book I’d read by Tosca Lee.  I’d read Forbidden and Mortal, part of the trilogy she co-penned with Ted Dekker. I enjoyed the collaboration so much, my husband immediately ordered both Demon and Havah for me. I was so excited to dive into Tosca’s work, I could hardly wait. Especially after meeting her!
However, if we’re being completely honest,  I was considerably more excited for Demon. It seemed a much more complex, possibly controversial story. I love things like that.
Essentially, the book is about Clay, a writer who is visited by Lucian, a demon who wants him to write his story.   I don’t want to give too much away, but that much you get off of the back of the book, so I don’t feel like I’m keeping you from discovering anything.
 
Going into the book, I had very high expectations.  I’m a diehard Dekker fan, and the suspense and twists in his books have become a staple for me.  The Books of Mortals series that he and Tosca wrote together, were no different.  That, combined with the promise of reading a story that would reveal the inner workings of a demon’s mind, had me practically clawing the cover off the book.  I couldn’t start the book fast enough.
 However, it ended up being a touch problematic. While the prose was beautiful –practically lyrical in style, there really wasn’t anything dramatic, or action packed. At least not in the manner I was expecting.
Tosca made it very easy to see the events of the book happening in your mind’s eye. From the mundane, simple scenes, to a few key, breathtaking scenes, (trust me, you’ll know them when you read them!)  I felt like I was physically in the book. I had no trouble visualizing anything. There weren’t parts I couldn’t understand. None of the prose felt jarring or unsettling.  Really, the book was amazing.
But, then the end came. The crucial moment I had felt slowly building through the whole book. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for this huge revelation. Some explosive conflict. A giant confrontation that just couldn’t end well.
And then, it just ended.   I mean, it was a definitive end. It fit the story, and fit the book.  Nothing was left open-ended.
I stopped, and shut the book.   I opened it again, and reread the end pages, and shut the book.
Really? REALLY?!  I wasn’t buying it.
Flipping a few pages, I read some of the author’s notes, looking for a reason that it ended the way that it did.
It snuck up on me! I didn’t have any warning! It just happened! I was so involved in what was going on, I didn’t see it until it was done! I had all these expectations… all these things I wanted to know…… and then, it was just over.
And then, the lightbulb clicked.
I can’t tell you much more, without ruining the book.  But, really, that’s the eeriest aspect of the book. In so many ways, my reaction to it, was EXACTLY like Clay’s. It didn’t help matters that I was criticizing Clay’s actions as I read the book…. in the end, I reacted the very same way that he did.  In a way, it’s ironic – quite amusing.  But on the other hand, it’s alarming.
All too often, the true dangers in life don’t come with any warnings. No literary monologues to let us know to watch out, and keep us in suspense.  Something seemingly innocent can creep into our lives, and quietly lodge itself into our hearts and our souls. For better or worse.
I’ve retyped the past few paragraphs more times than I can count.  I’m bouncing in my seat, I REALLY want to tell you what happened. It’ll make so much more sense if I do.
But I can’t. I won’t. I don’t want to ruin it for you. And I want to know your opinion.
All I guess I can really do, is give you the same advice we see Clay give someone else in the end of the book.
 Read his story.  Pay close attention – don’t miss out, the way that we did…

Have you read the book? Let me know what you think!  Also, have you seen the trailer for Tosca’s new book coming out?!  I’m beyond excited. Watch it, let me know what you think!   

Ted Dekker/ Tosca Lee – Books of Mortals. Review…. kinda…

So, as many of you know who follow this blog – not long ago I got the second book of the Books of Mortals trilogy, Mortals. The first book was titled Forbidden, and I was lucky enough to have both of them signed, when I met the authors not long ago.

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Since then, I’ve been wanting to come on here and type up a book review. I’ve just been either too lazy, or couldn’t find the right words, or typing up something fangirly for tumblr…  Not that those are good reasons, but still! 

And even now-  now that I have the time, have time on the laptop, and have had plenty of time to think about what I want to say – I’m coming up dry.

Which, I mean, works for me. I’d much rather you go read the books without any of my opinions rubbing off on you. 🙂

However, there is an undertone to the books – whether intentional or not — that I just have to rave about. (And, with it being Hydrocephalus Awareness month, it seems quite fitting,)  It’s such a cool thing, and it didn’t sink in with me much until I was in the middle of reading the second book…

The books take place in a sort of post apocalyptical society – and without revealing too much, the government has found certain ways to control the population. For their safety, of course.   One of the many new rules or doctrines in their “religion”, is that no one can enter “Bliss” with any sort of defect, disability, scar, or handicap.

If they  have such a thing, they have to report to this, jail, of sorts, where they are held for a year, and then put to sleep.  They aren’t fit for this society’s version of Heaven.   Of course, me with my hydrocephalus, I was absolutely incensed.  How can they say that?!

To make matters worse, one of the main protagonists has something wrong with them. One of these “blemishes” that would prevent this person from entering Bliss. It terrifies her, she wants nothing more than to enter Bliss and be happy. But – nope. No confessions, no Hail Marys, nothing can help her. She can’t win.

As the book progresses , you learn of a sort of savior character.  This character, it’s prophesied, is somehow  going to save mankind, and the world. No, I won’t ruin it and tell you why. Sorry.

There’s only one problem.

He was born with a major birth defect/disability. If he even DOES exist, he’d have been killed shortly after birth.

Well, isn’t that fantastic.

Time goes on, and you find out that nope, he’s indeed alive. Handicapped, but alive.

When the two characters with the handicaps/blemishes meet… there’s this beautiful moment where the savior character says something to her about how one day, no one will see or remember that.  She’ll only be remembered for who she is, and the amazing things she’s done.

I don’t want to get too much into it – but it really resonated with me.

This entire society… the entire trilogy is based around the world being saved by a person, who if he lived by the rules of the society, would have been killed years before he could ever save anyone.

I wish I knew if the writers had some sort of personal reason for writing this – maybe a friend or a family member with a disability, or some sort of challenge in their life… or if it was just a plot device that popped into one of their heads.

Either way, it’s brilliant. Not in a it-jumped-off-the-page-and-grabbed-me-by-the-throat manner… but much more like a small seed of an idea, that bloomed into this wonderful realization while I was reading and reflecting on the book.  I think the message is so uplifting, and says so much… really, about even our society today.   Just because someone is “disabled” or “handicapped” doesn’t mean that they are limited in what they can accomplish – by any stretch of the imagination.

As if I wasn’t a big enough fan before, both writers have that much more of my respect and admiration. It was tastefully and subtly done, so much so I can’t be entirely sure it was done on purpose – but it’s a thought I can’t get out of my head while reading the books, now.

Also, I’m grinning like an idiot as I type this, because it’s only four months too late, I finally know what I should have asked them or said at the book signing!

Looks like I have a jump on the signing for Sovereign….