I had the privilege of meeting Tosca Lee at a writer’s conference in May. Not only is she an incredible writer and speaker, but she is one of the sweetest, most genuine, and helpful women I have ever met. (Not to mention tall and gorgeous too!) I jumped at the chance to read Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, and it is my favorite novel of hers so far. Her books keep getting better and better. Her writing sings, compels the reader, and entertains in equal portion. I am pleased and excited to welcome her on the blog today to talk about her new release. Stay tuned til the end for a gift from Tosca and a chance to win a copy of her new book!
Me: Hi, Tosca! My first question always revolves around Christian fiction and the authors who write it. You’re known for your controversial points of view and pushing limits of the category of Christian fiction. What is it about your books that you believe resonates so much with Christian readers?
TL: I think it’s that I’m willing to go there and get gritty. To admit that halfway through the writing of Iscariot, I realized I was no longer writing his story… but my own. Havah is also my story. They all are. And we’re not that different, you and I. I like writing about these maligned characters because even though we may not want to, we can often identify with them far more readily than the good guys, who seem so untouchable. We all feel let down at some point by the way God fails to adhere to our agendas for Him. We all have moments when we think, “if you knew me—really knew me—you would not love me.” We all fail with the best of intentions, and we all want to be embraced exactly as we are. We are all as capable of darkness as we are of light—and often the darkness is far more tangible. The stuff in the Bible isn’t sterile—far from it. It’s gory, violent, sexual, and messy. But so is life. I want to be honest about fear and compromise as I am about hope, beauty and redemption.
Me: I completely agree. Give me gritty fiction any time. But what do we actually know about King Solomon—I understand that the academic opinion varies quite a lot from the biblical account.
TL: We know more about the region, people, language, culture and ethnic history of the Israelites than anything, archaeologically-speaking, of the king himself. It would be such a help if something were unearthed from the City of David or the Temple Mount that could be linked to Solomon’s temple or directly to Solomon himself! There was an item—a small ivory pomegranate that was once thought to top the scepter of a priest of this time period, with an inscription indicating so… but this was later ruled to be a forgery, though the carved pomegranate did date to the correct (early to mid-900s BC) time period. I say more about this question in the Author’s Notes of Legend of Sheba.
Me: The queen is a very minor character in the scope of the biblical narrative, but you assert that her famous visit to King Solomon is vitally important in the scope of Old Testament history. Why?
For two reasons. If the story of the United Monarchy (the kingdom of David and his son/successor, Solomon) is not true, then the bedrock of three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) collapses into fiction, and the claim of Jews to the land of Israel with it. Perhaps the authors of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles knew that, because they took the opportunity to basically say, “Hey, this queen from the ends of the earth, that famous Queen of Sheba, came and brought tribute to our king, and blessed him and our god and said ‘All that I heard was true, and I never even heard the half of it!’” This is fascinating. It begs the question: what was it that was so great about this female sovereign—in a time when the world was ruled by men—and a pagan, no less… what was it about her that was so outstanding that her endorsement of Solomon, his riches, wisdom, and god, held so much weight as to be included in the Old Testament narrative? Who was this woman who matched wits with the wisest man in the world—whose throne was so secure that she could leave it and make the 1400 mile journey of half a year to visit this king… before making the long trek back? Well, this must be a woman worth knowing something about.
Me: LOL. Yes, indeed, although I heard it was hard to find much about her during your research…
TL: After a year and a half of hard research for Iscariot, I thought research for Sheba would be much easier. Not so! It is much harder to fill in the historical record of 1000 years earlier than the time of Christ due to the dearth of archaeological progress in history-rich and troubled Yemen, natural phenomena such as the encroaching sands of the desert, and a lack of historical records recording any queen in the Southern Arabian region.
Me: Well the book is brilliant, and I know readers will enjoy it. What are one or two things that we don’t know about you?
TL: I danced semi-professionally as a classical ballerina in my teens. I also used to be a concert pianist. I have the greatest fans in the world, am terrible at math, can’t work if my house is messy, and am a crack shot with a deer rifle.
Me: I’d love to hear you play the piano. Maybe someday. 🙂 What are you working on next?
I’m taking a break from biblical historicals. My next two books will be something different. And then I’ll delve back into the biblical world again.
And now, Tosca has left us with a free gift! Ismeni—a free eBook short story prequel to The Legend of Sheba—is be available. This is the story of Sheba’s mother, and sheds some light on the man who would become the queen of Sheba’s right-hand councilor. It’s about 34 pages long, and also includes a preview of the Prologue and first chapter of The Legend of Sheba.
NOW, WHO WANTS TO WIN AN E-BOOK COPY OF LEGEND OF SHEBA? Comment below and tell me if you’ve ever seen a camel in person. 🙂
Must be 18 to enter. No purchase necessary. Winner announced September 9th.