The novel has been optioned by Radar Pictures (‘Jumanji’) and Edward Burns’ production company Marlboro Road Gang Productions.
‘The Line Between’ is a dystopian thriller that explores the release of diseases from the melting permafrost, the effects of big agriculture, and the fallout of an attack on the U.S. power grid.
We were fortunate enough to ask Lee about her book and what’s next for this exciting author.
ScienceFiction.com (SF): Tosca, first I’d like to thank you for joining us today! If you could, spoiler free, of course, expand a little on what readers can expect in ‘The Line Between’?
Tosca Lee (TL): Thank you so much for having me! And absolutely. The Line Between is the story of Wynter Roth, a 22 year-old woman who’s been turned out of a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie. She emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation. For Wynter, it seems like the apocalypse she’s been taught to fear all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples and Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play.
It’s a story of action, conspiracy, a touch of romance, and questions of whom—and what—to believe.
This book is different from my others in one major fact: it’s set in the Midwest where I live.
Crazily enough, four weeks ago as I was finishing my final pass on the sequel, we were hit by a “bomb cyclone” that caused devastating blizzards in the western part of Nebraska, and flooding in the east. It was surreal to watch the National Guard roll in as Black Hawk helicopters flew rescue missions overhead. The scene—especially as the town nearest us was cut off and ran out of fuel—felt uncomfortably like déjà vu.
SF: Was the idea that someone who wasn’t used to modern conveniences being thrown into a world that is starting to lose them a purposeful decision prior to writing the book or did that come into play as you were developing the world?
TL: It actually happened by accident; originally I had two separate ideas: the idea of a cult escapee starting over and a pandemic rising from the permafrost among six or seven others. My publisher said, “I like both of those. I think you should put them together!” I had no idea how well those disparate ideas would gel, but the crumbling of modern society does present an interesting opportunity for Wynter, who knows something about living without most of the technology we take for granted.
SF: Did you have any real-life inspirations that helped develop the plot for this story or were you doing any research for it that ended up surprising you?
TL: The book was inspired by actual headlines about diseases, bacteria, and microbes—even “zombie worms”—lying dormant in permafrost that is melting around the world today. Just three years ago, a reindeer carcass infected with anthrax thawed from the Siberian permafrost, infecting a nearby village and killing a little boy.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has already published reports of attempted cyberattacks on the electrical grid. That part isn’t fiction. Ted Koppel wrote a compelling and frightening book called Lights Out about the catastrophic consequences to our nation, should the grid ever succumb for more than a few days. Readers call the story frightening because these things are happening now, on some level, already.
SF: Did any specific authors or works of fiction help in how you developed this specific story, which might not have crept into your other fiction?
TL: Not specifically, though I’ve been very curious about cults and what it’s like for those who start over after leaving one. I’m also a big fan of stories like The Handmaid’s Tale, that showcase the strength and resilience of women who have been marginalized, oppressed, infantilized, and still managed to rise up.
SF: It is exciting that the novel has already been optioned as a television series! Are there any moments you feel will be difficult to capture or that you’ll be excited to see on screen?
TL: Honestly, seeing any part of it on screen will be crazy cool to me. LOL
SF: I know it is a bit early, but have you been kept in the loop with any details on the series that you might be able to share with us? The last update we saw still had no writer attached to develop the script.
TL: I actually just heard from the producers yesterday and so hope to be sharing news on that very soon!
SF: This is your second work that was picked up as The CW is working on bringing ‘The Progeny’ to life. How does it feel to have another work moving forward?
TL: Well, first off, the crew at Radar and Ed Burns’ Marlboro Road Gang (who are producing both The Progeny and The Line Between) are fabulous. Smart, results-driven, and passionate. It feels very good—in large part because we have a great working relationship. So much of this process is out of my hands and it’s just fun to see what happens.
SF: ‘The Progeny’ was the first novel in the “Descendants of the House of Bathory” series. Do you have plans to continue the story in ‘The Line Between’ as an ongoing series or in your mind is this a standalone work?
TL: I’ve just finished the final pass on the sequel, A Single Light, which comes out in September. Like the Progeny books, The Line Between is a duology. So as of now, no more than the two books are planned.
SF: Do you feel that any of your other works might be a good fit for television?
TL: Yes! I do have another book optioned for TV, though there hasn’t been a press release on that one, so it hasn’t been publicly announced. I’ve also got a new book concept that my partners at Radar and Marlboro Road Gang and I are all excited about, that I’m looking for a home for now.
SF: Finally, what can readers next look for by you and are there any details you can share about it?
TL: A Single Light releases September 17, and is the continuation of Wynter’s adventures in a world devastated by disease and the blow to America’s electrical grid. I had so much fun writing it—I took the action of The Line Between, cranked it up about ten times, and added a new character who has become one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written.
SF: I’d like to thank you for your time today! We’re eagerly looking forward to seeing more of your work and finding out more about the development of the television series based on ‘The Line Between’ as it becomes available.