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Playing TylerBy Michael Haskins

debut-authorT.L. Costa’s first thriller PLAYING TYLER is released this month from Angry Robot Ltd as a trade paperback. Costa is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University. Author Sean Cummings, POLTERGEEKS, said, “Wildly original storytelling that is as authentic as it is engaging. PLAYING TYLER is one of the best YA books 2013.”

T.L. recently discussed her novel with the BigThrill:

Give us an elevator pitch about PLAYING TYLER.

I like to describe it as SAY ANYTHING meets ENDER’S GAME. When gamer Tyler MacCandless gets the opportunity to beta-test a drone piloting game to try and win a spot in flight school, he takes it.  But when the game seems too real, he teams up with the game’s designer to uncover the truth, questioning everything he knows about morality while having to fight for love in a world at war.

Are any of your characters in PLAYING TYLER drawn from real life, the news or anything from your life? How did any of this, if it did, play in your coming up with the novel’s plot?

The plot is definitely inspired by the news.  The whole concept of drones absolutely fascinated me.  The more articles and things I kept reading, the more a plot started to gel.

All of my stories come from an initial spark of inspiration, and almost all of those sparks, in my case, come from news stories.  I’ll listen to a news report or read an article, and then start asking, “Well, what if this happened?” Before I know it, I’m starting to write out the rough schematic of a new story.

Why did you choose to write about a main character that has ADHD?

I wrote about a boy with ADHD, because I wanted to see the world through his eyes, I wanted to show the world that despite all of the difficulties kids with ADHD face, that they are worth rooting for, worth believing in. I wanted him to be an average kid who sucked at school and only really exceled at playing his Xbox but still was able to rise to whatever challenges life may throw at him.

Who do you think will be the reading audience for PLAYING TYLER and was that audience what you had in mind when writing your thriller?

I envision my target audience as the kid that is forced to do reading for school even though it may not be his or her “thing.” I wanted teachers and librarians and booksellers to have a book to hand to reluctant readers.  But hopefully anyone looking for a read with a strong voice will enjoy it.

Do you see PLAYING TYLER as a stand-alone book or a series?

The answer to that question depends on what sort of mood I’m in at the time.  I have something like fourteen outlines of potential sequels and I hate all of them, so for the time being, it’s a standalone.

Have you begun a new book? Do you have an idea working?

Yes!  I have two complete drafts that I’m working on editing.

Do you use a storyboard to write from or do know the beginning, middle and end and let your characters lead you?

I am a plotter – the big turning points all have to be mapped before I begin to write. For any given novel I write, I have somewhere between twenty to forty thousand words of character study.  I then take the character studies and compare it to the turning points. I’m careful to make sure that each action that happens is completely in line with the character that is driving that action.

What do you like best about writing and what do you like least about it?

I love losing myself in the story, traveling to different places, seeing the world through the eyes of different people.  What I like the least is the business end to it all.

When did you know you wanted to write and how long a road have you traveled for you overnight success?

I have always told stories, much to my parents’ great dismay, I’m sure.  I only started to get serious about it, though, after having children.  My brain felt like it was dissolving into a quagmire of parental worries and I started writing as an outlet, a way to vent my fears, and then it morphed into a way to cope with this new life as “mom”.

When you heard PLAYING TYLER had sold, what was your first reaction?

I got an email from my agent and just stared at the screen in disbelief.  Then I forwarded the email to my best friend and had her assure me that it did indeed say what I thought it said!

PLAYING TYLER is released this month in the States, England, Canada and as an eBook. How did all that come about?

It’s how my publisher rolls. It’s very exciting to hit so many markets at once.

Will there be signings? If so when and where?

Yes!  I will be at Thrillerfest as part of the Debut Author Breakfast, and then at the WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn with Chuck Wendig on July 17, at Broad Street Books in Middletown, CT, on July 18.

What’s the best way for readers to keep up with what you’re doing?

My website is probably the best way.  I’m also on Twitter @tlcosta1, Facebook and Pinterest as TL Costa.


T. L. CostaT. L. Costa is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University who taught high school for five years before becoming a full-time mom and writer. She has lived in Texas, New York, New Jersey and Spain. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.

Michael Haskins
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