June 1, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally published in June 2015 edition of Her Family.

Tonya Kuper was bored. As a stay-at-home mom, her 4-year-old son and baby kept her hopping. Her husband would eat dinner, play with the kids, and help her put them to bed. As an attorney, he would often head back to work until the early morning hours. 

Therefore, Kuper had nights to herself. She devoured books like Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, and Harry Potter. Not so surprising for someone with a master’s degree in reading. She binge-watched The Vampire Diaries, but there was only just so much Ian Somerhalder to drool over.

Kuper’s story doesn’t have a romantic beginning. She needed to clean one weekend when her eldest acted up.

“Just please take him downstairs. He’s like the son of the devil,” she jokingly said to her husband.

Man, it’d suck falling in love with the devil’s son. Hmm…That would be good story. Kuper’s thoughts soon transformed into words on a page. Closer, a story about a girl falling in love with the devil’s son,
would be her first novel.

“It was terrible,” Kuper recalls with a laugh.

TonyaKuper2

Kuper wrote for fun, but three quarters of the way in she researched the publishing world.  She soon amassed an entire file full of rejections. Friends, family, and her husband supported her through it all. She learned a lot about herself in the process, including that it is okay not to have everyone like her. “If you are going to write, you have to have thick skin and buck up,” she advises future writers.

She wrote a second book, sort of a Mean Girls meets Pretty in Pink.

Her agent sent the book out to a short list of editors, one asking if she would like to try a science fiction trilogy for young adults instead. Kuper was a “science fiction geek” so she knew she could do it.

Anomaly, about a girl named Josie who can push and retract reality, was created based on a quantum physics theory.

“I loved that it was about a girl who was fighting to save her family,” Madison Schuetz, 14, says. She just finished the book and loved the dual points of view. Every chapter switches from Josie to Reid, a boy character who helps Josie train, so the book isn’t gender specific.

Kuper, 37, soon changed from full-time mom to full-time writer.

“I have the best job ever. I kill people for a living,” Kuper says.

Tears ran down Kuper’s cheeks the first time she saw her book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. She scared the girl in front of her, who was buying Anomaly. Kuper signed her first book on the spot.

“Create your own reality,” is something she typically writes to teenagers during book signings.  Kuper grew up with little money in a small cornfield town in western Illinois; her father was an auto mechanic and her mother a stay-at-home mom. Kuper had to work hard for her future.

“Do whatever you want to do. Think of the biggest thing and then work for it,” Kuper tells teenagers. She plays a bit with her blue scarf, detailed fittingly with Rebel symbols from Star Wars. Kuper adds an element of the movie, such as Josie’s Vader T-shirt, into each book.

Anomaly, published by Entangled, took off, hitting the bestseller list on Kindle for science fiction and science fiction romance. Recently, it reached the top of the bestselling teen science fiction as well. Her second book in the Schrodinger’s Consortium trilogy, Enigma, won’t be available until this October.

“I want it to be out, like, now,” Schuetz says.

Kuper is currently comfortable in her own skin.

After Kuper’s first signing at the American Association Conference, she had an ampersand tattoo etched into her wrist. “In writing, when you add an ‘and’ the possibilities are endless.  And now I have my ‘and.’”

TonyaKuper3

More from Omaha Magazine