Hey everyone. Welcome to our interview with Tori Minard. Tori is here to talk to us about her book, Temple of the Heart, a paranormal romance. She has also agreed to give copies of her book to 5 lucky commenters. Don't forget to put your email address in your comment. Now, for the interview...
What inspired the storyline of Temple of the Heart?
Another thing that inspired me was a story I heard about the Kumari girls in Hindu culture. These are little girls who are dedicated to the goddess Durga and said to embody her. The Royal Kumari lives in a temple in Kathmandu and rarely goes outside. When she reaches puberty, the goddess is said to leave her body and she reverts to ordinary status.
I wondered what it would be like to be so sheltered and controlled. What would the world look like to a young woman like that? And what if something happened to force her out of the temple, where she’d have to deal with ordinary life?
I wanted to make it a romance, so I decided to have a man help my heroine escape the fire. And I figured as long as I was making her accept help from someone forbidden to her (males are forbidden to these priestesses), I’d make it someone super-forbidden – a vampire.
Tell us a little about Niko.
Niko is from Dacia, which is an ancient term for a part of the world that includes modern Romania. He’s from the birthplace of vampirism. He comes from a primitive tribal people, and he decides to become a vampire in order to get their strength because he wants to take revenge on a man who’s abused his family. But things go wrong, and Niko has to live with a terrible sense of guilt. He isolates himself from both humans and vampires.
Niko is lonely. But he refuses to play the political games the other vampires in Atlantis play, so he keeps to himself.
Is Laila chosen to be a priestess because she’s a princess?
Sort of, in a roundabout way. Her parents had a special reason to send her to the temple, which you learn near the end of the book. But once she’s there, she’s treated like all the other girls who come there. They all become priestesses.
Why is it forbidden for a priestess of Desou to look upon the world?
Because all of them are wives of the god Desou. They are cloistered and protected because they belong to him. Everything they do in the temple is supposed to honor and strengthen Desou. If they look on the world outside, it will dirty them.
Does your book take place near a big city or a world of its own?
It takes place on Atlantis, a fabled island in the Atlantic Ocean. I made up the culture because very little is known about Atlantis. And of course lots of people think it never really existed. The story starts in the main city, called Atlantiri, and then goes into the countryside.
Will Temple of the Heart have a sequel?
I’m not sure yet whether I’ll set another whole novel in Atlantis, but I am planning to write one that spans Atlantis and the modern world. It’s going to be the start of a new series I’m doing about vampires.
What’s the most enjoyable part of writing for you?
That’s a tough question to answer, because I enjoy so many parts of it. I love coming up with new ideas, and I also love it when the story just flows and all I have to do is try to type fast enough to keep up.
How many stories have you written?
I don’t know. I’ve lost a lot of my early stuff because I started young. Currently I have seven titles for sale, five as Tori Minard and two under my erotica pen name, Tessa Tremaine.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
Yes. I have two novels in progress set in my Amaki world, Dragon Moon and Blood Moon. They follow the first novel I released, which is called The Heart Moon. When I finish those, I’m going to start on the vampire series, which I’m really excited about.
Can you share an excerpt from Temple of the Heart?
Niko saw the fire from a mile away, where he sat by the river eating fried fish and pickled onions wrapped in a thin piece of griddle bread. It wasn’t any of his business if buildings burned in Atlantiri. He was an outsider here, and the Atlanteans never lost an opportunity to remind him of it.
Flames speared up into the night sky over Temple Hill, and smoke rose to hide the stars from his view. That was a tremendous fire. It must have been burning for some time, but he hadn’t noticed it in his rush to get some food.
He’d gone too long without blood. Soon he’d have to drink, whether he wanted to or not. In the meantime, he had a ravenous appetite that overrode most other interests and made it difficult to focus his mind unless he’d just eaten.
He finished his meal and handed the tin plate back to the vendor. An acrid, smoky odor drifted on the evening breeze, blotting out the usual stench of the streets. His stomach churned, slightly queasy in spite of the food.
One of the temples must be on fire. They’d kicked him out of the Temple of Desou earlier in the night, when he’d gone to make offerings. His piercing had given him away, and Atlanteans did not tolerate vampires in their sacred enclosures.
Which temple was burning? There were a great many in Atlantiri, more scattered across the countryside. Maybe it was the one he’d visited. In his mind’s eye, he could still see the girl in the window, her painted face half hidden by long unbound hair. He would be willing to bet that she wasn’t supposed to be peering out of attic windows at the public street, since the priestesses of Desou were completely sequestered.
There had been something about her, about the way she had looked at him, that had made it difficult for him to leave. Even after the guard had ordered him to go. Had she gotten out of the attic? Niko pictured her with her hair on fire and clenched his hands.
He grabbed the arm of an old man passing by. “Which temple is burning?”
The fellow quirked his brows. “Temple of Desou, I believe.”
They’d probably gotten all the priestesses out already. She was safe. She had to be. The priestesses of Desou were among the most holy people in Atlantis.
Then he heard a thin, faraway scream from the Temple, so faint it was probably inaudible to human ears. He couldn’t ignore that.
Niko released the man and broke into a run, keeping to the shadows to avoid drawing attention to himself. Street lamps were sparse except in the best neighborhoods, which this was emphatically not, but he’d rather no-one notice how fast he could move.
He rounded a corner. Flames roared out of the windows of the Temple of Desou, consuming the roof and half the walls. Lines of citizens passed buckets of water to douse the blaze, each bucket like a thimbleful tossed on a bonfire.
Ridiculous. They’d never put it out that way.
“Are there any more buckets?” he said to the last man in one of the lines.
The fellow glanced at him, then did a double-take with wide eyes. “You’re a vampire.”
Niko sighed. “Yes, I’m a vampire. Are there any more buckets?”
“We don’t want help from your kind.”
“Have you rescued the priestesses?”
The man glared at him. “They’re none of your concern. Get out, vampire.”
He turned without another word. If the Atlanteans didn’t want his help, then it wasn’t his problem. Their precious temple could burn to the ground, for all he cared. As long as the girl is safe. Although why he cared at all about her was more than he could explain.
A shrill scream rose above the growling of the fire. The hair on Niko’s body stood straight up. More shrieks followed. The thimbles of water continued, passing up and down the lines without a pause. There were people trapped inside, and no-one on the bucket brigades seemed to notice.
Niko grabbed a woman’s arm. “There’s someone trapped in there.”
“How many got out?”
She stared at him blankly. “None.”
“What do you mean, none?” he said, his voice rising.
“You’re a vampire.” She shrank away from him.
He wanted to shake her. “Why hasn’t anyone gotten the priestesses out?”
“They’re not allowed out of the temple.”
Niko’s mouth dropped open. They were allowing the women to burn to death inside that temple because of some prissy social custom? He looked up at the conflagration. The acrid stench of burning hair floated to his nostrils, along with bits of ash.
He remembered that smell. His heart went bang-bang-bang in his chest. Sweat broke out all over him, and a thin trail of ice slithered down inside his belly. It was happening again, and people were dying. Because of him.
How could it be your fault? You were never inside the place.
He had to get the priestesses out. By now, the fire had devoured over half the compound and invaded the rest. Whoever was still inside had very little time before escape became impossible.
While he stood gaping at the woman on the fire line, another man came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “Vampires aren’t allowed on sacred ground,” he said.
“I just want to help.”
“We don’t want you.”
He pointed at the building. “Women are burning to death in there. Don’t you care? What’s wrong with you people?”
“Get out of the temple district, defiler, or we’ll have the city guard on you.”
Niko threw up his hands. “Fine. Let them burn.”
He spun on his heel and walked away along the right side of the compound. They’re not my people. Why should I care what happens to a flock of cosseted Atlantean priestesses? He’d come here to study at the University, not to rescue ladies in distress. And even at school, he was forced to hide himself away from the other students, listening to lectures in special balconies where he was separated from the decent people.
Atlantis had a law that all vampires had to present themselves for registration upon landing on the island. If they stayed past six months, they were required to have a facial piercing that labeled them for easy identification by any citizen. Niko had received his two years ago, and his life had turned to garbage overnight.
This morning, before going to sleep for the day, he’d come to a decision. Leave Atlantis. There was no longer any point in continuing to fight the Atlanteans’ determination to block him at every turn. He couldn’t go home, being what he was, but anyplace had to be better than this.
All of Atlantis could burn, as far as he was concerned.
So why was he turning to the left along the cramped alley that bordered the back of the temple compound? Leave now. Go back to the hostel. Go anywhere. Don’t get involved. But he remembered a little house on fire, the roof caved in, people lost. The temple girl’s face appeared in his mind like a vision. He kept walking.
Halfway down the alley, Niko heard the sound of banging on wood. Sobs. He peered into the shadows along the bottom of the stucco wall and found a basement window with a piercework screen. There were fingers wrapped around the open spaces in the wood. Women’s fingers.
We'd like to thank Tori for stopping by and chatting with us about her book. Be sure to listen in this Wednesday when we interview her live on Blog Talk Radio, 3:30pm PST. The link to our channel is here. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win Temple of the Heart. Thanks everyone!