Thanks for the invite, Kris! I never pass up an opportunity to talk about my book and the Vestal Virgins.
What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea for the book come from?
In my Art History class, my professor mentioned a group of Roman priestesses who guarded a fire for the goddess Vesta, which had to burn constantly. They were so revered that everyone had to bow to them and give them the seat of honor at public events, but if one of them ever lost her virginity, she was buried alive.
The Vestal Virgins instantly struck a chord with me. I think it was the fire that intrigued me the most.
What genre does you book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
You know, I’ve actually put a lot of thought into this and can’t come up anyone. It’s probably because my characters go from children to adults in this book, so I’d have to find actors for every age group!
I want Jason Isaacs for the Pontifex Maximus, though. He’s a very cold and cruel priest (think Lucius Malfoy in a toga).
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A priestess of Vesta struggles with her faith until she is accused of losing her virginity; now she must perform a miracle to save her life.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m looking for an agent now. Wish me luck!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Longer than I care to admit. Minus the research and revision, writing the first draft took about three years. (In my defense, I was a newly-wedded undergrad when I started.)
I try to avoid doing things I’ve seen done before, bit Sacred Fire is most similar to Memoirs of a Geisha. They both focus heavily on ceremonies and follow an important woman’s rise to power from childhood to adulthood. It also has a lot in common with The Red Tent.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This might sound crazy, but I actually identified with the Vestal Virgins because I’m a Mormon. We also have strict guidelines on modest dress and behavior, and we have to be chaste until marriage. Since we’re taught to be an example of Christ in everything we do, I even identified with the feeling of always being on display.
That, combined with the uniqueness of the priestesses and the potential for a great story, welded me to the idea.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The novel is based on a true story. Tuccia was a Vestal Virgin accused of losing her virginity, and she proved she was favored of the gods by carrying a sieve of water from the river Tiber to the Temple of Vesta.
This particular priestess had a very eventful life. She lived through the Second Punic War, which almost destroyed Rome; another Vestal Virgin was found guilty of being unchaste so she was buried alive and her lover was publically flogged to death; the fire of Vesta went out for the first time in recorded history and caused mass panic. All of these events – and more – take place in my novel.