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Meet Tori Hope, author of portal fantasy Steady Ground!
He’s damaged. He’s lost. And worse of all, his memories have come to life. If he wants to find peace, he’ll need to redefine what it really means to move on.
For the first time in years, Atlas feels like he’s separated himself from the misfortune in his life. He’s healed, he’s rented a decent apartment, he’s settled into a solid-enough-for-him job working as a grunt for some scientists. Now he’s (reluctantly) traveling to the spring snows of Alaska, where they plan to test the first run of their earthquake-harnessing technology.
But something goes wrong. They don’t harness the energy of an earthquake.
No. Instead, the ground rips apart. A massive crevice forms, leading deep into the Earth. The chasm lulls him forward like a Siren, telling him tales of his mother, of her laughter, of her scent of strong sandalwood, and of his life before her death.
Waking up in what he can only describe as Hell, he’s confronted with every misfortune in his life. Forced to befriend mirages made from his most painful childhood memories or pay severe consequences, he travels the twisted realm in search of answers.
Meet Tori and read an excerpt below:
Tell me a little bit about your writing journey. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?
"I started writing 12 years ago! With Warriors fanfiction. I still have all of it and I love going back and cringing at my 11 year old self who thought that was a good idea lol. That aside, the authors behind the Erin Hunter pen name are the only reason I began reading and writing in the first place, so I have lots to thank them for. I began dabbling in original fiction about a year later with Cinda Williams Chima as my inspiration, and I completed my first story in 2012. It was a novelette of about 18,000 words, but it inspired a lot of my later writings and my enjoyment of science fiction and fantasy."
Why fantasy specifically? Is it something you write often, or is this your first venture into the genre?
"Why fantasy? Because it is completely freeing. I can do whatever I want in it and no one can stop me! It has always been one of my favorite genres to read, and it mixes so well with other genres that there really isn’t a limit in what you can do with it. I would say that every one of my stories has an element of fantasy in it, whether or not it’s the main genre. In terms of Steady Ground, this is my first time written a isekai or portal fantasy, where the main character is taken to another world in order to learn more about themselves and what’s missing in their life."
What are your goals for your writing?
"Some of my goals are: 1) to create places and worlds readers and myself haven’t seen before, intertwining the mysterious and strange with elements of real life, 2) to have fun, and 3) to help me learn more about myself while giving readers a story they can relate to and talk about. I don’t intend to professionally publish in the future. Online updating through Wattpad will likely be as far as I take it, but that’s exactly what I want."
What inspired Steady Ground?
"I took a geology course and a GIS course in 2020 where we learned all about earthquakes and satellite technology. Even though they ultimately weren’t that important in the book (they were supposed to be, but the story took a mind of its own and said, “no.”), I never would have started Steady Ground had I not learned more about them. The boredom while working on homework led me to daydreaming, and daydreaming led me here.
Other elements that inspired Steady Ground were: 1) the 1920’s surrealism period, especially the paintings where a human face was morphed into the landscape. They were always so weird and intriguing that I had to do something with it, and while the end product is a bit strange, I feel like that’s exactly how it should be. And 2) my family’s relationship with Christianity. Throughout the book you’ll see small mentions of Atlas questioning his faith and how he had grown up with his mother often contradicting what it meant to be Christian. It’s a very small portion of the book—I wouldn’t ever consider this a spiritual book—but it really helped me determine who I wanted Atlas to be and some of the challenges he would ultimately have to face."
Who is your favorite character in it and why? Tell me a little about them.
"My favorite character is Ashe. She is a shy, introverted woman scientist. Her curiosity led to Atlas finding the portal to the other world, and her strength led to him being able to get out of it. She was resourceful, courageous, and determined, a true leader, and she never needed to become conventionally beautiful or extroverted to be a strong asset to the cast. That is a character arc I often see in relation to shy or introverted characters, and I wanted to do something different, because really, shyness or introversion don’t always have to be the character’s major flaw."
What was the most challenging part of writing the book?
"The biggest challenge I faced writing Steady Ground was the constant doubt that it would come together in the end. The idea for Steady Ground constantly changed as I wrote and learned more about the world and the characters having an impact on it. It became difficult to see what the ending would look like, and I was worried the increasing weirdness of the world would prevent the story from resonating with readers. But in the end, I had a great time seeing how all of these seemingly irrelevant aspects of the plot and world came together at the end. So far the reception of the book has been good, and I’m working on revisions to make it even better."
Do you have anything else you’d like to say to the readers?
"I could leave off with something cheesy, but I think I’ll leave off here, as I don’t have much else left to say. If you decide to click on my book and give it a try, don’t be scared to let me know! I love interacting with readers and hearing your thoughts or feedback about the book. Thank you for the time you spent reading through my rambling answers to these questions, and I hope you have a wonderful day!"
Atlas counted cars to pass the time, waiting for Leia’s run-down red Civic to pull in. The sky darkened. Street lamps flicked on one by one, outlining oncoming traffic in pale white light. It wasn’t a quiet night. People shouted and car doors slammed, and he heard dogs barking in the distance and the roar of engines down the road.
And then he saw her.
He leaned back, stretching his arms over his head. Finally.
He stood up from the bench, jogging across the parking lot to meet her. He probably shouldn’t have left his wallet and phone on the table, but he knew he’d be back in just a moment.
Atlas tapped on the glass. Leia looked up, her phone screen illuminating her face. She broke out into a smile, and propped the door open with her boot. “Hi!”
“Hi. You couldn’t have had more perfect timing; the pizza just got here,” he lied, opening the door for her.
“Oh thank God, I’m starving.”
He laughed. “You didn’t drive here like it.”
“Don’t be an ass! Something came up.” They walked side by side back to the table he chose. “Why are we sitting outside?”
“It was warmer earlier.”
Atlas retook his seat. He dipped his head and muttered a “thanks” beneath his breath before helping himself to a much needed slice. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and the salty cheese on his tongue was exactly what he needed right then.
“This is perfect; thank you for paying,” Leia said. She was dressed warmer than him at least, with a black windbreaker that covered the tattoo on her wrist. “I can’t believe you get to go to Alaska. I’m jealous.”
“You can go instead. I hate the cold! It’s spring but I bet I’ll be trudging through snow up there.” Atlas shivered at the thought. He would have to gather and compare GPS coordinates up in the north for three weeks.
She laughed. “Oh gosh no. You can have all that snow to yourself.”
He downed the last of his porter, pushing the empty glass to the edge of the table. Exhaling, he grabbed another slice.
Did Alaska even have restaurants? He had never left North Carolina before, and he knew with his light southern accent everyone he met up there would know it immediately.
All he had ever seen were TV shows of people living on an acreage, surrounded by farm animals, living day to day with the food that they harvested and killed themselves.
He suppressed a groan. There better be restaurants. He was not hunting down antelope or whatever lived up there to eat. Hell, he didn’t even know how to hunt, much less skin an animal and cook it, and he sure didn’t want to learn how. His stomach churned at the thought.
Atlas reached for his phone—surely Google would know—only to pat nothing but wood. He glanced around the table, and then patted his back pockets.
Where were his wallet and phone?