Hello my booksicles!
Today, I bring you a Q&A I did with the brilliant Zoraida Córdova about her latest novel Incendiary (being released on April 28th). I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this book and it truly is spectacular. It is an honour that I got the chance to ask her a few questions as a part of the Incendiary blog tour!
Here’s a bit about the book:
I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.
Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.
Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.
When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.
But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.
The spellbinding world-building in Incendiary was heavily influenced by 15th century Spain. Why did you find this period of history inspiring?
When I was brought on to this project, I was instantly drawn by the idea of a magical group of people struggling for survival. I’ve often thought about Incendiary as a sort of Star Wars set in a fantasy landscape. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve written for Star Wars or because it’s so embedded into my subconscious. But it’s all there: A group of rebels fighting against a ruthless ruler. An agent of that leader who is tasked with destroying these rebels, but could actually be turned. Of course, the setting is inspired by historic Spain. Reading about that time period was very frustrating and painful at times because there are some things in the texts, like Daily Life in Spain in the Golden Age by Marcelin Defourneaux, that made it clear how cyclical hate is. That alone felt very timely.
Tell us a bit about the main character, Renata Convida, and what you want your readers to learn from her.
I love characters who are seeking redemption because it is one of my favorite themes to explore! Ren’s POV is the toughest one I’ve ever tried to tackle. She has suffered so much and she spends most of her young adulthood feeling guilt over things she couldn’t control as a kid. She was a weapon and she’s still a weapon. In the context of Puerto Leones, this fantasy kingdom, what does it mean when her whole being is suspect? When her own people distrust her? How long must she atone for? Should a child have to atone for the things they did, while under manipulation? It’s all so difficult to answer. Ren’s mind is so dark, and a lot of my other books have so much comic-relief, so this was definitely a challenge for me! But I loved the girl Ren is and the one that she chooses to become.
In the book there were four types of magic wielder: Robári, Persuári, Ventári and Illusionári. What inspired a magic system heavily based on the mind? And which one of these powers would you choose for yourself if you could?
Developing magic that was based on the senses and mind was a great world-building exercise. My other books (The Brooklyn Brujas series) have elemental magic, so I wanted to stay away from that. If I could be any of the Moria, I think I would be a Robári! Having the ability to remove some of my own memories? Yes, please. Although, I would use my power for the greater good… Though isn’t that how all villain stories begin?
What kinds of lives would the characters in Incendiary lead if they lived in our world?
I’d like to think that the rebels of my world would continue to be rebels in this world as well. Ren would be an activist, Sayida would be a psychologist, Margo and Dez would be in politics. They’d continue to fight for people. Though I’m sure they’d appreciate telephones and indoor plumbing.
Incendiary is full of riveting plot twists that kept me gripped throughout. What is the secret to crafting heart-stopping twists and turns?
For the writers out there, I think the secret is writing characters that feel real. You can have any kind of plot you want, but if the reader doesn’t care about the characters, then who is going to care or follow them to the end of their journey? Create someone worth rooting for and then put them to work. Don’t make things easy for your character. I always draft a scene one way, then once I’m editing I always ask myself the questions: how can I make life more difficult for XYZ?
Thanks for having me, and I hope you love Incendiary!
About the author:
Zoraida Córdova is the author of nine fantasy novels for kids and teens, most recently the award-winning Brooklyn Brujas series, Incendiary, and Star Wars: A Crash of Fate. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, Come on In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home, and Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is the co-editor of Vampires Never Get Old: Eleven Tales with Fresh Bite. Her debut middle grade novel is The Way to Rio Luna. She is the co-host of the podcast Deadline City with Dhonielle Clayton. Zoraida was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. When she isn’t working on her next novel, she’s planning a new adventure.
Thank you so much to Zoraida Córdova for taking the time to answer my questions!