Interview with Zoraida Cordova, author of Incendiary

Zoraida Cordova’s wonderful new book, Incendiary, came out yesterday, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions to celebrate the release! I also posted my review of this amazing novel yesterday, so do check that out 🙂

Hi Zoraida! What was your initial inspiration/idea for Incendiary and how has it evolved since then?

When I started working on Incendiary, 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 ruler who is tasked with destroying these rebels? Young Adult fiction has always been about rebellion because these are the years when people coming of age push back against everything they’ve ever known. At least, that was the case for me with my witch phase I never grew out of. Once I started writing Incendiary I fell in love with Renata and the strong, resilient character she’s becoming.  

What did you struggle with most writing Incendiary, and what was your favourite part?

The main theme was actually both of those things for me. Redemption 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? 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! I wanted to do right by a character who has undergone so much.  

Can you talk a bit about how Incendiary links into current issues?

The setting is inspired by historic Spain, specifically the Inquisition which caused the death and forced religios conversion of Jewish and Muslim people. 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. Even though the inspiration is the past, I still wanted it to feel like the kingdom of Puerto Leones is its own entity. Fiction can be inspired by reality but its rules have to function on its own. High fantasy is a great place to explore that.

 What is your ultimate writing tip/advice for any aspiring authors reading this?

I think you should learn all the writing rules, and then break them as you start learning your own process. You can find information on writing a novel just about anywhere, but because it’s such a unique process, you’ll only figure out what works for you by trial and error. The only advice that I think everyone should do is to read widely. Read the genre you want to write in. Read non-fiction. Read history. Read something that challenges you. Novels are in conversation with each other and those conversations become unforgettable when you have something to say. I co-host a podcast about writing and publishing with author Dhonielle Clayton. It’s called Deadline City. 

 Incendiary is recently out in the world – what do you hope readers take away from this book?

I hope that when readers pick up Incendiary they find a heroic quest for vengeance, empathy, and love. I’m currently working on book two so just know that there is more revenge and kissing this time around. Thank you so much for giving this book a chance! 

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