Zoraida Córdova Ignites the Imagination with YA Fantasy 'Incendiary'

Posted by Sharon on April 1, 2020
If you've been following Zoraida Córdova's career, you know she is an author on fire. From her On the Verge romance series to the modern Latinx witches of her Brooklyn Brujas series (concluding with this year's Wayward Witch) and the underwater world of The Vicious Deep, Córdova's books span multiple genres and reading audiences. Oh, and she recently wrote a tie-in novel for a little movie series you may have heard of called Star Wars.

She's also a regular contributor at Buzzfeed, co-editor of three anthologies coming out later this year, and hosts the Deadline City podcast with fellow writer Dhonielle Clayton.

Incendiary, Córdova's latest release, blazes a trail for the new Hollow Crown duology. Set in a magical world that resembles Inquisition Spain, Incendiary tells the story of memory thief and rebel spy Renata Convida. Ren must infiltrate the same oppressive royal regime she was forced to work for as a child, but the secrets she uncovers in the palace threaten to change the fate of the entire nation.  

Zoraida Córdova spoke with Goodreads about Incendiary, writing tales of resistance, and what makes her say "YAHOOOOO" in her best Han Solo voice.

Goodreads: Incendiary is inspired by 15th-century Inquisition Spain, a time period and setting we don't often see in young adult fantasy. Can you tell us about how you first came up with the idea for the book and what you found so compelling about that historical moment?

Zoraida Córdova: 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.

GR: Renata Convida, the book's protagonist, has a complicated past wherein her memory-stealing powers were used against her own people, so dealing with guilt and being treated with suspicion by the group you should belong to are large themes of this book. What made you decide to tackle these tough topics? Did you think of Incendiary as a kind of redemption story?

ZC: 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? 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.

GR: Early reviewers have likened the twists and turns in the plot to "straight-up George R. R. Martin." Were you inspired by Martin's work or by other books when it came to setting up the political intrigue in this novel?

ZC: Well, I’m very flattered. I love Game of Thrones, but it wasn’t a direct influence. I think GoT definitely changed the way we tell stories. When the reader doesn’t think their favorite characters are safe, then I think they’ll just keep reading to find out who makes it! It’s a great tool, but that’s not what I was going for. Though I very much want everyone to keep reading for other reasons!

Political intrigue is so much fun to craft because everyone has to have something to lose. For Ren, she gets to a point where she doesn’t care for her own safety. She’ll gladly sacrifice her own life. But then, why would we root for her if we know she’s just on a self-destruct mission? I had to make sure that she found a reason and a desire to live and make a change.

GR: Incendiary is more violent than your previous work. What was it like tapping into darker topics like torture and trauma while writing this book?

ZC: It was difficult, for sure. The darkest book I’ve written emotionally is still Bruja Born, book 2 in the Brooklyn Brujas series. That book dealt with PTSD and depression and how that manifests through magic.

Incendiary has similar themes, but Ren’s powers made it an interesting experience. Ren has the power to steal memories, and doing that for so many years has created something called “The Gray.” The Gray is a part of her mind that feels sentient. Imagine trying to live your life and sometimes these memories just leap out and interrupt your day to day. Ren literally can’t escape her past or the things she did. But there are some stolen moments that are filled with joy and love. Although, Ren probably feels guilty for feeling any of that happiness.

GR: You have six books coming out this year! Six! And you cohost a podcast. How do you schedule in the time to write? Do you tend to work on multiple books at once or one at a time?

ZC: To be fair, three of those are novels and the other three are anthologies! Although, most authors will agree with me that writing short stories is just as difficult as concepting a novel.

Incendiary, The Way to Rio Luna, and Wayward Witch are all coming out this year and I started them all in 2017! It’s been a long three years, but I’ve learned how to separate each book. It takes a lot of planning, and I look like that scene from It's Alway Sunny in Philadelphia with all the papers on the wall. It’s not easy and I wouldn’t recommend it. I am extremely proud of each and every one of those books.

I did sacrifice a lot of naps, but they were worth it.

GR: You've written everything from romance to urban fantasy to space opera. Is there a genre you like writing the most?

ZC: Honestly, urban fantasy, with romance as a second. Ever since I was little, I wanted our world to be magical. I love books and movies where the real world exists alongside the magical one. I think I’m still searching for a portal somewhere.

GR: You've said that you wrote Labyrinth Lost because you wanted to see "a Latina version of Charmed." Tell us about the importance of diverse representation in your work.

ZC: I just write the world as I see it. Latinx representation in SFF and romance is particularly important to me. I think about it this way: If there’s a book that you want to read but it doesn’t seem to exist, then be the one to write it.

GR: What was writing a Star Wars tie-in novel (A Crash of Fate) like? What made you decide to focus on ordinary people living at the edge of the big events in the movies, and is that theme personally meaningful for you?

ZC: This has been the coolest thing I’ve ever done. When Star Wars asks if you want to write a romance set on a new planet, then the only thing you say is YAHOOOOO in your best Han Solo voice.

Izzy and Jules, the main characters in A Crash of Fate are regular people, for sure. He’s a farm boy and she’s a smuggler with delusions of grandeur. The novel takes place before Rise of Skywalker, so there are a lot of things happening in the galaxy. Nowhere truly feels safe. It’s always like the First Order is going to show up at your planet and do something terrible. But the First Order isn’t like the Empire yet. They need to get rid of the resistance and they need recruits.

For a planet like Batuu, which is out at the edge of the galaxy, they don’t want that kind of attention. So what do regular “people” do when they’re faced with this kind of occupation? Izzy and Jules represent different parts of Batuu and the galaxy. It’s a love story set during a time when the craziest thing that they could do is choose each other.

GR: Is there another media property that you'd like to write for in the future?

ZC: Supernatural, the Arrowverse, The Little Mermaid, maybe Chris Evans’ biography.

GR: Do you have suggestions for other magical historical fantasies fans should read after Incendiary?

ZC: Yes! Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, the Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliott, and The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton.

GR: Finally, we love knowing what books our authors can't put down. Which titles are you recommending to friends and family right now?

ZC: Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno is a gorgeous contemporary romance.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is a dark and decadent urban fantasy.

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski just came out and is her classic slow-burn romance.


Zoraida Córdova's Incendiary will be available in the U.S. on April 28. Don't forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf. Be sure to also read more of our exclusive author interviews to get more great book recommendations.

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I love this Q & A with Zoraida Córdova!

message 2: by Zoraida (new)

Zoraida Thank you so much for the interview!

message 3: by Sarena (new)

Sarena Nanua Awesome!!!

ℓуηη_σƒ_νєℓαяιѕ I was already excited for this book, but this interview kicks that up to "I need this in my hands NOW"!

message 5: by C. A. (new)

C. A. SO EXCITED FOR INCENDIARY! Thanks for this Q&Z with Zoraida!

message 6: by Tomes And (new)

Tomes And Textiles Love this Q&Z and finding out more about Incendiary.

message 7: by Logan (new)

Logan Bhjjmkjim👍

message 8: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Love this!
Also, I'm loving the almost daily posts of new article content from Goodreads in general right now. Even if it isn't a topic I'm too interested in, it still takes away from the monotony of staying in all day and ignites a feeling a wanting to read immediately!

message 9: by Sara (new)

Sara (Freadom Library) Great interview!! Can't wait to get my preorder!!

message 10: by Gabi (new)

Gabi Incendiary is so good!! Be sure to preorder it!!

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