Born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York, Zoraida Córdova is an award-winning author. Córdova’s novels include the Brooklyn Brujas series, The Vicious Deep trilogy, and several other fantastic stories. Córdova is also a long time Disney fan who remembers rewatching The Little Mermaid as a kid. She has recently joined the Disney family as the author of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge A Crash of Fate. Wanting to learn more about her career and A Crash of Fate, I was able to interview Córdova for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some stories you loved experiencing? Do you still enjoy revisiting any of these tales now?
Zoraida Córdova: I was always attracted to the stories that were supernatural and the fantastical. My brother and I watched X-Men, Gargoyles, Sailor Moon, Totoro, Disney everything, Star Wars (of course) every weekend morning. Then we discovered those old fantasy movies like Merlin and Willow and The Odyssey. I revisit most of these from time to time, mostly because they’re still great stories.
Yanes: When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? Was there a moment in which this goal crystallized for you?
Córdova: I started writing when I was thirteen. At 16 I went to the National Book Foundation Writing Camp. Most kids got to go to summer camps with water sports and picnics and whatever The Parent Trap and Addams Family Values taught me about how summer camps work. But this was even better because it was 10 days of workshops from professional writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Cornelius Eady. Being a teen around mostly adults who were already trying to break into the industry was a driving force for me. I know I could do it and I started writing feverishly, even if the stories weren’t good yet. I was 16 and had a lot to learn. But I think that writing camp really changed the way I approached writing and say it as a possible career.
Yanes: In addition to also being Latinx, I’ve also spent years teaching English to native and non-native English speakers. In your opinion, what are some stories you think could help readers better understand English?
Córdova: I don’t have any good suggestions. But English is my second language, but I also immigrated to New York City when I was five or six. I picked it up right away, but in Ecuador there is a lot of English media and TV. I don’t remember when my brain made the switch to thinking in English first. But I think that watching The Little Mermaid on repeat and listening to American pop on the radio since age 3 had something to do with it.
Yanes: I am envious of how much you’ve published. Could you take a moment to describe your writing schedule? On this topic, do you aggressively outline a story first or do you just dive into writing?
Córdova: My writing schedule has changed since I wrote my first published novel. I started writing The Vicious Deep in 2008 and finished it in 2011. After that I’ve been writing a book a year. Then in 2014 I started writing romance novels on the side and it became two books a year. I don’t even want to say how many books I wrote last year, but I can’t do it without an outline and a routine. I now have a private office at a coworking space, which I share with two other authors. Writing from home is great, but I get easily distracted lately. Now, I go to my office and work for as long as I can, using the Forest App to do sprints. Because I’m on deadline, I do use outlines. My main ones are different versions of the Hero’s Journey and the Blake Snyder Beat sheet. Keep in mind that books are organic and changing things. So even when I have the major beats of the story, I don’t know every step my characters are going to take until I get to the scene. Before I do write a scene, I think about what needs to happen and run through multiple scenarios and how that will have an impact down the line. I’m also a very linear writer and wouldn’t even know how to write out of order. Though I hope I’ll get back to writing without an outline sometime soon. Just for fun.
Yanes: One of your recent novels is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – A Crash of Fate. What was the inspiration for this novel? Specifically, was there a character or theme that helped you understand what the heart of this story would be?
Córdova: When was brought on for this project I had to give a pitch for the story. I knew it had to be romance and it had to be set on the planet of Batuu. Izzy and Jules took shape right away. Izzy is an aspiring smuggler and Jules is a starry-eyed farmboy. My inspiration was Before Sunrise, where a couple falls in love in a day. Adding Star Wars hijinx and certain doom, plus the backdrop of the First Order and Resistance on the planet definitely have me great material to work with.
Yanes: Star Wars has an incredible collection of characters and places. Are there any that you’d love to write stories about in the future?
Córdova: I am fascinated by what a teenage Poe Dameron was like. That and Cassian Andor. But really, I’d love to create other original characters like Izzy and Jules.
Yanes: While developing A Crash of Fate how did you make sure the alien characters and settings still felt relatable to readers?
Córdova: Black Spire Outpost on Batuu is a lawless place, so even the humans still have to feel relatable. With any character, I have to figure out their desire. What do they want? That’s the thing that drives the story. Usually it’s what anyone wants: survival, money, love, vengeance, safety, home, peace. These are the things that makes stories universal.
Yanes: A Crash of Fate centers on the friendship between Izzy and Jules. Given how authentic their friendship felt, is it based on one of your friendships? On this note, do you see yourself revisiting Izzy and Jules in future stories?
Córdova: Izzy and Jules are not based on anyone I know, but I did take some inspiration from Han and Luke. I hope that parts of their spirit live on in these characters. Han’s reluctant golden heart and Luke’s kindness. I would definitely keep writing about them given the opportunity. If you like them enough, give Disney Books a shout and tell them how you feel!
Yanes: When people finish reading A Crash of Fate what do you hope they take away from this story?
Córdova: I hope they take away the idea that everyone is a little lost sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope that things will get better. You never know when you’re going to find your way home.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that fans can look forward to?
Córdova: I have a YA fantasy coming out next year about a memory thief seeking revenge for her people called Incendiary, book one in the Hollow Crown duology. That comes out April 2020 from Disney/Hyperion. After that I’m co-editing an anthology of stories called Vampires Never Get Old: Ten Tales With Bite. That’s out Fall 2020 from Imprint/Macmillan.