‘Norman Asks’ returns with a visit from the fantastic Zoraida Córdova!
Zoraida is a wonderfully versatile writer, having authored novels and short stories across all age brackets. You may already know her as the author of Labyrinth Lost, the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy, which won the 2017 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel. Her novel, A Crash of Fate, and three of her short stories are also part of the Star Wars canon universe.
On top of contributing to multiple anthologies, Zoraida graduated to editing anthologies herself – she is the sole editor of Reclaim the Stars and co-edited Vampires Never Get Old before that. For all our romance lovers, Zoraida also writes adult romance under the name Zoey Castile. And when she’s not writing, you can catch her on the podcast she co-hosts, Deadline City, or on the board of We Need Diverse Books.
Norman the Bookworm asked Zoraida to drop by after her first adult fantasy novel, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, caught his attention. Told in gorgeous prose with no short supply of wonder, this standalone follows a matriarch’s descendants from New York to Ecuador as the deadly consequences of old secrets start to tear their family apart.
Read on for more about this enchanting story from Zoraida herself.
Five Questions for Zoraida Córdova
You mention in your acknowledgements that The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina developed out of your short story, ‘Divine Are the Stars’, which you wrote for the YA anthology Toil & Trouble. When you were given the chance to revisit the Montoyas, what made you decide that it had to be in a piece of adult (rather than YA) literature?
Zoraida: I knew that going back to tell the story of this family would have to be an adult novel. This is not to say that YA books don’t have serious themes, or that teen readers can’t handle tough subjects. Of course they can. But after having written a dozen novels for kids and teens, I wanted to write a book where I could take my time, and not worry as much about having to speed through a plot. I found that part of writing very freeing, especially being able to linger in quieter family moments that would normally be cut out of YA novels (depending on who your editor is, of course).
How did you set about building a novel on the bones of a short story, especially in terms of worldbuilding, creating two different timelines and expanding the magical elements? Where did you pull inspiration from?
Zoraida: Even though the seed for the novel is the short story, I just think of them as separate entities. The short story is one thing, but The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is another. The novel is canon, so to speak. I knew what I wanted to keep, but the great things about being able to expand on something like this is I could also make changes. The more I got to know Orquídea, the more I knew her old name (Rosa) was too soft for the woman she was becoming in my head.
The impacts of generational trauma and silence occupy a large chunk of thematic space and are given tangibility – where they are often internalised and obscured in real life – through your use of speculative fiction/magical realism. Did this correlation between theme and genre exist at the beginning of your writing process, or was there an aha moment where you realised you wanted Orquídea’s magical journey to explore something deeper?
Zoraida: I do think that writers circle issues in their books, and many of us write about a theme over and over until we get a satisfactory answer or resolution. Generational trauma and silence is something that I think I was writing even as far back as my YA series, The Brooklyn Brujas. I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but I tend to write toward something I want to answer, and my big question is ‘what are the things we pass down?’ Nature vs. nurture. Inheritances. Plus, I’m a fantasy writer in my bones, so I don’t know if I’ll ever tackle something like that in contemporary fiction.
Orquídea Divina feels almost like a love letter to strong women. It centres the myriad of evolving forms that their strength comes in without neglecting their faults – a balance frequently misunderstood in conversations about strong female characters. Was this an intentional point that you wanted to address, or did the characters simply reflect the women in your own life?
Zoraida: I believe I write the characters that the story needs. Sure, inspiration comes from real people – a grandmother’s likeness, a short-tempered relative, a stranger I see on the subway that grabs my attention, but the characters are the characters. I think in order to take someone through a journey they have to be transformed from the person they were at the beginning of the story. People have to make mistakes (in my novels) and then figure out a way to right those wrongs. I will always do my best to show complex characters, so that part is intentional, but I think my favourite books are the ones where the protagonists are fallible.
And a fun question to wrap us up! If you could inherit one of the gifts that Orquídea left to her descendants, which one would you pick and why?
Zoraida: I think I would have Rey’s fiery need to create! Especially when I’m burned out.
About the Author
Zoraida Córdova is the acclaimed author of more than two dozen novels and short stories, including the Brooklyn Brujas series, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate and The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. In addition to writing novels, she serves on the board of We Need Diverse Books, and is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old, as well as the cohost of the writing podcast, Deadline City. She writes romance novels as Zoey Castile. Zoraida was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and calls New York City home. When she’s not working, she’s roaming the world in search of magical stories.
Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and ‘giddily exciting’ (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers – even for graduations, weddings or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador – to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.
Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind and reclaiming your power.