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Four Questions with Author Zoraida Córdova
She walks us through the writing of "The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina"
The best way I can describe Zoraida Córdova’s The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is as an adult, grittier version of “Encanto,” Disney’s new hit film about a magical family living in Colombia.
Both feature big, boisterous families, houses imbued with special powers, grandmothers holding onto secrets and heroines fighting to protect their families from harm. (I’m not the only one who picked up on the similarities. Zoraida herself tweeted about them.)
If you’re a long-time subscriber, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina probably sounds familiar. It was one of my favorite books of 2021. I’ve been recommending it nonstop since listening to it last fall.
Zoraida has written more two dozen novels and short stories, including Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate. She is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old and writes romance as Zoey Castile.
Zoraida was kind enough to answer a few questions over email.
Can you share a bit about writing and researching The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina?
A lot of the novel takes place in Ecuador, particularly the neighborhood La Atarazana, which is where I was born and raised for a while. My family has lived there for a long time, but I had to fictionalize some parts from the ‘50s since there really wasn’t anything there but docks and storage for shipyards. I spent most summers in Guayaquil when I was growing up, so I tried to show some iconic parts of the city. It didn’t really feel like research, just pulling from what I already knew.
The parts of Four Rivers [the American town where the magical house is] were stranger because it’s a place that doesn’t exist on a map. It’s a paradise safe haven of sorts. That was my favorite, like writing a dream.
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I loved the Montoya family and especially the relationship between the cousins. Did you draw on your own family/experiences to write them?
I think writers can’t help but draw a little from the world around them. I do have a big Ecuadorian family, but the Montoyas are their own. I feel like I created them so that they could only inhabit that world. When I was a kid, I used to really pay attention to what the adults were saying. So, in some ways I’ve fictionalized and extrapolated things I might have heard as a kid in a big dramatic way for my fiction. Though, if my family is reading this, definitely no one is based on anyone we know.
You wrote an official Star Wars story. How does writing in an existing universe compare to one you create yourself?
I approach existing worlds the same way. For A Crash of Fate, my Star Wars novel, I created original characters that would live on the planet Batuu (Galaxy’s Edge). It also helps that I have loved this world since I was a kid. I’ve also written a one shot comic for Marvel and got to write Gamora. Writing for these properties is definitely a fun bonus of writer life.
Any books you want to recommend?
I love recommending books! I always recommend Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo if you’re in the mood for some edgy dark academia set at Yale.
A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera comes out this year, but I got to read an early copy, and it’s already one of my favorite books of the year. It’s perfect for fans of Sarah McLean and “Bridgerton,” but with a Caribbean twist.
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