Labyrinth Lost was definitely one of the best book surprises I’ve found so far this year (see my review here). I loved Zoraida Cordova’s story so much that I wanted to share more of her thoughts with everyone before her book’s September 6 release!
Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro
Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives. Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…
• What do you do when you’re not writing?
Travel. This year I was able to visit lots of places. My favorites so far are Portland, Maine, and Mexico City, Mexico. If I could live at the beach, I most certainly would.
Art. I’ve been slacking on this, but I love to paint. I’m not half bad.
Food. I love eating my way through a new city. Basically travel is just a chance for me to do restaurant hops.
• Can you describe your story in 3 words?
Labyrinth Lost is magical, honest, and twisty
• Which scene was the most fun to write?
Alex’s Deathday. That’s when Alex has to make the terrible choice that will send her on her quest. When you get the book, that’ll be chapter 10.
• Are there any specific real world cultures or myths you drew upon in creating Los Lagos?
Not as much Los Lagos, but the Deathday ceremony yes. With Los Lagos, I wanted to create a magical realm.
The Deathday is a magical coming of age ceremony of my own creation. Like a Bat Mizvah or a Sweet 16, but for brujas and brujos. It is a time when a family gets together and wakes the dead spirits of their ancestors. The ancestors then give their blessing to the bruja/o. With the blessing, the magic can grow and reach full potential. Without the blessing, well, bad things can happen. Like many traditions, they grow and become modernized. In Alex’s time, Brooklyn circa now, Deathdays are lined up with birthdays for extra festivities. Even though the Deathday ceremony was created for the world of Labyrinth Lost, aspects of it are inspired by the Day of the Dead and Santeria.
El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that celebrates and honors deceased family members through food and festivities. Altars are filled with photographs, flowers, food, and candles. The celebrations are then taken to the cemeteries where people play games, sing, and even leave shots of mezcal for the adult spirits. The unity of death and family is what drew me to it, and one of the things I wanted to include in Alex’s life. One of the best books I’ve read on the subject was The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico by Elizabeth Carmichael.
Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that syncretizes Yoruba beliefs and aspects of Catholicism. It developed when slaves from Western Africa were taken to Cuba and other Caribbean Islands against their will. Slaves were forced to convert, but held on to their religion in secrecy, and used Catholic saints as parallels to their Orishas. Those who don’t understand it often see Santeria as a secretive and underground religion. Like some Santeros, the brujas of Labyrinth Lost use animal sacrifice, possession, and connect directly to their gods. The Santeria Orishas, however, are not gods, but parts of the Supreme God. For further information, a starting point is Santeria: the Religion: Faith, Rites, Magic by Migene González-Wippler. For more information, check out the Author’s Note in the back of Labyrinth Lost
• Are you planning on writing more Latin American-inspired fantasy novels? (This is more like me begging for another similar series but we’ll phrase it as a question).
The next two books in the Brooklyn Brujas series will be about Alex’s sisters. Lula and Rose will get their own adventures. So, more Latinas in Fantasy!
• If you’re a Harry Potter fan, which house would you be sorted into?
Pottermore sorted me into Ravenclaw, but I’m pretty sure I’m a Gryffindor.
• Any advice to young authors looking to be published?
Read read read. Read great books, bad books, new books, old books, fiction and non-fiction, and comics. It’s a great way to learn technique that works for you.
Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your book!