Zoraida Córdova is the author of the fantasy fiction young adult book series, The Vicious Deep. The Ecuadorian writer takes readers on a journey into a mystical world, where a lifeguard-turned-merman is fighting for his life and searching for his true self. Córdova’s love for her homeland and childhood acculturation greatly inspired her first novel, which is already getting praise as one of the best summer reads for teens since its release earlier this month.
We spoke to the young author about her advice to other Latina authors and how she plans to give back to her community below:
When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
"I started writing when I was 13. I actually wasn’t a big reader growing up, but when I was in high school my teacher gave me this assignment to write a three-page short story and mine turned into a 23-page story. I just kept writing and my teacher was impressed. She told me about another 13-year-old girl whom Random House had just published and I was just so motivated to follow her path."
You were born in Ecuador and raised in Queens. How does your identity influence your writing?
"Queens is so diverse and our neighbors were also Ecuadorian so I never felt out of place. I always try to write about characters that have diverse backgrounds. I feel like I do it in a different way. In The Vicious Deep I write about a young kid who discovers that he’s a merman. He’s basically part of two worlds figuratively and metaphorically. For a lot of Latinos, it’s the same way. Except of course, we don’t grow fins (laughs). I use fantasy instead of being really literal about the bicultural experience and diversity."
What was the writing process like for Vicious Deep?
"It depends on whatever mood strikes me. I really had to get myself on a schedule. I just pretty much sat myself down and forced myself to write nonstop."
How did you feel when you were finally done?
"It’s kind of like having an extension of you out there in the world. It’s frightening, but it’s also really cool at the same time because you are reaching all of these people that you normally wouldn’t have. My dream is to get the book translated into Spanish…that’s the only way my grandmother could read it."
What was your family’s reaction when you officially got published?
"No immigrant family really wants their kid to become a writer. It’s like, ‘oh go be a doctor or a lawyer,’ but they found out I was really serious about it and became super supportive. They are extremely happy for me. They are my biggest fans. They have told everyone they know in Ecuador that I published a book!"
What advice would you give to young aspiring Latina writers?
"You don’t have to follow anyone else’s style. Also, don’t be afraid to write the book that you want. Just because you see certain type of books on the shelves, it doesn’t mean that you have to write that kind of book. It’s always good to follow your instincts and find others like you. Your best network is always going to be your writer friends."
How do you plan on giving back to you community moving forward?
"I’ve been looking at workshops that El Museo del Barrio offers. I feel like I need to branch out more and support creative writing workshops and mentoring. I look at my little cousins, and they don’t have access to the sort of art programs I was exposed to as a kid. That’s something I would definitely love to do in the future."
Do you know an inspiring young Latina? If so, email us at InspiringLatinas@Latina.com!