Zoraida Cordova interview

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Zoraida, welcome to the YA Lit Mag!  We are excited to have you as one of our first author interviews!

When an unnatural riptide sweeps Tristan Hart out to sea for three days and then dumps him back on Coney Island, it’s the start of the Sea Court claiming its own. Suddenly, Tristan’s girlfriend dramas seem like distant worries as he discovers the truth: he’s a Merman. Now Tristan must fight for his life, the lives of his friends, and his humanity in a race for a throne as ancient as the gods. 

Olivia with YA Lit Mag: Zoraida (pronounced Zor-EYE-duh), what were the first sparks that turned into Tristan’s story?  What sets the seaside adventure of this Coney Island lifeguard apart from other mermaid tails… er, tales out there today like Lost Voices or Forgive My Fins?


Zoraida Córdova:  I will admit, I haven’t read many of the other YA mer stories. As much as I love mermaids, I don’t want anything to accidentally influence the development of my world. 


The idea for The Vicious Deep has been brewing in my mind my whole life. The infatuation with the mystery of the sea has always been strong. But the need to really sit down to pump it out hit me out of nowhere during a summer at Coney Island. It started with a guy and the world around him kept getting bigger and bigger. Tristan’s story is a quest for many things, but the most important one is the quest for his own identity in the middle of a dangerous new world.  


YALM: You are originally from beautiful Ecuador. Do you include anything from Ecuadorian culture in THE VICIOUS DEEP? You mentioned to me that your mermaid craze began there. Tell us more about that!


ZC:  When I was in Ecuador, my grandmother (who lived in New York) sent me the VHS of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and it’s safe to say the obsession began. I was always attracted to the fairy tale stories of ethereal other worlds, castles, princes, magic. At some point I started liking rock music, then somewhere after that I discovered Holly Black. Fairytales with an edge. To think, it all began in Ecuador!  


There is one character who is half Ecuadorian in TVD. She is Layla Santos, Tristan’s best friend. Contrary to belief, she is not based on me or anyone I know. Like Tristan, she is part of many cultures. Her father is Ecuadorian, her mother is Greek, and she is a Brooklyn chick. Tristan’s duality is physical, where Layla’s is a social construct. It’s going to be fun exploring that. 


YALM: With all the mermaid books being published over the past few years and with more on the way, what do you think draws today’s Young Adult readers into the ocean?


ZC:  If I said, mermaids are cool, yo! Would you think less of me? But really, mermaids are cool, bro. The ocean is mysterious and not easily accessible to the average you and me. Unless, you have a deep-sea diving hobby I wasn’t aware of, think it’s that “unknown” that peaks our human curiousity. 


YALM: I recently re-watched The Little Mermaid, which you list as one of your big inspirations and favorite movies. First: Since you now live in NYC, have you had a chance to see the musical? Second: I love Ursula something fierce… Do you have any villains or secondary characters of equally divine divaness?


ZC: I could kick myself for not having seen it on Broadway. Though I hold the original very close to my heart. 


As for my villains, she was on the original cover of The Vicious Deep. Her name is Nieve (Nee-ev) and she’s my own sea witch. Ancient. Dangerous. Patient. She could be a diva. She’s arrogant enough.   


YALM: Have you ever seen (or thought you saw) a mermaid, merdude, or other supernatural creature of the deep? (Also, I highly prefer “merdude” to “merman”! I totally blame you for that.)


ZC:  I do love the term merdude. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything. Then again, maybe they just don’t want to be seen. 


YALM: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)?  Now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?


ZC:  My favorite book in high school was In the Forests of the Night and Demon in my View by Amelia Atwater Rhodes. I haven’t read them in a while, but I think I’ve read them collectively more times than I can count. 


My favorite contemporary YA is I Wanna be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert.


YALM: You’ve been involved in the publishing world for many years. What can you tell us about your experience as an author seeking and then finding the road to publication?


ZC: I started my writing quest around 14 years old. I’m 24 now. My first workshop experiences were with The National Book Foundation’s writing camps. Then went on to the Summer Solstice writing conference at Pine Manor college. In college, I couldn’t pick a story. I have dozens of Part 1s that I haven’t finished. Eventually, I started interning at PMA Literary and Film management where I met my agent, Adrienne Rosado, currently at Nancy Yost Lit. I finally wrote the right book. It sold in a week. And now here we are.  


YALM: I can’t believe TVD sold in one week!  Did it go to auction?  Or was it a matter of the right editor at the right publisher seeing it first?


ZC: We found the right editor who got it right away and ran with it. I can’t thank her enough! 


YALM: I see that Tristan’s story continues in THE SAVAGE BLUE, which has already been picked up by your publisher! Tell us a little more about this sequel?


ZC: The Savage Blue was so much fun to write. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say Tristan is going to get hit with another wave, this time, not so physical.   


YALM: Beyond wrapping up the Vicious Deep Trilogy, what other YA projects can your readers look forward to in the coming years?  Is there a pet project you’ve got tucked away?


ZC: I’ve always wanted to write a zombie story. Though zombies would be a hard sell since it’s a little flooded. I’m definitely going to stick in the world you meet in The Vicious Deep, the magical dark side of New York City.   

YALM: All right, last one!  Since this is our April-May issue, I’ve been asking everyone about April Fool’s Day!  If you could pull a fun practical joke with Tristan, who would you pull it on, why, and what would the two of you do together?


ZC: Tristan and I would probably pull a practical joke on his guardian, Kurt. There’s one merman who needs to seriously chillax.


YALM: Thank you very much, Zoraida!  And again, from YA Lit Mag, congratulations on your debut! We look forward to hearing a lot more from you in years to come!

Readers, be sure to check out Zoraida Córdova at her home page http://www.zoraidawrites.com . Or follow her on Twitter @ZlikeinZorro.

THE VICIOUS DEEP will be available May 1st at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!


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