Joy Interviews Zoraida Córdova, author of THE WAY TO RIO LUNA

Article by Joy

I’ve been a fan of Zoraida Córdova’s YA novels since the beginning, so I’m always on the lookout for her newest titles. But what an extra treat to find that she has also dipped her writerly toes in the world of middle grade novels with THE WAY TO RIO LUNA, her newest fantasy out this week from Scholastic. It's got this great classic Narnia sort of feel, with secrets lands and adventures and gently scary villains - perfect for younger middle schoolers and up!

Zoraida will be in conversation about RIO LUNA with author Alex Aster on June 5 at 4 pm CT, so feel free to tune in. The event will be up on our Instagram for awhile, so if you missed it live, you can still watch. And Zoraida also found the time to chat with me via email about the new book, writing during a pandemic, and more. Here’s what she had to say.


JOY PREBLE: I guess we need to begin with the elephant in the room question: What’s it been like launching a book during a pandemic? What have been your difficulties? Any silver linings? How’s it been going for you in general with life, writing, reading, social distancing…

ZORAIDA CÓRDOVA: When I started off the year, I definitely did not see any of this happening. It was unfortunate that we had to cancel my first ever tour plus local events. But the health and safety of the public is more important! Besides, there will always be more book events, I have to believe that. My uncles were sick, and one of them was in the hospital for three weeks. We were so worried for so long but after almost two months he’s made a full recovery. It feels like a miracle thanks to the hard work of his doctors. It was hard to write for the beginning of this pandemic, but books and my work have always been such a big part of my life, I simply can’t stop doing it. I still have deadlines and they still need to get done. I do work from home, even before the pandemic, but it’s been an adjustment not being able to go to my coffee shops, etc. I know that we will get through this, and I’m so grateful that New York (my home) has strong leadership with Governor Cuomo. I can’t wait until we can gather once again, though I know that is a while away. In the meantime, I have so many good books to keep me company and my weekly calls with friends to keep me motivated! We got this! 


JP: So glad your uncles are on the mend. And yes, we are all thankful to doctors and nurses right now, working those front lines. Good to hear! And in other things that make me happy, THE WAY TO RIO LUNA is such fun! It’s got that wonderful classic Narnia/fairy tale feel, which I love. It is also a younger middle grade, which is a definite departure from your other books for teens and adults. So what inspired you to make the leap to middle grade? Was the writing process different? 

ZC: I’ve always wanted to write middle grade but I wanted to wait until I found the right project. Middle grade is tough because kids are so smart and they can sniff out when a writer is phoning it in. I wanted to make sure I got the voice right. When I met my editor, that was when I knew it was the right time. THE WAY TO RIO LUNA became very special to me because I was writing a book I would have loved to have had when I was in elementary school. I wasn’t a big reader and that was because I wasn’t given the right books. Plus, I named Danilo “Danny” Monteverde after my younger brother because when we were growing up we watched all the magical movies together. 


JP: I would TOTALLY have grabbed this from my elementary school library shelf! So I’m with you there. And in a related question, did you have favorite fairy tales growing up? Did those favorites influence your world of RIO LUNA?

ZC: My favorite fairy tale was The Little Mermaid! I was always so in love with the story of a mermaid who fell in love with a prince. When I was kid my grandmother read to me from a book of fables and rhymes. I think those influenced me more, especially the stories about family members in the past. But when it came to writing RIO LUNA, I wanted to create my own original tales for Danny and the crew to explore. 


JP: For me, it was my mom who read me all sorts of fairy tales, especially all the Grimm Brothers. But yes! So glad you created the RIO LUNA world. Your middle grade voice is spot on!  Besides yourself (!), who are your favorite fantasy writers currently writing? Any recommendations in middle grade and up?

ZC: Dhonielle Clayton, Leigh Bardugo, Tessa Gratton, V.E. Schwab, Holly Black, Roshani Chokshi, Julie C. Dao. 


JP: Do you believe in magic?

ZC: Definitely! The universe is too big not to. We have to make our own forms of magic.


JP: Agreed! Finally, what’s coming next for Zoraida Córdova?

ZC: I’m working on a new middle grade! It’s still secret though. I can say that it involves monsters and a big family. I also have an anthology which I co-edited with Natalie C. Parker called VAMPIRES NEVER GET OLD. 


JP: Oooh! monsters and a big family! I can’t wait! And as a long-standing Buffy fan girl, I’ve already been salivating for the VAMPIRES NEVER GET OLD anthology. 

Thanks for such a great interview, Zoraida! 

And for more information about Zoraida and her other books, check out her website!


This interview has been edited for clarity.

The Way to Rio Luna Cover Image
ISBN: 9781338239546
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Scholastic Inc. - June 2nd, 2020

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