Author Spotlight: Isabel Ibañez talks WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT
I'm so excited to welcome Isabel Ibañez as the first author on the 2020 blog! Born and raised in Boca Raton to a pair of Bolivian immigrants, Isabel is hands-down one of the most creative people in the author community. In addition to writing, Isabel is also a successful graphic designer, specializing in greeting cards. Her work has been sold nationwide to brands like Anthropologie, Crate and Barrel, and Paper Source, and can be found in over 350 mom and pop shops around the country. To take a look at recent designs, check out 9th Letter Press, a company she founded and sold in 2017.
WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is Isabel's debut novel------a YA fantasy inspired by the richness of Bolivia, is available now from Page Street Publishing. The companion novel, WRITTEN IN STARLIGHT, is already scheduled for publication in Winter 2021. Check out the full interview, synopsis, and other goodies below!
A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.
Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.
When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.
She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princesa, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge―and her Condesa.
Hi, Isabel! Welcome and congrats on Woven in Moonlight. Can you tell us a little about the story and the Bolivian history that inspired it?
Currently, Bolivia is going through a tumultuous time, and has been for a few years. While my brother and I were born in Florida, the rest of my family is in Bolivia—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the political climate has been impacting their day to day lives. When I sat down to write WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, I expected to write a rather straightforward love story, but instead, Bolivia’s grim history and the current politics found its way onto the pages. In the sixteenth century, the Inca empire living in the Andean region of Bolivia was conquered by Spanish conquistadors, and what followed was a long, terrible season of abuse and oppression that lasted for hundreds of years. In my story, the Llacsans are inspired by the indigenous peoples who were subjected to horrors at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors. That’s Bolivia’s past. Today, Bolivia is governed by a politician who can sometimes act more like a dictator than an elected president. The main character in Woven in Moonlight, Ximena Rojas, faces an antagonist not unlike the many dictators who have dominated South American countries, and while I zeroed in on Bolivia’s current politics, you only need to look at the total devastation and collapse of Venezuela to see what she’s up against. Many of the people in positions of power began with good intentions, but along the way they lost themselves, forgot what mattered, and who they were really serving. I wanted to explore this gray area of morality, where grace and redemption can sometimes be found. Ximena straddles that gray area, living in the in-between, and her journey challenges so many of the ideas she’d been raised on.
How did you approach your magic system for Woven in Moonlight?
The magic is so integral with Bolivian culture, tradition and religion. I wanted to create a system that felt true to the world, one deeply rooted in the elements most admired in the country. Weaving is such a beautiful expression of Bolivian art and creativity, it felt natural to somehow use it in WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT with a celestial bent. The Llacsans’s magic stems from the earth and sun, which are deities some Bolivians continue to respect and revere, especially in the more rural locations. The Illustrian’s magic revolves around the moon, and little by little, everything fell into place.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Woven in Moonlight teach you?
With this story, I learned what my weaknesses were, as well as my strengths. I’m a very fast drafter, but the story had so many issues. This is when I learned that I’m a much better rewriter. I used to write and edit at the same time, and I realized this system doesn’t work for me at all. I can get hung up on the micro, while losing focus of the macro. Somehow, I finally realized that my creativity and focus is much better served by working through the big picture down to the little details. Macro to micro.
You are the only traditionally published author I’ve ever heard of who got to design their own cover (which is stunning, btw!). What was that experience like?
An absolute dream! One day my editor reached out asking if I knew of any Bolivian artists they could contract for the cover. My response was almost comical: Well … I’m Bolivian … and I’m an artist…
So! I ended up sharing my portfolio and website, and they loved my work! From there, I sat down and drew what I’d always imagined for the cover and that was it. I’m SO grateful for their trust and support. They let me do whatever I wanted and were so thrilled with the end result. From there, they sort of let me run with the other ideas I’d had for the book: all the interior illustrations, the map, the chapter lettering. I seriously still can’t believe it.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned (so far) in your publishing career?
Celebrate the small moments! Every time I made a goal for myself and then reached it, I immediately started thinking about the next thing, the next milestone to reach. I love keeping a very full plate, juggling multiple projects, but sometimes moving so fast I can miss the small moments that mean a whole lot.
MEET ISABEL - BOOK TOUR INFO!
THE WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT BOOK TRAILER IS HERE!
Many thanks go out to Isabel for taking the time to tell us more about the inspiration behind WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT, delving into her organic approach to the magic system in this book, and sharing some of her publishing and creative journey. Be to sure to add this rich and captivating fantasy to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,