We are so excited to celebrate the book birthday of BLAZEWRATH GAMES by Amparo Ortiz! But first, a little bit about the book:
Dragons and their riders compete in an international sports tournament in this alternate contemporary world fantasy
Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner―the only player without a dragon steed―is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.
But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire―a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form―the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.
Chantel Acevedo: You've taken contemporary YA fantasy and given it such a unique spin in BLAZEWRATH GAMES. I think much of what makes this book so great is that even though it has so many magical elements, it's still very much rooted in a real and contemporary world. Can you tell us a little about how you arrived at this approach?
Amparo Ortiz: Thank you for your kind words! I always knew I wanted to write about our world with magic in it, that it wouldn't be a secret from non-magic users, and that dragons lived among us peacefully (for the most part, lol). It just took about two years to figure out how the magical community and dragons coexisted with us, and how this magical sport I kept brainstorming would finally make sense on the page. But after watching 2014's FIFA World Cup, it all clicked instantly. I knew how the sport would be played, and I understood the complexities of being a non-magic user in a world that idolizes wizards and dragons. After several drafts later, I'm thrilled to share the result with readers.
Chantel: The world you've built is rich and wide and thrilling! What was the world-building process like?
Amparo: Long, lol! I had to figure out why there were dragons playing sports, for starters. Then I had to tackle the dragons themselves--how would they differ from one another? That's where nationalities came into play. I wanted dragons to only Bond--or form a psychic and emotional connection--with humans from their countries of origin. Once I realized that, I researched the countries I wanted to feature in the Blazewrath World Cup, and kept an eye out for specific cultural markers that would make their dragon species unmistakably theirs.
Figuring out the wizarding lore was the easiest. I literally sat down to write a scene near the beginning, where my main character is visiting a wand shop, and she's getting on an elevator. I wrote down three different types of wands for magic users to purchase and wield--Copper, Silver, and Gold. I don't even remember thinking any of that through during the first draft. It was like my brain always knew what kind of magic system I wanted regarding wand usage and the limits within each magical status.
Lastly, I went deeper with the historical tidbits! Each chapter opens with an epigraph that relates to either specific dragon lore or the growth of Blazewrath as a phenomenon through the years. This was by far my favorite part to brainstorm!
Chantel: The book renders Lana's feelings about being part of the Puerto Rican diaspora in a way that felt really genuine. It's a topic you don't often see in fantasy literature, but I think the pairing is a strong one. Was it challenging to put these elements together?
Amparo: It was challenging because I'm not part of the diaspora, so I wrote from an outsider's perspective. However, in terms of personality and how much I treasure my country, Lana and I are the same. I anchored her voice in longing for a life that's been denied to her, and the unapologetic drive to chase after it. Everything that revolved around her reconnecting with her roots also felt like I was doing it, too, even though I still live in Puerto Rico. There's a lot that can be said about living in a colony that's heavily influenced by the U.S., and how you're constantly feeling like you're at home and in a stranger's house at the same time. Writing about otherness within one's marginalization was very important for me to represent through Lana's journey. It's by no means the one and only experience regarding this topic, but I hope it adds to the conversation.
Chantel: I enjoyed the snippets from "historical record" at the start of each chapter. What was the process of coming up with those? Do you have an enormous book bible secreted away somewhere with more material??
Amparo: I do have a secret epigraph bible!! There are actually a few more epigraphs that I had to either cut or replace, so they live in a Word document that only I have ever seen! Those were suggested by my editor, Ashley Hearn, long before I ever began my formal submission process to publishing houses. Ashley was like, "I love your world so much and I want to know MORE. How can you make this happen?", and so I toyed with the idea of adding those tidbits at the beginning of every chapter. The real challenge was choosing what and how much of that to add, but once I understood what the chapter was centered around, it was a pretty straightforward process.
Chantel: If you had a magic wand and could turn YOURSELF into a dragon, what kind of dragon would you be?
Amparo: I LOVE THIS QUESTION. Can I be a special edition Sol de Noche dragon with metallic pink horns??? And instead of just shooting flames like a normal dragon, I can also fire off glitterballs into my opponent's eyes!
You can purchase BLAZEWRATH GAMES from Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon!
Amparo Ortiz was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but she currently lives on the country’s northeastern coast. She holds a B.A. in Psychology, an M.A. in English, and a Ph.D. in celebrity gossip. When she’s not teaching ESL to her college students, she’s teaching herself Korean, on the constant hunt for pizza and Twizzlers, and writing about Latinx characters in worlds both contemporary and fantastical. Her short story comic, “What Remains In The Dark,” appears in the Eisner-winning PUERTO RICO STRONG, a comics anthology contributing to post-Hurricane María relief efforts (Lion Forge, 2018). Her middle grade graphic novel, SAVING CHUPIE, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in 2022.
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