We are so excited to host this insightful conversation with Alexandra Villasante interviewing Isabel Ibañez about her magical book, WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT.
WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT a stunning fantasy based on Bolivian myths and culture, about Ximena, a girl raised as a decoy for la Condesa, the heir of the Illustrians - a people who have been ousted from La Ciudad by the usurper, Atoc. It’s a wonderfully evocative tale of revenge, magic and revolution.
The world in WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is so beautifully articulated and vivid. Can you explain a little about how you structured it and where the idea for the world of Inkasisa came from?
Thank you! The world of Inkasisa is heavily inspired by Bolivia! I wanted to pull in from my childhood, when I spent many months out of the year living in my grandparent’s home in Cochabamba. Inkasisa has all of the same lush quality to it—in the heavy greenery, the mountains, the delicious food. I brought in all of the vibrant color found in Bolivia, as well as the beautiful artisan crafts and traditions.
Ximena lives her life as a lie – a decoy for the real Condessa, Catalina. How does knowing she couldn’t be ‘herself’ inform how you created her character? You almost had to have her fight against her instincts.
This was an interesting tension to pull off. Because I don’t think Ximena has ever sat down and tried to figure out who she is. She’s mostly been pretending to be someone else, and on top of that she lived through a horrifying trauma. She’s lost her family, her home. Part of writing Ximena was also discovering what she would have been like if she’d never lived through a war. So in essence, when she leaves the fort for the first time, she’s learning things about herself and having to rely on her wits instead of turning to Catalina. That part was fun—because the further away she went from her old life, the more she learned about herself.
I love the details of weaving tapestries – the way you described it feels very tactile and lush. Do you know how to do this – or did you have to do lots of research? And where did the idea come from?
I’m a weaver!! Bolivia has this beautiful and rich tradition of weaving and I knew I wanted my main character to really relish in this craft. When Ximena sits down to weave, I pictured myself in that process of creating a tapestry. It was a fun part of the writing, tapping into that artistic well.
Can you talk a little bit about the world building you created? It’s a fantasy grounded in Bolivian culture - the food (the food! Oh man the food!!!) the clothing, the koka etc. what made you make that choice and what did you choose not to include?
I wanted to make sure that the reader experienced all of Bolivia and part of that is what happens around a dinner table. The dishes I grew up eating are some of my favorites to enjoy, and I wanted readers to have the chance to experience them! I included the foods my parents made me and what I ate everyday in Bolivia.
How did you come up with the moon magic? I have to admit, when I was a little girl, I thought La Luna was my friend, that she was shining for me and leaving me ‘gifts’ I felt that Ximena was acompañada in that way by Luna – it felt very real to me!
The moon magic felt like a natural extension of the Bolivian traditions and religions of the indigenous peoples in different regions of the country. There is a lot of respect and reverence for Pachamama, mom to the earth and to the sun god, Inti. So having the Illustrians worship the moon felt like I was pulling from familiar traditions.
Thank you Isabel, for your time and for your beautiful story!
WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is available from IndieBound, Amazon and Barnes and Noble now!
Isabel Ibañez is the author of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT (Page Street, 2019), an award winning designer, illustrator, mom to a golden-doodle named Piper, and a Pitch Wars class of ’15 alum. By day, she designs greeting cards and by night she writes YA fantasies featuring amazing food and strong Latina characters who are often running for their lives. Isabel is represented by the tenacious Mary Moore of Kimberly Cameron & Associates. This is her third year mentoring Pitch Wars.
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