An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Isabel Ibañez about her latest release Together We Burnalong with writing, book recommendations, and more!
Hi, Isabel! Thank you for joining us once again! How have the last two years been for you since joining us to chat about your debut, Woven In Moonlight?
It’s been a total whirlwind! My second book, Written In Starlight, came out January 2021, and then I hunkered down to go through revisions for TOGETHER WE BURN. Because of the pandemic, I had plenty of time to dream up of new stories and read a ton of books. Then, incredibly, I sold three more books with Wednesday Books! A total dream come true. TOGETHER WE BURN is the first of the three coming out with them.
When did you first discover your love for writing?
When I was a little girl, I always carried around a journal where I would jot down lines of dialogue or story ideas. There isn’t a time when I wasn’t in love with books and wanting to write them. I still can’t believe I get to do what I love so much.
Quick lightning round! Tell us the first book you ever remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author, and one that you can’t stop thinking about!
Hmmm, when I was 11 years old, I read everything by Agatha Christie. I know, a funny choice for a kid, but I LOVED the mystery at the heart of every one of her stories. From there, I read Harry Potter, and like most kids at the time, I was absolutely transported into another world. It wasn’t until Shannon Hale’s Goosegirl that I started to think it might be a dream I could reach!
Your new novel, Together We Burn, is out now! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?
Adventure, Rivals-to-Lovers, dragons, magical, and delish food.
What can readers expect?
I hope readers will be transported into another world, filled with lush descriptions, a swoony romance, and a dangerous kind of adventure involving family ties and dragons. I wanted to write something that would sweep readers off their feet in a slow build up to the final page.
Where did the inspiration for Together We Burn come from?
I have lots of family in Spain and one vacation to visit them, they took me to a bullfight. While the experience was certainly memorable, I can’t say I enjoyed myself. In fact, it left me incredibly sad and I vowed never to repeat it. But that afternoon stayed with me and I began pondering what it might look like for a society to move forward, or away, from a tradition and to transform into something new. Maybe something that didn’t result in so much death. Bullfighting is a three thousand year old tradition, and so intrinsically Spanish that for many Spaniards, they consider it an artform. Even so, there’s a burgeoning conversation that is pushing against it. TOGETHER WE BURN asks questions about traditions, and it plays around in the gray space between two arguments. In the story, I ask a question and while I didn’t come up with a concrete answer, I think the asking is incredibly important.
Can you tell us a bit about the challenges you faced while writing and how you were able to overcome them?
There was SO MUCH in this world and I was working within a certain word count! The book is a story about a traumatized family, but it’s also predominately a love story. Then there’s guilds and magic and a large cast. I was juggling so much and wanting to make sure every element had a moment to shine. Zarela also deals with a lot in the beginning of the book, and I wanted her to sort through everything that happened to her. The first few chapters are really about her and her family, and her best friend. From there, she goes on to fight for her home. So that was the challenge: giving every moment the needed weight before moving to the next chapter, scene, beat.
Were there any favorite moments or characters you really enjoyed writing or exploring?
I LOVED writing Lola, Zarela’s best friend. Mostly because I never knew what exactly was going to come out of her mouth. She was fun and surprising and a much needed counterpoint to Zarela’s drive.
What’s the best and the worst writing advice you have received?
Best: prioritize your writing time and finish your book. You can’t make something better, or prettier, when there’s nothing on the page. Start somewhere and keep going. There’s no rush—finishing your book will take as long as it takes. Keep at it, and choose your passion whenever you can. It might mean saying no to hanging out with friends. It might mean staying up late or getting up early.
Worst: Anything that sounds like there’s a specific way to write a book. One person’s process might not work for you, and that’s totally OK. Some people outline beforehand or use index cards or create a lengthy synopsis. That might not work for you! But find out what does and stick with it. Your writing journey will look like your own, and sometimes the process for every book is different.
What’s next for you?
I am working on a super fun and secret YA project. It’s a historical fantasy and I have been doing so much research. It has been a blast. While I can’t share too many details, the book will be coming out with Wednesday Books in 2023!
Lastly, do you have any 2022 book recommendations for our readers?
I’m incredibly excited for WILD IS THE WITCH by Rachel Griffin and THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER by Stephanie Garber!