Have you ever came across a book so good you just couldn't put it down, and magically kept turning the pages until the very end? A book that kept you on the edge of your seat and drew you in?
That's exactly what Lobizona is, and The Teen Magazine had the chance to interview the author, Romina Garber, on her writing process, inspiration and influences, advice, and much more!
Meet Romina Garber
Romina Garber is a New York Times and international bestselling author whose books include Lobizona & the ZODIAC series.
As a teen, Romina wrote College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.
She is the author of the four-book Zodiac series as well as the Wolves of No World series, in which Lobizona is the first book.
About Lobizona and her upcoming book
Lobizona is basically a mesh between the realities of our current world in a fantasy world. Manuela Azul, or mostly referred to as “Manu”, is the teenage protagonist of this story.
She's an undocumented immigrant who shares a small apartment with her mother and a elderly woman who helps them, until ICE discovers her family. She has a chronic pain condition that leaves her in a coma every month.
However, when she is sent on the run, she uncovers a secret world that allows her for the first time not to live in pain. The book touches on contemporary conflicts in immigration and identity.
The sequel, which is a continuation of Lobizona, Cazadora is coming out on August 2021!
A Look Into The Writing Process
What is your writing process like?
I always outline first—it’s the Virgo way.
With any project, I like to start with setting because of something the philosopher Alan Watts once said: We’re not born into this world, we’re born from it.
Once I settle on an idea, I’ll fill up entire journals with thoughts and doodles and maps, until the fictional landscape becomes familiar enough that I can grow characters from its soil. I begin my outlines by listing the book’s turning points.
I think of plot as simply a series of choices an antagonist forces a protagonist to make. The more personal the decision, the more revealing it will be, and the greater the change it will produce.
Struggles As A Writer and Author
What is a struggle you personally face in the writing world?
One of the biggest things I struggle with in my writing is my tendency to overcomplicate the plot.
I often approach a new project with too many ideas, and my challenge becomes stripping the story of its layers until I uncover the core of what I’m trying to communicate.
Inspiration and Influence
Do you look up to any authors? Have they influenced the way you write?
Some of my favorite authors of all time include Jorge Luis Borges, Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, Gabriel García Márquez—and they are major influences in my writing.
In fact, I reference all of these authors in Lobizona and Cazadora.
Advice From An Author
What advice do you have for teens that are aspiring authors?
The best thing I did for my writing—and myself—was form a critique group.
We were a handful of aspiring authors who met up every other weekend to workshop our chapters and offer feedback. Even now, we continue to be sources of support for each other.
Once you decide that your manuscript is ready to shop, don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out right away. Remember that your path is as unique as your story. It took me almost a decade to get published; in that time, I wrote five completed novels, and every single one of them was rejected.
So if you start to feel defeated by an abundance NOs, don’t give up—hold on for your YES.
What makes Lobizona such a special story?
Lobizona is the book teen-me needed—a YA fantasy about Latinx brujas and lobizones who speak my languages, share my cultures, and make me swoon.
For all of 2020’s horrors, it’s also the year LOBIZONA came into existence. It’s taken me a dozen years to get a story about Argentine immigrants published, & I want to thank the booksellers & librarians who connected with Manu & worked so hard to introduce her to readers. ✨🐺🌕 pic.twitter.com/qtkCuZ2CJ8— Romina Garber (@RominaRussell) December 28, 2020
I wrote the story as an exploration of the immigrant identity. Lobizona is about what it’s like to come from two worlds but belong to neither. To speak two languages but still lack the vocabulary to define yourself.
Manu’s dual identity as a human and a werewolf is a threat to both her worlds, and rather than having two homes, she’s left with none. As an immigrant, this sense of homelessness is one I’ve struggled with my whole life.
Inspiration for Lobizona
What inspired you to write Lobizona?
The inspiration behind the worldbuilding of Lobizona is a curious Argentine law that is still in effect today: ley de padrinazgo presidencial 20.843. It declares the President of Argentina godparent to the seventh consecutive son or daughter in a family.
When I researched the history of this law, I came across a superstition that claims seventh daughters will be born brujas and seventh sons will be lobizones. I knew I wanted to write about it, but rather than a straightforward fantasy, I opted to explore the mythologies we weave with our words every day.
Lobizona is a treatise on labels and a warning of what happens when we take language too literally.
The Best Part
What was the best part of writing Lobizona?
Writing this book was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had as an author because I was able to think in my true tongue—Spanglish.
Freeing myself from the constraints of sticking to one language really helped me connect to these characters and their worlds. As a result, I think Manu is my most natural narrative voice.
Which character from Lobizona do you relate to the most?
I relate to Manu the most because we love the same books.
Since she’s grown up isolated from kids her age, stories have always kept her company. In addition to English, Spanish, and Spanglish, she and I share a bookish language—and it’s where we feel the most fluent.
Life Lessons, For Forever
What important lessons can readers take away from Lobizona?
I hope readers think about the intersection of language and community, and how each shapes the other. Words are the building blocks of civilization, so we need to handle them more carefully.
Illegal is one of the most dehumanizing labels in our vocabulary, and my hope is for Manu’s story to generate the kind of empathy that translates to real-world discussion.
Do we define words, or do words define us?
What's Next For Manu?
What comes next in Manu’s adventure?
Cazadora is the follow-up to Lobizona, and it publishes in August 2021. In this sequel, we’ll see Manu and her friends on the run from the Cazadores—law enforcement—across a supernatural version of Argentina.
I had so much fun recreating the country’s iconic landscapes!
10 Quick Q's With Author Romina Garber
The Teen Magazine also had the chance to have our favorite 10 Quick Q's segment with the author for you to better get to know her. Follow along for these ten fast, fun, and fantastic questions!
1. When did you realize that you were interested in writing?
I immigrated to the U.S. when I was five, but it wasn’t until fourth grade, when my teacher read to us from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, that I felt I was hearing English for the first time.
And I fell in love with words. That’s when I started crafting my own poems and stories, in both languages—and I haven’t stopped writing since.
2. What were you reading when you were a teen?
Some of my go-to authors as a teen were Judy Blume, RL Stine, Jorge Luis Borges, John Grisham, and Shakespeare.
3. Do you have any secret talents?
I was a teen drummer like Rho, the protagonist of my Zodiac series.
4. If you could have any superhero power, what power would you have and why?
At the moment, I’d have to go with teleportation. I’d love to visit my family and friends around the world whenever I feel like it.
5. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
If I’m not writing, I’m most likely reading, swimming, binge-watching shows, spending time with friends, or plummeting down a social media rabbit-hole.
6. What characteristics make you a true Virgo?
ALL OF THEM! I’m stubborn, neurotic, obsessive, critical, diligent, detail-oriented, and plagued by perfectionism.
7. What is your biggest fear?
Letting down the people I love.
8. What is your favorite season?
Fall, for sure!
9. What would you ask for if a genie granted you three wishes?
For my first wish, I’d eradicate all diseases.
My second wish would be for no one in the world to go hungry.
And third, I’d wish to come across another genie!
10. What is your favorite quote?
I have too many, but here’s one:
“Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
CAZADORA is 6 months away!!! 🐺🇦🇷🧉 To celebrate, I’m personalizing copies of LOBIZONA at Books & Books on March 5th—& they ship internationally! Just specify your name/personalization preferences in the comment field. https://t.co/0M3khDUYCe pic.twitter.com/L3JSofgGtG— Romina Garber (@RominaRussell) February 16, 2021
We hope this interview gave you more insights on Lobizona and her upcoming sequel. Get ready to be hooked to Romina's fantastical writing!