Author Romina Garber of 'Lobizona' on Writing Process, Inspiration, Advice, and More

Culture

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 among other accomplishments, 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.

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

Garber has a system with every book she writes.

“I always outline first—it’s the Virgo way,” Garber said. “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.”

Garber’s journals are scrawled with future ideas she wants to incorporate in her books.

“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,” Garber said. “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.”

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Struggles As A Writer and Author

One of the biggest struggles Garber has as a writer is that she tends to overcomplicate her 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,” Garber said.

Inspiration and Influence

Some of Garber’s favorite authors of all time include Jorge Luis Borges, Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, Gabriel García Márquez—and they are major influences in her writing.

“In fact, I reference all of these authors in "Lobizona" and "Cazadora,"” Garber said.

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Advice From An Author

Garber is not a beginner when it comes to rejection.

“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,” Garber said. “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 of nos, don’t give up—hold on for your yes.”

Garber says that the best idea she adopted for her writing was to form a critique group.

“We were a handful of aspiring authors who met up every other weekend to workshop our chapters and offer feedback,” Garber said. “Even now, we continue to be sources of support for each other.”

On "Lobizona"

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 Garber has struggled with her whole life as well.

“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,” Garber said. “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.”

Inspiration for "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,” Garber said. “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," Garber said.

The Best Part

“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,” Garber said. “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.”

Relatable Characters

Garber relates to Lobozona’s protagonist Manu the most because they love the same books.

“Since she’s grown up isolated from kids her age, stories have always kept her company,” Garber said. “In addition to English, Spanish, and Spanglish, she and I share a bookish language—and it’s where we feel the most fluent. 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.”

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Life Lessons, For Forever

Garber hopes that 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,” Garber said. “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.”

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What's Next For Manu?

"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,” Garber said. “I had so much fun recreating the country’s iconic landscapes.”

10 Quick Q's With Author Romina Garber

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.

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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.

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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!

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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

Keep Up

We hope this interview gave you more insights on "Lobizona" and her upcoming sequel. Get ready to be hooked to Romina's fantastical writing!

"Lobizona" is available on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.

To keep up with Romina, find her on her Instagram, Twitter, and Website.

Maha Laiq
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Maha is a current high school senior from Virginia. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, catching up on binge-worthy TV shows, and spending time with her friends and family.