Q&A: Isabel Ibañez, author of “Together We Burn”

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach him his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him, his world will burn.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Isabel Ibañez about her latest release Together we burnplus writing, book recommendations and more!

Hi, Isabella! Thanks for joining us once again! How have the past two years been for you since we joined to discuss your debut, woven in the moonlight?

It was a total whirlwind! My second book Written in starlight, came out in January 2021, then I bent down to go through reviews for TOGETHER WE BURN. Because of the pandemic, I had plenty of time to dream up 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 to date.

When did you discover your love for writing?

When I was a little girl, I always carried a journal with me where I jotted down lines of dialogue or story ideas. There wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t in love with books and wanted to write them. I still can’t believe I can do what I love so much.

Quick Lightning Ride! Tell us about the first book you remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author and the one you can’t stop thinking about!

Um, when I was 11, I read all of Agatha Christie. I know, a fun choice for a kid, but I loved the mystery at the heart of each of his stories. From there I read Harry Potter, and like most kids at the time, I was completely transported to another world. It wasn’t until Shannon Hale Goosegirl that I started to think that it might be a dream that I could achieve!

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, magic and delicious food.

What can readers expect?

I hope readers will be transported to another world filled with lush descriptions, shattered romance, and a dangerous kind of adventure involving family ties and dragons. I wanted to write something that would have readers losing their feet in a slow build up to the last page.

Where does the inspiration come from? Together we burn comes from?

I have a lot of family in Spain and on vacation to visit them they took me to a bullfight. Although the experience was memorable, I can’t say I had fun. In fact, it left me incredibly sad and I swore never to do it again. But that afternoon stuck with me and I started to think about what it might look like for a society to move forward or move away from a tradition and transform into something new. Maybe something that didn’t result in so many deaths. Bullfighting is a three-thousand-year-old tradition, and so inherently Spanish that for many Spaniards they consider it an art form. Even so, there is a budding conversation against it. TOGETHER WE BURN asks questions about traditions, and plays in the gray space between two arguments. In the story, I ask a question and even though I haven’t found a concrete answer, I think the question is extremely important.

Can you tell us a bit about the challenges you faced while writing and how you managed to overcome them?

There was SO much in this world and I was working on a number of words! The book is the story of a traumatized family, but it is also primarily a love story. Then there’s guilds and magic and a big cast. I was juggling so much and wanted to make sure every element had a moment to shine. Zarela also deals with a lot of things at the beginning of the book, and I wanted her to sort through everything that happened to her. The first chapters are really about her, her family and her best friend. From there, she continues to fight for her home. So that’s the challenge: give each moment the necessary weight before moving on to the next chapter, scene, rhythm.

Are there any favorite moments or characters that you really enjoyed writing or exploring?

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I loved writing Lola, Zarela’s best friend. Especially because I never knew exactly what was coming out of his mouth. She was fun and surprising and a much-needed counterpoint to Zarela’s ride.

What’s the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

Best: Prioritize your writing time and finish your book. You can’t do something better, or prettier, when there’s nothing on the page. Start somewhere and keep going. There is no rush, finishing your book will take as long as it takes. Go on and choose your passion whenever you can. It could mean saying no to hanging out with friends. This can mean going to bed late or getting up early.

Worst: Anything resembling a specific way to write a book. One person’s process may not work for you, and that’s completely normal. Some people describe in advance or use index cards or create a long synopsis. This might not work for you! But find out what’s going on and stick with it. Your writing journey will be similar to yours, and sometimes the process for each book is different.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a super fun, secret YA project. It’s a historical fantasy and I’ve done so much research. It’s been great. Although I can’t share too many details, the book will be released with Wednesday Books in 2023!

Finally, do you have any 2022 book recommendations for our readers?

I’m incredibly excited for Rachel Griffin’s WILD IS THE WITCH and Stephanie Garber’s THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER!

Lola R. McClure