Interview with Mariely Lares (SUN OF BLOOD AND RUIN)
Mexican American writer Mariely Lares was born and raised in a small border town in Southern California. She has a degree in Computer Science Engineering and lives in San Diego, where she can be found adulting, doing all the outdoorsy things, rescuing dogs, and working on her next novel.
Welcome to the Hive, Mariely. Congratulations on your debut, Sun of Blood and Ruin. Firstly, can you tell our readers all about it? What can they expect?
The morally upstanding Lady Leonora doubles as the masked vigilante Pantera in 16th century Spain-occupied Mexico, making the story a gender-bent reimagining of Zorro.
In true Zorro fashion, readers can look forward to entertainment and escapism, but also a retelling of the conquest to counter the traditional Eurocentric narrative about the fall of the Aztec Empire.
Can you give us an insight into your character, Pantera/Leonora? How did you find creating her double life? Did you come across any difficulties along the way?
Writing Pantera/Leonora was a breeze compared to other parts of the book-writing process. There’s a line Leonora says in Sun of Blood and Ruin: “I’m too Spanish for the natives and too native for the Spaniards.” I grew up in a border town. To live as a Mexican American, you have to embrace a double identity so that you can exist on both sides of the border. Sometimes you don’t feel enough. Sometimes you don’t feel like you belong. Leonora very much deals with this struggle, metaphorically and quite literally, when she journeys back and forth from the capital to the mountains. Each time she does, it’s almost like she revisits parts of herself, and it forces her to confront this identity conflict, until eventually, she accepts both her Spanish and Indigenous ancestry.
Who else can we expect to meet? Do you have a favourite side character?
More of Mexico’s lesser-known historical figures, renowned warriors lost in time, legendary badasses, as well as new Naguals and gods. I don’t have a favorite side character, as I love all of them equally and they were so much fun to write for different reasons. I will say Martín only because he actually lived, and we know little about him, but being the son of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés and the Indigenous woman La Malinche, I imagine he was one of the more deeply complex individuals of his time. Of course, a generous amount of my own imagination went into his creation.
Sun of Blood and Ruin is set in the Sixteenth Century during the turbulent time when Spain invaded Mexico. What were the most significant aspects of this Mexican historical time period you most wanted to represent?
500 years later, we are still debating the conquest of Mexico, which has mostly been recounted as a triumph of civilized Europe over the uncivilized Indigenous people of the Americas.
First, the defeat of the Aztec Empire as it’s commonly understood was achieved by Indigenous groups, and their allies Hernan Cortés and his conquistadors.
Second, with the fall of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, its people didn’t simply disappear, as colonialist myths suggest. Indigenous nobility and powerful elite continued ruling in colonial Mexico, Indigenous resistance remained, and native peoples were instrumental in sustaining a city built on a lake.
One of my favourite parts of your book was the inclusion of Mesoamerican mythology and your magic system. Can you give us further insight into both? What are the abilities your characters have using their Tonalli and from being a nagual?
Tonalli is the life force found in everything. Strong tonalli is associated with heat, while weak tonalli is associated with coldness. Tonalli-manipulating sorcerers can shift into animal doubles, called naguals. Leonora can wield tonalli and shapeshift into her nagual, as her namesake suggests.
What are your most favourite mythological creatures?
The mischievous chaneques and the water-dwelling ahuizotl. I also love a good dragon.
If you were to shapeshift into an animal, which would you choose and why?
I mean, the jaguar is the king of the jungle. Strong sense of smell, hearing, and night vision, with one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom. As a runner in real life, I’d love to go from 0 to 50 mph. I also can’t go wrong with a bird of prey such as the golden eagle. Nothing beats being able to fly.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped the artist would portray?
I wasn’t really involved to be honest. I went in with a “surprise me” mentality, and knowing Micaela Alcaino would design, I trusted her completely to do her thing. She blew my mind.
Can you tell us anything about any upcoming projects? Or can you tell us a few teasers for your sequel?
I’ll do you one better. How about the opening line of SOBAR #2?
“For everything there’s a season; there’s a time for sowing and a time for harvest, a time for toil and a time for rest, a time for living and a time for dying. Tonalco, the dry season, is a time for war.”
Who is an author we should be reading right now? Which of their books would you recommend?
Ehigbor Okosun’s Forged by Blood
Gabriela Romero Lacruz’ The Sun and the Void
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Enjoyment, I hope! I hope Latinx and Indigenous readers will feel seen and celebrated, but most of all, I hope the book brings all readers value.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Sun of Blood and Ruin is out today from HarperVoyager! You can pre-order your copy on Bookshop.org