Legend of La Llorona Inspires Modern Author

My guest today is fellow author Misa Ramirez, whose most recent book was inspired by one of New Mexico’s most cherished legends:  La Llorona, the weeping woman.   I asked Misa to write about La Llorona and how her myth inspired Misa’s modern work.  And here’s Misa:

Inspiration is all around us, and as a writer, I never know when it will strike…or how long after I’ll apply that inspiration to a novel.  This is true whether I’m writing my Lola Cruz Mysteries, my new Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, or my romantic suspenses (A Deadly Curse, available now, or A Deadly Sacrifice, coming in late May). My ideas usually stem from something I’ve read, heard about , or have in my memory banks. From there, it develops, often requiring research to flesh it out.

This was especially true when it came to writing A Deadly Curse. It’s based on the legend of la Llorona. My husband, Carlos, grew up hearing the tale. His parents, tias, and tios, and every other adult around, would tell the kids the story of the Crying Woman. Their purpose? To frighten them enough so they wouldn’t wander off alone.

La Llorona was the Mexican boogyman. I first learned about the legend of the Crying Woman after I met Carlos (we’ve now been married 20 years and have five children, so la Llorona has been part of my consciousness for a long time).

We’d go camping with his brothers and sisters and their spouses, sit around the campfire, and invariably, the stories would begin.

Before long, a low, haunting sound would float through the air. La Llorona. It was as if the ghost was right there, her wails drifting up from the banks of the river through the trees, circling around us as we huddled together.

It didn’t take long to figure out that it was my husband making the haunting sounds, but the legend itself was spooky and stayed with me from the first time I heard the story. A woman kills her children by drowning them in the river. After she realizes what she’s done, she drowns herself. Legend has it that the woman has been haunting riverbanks ever since, looking for her children. Kids are warned to stay away from the rivers so la Llorona doesn’t steal them, thinking they are hers. Creepy. Yet fascinating.

Slowly, the idea of la Llorona being the central element in a romantic suspense plot began formulating in my mind.  Before too long, it took hold completely and I began plotting A Deadly Curse.  But I needed to learn more about la Llorona.

Where did the legend start and why did she drown her children? These things, I figured, would inspire my plot. Little did I know that the legend of la Llorona was far more complex than I’d ever imagined.

What I learned was that there are actually four different stories behind the legend. My husband’s family knew only one of them. Everyone I’ve talked to since then has only known one, or possibly two different versions. No one has known all four of the stories.

The woman in each story was called something different: La Ramera (the harlot), La Bruja (the witch), La Virgin (the virgin), La Sirena (the siren). Needless to say, learning about the four different stories sent my plot in a new direction. The knowledge created new opportunities and obstacles for my characters.

My research into la Llorona opened doors for me, helping me take A Deadly Curse in fascinating directions I couldn’t have created if I’d tried.

I’m so proud of this book, thrilled to have used a piece of a culture I love, and I hope all of you will enjoy it, as well.I’d love to hear from you.

Are you familiar with the legend of la Llorona?  Which version are you familiar with?
Misa Ramirez, who also writes under the pseudonym Melissa Bourbon, can be found online at:

Stripping down characters on The Naked Hero, giving away free books at Books on the House, writing about Killer Characters, and contributing to The Writer’s Guide to ePublishing. She’s on Facebook and Twitter. She’s the marketing director for Entangled Publishing,  teaches creative writing at Southern Methodist University-Cape, and teaches online with Savvy Authors. A Deadly Curse at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.