An Interview with Rey U Barrera, Author of El Piñatero – The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Peña

About the author: Rey grew up in the South Texas town of Corpus Christi. His love of writing came from reading books well into the night and eventually dreaming of coming up with his own worlds and characters.

An Interview with Rey U Barrera, Author of El Piñatero - The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Peña

While in high school, Rey read a quote from Mark Twain, in which he referred to Tom and Huck as “his boys”. The notion that Twain had brought these characters to life, to the point of referring to them as his children, was a concept that Rey had never considered. And that notion brought so much meaning to everything he wrote – even short, seeminlgy insignificant, stories that no one would ever read. With El Piñatero, Rey hopes to blend the fictional world of piñata fighting with some real family experiences.

Rey makes his home in Texas, with his wife, Asored, his son, Simon and their cat, Albus Neko Potimus Prime of the Fifth Age of the Dragon Crown (or Neko for short).

1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Passionate, Loyal, Empathetic

2. How did you develop a love for writing? What inspired you to write “El Piñatero – The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Peña”?

My love for writing started in high school when we had to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnby Mark Twain. I read an interview with Twain where he referred to Huck and Tom as “his boys”. I found it intriguing that he had that feeling towards characters he created, so I started writing short stories, creating characters and scenarios just to find that feeling that Twain must have felt.

With El Piñatero, I was inspired by a real uncle’s talent for pulling piñatas for our family in almost every gathering. My close cousin and I were watching him perform the same piñata techniques that he would when we were kids, and we joked about the possibility of him being in an underground league of piñata fighters.

While theconcept came from a real piñata puller, there’s a funnier inspiration for the overall plot. When I was much younger, I visited a small town in Mexico with my parents. I saw a lot of taco vendors pushing small food carts, and I told my parents that I wanted to be a taco vendor when I grew up. Not that there’s anything wrong with selling tacos for a living, but my parents thought it was funny that this was my dream job. The story of El Piñatero is that of taking an otherwise seemingly small dream, like pulling piñatas for a living, and following it to grand results.

3. “El Piñatero” seems to blend fiction with real family experiences. Can you elaborate on how you integrated personal elements into the story?

As I mentioned, the real family experience was applied when I imagined how my parents may have reacted if I had decided to purchase my own taco cart and walked around the streets of Corus Christi (where I grew up) instead of going to college. Of course, the fictional world of piñata fighting was a more interesting subject and would ultimately lead to what I’m planning for the sequel novel.

4. Are there specific traits or experiences from your own life that influenced Simon’s character development?

I suppose that some of Simon’s desire to follow impossible dreams might be a trait that he and I share. Though I do feel like Simon is more stubborn about following dreams to conclusion, while I may be a bit more practical about how I approach those dreams, and I course correct when my path shows that perhaps my expectations need a bit of an adjustment. For example, I always wanted to write the next Star Wars, as I am a huge science fiction and fantasy fan. Instead, I decided that I should write about something closer to home. Another trait I share with Simon is empathy. The ending to the novel revolves around an action that I would absolutely take were I presented with the same choice.

5. The concept of an underground piñata-fighting league is unique. Can you share more about the world-building process for this aspect of the story?

It started with my uncle Albert. He has been pulling piñatas for us since we were kids. When we grew up and had our own children, he continued to do it (even to this day). So, my cousin and I joked about this fictional underground league. I started developing a concept for a movie, and we even produced a short mockumentary-style film that was shown at the San Antonio Film Festival and won awards at several film festivals.

The world-building was the most enjoyable aspect of writing this story because it gave me free reign to develop the sport from the ground up. Piñata fighting obviously doesn’t exist outside of children’s birthday parties. So, how did it work? How do you win if you’re the piñata puller? What types of people would join such a league? Why is it underground? And where did it start? I worked with some local artists to develop the costumes and personalities to these characters, and then revealed them to Simon in the novel. Some influences came from the time I spent in martial arts and attended tournaments.

6. Are there specific elements or surprises in the book that you believe will captivate readers?

I hope that the way that the underground elements of the sport are revealed will intrigue readers. It’s not just about the fighting league itself, but the other supports for the league that are fun to discover along with Simon. There are also some very small hints about the larger picture that will be revealed in the second book.

7. The cover photo for “El Piñatero” is quite captivating. Can you provide insights into the creative process behind designing the cover?

The cover art was designed and created by Scott Harshbarger of The Art of Harsh. I asked him to design a cover that harkened to the movie poster works of Drew Struzan (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark). The piñata league has so many characters with various styles, and I thought the Struzan’s approach to poster design was a perfect way to show the cast in the unique way that used to set my imagination on fire as a kid.

8. How has your family supported your writing journey, especially when working on a project like “El Piñatero”?

I received a lot of support from my wife, Asored. Not only was she supportive during the writing of the novel, but she also played a part in the short movie. That character (Princess Precious) was turned into a full character in the novel.

9. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?

My good friend, John Augillard, published an awesome book the same year I published El Piñatero.

10. Are there specific themes or messages you wanted to convey through Simon’s journey in “El Piñatero”?

It’s cheesy, it’s old, and it’s probably been reused a million times in cinema and literature. But I still believe in it. “Follow your heart.” In El Piñatero it doesn’t only apply to following your dreams. It also applies to listening to your heart when you must make tough decisions.

11. Could you provide a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or novels you’re currently working on?

I started writing the sequel to El Piñatero almost immediately after publishing. The world building for this fictional universe is one that had to be done in two parts. And I wanted to lay the groundwork using this simple story of a boy and his dream. Now I’m drawing the bigger picture and it’s awesome seeing how these characters will react to it. What I will say is that Simon’s discovery of the underground piñata league is the surface of a much, much larger world.

12. What advice do you offer to aspiring authors? Any recommended community groups for peer support and building a collective community?

My only advice is to keep writing. This isn’t coming from a successful writer. I’m way too new and can’t even cling to huge success to support my “words of wisdom.” But the truth is that back when I was writing in college, it was more discouraging to spend hours writing, because of the very-likely possibility that your manuscript would be rejected by publishers and you’ll have wasted your time developing a story that no one would read. Now, you can self-publish and promote yourself.

But even if you don’t sell thousands of copies; write for yourself. Tell the stories you want to tell. And set time aside to finish them. At the end of the day, you are still putting a stamp on something you completed.

13. Finally, can you describe a moment or a specific instance in your life when you realized that writing was not just a hobby but a calling that you were meant to pursue?

I had to think about this one for a while before responding. I would say that the first five-star review that I received that didn’t come from a friend or family (love you guys, but you were always going to love my book). When I read a review (and eventually multiple) from literary reviewers that read my book from cover to cover and saw their praise, I felt incredibly proud. I think it felt real at that point.

Step into the extraordinary world of ‘El Piñatero: The Legend of Simon Alejandro De La Peña.’ Follow Simon-Alejandro’s quest from a dream of piñata-pulling to an underground piñata-fighting league. In this captivating tale, secrets unfold, and Simon must balance his new life with his small family. Discover the magic – buy the book on Amazon today!

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