Time Villains | Q&A with Victor Piñeiro

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Story Thieves meets Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library in this wacky, funny, hilarious, and fast-paced middle grade series starter with the perfect combination of magic, imagination, and adventure.

Javi Santiago is trying his best not to fail sixth grade. So, when the annual “invite any three people to dinner” homework assignment rolls around, Javi enlists his best friend, Wiki, and his sister, Brady, to help him knock it out of the park.

But the dinner party is a lot more than they bargained for. The family’s mysterious antique table actually brings the historical guests to the meal…and Blackbeard the Pirate is turning out to be the worst guest of all time.

Before they can say “avast, ye maties,” Blackbeard escapes, determined to summon his bloodthirsty pirate crew. And as Javi, Wiki, and Brady try to figure out how to get Blackbeard back into his own time, they might have to invite some even zanier figures to set things right again…

Praise for Time Villains:

“Featuring a diverse cast led by the Puerto Rican siblings and Haitian American Wiki, grand doses of humor, and an irreverent take on some of history’s well-known figures, Piñeiro scores with this tale of friendship, magic, and adventure.…Magnificent.” Kirkus, STARRED Review

“It’s got heart, it’s got thrills, it’s got pirates! You won’t be able to put down this action-packed, relentlessly funny adventure.” —Sarah Mlynowski, author of the New York Times bestselling Whatever After series

“A magical table that pulls in famous people from history and fiction? Is this the greatest idea for a book ever? Yes. Yes it is. Come join the best dinner party in history (and books), full of pirates, sandwiches and history’s greatest figures!” — James Riley, New York Times bestselling author of The Story Thieves series

VICTOR PIÑEIRO heads up content and social media at an ad agency where he’s run @YouTube, some of @Google and launched @Skittles, creating its award-winning zany voice. He’s also designed games and toys for Hasbro, written/produced a popular documentary on virtual worlds and taught third graders. Time Villains is his first novel.

WATCH: hear more from Victor himself: https://youtu.be/0J7b9WxFuCo

Q&A with Victor Piñeiro

Why did you want to write TIME VILLAINS?

Fifteen years ago my brother and I stumbled on a magical forest. We took a wrong turn while exploring Western France and ended up in Paimpont, Merlin’s enchanted woods. It was sunset, we raced around the ancient trees hoping we’d stumble on the legendary Fountain of Eternal Youth, and at some point realized we had to find our way back to our car before dark. The whole experience was so mystical and thrilling that it stayed with me. Over a decade later I had the seed to a story: a magical table that summons anyone from history or fiction to dinner, once you answered the question, “If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would they be?” But why would a table be magical in the first place? The idea tossed and turned in my head for ages before I remembered the enchanted forest. Then I got overwhelmingly excited to create a series around it, casting all of my favorite fictional and historical characters.

Re the classic question “If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be?” How have the dinner guests on your list changed from when you were a child to now?

The other reason I wrote TIME VILLAINS was because of my original answer to the “invite anyone to dinner” question as a kid. I think my list was Columbus, Edison and Cortés. As a Puerto Rican kid who’d just moved to the US a few years earlier, it’s an appalling list! Clearly, the history I’d learned in elementary and middle school was extremely whitewashed. TIME VILLAINS is a reaction to that list. A big focus of this series is exploring characters more representative of the world’s history and fiction. Part of the joy of writing this was digging deep into history, literature and myth to create a cast of characters that I thought kids would love, and would provide a gateway to other books for them to explore.

What would you like readers to take away from this book?

TIME VILLAINS is ultimately meant to be a gateway book. I’m hoping to spark curiosity for the historical, fictional and mythical characters that Javi and his friends meet along the way. I tried to write the famous characters in a way that felt both authentic and also accessible/engaging to a middle grade reader. There are also a lot of Easter eggs in the book that will force curious readers to do some research to learn more about certain characters’ secret identities. Hopefully readers come across some of these historical/fictional characters years later and remember them fondly because the seed was planted with this series. 

Tell us something about yourself that not many people know:

I’m a huge poetry fiend. I read far more poetry than prose. My favorite thing to do is visit used book stores and unearth poetry books and collections I haven’t read yet. One of my goals as a writer is turning more kids (and adults) onto poetry. I’ve snuck multiple poets into TIME VILLAINS and hope to continue doing it with the sequels. 

Finally, what is the question you wish people would ask and never do?

I puzzled over this one for a while until I realized that I’m more of an asker than an answerer! I was a documentary filmmaker for many years, and a blogger after that, and interviewing folks was my favorite aspect of both jobs. When I ran social media for Skittles and later YouTube, I would constantly ask the community random questions. And TIME VILLAINS is based around a question. So maybe the question I wish people would ask more often is, “Do you have any random questions you want to ask me?”

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