Announcing Piñata, a New Novel from Leopoldo Gout

Aztec Relief with Butterfly Motif, 15th–early 16th century Metropolitan Museum of Art

Piñata, a terrifying possession tale from author and artist Leopoldo Gout that reads like A Head Full of Ghosts meets Hereditary, will be published by Nightfire in April 2022!

Carmen Sanchez is back in her home country of Mexico, overseeing the renovation of an ancient convent into a boutique hotel. Her teen daughters, Izel and Luna, are with her for the summer, and left to fill their afternoons unsupervised in a foreign town, where young women go missing with alarming regularity. 

The locals treat the Sanchez women like outsiders, while Carmen’s contractors openly defy and sabotage her work. After a disastrous incident at the construction site uncovers an ancient relic that captivates Luna, Carmen’s forced by her New York bosses to leave Mexico earlier than they’d intended.

Back in New York, Luna begins acting strangely, and Carmen and Izel can hear chilling whispers coming from her room late at night. When a violent accident nearly kills her mother, Carmen realizes that it might be too late for her family to escape what’s been awakened…

Based on the true, horrific story of how the Spanish conquistadors used piñatas to force Aztec children to destroy their gods, Piñata is a possession horror story about how the sinister repercussions of our past can return to haunt us.


Here’s what Leopoldo Gout has to say:

“I have this theory that Mexico is always spiraling into chaos because we are progressively forgetting the indigenous languages and sounds that populated the land, and that shocking loss of cultural memory has a direct effect in the madness that has engulfed many sides of my country. It’s like a sound, a tone, a whisper that we have all forgotten and the job of a writer or visual artist is to chisel the airwaves until you hear that sound or tone and then use it in one form of expression or another to keep the memory alive. I truly believe there is some truth in the Neverending Story: that if we don’t use our imagination and connect to that world and remember, darkness and chaos will engulf us. Just look at how little imagination the last US administration had, and the dark chaos that descended.

As a kid, I remember indigenous people bringing masks to my late mother, the spectacular Andrea Valeria, who supported them not only financially but with her extraordinary spirit. They would bring masks, mermaids, dwarfs, angels and demons: the gods and monsters that lived with us. We had a small apartment in La Colonia Roma filled with books, where my sister and I were certain beyond any doubt that we saw ghosts, verified decades later by the kids of a random family who ended up working in what became a photo studio there, who described exactly the same ghosts we had seen. 

Another memorable childhood moment was when my mom took me to see the Pyramids underneath Mexico City’s Zocalo (the main square). The sheer violence of tearing the stones down, destroying a pyramid and building the churches and abbeys using those same stones, sacrificing one belief system for the other. My mother did a lot of work with many first nation people in Mexico and showed us as children how beautiful both their language and art are. Later, in my 30s, I discovered that I also have some Zapotec blood, a fact hidden from my immediate family because of some perversion or shame that so many people in Mexico feel towards indigenous people. So, writing Piñata has been an incredible journey of self-discovery and self-reflection on both a personal level and towards my country. It allowed me to see the ugliness and the beauty, to dive through the violent conquests that Mexico has experienced from the earliest European invaders and later the cultural invasion from the US.

Piñata is an incredible opportunity to draw from the traditions in horror that it gives us: an endless gift to face our biggest fears and rage, and a true reaction to where we are both as individuals and as a society. But there are no monsters worse than the humans in power. Humans have always been able to out-do our monsters, and in a way that’s why horror has this extraordinary pull. It is through this lens that I was able to also reflect on being a man who migrated to the US – into an alien culture – and now, as a father, watching my kids grow up in that same foreign world. All of this has driven me to find beauty in the journey in Piñata: one where I both listen and reimagine our collective past and our future in trying to keep those monsters at bay.”

And from Kelly Lonesome, senior editor at Nightfire:

“It’s an honor and a delight to be working with Leopoldo on his newest horror novel for Nightfire! Demons, possession, and how our past can haunt us in myriad ways have always been intriguing stories to me, and Piñata serves up a brutal and searing tale. I can’t wait for readers to meet Carmen, Izel, and Luna!”


A visual artist, filmmaker, and writer who hails from Mexico City, LEOPOLDO GOUT studied sculpture at Central St. Martins School of Art in London. His work belongs to multiple collections and has been in exhibitions all over the world. After finishing his studies, Gout’s creativity extended into writing, television, and film. He is the author of the books Ghost Radio and the award-winning Genius YA trilogy.

Photo: Dimitri Mais


Piñata will hit shelves on April 26th, 2022!



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