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Interview with Author PJ Hoover
Hi PJ! I’m so excited to have you for an interview. Could you start us off by telling us a little about yourself?
Hi Casey! Thank you for having me. It's a huge honor to be on your blog! About me? I grew up as the girl who was good at math and science. I loved Computers, Calculus, and Archaeology. Archaeology? Yes, see, I always had this love of the unexplained, and though I got my degree in Electrical Engineering, I kept that love with me. So after designing computer chips for 15 years and having two kids, I decided to combine a love of the unknown and my enjoyment of reading, and write fantasy books of my own. The fun part is sneaking math and science into my fantasy books in fun, creative ways.
Your first novel, THE EMERALD TABLET, debuted in the fall of 2008, and the second book in the trilogy, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, just released this month. Please, tell us about them!
THE EMERALD TABLET is the story of a kid who finds out not only does he have to go to summer school on a hidden continent under the Pacific Ocean, he's not even human. And to complicate matters, he's not even there a day when he and his friends are tasked with saving the world. Remember when summer was just for relaxing. The fun thing about THE EMERALD TABLET is that being of another species, the main characters can do cool things like telepathy and telekinesis.
As for THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, it picks up where THE EMERALD TABLET leaves off. I always like to say the most fun thing about NAVEL is two words. Time. Travel. I love time travel stories and had a blast writing my own!
Now, how about in haiku?
How fun! Here goes:
What kid wouldn't like this skill?
Practical jokes thrive.
Brother can't be found
Time Traveling Telegens
Trouble will ensue.
What did your journey from aspiring author to published author entail? What were the key milestones along the way?
The key milestone for me was attending the SCBWI conference in New York one year. I met my editor there, who kindly offered to read my extremely long manuscript. She gave me phenomenal feedback which I grabbed and jumped on. When I finished, I asked her if she'd read it again. And again. And then she bought the trilogy.
How highly would you recommend SCBWI to aspiring children’s book authors and illustrators? How has the society helped you?
This kind of follows on to the previous question. If not for SCBWI, I would never have met my editor. SCBWI is an amazing resource for networking, critiquing, and bonding in general. I can't imagine not being a member. Writing is a bit lonely, and having people to compare notes, celebrate, and commiserate with is beyond measure.
Your second book, THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, had its happy release day on October 12th. What sort of release-day fun have you put into motion? Any upcoming events?
My biggest plans were my release party. I just had it on October 18th! It was a blast with lots of people coming out, including kids who always make any party better! In addition to the party, I'm traveling to some conferences and book festivals in the upcoming months. You can check my schedule on my website at www.pjhoover.com. In addition to conferences, I love talking to kids. I've spent the last few weeks talking to classrooms of kids about the books. They ask the best questions!
Where can readers stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest on you and your books?
There's my website at www.pjhoover.com. It has links to all the fun social networking sites I'm part of. Please find me. And friend me. And tweet me. And all that! I love getting email!
I'm also an avid blogger. My blog is at pjhoover.blogspot.com, and I love when people drop by and comment. So please, drop by, and comment!
In reading your blog and the interviews you’ve done in the past, I know your books have a lot of little life treasures and inspirations in them. I believe some have to do with your past work as an electrical engineer and others are related to family and interests. Care to tell us about some of these? I love getting an inside look at the creation of a book!
Well for starters, one of the bad guys is named after my high school Geometry teacher. He was one of my favorite teachers, and I immortalized him forever :)
I love Rubik's Cubes, and thus made up the Kinetic Orb which is like a Rubik's Cube but for smart people.
My son came up with the word "Nogical" which turned into a genetically engineered creature.
And I try to incorporate binary numbers whenever possible as my special tribute to electrical engineering. After all, there are 10 kinds of people in this world: those who understand binary and those who don't.
I’ve read most of the reviews you’ve received for THE EMERALD TABLET and I’m pretty curious. How does it feel to have your books compared to titles like the HARRY POTTER series by J.K. Rowling and the PERCY JACKSON series by Rick Riordan? I can’t think of any greater praise for a middle-grade author!
Yes, I love being able to say my books are in that same genre! Everyone has heard of HARRY POTTER, and being able to legitimately compare my books to those and the PERCY JACKSON books is such a blast. This is exactly the audience I was targeting with THE EMERALD TABLET, and I'm thrilled when reviewers point this out.
You’re currently a full-time author (and mother of two!) with an admiringly stable writing schedule. What’s an average work day like for you? Any tips for those of us struggling to pull it together? What other nugget(s) of advice would you give for aspiring authors?
The best advice I have is to make chunks of time. If marketing needs to be done, work on a big chunk of it one day such that the next day revisions or writing can be done for a big chunk. Being able to focus on something for longer than a half hour at a time is key for me in completing anything.
Other advice I have is patience. Patience when writing and revising. Patience while waiting on agents and editors. Patience between revisions. I try to set aside stuff for a while (like months at a time) while revising. This helps give me a fresh, shiny perspective.
Oh, and finally, don't give up!
With THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS trilogy coming to a close in the fall of 2010 with THE NECROPOLIS, you must be working on something new. Can you divulge anything about your current works-in-progress?
I'm so totally closed-lipped about new projects. But here's what I have. I am working on new stuff! I have an Egyptian mythology themed middle grade book I've been working on, and I also have a young adult fantasy heavy with Greek mythology. Everything seems to be centered around mythology :) There's a YA I have in the oven also, but it's pre-anyone-reading it at this point.
You live in Texas and really seem to love it. What’s your favorite thing about living there? How’s the local writing community?
Amazing is the only word I can use to describe the Austin writing community. Seriously how did I get so lucky as to move to the best city in the world for children's authors? Aside from how many talented authors we have here, everyone is so nice. It's the most welcoming community I can image.
Finally, what’s one interview question you haven’t been asked and wish you would be? And please, answer it!
Okay, how about my favorite Mario Kart character. When I'm talking to kids, I always ask them if they can guess. No one ever does. The answer? Bowser.
Thank you so much for having me, Casey! It's been a blast!
Thank YOU, PJ! It's been a pleasure. I can't wait for my copy of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD to arrive so I can have another adventure with Benjamin and his friends!