Welcome to an interview with debut author, PJ Hoover! Her first book, THE EMERALD TABLET, hits shelves next week. I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. In fact, let's hear more about it.
Welcome, PJ! Can you tell us about your book?
Hi Tabitha! The Emerald Tablet is a fast-paced middle grade science fiction novel aimed at kids 8-14. It’s the story of five kids who find out not only are they from a world hidden under the Pacific Ocean, they aren’t even human! And if that’s not enough, after only a day on their new sunken continent, they discover they need to save the world.
It sounds exciting! What was the inspiration behind your idea?
Too much TV watching during my youth!
The initial idea came from a show on in the early 80s—The Powers of Matthew Star. As coincidence may have it, Matthew Star was not a human (though he was an alien and my characters are not aliens), he was from another world (once again, he’s from outer space, not under the sea), and he had special powers like telekinesis (OK, this is the same). He lived among the “normal” humans and had to hide his powers, all while working toward a greater purpose.
The Powers of Matthew Star only aired for a few months. Let’s hope The Emerald Tablet is around for much longer!
I'm sure it will be. :) How many drafts did you go through?
Really, I never count drafts. Bad answer, I know, but each read through with anything changed can technically count as a draft, right?
To try to figure it out, my guess is I’ve read The Emerald Tablet close to 50 times by this point.
But yes, I will still read the final, published book! Most probably in a public place where everyone can see the cover and ask what it is. And if/when I find a typo, I won’t even circle it.
Good for you. :) As for the rest of us, 50 read-throughs! Puts things in perspective... How many drafts did your editor go through with you?
Probably four initially before I signed. Then, a year later, before the ARC, I did another revision and submitted it to her which she edited and I revised a final time.
How long did it take to find your editor? And are you agented?
I flew all the way to the SCBWI NY conference where I met my editor who happens to live in Austin, TX, also! I started working with her about five months after I started submitting The Emerald Tablet.
I am agented, though only since this past March. When I started looking for an agent, it took about five months, also.
Hmmm…something about that five month time frame I guess. :)
How do you get to know your characters?
Character motivations seem like the most crucial part of understanding a character. When we look at our own lives, everything we do, we do for a reason. Sometimes it’s nice to step back and ask yourself why you are doing something and be totally honest with the answer. I force myself to ask the questions on character motivations and answer them. I have motivation spreadsheets where I make sure each character has sufficient reason for being.
But I’ve also heard a nice idea recently of taking a character out for tea (or a beer as the case might be). This I plan to try next. Especially for the antagonists!
What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
Favorite part of The Emerald Tablet was my first revision with my editor. She gave the most amazing feedback! I needed to cut huge chunks of backstory. Add scenes. Shift scenes around. It was perfect and just the kind of feedback needed to get inspired again for revisions!
Least favorite—rejections. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say more about that!
How does it feel to have your first book on the shelves?
Weird. Hard to believe. Like normal people can get books published. Who’d have thought?
How did you get in to writing for kids?
I’ve always loved Fantasy and Science Fiction, and after I had kids, MG/YA seemed like the natural choice. Like I could contribute something that they may like to read one day. I don’t like to be too serious, and writing for kids makes this much easier.
What are you working on now?
Revising books 2 and 3 of The Forgotten Worlds Books!
Also I’m working on a MG urban fantasy series with an Egyptian slant and an upper-YA urban fantasy with a hint of Greek mythology.
Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
Normally I like to get through a draft or revision without interruption. But once a revision is done and simmering, I’ll pick something else up and work on it. I’ve stopped in the middle of projects to work on others, but find this hurts the momentum big time!
Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Planner—though I am experimenting with different levels of planning. Once book I spent two months doing nothing but planning before writing a single word. Another book I spent about two days and then wrote the first draft. Much of the planning still needs to be done (like character development worksheets and such), but it’s fun to try different methods.
Plus, sometimes I’m just not patient enough to wait before writing!
Are you a paper person, or the computer-only-type?
Computer only! Always! If I ever dared hand write anything, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to read it.
What are your favorite reference books? And why?
There are tons of great ones, but I’ll go with:
Fiction First Aid by Raymond Obstfeld because I can read it over and over unlike many books on craft, and I always get something new out of it. Which reminds me…I really need to read this again!
Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis because I’m fascinated with mythologies of the world and how they all tie together and influence us even today.
The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Edition by Joshua Piven because they say you should hate your characters and put them in awful situations, and this book gives you some great ideas on how to do exactly that (and get them out of the situations, too)!
Thanks, PJ, for taking the time to answer all these questions!! And good luck with this book, as well as the rest in the trilogy. :)
Thank you so much, Tabitha!
If you'd like to read more about PJ and her first novel, here's a list of interviews and reviews:
August 2008 Book Review Maniac
August 2008 Trainspotting Reads
February 2008 The Edge of The Forest
Jen Robinson, Jen Robinson's Book Page
Five Stars - Recipient of the Gold Star Award for Excellence: Teens Read Too
Daphne Grab at The Longstockings
Bookworms' Reviews (Bookworm Number 1)
Bookworms' Reviews (Bookworm Number 2)
Book Review Maniac
Eleanor at Present Lenore
Book Review Maniac Junior
Mrs. V's Reviews
The Book Vault
The Page Flipper
The Book Muncher
In The Booley House
Last, but not least, the book trailer!