Friday, October 23, 2009

YOUR Interview with Author PJ Hoover--Questions Answered!

Great questions, everyone! As you were all posting your quessies for PJ, I found myself time and again wondering what the answers would be.

Well, wait no further! Here you go:

From Tricia:
1) I should think a name like that would open doors to ancient research libraries. How far did you go, how deep did you delve to learn about Lemuria and teleporting?

One word. Wikipedia. Sadly, I never figured out how to teleport, so web research was it for this trilogy. I did try telepathy on a number of occasions, and I swear a few times it actually worked. The nice thing about basing the location (Lemuria) off a real mythological place is that there are lots of theories on it out there!

2) What is the most interesting thing you ever dug up? Your choice: library(virtual or otherwise) or ground (like real dirt).

I love treasure collecting, especially in the woods of Pennsylvania. Antique bricks are my latest fascination, and I found a ton this past summer near an old coal mine off in the woods. Fun. Fun. Fun!

From Kat:
And a question, because I'm always interested in this: Did you get your agent via querying? If so, what was the query process like for you?

I met my agent at the Big Sur Writing Conference in California. It's put on by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency twice a year. I went out there with my first twenty pages in hand and within the week, I'd signed with Laura Rennert.

Natalie Aguirre asked:
What does P.J. recommend that aspiring authors who don't have a blog do to have a web presence and how can we best use facebook when we're not published?

In my opinion, before the book is written, the most important thing is writing the book. That said, once it is written, a web presence is nice for a number of reason. 1) You can get a ton of information by reading blogs by industry professionals. 2) You can learn about new agents and editors by staying up to date with sites like Verla Kay. 3) It's nice for an agent to be able to google you and find something professional out there. But it's not a requirement. 4) Building a network is huge. When you do get published, your biggest supporters will be those you've been networking for years with.
But first and foremost, write a great book. Once it's accepted, there is lots of time to get the web stuff going.

A question from me (Beth):
And I would like to ask something, too! I noticed on Tabitha's interview, you talked about writing Navel in 2005, and rewriting it as the series developed. Could you discuss a bit more about how it's different to write the second book of a series than, say, the first or third? What different processes do you use?

I found the second book easier to revise, if nothing else. The main reason for this was once I wrote it, I was able to let it sit aside for months at a time. Then, when it was time to go back in revise, I had fresh eyes on the manuscript. The second book for me was also the most fun. I had a blast doing the time travel sequence. In the first book, I was very concerned about introducing the world. In the third book, the main thing was to make sure all ends were tied. But the second book had a lot of liberty as long as it connected the other two.

From Christine:
Did the idea for The Forgotten Worlds trilogy come to you as a series - or did it become a series as you started to write it? In other words did you think I have a great idea for three books. Or did you start to write the story and realize that it could best be told in three books?

I knew it would be a series, but I hadn't mapped out the entire series before writing. I'd mapped out the first book. In general I knew what the series end would be, but the roadmap wasn't clear. The nice thing about having such a long concept-to-publication time is I was able to liberally edit book one after finishing a draft for book 3.

From Shannon Messenger:
When you're structuring a series, how do you plant things in the first book that don't fully pay off until later books and yet not make it feel like there's holes in the plot of the first book? (Does that even make sense? It does in my head...but I didn't sleep much last night...)

The best way to do this is to have the whole series written before the first book is published! I was able to sneak things into THE EMERALD TABLET and THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD that will have much more significance once THE NECROPOLIS comes out. The main thing I've noticed when trying to plant things is to add things that are almost not noticeable when reading the first book. The reader will glance over them for the most part, but if they go back and re-read THE EMERALD TABLET after reading the entire series, it will be like they are privy to a special secret. Making things much bigger than that does give the feeling of open ends. And open ends don't seem to be too popular with readers or editors these days.

From Robyn Campbell:
What is the one most important thing you want your reader to come away with from reading, The Navel of the World or The Emerald Tablet?

The main thing I want readers to come away with is the desire to read more books. My books aren't "theme" heavy. Sure there are themes in the writing that are basically a part of me, but they aren't in your face. I want to entertain the reader. I want to engage the reader. And I want the reader to want more!

From Miriam S. Forster:
Can you tell us what's next for you after the Forbidden Worlds series? Are there more amazing worlds in the works? What are you working on now?

All mythology! Everything I write seems to have it. I'm not sure I can avoid it. I have a middle grade Egyptian mythology book in the works and a YA Greek mythology also going. I love mythology. Always have. And I want to share this love whenever I can.

From me--again.... ;)
You mentioned in the review that your son is just now reading Navel. I what point do you let certain people read your work? Obviously a beta reader is going to read a rough draft, but how rough? Do you keep the first draft personal and send them a second? What about your agent? Your husband? Your children?

I have to feel pretty comfortable to let anyone read anything. I never send off stuff that has inconsistencies or feels very first draft-ish. I tend to write a first draft, revise it a few times, and then let some close critique partners read it. I don't want to waste their time or anyone else's time. So a draft I let beta readers read will be rough but not embarrassing. It should be cohesive. It should have character's names consistent. Once I get this initial feedback, I'll revise again, and then try to get a couple fresh readers. Then I'll revise again. Only then will I send it to the agent.

For the third book in this series, I'll let my son read it either in ARC form or as the manuscript being sent off for the ARC printing. Not before. Too many things change.

From Heather Zundel:
1) What made you think of Atlantis as your first inspiration?

I love the idea of a sunken continent. I always have. According to at least one relative, my family is related to the inhabitants of Atlantis. I'm not saying I buy into this, but I'm putting it out there. What if?

2) I also am curious about structuring a series. Please elaborate in any
way you see fit. :)

Series are hard! Each book needs a solid story arc as does the series overall. Though I hadn't outlined the entire series before starting, I will say this: I am really happy with how the series ends in book 3 (THE NECROPOLIS). To me, the ends are all tied up in a nice, clever way. I have no idea how I managed to do this, but there it is.

3) What is the most important thing about creating characters?

Avoid stereotypes. Everywhere. Even in your peripheral characters. I go with the "try again" method. When a character comes to mind, I try again. I think of the second and then the third thing that comes to mind. I really try to avoid the first. Because almost inevitably, the first thing that comes to mind will be a stereotype.

Also, give your characters a motivation BEFORE the book starts. What does this character want?
And really ask yourself the WHY question. WHY is this character in this story? What makes them be the main character as opposed to somebody else?

4) And - do you outline or write on the fly?

Both. Neither. I've tried all things. My MG stuff seems to entail more outlining whereas my YA writing tends more towards the "let's see where this takes us" mentality. And after trying all things, my theory is that different books call for different tactics. What works for one may not work as well for another.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Excellent answers. Thanks and smiles to PJ and to Beth for hosting.

Tamika: said...

I appreciate all the answers. I have often wondered how a series took root. It does sound like a very large project.

Thanks for a great interview!

PJ Hoover said...

You are so welcome! Doing this interview was a blast!

Tana said...

I love this interview PJ! And how amazing that we are BOTH descendants of Atlantis. (we must have the same family member.) *sigh*

Shannon Messenger said...

Wow, what a great interview. Thanks PJ and Beth for putting this together--I really learned a lot. Also, must. read. P.J.'s books!

Unknown said...

Thanks again to PJ for doing this awesome week!!!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks Beth and PJ for a great interview and to PJ for answering my question. It was fascinating to read how the series progressed.

PJ Hoover said...

Thank you, Beth, for having me!

T. Anne - We obviously have a lot in common. Crazy relatives? We'll have to compare notes offline :)

Thanks so much, everyone!

Christina Farley said...

Thank you for all that you shared. Such great input on the series ideas with inserting little pieces that can be used for later.

Miriam Forster said...

That was neat! (In the least geeky sense of the word) Thank you PJ and Beth.

Also, Beth? I gave you a blog award on my blog if you're interested.:)

Sherrie Petersen said...

Cool way to interview! I loved the questions and the answers. Thanks Beth and PJ!