Today we welcome P.J. Hoover to our interview series. She's feisty and funny and wildly talented, and her answers to these questions both inspire and entertain. Welcome, P.J., we are so glad you're here!
Where did you grow up, and did that place (or those places) shape your work? If so, how?
Though I’ve been in Texas for over twenty years, I’m not a native (shhh . . . don’t tell!). I actually grew up in Alexandria, Virginia (a mile from Mount Vernon), just outside of D.C., for most of my life. I was spoiled by free, amazing museums which my family visited quite a bit when I was a kid. When I was older and allowed to visit the museums with my high school friends, this was a common weekend or afterschool activity. When I pinpoint how growing up in D.C. influences my work, I often think back on taking the Metro over to D.C. with my friends. I imagine my characters doing the same. The independence they feel. The cool things they get to see that other kids in the country may never get the chance to see. D.C. is such a cultural icon with great history, and for this reason, it was absolutely where Tut: The Story of my Immortal Life had to be set.
Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come later?
The funniest thing is that growing up, I never wanted to be a writer. I couldn’t imagine coming up with enough words to fill five pages, not to mention and entire book, so I figured I would let other people write books and I would read them. When the Lord of the Rings movies began to come out, I re-immersed myself in the world of Tolkien, memorizing details of his world, really geeking out on Middle Earth. One day it dawned on me that I was spending a lot of time in a world that someone else had created, and that there was no magic rule book out there saying that I couldn’t create a world of my own. So that was the day I sat down and began writing my own stories!
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
Fun question! I wake early, around 5:30 am, when the rest of the house is still asleep. This quiet, dark time gives me a chance to collect my thoughts, along with a chance to enjoy my first cup of coffee for the day. Sometime I write, sometimes I catch up on email. But then it’s time to wake the kids and get them off to school, after which I exercise, either kung fu or the elliptical machine. Then comes a second cup of coffee sipped while writing, revising, marketing . . . pretty much whatever my to-do list for the day tells me to do. I love to write and I try to do it every day, but some days there are too many other things that need to get done. Of course, once the kids get home from school, it’s all about running them around to various activities, making sure they don’t starve to death, and generally keeping the house from falling to ruins. Then read before bed, and it starts all again the next day.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
I am a strong believer that everything in our lives ties together and works together in harmony. My writing is stronger, more consistent, when my everyday life is running smoothly. When I’m consistently eating healthier, when I’m exercising regularly, keeping the house clean, etc., my writing is at its best. I get more done the busier I am which I know sounds completely backwards, but for some strange reason is the case.
There are other less philosophical ways the everyday life feeds the work, too. A huge part of my life is my two kids, an 8th grade son and a 4th grade daughter. I interact with them and their friends on a daily basis. I see the struggles they go through, watch what they find funny, annoying, interesting. I observe how they interact with their friends. All these things feed not only into my writing, but into the marketing of my books, too.
Tell us about some of your accomplishments that make you proud (work and/or otherwise).
The writing world moves so slowly that sometimes it’s easy to believe that nothing is getting accomplished, but then when I look back at the last ten years, I see how much I have actually done. Here are a handful or writing-related accomplishments.
• Published five books!
• Wrote even more than that ☺
• Stuck with TUT for seven and a half years, working to get it published
• Became involved in a wonderful writing community
• Presented at school and conferences nationwide
It’s easy to let writing consume my life, and it’s also easy to start to believe that writing accomplishments are the sole measure of my life. So, in order to disprove this to myself, here are some non-writing accomplishments that make me proud ☺
• Tested for my 3rd degree black belt in kung fu
• Reached level 71 in Wizard 101 ☺
• Walked 3.2 million steps in 2014
• Memorized the Period Table of Elements
• Designed some really fun video games
What surprises you about the creative life?
What surprises me about the creative life is that there is no creative life per se. There is only life. I never realized it before, but the opportunity for creativity exists in everything we do, from cooking to painting the front door, from buying presents to working on science fair projects. I guess the “creative life” brings this realization more to the surface, but I’m always amazed when I set out to do something I think is a rather mundane task, and it turns out to become a wonderful, creative project instead.
Your work is like a gift for your readers. When they open it, what do you hope they find?
The hope I have with my stories is that readers will pick them up and lose themselves in the worlds I create. I remember finding those books I loved as a kid and not wanting to stop reading ever or wanting the stories to go on forever. It’s this kind of experience that I hope kids and teens will find in my books more than anything.