Guest Blog: Authors Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover on Sophomore Novels

Authors Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. “Tricia” Hoover will be celebrating their latest releases with a party and signing at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 at BookPeople in Austin.

Border Crossing by Jessica Lee Anderson (Milkweed, 2009) follows Manz on his journey to discovering and understanding the voices in his head. This touching story leads us through a series of what should be wonderful teen experiences such as friendship and first love. But, for Manz, the experiences are complicated by the trauma of schizophrenia. Manz’s story is so vivid and realistic, it is both compelling and heartbreaking. You’ll be left thinking of Manz for weeks to come. –P.J. Hoover

The Navel of the World (The Forgotten Worlds, Book 2) by P.J. Hoover (Blooming Tree/CBAY, 2009) is about Benjamin Holt’s quest to find his missing brothers. Together with his unique friends, Benjamin–a telegen with special abilities–must use his wit to solve mysteries, overcome dangerous obstacles, and to navigate traveling back in time. I particularly enjoyed the action, surprises, and the humor. –Jessica Lee Anderson

JLA: Tricia, The Navel of the World is a second book in a trilogy, The Forgotten Worlds. How did you get the inspiration for this novel? Also, had you completed The Navel of the World when you sold the series?

PJH: My inspiration for The Forgotten Worlds came from a love of archaeology and all things unknown, reading tons of fantasy, and a youth spent watching way too many science-fiction shows on TV.

I love mentioning an awesome 1980s TV show “The Powers of Matthew Star” (1982) and also the “Star Trek” episode “Who Mourns for Adonis” (1967) as I credit these two shows above all else for sparking the ideas of superhumans with telepathic and telekinetic abilities.

I was in the middle of revisions of The Navel of the World when I sold the trilogy. Thankfully, I managed to finish drafts of all three books before final edits for The Emerald Tablet (Blooming Tree/CBAY, 2008), which let me sneak extra special things into The Emerald Tablet that will make a ton more sense once book three (The Necropolis) is published.

PJH: Jessica, your second novel is quite different than your first. For starters, Border Crossing is written for an older audience. And secondly, Trudy (Milkweed, 2005) and Border Crossing differ in who is suffering the mental illness. Can you talk a little about these differences?

JLA: I’d started writing Border Crossing, a young adult novel, shortly after I began to submit my middle grade novel, Trudy.

At that time, I hadn’t thought about author branding, but rather gave in to the voice of my protagonist and his story that unfolded in my head (which is ironic, given that he’s schizophrenic).

Border Crossing is told through Manz’s first person point of view as he loses his grip on reality. This contrasts with my first novel as it is Trudy’s father who loses his memories—the story is about Trudy accepting this change, much like I had to do in my own life when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Writers are often given the advice “write what you know,” and this was a good starting point for me. With my second book, I adopted the philosophy, “write what you want to know.” For me, so much of writing is about experimenting and taking chances.

JLA: How has your writing evolved since writing The Emerald Tablet, Tricia?

PJH: I like to hope it’s improved and keeps on improving. And you know, feeling like you’re getting better at something is a pretty darned good feeling.

I write most every day, I read most every day, and I attend workshops and conferences whenever possible. I critique others’ manuscripts when I can as my theory is this will help me become more objective of my own work.

Also, more and more, I appreciate the need for balance. I practice Kung Fu, I volunteer in the school library, and I watch “Star Trek” with my kids.

PJH: Jessica, what did writing Trudy teach you about the writing process?

JLA: Writing my first novel taught me that there is always room for improvement. Also, I realized I had to let go of my perfectionism and accept that you can’t please everyone. I was much more adventurous when it came to revising Border Crossing as well as my other works in progress.

I’ve been an instructor at the Institute of Children’s Literature for four years now, and I’ve become much stronger at self-editing. I also attend workshops and conferences as much as possible to keep me challenged and growing as a writer.

JLA: Tricia, what are some things you’re doing to get your books noticed? What are you doing differently the second time around?

PJH: For starters, I’m less stressed out the second time around. One beautiful thing about a trilogy is that when the second book comes out, it brings new life to the first book. I’m also on author panels at several conferences in the next year, including a couple in Oklahoma and Texas as well as the Virginia Festival of the Book.

I’m working on introducing myself and my books to more librarians and focusing on Internet marketing. Social networking is beautiful when used with the right balance.

In addition, one huge thing I learned in the last year is the power of group marketing. Last year I was a member of The Class of 2k8, but seeing as how we’re now in 2009 and moving on, I’ve been seeking out new group efforts.

I’m a member of a couple group blogs: The Spectacle (focusing on middle grade/young adult speculative fiction) and The Enchanted Inkpot (focusing on MG/YA Fantasy).

Jessica Lee Anderson, Jo Whittemore, and I have also formed a collaborative marketing group we’re calling “The Texas Sweethearts.” Our aim is to get our books and ourselves recognition while also having fun.

PJH: What about you, Jessica, especially since our debut and sophomore novels are published by smaller presses? What are you doing to help with marketing this time?

JLA: I’ve been traveling more to connect with readers, teachers, and librarians, and I’m also on author panels at conferences and book festivals, including the South Dakota Festival of Books and the Texas Book Festival.

I recently started working with Blue Slip Media—Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy are exceptional, and they’re coordinating marketing efforts with my publicist extraordinaire, Jessica Deutsch, at Milkweed Editions. Plus, I’m looking forward to being part of The Texas Sweethearts.

[Authors Barrie Summy, Jessica Lee Anderson, Donna St. Cyr, P.J. “Tricia” Hoover, and Zu Vincent.]

JLA: What advice do you have for sophomore novelists, Tricia?

PJH: Learn to relax. True happiness in life isn’t going to be measured by how many books you sell or how big of a deal you get. True happiness comes from doing the things you enjoy, spending time with the people you love, and always seeking to improve yourself and reach your goals.

Also, enjoy the fan mail and fan art! This is the best part of getting a book published!

PJH: Jessica, any words of encouragement you have to share?

JLA: To complement your wonderful advice, Tricia, I would encourage writers to find validation apart from writing. Writing is what we do, but it shouldn’t completely define who we are (especially in a business where so much is out of our control).

Totally enjoy those moments when your words connect with others!

JLA: Tricia, what is a sophomore novel you’re looking forward to reading?

PJH: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (Delacorte, 2010)! I loved The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009). Beyond all others (with the possible exception of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2009)), it’s the best book I’ve read all year. It makes me feel like a fan girl!

PJH: And you, Jessica?

JLA: I recently read and enjoyed I So Don’t Do Mysteries by Barrie Summy (Delacorte, 2008), and I’m looking forward to reading what hilarious situations Sherry Holmes Baldwin gets herself into in I So Don’t Do Spooky (Delacorte, 2009).

Cynsational Notes

Read previous Cynsations interviews with Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. “Tricia” Hoover. See also Cynsations interviews with Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy on Blue Slip Media and with author Jo Whittemore.

Jessica and P.J. will have a joint book release party at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 at BookPeople in Austin.