Q&A with P.J. Hoover

We have Austin author P.J. Hoover at the store Saturday, September 14 at 2 PM for her latest and greatest adventure, The Hidden Code. She’ll be speaking and signing copies of the new book, so we better see you there!


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BP: What inspired The Hidden Code?

PJ: Thanks so much for asking! I’ve always had a love for the 1959 version of the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth. Not sure if you’ve ever see it, but if you haven’t, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an epic race to—you guess it—the center of the earth, and I watch it at least once a year. So this one time, while writing at Starbucks with Sophie Jordan, I was telling Sophie of my love for this movie. What I said was, “I would really love someone to write a young adult Journey to the Center of the Earth.

With perfect insightfulness, Sophie looked at me and said, “PJ, you’re the person who needs to write that.”

And so The Hidden Code was born 🙂 

9781944821913BP: Can you tell us a little bit– without any spoilers!– about the Code of Enoch? 

PJ: Yes! The Code of Enoch is a fictional artifact (created by me) that is rumored to have the genetic code of every living creature on Earth stored inside. It has the ability to cure all diseases…or create new ones. And because of this reason, the Code of Enoch can never fall into the wrong hands!

BP: Have you ever done one of those escape rooms? If so, how did it go, how did you do?

PJ: I have wanted to forever, and I haven’t gotten to one yet! My kids have gone for birthday parties (they seem to be very popular for that these days), and I keep meaning to join in. I did do a Star Wars virtual reality escape room light that was pretty fun, but because it was pretty strict on time, there was no way we’d be left trapped inside. There were too many other people waiting in line to get in. I was able to shoot plenty of stormtroopers while my team and I tried to find our way out.

BP: What are some books and movies that you recommend to lovers of mysteries and puzzle adventures, or to readers who crave more after finishing The Hidden Code?

PJ: Well, for movies, I love the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. I also love the 2008 Brendon Fraser version (and if you like to watch all movies in a series, then go ahead and watch The Mysterious Island with The Rock). I also love National Treasure (mostly the first one), Indiana Jones, and the Lara Croft films.

For books, one of my favorite books is Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I can’t recommend it enough! The Da Vinci Code was also an amazing fast-paced read (as was Angels and Demons also by Dan Brown). I love those books with just a hint of the supernatural involved so the reader is left thinking about the clues and mysteries for days after finishing reading.

BP: Based on your work, it’s clear that you are really interested in myths and history. When and how did that start? What do you love most about it?

PJ: I love mythology! Two things spawned this interest for me. First was seeing the King Tut treasures the first time they came through America, back in 1977. So much gold and so many questions. How did he die? Why did they bury him with so much gold? Is there really a curse? And second was reading Mythology by Edith Hamilton in 6th grade. A classic read, I am so pleased that so many schools still have kids read this book!

In college, after completing four years of engineering, I decided to stick around for an extra year and get a history degree. I was sure that I wanted to be an archaeologist! History was fascinating, and though I still have that love of ancient mysteries and archaeology, I decided to go the engineering route and continue on that way.

Now, today, many years later, I love that I am able to share my love of myths and history in the books I write!

BP: If you could live in a different time and place, when and where would that be?

PJ: Well, the answer people might guess is something like ancient Greece or Rome or Egypt, but I do love my modern-day comforts quite a bit, so as tempting as that would be, for me the answer is going to be maybe one hundred years in the future. It would be just enough that many things should still be familiar, but also far enough that there’d be all sorts of cool new advancements. I would love to see them.

BP: If you could show King Tut around Austin for a day, where would you take him?

PJ: Great question! King Tut died when he was nineteen, so I guess I’d take him to places 9780765383723teenagers like to go. Maybe a high school or college football game? Perhaps to Starbucks. Amy’s Ice Cream. Alamo Drafthouse. And of course, the top place I would want to show King Tut is BookPeople 🙂 Think of all the books he could read about himself.

BP: We hear you like playing video games. What’s your go-to game?

PJ: I have two! First, I love this MMO called Wizard 101. I’m a level 100 fire wizard, and it’s a great way to spend time with my kids since we can all play online at the same time. And second, I love this 1982 game called Hero in the Castle of Doom. I’m pretty sure I hold the world high score, and it never takes too long to play. It’s a great, quick diversion when I’m looking for a moment to relax.

BP: What were some of your favorite books when you were young?

PJ: In elementary school, I devoured the Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon mysteries. In middle school I was all about Gone with the Wind. And in high school I discovered science fiction and fantasy. I started reading all sorts of Roger Zelazny, Isaac Asimov, David Eddings, and Terry Brooks. Such great memories reading all those books!

BP: What are some of your favorite books now?

PJ: Now my favorite books are those written by my amazing author friends! I love Uncertain Summer by Jessica Lee Anderson, The Camelot Code by Mari Mancusi, Pendragon’s Heir by Lori Bond. I also adore Libba Bray (especially Beauty Queens and A Great and Terrible Beauty) and of course The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. And I am always up for an amazing dystopian story!

BP: Could you share some advice for young, aspiring writers? 

PJ: Perhaps the most important thing I’ve discovered is to really write what you love to write. If you’re trying to write to blend into some niche that is just not your thing, it’s going to show in the final product. But if you pick something that was also hand-crafted for you to write about (for example my love for Journey to the Center of the Earth spawning The Hidden Code or my fascination with King Tut inspiring Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life), that’s when you’ll really be able to connect with readers and your writing will shine!

We hope to see you at our event with P.J. Hoover! Event details here.

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