Giveaways

Interview and Giveaway with P. J. Hoover

I’m delighted to welcome author P. J. Hoover to the Mixed Up Files. Her upcoming middle-grade book, HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, comes out on April 7, and I couldn’t be more excited to read it. P. J. first told me about this story when she was writing the first draft, and as soon as she said it was a cross between THE ODYSSEY and the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I was in!

Now, this fun story is finally almost out in the world, and P.J.’s here to tell us all about the book and her plans for it. Welcome, P. J.!

P.J. Hoover

P.J. Hoover

P. J. Hoover is the award-winning author of The Hidden Code, a Da Vinci Code-style young adult adventure with a kick-butt heroine, and Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life, featuring a fourteen-year-old King Tut who’s stuck in middle school. When not writing, P. J. spends time practicing kung fu, fixing things around the house, and solving Rubik’s cubes. For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website www.pjhoover.com.

Give us your new book’s elevator pitch. What’s it about?

Thanks for asking! And thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog today!

Here’s the best description I can come up with . . .

Homer is about to fail out of school unless he can come up with a story. An epic story. Oh, and it needs to be written in Dactylic Hexameter. No big deal . . . except Homer has no idea what that is. Also Homer is horrible at writing, so he’s pretty much out of luck.

But the Greek god Hermes has a story that needs a storyteller, and with a trick of immortal magic, he sends Homer and his best friend Dory back to the end of the Trojan War. They meet up with the Greek hero Odysseus along with an entire crew of smelly sailors and set off on a journey filled with scary monsters, angry gods, and a very hungry cyclops.

It sounds so fun! You love writing books based on myths, and have others, right? Tell us about those.

Yes! I have always adored mythology, and when I’m writing, it’s my first go-to when it comes to story ideas. Since there are a handful, I’ll keep it short and sweet for each one.

Solstice – A super-hot twist on the Hades and Persephone myth, set half in future Austin, Texas, and half in the Greek underworld. Piper’s best friend almost dies, and Piper has to travel to the underworld to save her. Oh, and there are lots of Greek gods. Young Adult fantasy with some satisfying romance.

The Curse of Hera – The last thing Logan wants to do with his entire summer is go to some fake mythology-themed camp, but that’s exactly what he’s stuck doing. Turns out everything isn’t fake after all, and unless he and his friends break a curse Hera has placed on the camp, they’re going to be fighting the Hydra forever.

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (and the sequel Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World) – King Tut is 14 years old, immortal, and stuck in middle school forever! His crazy uncle shows up and is out for revenge (because he’s been locked in a tomb for 3000 years and is a little upset about that). Fun, middle school humor!

The Emerald Tablet (and the rest of The Forgotten World Trilogy) – A fun blend of mythology, time travel, and hidden continents around the world. Benjamin Holt thinks summer will be normal. Next thing he knows, he’s being sent to summer school at a continent under the Pacific Ocean and finds out he needs to save the world.

What gave you the idea for this Homer story?

I have adored the story of the Odyssey since I first read it in high school. In my 30s, my interest in it became renewed as I started talking more about the Hero’s Journey in writing and in life. Then, when I rewatched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the spark of an idea ignited. Homer could be just like Bill and Ted. And he too could go on an excellent adventure!

Were you like Homer when you were a kid, having problems writing the perfect story in school?

I was exactly like Homer! I never liked writing because I didn’t think I was very good at it. And because I didn’t think I was very good at it, I never worked to get better. But much like Homer, when I did start writing, I discovered that writing is just like anything else. If you work hard at it, you will get better.

What’s your process when you write a story that’s based on a myth? Which is the chicken? Which is the egg? And which comes first?

Fun question. I guess the egg is the original myth. This is where the story starts. And the great thing is that this egg gives us the overall skeleton of a story. But when the egg hatches, well, that’s where the story starts to take on a life of its own.

One thing I love doing when I’m working with myths is thinking outside the box. Our mind automatically goes to the first idea we think of. Well, toss that idea aside and think of another. Then toss that idea aside. When you get to the third idea, you start to make the myth your own.

HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE seems like the perfect book to teach kids about The Odyssey, the hero’s journey and myths. Do you think this is true? Can you give us any specifics?

I have an entire presentation for school visits that is structured around the Hero’s Journey, and I love talking to kids about it. The funniest thing is that for the last seven or eight years, as I’ve been giving this presentation, I’ve been using the Odyssey as my example story. And now, with Homer as a 12-year-old kid who doesn’t like to write, just like so many of the kids I visit in schools, it becomes the PERFECT book to use for exactly that: the Odyssey, the hero’s journey, the writing process, and myths.

Tell us about the wonderful cover? Who illustrated it and are there any details we should look out for on the cover and in the whole book’s design?

Thank you! I love the cover, too! I was so lucky to have video game artist Erik McKenney do the art for the cover of Homer’s Excellent Adventure. He read the book and really captured the elements of the story that I wanted to shine through. He drew an amazing cyclops front and center. And best of all, there are hidden Easter eggs on the cover, but I think that will make its own great blog post in the future!

For your other books, you’ve done really fun supporting materials, like games and more. Do you have any fun plans for HOMER?

I do have some fun (and educational) tie-ins already, and I am definitely planning on creating more. First off, there is a map! I absolutely love this map!

Homer's Excellent Adventure Map

The map in HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, created by Erik McKenney! Pre-order the book at IndieBound.

Second, there is an amazing curriculum guide created by a librarian and aligned to state and national standards. It has some amazing ideas like a HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE Character Museum and Make Your Own Lotus Flower.

Third, I have some just for fun tie-ins, like a recipe for the tastiest hardtack in the (ancient) world and a guide to Dactylic Hexameter.

And finally, I have a comprehensive glossary filled with humor.

Are there any myths that you’ve got your eye on to tackle next or in the future? And if so, which ones and why?

All of them because I love them! But also none specifically. I’m currently working on a non-mythology story, but after that, the world is my oyster. I love that with mythology there is so much source material to pull from.

Any advice for writers who are interpreting legendary tales like myths into modern stories, like you’ve been doing?

Knowing your source material is so important, because people who love mythology are serious about mythology and will call you out if you get the tiniest detail wrong. If you make an artistic choice or interpretation, try to make it clear somewhere (maybe in an author’s note at the end of the book or a clever aside in the text) what it is.

Wonderful! Let us know when we can get our hands on HOMER and where.

The release date is APRIL 7, 2020! You can look for it wherever you normally buy books, and if for some reason your school, library, or bookstore does not have it, please ask them to order it! This is such a great favor to give an author.

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog today! It’s been a ton of fun!

Thank you, P. J.!

Don’t miss the giveaway for a signed Advanced Reader Copy below. It ends at midnight Feb. 21 and is open to U.S. residents only.

And pre-order HOMER’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE here.

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Cover Reveal, Two Book Giveaways & Interview with Laurie Friedman

We’re lucky to have a cover reveal and two giveaways…for an exciting new middle grade novel by Laurie Friedman with illustrations by Heather Burns. Just wait until you see the full cover toward the bottom of this post. It’s amazing!!!

Laurie Friedman is the author of over fifty critically acclaimed picture books, chapter books, and novels for young readers including the bestselling Mallory McDonald chapter book series, The Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair teen journal-format series, and many rhyming picture books, including the Love, Ruby Valentine series. She is also a frequent speaker at schools across the country. Her latest book, The Campaign, a middle-grade novel about two best friends who run against each other for class president will be available in libraries and through booksellers in September 2020.

You can find out more about Laurie and her books, get information on school visits, and sign up for her newsletter on her website. Interact with Laurie on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit Mallory’s Facebook page.

 

Welcome back to the Mixed-Up Files, Laurie! We’re thrilled to reveal the cover of your upcoming middle grade novel, The Campaign. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. 

What inspired you to write The Campaign

 

Great question! With the upcoming presidential election, I started to think about campaigns and how I might write about them in a way that would be fun and meaningful for middle-schoolers. I also wanted to capture the sense of drama that inevitably surrounds all campaigns. What could be more dramatic than two best friends who run against each other for president of their class? As is the case in many elections, the gloves come off! I want readers to see that no elected position is worth having if you have to fight dirty to get it.

 

That definitely sounds dramatic—and something every tween should read.

What do you think are the best ways to teach children and teens about politics? Are there any websites you think teachers would like to use with their students? 

 

Another great question! I think it’s important for kids to realize that their voices and opinions matter. Getting involved with local issues that mean something to them—both at school and in their communities—is a great place to start. Also, following the news is something that can start at a young age. Many of the media outlets have websites dedicated to providing news to students. My personal favorites are CNN 10 which provides a ten-minute recap of important daily news stories and the New York Times Learning Network which has all kinds of classroom resources.

 

Thanks for the helpful resources! When will The Campaign be released…and what are you looking forward to the most during school visits? 

 

 

The Campaign will be out in September, just in time for the national election. I always look forward to school visits and talking to kids about two of my favorite topics–reading and writing. I incorporated bits of history and fun facts about past presidents and what they did as leaders into The Campaign. I’m looking forward to including a trivia quiz (with prizes!) into my school talks.

 

 

I’m sure teachers and media specialists will love all the fun facts. And your school talks sound both informational and fun!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

 

Talking about books is one of my favorite topics, so I could go on all day! Ha! Don’t worry, I won’t. The bottom line here is that I feel strongly a leader should be a good listener and recognize when someone has a good idea that might be even better than their own. I don’t like polarization. Whether it’s a school or a country, we should all be working together, not against each other. My hope is that The Campaign will be viewed as a fun read that also gets that message across to students.

 

I wish everyone would work together instead of against each other, and am so glad you wrote The Campaign. Thank you for visiting us, Laurie—and revealing your amazing cover.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…the cover reveal of The Campaign! I absolutely love it. Congrats, Laurie. 

 

Amanda Adams has always dreamed of running for class president. Her mom is a member of Congress and her dad is a political strategist who manages her mother’s campaign. Politics is in her DNA. She has the perfect VP in mind for the school ticket—her best friend Meghan Hart. But when Amanda finds out that Meghan has political ambitions of her own, these two best friends suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of the aisle, and, as each girl mounts her campaign, it’s clear the gloves are about to come off. As the rest of their classmates begin to choose sides, the girls realize how they carry themselves over the coming weeks will have a lasting impact on the outcome.

 

Laurie Friedman is giving away TWO signed copies of The Campaign! The first Rafflecopter giveaway is open to everyone. The second is only open to teachers and media specialists. Laurie will send the books as soon as they’re available…and the lucky winners can read The Campaign before it’s released!

Giveaway winners will be posted on Saturday, February 8. Good luck!

*This giveaway is only available in the U.S. and Canada.

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