What’s the hardest part of being an author?
Just kidding... sort of. A better answer would be that finding the time to sit down and write, without any interruptions, is the hardest part. Like most indie authors, I have a "real" job, and writing is something that gets squeezed in between everything else on my to-do list. The up-side of that is that writing two novels (and making it halfway through a third) has certainly improved my self-discipline. I realized pretty early on that if I lacked self-discipline, I'd never finish at all.
Can you give us a short synopsis of The Portal and The Panther?
The Portal & the Panther is principally the story of Jon Parker, a seventeen year-old kid who really just wanted to lead a normal life and get the heck out of his small, rural town in northern Arkansas. He hadn't planned on morphing into a panther in the middle of homeroom one morning, and he certainly hadn't planned on being told he had a sacred duty to protect a portal leading to parallel universes.
Early in the book, Jon meets Layla Sampson, a slightly nerdy girl who's a shapeshifter like him. With Layla's help, he learns how to control his ability and how to navigate this new world he's been unwillingly thrust into. But Jon and Layla remain at odds about certain things. Jon's a little bit of a rebel; Layla's the quintessential good-girl. And while Layla accepted her responsibility to guard the portal with very little resistance, Jon isn't quite so sure. He has a lot to work through before he decides if he's going to be "all-in" or not.
Although The Portal & the Panther has its share of fight scenes, bad guys, and yes, even a touch of romance, it's really Jon's inner journey that forms the core of the story. All of us, at 16, 17, 18, are busy deciding what kind of adult we want to become -- what kind of man or woman we want to be. Jon is facing those same questions, but on top of that, he has to decide if he's willing to sacrifice his own dreams and ambitions for the sake of protecting our world from a danger greater than anything he's ever imagined.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a story I hadn't read before. I love vampire stories -- Richelle Mead is currently one of my favorite authors -- and I love fantasies, dystopian fiction, and of course YA. But I was also tired of these tales and their standard tropes. I've read enough vampire stories and post-apocalyptic YA books to last me a lifetime. I wanted to read a story that had all my favorite elements of books like The Hunger Games, Legend, and the Bloodlines series, but in a brand new form.
In the end, I came up with a story about shapeshifters and parallel universes, with themes surrounding loss, forgiveness, addiction, and life as a teen in small town America. The one thing I can say as an avid YA reader myself is that it's hard to find anything else out there quite like The Portal & the Panther, so at the very least, I think I succeeded in writing something unique.
How many hours per day do you spend writing?
For me it's less about quantity of time than quantity of words. My daily writing goal varies from 1,000 words to 3,000 words per day. On a good day, I can knock out about 1,000 words per hour. Other days, I'm not quite as fortunate.
Name your top five favourite books.
Eeek! I can only pick five?! Alright, I'll try.
1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
2. Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung
3. George RR Martin's whole Game of Throne series
4. The Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, book 7) by you-know-who
5. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
What are you working on now?
Book 3! The second book in this series, The Girl Between Worlds, is already out on Amazon. Book 3, which will be titled The Rook & the King, will be out in May 2015. I'm about 55,000 words in with Rook, and I suspect I've got at least 35,000 more to go. I'm not sure, but I think it might end up being the longest book out of the three in the Guardians of the Portal series.
Title: The Portal & The Panther
Author: R.A. Marshall
Genre: YA Fantasy / Science-Fiction
The only thing seventeen year-old Jon Parker wants is to escape his sleepy hometown of Mecksville, Arkansas. But everything changes when Jon stumbles into the boys’ bathroom and transforms into a black panther.
Without choice, Jon is thrust into a world where parallel universes are real, shapeshifters exist, and dangerous “intruders” can control the elements with a mere thought. Jon learns he’s inherited his shapeshifting ability from his long-dead mother, and now, like it or not, his mission is to protect our world from invaders from other worlds.
But is it a mission Jon will accept? His decision will determine the fate of the people he loves — and our whole world.
My first attempt at novel writing was when I was ten years old. At the time, I was writing fan fiction, without realizing what fan fiction actually was (I don’t think the term existed yet). I had just finished reading Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein for the second time and, for the second time, couldn’t stand that the book was ending. I needed some sort of sequel. I think I got about 12 handwritten pages into my Tunnel in the Sky sequel before my father pointed out that I’d never be able to publish it.
I tried writing novels again some time in college, but that was the period in my life when I took myself faaaaaar too seriously. If you’re over the age of 23, you’ll know what I mean by that. I was only interested in writing something Important, something that Mattered, and consequently wrote no more than about 10,000 words before giving up. In my heart, I didn’t want to write Les Mis or War and Peace, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
When Kindle came along and I stopped buying actual paper books, I realized that there was a revolution going on in the publishing world. As I heard tales of self-published authors meeting with unprecedented success, I decided it was time to dust off my fiction writing skills and join their ranks. I could finally just write for the hell of it and never have to worry about what a publisher would think or what anyone else would think.
I finished the first draft of The Portal and the Panther in April 2014; I plan to publish it in January 2015. Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on the second book in the Guardians of the Portal series, The Girl Between Worlds. I hope to also have it ready at the same time as The P and the P.
You can read the prologue here: http://ninja-writer.com/the-portal-and-the-panther/
Email sign-up: http://eepurl.com/SMrjX. If you sign up before March 15, you will get the third book for free.