Yeah, I guess. But what is it you want to know?
Just the basics -- who you are, how old you are, where you grew up, what your family's like. That sort of thing.
Ok. [ clears throat ] My name's Jon Parker. I'm seventeen. I'm from Mecksville, Arkansas, which is a tiny little town you've probably never heard of, right?
True. I haven't.
It's about half an hour, maybe forty minutes south and east of Fort Smith, Arkansas -- in the Ozark Mountains. People in Mecksville like to call themselves hillbillies, but don't ask me why. Not like it's something to be proud of.
Let's see, what else did you want to know about me?
Oh yeah, my family. Do I really have to talk about them?
Not if you don't want to.
[ sighs ] My family's... I don't know. My dad used to be a history professor, but he works at a food processing plant now. There's not much to say about him. He goes to work, he comes home, he drinks a few beers. Usually, he falls asleep in his recliner watching TV by nine o'clock. Sometimes he sleeps there all night. Sometimes he gets up and goes to bed. We don't really talk that much.
And your mom? Brothers and sisters?
My mom died when I was six.
Oh -- sorry.
[ shrugs ] Don't be. It was a long time ago. And I don't have any siblings. It's just me and my dad.
What is your role in the story?
I'm the "panther" part of The Portal & the Panther. Never would've said I wanted to be a panther -- or turn into one, to be more accurate. And I totally flipped out the first time it happened. Thought I was going to be sick, so I ran into the boys' bathroom across the hall from homeroom, and then... Yeah, I turned into a panther. I don't know what I would have done if Layla hadn't been there. She really saved my neck that day.
Sorry -- I guess I'm rambling. Did I answer your question?
Yeah, that's fine. So, what is your favorite hobby?
[ laughs ] If you'd asked me a year and a half ago, I would've said football. But I, uh, kind of got kicked off the team.
It's a long story. The short version is that I jumped the quarterback and a few of his buddies at the homecoming dance last year. It was a dumb thing to do, attacking four guys at once. Ended up going to the emergency room. So yeah, I guess football isn't my favorite hobby anymore.
Then what is?
Don't tell Layla this, but it's shifting. You can't imagine how awesome it is to be inside a panther's body. You can see and hear and smell so much more than when you're in a human body. Being a panther, it's a little like... It's like if you lived in a dark basement your whole life and never knew about the sun, then one day somebody opens the back door for you and -- boom! Suddenly everything looks different and feels different.
[ shrugs again ] I don't know. Maybe it sounds stupid if you've never shifted before. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.
I will. What is the challenge you’re trying to overcome during the story?
[ runs a hand over his face and shakes his head with a sigh ] Where do you want me to start? There's the fact that Layla wants me to be a good little soldier and patrol the portal 24-7. Then there's the fact that the quarterback -- you know, the one I jumped? -- showed back up in my life at the worst possible time. Then there's Kristin -- she and I grew up together, and we used to be good friends, but we... Well, let's just say that things changed between us.
And then there are the intruders. Maniacs from another world who want to take over *our* world. At least, that's what Layla says. But I don't know. Sometimes I think Layla's had a little too much of the company Kool-Aid, you know what I mean?
Not really, no.
Oh. Well, I guess you'd have to read the book to understand.
If you could make one wish, what would it be?
Honestly, despite how completely cool it is to turn into a panther at will, I just want a normal life. You know? A normal dad. A mom, maybe a kid sister or a couple brothers I could throw the pigskin around with. A place on the football team. A girlfriend whose nickname isn't "Vicki the Vampire." But I guess it's like Layla says: What we want and what fate hands us aren't always the same thing.
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.
Links Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R8PMXCS
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.