Book 3 is almost here, y’all! I’ve been working hard to finish The Rook & the King by the end of May, since that’s when I said I would have it finished. To tide you over until then, here are ten little pieces of trivia about the Guardians of the Portal series that I thought you might find interesting.
1. On how Jon’s character evolved over time.
When I first conceived of The Portal & the Panther, I intended to write Jon as a geeky outcast — a little like a male version of Layla. I later changed my mind because I feel that there are too many male underdogs in young adult fiction. For example, Harry Potter starts out as a bit of an under-confident outcast; in Brad Magnarella’s books that I recently reviewed, the main character of Scott is a stereotypical geek. I thought it would be more interesting to ask the question, “What would it take for a guy who was a popular football jock to become an outcast?” That’s how Jon’s whole predicament with the football team started.
2. On how Jon got his name.
I started writing Portal Christmas week 2013. I was house-sitting for my parents, so I had the house all to myself, and I thought, “You know what? I think I’m going to sit down and start writing a novel.” I wrote with the television on mute sitting on my parents’ couch.
I had Jon in my head by this time, and I wanted him to be a very “average Joe” kind of guy. That’s why I chose “Jon” for his first name — almost nothing is more run-of-the-mill than “Jon.” I also wanted him to have an average, forgettable last name. Hmmm…. what could it be? Smith? Jones? No, that was a little *too* average.
I looked up from the couch and watched the muted television for a few minutes. Some cable station was running a Spiderman marathon. And thus Jon was christened with “Parker,” in honor of another “average Joe” who stumbled into unusual super powers.
3. On how Layla got her name.
If Jon was written to be the average “boy next door,” Layla was the opposite. She was always spunky and unique, and I wanted her to have a name to match. Walking out of a big box store one day, I heard Eric Clapton coming out of a car window. The rest is history.
4. On how Kristin got her LAST name.
I can’t remember how Kristin came to be named Kristin, but I remember how she got the last name of Krull: Somewhere around election day, I saw a political lawn sign for a local candidate named “Krull.” Sounded good to me.
5. On making up a language for the Mentalists.
Although I always envisioned Mentalist culture as being a little like the Vikings meet Big Love, their language, in my mind, was more elegant — round, musical, almost sing-song. Thus their language was based off a variety of Asian languages. Google translate is a wonderful tool. I would type in the word I wanted to translate, like “mother” (Mentalist for “mother” is “muja,” by the way), then translate it into a variety of languages. “Simplified Chinese” was my go-to, but I’d also check Vietnamese, Hindi, Tamil, Tagalog, and Thai. I would pick a word or a couple words I liked and combined them together. Occasionally, you might spot words that I didn’t change at all from the language I translated into.
6. On making up a language for the Explorers.
Same process with the Explorers. The difference is that I wanted their language to reflect their culture. Now, don’t be offended if you’re German, but you know that your trains run on time while the rest of the world’s… don’t. 😉 I pictured the Explorer culture as being a bit like German culture “on steroids” — they value adherence to the rules above all else. They’re almost Vulcan. As such, I chose Eastern European, German, and Slavic languages to serve as the basis for the “sound” of the Explorers’ mother tongue.
7. The things you don’t know about Ellen could fill a book.
Ever since I sketched out Ellen Parker’s backstory, I’ve wanted to write a spin-off for her. A sort of “Guardians prequel.” Expect at least one novel devoted to Ellen’s story in 2016.
8. Dave… poor, poor Dave…
Another character I want to revisit is Dave. I don’t know if you can tell from this first Guardians series, but Dave is probably more complex than almost any other character. Unfortunately, very little of Dave gets to come out (no pun intended) during the course of the three books, because he’s really just a supporting cast member. Dave deserves more screen time, and maybe one day I can write something that allows him to shine.
9. But first there will be Lawrence.
I’ve already written about 12,000 words of Lawrence’s novella / novel. He was another complex character who didn’t get the screen time he deserved during the series. His story goes back in time, to his teenage years living in the Mentalist colony in Maine. You can read a prologue here, but I have to warn you that I don’t know if I will end up using it or not. Look for Lawrence’s book around November / December 2015.
10. The last thing you don’t know is something I don’t know, either.
The unresolved question is WHEN, exactly, book 3 will go live. My hope is May 25, but I’m not making any promises. I thought I’d have no problem publishing in May, but then I moved unexpectedly and had to stop writing for 3 weeks. That really set me back in a big way. All I can say is that I’ll do my best to publish before June 1!
You’ve Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers.
If you have any other questions about the series you’d like me to answer, let me know. If I can tell you without spoiling anything, I will.
You might also be interested in a post I wrote a long time ago, about why I set Guardians in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas.