Pagan Warrior

On today’s blog, read an interview with historical fiction author MJ Porter, plus a spotlight on her book, Pagan Warrior

Published 2015 / 294 pages

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From bestselling author, MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.
Britain. AD632.

Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he is to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it.

Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest.

There will be a victor and a bloody loser, and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.

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Author Bio:

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to 
Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Being raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.

Here’s my interview with MJ Porter

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. Thank you for hosting me on your blog today.

  1. How did you become an author?

I wanted to write a fantasy series which I first conceived when I was at university. It took me a very long time to get those words out of my head, although it has become much easier since then, and I’ve pivoted towards historical fiction.

2. Tell us about your writing process.

I like to write a first draft very quickly – my aim is to write 5000 words a day until the story is ‘complete’. Then I spend time editing and checking everything before sharing it with a few people, and then I return to work on it again before sharing it with advanced readers, before releasing it.

3. How would you persuade readers to buy your book(s)?

If I knew the answer to this one, I’d sell a lot more books😊 No, seriously, I think readers who love historical fiction, stories of politics and family, of strong personalities and ambition, mixed up with a bloody good fight, would enjoy these stories of Saxon England, even if they don’t know anything about the period.

4. What is your all-time favourite book? What makes it special?

I always really struggle with this question. I have a few, but I will stick with the one that perhaps inspired me, which is Anne Mccaffrey’s Dragonflight. I know it’s a bit old-school now, but I adore the way she mixed elements of science fiction in what could be termed a historical setting.

5. What are you reading at the moment?

Sticking with my fantasy, I am currently reading the new Mark Lawrence book, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn, and he’s just hit with a ‘oh wow’ moment.

6. Which author(s) (past or present) would you invite to dinner?

Anne McCaffrey, Katharine Kerr, Emily Bronte, Terry Pratchett.

7. What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or passions?

I like to read, so I’m never far from a book. I also like to walk in the countryside and visit castles, which, luckily, there are many of where I live.

8. How important is it to have your historical facts right and are there any instances when you would bend history to fit your story?

Writing about Saxon England is a bit of a strange one. It’s important to weave the few known ‘facts’ into the story while being aware that the ‘facts’ are questionable, and corrupted by centuries of being copied and that these wonderful manuscripts only survive through pure chance (and not just because they might have been lost. The Cotton Library fire also destroyed some very important early source material many centuries later). But, I also have to factor in the bias of the original source, the scarcity of that source (should we build a history of the period based on the words of one person, writing a hundred years after events?), and the fact that archaeology is revealing so much more, that often counters the historical ‘facts.’ I\m a firm believer in exploiting these gaps and omissions to create a truly well-rounded and intriguing tale that sometimes bucks the trend but is also plausible with the available information. Certainly, with this trilogy, I wished to counter the claim of a Northumbrian Golden Age during the seventh century and give Penda, and Mercia a bit more of a part to play in it – the discovery of The Staffordshire Horde has also highlighted just how much we need to treat the historical record with due consideration.

9. Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?

Don’t get caught up in making sure you use the correct word in your first draft. Get the story onto the screen/paper and then spend time fiddling with all the little bits that make the story come to life. You can’t edit nothing.

10. What are your future plans as an author?

To keep on writing. I have the entire Saxon period to get through, and I’m only just getting started.

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