Book Title: Pagan Warrior
Series: The Seventh Century
Author: MJ Porter
Publication Date: 25th May 2015 (new cover from January 2022)
Publisher: MJ Publishing
Page Length: 294
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.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a writer of stories set in Saxon England and also a few 20th-century mysteries. I’m a workaholic, and I can always be found with a book on my kindle or a book in my hand, writing a book or listening to one. Sometimes, I’m amazed at how many different ‘worlds’ I can visit in one day.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Um. That doesn’t happen very often.
Do you have a day job as well?
I’m a full-time writer, but I sometimes also work as an invigilator in the local school when the GCSE and A Level exams are taking place. Some might think it’s very boring, but it does two things for me – it gives me a bit of respite from all the writing (I said above I’m a workaholic), and on the good days, when all is peaceful and quiet, I can also plot stories I want to tell in the future.
When did you start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing in about 2008, but I didn’t finish my first book until about 2011. The first one took a while.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I initially started writing fantasy, or historical fantasy would be more accurate, but when that didn’t do very well, I pivoted to historical fiction making use of my studies at university.
Where do you get your ideas?
Most of my historical fiction stories come from the Saxon era, and I’m determined to tell the tales of as many unknown men, women, and events as possible from that era.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, and no. I used to suffer more when I was first starting. I have stories that I’ve never finished, but this is because they’re not quite right just yet. One day, I might return to them. I famously had writer's block with my first historical novel for a few years, and it only cleared when I went on holiday to Orkney and could finally place my characters in their surroundings.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
I am a pantser. I am terrible at planning anything.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I don’t think I’d have ever wanted to become a writer if not for the Pern novels of Anne Mccaffrey, the Deverry books of Katharine Kerr and the Keltiad written by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I was entirely unsuccessful at finding a publisher for my first fantasy book, or indeed my first historical fiction book. I indie-published those two titles and many more besides them before working with Boldwood Books, and traditionally publishing my first novel, which was about the fortieth book I wrote. I’m now indie-published and traditionally published, and I’m also working on a non-fiction book about the Saxon period, which will be published in late 2023 or early 2024.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I wouldn’t attempt to get my first book published. I’d concentrate on just writing more and getting more experience of crafting a novel.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Yes, many, but I’ve indie-published them.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I’ve discovered from talking to fellow authors that I really don’t know the first thing about book marketing. I like to take my books on blog tours, and also make use of BookBub to advertise them.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I want to tell the story of another two very important battles later in the seventh century, but I’ve not yet managed to do so. They won’t feature the same main characters but their descendants. I have a short story for this idea, and readers can download it for free if they sign up for my newsletter.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write, write, write. One book will not be enough. Don’t worry about the exact structure or shape of your novel until you’ve completed the first draft.
What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author?
I’ve been told, in a review, so not face to face, that I’m the English language's worst enemy.
What has been the best compliment?
I just love it when readers ‘get’ my characters. I can always tell in reviews when readers truly embrace what I’ve done with the story-arc and that’s the best compliment of all.
What sort of writing environment do you create? I.e. music or not? Pen and paper or laptop/PC?
I write on my iMac, as I need a big screen and a huge font, and with my playlists that are very often on repeat.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for allowing me to write about a period I love. I’m so grateful. Please don’t stop.
How important are the names in your book?
I think they’re very important. I never want to change an actual historical character's name, unless there is a more modern variant that makes it easier. I have written of England’s first queen, Ælfthryth, and I named her Elfrida, as it’s easier to spell, and say😊
Do you have any name-choosing resources you would recommend?
As my characters are almost always all Saxon or Norse, I rely on the indexes of non-fiction books to decide on characters that aren’t historically attested.
Do you read your reviews?
Yes, all of them.
Do you respond to them, good or bad?
No, I never respond to them because I can’t.
Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Turn it into a positive.
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.
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Page:https://www.amazon.co.uk/MJ-Porter/e/B006N8K6X4/
Narrator, Matt Coles: