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May 03 2015

Writing Superheroes:Margaret Porter

You’ll know this superhero by her crimson velvet cape and black gown. Read on and find out more…

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What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?

I don’t know whether it’s from training or by inclination, but I embrace change. In recent years I’ve moved house, settled into a new house, created new rose gardens, and now write in a different fiction category and historical era than previously. (My other novels were Regency/Georgian era, and romances. My latest is late Stuart era and straight historical fiction.) This flexibility convinces me that I can accomplish whatever I need to. I believe a writing superpower is definitely a force for good—for entertainment, enlightenment, expressing the human condition. Use it but don’t abuse it is my mantra. How easily I could be a propagandist (and sometimes felt like one in the days I wrote ad copy!). In my dealings with other people via social media, I model myself on that Charles Perrault fairy story of Diamonds and Toads—striving to be the sister whose words emerged as diamonds and pearls and roses!

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Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

There would be a cape, of course, 17th century style. Crimson velvet (red is my colour), long and flowing, with a hood to disguise my identity when wandering the world—call it the “domino effect”! A black vizard mask to match my black gown. Black shoes with crimson rosettes and heels. I’m all about the drama. (Can’t help it, I was an actress.)

 

What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?

My kryptonite is over-scheduling in my non-writing life. Consequently, one of my biggest challenges is occasional frustration at the time it can take to complete a project. (Though let it be said that I’ve always met my deadlines!) The planning, the research, the writing, the re-writing takes so long.  The other challenge is my perfectionism complex. I love, love, love revision. I would tweak a manuscript indefinitely, if I could. But I can’t.

 

What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

I would by no means describe my colleagues as villainous, but holding public office for two terms, one of them in leadership, was not usually conducive to novel-writing. It was an amazing, enjoyable, rewarding experience. But I stopped my agent from submitting, feeling unable to be under contract during that period. Although I did write sections of A Pledge of Better Times during the most boring of floor debates. Ultimately I decided not to run for re-election to a third term, so I could finish the book.

 

What important lessons have you learned along the way?

 A Pledge of Better Times is my 12th novel. My first was published many years ago. In that time I’ve understood and refined my work style, nurtured my creativity, accepted when I need to let go of a project that isn’t meshing as I hoped when I started, and when it’s time to “break up” with an agent or a publisher. All these lessons are singular and specific to me. Is there wisdom I can pass along to others? When teaching writing or when at conferences, I say repeatedly to participants “Finish the Book!” If it’s a roomful of beginners, I urge them to complete a manuscript, because it’s so affirming. he sense of accomplishment is vital, it’s a real boost to self-confidence. (No, my very first effort was never published, and never will be! But if I hadn’t finished it, I might not have started the second one . . . which got me the contract.)

 

What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

Signing the first book contract. The awe I felt when holding my first published novel—and when my husband and family began reading it. Chasing my stories have provided the best experiences. Doing all the on-site research in England, Ireland, Wales, the Channel Islands, France, Belgium, Holland, Eastern Europe, islands in the Caribbean. All the thrilling discoveries along the way. Gaining entry to stately houses and seeing parts that aren’t normally accessible. Conferring with other historians and specialists and just generally being a history geek. Becoming acquainted with a direct descendant of my real-life characters.

 

If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?

Honestly, there’s not a lot I would change. I think most of the decisions I made—or the ones made for me—happened at exactly the right time. Even though it didn’t necessarily seem like it at the time, in retrospect I find I have no real regrets. If—no, when—I made mistakes, they were informative, so no great desire for do-overs. I did used to yearn for a secret identity, an alias, but didn’t take a pseudonym. It’s not too late. I just might, when I finish my contemporary novel.

 

What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

Other than “Finish the Book”? Hmmm. I think it was “get your rights back as soon as you can!” I was a demon about requesting reversion of rights for my Regency and late-Georgian historicals. Fortunately I was represented by an agency with an excellent subsidiary rights department. The income from translation rights was certainly useful during the years I held public office and wasn’t producing new material. Other really good advice is “Don’t engage.” If there’s a problem with an editor, get your agent to deal with it. If it’s a less than stellar review, or somebody doesn’t “get” your book, or you’re rejected, stew in negativity. Maintain dignified silence. Hard advice to follow sometimes. Well, most of the time. But a good reputation is necessary for maintaining goodwill with readers, publishing professionals, and fellow authors.

 

Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

A Pledge of Better Times is inspired by the real-life First Duke and Duchess of St. Albans. Charles was the bastard son of King Charles II by actress Nell Gwyn. Diana had a long pedigree and no fortune. They lived in such a fascinating era, one of multiple changes in the monarchy, rebellions, wars, and court intrigues.

 

What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

Every project seems big. I’ve about to complete a contemporary novel set in England and New England, drawing on my experience working on film locations. At the same time I’m focused on another biographical historical novel featuring a late-18th century actress, playwright and authoress who was involved with one of the most eminent actors of her day.

 

A Pledge of Better Times book trailer https://youtu.be/cSYSAhhHWn0

 

 You can find Margaret Porter at:

Website~Facebook~GoodReads Twitter 

2 comments

  1. Margaret Porter

    Thanks so much for this fun interview, Maria! Love your questions!

    1. Maria Grace

      Thanks for visiting, Margaret!

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