Interview with M J Porter

What are you working on next?
I've finished Northman Part 1 (The Earls of Mercia Book 4) and my current projects are a little too numerous for my liking - Brunanburh, a novel of 937, Northman Part 2, and of course Dragon of Unison Book 6, Silver.
Who are your favorite authors?
I became a fan of fantasy in a very roundabout way, reading a Terry Pratchett book, Lords and Ladies, which I'd actually purchased as a gift for someone else (come on, we've all done it before). I'd already read The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit but that didn't quite stir my reading interest as much as Terry Pratchett and then the wonderful Robert Rankin (I like my fantasy a little bit funny and people still look at me when they discuss Elvis and I inform them that he's a sprout).
After that I started reading 'proper' fantasy and sci fi - Anne Mccaffrey is my all time favourite and I've read the PERN books many, many times (and she was always adamant that they should be classified as science fiction). I moved on to Jane Welch and her Rune books, Melanie Rawn and her Sunrunner books and Terry Goodkind with his Sword of Truth series before discovering Kate Elliott and her Crown of Stars Series.
More recently I've been reading Robin Hobb's Farseer books and quite a few indie authors I've discovered through Smashwords.
I loved Twilight (sorry - romantic at heart) but did not enjoy the follow-ups so much and I've also been reading Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series for a bit of light entertainment.
I also read historical fiction, the works of Sharon Penman, Philipa Gregory, Alison Weir (both 'factual' and 'fictional'), Bernard Cornwell (both his Lords in the North and Arthur trilogy) and I read a lot of factual history books. My guilty pleasure is to sit down with the latest Elizabeth Chadwick book (romantic historical fiction).
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yep, I think I still have it somewhere.
It wasn't just a story, it was a complete 'town' with an emblem and everything. I can't remember what it was called but it was when I was only about 10 and it was a school project.
What is your writing process?
Messy!
Purple took years and years to write. I have lots of beginnings, but that was always as far as I got. The actual process of writing Purple was very piecemeal, and only on advice of my earliest readers did I adopt the structure I did. I researched it initially at uni, and then over the years, read more and more until I had a 'feel' for the place I wanted to construct. Blue was a breeze compared to Purple, and Green was more of a challenge but only because I spent some time with my storyline and characters in my head, but I couldn't concentrate to set them down in writing.
Ealdorman took 3 years to write (I have a note of when I started it). I wrote the beginning (26000 words) after intensive research, and was then able to go back to my notes and finish writing it in Summer 2013.
Since competing in NaNoWriMo this year, I've become far more focused with my writing. I now know that I can easily write 5000 words on a 'writing' day, and I've stopped trying to write at the weekend. That's when I do my promo work and surf the web, and design covers! I'm always too tired to write!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not the very first story, but a book I read when I was young and which had a profound impact on me was The Kon Tiki Expedition. I think they're going to make a film in the near future and I'm very excited about it!

I've also remembered the first fantasy I ever read (not including the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton) - Beyond the Midnight Mountains. I still have a very old copy of it (well not that old) but but when books for children cost about 50p and the writing was tiny!!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Smashwords and its distribution channels (so easy to do!)
Goodreads and its 'giveaway' scheme - great way to get people to actually 'look' at your books.
Reading what other authors have done and trying that out. There are so many ways to connect with readers that it is a bit of a mine field of trial and error.
I'm also learning the Twitter 'ropes'. It's a nice and quick way to connect with readers and fellow authors.
Describe your desk
Normally a table in one of my favourite coffee shops (although I don't drink coffee - only tea).
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It's a place where people 'browse' seriously for Indie authors, and are prepared to take a risk on someone new that they've never heard off.
It's channels of distribution take all the hassle out of trying to design your book for a particular 'platform'.
I think importantly, because it's smaller than Amazon, new authors don't get 'lost' in a sea of other, far better established authors.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I write what I want to read, which is great. It means I don't get cross when story lines go off at a tangent I don't like! It also means that if the 'history' isnt right, it's my own fault!
I can also avoid all the pitfalls that annoy me in other writer's books, for instance silly names, 'made up religions', excessive violence, and disappointing endings, or perhaps worse, disappointing beginnings. I hate it when you invest time and energy in a book and its characters and then the follow up focuses on new characters and doesn't pick up the story where the previous book ended. Thankfully, the preview feature on ebooks means that I can check this out before buying a book!!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
As I've never considered this question before, I'm going to work on the assumption that my favourite books must be those I've read more than once, so here goes.

1) Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey - I love the world of PERN.
2)The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey - I've actually re-read all of PERN on more than one occasion but it's these two books that I remember most fondly.
3)Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - I can still quote the beginning of this from when I read it at school for A level. It's not. admittedly, the happiest of books but I love the vivid imagery.
4) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - this was the first book in years that I stayed up all night reading. It hooked me almost from the first word. The other books in the series do not hold the same appeal, unfortunately.
5) I'll have to give number five some more thought, and actually look at my book cases! I feel it should be something profound, but maybe it will just be my Munch Bunch books from when I was a kid.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading!
What do you read for pleasure?
A weird and wonderful assortment of history books, fantasy and historical fiction, and the odd Lee Child and Harlan Coban book.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Recommendations, authors I love, and also fellow authors who make contact with me.
How do you approach cover design?
I make my covers myself, and I spend hours searching for the 'right' picture that will encapsulate the main idea behind my novel. I get a little frustrated that I'm not more creative, but then, I normally find just the right image. I always 'love' my latest book cover.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My phone and an app, it'll depend what I'm reading but I'm starting to make quite a bit of use of Googlebooks, cause I love how the pages really 'turn'.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the heartlands of Mercia (read my Earls of Mercia series for more details of this once mighty Anglo-Saxon kingdom) and I never really thought that it'd affected my writing that much, until I discovered the family of Leofwine and realised that I HAD to write about them.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, Northman Part 1, covers the years 1006-1013 and is a work of historical fiction, retelling the story of Anglo-Saxon England through these difficult years, through the eyes of both Leofwine, Ealdorman of the Hwicce, and his oldest son Northman. Originally intended to cover up to the year 1018, I had to half my intended storyline because it would have resulted in a book well over 200000 words long and even I think that's a bit long for a work of historical fiction.
Published 2014-07-20.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Brunanburh
By
Pre-release—available October 1, 2014. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 11,260. Language: British English. Category: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
Athelstan, King of the English; Olaf Guthfrithsson, King of the Dublin Norse; Constantin, King of the Scots; Owain, King of Strathclyde, Hywel of the South Welsh; one 'great lamentable and horrible battle'. The year is 937 and Athelstan, King of the English and overlord of the British kingdoms, faces opposition to his rule, that will culminate in the great battle of Brunanburh.
The Earls of Mercia Trilogy Books 1-3
By
Price: $5.49 USD. Words: 318,130. Language: British English. Published: July 25, 2014. Category: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
Contains Book 1 - 3 of the Earls of Mercia Series. (991-1013) England, The Second Viking Age. Ealdorman – The Earls of Mercia Series Book 1 Five ealdormen bestride King Aethelred II’s Witan offering wise counsel whilst serving their King as his representative in the old Saxon Kingdoms, united now for nearly fifty years.
Northman Part 1 (The Earls of Mercia Book 3)
By
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 103,650. Language: British English. Published: July 25, 2014. Category: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
England: The Second Viking Age Northman, eldest son of Ealdorman Leofwine, fostered, at the King’s insistence, by Eadric of Mercia, finds himself caught between loyalty to his father and his foster father. Fighting for his own sense of self, whilst Viking raiders and Danish King’s vie for the English King’s land and throne, he must chose his own path, and hold true to his own belief’s.
Red and Black (The Dragon of Unison Book 4 & 5 combined edition)
By
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 148,670. Language: British English. Published: May 1, 2014. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
This combined edition contains Book 4 and 5 of the Dragon of Unison Series. Great for those who've purchased the Trilogy! Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. Red Sereh; rescued on the cusp of death. Erann; angry to the point of incoherency. Emma; confused about her own place in history. The Librarian; tormented by his past. Greeneyes; with his loyalties split.
Black (The Dragon of Unison Series Book 5)
By
Series: Dragon of Unison, Book 5. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 76,690. Language: British English. Published: May 1, 2014. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. "They will bond, an unbreakable bond, and together they will unite and restore everything to how it should be." So the words of the long ago prophecy haunt Erann as his bond with Greeneyes is broken and the people of Unison are plunged further into peril with the unwelcome return of the Long Night.
Dragon of Unison Books 1 - 4
By
Series: Dragon of Unison, Book 7. Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 313,080. Language: British English. Published: January 8, 2014. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. BOOKS 1-4 OF THE DRAGON OF UNISON Contains Purple, Blue, Green and Red
Ealdormen (Earls of Mercia Book 2)
By
Series: Earls of Mercia, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 69,510. Language: British English. Published: February 1, 2014. Category: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
Leofwine, Ealdorman of the Hwicce, has proved himself in battle and won the support of his King, Aethelred II, but the spectre of Swein of Denmark, the man who partially blinded him five years before, has suddenly become a harrowing reality.
Red (The Dragon of Unison Series Book 4)
By
Series: Dragon of Unison, Book 4. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 74,950. Language: British English. Published: December 26, 2013. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. Sereh; rescued on the cusp of death. Erann; angry to the point of incoherency. Emma; confused about her own place in history. The Librarian; tormented by his past. Greeneyes; with his loyalties split. Rankil; fighting for his survival. Ramon; determined to clear his name. As the land rocks beneath their feet and Gemini draws
Ealdorman (The Earls of Mercia Series)
By
Series: Earls of Mercia, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 81,490. Language: British English. Published: August 30, 2013. Category: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom
England: The Second Viking Age Five ealdormen bestride King Aethelred II’s Witan offering wise counsel whilst serving their King as his representative in the old Saxon Kingdoms, united now for nearly fifty years. Leofwine, newly created ealdorman of the Hwicce is chosen to represent his King on a vitally important diplomatic mission, but when tragedy befalls him he must fight for his survival.
The Dragon of Unison Trilogy (Books 1-3)
By
Series: Dragon of Unison, Book 6. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 245,810. Language: British English. Published: July 7, 2013. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. BOOKS 1-3 OF THE DRAGON OF UNISON PURPLE Unison holds many enigmas locked within its ice bound surface, and this Long Day, Erann is about to discover that he holds the key to unravelling these riddles. BLUE Unison has not yet relinquished the answers to all its riddles. Erann, Sereh and Greeneyes, newly reunited are still
Green (The Dragon of Unison Book 3)
By
Series: Dragon of Unison, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 75,360. Language: British English. Published: July 5, 2013. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. Erann and Sereh are reunited on the windswept Vatna Jokull but there are more hardships awaiting the small group of friends and grudging acquaintances. Traps laid half a millennia ago are about to ensnare them in yet another mystery and this time, the Librarian is a victim too and they must seek answers without his aid.
Blue (The Dragon of Unison Book 2)
By
Series: Dragon of Unison, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 85,930. Language: British English. Published: April 25, 2013. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. Unison has not yet relinquished the answers to all its riddles. Erann, Sereh and Greeneyes, newly reunited, are still being swept along by events beyond their control.
Purple (The Dragon of Unison Book 1)
By
Series: Dragon of Unison, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 83,990. Language: English. Published: April 21, 2013. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Unison is a land of mystery and intrigue, inspired by Viking Age Iceland. The time is now. Unison holds many enigmas locked within its ice bound surface, and this Long Day, Erann, Sereh and Greeneyes will begin to discover them. Sereh; determined to take a chance on freedom when it presents itself, no matter the perils. Erann; desperate to save his mother’s life, regardless of the cost to his p