Interview with Margaret Evans Porter
by Cybil Solyn
Q: You've been a well-known author for a long time. How do you feel it has shaped who you are?
Being a published author has provided many rewards, almost beyond counting. It's a privileged position, for storytelling is so important culturally, a time-honoured tradition. The demands of a writing career taught me early on the importance of managing time, resources, and attention so that my "off the page" life is equally rich and full. This is essential to my well-being. I must include plenty of time for my husband and dogs, my gardens, frequent travel, volunteering in my local community, keeping up with my reading and film going, and sitting idly beside the lake in the hopes that new stories and characters will pop into my head. Taking a break, "re-filling the well" is truly important for this writer…there's no denying that this is a 24-hour job. In fact, the inciting idea for my work in progress visited me in a dream!
Q: Most writers tell me that writing is something they can't stop doing. Do you feel this is true and why?
For me it's definitely true. My whole life long, I've been a writer, even when I worked as an actress and film producer. I have never "not written" since the moment I learnt to put letters together to form words, which made sentences, which allowed me to express what my imagination created.
Q: I've heard that ROAD TO RUIN has quite an interesting history. Would you mind sharing it?
ROAD TO RUIN is very special to me. It was my third published book, but my first "English" Regency, because my first two novels were set in Ireland. It was originally published in hardcover in 1990, by Walker & Company--I started out there, along with Jo Beverley and Loretta Chase and others. It was also the first book of a planned "trilogy" which inevitably expanded to include a fourth book. This is the book that garnered my first Romantic Times nominations, and my first RT award. Adding to all its other "firsts", in 1992 ROAD TO RUIN became my first paperback release, after Signet purchased the reprint rights--and in that format, my very first bestseller!
2003 saw two hardcover editions, by Thorndike in the US and Chivers Press in the UK. And much to my amazement and delight, over the summer my agent told me Signet wanted to re-introduce it to readers, in a special Valentine's Day edition.
Q: What was it like to know your story would be in a book with Barbara Metzger?
To say I'm thrilled would be an understatement! She's an honoured friend and colleague, as fun to be around as she is to read!
Q: Do you ever think about leaving romance and writing in another genre?
Romance is one of several types of writing I do. I was initially published in nonfiction and journalism, and never gave them up--I still occasionally write a newspaper column, and travel articles. In recent years I've researched the life of a literary figure of the late Georgian/Regency era for a biography.
Some of my first fiction writing efforts were contemporary, so that's always been an area of exploration. My current contemporary projects are relationship-based, but I'm not sure they comfortably wear the label "romance." I'm very open to new avenues. Writing four historicals for Avon proved that I could write books longer than the Regency format permits.
Q: What 3 historic resources help you the most when prepping a novel?
I always study the newspapers and periodicals of the months in which the story is set, for a grounding in current events, to learn whether any historical event is relevant to my plot or likely to affect my characters, for info about fashions, trends, topics of conversation.
My books have very specific settings, places I know well or have at least visited, so I obtain maps and images of the area as it was in that era. The landscape and landmarks may have changed.
Biographies are enormously helpful, as I strive to depict my characters as people of their time and place. The personal histories of real people, whether famous or obscure, helps me recreate a normal or an extreme lifestyle and outlook.
Q: What is your favorite place to visit for research and why?
England, when writing about it, or Ireland. Because no matter how painstaking I am in creating my characters and their world, simply being there sparks new ways of envisioning and experiencing their romance, through its setting.
Q: Trapped on an island – you get 5 books – what are they?
VENETIA, Georgette Heyer, one of her most romantic. JANE AUSTEN'S LETTERS, so I'd always have access to the "voice" of a witty author. LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE, Nancy Mitford, because however many times I read it I still laugh out loud. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Harper Lee, an absolute gem of American literature. And definitely a book about old, historic roses, profusely illustrated, to inspire me until I can get back to my own garden!
Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk with Rakehell!