Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Spotlight on MJ Porter, author of Pagan Warrior


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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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Very relevant to the story which pitches the Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria against that of Mercia, I was born in Mercia but have lived in Northumbria for nearly twenty years. I think I’m still very much a Mercian at heart.

Much to many people's disgust at the time, my children learned to ride their bikes on Lindisfarne, as it’s lovely and flat. Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, is mentioned throughout the Gods and Kings Trilogy as it’s where Bishop Aidan built his monastery.

Ruins of the later Lindisfarne Priory
(Source: Author photo)

In one of the books, there's a scene where the Northumbrians all complain that it’s too hot in Mercia without the usual Northumbrian wind. My children said this to me when we went to Alton Towers in the summer of one year. They missed the cooling wind.

One of the battles in Pagan King, book two of the trilogy, is based somewhere close to where I grew up, although I changed the name a little.

Tamworth Castle, while not Saxon era, Tamworth is believed to have been a Mercia capital at this time, and I grew up quite close to Tamworth.
(Source: author photo)

The first time I wrote a battle scene, I used my children’s play swords, purchased from a castle, to try and determine how my characters might have been able to fight and defend themselves.


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.

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Matt Coles
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