The Multifaceted Margaret Porter

Weaving Stories Through Time

Margaret Porter’s novels combine her acting, historical research, and travel experiences, creating authentic and captivating stories. She seamlessly transitions from historical fiction to contemporary narratives, infusing each with rich detail and depth.


Margaret Porter, a bestselling author known for her versatility across multiple genres, has an impressive background that enriches her storytelling. With sixteen novels to her name, she draws upon her extensive studies in British history and theatre training in the U.S. Her career spans leading roles on stage, feature films, and television, as well as a robust academic background with an M.A. in Radio-Television-Film. As a recipient of numerous fiction awards, Margaret’s expertise extends beyond novels to newspaper columns, book reviews, lifestyle magazine features, and articles on history and travel.

In this interview with Reader’s House Magazine, Margaret Porter shares her insights on how her acting and historical research influence her writing, the challenges and rewards of transitioning to contemporary fiction, and the intricate balance of fact and fiction in her biographical novel about Hedy Lamarr. She also discusses her latest work, a retelling of the classic ballet Giselle, and offers a glimpse into her immersive research methods. Join us as we delve into the mind of a writer whose diverse experiences and profound dedication to her craft make her stories come alive.

Your background in acting and historical research has greatly influenced your writing. Can you share how your experiences on stage and in historical research have shaped your approach to creating vivid and authentic historical novels?

For me, the process of creating and presenting a character is essentially the same on the page as it was on the stage. When performing classic and contemporary works, I sometimes portrayed real people, whose lives I studied, or the play was set in the past, requiring historical research. I definitely enjoyed that part of my process, and it carried over into my writing career. Another advantage is the fact that a script, like a novel, is composed of scenes. After years of studying dialogue, I can ensure that each character has a distinct voice and way of speaking.

Whether my historical characters are real people or my own creations, I strive to render them and their times as faithfully as possible, but I use my imagination and informed speculation to fill the gaps in the historical record. I rely on research to structure and support my plot, and it can enhance the story and characters by taking me in unexpected directions.

2) You have written fifteen historical novels and are now transitioning to your first contemporary novel. What inspired you to make this shift, and what have been some of the challenges and rewards in writing contemporary fiction compared to historical fiction?

As a reader, I’m omnivorous, I’m familiar with many genres. Some of my earliest fiction writing was contemporary. More recently, after producing several emotionally heavy and demanding historical novels, and enduring a global pandemic, I was tempted to write a lighter form of fiction. I returned to a half-finished contemporary manuscript I’d set aside many years ago. One of the challenges was updating it to reflect the various changes in technology, which included communications and film production and the means of distributing movies and television shows. The other significant challenge was reaching out to a different readership from my longstanding one.

3) Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr tells the story of a remarkable and often misunderstood woman. What drew you to Hedy Lamarr’s story, and how did you balance the historical facts with the fictional elements in your novel?

When I learned that Hedy had co-invented frequency-hopping and spread-spectrum technology during World War II, later used to develop satellite and wireless communications. I knew I’d found a story worth telling. The research process was painstaking. I needed to tease out the facts from the fluff and outright fabrications produced by the MGM publicity team and pushed out to newspapers and fan magazine. Over time, Hedy’s version of her history changed, and she created a mythology about herself that I was determined to penetrate. She was a complicated person, and those are the best ones to write about.

Your latest novel, The Myrtle Wand, is a retelling of the classic ballet Giselle. What motivated you to reimagine this story, and how did you approach integrating original story elements with your unique narrative?

I credit renowned choreographer Alexei Ratmansky for inspiring my novel. He based his production of Giselle on the original source material and choreography. I was amazed to see that Duke Albrecht’s fiancée, Princess Bathilde, was kind and sympathetic towards her rival, not the haughty, unlikeable aristocrat I knew from other versions. I wrote the novel as an exploration of her backstory and a depiction of her relationship with the duke before and after the scenes of the ballet. I transferred their story to France, because the ballet was based on a Frenchman’s poem and it premiered on the Paris stage. I chose the middle of the 17th century for the political and religious turmoil and the sexual intrigue in young Louis XIV’s court—where the art of ballet originated.

You mentioned that your research methods often involve visiting renowned research institutions and studying primary sources. Can you describe a particularly memorable research trip or discovery that significantly impacted one of your novels?

When writing A Pledge of Better Times, visiting places known by my real-life characters was especially meaningful and moving. My protagonists, Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans (son of Charles II and Nell Gwyn) and Lady Diana de Vere witnessed the development of Kensington Palace and Hampton Court by monarchs William III and Mary II (also a major character.) So many of the rooms they knew as courtiers are intact. I repeatedly followed the footsteps of those characters in those buildings and grounds, an immersion that brought them to life and definitely informed my story.

A Change of Location explores the romance trope of finding unexpected love while traveling. How do your own experiences as a lifelong traveler and photographer influence your depiction of settings and character interactions in your novels?

I prefer to include personal experience and impressions in my projects, whatever the genre. Although time has altered historical locations, it’s always inspiring and motivating to do on-site research. The imagination is a fiction writer’s greatest tool, but the eyes and the ears and the nose and the fingers and the feet can absorb details in a very visceral fashion. There are opportunities to consult historians and subject experts. After a research trip, I can turn to a detailed travel diary and enormous photo archive to revive memories of what I felt and all that I saw, and connect them to specific scenes.

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