Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Member Spotlight on HTH Member DONNA PORTER!

by | September 26, 2018 | 1 comment

Greetings HTH Members! Today I’m shining the spotlight on

Donna Porter!

Minerva Spencer: Before we start talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself and what you write.

Donna Porter: I live northeast of Houston, Texas, with my husband, two boys, and way too many animals. I always wanted to be a writer, but of course, also being overly logical, I majored in education and graduated from Texas A & M University. I taught school for a number of years and now run a part-time tutoring business in which I teach a little bit of everything to just about any age. I write historical fiction loosely based on the lives of my ancestors. There are so many interesting ones! Right now, I seem focused on the French and Indian War era, but I have plans for historicals in the Revolutionary period and the Civil War period as well.

MS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

DP: Fifth grade. My first book, as a matter of fact, was created on notebook paper stapled together. It was a spoof of the “The Borrowers” that I titled “The Tweedles.” I would not be surprised if my mother still has it somewhere in the myriad number of boxes she has kept over the years!

MS: What drew you to write in the historical romance genre?

DP: I just love, love, love history. Growing up I primarily read historical fiction and I cut my teeth on John Wayne westerns, Daniel Boone, Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons. I have always felt as if I had one foot in this world and another in the past. I was also the nerdy student in school that loved doing research papers, and when electives had to be chosen, I chose history classes. Around the age of nineteen I got deep into my genealogy, and as I learned more about my ancestors, I knew their lives would make great stories. So, my deep desire to be an author mushroomed with my love of the past and here I am today! I find writing historicals is especially gratifying when a reader tells me they learned something they did not know. I feel as if I have not only entertained them but allowed them a glimpse into the past as well.

MS: Are there specific books or authors who have influenced you as a writer?

DP: As a teen I devoured books by Catherine Cookson, Phyllis Whitney, and Victoria Holt. Yes, those names probably date me! I was particularly drawn to Cookson’s characters, their deep traumas, and their courage in overcoming those to get to their happily-ever-afters. Whitney is just a master at mysteries, and Holt does Gothic romance like no one else. And yes, from the feedback I get from readers, I can see all three of those ladies’ influence on my own writing. In fact, one reviewer complained because my characters went through too much trauma, and another reader recently told me it wouldn’t be a Donna Porter book without a mystery or a secret.

Kristen Heitzmann and Catherine Palmer have heavily influenced how I approach romance in my stories. I learned how to write clean but steamy by reading and picking apart their books. As for my determination to publish as an Indie – that came from reading Suzan Tisdale’s books. Her journey from an ordinary reader to New York Times Bestselling Author is nothing short of inspirational.

MS: Give us a brief rundown of your process. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in the middle?

DP: I fall somewhere in the middle. I spend some time getting to know my characters. The plotter part of me then plots according to the hero’s journey (thanks to Robin Matheson and a class I took from her several years ago.) Once I am satisfied with my outline, the pantser part of me takes over as I start writing the first rough draft scene to scene from start to finish. I make certain the viewpoint character has a goal, that said goal is thwarted, and that an adjustment is made that moves the story forward to where I want it to go according to my outline. The rough draft is definitely the longest step, but if I take it slow with the rough draft, I usually only need one more deep revision and then three to four quick ones before getting myself to a final draft I am happy with. My characters definitely surprise me during the rough draft stage of my manuscript, and I sometimes do feel as if I am flying by the seat of my pants!

MS: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication? 

DP: I had always wanted to go with a traditional publisher. Who doesn’t? But after entering my first novel, Keeping Secrets, in several contests through RWA, I was being consistently told that even though it was good it did not fit into a clear “niche” and there was not likely a market for it. It was taking place in a time period (1759-1763) that was not a popular time period for publishers and few people knew about The Society of Friends (Quakers). My hero and heroine were in their early 40s, also not a particularly popular age for publishers, and there was an additional understory of two teens aged 13 and 14. Of course, those young people take over in book 2 and 3 of the trilogy, but because of their presence in book one, I was told it would not be well received by a publisher. All kinds of wild suggestions were given to me – make them Amish instead of Quakers, turn it into a Regency, put it in the Civil War time period. None of that would have worked.

The plot of book one and two not only turns on the Society of Friends “Discipline, a book of rules that regulates their lives including marriages, but is specific to that time period when so many Friends were leaving that faith in the pre-Revolutionary war period. So, I decided to publish it on my own. After all, selling a few copies was better than having it sit on my desk and sell nothing. I went on to publish the full trilogy on my own and am very happy that I did. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, but for me, right now, it’s a good fit.

MS: Tell us about your latest release and what’s coming next for you.

DP: My latest release is The Rood, the first book in a two book set titled The Marylanders. I might eventually add a first book which would restructure the order of the books into a trilogy, but I am a long way from that at this point. By the way, the word rood is an Old English word for cross or crucifix. The book opens in the spring of 1756 during the French and Indian War. The previous fall of 1755 the British, in what came to be known as Le Grande Derangement, forced nearly 12,000 Acadians from their homeland in Nova Scotia in one of the first acts of ethnic cleansing.

Frontiersman Thomas McQueen, himself the son of a Jacobite exile, has spent the past two years exacting revenge on the Natives and French who killed his wife and child. Now, in the wake of his ruthless brutality, the price on his head has been extended to his mother and his siblings. Ill and worn out from war, he returns home to see to their safety. Fearnought Farms, however, is deserted except for a dead body and Acadian exile Elizabeth Marie Johns. Alone, homesick, and desperate to get to her father more than 300 miles away at Fort Oswego, she has secrets of her own. And, of course, neither of them can run from their pasts forever.

As for current projects, I have two going at once. I am deep into the first rough draft of The Brooch, the companion book to The Rood. The Brooch continues Elizabeth’s story, but there are a few surprises for readers of the first book, so I will say no more! If all goes well, I am looking at a February 2019 release date. I am also putting the first genealogy book I ever wrote on the McQueens (first published in 1992) into a second edition. When Metes & Bounds I: Dugal McQueen and Some Descendants is finished, the full three book edition of my Metes & Bounds Series on the McQueen and Crews families will be completed and updated. It is a massive set of books encompassing over 1,000 pages (8 ½ x 11) and over 500 resources. I am, I guess you can tell, quite proud of it!

MS: What’s the hardest part of writing?

DP: Definitely finding the time. I wish so much to write full-time, but that just is not possible at the moment. I thought when my boys graduated, I would have all this extra time since home schooling was off my plate. That has so not happened! This summer has been a good example. My eighty year old father had hip surgery in May, then a triple bypass in July. I made more than one trip in August to the emergency room with one of my sons for what has now been diagnosed as partial-complex seizures. We are still knee deep in various tests of sorts. I have my tutoring business and all those things in life that are necessary – cooking, grocery shopping, housework, etc. I also suffer from hypothyroidism and sleep is super important for me, so I cannot just stay up late night after night and burn the midnight oil to get things done.

The offshoot is that I am constantly looking for ways to create more time at home to write. When an uninterrupted day does present itself, you will find me at the computer behind a closed door typing away!

MS: Thanks so much for taking the time to share both your story and your process with us!



1 Comment

  1. Jane

    Hi Donna! So great to e-meet you. It’s great to read about your process. When it comes to planning, I think I’m also somewhere in the middle. I like to plot but once I start writing, I go off the rails.



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