Friday, October 23, 2015

Alison Morton of Aurelia - #interview #giveaway

Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 20th century. Aurelia Mitela is alone - her partner gone, her child sickly and her mother dead - and forced to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer.

But her country needs her unique skills. Somebody is smuggling silver - Roma Nova's lifeblood - on an industrial scale. Sent to Berlin to investigate, she encounters the mysterious and attractive Miklos who knows too much and Caius Tellus, a Roma Novan she has despised and feared since childhood.

Barely escaping a trap set by a gang boss intent on terminating her, she discovers that her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles and pursues him back home to Roma Nova...



Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe.

So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…

But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Now, she lives in France and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines:

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series

– shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

PERFIDITAS, second in series

– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year

SUCCESSIO, third in series

– Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– Editor’s choice, The Bookseller’s inaugural Indie Preview, December 2014

Fact file

*Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History
*Memberships: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors
*Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.



I am so pleased to have author Alison Morton visiting the back porch today, for a little Q&A about Aurelia, the latest installment in her "Roma Nova" series!

1. Are your Roma Nova books standalones on the same theme or does the story continue from book to book?

In a way, both! I wrote the first, INCEPTIO, as a standalone. It was an adventure thriller, but also a story of change and personal empowerment. Mousey Karen transformed herself into resilient Carina. But as I finished the last scene, my head was still full of Roma Nova; I wondered what had happened to Carina afterwards. Six years after her original adventure, I found her in PERFIDITAS established as a Praetorian soldier, but caught in the middle of betrayal and conspiracy.  Nine years later in SUCCESSIO, her children are growing up, but she is facing a vengeful enemy determined to destroy her family, and her country. So each story is a complete episode in Carina’s life, but with a common background.

The imaginary alpine country of Roma Nova, ‘somewhere in Europe’, forms the baseplate for each story. Romans were both urban and rural creatures; land and food were very important to them. Much of the action in each book takes place in towns and cities, but for Roma Novans, their family farm is a haven and a reminder of their roots.

With AURELIA, I’ve gone back to the late 1960s and started a new cycle of three books centred around Aurelia Mitela, Carina’s grandmother. This clever, tough woman in her seventies intrigued me more and more as I was writing the first three books. What part had she played as a younger woman in the Great Rebellion? When and where did she meet her lost love? Why was she still so fearful of her old enemy, long dead? Older Aurelia is a crucial influence in Carina’s life, so reading about Aurelia’s younger self and Roma Nova’s secrets is an ideal place to start reading the whole series.
3.  Are there any other alternative histories you would like to explore?

At present, no – my head is still full of Roma Nova.  I’m a historian with a lifelong fascination for Rome, so I think I need to work off that obsession first!

4.  If you could invite any author from history to supper and conversation at your home, whom would you invite and what would you discuss?

Could I cheat and have a group? Jane Austen for her intelligence and comedic wit, Pliny the Younger, the son of a strong mother and who witnessed the Pompeii eruption in AD 79. His letters to Trajan provide one of the few surviving records of the relationship between the imperial office and provincial governors. My third would be Germaine Greer, the Australian feminist writer. What an explosive mixture!

5.  What is the best thing about being a writer?
The interesting people you meet – fellow authors whether famous or beginners, publishing professionals, researchers and above all, readers!

6.  What is your writing process?  (when? where? etc.)
Chaotic! I write each day if I can; if I don’t, I feel restless as well as guilty. We’ve converted part of our basement into an office and furnished it with ergonomic desks and plenty of cupboard and shelf space, so no excuses!  

As for the books… The first set of characters had been maturing in my head for years; they were nearly fully formed when I started. Now, I sketch out a general outline of each plot and let the detail evolve as I go along. Sometimes, the characters take over the show! Then I have a little talk to them and we agree on a compromise and I nudge them back into the story.

I’ve developed a tracking grid which keeps the timeline straight and where I can jot down the main actions in each chapter – a kind of index to the book. This is especially helpful when I wield my red pen for the first (self) edit. I’m as ruthless with this as any Roman commander! Then off it goes to a structural (developmental) editor.  She looks for plot holes, character failings, extraneous or awkward scenes and inconsistent dialogue, but more than anything, for cohesiveness and whether the story grips. Without page-turning quality, the book won’t deliver a good read. After all, that’s the writer’s job!

After having the revised manuscript copy-edited, I give it a final check and send it off through the ether to the publishing house for them to turn it into a real book…

7.  What advice would you give to schoolchildren who say they are interested in writing as a career?

Don’t!  Seriously, it’s a good idea to have another career that will pay the mortgage and buy food. It will also give you invaluable life experience for when the writing bug bites so deep you can’t do anything else. And keep writing. Anything is good – plays, stories, letters to magazines, essays, reports for the school magazine/blog, then start sending short stories to competitions and submitting for anthologies. Connect with other writers, but just keep on practising.

Thank you so much, LuAnn, for letting me be a guest on your blog.
Thank you for visiting and sharing your wonderful alternative history series with us!


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  1. Great interview! I will have to check out these books. I love hearing from an author.

    1. I know, HeatherAnne, right? I think I love interviewing authors almost as much as I do reviewing books!

  2. I have been wanting to read an alternative history book because a friend loves them and told me how awesome they are. I will tell him about this series and hope to get to check it out myself. Also- it was fun to learn about the author. Best of luck!

    1. Your friend is wise, Jess. It's kind of a trip to be sitting here in my living room in Kentucky hearing our local patois and think how my day would be different if the American had not revolted, or the South had won...or, or, many what ifs.

  3. Great advice, LuAnn. Never give up practising the craft, its the law we should all live by.

  4. I'm pretty sure that this one is going to have a lot of detail in it seeing that the author is a historian! But I always love when novels are well researched and you can tell.