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Welcome to Roma Nova

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You might recall that I recently reviewed the excellent first novel in Alison Morton’s intriguing and genre-challenging Roma Nova series, ‘Inceptio’. If not, you’ll find that review HERE and I hope you’ll read it and be interested enough to go try it yourself. But aren’t you lucky? Because Alison’s first three Roma Nova books have been released in an e-book box set for a mere £3.99! Can you afford to pass up a great series for £1.33 a book? No, I don’t think so either. This fascinating series brings together all the action, technology and familiarity of the modern world of politics, espionage and military, along with the flavour, culture and social-facts of ancient Rome in a setting that is both at once, in a unique alternate history. And to celebrate the excellent deal, Alison agreed to answer a few questions for me, delving a little into the background and inspiration for the series. Before we begin, here’s a little something about Alison and her books:

Suppose a part of Ancient Rome survived?

Alison Morton explores just this. In her alternate thriller world, her 21st century Praetorian heroines survive kidnapping, betrayal and a vicious nemesis while using their Roman toughness and determination to save their beloved country. Unfortunately, their love lives don’t run so smoothly…

Alison has written four thrillers against this background – INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO and AURELIA. She’s working on the fifth, INSURRECTIO, out in spring 2016.

But this month, the Roma Nova box set is out and contains the first three books ­­– over a 1,000 pages of action adventure and alternative historical thrills in three books which have 140 five star reviews on Amazon between them.

INCEPTIO – the beginning: New Yorker Karen Brown is thrown into a new life in mysterious Roma Nova and fights to stay alive with a killer hunting her…

“Breathtaking action, suspense, political intrigue” – Russell Whitfield

Grips like a vice.  Excellent pace, great dialogue and concept.” – Adrian Magson

PERFIDITAS – betrayal: Six years on, where betrayal and rebellion are in the air, threatening to topple Roma Nova and ruin Carina’s life.

“Sassy, intriguing, page-turning … Roma Nova is a fascinating, exotic world” – Simon Scarrow

SUCCESSIO – the next generation: A mistake from the past threatens to destroy Roma Nova’s next generation.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this classy thriller, the third in Morton’s epic series set in Roma Nova.”
– Caroline Sanderson in The Bookseller

Historical Novel Society indie Editor’s Choice Autumn 2014

2D for blog

Even before she pulled on her first set of fatigues, 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 ­– all over the globe. She even wrote her history masters’ dissertation on women military!

Alison joined 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 civilization, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women. Now, she lives in France with her husband and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines.

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Hi Alison, and welcome.

What settled you on the unusual – and potentially risky – direction of alternate history, rather than simply writing a novel set in either ancient Rome or the modern world?

When I first attAMM Ampurias 1_smacked the keyboard I’d never written anything longer than my history masters’ dissertation. I had no plan, no idea of genre or structure and no definite goal. Nor had I heard of ‘alternate history’ as such. But several years before, I’d read Robert Harris’s Fatherland which, rather cleverly, he’d written shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, so I knew that I could ‘turn’ history. And I’d read a lot of science fiction which opened doors to so many possible worlds.

Fascinated by all things Roman since the age of eleven, I’d clambered over Roman ruins, been entranced by mosaics in former Yugoslavia, Spain, France and Cyprus, walked the limes in Germany and absorbed the atmosphere in the arenas in Nimes, Rome and Caerleon. And studying Latin at school just reinforced it all! But I’d always wondered what Roman women did…

My six years in uniform gave me the idea of making the main character military. So far so Roman. But the story of a courageous heroine doing daring deeds and sorting out the world had been buzzing around in my head for years. Women serve in military units now as standard but this wouldn’t have been possible in ancient Rome, so remembering Robert Harris, I yanked the Roman setting forward into the 21st

Risky? Of course, but why do something straightforward? And there are so many talented Roman writers already…

 

Is there somewhere you’ve been that you use as a visual basis for your Roma Nova? Somewhere that helped create your mental image of it?

Rome walkabout - 21

Roma Nova is Alpine with a lower lying region to the south, so it may resemble scenery I’ve walked through in Austria on holiday. For climate and agriculture I use Slovenia as a model but see the city streetscapes to be similar to the ones in the older parts of current day Rome; Renaissance buildings perched on top of Roman foundations or incorporating ancient buildings in later ones. I’ve put a gallery together of ‘Roma Nova’ photos on my blogsite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is your matriarchal society in Roma Nova a deliberate choice to pull away from the history of the patriarchal ancient Roman world?

Rome walkabout - 51

Very much so! I’ve nudged it away in several steps. Ancient Roman attitudes to women were repressive by today’s standards, but towards the later Imperial period women had gained much more freedom to act, own property and run businesses. Divorce was relatively easy and step and adopted families commonplace.

Next, Apulius, the leader of Roma Nova’s founders, had married tough daughter of a Celtic princeling in Noricum. She came from a society in which, although Romanised for several generations, women made decisions, fought in battles and managed inheritance and property. Their four daughters were amongst the first pioneers in AD 395 so necessarily had to act more decisively than they would have in a traditional urban Roman setting.

Lastly, given the unstable, dangerous times in Roma Nova’s first few hundred years, daughters as well as sons had to put on armour and carry weapons to defend their homeland and their way of life. Fighting danger side-by-side with brothers and fathers reinforced women’s status and roles. And they never allowed the incursion of monotheistic paternalistic religions. So I don’t think that it’s too far a stretch for women to have developed leadership roles in all parts of Roma Novan life over the following centuries.

 

I somehow picture your desk full of notes and maps of your fictional new world, like Tolkien’s notes on Middle Earth. Do you build the world you have created as you write, or is it fully constructed already?

Rome walkabout - 58

Flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Tolkien! My world is built in my head, although I do have a sketch map pinned above my desk! If you haven’t hammered out a complete framework before starting, you risk tripping up later, as with the Klingons in Star Trek. Smaller details develop as I go along. I included more food details in my third book as one fan, who admitted to being a chef, pointed out he couldn’t work out what the Roma Novans ate. (Normal European diet, but including a lot of honey, olive oil and beans.)

green fields_smAnd history continues even in an imagined world. INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO are set in the early 21st century, but the fourth book, AURELIA, featuring an older secondary character from the first three, starts in the late 1960s when she was a young woman. Then, two-way traffic stops and starts as it putters along the Decumanus Max, which often leaves Aurelia fuming in her car. When her granddaughter, Carina, drives along the Dec Max in 2010, it’s become one-way. Corded landlines have given way to smartphones in the new century and minor corporal punishment within households has disappeared by Carina’s time.

 

How much do you balance the drawing of inspiration and research from the modern world and sources on ancient Rome?

AMM_PDeG_smI use a layering approach. First of all, Roma Nova is an intrinsically Roman society where citizen service to the state is valued higher than personal advantage, a collective strategy which helped them to survive through the ages. The Roman mind-set is uncompromising, adaptable and ingenious, especially when faced with extinction. Modern Roma Novans exercise the same robust response as their ancestors did to any challenge.

Next, I mine details from the Roman Empire at the end of the 4th century, when the timeline from the real world diverged to form the Roma Novan one. For instance, the monetary unit in AD 395 was the solidus; Roma Novans have retained the name but today use debit cards, currency notes as well as coins, and internet banking.

The third layer is to anchor their modern society with links to and symbols from the past. Praetorians have become a special forces unit with the traditional task of protecting the ruler, but also the state. Unsurprisingly, they are arrogant and elitist, but efficient, with a fearsome reputation. The military train not only with state-of-the-art modern weaponry, on the range and in the field, but also with a gladius in order to enhance reflexes and increase close quarter battle skills and confidence.

Ancient Romans were superb technologists and engineers as well as skilled strategists. So in the modern era Roma Novans are at the forefront of the digital revolution. All my Roma Novan characters use advanced communications and security systems for their period. Sadly, although they continue to eat honey cake and enjoy the (non-lethal) games, there are still poetry evenings, bureaucratic Senate committee meetings, and long, boring lawyers’ speeches to endure when in court.
Do you have a deliberate over-all story arc in mind, or are you taking the series one book at a time?

AMM_forum_smEach book stands alone and dips into an episode in the character’s lives. In the first three, INCEPTIO is the beginning of the story, where we meet the characters whose lives will develop in the next two books. We revisit the heroine’s life several years later in PERFIDITAS when she is established in her new life. At that stage, I realised I needed to complete this cycle so SUCCESSIO looks eight years later at the next generation and is a story of change. So yes, they are connected, and span a fifteen year period.
The AURELIA cycle of three books which I’m writing now, now is planned as a complete arc, but again, each is a standalone story. One of my pet peeves is a cliff-hanger ending, so I’m not inflicting that on my readers!

 

 

Thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest, Simon. Tibi maximas gratias!

And thank you, Alison.

You can find out more on Alison’s box-set at her website here

You can buy it on Amazon here, iTunes here, and Kobo here

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova blog

Facebook author page

Twitter @alison-morton

and last but not least, on Goodreads

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Written by SJAT

November 12, 2015 at 2:28 pm

One Response

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  1. Reblogged this on s a gibson.

    Like

    gibsonauthor

    November 18, 2015 at 6:33 pm


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