Book Spotlight: Aurelia by Alison Morton

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Publication Date: May 5, 2015 SilverWood Books

Series: Roma Nova, Book Four Genre: Alternative Historical Fiction

Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 21st century. Aurelia Mitela is alone – her partner gone, her child sickly and her mother dead. Forced in her mid-twenties to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer, she is struggling to manage an extended family tribe, businesses and senatorial political life.

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 Miklós, a suspected smuggler, and Caius Tellus, a Roma Novan she has despised, and feared, since childhood.

Aurelia suspects that the silver smuggling hides a deeper conspiracy and follows a lead into the Berlin criminal underworld. Barely escaping a trap set by a gang boss intent on terminating her, she realises that her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles and pursues him back home to Roma Nova…

Available at

Amazon    Barnes & Noble

About the Author

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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.

Connect with Alison Morton

Website  Blog  Facebook  Twitter  Goodreads  Amazon UK Author Page   Amazon US Author Page

Aurelia Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 11 Tour Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, May 12 Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, May 13 Spotlight at Book Nerd

Saturday, May 16 Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Sunday, May 17 Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Friday, May 22 Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, May 25 Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 26 Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Friday, May 29 Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, June 3 Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Friday, June 5 Spotlight at Layered Pages

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Alison Morton

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Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She gained a BA in French, German and Economics and thirty years later went back and bagged a masters’ in history (with distinction!).  

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Six years in the UK reserve forces (where she rose from private soldier to captain) not only reinforced her sense of common purpose and self-discipline, but provided her with experiences and opportunities no civilian would ever touch. Oh, and travel and fabulous mess evenings.

Setting about her novelist education with the persistence of a Roman road builder, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, studied with the Arvon Foundation, joined the Historical Novel Society and attended numerous specialist workshops and conferences. Thanks to her independently published book sales figures, she has recently qualified as a full member of the UK’s Society of Authors. She has recently been accepted as an author member of International Thriller Writers.

Alison talks and writes about alternative history at conferences and workshops including for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Historical Novel Society and in Writing Magazine. She also writes a monthly column in the local English language magazine and has published a collection of these as The 500 Word Writing Buddy: 25 Inner Secrets for the New Writer.

Stephanie: Hello, Alison! I am delighted to be chatting with you today about your book, SUCCESSIO, which has been honored the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Praise indeed, and congratulations are in order. As I understand it, SUCCESSIO, is the third book in your Roma Nova alternate history thriller series. Could you please tell your audience the titles of the first two and how you came about to write this thrilling series?

Thanks for inviting me, Stephanie! It’s always a pleasure to be your guest. The first two books in the series are called INCEPTIO (the beginning) and PERFIDITAS (betrayal).

Their origin goes back into my own ancient history! I was 11 years old and on holiday in north-east Spain. Fascinated by the beauty and extent of the mosaics in Ampurias, a former Greek then Roman sea-port, I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism peeping out or maybe just a precocious kid asking a smart question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

That idea bubbled away in my head until the novel writing trigger was pushed in 2009.

In one paragraph please tell your audience what SUCCESSIO is about.

Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she senses danger crawling towards her. Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years ago turns into a nightmare that attacks the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…

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I absolutely love the idea of “the last remnant of the Roman Empire that survives into the 21st century” and how this concept is woven into the modern world in your books. Alternate history is a new favorite of mine and there is so much a writer can do with this concept. To make it believable were there any challenges you faced in the history aspects of this story and what advice would you give someone who wants a hand at writing alternate history?

Briefly, the tools for writing alternate history are similar to regular historical fiction, plus an overactive imagination and a good overall sense of how history ‘works’. I have written whole articles on this! Readers might like to visit my blog for the detailed handout I provided for my recent talk on alternate history (here), but

My top tips:

  • Identify the point when your alternative timeline diverges from the standard historical timeline and make it logical;
  • Research the divergence point thoroughly so you can set the scene accurately;
  • Anchor the divergence point story with references to the past;
  • Use elements from the historic record carefully, but not fearfully;
  • Think through the setting that has formed your characters;
  • Make sure your characters live naturally within their world.

Why alternate history?

Good question! ‘Althist’ is based on the idea that the historic timeline split at a ‘point of divergence’ in the past and the new timeline follows a different path from the one we know. And there’s no going back. Classic ones are what if the Germans had won the Second World War, or the Spanish Armada had succeeded in 1588? I sometimes wonder how English history would have developed if Elizabeth I had married and had children…

The writer can exercise her imagination outside of the confines of known history. What would our world be like if X or Y had or hadn’t happened? I think we’ve all experienced events in our personal lives we’d like to have gone differently. I didn’t know you could change or ‘alternate’ the historical narrative until I read Robert Harris’ Fatherland. Perhaps my early idea of a women-led modern Roman society could turn into a real story…

What part of the Roman history fascinates you the most and how long have you studied the culture….

The first of those is very difficult to answer as Rome lasted in the West over 1229 years; it’s like stretching from AD 785 to today. I’m fascinated by all of it. My favourite emperor is Vespasian as he brought stability to Rome in AD 69, but I also admire the trio of Augustus, the first emperor, his wife Livia, and friend, supporter and ‘fixer’, Agrippa. I first ‘met’ Rome at age 11 and haven’t stopped since. I clambered over most Roman ruins in Europe with my parents, but I loved it. So much that was left was elegant and solid; their history so concrete and purposeful. As I grew older and studied the Romans and Latin more formally, I appreciated what a complex, clever and determined society they had made. With sheer force of will, they had progressed from mud hut tribal subsistence farming to the heights of the Pax Romana with its rule of law, art and literature, trade, engineering, and ability to learn; Romans set the template for the western nations that emerged over the following centuries. I don’t want to sound too much like the John Cleese video, but you get the idea I’m impressed! However, we should remember not everybody lived well, especially at the lower end of the social spectrum, but the majority of people had a standard of living that wasn’t achieved again until the nineteenth century.

…and please tell me a little about your research.

Roma Nova has strong roots in Roman culture, attitudes and values. I ‘mine’ the late Republican/early Empire period for those that I transfer to Roma Nova, but with an eye to how the situation was in AD 395 and the conditions that impelled the colonists to leave Rome and found Roma Nova.

Some sources are scarce but detailed, others are plentiful but frustratingly general. I use the methodology I learned while doing my history masters’: check everything three times. And then you can project that forward in a historically logic way.

As your series goes….do you write in new characters or do you pretty much keep the same ones throughout?

I mix and match! Conrad and Carina are central to all three books. Some secondary characters like Aurelia, Flavius and Lurio are in every book, others pop in and out. Like many readers, I love meeting familiar characters again, and seeing what’s been happening in their lives, but new actors bring in an extra dimension.

How would you describe Carina’s and Conrad’s relationship with each other?

Fraught! Conrad is a bone-and-blood Roma Novan and does not allow sentiment to interfere with his job as a senior Praetorian officer. Until one terrible day… He has a strong sense of duty and honour, but also hidden problems dating from his childhood as we discover in SUCCESSIO. But his sense of humour and his love for Carina let us see another side of him. Sometimes, he is driven mad by Carina but feels a visceral bond with her. He cannot imagine his life without her. She just loves him, and fights for him with all her strength. But she has her own set of values that don’t always chime with the Roma Novan ones…

Was there a particular scene in this story that was a challenge to write?

Not particularly. The one I had to do most research on was about illicit drugs – not an area I knew much about. But I have a friend who was a prison officer, so I grilled her!

When you are done with this series, what is next for you?

Well, I have just written book 4 – that’s gone to my structural editor and I’ve drafted part of book 5. These two, plus book 6, form another three book cycle based in 1960/70s Roma Nova, and tell the story of Aurelia Mitela, Carina’s grandmother. I think I’ll be immersed in Roma Nova for a little while longer!

Where can readers buy your book?

Online as an ebook at Amazon, B&N Nook, iTunes, Kobo, plus as a paperback at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online; all the direct links are HERE

Alison, it has been a pleasure chatting with you and I would like to say thank you for being such a big supporter of indieBRAG, self-publishing and for sharing your wonderful and thrilling stories. The world needs more people like you. Please come back to Layered Pages again soon!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alison Morton, who is the author of, SUCCESSIO, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, SUCCESSIO, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Author Alison Morton

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Stephanie: Hello Alison! Welcome back and thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning for the B.R.A.G Medallion twice! Today, I would like to talk to you about your book that won the first medallion, INCEPTIO. Please tell your audience a little about your story.

Alison: Hi Stephanie. Thank you so such for having me on Authors’ Chat. Yes, I’m delighted to have been twice honoured.

INCEPTIO is an alternate history thriller, the first in the Roma Nova series, which begins when New Yorker Karen Brown, terrified after a kidnap attempt and hunted by a killer, is forced to flee to her mother’s mysterious homeland in Europe – Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety – at a price. But the killer has followed her and sets a vicious trap knowing she’ll have no choice but to spring it…

Incepto

Stephanie: Please tell me a little about the mysterious Roma Nova and how you came up with that name.

Alison: ‘Roma Nova’ means ‘New Rome’ in Latin, and this is the language they speak, although it has evolved over the centuries. Roma Nova is a small semi-mountainous country, somewhere between Austria and Italy, high tech, and keeping the traditional Roman values. The founders who wanted to keep the old Roman gods and religion were being persecuted by the Christian Emperor Theodosius, so left Rome in AD 395 and trekked north.

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

Given the unstable, dangerous times in Roma Nova’s first few hundred years, and their fierce desire to survive, eventually the daughters as well as sons had to put on armour and carry weapons to defend their new homeland and way of life. Over the next sixteen centuries women developed leadership roles in all parts of Roma Novan life. You can get the full story here.

Stephanie: What was your inspiration for this book?

Alison: Three things! As an eleven year old fascinated by the mosaics in Ampurias, a huge Roman site in Spain, I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe it was just a precocious kid asking a smartass question or early onset of feminism. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?” I thought about it for several decades…

The second piece of the jigsaw was reading Robert Harris’ wonderful alternate history, Fatherland that came out in 1992. I hadn’t realized you could project history in a different line.

The third thing that triggered novel writing was a terrible film. The cinematography was good, but the plot dire and narration stop-start.

‘I could do better that that,’ I whispered in the darkened cinema.

‘So why don’t you?’ came my other half’s reply.

Ninety days later, I’d completed the first (very bad) draft of INCEPTIO.

Stephanie: What are Karen Brown’s weaknesses and strengths?

Alison: She’s not particularly happy or unhappy, but gets on with most people around her whether at her regular, boring office job or her weekend volunteer work as a park guide. Both her parents are dead and her cousins uncaring so she’s learned to be self-sufficient, but this makes her lonely, wary and prone to not believing in herself. She’s outdoorsy and enjoys jogging and squash and circuit training, so she’s fit. As terrifying things happen to her, she is surprised to find herself resilient. But Karen has a temper and when she thinks people are being unfair or unkind, that temper comes out for an airing.

Stephanie: What genre does this book fall under and what do you like most about writing in it?

Alison: Primarily, INCEPTIO is a thriller, but there are no dripping body parts or detailed, gratuitous violence. The tension, or suspense, comes more from threats and Karen’s reactions to them. There is an emotional relationship and that weaves in and out the action, but it’s not a romance as such. As the story is set in an alternate timeline, I use “alternate history thriller” which sums up the combination of elements quite neatly.

I enjoy alternate history as it is a sub-genre of history that allows me to expand beyond the normal framework of historical writing. However, I’m firmly convinced you have to know your history before you can alternate it.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and were there any challenges? What research was involved?

Alison: The first (very rough) draft took 90 days and then I started to learn my trade as a novelist! It was only three years later after courses, conferences, writing group, beta readers, full editing, etc. that I felt confident enough to publish INCEPTIO. I have a history and cross-cultural background and have been immersed in the Roman world since childhood, but was never too proud to check and/or research any tiny detail I was worried about. And the military scenes? Well, I spent six years in uniform as a reserve officer…

Stephanie: Writers develop their own writing practice or habit-if you will-that tailors to their own needs. Stephen King writes 2000 words a day and Jack London wrote 1000 to 1500 words each day from what I hear. What is yours? And what helps you get started?

Alison: I aim for 1,000 words a day, with an absolute minimum of 500. I have a back problem, and write in spurts of an hour mixed in with checking the little things that come along when writing. Walking and thinking time and rehearsal-in-the-head time are absolutely necessary before sitting down and writing; it makes your writing time more efficient. I’m often heard muttering characters’ dialogue as I’m gardening or cooking lunch.

Stephanie: Where in your home do you like to write?

Alison: I can show you this! [see photo] We converted part of the basement under our house into an office. A writer must have a properly equipped and comfortable workplace, a dedicated personalised space so that their muse feels inspired to come out to play. More about where I write

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Alison: I discovered it via Layered Pages(!) and shortly after that saw my writing friend Paula Lofting had been awarded the Medallion. Indie/self-publishing needs a high-level quality mark and I’ve been very impressed (and mildly terrified) by the rigourous selection procedure.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Alison: In many ways! Paperbacks can be ordered through your local bookshop or online and the ebook is available though most online retailers. I’ve compiled a list here of the most popular ones so that readers have a good choice.

Read more about Alison here

Stephanie: Part two of our interview with be held here on March 20th and will include a giveaway.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alison Morton, who is the author of, INCEPTIO, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, INCEPTIO merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.