Characters in Motion with Alison Morton

AURELIA BRAGMeet Aurelia Mitela – woman and warrior

Aurelia Mitela, archetype Roma Novan, came to life when I was writing the first Roma Nova book, INCEPTIO. Then, she was the clever, experienced grandmother of Carina, the book’s heroine.

Let Carina tell you in her own words of her first impression of Aurelia:

“She’d been so concerned for me, but not in a soppy way. Direct and ‘no-nonsense’ fitted her perfectly, but her smile had been warm. I couldn’t help speculating how it would have been to grow up with her instead of the Browns.

I started tapping the keys, surfing for Roma Nova while I was drinking and thinking. I couldn’t leave it alone. My grandmother’s name shot out at me. Fascinated, I loaded the English translation. The screen displayed a list of her business interests. Sketchy on detail, it gave some personal stuff at the end: head of the influential Mitela family, senator and government advisor, cousin to the current imperatrix. She really was a big hitter.”

In PERFIDITAS, we see Aurelia, the cool ex-Praetorian, holding the family together after they’d been falsely arrested:

“[Aurelia to Carina] ‘I’ve been through a great deal worse. I’m not a little old lady out of some genteel novel.’

No, she truly wasn’t. She’d been PGSF [Praetorian Guard Special Forces] in her time, even led the attack to retake the city during the civil war. Although now in her mid-seventies, she definitely belonged to the “tough gals” league.

She gave me a close description of the arresting party. What a difference it made when the victim was a trained professional and could give you precise, detailed information. She’d printed off her statement and signed it already.”

 Throughout the first three books, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO, we catch glimpses of Aurelia’s early life, but even more, a whole range of questions are thrown up. What did she do in the Great Rebellion nearly twenty-three years before the time of INCEPTIO? Why is she so anxious when she compares the villain in SUCCESSIO to Caius Tellus, the brutal ‘First Consul’ who instigated the rebellion all those years ago? Who was the great love of Aurelia’s life that Carina only learns about in SUCCESSIO?

In AURELIA, the fourth book which takes us back to the late 1960s, Aurelia is accused of murder while on a mission to Berlin, and while in remand undergoes a (hostile) psychological assessment. Here’s the report on her:

Subject is highly rational, quick-minded and a natural leader. She sees nothing is impossible given enough time and resources. Subject has the confident personality and willpower to pursue and implement her goals, easily bringing others with her. A dominant personality.

 Strategic thinker, curious, innovative, able to grasp and deal with problems with determination and precision. Energetic and excellent communication skills, happy to confront and negotiate with others. Intelligent enough to recognise other people’s talents, and work with them. Requires challenges and even failures, or her self-confidence could easily turn into arrogance and condescension.

 Personalities of this type cannot tolerate inefficiency or those whom they perceive as lazy or incompetent. They can be chillingly cold and ruthless when the situation arises, operating purely on logic and rationality.

 They interact very well with others, often charming them to their cause, and paying attention to other people’s feelings – or at least pretending that they do. Most mature and successful personalities of this type are genuine in this aspect to some extent, even though their sensitivity may hide a cold and calculating mind.

 This is a slant on the classic ENTJ personality profile from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric test system popular in business to indicate psychological preferences about how people perceive the world and make decisions. I needed to make the report negative for the story, but positive aspects of this type of personality are that they are conceptual and global thinkers, able to see connections where others don’t, and to think ahead. Couple this with the intuition and sense of fair play many ENTJs possess, it can make life frustrating for this personality when people around them don’t grasp things the way they do. Of course, this conflict is a gift for a writer…

In essence, Aurelia is a blood-and-bone Roma Novan whose values are based on traditional ancient Roman ones; tough, loyal with a strong sense of duty and fully aware of her responsibilities as head of a great family. But her desire to keep all the balls juggling in the air with precise timing leads to her being riven by guilt if she doesn’t perform a hundred per cent.

Aurelia has one vulnerability, her love for her frail daughter, Marina. This vulnerability, and willingness to sacrifice everything for Marina, is also her greatest strength, along with her determination to serve her country.

Is she sympathetic? Yes, because under all that resolution and toughness, she is still a human being who experiences fear, love, despair and grief. She bitterly misses the strong comradeship of her earlier military career, and is exhilarated when going back into action. And then, there is her devotion to her life-long love, elusive though he sometimes is…

AURELIA is the fourth book in the Roma Nova thriller series,  BRAG Medallion Honoree and currently a finalist in the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award

Watch the AURELIA trailer

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site

Facebook author page 

Twitter  @alison-morton

Amazon author page

About Alison

AURELIA BRAG MedallionEven before she pulled on her first set of military 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 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, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women.

Alison holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history. Her memberships include: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association. Represented by Blake Friedman Literary Agency for overseas and ancillary rights, Alison lives in France with her husband and writes Roman-themed thrillers with tough heroines.

 

 

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

03_Alison Morton_Author

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

04_Aurelia_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

 

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…

SUCCESSIO_BRAG

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 Part II: Author Alison Morton

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Stephanie: I would like to welcome and introduce Author Alison Morton. Two time winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion for her books, INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS.

Hello, Alison. It is a pleasure to have you back and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion for your book, PERFIDITAS. Please tell your audience about your story.

Alison: First of all, thank you so much, Stephanie, for inviting me here – I’m delighted to be able to share my particular vision of history and talk about PERFIDITAS, the latest in my series of alternate history thrillers.

We’re in present day Europe, in Roma Nova, the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century. It’s been seven years since Karen Brown fled New York (see INCEPTIO) to become Carina and take up her inheritance as the heir of a leading family and pursue a career as an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces.

But she’s in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating rebellion thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.

Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once she’s proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…

Perfiditas II

Stephanie: Did you learn anything new about writing INCEPTIO and did you carry it over to PERFIDITAS? 

Alison: I learnt my craft writing while INCEPTIO; not purely technical things like voice and structure but about not being precious about my work; listening to other, more experienced authors; balancing up all the advice and then making my own decision. Research figured very heavily as I wanted to bring more of the Roman feel to PERFIDITAS. INCEPTIO was the gentle way into the series; in PERFIDITAS, our heroine is truly part of the Roma Nova society. My respect for beta readers and professional editors increased and I appreciated even more the huge benefit of having professional publishing services working for me.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story?

Alison: I started drafting it in 2010, but as I was concentrating on having INCEPTIO published, I had to leave it and come back to it in 2011. It took around six months in all, including the research. After finishing the first draft, I left it for a few weeks to mature, then went back to revise it. You see all kinds of mistakes when you come back to a manuscript after a break.

Stephanie: Will there be a third book?

Alison: Indeed! The third is called SUCCESSIO which in Latin has the double meaning of ‘what happened next’ and ‘the next generation’. Carina and Conrad are faced with a nemesis from the past that throws the most difficult challenge they have even met straight at them. SUCCESSIO will be out late May/early June.

Stephanie: Please tell me about Conrad. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Alison: “He didn’t need to move his lips to smile; it was in his eyes. Hazel with unfairly generous lashes, set in an angular, sculpted face. Sure, he looked good: tall, dark blond hair, the fit build of a professional soldier, but that wasn’t it. Fortuna had blessed him with the gift of charm. When he smiled, every man wanted to be his friend, to have his respect and companionship; every woman wanted him in her bed.

But when he was angry, his face shrank back onto its bones, the tilting eyes tilted more, and his lips almost disappeared. When I saw that expression, I was sure there had to be a Norseman or Hun in his gene pool.”

Conrad has had a terrible childhood that has made him uptight and a little cynical. He internalises hurt and doesn’t let his defences down easily. He’s overwhelmed and driven crazy by Carina, and in a way she is his weakness. He heads an elite military force, so he’s tough, but also fair with his troops. Sometimes his loyalty to Roma Nova makes him appear inflexible, but he is just as loyal and protective of his children. Like any man, whether in a standard society or an egalitarian one like Roma Nova, he reacts when somebody steps into his territory, especially when it concerns Carina…

Stephanie: Will you stick with writing within the Alternate History genre?

Alison: For at least the next four books! Roma Nova is a complete alternate world with a historical timeline of its own, so I think there is a great deal more to share with readers. I’m planning three more around another Roma Nova character whom we’ve already met but whose full story is crying out to be told.

Stephanie: Who are your influences when it comes to writing?

Alison: That is such a difficult question to answer! Whenever you pick up a new book, you face the pleasure and danger that it might be the book that drives the rest of your (writing) life. But recent strong influences have been Robert Harris’ Fatherland, Lindsey Davies Roman detective Falco series and J D Robb’s Eve Dallas ‘Death’ series.

Life influences have included an enduring fascination with Rome over its 1,229 years from its military ruthlessness, its fantastic engineering and high culture to its framework of law and values and the drive for knowledge that it left to the world. The other main influence for the Roma Nova books have been my own time in uniform which I loved; the sense of achievement, common purpose and comradeship were unequalled. And that’s how I met my husband!

Stephanie: When you are not writing, are there any hobbies you have? Like gardening, walking, crafting?

Alison: Haha! Well, I enjoy eating, breathing and sleeping. 😉 Writers are terrible obsessives and I’m no different, but we both enjoy walking and eating out. I run the local English book club here in France, write a monthly column for the English language magazine and I’m standing for the local council. So I think my calendar is quite full.

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Alison: Firstly, thank you for buying my books; I’ve loved showing you around Roma Nova and introducing you to Carina. I really appreciate being part of the indieBRAG family. As readers you know that these self-published works are worth your confidence, time and hard-earned money! The support of loyal readers cannot be valued too highly. Many of you also post reviews on Amazon/Goodreads/iBooks/B&N/Kobo, feedback which is crucial for any writer to improve. I love talking about Roma Nova, so do make contact with me via my blogFacebook Author Page or on Twitter. If you’d like to keep up to date on Roma Nova, find out quirky facts and interact, do sign up for my newsletter

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Alison: Readers can download an extract and buy PERFIDITAS on a variety of online sites – links list here – as well as order the paperback through their local bookshop.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alison, who is the author of, PERFIDITAS, 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, PERFIDITAS merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.