It’s a real pleasure today to welcome Alison Morton, author of the much loved Roma Nova thriller series, as my guest here on Being Anne. Alison’s been my guest before, to mark the release of the sixth in the series, Retalio, last year: you can catch up with her post again here, a really excellent introduction to the whole series. The eighth in the series, Roma Nova Extra, was published yesterday (19th October) – and this is one I plan to read and review as soon as I can. You’ll find all the buying links below, and (with thanks to Alison) I’m delighted to offer the chance to win a free e-book. Here’s Alison to tell us more…
A terrible dilemma was before me. I’d been asked to contribute a short story to a collection that a very good writing friend was masterminding. It was to be an anthology of alternative history short stories centred on the Norman invasion of England (or not) 1066 Turned Upside Down. Short stories were not my thing. Distilling a tale down to a few thousand words seemed a terrifying task: a single story/theme/conflict; ideally two to three characters with a maximum of four or five; single setting; short period of time, ultra quick resolution after the climax, no sub-plots, little if any world-building and no wide cast of characters.
I’d done a few short stories in my early writing career and even been shortlisted in a writing magazine competition, but I wasn’t truly comfortable with the genre. Now I realise that in 2009 I wasn’t an experienced or practised enough writer. My ‘apprenticeship’ was to last until 2012 and by then I was writing the first full-length thriller.
Set in an imaginary European mini-state with strong Roman values and where women run things, the two Roma Nova trilogies are 100,000 words long! Heroines Carina and Aurelia battle their way through sub-plots galore, deal with complex characters, plenty of conflict, personal and professional dilemmas, entangled love lives, yet keep the ruler and state of Roma Nova safe.
Even though I was known as specialising in alternative history stories, I nearly refused the 1066 project. But how could I miss the biggest ‘what if’ of English history? And how wonderful would it be if an eleventh century Roma Novan female envoy clashed with the macho William of Normandy? I gritted my teeth and wrote it. And I found I loved the experience!
Uncovering hidden backstory and ancient secrets… But short stories of my own? I’d broken the barrier with 1066, but I was unsure. In the end my curiosity caught me. When writing the Roma Nova novels, I’d enjoyed giving the characters their own backstory as it illuminated how they became the characters they were. But I’d always wanted to explore hidden incidents in my protagonists’ lives, delve back into Roma Nova’s earliest days and also find out what happened to characters after the main trilogies ended. I asked my Roma Nova Enthusiasts’ Group who they would like to know more about. Then I began…
Roma Nova Extra sprang into life. Well, possibly lurched in fits and starts. But this is the huge advantage of writing short stories; each one can be written individually in a relatively short time. Seven of the eight in this collection range from 3,000 words to 10,000 (not quite the classic length!). At 18,000 words, the eighth story was originally going to be a separate novelette, but it seemed the perfect complement to the others. Together, they cover a historical range from AD370 to 2029.
Lucius Apulius, a military tribune in the dusk of the Roman Empire, is posted from a plum staff position with one of the most influential commanders at the time to a Danube backwater. The reason? Wrong religion.
His indirect descendant, Allegra Mitela, a tough 21st century Praetorian, struggles with her identity and emotional life. How did the eighteen-year-old Imperatrix Silvia, exhausted and lonely after the liberation of Roma Nova in the 1980s, meet her Italian husband? And what was the ancient mystery uncovered by Conrad and Carina during their ‘Roman holiday’?
Some are love stories, some are life lessons learned, some resolve tensions and unrealistic visions, some are plain adventures, but above all, they are stories of people in dilemmas, in conflict, in trouble and their efforts to resolve them. Oh, and there are a few surprises…
Do you need to have read the other books first? No.
Readers of Inceptio, Perfiditas, Successio, Aurelia, Insurrectio, Retalio and Carina will be familiar with many of the characters, but it’s not essential by any means as the stories are complete in themselves. However, I hope readers new to Roma Nova may find these glimpses intriguing enough to read some of the longer books.
Many thanks Alison – I’ll look forward to my first Roma Novan experience…
One lucky winner will receive a free ebook of Roma Nova Extra. Enter below for your chance to win!
The Roma Nova Extra stories – the complete list:
The Girl from the Market AD 370
Victory Speaks AD 395 A
Roman Intervenes 1066
Silvia’s story 1987
Conrad and Carina’s Roman Holiday 2019
Saturnalia Surprise 2027
Allegra and Macrinus 2029
About the author
Alison Morton writes the award-winning Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of history with six years’ military service in a special communications regiment and a life of reading historical, adventure and thriller fiction.
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds an MA History and blogs about Romans and writing.
Now she continues to write thrillers with tough heroines, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.