Friday, 15 May 2015

Aurelia by Alison Morton 

Series: Roma Nova #4
Release Date:  5th May 2015
Publisher: Silverwood Books
Genres: Historical Fiction

Thanks, JB for inviting me here today to talk about how I researched my new book out this month, AURELIA. It’s the fourth in the Roma Nova thriller series, and goes back to the late 1960s to feature the early story of Aurelia Mitela, a character we met in her later life in the first three books. It’s a stand-alone story of adventure, love, danger and justice with a sprinkling of humour and a tough heroine with inner doubts. You don’t have to have read the others in the series to enjoy it.

Here’s what it’s about…
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 Mikl√≥s, a known smuggler 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...

Some thoughts on researching for this book
Writing of any sort needs research whether it’s a modern shoes-and-shopping story, crime thriller or a historical epic.

Almost every story written hinges on a set-up or a problem the writer has purposefully created, but it must be plausible. Readers will follow as long as the writer keeps their attention and, most importantly, their trust. Strongly coupled with this is keeping the book’s world internally consistent, crucial in any science fiction, fantasy or historical setting.

To get these two things right and build a credible world, we need to look at scenery, weather, what the inhabitants look like, their clothes, whether they accept strangers, what they believe in, do they use buses, trains, horses, or just plod everywhere on foot? Can they vote and/or are they subject to a lord or lady’s whim? What jobs do they do, what does the money look like? Do they live in modern towns or medieval hovels? What weapons do they use and crucially, who holds the power? You can see the questions are infinite…

Even though I write alternative history stories set in the present about the imaginary Roma Nova, I still need to research, especially if I’m dipping back into Roma Nova’s past before it diverged from the standard timeline in the late fourth century. And if I’m researching surveillance equipment or telephone systems available at the time, I need to check the specifications very carefully as they may be vital to the plot development.

My personal memories of the late 1960s in the real world were hazy; learning German past participles or the tales of Maupassant, applying for uni, passing my driving test, going to a glamorous cousin’s wedding – she had the most impossible beehive hair-do - and listening to ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ – a typical teenager’s restricted world view! So before I started writing AURELIA, I read fiction written and set at the time plus straightforward reference material, and watched news videos about events, people’s lives and the attitudes of the times.

After three books set mostly in Roma Nova itself, I knew it well in my mind. In AURELIA, the heroine goes to Berlin for part of the book to investigate silver smuggling and illegal trading – an enormous research area in itself!  However, in her alternative world, Berlin was intact as there hadn’t been a Second World War, so I had to imagine a 1960s city with still a lot of the old buildings there. On to the Internet to research images! The station where Aurelia spots the bad guy, the Anhalter Bahnhof, was obliterated in our real time line by bombing, but in my stories it’s there, so I had to go and find some pre-war images in order to describe it for that scene.

When I re-read my first draft, I re-checked facts, figures and settings, marking up anything that looked the least bit dubious for further investigation. Every scene had to sound and feel authentic for the reader, even though the main focus was on the thriller story. As readers don’t want to wade through a big lump of background information, hard-won though it may be, up to 90% of what I had collected in my early research didn’t get into the book. It disappeared into my mental and digital archive. But no research is ever wasted as we find out in the next Roma Nova adventure…

Watch the trailer for AURELIA:

About Alison

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 on her Roma Nova blog:
Twitter @alison-morton

Buying link (multiple retailers/formats):


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4 Responses so far.

  1. Thank you, I've read some of Alison's writing so would love to win.

  2. This sounds like an intriguing read. I've not read any of Alison's work and would love the chance to discover a new favourite

  3. I've got the first two in the series so would love to read all of them - just need more time!!!

  4. Thank you so much for commenting so positively, Jacqueline, Manda and Julie.

    And I'm delighted Jacqueline and Julie are already Roma Nova fans. ;-) Perhaps I can persuade you to visit Roma Nova soon, Manda!

    Happy (further) reading!

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