My Friday Read this week is INSURRECTIO by Alison Morton, the latest of her fascinating Roma Nova novel. Alison writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines but always with a strong love relationship running through them.
‘The second fall of Rome?’
Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and imperial councillor in Roma Nova, scoffs at her intelligence chief when he throws a red file on her desk.
But early 1980s Roma Nova, the last province of the Roman Empire that has survived into the twentieth century, has problems – a ruler frightened of governing, a centuries-old bureaucracy creaking for reform and, worst of all, a rising nationalist movement with a charismatic leader who wants to destroy Aurelia.
Horrified when her daughter is brutally attacked in a demonstration turned riot, Aurelia tries to rally resistance to the growing fear and instability. But it may already be too late to save Roma Nova from meltdown and herself from entrapment and destruction by her lifelong enemy.…
One morning, I found Miklós dozing on the sofa in the atrium, still wearing the casual suit and shirt he’d gone out in the evening before. His upturned loafers had been deposited at the side. His face was tight, his lips straight, slightly turned down at each end; he was almost frowning. My heart clenched. I’d seen that look many times before in the past twelve years. I couldn’t bear to wake him and hear him confirm it.
I was sipping my coffee when he appeared in the dining room an hour later dressed in his leathers. His black curls were still damp which made him look like a cherub who’d been river-bathing. But his expression was far from heavenly as he plonked himself down opposite me and helped himself to bread and cheese. He said nothing until he’d munched his way through two slices and drunk a whole mug of coffee.
‘Yes?’ I interrupted.
‘I have to go.’
‘I know.’ I couldn’t stop the tears squeezing out from the corners of my eyes.
‘I haven’t found out a single thing about Caius. I’ve followed him nearly every night this last month. It’d be rash to say he’s given up, but I think you’re safe.’ He glanced at me. ‘I know you don’t need me to protect you with all your Praetorians and security. My scouts will tell me if anything looks out of the ordinary.’ He stood up. ‘It’s so stifling here.’ He looked past me at the wall. ‘It’s not the city and you know it’s not you. I need to stretch myself, somewhere I can ride for days, weeks, not hours. And I have some business to conduct.’
I knew the almost deserted high alp in the west of Roma Nova wasn’t wide enough for somebody born on the Magyar Plains. Nor was the regulated city a place he could thrive indefinitely. But I felt sick and empty.
In the courtyard, he grabbed me around the waist and almost crushed me. He nuzzled my neck. His curls brushed the skin on my face. I gasped at the tingle that raced through me. He whispered in my ear. ‘You know I will never stop loving you, my heart and soul.’
‘Don’t go. Please,’ I whispered back.
‘It’s only for a few weeks.’
I shook my head.
He stared at me, bent and kissed my lips almost chastely, then turned and climbed on his new Bayerischer motorbike. He revved the engine and roared out of the gate. I watched the blue and silver vanish to a speck before I went back inside and threw myself on the bed. He’d be back, but I kept him by letting him go.
Buying link for Alison’s latest book INSURRECTIO (multiple retailers/formats):
INSURRECTIO book trailer: https://youtu.be/eXGslRLjv6g
More books in the series
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilisation. Armed with an MA in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.
Represented by Blake Friedman Literary Agency for overseas and ancillary rights.
Alison now lives in France with her husband, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine.
I asked Alison to tell us a bit more about herself.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve written all my life but apart from my first play at age 7 when I was the princess (obvs), most of my writing has been translation, editing, government papers, PR materials, reports, corporate documentation, academic theses and complaint letters!
It was only when I saw a really bad film at the cinema and whispered to my husband. “I could do better than that!” His reply? “Well why don’t you?” Ninety days and 90,000 words later, I had produced my first manuscript.
Has any author inspired you?
I read across so many genres so may I have two? Georgette Heyer and Robert Harris. I grew up on Heyer, entranced especially by her strong women, especially Arabella, Venetia and the ‘grand’ Sophy. Robert Harris, in contrast, showed me with ‘Fatherland’ that a good thriller could be written against an alternative timeline.
My Roma Nova thrillers combine both these influences; my heroines are strong and are right in the middle of the action, directing it mostly, but both have an enduring love relationship with a man they can’t live without.
What do you like writing most?
Dialogue! This is where the characters show us their thoughts and motivations. Or not. Sometimes silences during dialogue can be more telling. For writers it’s a great opportunity to show how different each character is from the others without telling the reader directly.
Do you have a special place for writing?
I do indeed! When we moved to France, we converted part of our basement into an office. The desks and cupboards came from my old office in the translation company I ran before I sold it. At the end of the day, I can stop work, close the door and go upstairs and enjoy my glass of wine!
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
Good question! This is one I feature when I give workshops on plotting. After six novels I’ve come to the conclusion I’m about 20% planner and 80% pantser. I rough out a plan of thirty lines with inciting incident, three critical moments, the dark moment, the climax and resolution, then sit down and type.
That sounds a good plan, Alison!
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
Haha! Yes. My mother was a ‘gentle’ feminist and brought my brother and me up as equal. It always puzzled me when people talked about ‘girls’ things’ and ‘boys’ things’. We both learnt basic household and DIY skills, learnt to drive and had a (second-hand) car at 18, we both went to university. So this equality is natural to me and I’ve just pushed it a little further in my books to make my heroines the ones running things – a mirror to our own world. ;-)
Oh! And I spent six years in the military – I even met my husband while I was on exercise in Cyprus. Describing my heroines’ service in a unit like the Roma Nova Praetorian Guard wasn’t a problem.
What are you writing at the moment?
The manuscript for my sixth novel, RETALIO, has just gone to the copy editor. It’s the third in the second trilogy within the overall series; I tend to write in trilogies! The first three books feature a contemporary heroine, Carina, the second trilogy set in the late 1960s to early 1980s features her grandmother, Aurelia, as a young woman. Now I’m writing a novella set between the first and second books in the series, so I’m back to Carina!
What inspired you to write this book?
In the first trilogy – INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO – which dip into the heroine’s life at age 24, 32 and 39, I refer to events that took place outside those books. The novella is an exploration of one of those events. Whether it works or not is another question!
What time of the day do you write best?
It varies! I used to write mornings and evenings, now it’s more in the afternoon. Mornings seem to be filled with writing articles/posts, admin, emails and social media. Once all that’s out of the way, I can concentrate on writing.
What are your hobbies?
What’s a hobby? J Well, I like walking, swimming, gardening, visiting vineyards, eating in local restaurant and sometimes slobbing out with a book in my hand.
What advice would you give to other writers?
Bash your story out, then self-edit critically. Pick over every word in every sentence. Pick over every sentence and every scene – polish or delete. Above all, be persistent and believe in your own work.
Great advice, Alison!
Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison-morton
Alison’s Amazon page: http://Author.to/AlisonMortonAmazon
Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your fascinating books, Alison.
Bring a little sunshine into your life!
Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with on cold winter nights. Published by Accent Press