Alison Morton writes gripping and intriguing thrillers set in a world that is neither historical nor futuristic, but a clever combination of both. In her Roman-themed world, women rule. Apart from that – is her writing really so very different from mine? Let’s hear what Alison thinks.
Jenny is the expert in writing contemporary heroines who are facing crises at work and at home, inside the family (aged parents, deceased brothers, erring husbands, etc.). But do heartbreak, dilemmas which tear friends, colleagues and families apart, guilt, love and loyalty also touch tough characters in thrillers or are they all unrealistic kickass superwomen like Lara Croft or Katniss Everdeen?
My heroine Aurelia Mitela lives in Roma Nova, the last remnant of the Roman Empire to survive into the modern age. It’s an egalitarian society with a woman ruler. An former Praetorian soldier, Aurelia is now in her early forties and works hard as a junior government minister. She shares her life with her beloved daughter, Marina and her companion of thirteen years, Miklós, a romantic but restless Hungarian.
[Aurelia about Miklós] 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.
Into this heartbreak drops Aurelia’s nemesis since childhood, Caius, who takes advantage of a weak ruler to make a power grab. Aurelia tries to save the ruler’s daughter, but is trapped. Caius forces her to choose between collaborating with him and condemning her comrades-in-arms and her own daughter.
Collaboration not only sickens her, but goes against her every principle as a Roman. She knows she should refuse, but she cannot allow her daughter to be in danger. One of Aurelia’s worst moments in INSURRECTIO is when she is Caius’s prisoner and discovers Marina has miscarried. Caius holds out a letter he has intercepted.
[Aurelia]‘I took it out of its envelope. The paper was curled as if it had been damp, then dried out. Inside were two pages of sadness, rage and tears. She’d lost the baby. Gods, I needed to be with my daughter now.
When I’d miscarried my unborn child thirteen years ago due to this brutal man opposite me, I’d nearly died inside. The injury had closed off any hope of conceiving another. He knew nothing of the devastation, nor could he even imagine it. And nor would he care if he could.’
Aurelia is literally living on a knife-edge and must bury her natural desire to take direct action against Caius; she suffers agonies of psychological pressure. She is intrinsically an action heroine attempting to survive, and there are plenty of sequences in INSURRECTIO to show her in this role. However, she is very much a woman struggling to make sense of everything in the most trying circumstances.
‘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.
Inceptio, the first in the Roma Nova series. Shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award. B.R.A.G. Medallion and finalist, 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year
Perfiditas (second in series) B.R.A.G. Medallion and 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 and B.R.A.G. Medallion. Editor’s choice, The Bookseller’s inaugural Indie Preview, December 2014
Aurelia (fourth in series), the first of a new cycle of three. Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2015, and B.R.A.G. Medallion and finalist 2016 HNS Indie Award
Insurrectio (fifth in series), the second in the Aurelia cycle of three – to be published 12 April 2016
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.
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 lives in France with her husband and writes Roman-themed thrillers with tough heroines, potters around the garden and drinks wine.
Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History
Memberships: 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
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site