Tag Archives: Guest Blogger

The Other Rome: Alison Morton on Her Roma Nova Series

A picture of Alison Morton This week, my writing friend Alison Morton is publishing the fourth in her Roma Nova thriller series, AURELIA. We share an interest in all things Roman, so I asked Alison to tell us about Roma Nova where her books are set.

Thanks for inviting me on to your blog, Sandy!

Roma Nova started in my head when I was eleven years old, fascinated by the Roman mosaics at Ampurias, in northeast Spain. My father told me all about soldiers and senators, traders and engineers, farmers and settlers, politicos and slaves. I listened under the hot sun and when he’d finished, I asked, “What would it have been like if women were in charge?”

Clever man, he replied, “Well, what do you think it would be like?”

A picture of little Alison on the mosaic

Little Alison & the Roman Mosaics

Normal life intervened, but this slightly fantastical idea stayed in my head. When I sat in front of my computer to start writing my first novel a few decades later, the story sprung out and my fingers had to work hard to keep up with my brain!

So what is Roma Nova?

It’s a small (imaginary) country somewhere in central Europe founded sixteen hundred years ago by a group of dissident Romans wanting to keep their traditional religion and values. Apulius, the leader of Roma Nova’s founders in AD 395, had married a tough daughter of a Celtic princeling in Noricum (roughly today’s Austria). She’d left her native Virunum twenty years before, travelled to Rome, found Apulius and married him the day of her arrival. She came from a society in which, although Romanised for several generations, women made decisions, fought in battles and managed inheritance and property. Their four daughters were amongst the first pioneers so necessarily had to act more decisively than they would have in a traditional urban Roman setting.

Given the unstable, dangerous times in Roma Nova’s first few hundred years, eventually the daughters as well as sons had to put on armour and carry weapons to defend their homeland and their way of life. Fighting danger side by side with brothers and fathers reinforced women’s roles. And in light of their ancestors’ persecution by the Christian emperor in the late fourth century, they never allowed the incursion of monotheistic paternalistic religions.

Photo of woman fighter with attribution Photo courtesy of Britannia www.durolitum.co.uk

Photo courtesy of Britannia www.durolitum.co.uk

So I don’t think that it’s too far a stretch for women to have developed leadership roles in all parts of Roma Novan life over the next sixteen centuries.

 Tell us about your books – why thrillers?

Well, much as I love, live and breathe the alternate timeline of Roma Nova, I didn’t want to bore readers with a straight counterfactual history. And I adore thrillers, especially with lots of twists and turns and a strong heroine. So I put these themes altogether into the first book, INCEPTIO, which means ‘beginning’. A 24-year-old New York office worker realises somebody is hunting her because of her family connections with Roma Nova…. And this same heroine continues through PERFIDITAS (betrayal) and SUCCESSIO (next generation).

AURELIA, which is out this week, is set in the late 1960s and tells the story of the threat against the first heroine’s grandmother. Quite a lot of the action takes place in Berlin, but in a world where the Second World War didn’t happen…

cover of Alison's Morton AURELIALate 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. 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…

Watch the book trailer video. Warning: there is exciting music!

AURELIA is available from Amazon and other ebook retailers or as a paperback from Amazon or through any bookshop. (All direct links here)

Find out more about Alison and Roma Nova here: http://alison-morton.com
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison-morton
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_Morton

An Interview with Janet Mullany

I’m excited to welcome fellow author Janet Mullany to my blog today. Janet has just released her latest historical romance A CERTAIN LATITUDE, and she has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her book.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m the granddaughter of an Edwardian house servant on one side of the family, and on the other side my grandfather may have been Lenin’s roomie in Switzerland (a family rumor that the family geneaologist is researching). I’ve been writing about eleven years now but I’ve always, and still do, read a lot. I think reading is essential to a writer.

As a backdrop for your latest release A CERTAIN LATITUDE, you’ve chosen the rather dark backdrop of slavery and abolitionist movement. What inspired this story?

A book–Bury the Chains, by Adam Hochschild, about the British abolitionist movement. I had only the very vaguest idea of what this involved, and I grew up and was educated in England! It’s a fascinating part of history, a movement that involved men and women of all classes who felt that the slave trade–the most lucrative industry in the country, the mainstay of the economy–was wrong. The movement, which lasted over thirty years, ended when the Anti Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807. Emancipation came over three decades later. That’s the history lesson. Great conflict! I originally intended to set the whole book in England, but the editor for whom I originally wrote it (it was published in 2007 as Forbidden Shores under the name of Jane Lockwood), insisted I set it in the Caribbean. I really didn’t want to because the reality of slavery was appalling: the economic model was to work people to death. I wasn’t that interested in an exotic setting–give me Quakers collecting signatures for petitions in the rain any time. I should also mention that A Certain Latitude is a rewrite of the original.

Tell us a little about the research you did for this project.

Having blown my original advance on downspouts, gutters, a new washer and dryer, and the MC bill, as one does, I relied on the internet. Some amazing sites I discovered were the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, the BBC’s resources on abolition, and Brycchan Carey’s site. I also became interested in the black community of Georgian England, which continues to fascinate me. Although most slaves were worked to death in the sugar industry if they survived the voyage out, some ended up in England, and from Roman times England has always had a black community. I visited Bristol and its museums–possibly that city and Liverpool were the more famous slave ports, but in fact London was the biggest. And by the way, the movie Amazing Grace was bizarrely simplistic, and twisted historical facts like only the movie business can! For life aboard a ship, most of my research comes from The Last Grain Race by Eric Newby, his account of life as a crewman sailing from Dublin to Australia in 1939.

In one scene, your heroine throws her spinster’s cap and her gray wooly stockings into the ocean. Tell us more about Clarissa Onslowe. What kind of woman is she?

She’s someone who has nothing to lose. It makes her reckless and very courageous, but also capable of making some unwise choices. She’s been cast out by her family after having been caught out in an affair, something clergyman’s daughters just didn’t do, and was exiled as a housekeeper to an elderly relative. She’s now seeking to redeem herself by going to the sugar island as a governess, but intending to write and publish a book on the conditions of female slaves, hoping that then her family, also abolitionists, will accept her again.

The heat level in your historicals is typically rather high. 🙂 Tell us how you manage to balance the erotic content and the historical conventions.

I think that’s one of the most interesting and challenging parts of writing historicals. You have to work with the reality of people never getting entirely naked for sex and also believing that any activity without a fighting chance of conception was a mortal sin (if that’s what you mean by the historical conventions?) and if I stuck with that it could be a fairly yawnworthy book. On the other hand dodgy contraception, ignorance and guilt are still with us, so possibly not much has changed.  There’s lots of undressing in this book! I love the textures and fabrics of that period.

Which authors have inspired you?

Jane Austen. It always comes back to her. I’ve also learned a lot from Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield, who is one of the smartest writers out there, particularly on writing erotic material. Georgette Heyer was a great influence on me when I first started writing but I can’t bear to read her now, and I’m very relieved she didn’t know about London’s black population in the Regency.

Janet at Chawton House in England

What are you working on right now?

I’m writing about Allen and Clarissa seven years after the end of A Certain Latitude. It’s a book about the seven year itch, what you do after devoting your life to a cause that has succeeded, and whether it’s possible to stop yourself falling in love. It’s called A Certain Proposition and I hope it will be out in about three months. When I was (re)writing A Certain Latitude I found myself wondering what would happen to them after their rather adventurous time together.

What was your favourite book of 2013?

Longbourn by Jo Baker, which is P&P from the servants’ point of view. I’m wild with envy that I didn’t have the idea first or the writing chops for it since I’m fascinated by servants in the Georgian/Regency period.

Thanks so much, Janet!

Janet Mullany grew up in England and has worked as an archaeologist, performing arts administrator, classical music radio announcer, bookseller, and editor, and unexpectedly became a writer eleven years ago. She lives outside Washington, DC, where she reads voraciously and teaches a cat manners.

You can visit her online at www.JanetMullany.com

Or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

A CERTAIN LATITUDE is now available from Amazon.

Introducing Farrah Rochon

Farrah Rochon is one of the newest members of the Dorchester family. Her debut novel, DELIVER ME, will hit bookstores next Tuesday — so this is a very exciting time for her! (Though judging from her blog, she seems a lot saner than I was in the weeks before my debut novel came out *g*) (Pssst, shall we tell her that her book is probably already out in New York?)

I’ve asked Farrah to answer a few questions for me, so please welcome her to Sandy’s Chatterblog:

How did you get started writing romance?

There is an interesting twist to how I began writing romantic fiction. In early 2001, I began posting on an online message board for my favorite romance writer. In July of that year, I met a group of fellow message board members in New Orleans at a book signing associated with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Convention. At the time, I had not even heard of RWA, and had no aspirations of writing romance. But things drastically changed over the course of that year. My friends discovered that I was writing a novel, and encouraged me to try my hand at writing a romance novel. By the same time the next year, I had completed my first romance novel and was attending the RWA National Convention in Denver as a new member of the organization.

Tell me about DELIVER ME:

DELIVER ME is actually the fifth full manuscript I had completed before getting published. I’d written a magnificent suspense/thriller (that statement is dripping with sarcasm) while in college, and a three book series of category romances targeted to Silhouette’s Intimate Moments line. I never though I could write one of those “big books”. Then, one day as I was driving home from work, there was a commercial for a gynecology practice on the radio. A very crude, but funny, line popped into my head as I started thinking of what a typical conversation between guys would be after hearing such a commercial. It planted the seed for an Ob-gyn romance hero, who has friends (or, as the case turned out, brothers) who rib him about what he faces daily in his occupation. Don’t worry, the crude line did not make it into the book.

The decision to set DELIVER ME in New Orleans was very easy since it is my home town. However, when Hurricane Katrina blew in, it caused a number of problems. You see, DELIVER ME was written about a year and a half before Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. When I finally sold my novel, the landscape of the book’s setting had been forever changed, and I had to make the decision to incorporate those changes into the book. My editor gave me the option of simply writing an Author’s Note stating that the book predated Hurricane Katrina, but I’m happy I decided not to take the easy way out. I think the book is much better, and in a way, a tribute to the beautiful Crescent City and its current efforts to rebuild.

What are you working on right now?

I completed the second brother, Tobias’s book, a few weeks ago. Tentatively titled, RELEASE ME, Toby’s book turned out even better than I could have imagined. Toby is an ex-basketball pro turned music producer, and his newest client is picked to star in an American Idol-type reality television show. The book was an absolute blast to write.

I just started the last book in my Holmes Brothers series. This is the book I’ve been waiting to write. Over the course of the last three years, I’ve gotten to know this book’s hero, Alexander Holmes, very well. He is definitely my kind of hero, a widower who is raising his six-year-old daughter on his own and had an extremely strong sense of family. Alex is tortured, to say the least, but its just going to make his Happy Ever After that much sweeter.


Thanks a lot, Farrah! An ob-gyn hero — how cool is that? Unfortunately, I’ve never been to New Orleans myself, but have only ever “seen” it through Anne Rice’s eyes (I loved, loved, loved the Vampire Chronicles before they turned, well, strange), so it will be very interesting to read your book and get all those new impressions of the town. Living through Katrina must have been very scary indeed.