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

Photo courtesy of Britannia

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:
Facebook author page:
Twitter: @alison-morton