Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Alison Morton, Alternative History Novelist

Today we have the pleasure of interviewing an international author of historical thrillers.

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, was shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award and awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion® in September 2013. The next in series, PERFIDITAS, published October 2013, has also just been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®.  Alison is working on the third book SUCCESSIO which will be out in June 2014.

Connect with Alison on her blog http://alison-morton.com/blog/
Facebook author page  http://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor INCEPTIO Facebook page www.facebook.com/InceptiothrillerPERFIDITAS Facebook page www.facebook.com/Perfiditas
Twitter twitter.com/alison_morton
Goodreads  www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_MortonAmazon UK author page:   www.amazon.co.uk/Alison-Morton/e/B007JZ1XRS/Amazon US author page:  www.amazon.com/Alison-Morton/e/B007JZ1XRS/

Buying links (multiple retailers): http://alison-morton.com/perfiditas/how-to-buy-perfiditas/

To be entered into the drawing to win a copy of Alison's book Perfiditas, please answer the question at the end of today's interview and include your email. Do this by this Friday at 8am EDT to be eligible.

Welcome to PASTimes! Thanks for joining us and sharing a bit about your writing world. Tell us about your latest book.

First of all, thank you so much, for inviting me here – I’m delighted to be able to share my particular vision of history and talk about PERFIDITAS, the latest in my series of alternate history thrillers.

We’re in Roma Nova, present day Europe, the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century. It’s been seven years since Karen Brown fled New York (see INCEPTIO) to become Carina and take up her inheritance as the heir of a leading family and pursue a career as an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces.

But she’s in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating rebellion thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.

Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once she’s proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…

It’s been said that setting can act as a character in a novel. Is that true in your novel?

Definitely! Roma Nova is an imaginary country “somewhere in Europe”, where people live according to ancient Roman values and customs. They use solidi currency, have a senate and an imperatrix – an empress – and speak Latin.

People often refer back to their country’s foundation story and Roma Novans are no different and often quote the courage of how over four hundred Romans loyal to the old gods trekked north out of Italy to find refuge in the semi-mountainous area near modern day Austria.

But there’s a twist – over the centuries their society has evolved and women take leading roles.

Roma Nova has formed the characters and their attitudes, but Carina, our heroine, was brought up abroad, in the US. Sometimes she finds things very different, even bewildering. She gets it right a lot of the time, but not always...

Have you ever bent a historical fact to fit your story? 

Alternate history is by definition history that has diverged from the standard timeline, but properly written and researched it should follow historical logic.

Although the Roma Nova stories take place in the present, I had to research extensively around the point where the timeline split in AD 395 when Roma Nova history started. You need to find sources, buy books, visit places, museums, conferences and ask questions to check you have the correct clothing, food, armour, currency etc. for the time you are writing about.

And then you need to develop that alternate history, which is fun, but be careful to keep it plausible or you’ll lose the reader’s trust. I’m a historian by training, so when I read historical fiction, I like the facts to be accurate or at least only very, very slightly bent.

Where do you find inspiration?

Two things: It all started in Spain when I was eleven. I was fascinated
by the mosaics in the Roman part of Ampurias (a huge Graeco-Roman site). I wanted to know who had made them, whose houses they were in, who had walked on them.

After my father explained about traders, senators, power and families, I tilted my head to one side and asked him, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism surfacing or maybe it was just a precocious kid asking a smartass question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

And that idea bubbled away in my head for years…

Real life took over – university, work, marriage, a child, and I spent six years in the military – so I didn’t have the time or energy to write. But in 2009 all that changed.
One Wednesday, I’d gone to the local multiplex cinema with my husband. Thirty minutes into the movie, we agreed it was really, really bad. The cinematography was good, but the plot dire and narration uneven.
 ‘I could do better than that,’ I whispered in the darkened cinema.
 ‘So why don’t you?’ came my husband’s reply.

Ninety days later, I’d written 96,000 words of INCEPTIO, the first in what was to become the Roma Nova series. I loved the idea of women having a leading role in society and I’d had such a good time in the military, that I put my heroine in uniform.

My characters are alive in my head and as I progress the series, I develop them in a natural way: they age, their relationships change, they make and lose friendships, they succeed and fail in their work. Ultimately, my inspiration comes from them – they’ve almost become family. I want to know more about them myself. And you know what? I’m sure there’s plenty more to uncover!

For our readers who are writers, what advice do you have? Anything you wish you’d known when you first started in the business?
Come back tomorrow for the answer and the rest of the interview with author Alison Morton.
To be entered into the drawing to win a copy of Alison's book Perfiditas, please answer the question at the end of today's interview and include your email. Do this by this Friday at 8am EDT to be eligible.

Question: What would you like to have happened differently in history?

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