Alternative History- Rome in the 21st Century w Alison Morton

About  a year ago, I asked, “why does it seem everyone’s working on a novel about ancient Rome?” Then this year has gone by and I think the question should be more like, “why isn’t EVERYONE writing about it?”  The notion of history holding perhaps some answers for why our own nations act like they do is an old one, as is asking, “what if?”

That’s where alternative history comes into play, which eventually leads us to Alison Morton’s “Roma Nova” series, and her latest installment, “Insurrectio.” Not only does it ask “what if the Empire survived until today?” It also plays with roles of gender and class.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilization. Armed with a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her award winning Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.

The sixth book, RETALIO, will be published on 27 April. In the meantime, Alison lives in France with her husband, tends her Roman herb garden and drinks wine, which is a good gig if you can get it.

Okay, Lady. In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

INSURRECTIO is about a rising nationalist movement led by a charming demagogue who wishes to overturn an established political system at a weak moment in a country’s history. (Any resemblance to persons living or dead, is completely coincidental and fully denied – I started drafting this first).

But it also charts the lifelong struggle between Aurelia, our upright and complex heroine, and Caius, an amoral charmer determined to destroy her and all she stands for. She’s an ex-Praetorian officer and now imperial councillor, utterly loyal to the imperatrix, the ruler of Roma Nova; he’s a wastrel, just released from prison where she put him nearly thirteen years before.

So it’s about sex, power and revenge in a small piece of the Roman Empire that’s survived into the 20th century. Until now.

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

I’ve been a ‘Roman nut’ since I stepped onto my first mosaic pavement at age eleven. As I listened to my father (senior Roman nut) explain about senators and soldiers, farmers and traders, power and occupation, I asked what the mummies and children did. Being the daughter of a feminist mother I was dismayed about the reply that mummies stayed indoors looking after the children and had no public life, vote or independence.

Maybe it was the hot sun in that Spanish sky, budding feminism or merely a smartass kid asking a smartass question, but I asked him what it would be like if women ran Roman life instead of the men. He shot back, “What do you think it would have been like?”

I held that thought throughout most of my life until I sat down to write my first Roma Nova thriller. I brought the story up to the modern age as although women exerted influence, they weren’t able to hold power in antiquity in the way I wanted them to in my stories, so I plunged into alternat(iv)e history. We’re still fascinated by Rome; just suppose a Roman society had survived with forums, temples, a Senate, a strong military but with an innate state service ethic and well-developed personal responsibility and it was run by women…

That’s a lot of ifs… Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favo(u)rite scene or event in the book?

I’d like to choose two types, if I may. Firstly, all the confrontations between Aurelia and Caius. They spark personality and supressed sexual tension, but most of all, the struggle for power. Very Roman! He winds her up, but can’t dent her inner core; she refuses to bend her principles and can’t understand why he has no conscience.

Secondly, Aurelia will do anything to protect her frail and, to be honest, light-minded daughter; they struggle to understand each other although there is no doubt about their mutual love. Writing their scenes together was an emotional experience as was Aurelia’s frustration with, and deep passion for, the elusive Miklós.

Where can people find you and your book (links to Amazon page, Goodreads, Twitter, Blog whatever)?

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

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_Morton

Amazon author page: http://Author.to/AlisonMortonAmazon

 

Buying link for INSURRECTIO (multiple retailers/formats):

http://alison-morton.com/books-2/insurrectio/where-to-buy-insurrectio/

INSURRECTIO book trailer: https://youtu.be/eXGslRLjv6g

 

Smart Answer to a Silly Question: Chris Northern and “Why Rome?”

In a moment of snark in a previous post, I posed the question, “Why does it seem like every other historical fiction novel is set in ancient Rome?” (By the way, Rome is the new Middle Ages if the list of new books is any indication.) This is not terribly new in traditional “histfic”, but there are more and more fantasy books set in this time as well.  In a Goodreads discussion, author Chris Northern, author of the Price of Freedom/Freedom’s Fool series took me to task.

I asked him, using small words that even I could understand, to explain why that was. Here’s his answer. Enjoy.

I enjoy the mix of history and fantasy, but some people are uneasy with it. Why do you think they go together so well?

History and Fantasy are tied together by numerous silken threads. Fantasy develops naturally from history for the simple reason that a fantasy social and

Chris Northern explains the fascination with the Roman Empire
Chris Northern explains the fascination with the Roman Empire

political structure must be based on something, and picking a historical period is the simplest method available. The high medieval period has been the default choice for a good while, but it has become far more common to reach further afield geographically and temporally for a framework to define fantasy stories.

 

And we are kind of burned out on the pretend-medieval theme, I grant you.  So why Rome?

Rome is not one commonly used, but for me it was the most obvious choice. When I first settled to write The Last King’s Amulet, the first novel The Price of Freedom/Freedom’s Fool fantasy series, I desired a background where a central, magically powerful state expanded and contracted in cycles, more or less at the whims of a ruling class that were competing with each other as much or more than they were with other nations. I also had in mind a fantasy Falco, the protagonist of the murder mystery series by Lindsey Davis. The adoption of the Roman Republic seemed natural enough, and has defined the series ever since.
Ancient Rome burns bright in European and World History for more reasons than I can begin to address here, though I will make every effort to touch on as many as possible. To begin with, though little noted, is that it is one of the few cultures to so obviously encompass a complete cycle of political development and decay to its own self-destruction. Beginning as a Kingdom, transitioning into a Republic, Democracy and enduring a surprisingly long time as an Imperial Dictatorship as stubbornly maintained economic incompetence corroded the wealth of the empire to the point that the difference between the Barbarians and Rome itself was wafer thin when the latter swamped the former and the Dark Ages ensued.
The centralisation of power, the physical and social isolation of an increasingly centralised ruling class, the drift away from pragmatic response to economic and political problems… these are all things that led to the downfall of Rome as geopolitical power, and are all echoed in modern times, which I think is one of the reasons there has been a resurgence in interest in Rome. We see the decline of Rome going on around us on a daily basis – for Rome, read Washington, London, Brussels, concentrations of powerful individuals living in an echo chamber where voices of dissent are marginalised. No one told the Emperor Diocletion that his ‘great new idea’ of universal price fixing on all goods was a terrible idea because no one around him knew any better, all potential voices of dissent having been removed from the ruling society. We see that our own society, now more-or-less global, has its own systemic problems that will not be address, that cannot be addressed, because of the prevailing culture of advancement only of those who accept the ruling elite’s views.
So basically, it’s easy to make analogies…..
Much is made of the military might of Rome, the invulnerable Legions, with little reference to the fact that the Legions fought well in significant part because they were, as individuals, advantaged economically by the society they were fighting to protect and expand. When that advantage was no longer a factor – token coinage that had no value and a shattered economy that offered little in the way of goods to purchase – the soldiery ceased to be invested in winning battles. It is also little mentioned that one of the primary reasons the Republic and early Empire won wars even though they routinely lost battles, was because they always had enough wealth in reserve to raise more armies. War is never a cheap undertaking and if a nation simply does not have a robust economy that generates wealth, wars are less likely to be successfully prosecuted. Lost wars cause loss of territory, confidence and social cohesion, as well as cause further economic difficulties.
One title of the Freedoms Fool series
One title of the Freedoms Fool series

Still, Rome burns bright in history as one of the longest lasting empires, territories of economic and social stability, that the world has ever seen. Little wonder that it resurfaces in the collective psyche when our own times become increasing unstable. Perhaps we recognise the parallels and subconsciously fear Rome’s ultimate fate – a decent into barbarism and poverty that we know can persist for centuries. Not a cheery thought, but perhaps one worth a little more than a passing glance.

Thanks, I’m smarter now than when I started…… Where can people learn more?
The Price of Freedom (Freedom’s Fool) consists of four novels, to date: The Last King’s Amulet, The Key To The Grave, The Invisible Hand, and All the King’s Bastards.

Alex Gough and the Bandits of Rome

So what is it about ancient Rome that has people all a flutter? It seems like the new hot topic in Historical Fiction is the Roman Empire. I will bet a quarter of the indie writers I connect with are writing about that particular period in time. And it’s not just fiction. My buddy Cameron Reilly’s Life of Caesar” podcast is insanely popular and a lot of fun.

 

Alex Gough is rockin' in the Roman Empire.
Alex Gough is rockin’ in the Roman Empire.

A new author to the field, writing only for Kindle at the moment, is Alex Gough from the UK. The latest in his Roman series is “Bandits of Rome.”

Oh, and those aren’t typos, he’s British. The language is English, deal with it……

Hi Alex. In a nutshell, what’s the new book about? 

Carbo (the hero of the series) and his loved ones leave Rome for the sleepy Italian countryside, desperate to recover from their recent traumas. But a chance encounter with locally notorious masked bandits leads to a devastating outcome. Carbo has to fight his own demons and an evil conspiracy to save himself and his friends, and avenge his loss.

Bandits of Rome, the sequel to the number one bestselling novel Watchmen of Rome, follows Carbo as he plunges from happiness to despair, from the Italian countryside to the lead mines of Sicily. Will Carbo ever find the peace he craves?

Good cliffhanger question. So what is it about Ancient Rome that is so intriguing? Seems like a lot of British writers are focusing on it- it’s becoming the new “Arthuriana.”

I’ve always had an interest in Ancient Rome, which has grown deeper the more I have found out. They were a civilisation of huge contrasts. They had mighty

Bandits of Rome is the third in his series.
Bandits of Rome is the third in his series.

armies, a huge Empire, philosophy, art and architecture. They also had terrible cruelty and awful poverty. I am fascinated by the ordinary people of the Roman Empire who had to survive in the shadows of the magnificent buildings. My hero, Carbo, is a traumatised war veteran, trying to find peace, and consistently failing. He has to overcome his own inner demons, as well as his prejudices, to fight for what is important.

A completely unfair question to ask an author; what’s your favorite scene in the book?

One favourite scene is too spoiler-heavy to describe but is full of emotion, especially if you have read the first book, Watchmen of Rome. Another favourite part involves Carbo being sent to the lead mines as a slave, and I try to describe the horror of the existence of a Roman mine slave.

Bandits of Rome, and all his books are available on Amazon UK and on Amazon.com, depending on how you want to spend your money.

Speaking of spending money, my novel The Count of the Sahara is now available on Kindle and Paperback from TheBookFolks.com

Eterlimus: Pre-Roman History From Aziz Hamza

As a Canadian, living in America, writing for a global audience about something that happened in Algeria (among other places) I’m well aware that the great stories of history don’t belong to any one group. Case in point: Aziz Hamza’s tale of Rome before the Republic, Eterlimus.

Author Aziz Hamza
Author Aziz Hamza

Aziz is from Saudi Arabia, and writes in both English and Arabic. So  his choice of a story set in long-ago Rome is kind of interesting. Here’s what he had to say:

What’s the story of Eterlimus? If you’re familiar with the opera or story of the “Rape of Lucretia,” that’s the setting. The book ETERLIMUS takes place during the reign of the seventh King of ancient Rome, the tyrant Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, until the salvation came through ETERLIMUS the Pimp (a fictional character), who caused the collapse of the last Roman Kingdom in 509 B.C.

What inspired you to write the book? Why this story? 

Of course the incident of the rape of Lucretia has the biggest impact when i decided to write the novel. However the most influential character was Sextus, he is sly, wicked and ruthless, he was really a distasteful character.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

Probably Cloelia’s dialogue with Sextus in chapter 2. It’s full of fear and violence  and showed the evil personality of Sextus.

You’re right, he’s a bad, bad guy. How can people find your work (including in Arabic, if you’re so inclined?) 

Eterlimus is available in English or Arabic. Some people just have to show off!
Eterlimus is available in English or Arabic. Some people just have to show off!