All writers sneak a look at their reviews – we are that human. Looking at INSURRECTIO’s, I was struck by this one:
“Although I enjoyed the first three, IV and V are disappointing; particularly this one. Because they are ‘backstory’, I already knew who did what to whom from the earlier novels.”
I appreciate them taking the time and trouble to write a review. I really do; people are so busy these days, they don’t always get round to it, however much they enjoyed a book. I’m very sorry this reader was disappointed, but I’m pleased they enjoyed Carina’s story in the first three. But this comment set me thinking.
Roma Nova is an imaginary country (Gasp!). The people who live there are not documented historical figures. But as a storyteller I try to make it as realistic as possible; characters do heroic and stupid things, the weather isn’t always sunny – it rains and snows, traffic jams alternate with beautiful scenery.
Like any country Roma Nova has its own history. Who today doesn’t have an older relative who remembers ‘the war’? We know exactly which war they are talking about because it was such a formative experience for that generation and the following one. My father was at Dunkirk in 1940 and went to France on D-Day+4 in 1944; my mother, a teacher by day, drove ambulances during bombing raids by night. For me, the grungy 1970s and growth-spurted 1980s when I spent time in uniform were my formative years.
So when I decided to build the world of Roma Nova in an alternative timeline, I incorporated its ‘long’ history back to the end of the 4th century AD as well as its ‘short’ history of the Great Rebellion in the early 1980s. As Carina, brought up in the Eastern United States, was facing her challenges in INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO, her grandmother, Aurelia, and others such as Conrad and Quintus Tellus, and Imperatrix Silvia had strong, and grim, memories of that rebellion which coloured their behaviour, values and attitudes in those three stories. And they occasionally referred back to those times in the same way our parents and grandparents refer to ‘the war’.
We know what happened in the past. We know who won, and lost.
Look back at 1066. Much as we may dream/speculate about a Saxon England beyond that date (see 1066 Turned Upside Down), it didn’t happen. So when Helen Hollick wrote Harold the King, she couldn’t alter the outcome. But I was so caught up by the writing and characters, I was as optimistic as any Saxon that they would prevail. But in my logical brain I knew the outcome – it was probably the first date I learnt in school. However, it didn’t stop me enjoying the story.
When the second Roma Nova trilogy goes back to tell the story of Aurelia in the second half of the 1960s (AURELIA) and the early 1980s (INSURRECTIO, and RETALIO, out spring 2017), we know she will survive, as will Quintus, Conrad and Silvia. The intrigue, I hope, is how and why they did what they did, whether they acted well or not, and what gains and sacrifices occurred. And what the consequences were for Carina’s generation. And I reveal some secrets from the past that only the characters themselves would know and which even puzzled me when I was writing the first trilogy.
Being inquisitive by temperament, I like to know the background to things, people, events; in short, why they are like they are. This is why I read historical fiction. I’m sorry my reader didn’t share this; perhaps they aren’t as nosy as I am. But as we edge toward the climax of the Aurelia trilogy, I hope the story will be sufficiently enticing for readers to want to know just what Aurelia had to sacrifice at the time of Roma Nova’s civil war.
Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for her free monthly email newsletter.