Why is CARINA (just) a novella?

Good question! I’ll try and explain…

We’re still in Roma Nova, the remnant of the Roman Empire that has toughed it out into the modern age. It’s an alternative 21st century with many aspects exactly the same as in our own timeline, but some  are very very different; Praetorian Guards for one. They guard the imperatrix of Roma Nova and act as an intelligence and special forces service.

INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO tell of  episodes in Roma Novan Carina Mitela’s life at ages 24/25, 32 and 39/40. I chose to skip other years as her life wasn’t at a special crisis point until the time of each of the stories in those three books. This reflects our own lives with brief highs in a continuous flow. I would think, though, that Carina’s life is generally more exciting than our own, even in the more mundane periods.

At the end of INCEPTIO, we leave Carina as a newly minted Praetorian officer off on a mission in the borderlands of Roma Nova. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but it’s a series; she has to survive the first book.) When we meet her at the beginning of PERFIDITAS, she’s a captain, heading her own branch and part of the command group, albeit as a junior member. She’s confident and competent with a record of success. A bridge across those six years seemed a good idea.

In PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO, I make allusions to past incidents when Carina skated near the edge or crossed the line, such as the climbing race with Daniel when she was punished for disobeying standing orders. Not only did she catch seven days in the cells, but also missed her daughter’s fourth birthday. In CARINA, we see how this happened and the consequences…

Readers have asked me what happened to various characters in INCEPTIO. It’s been a real pleasure seeing some of them again from the perspective of six books later. I re-read INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS in an almost studious way to check some of the references and loved meeting these characters again. Readers will also find in CARINA brief touches of foreshadowing for characters in PERFIDITAS. Interweaving the stories behind the stories in alternative history gives the characters their own backstory and history.

Original photo used for the cover cityscape

About half of CARINA is set in ‘North America’; even the cityscape on the cover reflects this. (Leave a comment if you recognise this 😉 ) Here, the République Québecoise has just won its autonomy from France, although Napoleon VI’s face stares out from the old currency notes still in circulation. The Eastern United States with its federated system and autonomous city states still remains a danger for Carina, so it was very tempting to bring that potential disaster into the story. On a personal note, I’ve loved weaving the experience of my 2015 seven week trip to the US and Canada into this story.

So why a shorter book?
I wanted to write a standalone adventure for Carina – she deserved it – but not one with the same complexity and depth of disaster for Roma Nova. When I read, I can’t bear ‘padding’ or dragging out for artificial reasons. I wrote the story as it came out of my mind and its length reflects the action within it. I did set a target word count between 30,000 words and 40,000 as I wanted to see if I could do it and that’s exactly what happened!

Readers seem to like short, sharp reads and I hope I’ve given them this and also added to the Roma Nova canon. Over to you!

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Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIAINSURRECTIO and RETALIO.  Audiobooks are available for the first four of the series.

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