Rome and Washington DC

IMG_1540As I walked past the colonnaded white buildings around the Capitol, the National Mall and the Federal Triangle, I knew I couldn’t be the first visitor to make a connection between Washington DC and ancient Rome. Both sat/sit on a series of hills and both were/are centres of world power

The massive scale of prestigious buildings, the columns, porticos, iconic status, eagles and strong, straight lines would be very familiar any ancient Roman.

IMG_1509

 

The roof of the final version of the Jefferson Memorial (left) is based on the Pantheon in Rome (Jefferson’s favourite building, so it is said). The Lincoln Memorial (below right) although more Greek in style, to my mind, would not be amiss in the Roman world.

And of course, there is a senate here and a Capitol(ine) Hill. At the US Capitol, Italian artist Constantino Brumidi painted George Washington ascending to Heaven, surrounded by such Roman deities as Minerva, Neptune and Vulcan. In short, the connections, imagined or real, are many.

Lincoln Memorial

But I discovered that one part of the area where Washington came to be built was once called Rome…

In the “Original Patentees of Land at Washington,” by Bessie Wilmarth Gahn is the record:
“No. 7.Francis Pope, owner of “Rome” on the Tyber, June 5, 1663.”
In the early records of Annapolis, one finds:
ffrancis Pope, transported since 1635; wife 1649
And in the proceedings of the early Assemblies:
ffrancis Pope—member of the Assembly in September, 1642, and 1667 and 1670, he was Justice of the Peace for Charles County, Maryland.
In an old volume of records at Annapolis, Liber 6, folio 318:
“June 5th, 1663, Lyd out for Francis Pope of this Province, Gent., a parcel of land in Charles County called Rome, lying on the East side of the Anacostian River [meaning here, the main channel of the Potomac], beginning at a marked oak standing by the River side, the bounded tree of Captain Robert Troop and running north by the river for breadth the length 200 perches to a bounded oak standing at the mought of a bay or inlet called Tiber, bounding on the north by the said Lett and a line drawn east for the length of 320 perches to a bounded oak standing in the woods on the East with a line drawn south from the end of the former line until you meet with the exterior bounded tree of Robert Troop called Scotland Yard on the south with the said land, on the west with the said river (Tyber), containing and now laid out for 400 acres more or less.”

Capt. Robert Troop’s “Scotland Yard,” itself north of the tract “New Troy” which extended far north of the Capitol and Congressional Library of today, was therefore the southern boundary of Mr. Pope’s Rome.
(Sources: http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/pope/3903/) Much more about the early history of the Capitol site from the US Capitol Historical Society http://www.capitolhillhistory.org/library/04/Jenkins%20Hill.html

For the love of Rome…
Supreme CourtAs Enlightenment gentlemen, the founding fathers of the new United States rather liked the idea of a representative democracy modelled on that of the Roman Republic, but they also conceived of a capital city that looked like Rome — or what they thought Rome looked like. In fact, during the Republic (traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC) Rome was largely brick, not a city of shiny marble, which came later, started under the stewardship of Augustus and his right-hand man, Agrippa.

Of course, the Roman Republic eventually fell and the Roman Empire eventually crumbled. And the sharp minded might note the irony that the first volume of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published in 1776, the year of American Independence.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

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.

INCEPTIO selected as Indie Book of the Day!

Delighted to discover that INCEPTIO had been nominated for the IDB award and even more so when I received an email saying it had been selected  as Indie Book of the Day today, 15 June 2015!

They sent me a shiny certificate…

Royal Certificates

 

and a personalised badge:
ibdbadge

Unexpected and so more pleasurable!

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

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.

Writing a prequel - revealing secrets

AURELIA_cover_v.sm

AURELIA, the fourth Roma Nova thriller, is out in the world now and drawing lovely compliments and reviews in the UK and from the US. Keep ‘em coming!

One question I’ve been asked as a guest on blogs during May is why the story of Aurelia Mitela, and why the 1960s?

Two things, really. Firstly, we meet Aurelia as an older woman in INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO and as I was writing her scenes I found myself becoming fascinated by her common sense, toughness and her loneliness. In INCEPTIO, Karen struggles to visualise her grandmother Aurelia twenty plus years before as a military commander leading a unit to retake a war-torn city. And then there’s the mystery of Aurelia’s single life – there is no husband, lover or companion in the family circle or memory, yet she is Karen’s grandmother. Plenty to chew on there.

Secondly, I wanted to write about the terrible events twenty-three years before INCEPTIO that scarred Conrad  – the heroine’s love interest in the first three books – and threatened the destruction of Roma Nova itself. AURELIA is the first of the three books dealing with that period.

And the 1960s? Well, to see Aurelia as a woman in her mid to late twenties, I had to set the story when she was that young. It was a fascinating period to research.

When writing a series, one of the biggest pluses is being able to develop  characters, especially as they get older, change their ideas and take a more mature view on life. You can also introduce another generation which both freshens the stories and brings additional conflict for the original characters. Readers tell me they love plunging back into Roma Nova and seeing what has happened to their favourite character since the last book.

Writing a prequel is quite a discipline because we know where it has to end! On the other hand, if you’ve laid a few clues in previous books, you can reveal past secrets and expand backstory. As a reader, I love finding out what happened to favourite characters in the past.

The other benefit is that you can draw contrasts between that period and now, especially social and technological changes; I had to remind myself about overt chauvinism, faxes and telex! You can also nudge history along at the same time. For instance, the police in Carina’s time are called the custodes, literally ‘guardians’. In Aurelia’s 1960s, they’re called vigiles, the traditional Roman name for law enforcement officers. So what happened for the name to change after nearly 1500 years?

Well, you’ll have to read the next book to find out…

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

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.

Rossiter Books - an evening of writing alternatively and fun!

Liesel and Alison laughingLiesel Schwarz and I had such a fun evening last Thursday in Ross-on-Wye enthusing with a great  audience about steampunk and alternative history that we haven’t been able to stop talking about it!

Very well attended, there was even had a 13-year old aspiring author who came up and ask us about writing which, as Liesel says, is “always awesome”.

And we had wine and cake – key factors to success!

Andy Rossiter introducing us

 

Andy Rossiter, the owner gave a brief introduction. After a bit of background about ourselves and and our books, we spoke about writing in extraordinary settings; enticing the reader to share those different worlds was an enjoyable challenge. Liesel had found her inspiration in two characters arguing in a London Tube carriage; mine came from Roman mosaics, then clicked decades later after listening to bad dialogue in a terrible film. I thought I could do better.

Rossiter audience

Making the imaginary world consistent and keeping it plausible for the reader are the twin guidelines for success world building in science fiction and fantasy; ditto for historical fiction.

In these days of fast reading, authors should write succinctly without inflicting pages of description or over-detailed explanation – inelegantly called the info dump – on the reader.

In answer to a question on how to keep hold of the alternative world, I simply replied that I lived in Roma Nova. Well, in my head, anyway. 😉

We both admitted to the blank stare moments, when ideas were bubbling away in a soup of brain cells and imagination. Liesel retains her ideas better than I do; I’m the “write a note at 3 a.m.” type of writer if an idea pops into my mind.

Our books!Smiles and nodding heads as we spoke were very encouraging and the questions that followed about writing inspirations (Robert Harris’s Fatherland was one of mine), airships, strong heroines and Rome were proof we hadn’t bored the audience.

And as we signed books afterwards, the questions still came. Nothing is more pleasurable for a writer than talking about books and writing to engaged readers.

With Christina Courtenay, Andy Rossiter and Liesel Schwarz

With RNA Chair Christina Courtenay, Andy Rossiter and Liesel

In Hollywood Oscar-award style, I’d like to thank the Rossiter Books team who made the evening flow so well. For several weeks before, Carol, the events manager, had been in frequent email contact with me about the practical, PR and marketing aspects and I truly valued her consistent guidance.

The courtesy and warmth of our welcome made us feel at home from the moment we walked into the shop. Everything was beautifully organised; Andy, the owner, and Richard, the manager, couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful if they’d tried.

As you can see from the photos, it’s a beautiful shop. If you’re in the area, go and find out for yourself…

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

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.

Speaking at Foyles Bristol

With Debbie Young and Liesel Schwarz at Foyles

With Debbie Young (ALLi) and Liesel Schwarz at Foyles

Never have your event on the sunniest and balmiest evening of the year! We were a small, but select, group that met in Bristol Foyles to talk about ‘Writing Alternatively’.

We had the most fascinating conversations about steampunk, alternative history, constructing a completely artificial world and enticing the reader into it.

Pre-talk drink

 

Chatting with a reader

Chatting with a reader

 

 

 

 

 

After a glass of wine, and some chatting with readers and colleagues including Helen and Emily from SilverWood Books, we got down to business!

Both steampunk and alternative history stories are reversals of standard ideas; Roma Nova is essentially Roman which in the ancient world was strongly patriarchal, but by the 21st century developed an ‘egalitarian plus’ society. Steampunk mirrors the late Victorian/Edwardian world, but where technology and engineering are steam-powered and society still based on traditional values. Readers enjoy following characters acting out the story rather than wading through long descriptions; this is the challenge for authors today, particularly for authors being extra inventive or even alternative.

Liesel and Alison_Foyles 2

 

Liesel and I stressed the need to weave our ‘world building’ into our books; setting must be reflected by the characters, their actions and the effect they have on that world, and vice versa. We need to remember to keep the stories and their world plausible and consistent and do this by making the characters’ lives natural within that world.

In full flow

Goodness knows what I was saying!

 

Then we passed on to strong women characters whom we had given multiple problems – personal conflict, professional struggles and inner flaws and sometimes severe lack of judgement, but women who drove the plot forward and  toughed it out. Historical and background research was essential for writing  in steampunk and alternative history genres. You have to get your facts and historical logic a hundred per cent correct to maintain plausibility.

SkyPiratesWe were finished with mentioning our latest books (*coughs*). Liesel’s Sky Pirates ins now out in paperback. I expect you’d expect me to say this but I will anyway – it’s a rattling good read! It’s the third in the Chronicles of Light and Shadow and features, of course, a strong female protagonist.

 

And the Roma Nova thrillers were on display with the newest addition, AURELIA, published only a few days ago.

Roma Nova books

 

 

More about Liesel here:
http://www.lieselschwarz.com

 

 

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

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.

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