Alternative history isn’t just about Nazis!

Yes, okay, The Man in the High Castle (original story by Philip K Dick, 1962) and SS-GB (Len Deighton, 1978) are the most prominent ‘what if’s at present. These stories grip our imaginations as the most horrific thing that could have happened to Western Europe/America in the recent history. Of course, Robert Harris’s Fatherland (1992) gave Nazi althist a good nudge and then along came C J Sansom’s Dominion in 2012. Perhaps the first two are a projection of fears about the Cold War, the second two a re-examination after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Or is it just Rufus Sewell in a beautifully tailored black and silver uniform?

But as the Tudors are not the only historical period so the Nazis are not the only alternative history.

What a wealth of other choices there are out there! Our cousins in the US enjoy speculating about the outcomes of the War of Independence or the American Civil War, while any respectable French bookshop inevitably has a section on the ‘what if’ of Napoléon winning at Waterloo.

Alternative history is nothing new
Roman historian Livy speculated on the idea that the Romans would have eventually beaten Alexander the Great if he’d lived longer and turned west to attack them (Book IX, sections 17-19 Ab urbe condita libri (The History of Rome, Titus Livius). In 1490, Joanot Martorell  wrote Tirant lo Blanch about a knight who manages to fight off the invading Ottoman armies of Mehmet II and saves Constantinople from Islamic conquest. This was written when the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 was still a traumatic memory for Christian Europe

Alexander the Great (author photo)

Alternative or alternate?
Before we go any further let’s get the name thing out of the way. ‘Alternate’ to British English speakers means one of two taking turns with the other, e.g. alternating current in electricity. Staying with them, ‘alternative’ signifies any possible other e.g. what alternative solutions do you propose? So ‘what if’ scenarios are alternative, i.e. any number of different timelines could exist.

In North America, ‘alternate’ works hard to carry both meanings. So just on numbers, the ‘alternates’ have it and ‘alternate history’ has become the generally accepted name. But we Brits are a plucky lot and stubborn with it, so we hold out and still call it ‘alternative history’. I’m a fence-sitter and duck out and use the short form ‘althist’ which offends nobody.

Phew!

So what is alt hist when it’s at home?
Like any genre there are ‘da rulz’ when writing althist stories:

– the event that turned history from the path we know – the point of divergence – must be in the past.

– the new timeline follows a different path forever – there is no going back.

– stories should show the ramifications of the divergence and how the new reality functions.

The world can partially resemble our timeline or be very different. Sometimes there are documented historical characters, sometimes entirely fictional ones or a mixture of both. In no case are alternative history stories parallel or secret histories such as The Da Vinci Code or fantasy like Noami Novik’s excellent Temeraire series. Nor can you have time travel machines, heroines falling through time, time travellers dropping in to sort out history then popping back out, or goddesses putting it all back as it was. Once it’s done, it’s done.

Althist is a speculative genre with has two parents: history and science fiction. Its fiction can sit anywhere along a sliding scale from the well-researched counter-factual following historical logic and methodology to the completely bonkers story designed only to be cool. I explain the types in full detail here; I stand at the historical end because I’m a historian as well as a thriller writer.
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Some alternative althist stories
England has remained Catholic –Pavane, Keith Roberts or The Alteration, Kingsley Amis
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn have a son and Elizabeth I and Philip II of Spain have a daughter – The Boleyn Trilogy/Tudor Legacy Series, Laura Anderson
Alaska rather than Israel becomes the Jewish homeland – The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon
Roosevelt loses the 1940 election and right-wing Charles Lindbergh becomes US president – The Plot Against America, Philip Roth
Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from St. Helena and winds up in the United States in 1821 – Napoleon in America, Shannon Selin
Is John F. Kennedy killed by a bomb in 1963? Or does he chose not to run in 1964 after an escalated Cuban Missile Crisis led to the nuclear obliteration of Miami and Kiev? – My Real Children, Jo Walton
A secret fifth daughter of the Romanov family continues the Russian royal lineage –The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Tsarina’s Legacy, Jennifer Laam
An England in which James II was never deposed in the Glorious Revolution, but supporters of the House of Hanover continually agitate against the monarchy – Children’s favourite The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
Prolific writers of althist especially from the US viewpoint include Harry Turtledove, Eric Flint and S.M. Stirling.

Or if a remnant of the Roman Empire had survived into the present day, but with a twist – the Roma Nova thrillers. 😉

INCEPTIO_front cover_300dpi_520x802 Perfiditas - Front Cover_520x800 SUCCESSIO cover300dpi_520x800 AURELIA_cover_v.sm INSURRECTIO_nano

So what’s althist for?
Like any other story written in any genre, there must be a purpose to an althist story. It can’t be “Look at this new world I’ve invented, aren’t I clever?” It needs a strong story. As a reader of fiction I want to be entertained, to learn something and be encouraged to think. That’s what writers are supposed to deliver to the reader. Alternative history gives us a rich environment in which to develop our storytelling and let our imaginations soar. Like all speculative fiction and a fair bit of historical fiction, althist may well reflect concerns of the time when it’s written. But above all it allows us to explore unthinkable, frightening or utopian worlds from the safety of our favourite reading chair.

Oh, and steampunk? Now that’s a whole other question!

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Crossing cultures and 12 things to make it easier

Photo courtesy of Jessica Bell (http://www.jessicabellauthor.com)

Disruptive didn’t begin to describe it. I would have a family there, I’d be comfortable materially, and I would be able to keep my father’s legacy. But every tiny thing would be different.

I’d been forced, sobbing, from my East Coast home after Dad died, and dumped in the Midwest when I was twelve and survived. I’d escaped that bleakness and settled in New York, and adapted. Hell, given the choice between twenty years shut up in a miserable penitentiary and another move, I knew which I needed to pick. I could do this.

Thus Karen in INCEPTIO, faced with the prospect of having to make a rapid decision about fleeing to Roma Nova.

She’d been through abrupt life changes before; both parents dead, her place in the world uncertain, a contrast in the physical landscape, dutiful but loveless carers and the resulting mental and emotional upheaval. But even as she thinks about the seemingly outlandish option of moving to Roma Nova, she acknowledges her ability to survive and adapt.

Most of us don’t have to make such abrupt decisions, but what should we consider if our careers or life changes mean we leave the culture we know to live in another?

Karen instinctively uses coping techniques innate in human beings since they first lived in communities. We learn from very early childhood how to distinguish ourselves from others and how to interact with to different types of people, starting with our parents and first friends. At school, we learn, sometime brutally in the playground, how to maintain our own identity and fend off those who would exert power over us. Or we adapt and accept a subordinate place. It’s a jungle environment and lessons can be harsh. But school is also where we accumulate knowledge and possibly insight about the world outside our own bubble works. And where we learn how to learn.

So perhaps we are more equipped that we think we are, some people more than others.

Realising what you don’t know
In INCEPTIO, Karen stays in the Roma Nova legation at first and realises what she doesn’t know – she unconsciously triggers her ‘survive and adapt’ strategy by identifying her needs:

I figured out Plica, Editio, Promere for File, Edit, View and Mittere for Send, but had to give up after that. I jabbed at the screen to log out. It was ridiculous; I couldn’t do the simplest thing without the language.

She starts language lessons:

“At the end of the third hour, I had mastered the declensions and simple verbs. I was relieved that I remembered some of it from Latin class as a kid.”

Importantly, she bolsters her confidence by recognising she already has some knowledge to fit her to her new environment.

Building upon the basics
Later in the legation after a few weeks…

I was getting there with my new culture – I guessed it was being surrounded by it all day, every day. […]When Conrad was on duty, and I didn’t have a class, I often retreated to the mess bar and talked to Dexia or some of the others. They were tough-talking but natural. When I tried out my Latin on them, they laughed sometimes, but weren’t too rude about my mistakes. But I couldn’t always follow the flow of the conversation, the inferences or the profanities. I needed to get beyond Grattius’s formal teaching.

So she finds that invaluable resource, a teenager:

‘Very well, Aelia, I’m trying to learn Latin – I was born here in America. I need a friend who’ll teach me everyday Latin words, normal life words. If you want, I can talk to you about America, teach you some English.’
At first, she hesitated. Maybe she thought I was joking, or mocking her. She had to know exactly who I was. 
‘Of course, you have to teach me the b ad words as well.’
She grinned. ‘Oh, I know a lot of those.’

Why is social integration important?
You simply can’t live in another country and not be social. You are the outsider, you need to fit in, not only to make practical life easier, but for your own mental and emotional well-being. Studying and working provide valuable opportunities for integration; often the most important lessons learned are outside the formal framework, for instance, from the opportunities for socializing. Ditto if you have an interest or hobby that crosses frontiers.

‘Marrying into’ the new culture means you have to deal with everyday matters, the nitty-gritty of life like running a house, dealing with the local council, the neighbours, the school if you have children, doctors’ surgery, registering a new car or a small business, banking, food shopping, holidays, etc. etc.

Sometimes, even after years, something reminds you of being an outsider. When Karen now Carina, the successful career woman and imperial councillor, flounders about a formal process in SUCCESSIO, her daughter Allegra knows the routine better than her mother does – she’s a born and bred Roma Novan, unlike Carina.

Language and culture are two main factors. In a country where you speak a different language, integration can be hard without at least some basics. Where values are dissimilar, it can take an enormous effort over years to fully understand the psyche of a new country, society and culture.

So how to do it?
Initial stage

  • Learn the language – do this before you move and make it a priority when you arrive.
  • Eat locally – much better to learn how eat local food in a restaurant than in more personal surroundings when invited for dinner at somebody’s home.
  • Become involved in the community – join a history, computer, sport, gardening or book club; if religious, a congregation
  • Show interest in other people’s lives, work and hobbies at every opportunitiy
  • Offer to help with things you know
  • Ask for help for yourself – people are usually generous if you are genuinely struggling

Middle stage

  • Accept that the new life is going to be different in both big and small ways.
  • Understand that shifting your norms of behaviour, of instinct, takes time and practice.
  • Observe closely subtle understandings and interactions learnt from childhood between native-born people.
  • Accept you are going to feel awkward, possibly uncomfortable and make mistakes. Make sure you forgive yourself when this happens – it’s perfectly normal.
  • Finding a ‘cultural mentor’ who knows both your and the new culture’s ways will ease the way considerably.
    In INCEPTIO, Aurelia, being a clever woman, has worked this out and assigns a younger member of the Mitela clan, Helena, to take Carina under her wing. Not that Helena is very happy about this, but she does her duty…
  • Talk to somebody about the disparity and how uncomfortable you feel about certain aspects of your cultural crossing. If you are staying, as Carina is, you have to accept you will have to break out of your comfort zone to some degree.
  • But, make sure you still retain who you are, your inner core, your personal values.

Final stage

One day you wake up and find you are actually more at ease in your adopted country that you were in your original one. You made it!

Troops marching hard – column of Marcus Aurelius (Creative Commons licence)

The ultimate secret to success?
The key is making an effort.

Show others you’re enthusiastic about learning their cultural rules, even though you might not have mastered them, and that you care about and respect their traditions. Yes, it is hard work at first, but if you persist you will build cultural capital that will make your life richer and more comfortable, and, if you move again, capital you can cash in in any foreign setting.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

INSURRECTIO – Book of the Month!

Against stiff competition INSURRECTIO has been selected as Book of the Month by the ‘Chill With a Book’ Readers’ Award. The silver badge goes rather well with the silver font on the book cover!

More seriously, I’m very pleased about this particular award as it’s one judged by readers.

Here are a few of the things they said:

“I had my mother read this series immediately – and recommended to my bestie who also loves Ancient Rome (despite this being modern day). This one is perhaps one of the most fast-paced in the series and full of military action and intrigue. Rape is implied but not written in detail. But you empathise with the female characters and hate the bad guys. The concept of an alternate universe is quite interesting and written with such detail, the reader easily believes this story to be true – Roma Nova a real country in today’s world. The author obviously did her research on military states and workings.”

“I thought the characters were very strong and engaging throughout the book.”

“The book is extremely well written, I hadn’t read the previous books in the series so I was wary, but I soon got into the story.”

“It was a page turner, I don’t usually read books on historical Rome, but I loved this with all the dark, gripping and political elements. The ending could of been better, but it is part of a continuing series!
I’ve already recommended to friends.”

“Quite a thriller and well written, I couldn’t put it down.”

Well, that was a brilliant start to the day! Thank you, Chill with a Book Awards and your organiser, Pauline Barclay.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Awards - do they mean anything?

When I began writing novels, I knew the value of recognition in the form of awards, prizes and third party endorsements; I’d owned and run a small business for over fifteen years and been very involved in the PR side of things.

Recognition – the public acknowledgement of your ability, achievement, merits or services – is something most humans crave, whether admitted or not. Perhaps it’s an (un)acknowledged motivator for writing and publishing a book. Of course, writing can be for other reasons, but little beats the tingle of seeing your name on the front of a work you’ve created. (Except an award!)

Recognition takes many forms, such as a mention in the mass media, praise from your peers, congratulations from your family and friends, invitations to speak, and importantly, reaction from the consumers of your work, the readers.

When your book first comes out, you can feel self-conscious. What right have I to thrust my scribblings onto the world? But as the plaudits come in, you realise that you may have strung some words together in a more than acceptable manner. You start to enjoy the sensation you have given pleasure to a lot of people. Once found, readers love your books. Your reputation is growing. But how do you find wider recognition?

Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller!

Endorsements, prizes and reviews are three ways, and I love them!  SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choices (second logo from left in the image above) and so longlisted for the HNS indie Novel Award in the year they were published. AURELIA made it to the last four (centre logo)!

On Amazon UK INCEPTIO has over 80 reviews, the others mostly over 20 and all with high average stars, even 4.9 for AURELIA. And SUCCESSIO was picked as an Editor’s Choice in the first indie review in no less than The Bookseller!

But today I’m looking at the awards that have been given to the Roma Nova books. Indie books generally don’t attract the ‘big’ prizes given by a prestigious panel of judges, but there are many valuable awards specifically for indies that are given by that even more critical group — the readers.

Not all awards are equal. It’s worth looking at the conditions and eligibility rules as well as the range of books that have won the awards. Taking my courage in my hands, I submitted the Roma Nova books to the independent quality mark organisation indieBRAG.  It has a fearsome bar – a 90% rejection rate – which, of course, enhances the value of its award. ‘BRAG’ stands for Book Reader Appreciation Group and the group examining each book consists of ten experienced readers; all ten have to like your book!

The latest, awarded this week to AURELIA, is called Chill with a Book’ Reader Award and was set up by the indefatigable Pauline Barclay. Once again, the books are judged by readers.

Readers are the ones who shell out their (taxed) money to support authors. In return, we give them hours of entertainment, an emotional journey, we open new vistas and sometimes cause them to think differently.

Given the huge choice of books available today, quality awards based on pleasing readers give the wider reading public an assured guide into the world of new independent fiction.

 

Update (1 March):
Against stiff competition, INSURRECTIO has been selected as Book of the Month by the ‘Chill With a Book’ reader award.

More bubbly!

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

All change at Roma Nova!

When I typed the last word of the first draft of INCEPTIO in 2009 I didn’t have a clue what to do with it. After advice, professional assessment, and submitting to a lot of agents whose response was “great concept, great story, great writing – not sure I could sell it” I decided to go the independent route. Following my nature and professional experience, I researched it to death. I’d self-published a history book in 2012, so I knew how hard it was! Although a computer geek, when it came to publishing and printing I knew enough to know that I didn’t have the fine skills to achieve the top of the trees result I wanted for INCEPTIO.

So I searched for help and found what I was looking for – assisted publishing – in SilverWood Books of Bristol. That first telephone conversation with publishing director Helen Hart has stayed with me. She was encouraging but realistic, emphasising that they didn’t accept every manuscript, that I might not get the costs back, that publishing under your own steam was hard work. She was very straightforward about the services that SilverWood offered and what it didn’t.

I was impressed. What a contrast to the overdone enthusiasm of others I’d approached. I’d run a business for 20 years and could smell the difference between a cabbage and a bouquet (no offence to cabbages).

So began a very productive business relationship.

SilverWood Books emulate the traditional publishing process; their books are indistinguishable from (and often better than) many mainstream ones and they are one of the few ethical publishing services providers around.

INCEPTIO (2013), PERFIDITAS (2013), SUCCESSIO (2014), AURELIA (2015) and INSURRECTIO (2016) – have all been produced with SilverWood Books’ expert help. As I worked with them on AURELIA in 2015 I realised just how much I’d learned in the previous three years. I became more confident about both my writing and the publishing process. With INSURRECTIO, the fifth book, I was almost firing on automatic.

So when discussing RETALIO (out this spring), SilverWood’s publishing director Helen Hart suggested a different arrangement. She felt that I had outgrown the full support package suitable for less experienced or less knowledgeable authors and was ready to fly by myself. Talk about a light bulb moment! She was, of course, completely right.

If SilverWood hadn’t been behind me I would not have had such an easy time of publishing my work, especially with the first and second books. It’s been a mutually beneficial business relationship but with a huge dollop of personal as well as professional support and guidance.

But now I’m ‘graduating’.

SilverWood Books will continue to produce my book files; I need their quality. But my own imprint, the sparkling new Pulcheria Press, will be the publisher. (I think we all know where ‘Pulcheria’ came from…)

Helen Hart from SilverWood says,’I’ve worked with Alison on the publication of five Roma Nova titles so far. When it came to SilverWood starting production on her sixth, it seemed natural for us all to consider whether the time and circumstances might be right for Alison to set up her own imprint. With her business skills, and having been taken on by a literary agent, she’s perfectly positioned to make the transition from assisted publishing to accomplished independent status.

Alison is a consummate professional, as well as a superb writer, so it’s wonderful for me and the SilverWood team to be alongside her as her knowledge and experience develops. We’re now starting production on the sixth book, RETALIO, and it’s exciting to be part of the Roma Nova/Pulcheria Press journey.’

With SilverWood Books director Helen Hart, launching INSURRECTIO

Thanks to SilverWood I’ve gone from newbie author to multi-published author with my last book, INSURRECTIO, launched at the 2016 London Book Fair. And now I’m represented for ancillary rights by a top London agency, Blake Friedmann, who have so far sold the first four books to AudibleUK, (audiobooks just released!).

Being part of the self-publishing sector as it matures exponentially with the best ‘professional indies’ selling millions and gathering acclaim is a heady ride. SilverWood Books has been an essential part of that journey for me.

Now I’m travelling on.

Pulcheria Press site       Twitter:  @PulcheriaPress

 

 

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Comparing Roma Nova with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

This is a treat from a reader in Luxembourg! How does Roma Nova measure up against the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg? Dylan Harris has kindly given me permission to reproduce his post  https://dylanharris.org/blog/2017/b8.shtml

Roma Nova is Alison Morton’s series of alternative history novels set in a surviving remnant of the Roman Empire, also called Roma Nova, thriving in the 21st century. The author has compared her fictional small country with Luxembourg, among others.

I like the Roma Nova novels, and I live in Luxembourg. I find myself tempted to explore the comparison.

My knowledge of Roma Nova is small—all I know is what’s been published in Morton’s books, which is (rightly) only what’s necessary to tell the stories. Similarly, although I’m slowly accumulating information about my prospective adopted homeland, I’m certainly not knowledgeable—for some reason, it wasn’t covered during my British education. All the same, I found Morton’s comparison amusing, so will delve, even though anything I say will only really compare my misunderstanding with my ignorance.

Count Siegfried of the Ardennes (c. 922 – 28 October 998)

The countries’ origins have nothing in common. Luxembourg is no remnant of a once great empire, and its only certain Roman connections are ruins. A true link with Rome lies across the border in the German town of Trier, once a regional Roman capital, and sometime second city of the Western empire. In Luxembourg, there was a Roman fortification, but that was abandoned after the collapse of the empire. Luxembourg is far younger than Roma Nova, founded in the 10th century from, well, nothing much, by Count Seigfried. About the only possible direct connection with ancient Rome is the country’s name, which probably derives from that of the ancient Roman fortress, Lucilinburhuc.

The rare thing both Roma Nova and Luxembourg do have in common, though, is that they have both survived. Almost all the small countries that used to decorate maps of Europe have been lost. Roma Nova is the only remaining part of the once huge Roman empire. Luxembourg is the world’s one remaining Grand Duchy.

Luxembourg lost much of its original territory to its three neighbours—France, German and Belgium—but it endures. For much of the first thousand years, the Gibraltar of the North was a small but significant military state, or more often the province of a larger power. Its survival since its military was neutralised and its independence guaranteed by the then superpowers in 1867 seems to have been partially down to luck; it lies between stronger powers and seems to have played them off against each other. None of its three larger neighbours have been willing to let another take it. If one of France or Germany invaded, the other fought to free it. Belgium gave it softer economic strength. Things became easier with the creation of the force for peace now called the European Union.

Roma Nova lies in the Alps, roughly where you’ll find Slovenia on modern maps (once the northern part of Yugoslavia), in an alternative history with no European Union, and quite different conflicts between quite similar powers. Luxembourg is in the Ardennes, which may be challenging hills (consider the Battle of the Bulge), but they are certainly not mountainous.

Like Roma Nova, Luxembourg punches well above its weight. Unlike Roma Nova, this is a recent thing. Luxembourg is a founder member of NATO, Benelux, the UN, the OECD, and the European Union (it is one of the three capitals). It has significant influence in the EU. For example, the current European Commission President, Jean–Claude Juncker, along with two of his predecessors (Jacques Santer and Gaston Thorn) are Luxembourgish, which is impressive when you remember the EU has 28 members but the European Commission has had only thirteen presidents.

Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg

Like Roma Nova, Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy, and the monarch, currently Grand Duke Henri, has a role in the government. I know little of the actual power of the Grand Duke, although I don’t think he has the military muscle of the Roma Novan Imperatrix, and he’s hardly put anyone to death recently.

Roma Novan wealth ultimately derives from its high quality silver deposits. Luxembourg has massive iron ore deposits, but the changing world economy meant much of its iron economy was lost in the late twentieth century, although a significant remnant survives.

However, it has made a very successful transition into finance, so much so that it is currently one of the richest country in the world per head of population (nominal GDP per capita, 2015 figures), richer even than Roma Nova. Unlike Roma Nova, it is not a hotbed of technological innovation, although the government here is very keen to correct that lack with the creation of universities, significant funding for entrepreneurial start–ups, and even creating a legal infrastructure for the commercialisation of outer space.

Culturally, Roma Nova’s distinction is that it is a matriarchal society, built around strong families led by women. In this one respect, it is more Celt than Roman. Luxembourg’s distinction is that it has the highest proportion of foreign residents of any European country, nearly half. Moreover, the population doubles during the day as workers commute from neighbouring Belgium, France, and Germany.

Roma Nova speaks Latin, which would make it one of the oldest languages still alive in Europe. It hasn’t changed as much as those dialects that became French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, and many other modern languages. Luxembourg, on the other hand, speaks probably the youngest language in Europe, Luxembourgish, which was only officially codified in 1946, and is rapidly changing. It’s derived from the local Moselle–Frankish German dialect. Its modern development arose in reaction to the Nazi occupation and annexation during the Second World War, as Luxembourgers found the need to assert their independence and identity from the Germanic.

Another core difference between the real and imaginary country is something that makes the real country seem deeply imaginary. Luxembourg has three official and four actual languages: Luxembourgish, French, German and English. In most countries with multiple languages, which language you use depends on where you are. Here, which language you use depends on what you’re doing. As a foreigner intending to settle, this makes it feel a little odd, almost like something out of a China Miéville novel. Roma Nova is much more ordinary: it uses its one language, modern Latin.

There’s only so far I can take this comparison, giving it’s mostly based on my ignorance. The two countries are quite different, but it pleases me to imagine that perhaps Morton took a little from Luxembourg when she created Roma Nova.

Thank you so much, Dylan, and for your on-going interest in Roma Nova!

(Photos supplied by Alison)

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.