The Aurelia/Caius grudge match

Dramatis personae” – you may have seen this at the top of the cast list in those plays you read at school. “Personae” is Latin for people and “dramatis” means of the drama or play. For the Roma Nova novels, it seems entirely appropriate in a world of people who are definitely dramatic!

So who are the main “personae” and what is their grudge about?

Aurelia Mitela is our heroine. She started her existence in INCEPTIO as the older stateswoman, the advisor, Carina’s loving grandmother and ‘backstop’. She was a senator, businesswoman and advisor to Imperatrix Silvia, Roma Nova’s ruler. She comes from one of the Twelve Families which helped found Roma Nova at the end of the fourth century, so she has a lot of history supporting her. Aurelia plays a role in Carina’s life throughout the first trilogy of INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO, but it’s in SUCCESSIO that to see glimpses of Aurelia’s personal history, of the dangers that threatened to engulf her as a young woman, and of her personal nemesis, Caius Tellus.

In AURELIA, when we go back to the late 1960s, she’s the tough young Praetorian special forces officer who will become that strong older ‘wise head’. She has a lot to learn as she juggles responsibilities when her mother dies and is then called to state service as a spy.

Her battle with Caius scars her physically and emotionally, but there is a compensation for her. By the time of INSURRECTIO, nearly thirteen years later, she’s matured into a senior councillor but falters in her relationship with her daughter Marina. Of course, that all explodes when Caius comes back on the scene. Aurelia still has a mental block about him which gives him a psychlogical hold over her, however much she protests. At the beginning of RETALIO, she’s in a desperate place; friendless (apart from her faithful lover), ostracised by her fellow exiles, physically weak and emotionally fragile. But then her deep love of Roma Nova forces its way to the surface and she can’t ignore it…

And Caius? The young bully who spat on the five year old Aurelia’s food, stuck the seven year old’s head down the kitchen drain, tried to rape the teenage Aurelia? Given every privilege by his mother and grandmother, Caius had never had to struggle for anything. Strong willed and  intelligent he dominated  his circle and charmed older adults with his good looks and broad smiles.

And when he reached adulthood, he had no idea of anybody else’s interest but his own. But the chief failing that gnaws away at him is that he could never break Aurelia’s shell, either with charm or by force. He resents that she can see through him and takes it very personally…

The stage is set for the end game. Roma Nova’s future is in the balance. Aurelia must take the biggest risk in its history and in her own life. Whether she will overcome her inner doubt and be able to face Caius again is something even she doesn’t know.

Read more about RETALIO

Watch the book trailer! https://youtu.be/Mql2Mm3ytJc

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April  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.

Black days under occupation in Roma Nova

Caius Tellus

The morning after the power grab by Caius Tellus on the night of fires (INSURRECTIO), people woke to find the following proclamation pinned on noticeboards, on the doors of public buildings and in the forum in Roma Nova city.

By order of First Consul Caius Tellus
Due to the national crisis, the provisional government will apply the following emergency orders for the next 30 days.

  1. All citizens must be indoors by 21.00 and will not leave their homes before 05.00.
  2. We will respect citizens’ rights but anyone instigating or committing a breach of these orders will be punished severely.
  3. All orders given by the civil authorities or their authorised representatives are to be strictly obeyed.
  4. Personal ownership of all rifles, guns, revolvers, daggers, sporting guns and all other weapons whatsoever including training blades of every kind together with any ammunition is now illegal. However, citizens have until 18.00 tomorrow, 7 October, to surrender any such items currently in their possession to the nearest vigiles barracks. Discovery of failure to do so will result in summary imprisonment even after the expiry of these emergency orders.
  5. All service personnel on leave must report to the nearest military barracks by 18.00 tomorrow, 7 October.
  6. No boat or vessel of any description, including any pilot, fishing or tugboat, shall leave the river harbours or any other place where same is moored without an order from the local Curia office.
  7. All international flights and cross-border rail services are temporarily suspended and all road crossings are strictly controlled. Expect long delays for verification which will only be granted in exceptional cases.
  8. Foreign citizens in Roma Nova will be respected, but should remain in their hotels or residences until they have either registered and obtained a permit to stay from the local Curia or applied for an exit visa. These will be issued via their national legations.
  9. Emergency services including doctors, veterinary and social personnel will be granted fuel and supplies subject to registration. Agricultural units and food suppliers will be granted movement orders and fuel subject to registration.
  10. For the time being, there will be no fuel allocation for private use.
  11. Food shops will remain open as before; increasing prices is forbidden.
  12. All television and radio organisations apart from the National Roma Nova Broadcasting Company have been switched off. Their male personnel will be integrated into the new national company and the female staff dismissed.

Signed this day 6 October Caius Tellus

Caius’s seizure of power had been very carefully worked out, even down to street level; he’d given each local Roman Nationalist Movement (RNM) organiser precise instructions about their role and goals. This was the main reason the coup was so successful so quickly. Checkpoints, curfew, house arrest, raids and detention by the RNM political troops acting in parallel with the civilian police, the vigiles, follows in the next eighteen months as Caius exerts complete and ruthless control. He reintroduces the death penalty.

 

Hand-in-hand goes the development of  a “personality cult”. Photographs glorifying Caius as a ‘true Roman’ are hung on the walls of local and central government offices within days as well as at the Golden Palace, the traditional home of Roma Nova’s rulers. Wherever he goes publicly, he wears his black uniform with red mailed fist armband.

New controls and content are introduced for children’s education and as Sextus, a student and resistant, reports in RETALIO, political education is compulsory for males of all ages. Women are not required to attend; they’re excluded from secondary and tertiary education now and no longer considered full citizens. As Aurelia discovers, people obey on the surface but there’s a great deal of resentment and anger. Roma Novans aren’t yet immersed in the new ideological regime, but although bitter at the previous weak government for letting this happen, they’re starting to adapt as they face new struggles in daily life.

Food shortages, confiscation and work conscription have become normal; inevitably, a black market in food and other essentials develops. Open disobedience leads to reprisals and the risk of being sent to one of the new work colonies. But Roma Nova has not yet become a ‘telling’ society even though Caius’s RMN political troops and auxiliaries actively encourage people to inform on neighbours, work mates and even friends. Unfortunately, a few suffer simply as a result of jealous neighbours or fellow workers.

The experience of this sudden regime change and the harsh regulation, especially for women, is a deeply psychologically disorienting one for the Roma Novans as what was once familiar and safe  has suddenly become strange and threatening. Many living in the city itself and the main towns of Castra Lucilla, Brancadorum and Aquae Caesaris can’t get over the shock they experienced when they first saw the huge red RMN mailed fist banners draped over public buildings and flying on top of the Golden Palace.

At the beginning of RETALIO, Roma Nova is not under foreign occupation as France was in our timeline in the 1940s, but under internal occupation as in Soviet Russia under Stalin. It takes fortitude to endure this day after day, and extraordinary courage to resist actively. Will that courage be ground down by fear and despair and the natural instinct of risk averse humans to reconcile themselves with the circumstances however miserable?

Read RETALIO to find out…

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April  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.

RETALIO - excerpt

The first page …

‘Betrayal and collaboration used to lead automatically to a death sentence. You should be grateful this is the 1980s.’

She refused to look at me and instead jabbed her spoon into the coffee cup, almost scraping the glaze off as she rattled it round the tiny amount of liquid at the bottom.

‘Is that what you really think I’ve done, Maia Quirinia?’

‘I’m an accountant, Aurelia, used to looking at facts and figures. And the evidence against you adds up, if you’ll forgive the pun.’

This was my childhood friend, my fellow minister, one of the inner circle I had trusted with my secrets, my failures as well as my successes. The person who’d comforted me when I was nearly raped as a fifteen-year-old, whose common sense gave me balance and whose life I’d saved on the dreadful night of fires.

She looked tired; her hair was neat, but she obviously hadn’t had it cut and shaped for weeks. She’d draped her coat, pressed wool from a chain store, over the back of the chair and kept the acrylic scarf round her neck. That and the knitted gloves she would once have been embarrassed to give to a charity shop told me how hard things were for her. And it was probably the same for the rest of them.

She glanced at the wall clock. Ten past eight on a freezing December morning in a Vienna backstreet. She wriggled on the hard wooden chair. The workman’s café, warm from the fug of cigarette smoke, wasn’t the most comfortable place to start the day. It was full of people arguing about the previous evening’s football and how much everything cost, and the whirr and clatter of the coffee machines and the snappy retorts of the server trying to get to all twelve tables at once; crowded enough to drown our words.

‘I have a job interview in twenty minutes.’ She stood up. ‘I’m sorry, more than you can imagine, but this is goodbye. If any of the others find out I’ve been meeting you, I’ll be proscribed as well.’

She’d said it. That terrible word. Proscribed. Not that it meant much coming from a group of exiles stripped of authority, living on the edge of financial ruin, but it stung all the same.

Find out more …
Where to buy RETALIO

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April  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.

Power grabs

The Death of Caesar, Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798 (public domain)

In ancient Rome, grabbing power was the default way to become emperor. Even in the Republic, achieving consulship required some serious bribery and corruption, subverting the process, whipping up the emotions of the people with simplistic slogans and the like. Power rarely passed cleanly or without disruption. Even my favourite emperor, Vespasian, seized power, although he was one of the ‘good guys’.

In the modern era, we had seemed to have learnt at last from world wars and politically totalitarian regimes that consensus and moderation are the preferred, if imperfect, way. I’m not a political scientist, but a translator/historian-turned-novel writer. My MA  in history examined German women in the armed services during the Third Reich and demanded a fair amount of background research on how such a regime came to power. Richard Evans’ trilogy on the Third Reich is brilliant on the minutiae, but his first, The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany should be required reading for any modern historian or would be democratic politician. The essential takeaway is that Hitler was elected to power. His movement grew in a period of anger, instability and uncertainty. His promise was national pride, Germany first and doing away with ‘foreign’ influences.

I really hope I’m not drawing facile parallels, but in 2016, I saw populist emotion, backed rationally or irrationally by fear and fuelled by misconceptions, half-truths, platitudes, and downright lies come to the fore and produce some very strange outcomes, albeit through the electoral systems. Of course, excitement, challenging the establishment, a desire for change that will “solve all problems” or take us back to a (completely mythological) golden past are much more alluring than boring old plodding in a forward direction slowly making incremental improvements. It’s only when such  “slow” progress is threatened or cut lose that we see how far we have come and what is in danger of disappearing.

And once an incumbent is in power, we naturally risk-averse human beings are very adaptable and try to ignore the things we know either intellectually or instinctively wrong. It takes a great deal of courage to make a stand in such circumstances.

If you want a really scary political thriller about subverting a presidential election, read Ted Allbeury’s The Twentieth Day of January… 

A spookily prescient espionage thriller from one of the masters of the genre. What if the Soviet Union gained control over the US Presidency? SIS agent James Mackay fears that this may already be happening when he realises the newly elected president’s press secretary is a former communist radical with links to the KGB. When the witnesses who support his suspicions are systematically eliminated, MacKay must race against time to prove that the President-Elect is not his own man before Inauguration Day and avoid a national catastrophe.

Pointing no fingers, it does look like a lot of coincidences in 2016. Or The Twentieth of January could just be a made up ‘what if’ story…

When I was drafting my first three Roma Nova thrillers, I referred to the main character’s love interest’s background when he had been brutalised by a cousin who had grabbed power twenty-three years before the start of the first book. It was a writerly technique to round out that character as a damaged soul behind a very tough exterior. And that cousin was the ‘bogeyman’ who reached out from the past to exert more and more influence in my character’s inner life.

Of course, I then had to write that story. I began drafting the rise of this power grabber at the end  of 2015, charting the rise of a nationalist and populist movement complete with marches, simplistic slogans, a charismatic leader with a gift of communication and a will of iron. He attracted people uncertain under a weak ruler, and one night he seized power in the Roman way, by coup d’état. Although repressive, the new regime favoured one section of the population who were very pleased and things seemed to settle down on the surface, although internal repression was severe.

I confess I was modelling this regime on the Third Reich, but as political and national decisions developed in 2016,  I felt slightly uneasy. We know better than to have people seize power by waving guns as in stories. The electoral system is so much less disruptive and appears more legitimate.

Now we have another 51% populist ‘power grab’, this time in Turkey. It’s all legal, of course, as other ones have been. The Netherlands stepped back from the temptation. Here in France, the first round of the presidential election takes place this coming weekend. We have les doigts croisés for a rational outcome.

Update: The extreme right wing Front National candidate Marine Le Pen was defeated by centrist Emmanuel Macron. His five year presidency of France begins 15 May 2017.

—————

Warning – commercial content follows. If after all my opinionating, you are interested in the Roma Novan power grabber’s story and his personal vendetta against my heroine, here’s the trailer:

Kindle: http://myBook.to/INSURRECTIO
Paperback: http://myBook.to/INSURRECTIO_paperback
Other retailers: http://bit.ly/2p9i5ki

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April  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.

The RETALIO blog tour!

The RETALIO  publication date is fast approaching. Some very generous people are hosting us on their blogs with interviews, giveaways, guest posts and reviews. Quite a tour for Aurelia Mitela and her nemesis, Caius Tellus!

20 April          Joanna Courtney        History Matters Interview + giveaway (finished)
24 April          Henry Hyde                 Six of the Best interview
25 April          Neetsmarketing          “Marketing a series”
27 April          Tony Riches                The Writing Desk interview + giveaway (finished)
27 April          Brook Cottage Books  “Saying goodbye to your characters” + giveaway (finished)
1 May             Women Writers           “A Tale of Two Trilogies”
2 May             Helen Hollick               The alternative world of Roma Nova
3 May             Anne Williams            “Roma Nova and alternative history?”
4 May             Unusual Historicals    Excerpt from RETALIO + giveaway
5 May             Jaffa Reads Too          Being nice to bloggers + giveaway (finished)
7 May             Libertà                         “Romance and thrillers?”
7 May             Unusual Historicals    Author interview + giveaway
9 May             Clare Flynn                  The writer and her books
10 May           Katrina Marie               Meet Aurelia Mitela
12 May           Paula Peruses             Chatting with Paula
15 May           Anna Belfrage            “Writing a villain”

Join us for the fun and games!

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April  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.

A tale of two trilogies

One day I decided to write a book of high adventure set in an alternative, modern Rome, including a hunky hero, but with the story driven by a young woman who transformed from a prickly twenty-five year old nobody into somebody she’d been waiting all her life to become. She, Carina, went on in the next fifteen years to battle betrayal and a particularly nasty nemesis while finding a passionate love which didn’t always run very smoothly.

INCEPTIO                    PERFIDITAS                     SUCCESSIO

Then I became fascinated by this girl’s grandmother, Aurelia, a senator, imperial councillor and ‘elder stateswoman’ in the first three books, but who in her youth had served as a crack Praetorian officer and played a pivotal part in Roma Nova’s fight back from a bitter rebellion.

AURELIA                      INSURRECTIO                      RETALIO

Both were intended to be single books.

Well, you know what happened. There was just too much story, too much history and too many layers and aspects to these two heroines and the challenges to contain in single books. So this is why were have six books and two trilogies.

My next book will DEFINITELY be a single book.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, is due out on 27 April  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.