I am delighted today to be joining the Coffee Pot Book Club to celebrate a special publishing anniversary for ALISON MORTON: the 10th Anniversary of the publication of Inceptio, the first book in her alternative history thriller series, Roma Nova. To mark this special year, Alison has issued a 10th Anniversary Hardback Edition of Inceptio, with a brilliant new cover, and some exclusive bonus material. Find out more about the book below.
But first, Alison has written a splendid post, explaining how the Roma Nova series grew, from (what she expected to be) relatively small beginnings into the terrific series we have now. The post makes fascinating reading…
The woes of messing about with a series
Ten years ago, I wrote a book, then a sequel and what I thought was the third of a trilogy. Set in the ‘present’, they featured a young woman, Carina Mitela, who had been brought up for the first part of her life as Karen Brown in the Eastern United States but had to flee to an imaginary country in Europe called Roma Nova. This country, about the size of Luxembourg, was a remnant of the Ancient Roman Empire that had struggled its way into the 21st century, but with a difference – it was ruled by women. I had a fine time building this alternative Roman timeline in the same way Robert Harris had built his for his alternative history thriller, Fatherland.
INCEPTIO (which I’m celebrating this month with a new hardback edition) gave us a story of Karen’s transformation to Carina and her self-empowerment when she was twenty-four years old. In PERFIDITAS, she was thirty-two and well-established in her Roma Novan life and finally, SUCCESSIO, when she was thirty-nine, brought her story to a conclusion. Readers liked the stories which won accolades, good reviews and awards. So we had Books I, II and III. (I used Latin numbering to reinforce the titles and the essential and enduring Roman nature of Roma Novan society.)
But I was stealthily writing another book, AURELIA, which was in the ‘wrong’ order because it went back to an earlier period in Roma Nova’s history – the late 1960s – and featured the story of the younger version of Carina’s grandmother, Aurelia Mitela.
Then I grasped the very sharp nettle and wrote about the Great Rebellion (INSURRECTIO) and its aftermath (RETALIO) in which Aurelia Mitela was said to have played a secret, and speculative part. Writing a coup d’état, repression, resistance and retaliation involved a great deal of research (but it was fun).
So it seemed we had a second trilogy – Books IV, V and VI, sort of a prequel trilogy, even though it was written afterwards. I was uneasy about this numbering, but what could I do? The stories had to be told!
Then I went and messed it all up.
What would I write next? Everybody seemed to be writing novellas and although I thought of myself as a long-form writer (90-100,000 words) and wondered how on earth I would write anything as short as 35,000 words, I gave it a go. I’d always wanted to expand on Carina and Daniel’s infamous castle climbing incident, plus I wanted to send her back to North America which was quite a bit different to our North America. CARINA was the result. But how to number it? In Latin numbering, S stands for semi, i.e. half or 0.5. But I could hardly number the book as ‘IS’, the Latin way of signifying 1.5, in the political climate of 2017. So it received no number on the retailer sites.
In the meantime, I wrote a collection of Roma Nova short stories stretching across two millennia – also fated to receive no number or place in the series on some retailer sites, especially the one beginning with A.
It was a truly imperial mess.
But Roma Nova stories were still tumbling out of my head. When I was drafting NEXUS, a novella to slot in between AURELIA and INSURRECTIO, I knew I HAD TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
After a lot of dithering, I went for a radical solution. I decided to rework the series. It would become two mini-series within the overall Roma Nova series. Would it work? Would I completely confuse or upset my readers? Would I ever sleep again?
I commissioned new covers, rebranded the series and held my breath. However, world revolution did not occur. The series found new readers, and existing ones bought the new novellas and short story collection. I released my breath.
So here, in brief, is the new Roma Nova world order:
The Carina strand
INCEPTIO, where New Yorker Karen Brown is thrown into a new life in mysterious Roma Nova and fights to stay alive with a killer hunting her..
CARINA, a novella, Carina’s first mission abroad. What could go wrong?
PERFIDITAS, six years on, where betrayal and rebellion are in the air, threatening to topple Roma Nova and ruin Carina’s life.
SUCCESSIO, where a mistake from the past threatens to destroy the next generation.
The Aurelia strand
AURELIA, in late 1960s Roma Nova, Aurelia Mitela battles silver smuggling and illegal trading and must make the heart-breaking choice between her love, her child and her country…
NEXUS, Mid 1970s, London, where a simple favour for a friend becomes a chilling pursuit across Europe
INSURRECTIO, where Aurelia Mitela struggles against a manipulative tyrant grabbing power. But it may already be too late to save Roma Nova…
RETALIO, a classic tale of resistance and retribution – the endgame between Aurelia and Caius
ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories from AD 370 to the present (where both Carina and Aurelia make an appearance).
THE OFFICIAL ROMA NOVA READING GUIDE, an introduction to the whole series, cover images, publication dates, links to stores, short synopses, why I wrote each book, a suggested reading order, plus first chapters from each book. And at the end a short version of the Roma Nova story.
New covers, new name
I called the two groups ‘strands’, like strands of existence, of thread, of thought. The Oxford Dictionaries defines ‘strand’ in this sense as: “An element that forms part of a complex whole.” I reckon that works well with Roma Nova!
But the one thing that’s common to all the books, whether the first edition or this new re-ordering, is that the heroines are courageous, determined and decisive, and go well beyond their duty, even at peril of their lives and loves. But they make some equally terrible foul-ups, sometimes from fear, but usually from the best of motives. And we know how that turns out.
The lessons learnt? In hindsight, it’s probably better to plan a series. However, writing life, like real life, isn’t that simple. If you need to change the elements in your series as your story world evolves, be radical, but write an awful lot of blogposts to explain it.
Thank you for those insights, Alison! The series evidently proved much longer and much more complex than you had imagined when you first wrote Inceptio all those years ago, but I think you can safely say that it has turned out extremely well!
What is Inceptio about?
“It’s about Roman blood, survival and money. Mostly yours.”
In an alternative New York, Karen Brown is running for her life. She makes a snap decision to flee to Roma Nova – her dead mother’s homeland, the last remnant of the Roman Empire in the 21st century. But can Karen tough it out in such an alien culture? And with a crazy killer determined to terminate her for a very personal reason?
Stifled by the protective cocoon of her Roma Novan family, deceived by her new lover, she propels herself into a dangerous mission. But then the killer sets a trap – she must sacrifice herself for another – and she sees no escape.
A thriller laced with romance and coming of age, this first in series is Roman fiction brought into the 21st century through the lens of alternative history and driven by a female protagonist with heart and courage.
The 10th Anniversary hardback edition includes bonus content:
Three character ‘conversations’, two short stories and the story behind INCEPTIO.
Inceptio is Book 1 in the Roma Nova series, published by Pulcheria Press, and is available as an eBook and in paperback, and the special Anniversary hardback edition.
INCEPTIO 10th Anniversary special edition hardback:
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AUS | Amazon CA
Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Your local bookshop or library
For all other formats (ebook, paperback, audio):
go to this link on Alison’s website
About the author
Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her ten-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21stcentury and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue. INCEPTIO starts the adventure…
She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading historical, crime and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.
Six full-length Roma Nova novels, including INCEPTIO, have won the BRAG Medallion, the prestigious award for indie fiction. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The Bookseller selected SUCCESSIO as Editor’s Choice in its inaugural indie review. The Historical Novel Society recently selected JULIA PRIMA, the first Foundation story set in the 4th century, the accolade of Editors’ Choice.
Alison lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mélisende, the heroine of her two contemporary thrillers, Double Identityand Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.
You can connect with Alison and follow her on Social Media:
Roma Nova website | Facebook author page | Twitter
Instagram | Goodreads | Alison’s Amazon page
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2 thoughts on “Alison Morton: Inceptio”
Thank you for hosting Alison Morton today, Carolyn!
The Coffee Pot Book Club
Thank you so much, Carolyn. I hope I haven’t confused your readers! Series are great fun and as a reader, I love them, but I had no idea that writing them would be quite a complex process.