Guest Post: Alison Morton

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. Fascinated by the breathtaking mosaics at Ampurias in Spain and the engineering brilliance of the Pont du Gard in France, she was curious about the role of women in the complex, powerful and value-driven Roman civilisation. That started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Now, she lives in France with her husband and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines.

Tell us about your book

AURELIA is a thriller – a woman battling her lifelong nemesis and not sure she can win. But it’s also a ‘what if’ story set in 1960s in south central Europe where a tiny part of the Roman Empire has survived into the 20th century.

Ex-Praetorian officer Aurelia Mitela must discover who is manipulating the silver smuggling destroying the economy of her beloved Roma Nova. Who set a lethal trap for her in Berlin? One person fits the bill perfectly, but can she catch him before he kills her?

A former military commander, Aurelia is one of her country’s strong women, but she doubts in her heart and mind that she can overcome her clever and implacable enemy, Caius Tellus. And exactly who is the mysterious and attractive Miklós – a smuggler who knows too much?

AURELIA is the first in a strand of four within the Roma Nova series; the others are NEXUS, INSURRECTIO and RETALIO. The Historical Novel Society selected it as one of four finalists in its last annual Indie Award.

Aurelia is the book of my heart; I became so fascinated by her role as my first heroine’s grandmother that I wanted to find out about her as a younger woman, especially her political rivalry and strange personal relationship with her lifelong nemesis, Caius.

Meet Aurelia Mitela – warrior, diplomat, spy:

If you could be a character in your book who would you be and why?

I’d like to think I’d be Aurelia herself as she has characteristics I admire – courage, a strong moral sense, persistence, passion and an ability to admit her failures – but I’m not sure I’d be up to it.

What did you learn about writing by writing this book?

That research is crucial, especially as you need a firm basis before leaping into the void of an alternative timeline.  Also, you can have enormous fun stretching your writing imagination at the same time as keeping up a (reasonably) coherent narrative.

Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?

*Collapses on floor, laughing* I sort of have one: write in the morning after checking urgent emails such as the electricity provider threatening to cut off the electricity, a prince offering £250,00 if he can pay £3.50 into my bank account or the dentist nagging me about my massively overdue check-up. Sometimes I do some sentences in the evening.

What’s one question you think would be really fun to answer, but has never been asked of you?

What would I really love to do but haven’t dared?

What made you choose to write your book as an alternative history thriller?

An obsession with the Romans, a desire to feature a strong heroine with military connections, an opportunity to explore the ‘what if ‘of at least a part of the Roman Empire surviving, and an adventure in which gender roles were switched.

Oh, and I’d just read one of the most famous alternative history thrillers, Fatherland by Robert Harris. So, I thought, you could set history off on another path…

Lightbulb moment

How much research did you do before writing the book and how did you go about it?

Although I was writing in an imaginary place in an alternative timeline, research of Rome in 395 CE, near the dusk of Empire, was vital. It was the jumping off point, the place where the Roma Nova timeline split from our one and the point of origin for the imagined backstory to Aurelia’s 20th century adventure.

As my society kept its Roman structures, values and robust attitude, knowing them in depth was essential. Perhaps it helped that I hold an MA in history and am a Roman nut.

Do you remember the first story you told? What was it?

Aged eight, I was the princess and I fought dragons daily and punished unfairness. Obviously, this has no relation at all to the themes in my current writing…

What are you reading? Who do you think we should be reading (apart from you!)?

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published first in 1915. I have no idea why I hadn’t read it before. It’s written in a dated style, but the prose is very clear and precise. Everybody interested in gender roles in society should read it. It’s very sobering when you think that in 2021 we haven’t progressed that much further on from 1915. Actually, everybody should read it.

I’ve just read Elizabeth de Waal’s The Exiles Return published by Persephone Books. It’s an accomplished account of three separate but interlinked characters who ‘return’ to Austria after the Second World War. Forget the stereotypes. De Waal effortlessly makes us believe the complexities, sadness, displacement and steadfast joys of their new lives. A beautiful book.

In one sentence what’s your best piece of advice for writers?

Keep writing your story to the end – don’t stop to edit – then only when you’ve finished that first draft, go back and revise it by searching out plot holes, checking research and polishing each sentence.

Social media links

Connect with Alison on her thriller site:

Facebook author page:

Twitter:    @alison_morton

Alison’s writing blog:


Alison’s Amazon page:

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B&N Nook:

AURELIA video trailer:

AURELIA is published by Pulcheria Press
Ebook: ISBN 9791097310073
Paperback: ISBN: 9791097310165
Audiobook published by Audible Studios  B01JPL2S18

Published by suttope

Pete W Sutton is a writer and editor. His two short story collections – A Tiding of Magpies and The Museum for Forgetting – were shortlisted for Best Collection in the British Fantasy Awards in 2017 & 2022 respectively. His novel – Seven Deadly Swords – was published by Grimbold Books. He has edited several short story anthologies and is the editor for the British Fantasy Society Horizons fiction magazine.

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