EXSILIUM published! What is it about a book launch?

EXSILIUM is the eleventh in the Roma Nova series, thirteenth fiction and fifteenth full book that I’ve written. I’m not counting the four contributions to collections, although I should. 😉

My first Roma Nova story, INCEPTIO, came out in 2013 to a packed (standing room only at one stage) upper floor at Waterstone’s in Tunbridge Wells. Broadcaster Sue Cook spoke and everybody celebrated with me. I could hardly believe it. It was wonderful.

I tend not to do big party-type launches now, but I still drink bubbly and eat chocolate. But I celebrate, mostly online which is where everybody seems to be.

The exciting thing is sharing the joy, sharing the world you’ve built, relishing the enjoyment other people have experienced reading your book. And I hope they’re not merely being polite. 😉

EXSILIUM has taken a long time to be written, edited and published – not quite eighteen months. I wrote a short story (tied to EXSILIUM) for Historical Stories of Exile and published the special 10th Anniversary hardback edition of INCEPTIO during that time as well as speaking in a fair number of literary events and being clobbered by Covid. Those are my excuses and I’m sticking to them!

More seriously, EXSILIUM takes place at a disruptive and very strange period in the Western Roman Empire. Historical resources are even more random than usual – some are wonderful, others polarised on the basis of religion – but they are there. And I had to track them down with the assiduity of a Roman agens in rebus and this took time.

Many Roman historical fiction stories concentrate on the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the ‘glory days’ of Rome, but relatively few roam the territory of the end of the 4th century.

Much of the Roman state system, although crumbling or at least fraying noticeably at the edges, still worked; administration and the rule of law mostly worked. But Rome’s rule was inevitably diminishing by AD 395 with its land loss (ergo tax revenue loss), an aggressive state religion undermining Rome’s thousand year traditions, barbarian incursion and settlement, and the rise of warlords controlling child emperors. Small wonder that people were forced to make incredibly difficult decisions to protect themselves. Within eighty years, there would be no Western Roman Empire.

However, I hope you enjoy EXSILIUM. Maelia, Lucius and Galla reflect these difficult times and we follow how they dealt with them. Their story also provides the ancient backdrop to the modern stories about Carina, Aurelia, Conrad (and even Caius). And we all need to know where we’ve come from.

Happy reading!

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, is now out.

Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Excerpt from EXSILIUM

Rome, September AD 392

[Lucius Apulius narrates. It’s dawn and he’s going to wish his friend and brother in arms, Gaius Mitelus, a good journey as Gaius goes off to join the rival emperor Eugenius’s forces.]

The Mitelus domus wasn’t far away, perched on the summit of the Mons Cispius, part of the Esquiline. The climb up the Cispius was steep and woke me up. That and the stink of donkey dung and the piles of rotting rubbish my servant’s torch lit up. At least at this time of day, or rather night, the smell of hundreds of thousands of people was less oppressive. I did catch the much more welcome smell from a bakery. A group of nightwatchmen were trudging in the opposite direction, probably in search of their beds. One of them glanced up and nodded at me, then went on his way.

When my servant knocked on the service door in the gate of Domus Mitela, the porter took his time answering. I thumped this time and a face with a bad-tempered expression appeared in the cross-barred window within the door.

‘What?’ he grumbled.

‘Open up, for Jupiter’s sake,’ I shouted. ‘It’s Lucius Apulius, senator of Rome, for Gaius Mitelus.’

The window slammed shut and the service door opened instantaneously, held by the porter bowing deeply.

‘I beg you to accept my apologies, your honour. We were not expecting visitors at this hour. It’s as chaotic as Tartarus in here.’

‘Yes, very well. Now is your master up yet?’

‘The Lady Maelia is about and—’

‘Who is the barbarian at our gate?’ Honorina’s voice cut through.

What in Hades was she doing up at this hour at her age, and dressed, as usual, like Juno herself?

‘Apulius! Why are you here? We’re far too busy for visitors,’ she said.

‘I’m fully aware of that, domina. I have come to say farewell to my friend before he enters the snake pit of the court at Lugdunum.’

‘Well described. I tried to dissuade him when he came to see me last night, but he is as stubborn as any Mitelus in history. You’ll find him in the kitchen annoying the staff.’

Thus dismissed, I made my way across the atrium to the back of the house. Gaius was not in the kitchen but the corridor, gulping something down from the cup in his hand in between talking animatedly to one of his Ligurians packing a pair of leather saddlebags. Both turned as my boots resounded on the marble floor. Even in the dim morning light assisted by the flame from the torch in a wall sconce, his face looked like a Greek actor’s with only half the make-up. The lower part was pale, almost white, from being hidden behind the beard now shaved off, the upper part burnt as if made from walnut, and with red-rimmed eyes set in the deep sockets.

‘Lucius! What in Mars’ name are you doing here?’

‘Coming to see you off on your idiot errand.’

‘Don’t you start. I had enough from Aunt Honorina. And Maelia’s been as cold as Tartarus.’

‘Are you absolutely sure you want to go? Eugenius is old school, but Arbogastes would sell his own son, mother and grandmother into slavery to keep in power.’

‘Eugenius isn’t as thick as people think.  As master of Valentinian’s correspondence, he was privy to everything and would have worked closely with Arbogastes. And he was declared emperor perfectly normally at Lugdunum.’

‘Normally? What is normal now?’

‘You know what I mean!’

‘Why didn’t you go straight there?’

‘Money, old friend.’ He grinned. ‘I’m going to have to pay my way past all the bureaucrats to reach Eugenius. Honorina blasted me in her usual way then handed over a generous purse of gold. I also needed my formal clothes and my army record.’

He looked so enthusiastic, almost as he was when we were eighteen-year-olds with our first military postings. But as he handed his cup to a waiting slave, I saw his face become serious. At that point, I knew that nothing I could say would dissuade him.

Honorina, leaning on her stick, and I watched as Gaius’s Ligurian adjusted the straps on the pack-mules a groom had brought round to the front. Gaius’s retainers always looked solemn and said little, but this man looked melancholic with deep lines scarring his face.

The street was relatively deserted except for a man with a handcart unloading sacks of grain at the baker’s down the street and two girls hurrying away in opposite directions with loaves under their arms. One shrieked as she almost tripped over a bundle of rags which moved as she approached. A beggar. Perhaps he was waiting for scraps from the baker.

I turned round at the sound of boots clacking on marble. Gaius emerged from the vestibule followed by Maelia at a slow pace. I smiled at her, but she didn’t return it. Gaius pulled me into a bear hug.

‘I bet you wish you were coming with me, Lucius, instead of being stuck with the prosy old senators.’ He grinned at me.

‘No, thank you. I know when I’m well off. And I couldn’t leave the girls. But tell me something… Where’s the other of your Ligurians?’

‘Ah.’ He took a deep breath in. ‘He’s buried in western Gaul.’

‘What happened?’

‘Nothing glorious, although we pretend he fell in defending our employer’s villa against robbers. He went out, got drunk and fell over the wall into the river.’ Gaius pulled a face, then he looked away, the expression on his face markedly darker.

‘I’m sorry to hear that. I know you were close.’

‘That’s how life goes. I try to cheer Ragutius up when he broods, but I think he’s looking for a way out. I keep a careful eye on him. They really were twins and he feels bereft.’

‘Then he’s lucky to have you for a master.’ I paused. ‘Gaius, be careful. Theodosius will see you as supporting a usurper. If Eugenius fails in his bid as Magnus Maximus did, he won’t be as merciful as after Poetovio. Maelia managed to get Marcellus Varus to sell her house so she could pay the fine for Silvanius’s part in Magnus’s bid. This time, Theodosius won’t spare you execution and the Miteli tribe ruin. Think about Honorina at her age, and Maelia and her children.’

‘Then I’d better be successful!’ He clapped me on the shoulder, kissed his aunt and sister on the cheek and then leapt on his horse and rode off into the dawn light. As the noise of the horses’ clip-clop faded, Maelia pulled her palla tighter round her body and said in a voice of utter despair:

‘Will I ever see my brother alive again?’

She turned into her aunt’s arms and wept.

——————

Discover more about Lucius, Maelia (and her brother Gaius) and Lucius’s daughter Galla in EXSILIUM.

Buy the book
Ebook:  Amazon     Apple     Kobo    B&N Nook
Paperback: Amazon worldwide    Barnes & Noble (more retailers to follow)

——————

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, is out on 27 February 2024.

Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Exile stories bag a great review from the HNS!


Our group of authors contributing to Historical Stories of Exile was delighted to receive this warm review from the Historical Novel Society.

I have to admit that I was particularly chuffed to see a special mention for my story ‘My Sister’ which features Marcellus Virus and his nightmare of a sister, Flavola, two characters who appear in my new book EXSILIUM out later this month.

“My Sister” by Alison Morton is a vivacious tale of sisterly troublemaking and high-stakes politics in ancient Rome. The Roman details and long-suffering narrator make this tale thoroughly enjoyable.”

Ooo!

Here’s an excerpt from My Sister

Rome AD 395.  Marcellus Varus (narrating) is attending a dinner party with his  sister, Flavola. He’s chatting with friends Lucius Apulius and Gaius Mitelus before eating.

‘How’s your sister taking it?’ Gaius asked me, nodding to the group of women where Flavola stood with a sullen expression.

‘Ah. Well, I…’

‘What?’

‘I haven’t exactly told her yet.’

Lucius looked at me in disbelief. Gaius collapsed laughing. The group of women turned and stared at the outburst of noise. Even the dozen or so other men at the back of the atrium sent puzzled looks at us. After a heartbeat, they returned to their talking. Maelia looked across the room and frowned at us. Lucius took my arm and hustled me into a side room. Gaius followed, still chuckling.

Lucius pushed me down onto a stool.

‘Are you seriously saying that you haven’t told Flavola you’re uprooting her from Rome, from all she knows, and going into voluntary exile?’

‘Look,’ I said, ‘it was hard enough to get her here tonight. She doesn’t get on with Maelia.’

‘You’re wrong, Marcellus,’ Gaius said. ‘She doesn’t get on with anybody.’

‘Don’t poke at my sister, Gaius. You’re not the easiest piece in the pack.’

So that’s all going to go well…

––––––

The full list of contributing authors: : Annie Whitehead, J.G. Harlond, Helen Hollick, Anna Belfrage, Elizabeth Chadwick, Loretta Livingstone, Elizabeth St.John, Charlene Newcomb, Marian L Thorpe, Amy Maroney, Cathie Dunn and Cryssa Bazos. Deborah Swift gave us a brilliant introduction.

You can buy Historical Stories of Exile here: https://mybook.to/StoriesOfExile

––––––

My novel about the Romans and what drove them to their exile, EXSILIUM, is out on 27 February, but you can pre-order the ebook now:
Amazon: https://mybook.to/EXSILIUM
Other retailers: https://books2read.com/EXSILIUM

Exile – Living death to a Roman

AD 395. In a Christian Roman Empire, the penalty for holding true to the traditional gods is execution.

Maelia Mitela, her dead husband condemned as a pagan traitor, leaving her on the brink of ruin, grieves for her son lost to the Christians and is fearful of committing to another man.

Lucius Apulius, ex-military tribune, faithful to the old gods and fixed on his memories of his wife Julia’s homeland of Noricum, will risk everything to protect his children’s future.

Galla Apulia, loyal to her father and only too aware of not being the desired son, is desperate to escape Rome after the humiliation of betrayal by her feckless husband

For all of them, the only way to survive is exile.

EXSILIUM is the sequel to JULIA PRIMA and the two books make up the Foundation strand in the Roma Nova series.

Happy reading!

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, will be out on 27 February 2024.

Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.