Speaking at Foyles Bristol

With Debbie Young and Liesel Schwarz at Foyles

With Debbie Young (ALLi) and Liesel Schwarz at Foyles

Never have your event on the sunniest and balmiest evening of the year! We were a small, but select, group that met in Bristol Foyles to talk about ‘Writing Alternatively’.

We had the most fascinating conversations about steampunk, alternative history, constructing a completely artificial world and enticing the reader into it.

Pre-talk drink


Chatting with a reader

Chatting with a reader






After a glass of wine, and some chatting with readers and colleagues including Helen and Emily from SilverWood Books, we got down to business!

Both steampunk and alternative history stories are reversals of standard ideas; Roma Nova is essentially Roman which in the ancient world was strongly patriarchal, but by the 21st century developed an ‘egalitarian plus’ society. Steampunk mirrors the late Victorian/Edwardian world, but where technology and engineering are steam-powered and society still based on traditional values. Readers enjoy following characters acting out the story rather than wading through long descriptions; this is the challenge for authors today, particularly for authors being extra inventive or even alternative.

Liesel and Alison_Foyles 2


Liesel and I stressed the need to weave our ‘world building’ into our books; setting must be reflected by the characters, their actions and the effect they have on that world, and vice versa. We need to remember to keep the stories and their world plausible and consistent and do this by making the characters’ lives natural within that world.

In full flow

Goodness knows what I was saying!


Then we passed on to strong women characters whom we had given multiple problems – personal conflict, professional struggles and inner flaws and sometimes severe lack of judgement, but women who drove the plot forward and  toughed it out. Historical and background research was essential for writing  in steampunk and alternative history genres. You have to get your facts and historical logic a hundred per cent correct to maintain plausibility.

SkyPiratesWe were finished with mentioning our latest books (*coughs*). Liesel’s Sky Pirates ins now out in paperback. I expect you’d expect me to say this but I will anyway – it’s a rattling good read! It’s the third in the Chronicles of Light and Shadow and features, of course, a strong female protagonist.


And the Roma Nova thrillers were on display with the newest addition, AURELIA, published only a few days ago.

Roma Nova books



More about Liesel here:




Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO. The fourth book, AURELIA, is now out.

Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for her free monthly email newsletter.

8 comments to Speaking at Foyles Bristol

  • One of the good things about following a writer you admire and whose books you enjoy is the opportunity to discover other excellent writers along the way. Thank you Alison for introducing me to Liesel Schwarz and her books. I have just ordered the first in her trilogy as the write up about it looks just ‘up my street’

    • Alison

      Delighted to have introduced Liesel to you. Hers is a fascinating world.

  • Great pictures, and a lovely evening. So sorry the SilverWood team couldn’t stay until the end but hopefully we’ll catch you and Liesl in action elsewhere. (Your Roma Nova books look super duper piled up like that, too!)

    • Alison

      Thanks, Helen for coming along, especially on such a lovely evening.
      And the Roma Nova books? Yes, there is definitely joy in numbers!

  • A fabulous evening, Alison, and it was a pleasure to meet Liesel and hear her speak so engagingly about steampunk and her books. Plus I’d never thought of you as being “punk” before – what fun we have with all these definitions! Am going to buy one of her books after I’ve finished “Aurelia” 🙂

    • Alison

      Next time, I’m answering Q&A about my writing, I shall think of Liesel’s use of ‘punk’ when considering how Roma Nova is a reversal of the expected…
      Thanks, Debbie, for all your support before and on the evening.