Why is NEXUS 'just' a novella?

Good question! I’ll try and explain…

Firstly, what’s a novella?
Essentially a short novel, but with a difference. Currently immensely popular as an ebook, ”…it allows for more extended development of theme and character than does the short story, without making the elaborate structural demands of the full-length book. Thus it provides an intense, detailed exploration of its subject, providing to some degree both the concentrated focus of the short story and the broad scope of the novel.” (Robert Silverberg)

There you have the long and the short of it. 😉

More seriously, today a novella is often written in between novels, as an accompaniment or complement to other books in a series. Sometimes, an author may be trying out a new genre, character or storyline; other times, they may tell the story of a secondary character. These are quick reads, but no less enjoyable and are typically 20,000 to 45,000 words.

War of the Worlds by H G Wells and Animal Farm by George Orwell are famous examples. My own first experiment was CARINA (35,000 words), which tells of an incident referred to in later books and a mission that sits between the full-length INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS.

So where does NEXUS fit in?
We’re still in Roma Nova, the remnant of the Roman Empire that’s toughed it out into the modern age. It’s an alternative 20th century with many aspects exactly the same as in our own timeline, but some are distinctly different; Praetorian Guards exist for one. They guard the imperatrix of Roma Nova and act as an intelligence and special forces service.

We meet Aurelia Mitela at ages 28 to 30 in AURELIA when she’s firmly established with ten years as an officer in the Praetorian Guard under her belt. She has a mother who’s a senior councillor to Imperatrix Justina and head of the Mitela family. And Aurelia’s young daughter, Marina, is the emotional centre of her life. Of course, that doesn’t stay stable past the first chapter…

When we next encounter Aurelia in INSURRECTIO, she’s in her mid-forties, and has climbed to become a senator, the deputy foreign minister of Roma Nova and chief councillor to Justina’s daughter, the ineffective Imperatrix Severina. Marina is a bright, carefree young woman. But darkness hovers over Roma Nova and Aurelia has to use all her intelligence, wit and experience to fight it.

Shortly afterwards, in RETALIO, resilience, resistance and retribution are Aurelia’s watchwords and she has to call for help on old friends outside Roma Nova as well as act as a leader for those struggling to survive inside.

Until now I’ve skipped other years as her life wasn’t at a special crisis point until the time of each of the stories in those three main books. This reflects our own lives with brief highs in a continuous flow. I would think, though, that Aurelia’s life is more stressful (although more exciting) than our own, even in the more mundane periods.

Readers have asked me what had been happening to various characters after Aurelia’s searing encounter with Caius Tellus in AURELIA, so I thought I’d explore the long gap between that book and INSURRECTIO; NEXUS is the result.

I’ve always wanted to place Aurelia in London at some point and speculate on how much of Roman London would have survived in her timeline. I used to work in the City of London (the financial quarter of London) and in my lunchtime would sit by the remnants of the Roman fortifications with my sandwiches regretting that modern town planning had blasted through the original London Wall with a road and modernist (rather ugly) blocks of flats. Of course, that didn’t happen in the Roma Nova timeline.  🙂

It’s been a real pleasure seeing some of them again: Miklós, her life’s love; tough, sarcastic spymaster Plico; daughter Marina asserting herself a little more; Licinia, the Praetorian captain in Vienna; and David Soane, the Viennese banker cousin. But most of all, we find out why Harry Carter, a powerful minister in the British government in RETALIO, wants to help Aurelia. NEXUS is that story.

So why a shorter book?
I wanted to write a standalone adventure for Aurelia – she deserved it – but not one with the same complexity and depth of disaster for Roma Nova. And we needed a break from the relentless bitter rivalry with Caius Tellus, horribly fascinating though it is.

When I read, I can’t bear ‘padding’ or dragging out for artificial reasons. Stories have a natural length which the wise writer respects, hence my recent set of short stories, ROMA NOVA EXTRA. NEXUS is a more convoluted story – after all, it means connections, ties, obligations – so it deserved a longer text than a short story. It’s emerged (after various rounds of editing and revisions, of course!) at just under 39,000 words which was a perfect length.

Readers have told me they like short, sharp reads as a change. I hope I’ve given them, i.e. you, an entertaining one and also added to the Roma Nova canon. Happy reading!

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Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

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2 comments to Why is NEXUS ‘just’ a novella?

  • Heather Paisley

    Well, I’m not at all fussy, I’ll take what I can get! If a novella is all that I can get, then thanks very much, I’ll take it! Resorting to re-reading now, as I’ve read every scrap that I can find at least once. Please write more soon, I’m pining away here xxx

    • Alison

      Thank you, Heather. I hope you enjoy NEXUS.
      I re-read books I’ve enjoyed and keep discovering new little bits as well as relishing the familiar ones.

      A new project is running around in my head…

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