Building Roma Nova – Part 1

When I began writing the adventures of Karen/Carina, readers became very interested in Roma Nova and its people; some wanted to visit and others wanted to sign up to live there!  I thought I’d share some of the questions they’ve asked…

Why does the heroine change name?
Carina is Karen’s real name. Her mother, who ran off to marry William Brown and live in the Eastern United States, registered Carina’s birth at the Roma Nova legation in Washington. But as their child was being brought up  in the Eastern United States, her parents decided to anglicise her name to Karen. Of course, things changed when Kren was forced to flee to Roma Nova in INCEPTIO when a bad guy tried to terminate her.

What does our heroine do on her day off?
Swims, watches movies and sleeps!



What do Roma Novans eat?
Anything! Well, standard European food, but with a bias to a Mediterranean diet, not forgetting the Roman staples of beans, olives, fish and honey. But I don’t think Carina’s diet includes garum, the traditional Roman fermented fish sauce which sounds pretty yucky.

As for drink, Carina’s family farm at Castra Lucilla does produce some very popular white wine and to the east of the capital, the famous Brancadorum champagne is renowned.



Women soldiersWhy do the characters swear so much, and by so many gods?
Many of my characters are in the police service or the military, particularly the Praetorian Guard Special Forces and they swear a lot between themselves – sorry! I have reduced the amount you would normally expect by about 70%.

Using the Roman (and sometimes Greek) gods means I’m free from using the more Anglo-Saxon expressions in many thriller and crime stories which can upset readers. Yes, it’s a cop-out in one way, but authentic for Roma Novans in their society!


And who else would they swear by if not Juno, Mars, Jupiter or Mercury? “Mars’ balls!” is especially used in moments of surprise or frustration

Juno and Venus are particularly favoured by women. The bar owner, Dania, who becomes Carina’s friend, loves using “Venus’ tits!” on (in)appropriate moments. Romans were and are fairly forthright.


What’s Roma Nova’s history?
Oh, this goes back to the end of the 4th century! You could read this or find out far more in JULIA PRIMA and EXSILIUM where you can plunge into the whole story.



How does the heroine learn Latin so quickly?
Her mother spoke Latin to her as a baby and toddler, and she went to Latin classes when younger, a little like the heroine in My Big Fat Greek Wedding  who went to Greek class every Saturday.

Karen’s Latin’s rusty, but it comes back… If a language is learned in the early years, it does tend to stick in the back of the brain and the ability resurfaces when it’s triggered by the person being immersed again in that language environment. I know this from personal experience with French which I started at age five.

Of course, our heroine has two invaluable aids: a smart mouthed teenager (Aelia in the Washington Legation), and the fascinating Conrad…

Read more about world building here (Part 2)…

Updated January 2024: 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 in 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.

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