The chaotic order of the Roma Nova series

During a recent lively digital chat with cozy mystery author Debbie Young challenged me to list the Roma Nova stories in chronological order according to events and in the order they were written.

As you may know, these sequences do not line up! I asked her if it was really necessary, but she gave me a glinty look back. Roma Nova’s story is, like any country’s, a mildly chaotic one.

I started listing them then decided the only way to display the horrible truth was to put it all in a table.

Title and date published Time story set Chronological order
INCEPTIO – March, 2013 Approx 2010 7
PERFIDITAS – October 2013 2016 9
SUCCESSIO – May 2014 2023/4 10
AURELIA – May 2015 1968/9 3
INSURRECTIO – April 2016 1984/5 5
RETALIO – April 2017 1986/7 6
CARINA  (novella) – November 2017 2013 8
ROMA NOVA EXTRA (stories) – October 2018 AD370-2029 Mixed
NEXUS  (novella) – September 2019 Mid 1970s 4
JULIA PRIMA – August 2022 AD 370 1
EXSILIUM – February 2024 AD 383-395 2

Totally chaotic and unplanned!

In late 2009, I set out to write a book to express ideas I’d had bubbling in my head for decades – Romans, woman hero, military, thrilling story with a dollop of romance. That was INCEPTIO. Before it was even polished up and when I was ignorant of the publishing and book world, I had written the manuscript of PERFIDITAS. The characters were starting to push me to write the ‘what happened next?’ story and I thought that was it. SUCCESSIO followed.

Trilogy done. Books written. Job done.

Then Aurelia, the elder stateswoman mentor of Carina, the heroine of my trilogy, started nagging me. What were the secrets of her younger self? So I went back to 1968 and the series time anomaly opened… I wrote her story, straightforwardly titled AURELIA, which recounted the start of a bitter rivalry set against a crime thriller, but always in Roma Nova. But what had Aurelia done in the Great Rebellion the other characters kept going on about?

I ended up writing about the Great Rebellion in INSURRECTIO and the resolution in RETALIO. Right, that was it! No more. Then every one of my writer friends started writing novellas. I had a nagging feeling there were gaps in my trilogies when we knew nothing of the lives the Roma Novans were living between the books.

Why didn’t I have a go at some short fiction for a change?

CARINA in 2017 filled in a gap between INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS and highlighted the conflict of duty, love and loyalty and NEXUS in 2018 filled the fourteen-year gap between AURELIA and INSURRECTIO and set up a few things for RETALIO. Both were short at 38,000 words. In between, I put together eight short stories that really blasted the time continuum apart, varying between AD 370 to 2029 in the future!

Why did I go back into the deep past of the late 4th century with JULIA PRIMA and now EXSILIUM? Because the fans kept on asking me. And it was fun to write straight historical fiction.

Still, it doesn’t really matter where readers start as each story is complete in itself.

But those reading from start to finish of the series will discover I’ve woven in references between all the books and will perhaps enjoy little ‘Easter eggs’ (and possibly go aha!) when they see the connections.

Perhaps the four Carina books set in the present – INCEPTIO, CARINA, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO – could be read in succession as could the 1960s/80s group of AURELIA, NEXUS, INSURRECTIO and RETALIO. Historical fiction fans might like to start with JULIA PRIMA and EXSILIUM.

Debbie commented that the Roma Nova novels seem to bend and blend genres.  I agreed that some are purely historical novels, and others are alternative history (or alternate history, as our American friends term it) although, of course, all althist must at least be founded on historical fact.

What are the challenges of mixing up the genres within a single series? 

I had to confess that when I began, I had no idea whatsoever that the standard approach was writing in a set genre. I just wanted to write my story. It dawned on me later that the book world, especially for marketing and selling, ran on strict structural lines. I discovered that my first stories, although thrillers in many ways, could be slotted in as alternative history, a sub-genre of historical fiction. So far so good, but it turned out that it was a hard to sell area 1. there was not a lot of it about 2. publishers were shy about taking it on as it was ‘weird’.

But once people read one in the series, they very often go on to buy all the others and I’ve had some very heart-warming emails and letters from readers expressing their love for Roma Nova. Some want to go on holiday there, or even go to live there.

That I’ve touched people, and sometimes inspired them, works for me.

Possible advice for aspiring authors planning to write series?

I don’t recommend this chaotic way of writing series. I draw strength from the fact that CS Lewis did. (Think of The Magician’s Nephew plonked in the middle of the Narnia series.) But if you do intend to write a series, here are a few hints!

  • Plan! I say this with no irony 😉 I don’t mean a hard and fast structure for your series, but work out a setting/book world that can absorb a lot of different stories.
  • Don’t write one book, then go slightly more outrageous in the next one, and by Book 10, you’re over the limits of probability and into space cowboys.
  • Interlink the books in some way apart from ‘what happened next’
  • NEVER finish one book in a series on a cliff-hanger. It’s not fair on the reader and many will never read another book in your series.

Read Debbie’s original interview here:


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.

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