Roma Nova - a thought experiment?

Four images of 'Roma Nova' arranged as a postcard

Travel in the mind is a very popular concept at present as the Covid-19 global pandemic has put a stop to the great flow of personal physical travel. But even before that it was an idea familiar to writers. Indeed, blogger and podcaster Joanna Penn invited me to talk about Roma Nova as a place that my imagination took me to and a place that readers seem to enjoy visiting. Some even want to book a ticket on Air Roma Nova or even go and live there!

So what goes on in a writer’s mind when they build a completely new world and people it with characters who have adventures, emotional journeys and quests? is it a calculated construction or something that’s emerged over years, or triggered by an event?

One of the most familiar alternative universes is that of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter.  She put a seemingly uninteresting boy into a realistic and consistent world that was a mixture of the familiar and fantasy. She wove in magic, the teenage world, good guys, bad guys, friendship, mystery and self-discovery. Oh, and saving the world. We probably all have a different idea of what she was saying underneath all the action and magic.

Now I’m not comparing Roma Nova to the world of Hogwarts. However, the process of building a different universe is the same. It should be realistic and plausible, consistent and dynamic. But where does it all come from?

Whatever genre they write in, writers have some kind of bee in their bonnet. It can be an urgent message to give to the world, a burning desire to explore a transgressive idea or perhaps a way of working through a problem, consciously or unconsciously. Or perhaps it’s escape to a safer or more exciting place and/or with more interesting and idealised people. I suggested in another post that we might still be attracted to the idea of a Ruritania for that very reason.

Roma Nova began as a fantasy version of an idealised world in a very young mind. It grew over the years and became darker and sharper and moderated by more mature ideas of relationships, politics, failure yet retaining ‘noble quests’. The message behind the characters’ motivations was always ‘doing the right thing.’

In the real world, we can try to do this, but we are often let down as reality bursts in on us. I’m not being cynical, but Real Life is a lot messier, interconnected and unpredictable than a fictional world. Even if that world is chaotic or dystopian, we are still the master/mistress of that universe and can exercise control over the story and characters (or delude ourselves we can do it.)

Roma Nova is, if you want to be fancy, a thought experiment: suppose women ran the place; suppose it had a strong historical heritage, say the Romans and suppose the characters had a strong sense of purpose? Throw in switching of roles – Jamie Bond rather than James Bond – gender-mirroring that was so inherent and natural to the characters that it was instinctive and you do have a thought experiment, hopefully a subversive and provoking one.

Roma Nova is fun, challenging, a research dream/nightmare, but it does carry a message: what if the thriller stories were set in a world of unconscious equality where its inhabitants didn’t even think about gender roles? it simply wouldn’t occur to them to assign them. The world of Roma Nova pushes it further with the natural bias toward women. It’s not far past that equality mid point but it does switch natural succession in favour of women. There I go again, trying to illustrate a point.

You’ll be relieved to know that men form nearly half of my readers; they know a thriller when they see one and seem to enjoy the alternative timeline. Plus it’s well-known that women are the major buyers of crime and thrillers, and which female reader doesn’t like the idea of women running things?

While I’m trying to provoke thought, my main aim is to provide several hours of solid entertainment and a bit of escape from the real world. But Roma Nova does try to discuss serious themes of self-empowerment, betrayal, breakdown, loyalty, fear, rebellion and liberation within its stories along with the banter, friendships, pratfalls and love.

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.

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 newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Nero: The man behind the myth exhibition at the British Museum

“Nero is known as one of Rome’s most infamous rulers, notorious for his cruelty, debauchery and madness.

The last male descendant of the emperor Augustus, Nero succeeded to the throne in AD 54 aged just 16 and died a violent death at 30. His turbulent rule saw momentous events including the Great Fire of Rome, Boudicca’s rebellion in Britain, the execution of his own mother and first wife, grand projects and extravagant excesses.

Drawing on the latest research, this major exhibition questions the traditional narrative of the ruthless tyrant and eccentric performer, revealing a different Nero, a populist leader at a time of great change in Roman society.

Through some 200 spectacular objects, from the imperial palace in Rome to the streets of Pompeii, follow the young emperor’s rise and fall and make up your own mind about Nero. Was he a young, inexperienced ruler trying his best in a divided society, or the merciless, matricidal megalomaniac history has painted him to be?”
(From the British Museum website: https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/nero-man-behind-myth)

Well, the BM does exhibitions well; I think that’s well-known, but this one drew in exhibits from several museums across the world including Pompeii/Naples and explained the man in his age, one full of political intrigue and jostling for power (as most Roman periods were!).

Emperors and groups of powerful people with vested interests (senators, army commanders, senior palace bureaucrats) tend to ‘damn the memory’ of the previous ruler so traditional accounts of Nero had followed the writings of those beholden to those vested interests.

This exhibition questioned all that and drew deep on the sources to reassess Nero and his actions in context. It wasn’t a whitewash, just a re-examination. Many visitors may not have been aware of the strong influence of Agrippina, Nero’s mother, on the very young emperor, or of the fact that Nero wasn’t in Rome at the time of the Great Fire in 64 CE*. As well as referencing great events such as the Boudiccan Revolt, war with the Parthians, the Great Fire, exhibits included scenes from Roman life as they applied to Nero’s time and reflecting his interests – building and arts, especially the theatre.

Although a great deal was familiar to me, I enjoyed the whole thing and was surprised that two hours had gone by  when I left. The exhibition ends on October: I urge you to take the time to and go and see it.

A few photos…

There was so much more, including information about Nero as military commander, builder, artist and I was so absorbed that I forgot to take photos at some stages! Go and see it and/or order the highlights booklet or complete catalogue from the British Museum.

*(CE = Common Era, BCE = Before Common Era. These are now used instead of AD and BC)

 

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.

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 newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

The next Mélisende thriller is on its way!

Confession time…
I’ve been so absorbed in writing that I’ve neglected this blog. That’s a tad unsatisfactory. However, I have been entertaining some fascinating ‘writers abroad’ on my writing blog. I included myself but all the links are there to writers in Spain, France, Switzerland, Sweden who use their transferred homeland for inspiration.

Of course, some of us just make it up as in Roma Nova, but the Mélisende novels feature a heroine well-grounded in my region of France, Poitou.

And the good news is that the new book, Double Pursuit, will soon be on its way. The manuscript is with the editor at present and the cover is commissioned with the imaginative Jessica Bell Design. She’ll produce the cover for the ebook and paperback. I’m hoping for a late September publication date, but all these things take time.

Both Mel and McCracken are back, but there are changes ahead…

In the meantime, this is what will appear on the back cover of the book:

—————

She’s hunting arms smugglers. But who is hunting her?

One dead body, two badly injured operatives and five crates of hijacked rifles.

In Rome, former French special forces intelligence analyst Mélisende des Pittones is frustrated by obnoxious local cops and ruthless thugs. Despite the backing of the powerful European Investigation and Regulation Service, her case is going nowhere. Then an unknown woman tries to blow her head off.

As Mel and fellow investigator Jeff McCracken attempt to discover the heart of the criminal network as well as their own unpredictable relationship, all roads point to the place she dreads – the arid and remote African Sahel – where she was once betrayed and nearly died.

Can Mel conquer her fear as she races to smash the network and save her colleague’s life?

—————

 A little side note…
If you sign up to my monthly newsletter, you can download both the prequel to Double Identity and a Conrad and Carina Roma Nova short story.

 

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.

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 newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.