29 May 2016

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Alison Morton on INSURRECTIO

This week, we’re pleased to welcome author and Unusual Historicals contributor, ALISON MORTON with her latest release, INSURRECTIO, the fifth in her popular Roma Nova series. On Sunday we read a tense excerpt, today Alison answers questions!

One lucky visitor will get a signed print copy of INSURRECTIO – this giveaway is open internationally. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post for a chance to win. The winner will be contacted privately by email.

Here's what INSURRECTIO is about...

‘The second fall of Rome?’
Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and imperial councillor in Roma Nova, scoffs at her intelligence chief when he throws a red file on her desk.

But early 1980s Roma Nova, the last province of the Roman Empire that has survived into the twentieth century, has problems – a ruler frightened of governing, a centuries-old bureaucracy creaking for reform and, worst of all, a rising nationalist movement with a charismatic leader who wants to destroy Aurelia.

Horrified when her daughter is brutally attacked in a demonstration turned riot, Aurelia tries to rally resistance to the growing fear and instability. But it may already be too late to save Roma Nova from meltdown and herself from entrapment and destruction by her lifelong enemy.…

**Q&A  with Alison Morton**

What’s been happening to Aurelia Mitela, the heroine of the last Roma Nova thriller, AURELIA?
Thirteen years after the end of that book our heroine, now senior imperial councillor and senator, has climbed the career ladder to assistant foreign minister. It’s hard work as you’d expect, but she loves it. Roma Nova’s government has a mix of traditional Roman elements such as a senate, an imperatrix – the ruler – with her imperial secretaries (equivalent to top civil servants) running the day-to-day administration. An imperial council of ministers heading specific departments give advice much like a standard Western cabinet. Aurelia is a leading member of this council; she’s at the centre of power.

At home, she is as much in love with her companion as ever and her daughter, Marina, has grown into a pretty young woman, scatty, but loving. What on earth could go wrong?

We’re in the early 1980s. What attracted you to this period?
INSURRECTIO follows the story of AURELIA which was set in the late 1960s. Aurelia Mitela’s nemesis, Caius Tellus, has been released early from jail in Prussia after serving 12 years of a 15-year sentence. The date was a matter of arithmetic! But the 1980s were the start of great technological as well as societal change. Although I work in an alternate timeline, I like to keep a flavour of a time that may be familiar to readers, even in a historical sense!

But there’s a huge trap with ‘young’ history; you think you know when things were invented or in use, but you don’t really. You can only recall the things directly relevant to you at that time, and then not accurately. So our old friend research is absolutely essential.

What’s behind the story of INSURRECTIO?
Although a standalone story, this is essentially Aurelia vs. Caius Part II.  I don’t want to spoil it for new readers of AURELIA, but let’s say that Caius isn’t best pleased with the way Aurelia keeps stopping his plans for domination.

We know from glimpses in the first three books in the Roma Nova series featuring Aurelia’s granddaughter, Carina, set in the early 21st century – INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO – that the Great Rebellion in the early 1980s was traumatic for Aurelia as a younger woman and Conrad as a small child.  We also know Caius Tellus was the instigator, but was it a power grab or something more personal? Are the two intertwined? Does Aurelia truly hate Caius himself or what he stands for? Is there an emotional and sexual reckoning between them? This is what I’m unravelling in this book…

Have you done any special research for INSURRECTIO?
Yes and no. I completed a masters’ in history in 2006, writing my dissertation on the experiences of young women during the Third Reich in Germany. The unexpected golden egg was the ton of research I already had in my hand when I started writing INSURRECTIO.

The politicised brutality and military expansionism of the National Socialist (Nazi) regime in 1930s and 1940s Germany is well known and exhaustively documented. Even today, we are fascinated by the seemingly unstoppable growth of their appeal. How could a cultured, highly scientific European society be gripped by a demagogue with a populist, nationalistic and often destructive message? Historians are still arguing about that one.

The ultra traditional, rather idealistic Ancient Roman view of women sitting at home, managing the household, weaving their husband’s clothes and producing children regularly that Caius so loves coincides perfectly with the Nazi ideological view of women’s place in our timeline. So when in INSURRECTIO Caius Tellus proposes to revert to traditional Roman male values and a ‘no women in the public sphere’ policy in Roma Nova, I had the perfect pattern in what happened to women during the Nazi Third Reich.

Caius wants to cancel women’s commissions in the military, dismiss all ranks, dismiss women police, civil servants, university lecturers, senators and make women hand over assets and business ownership to the nearest male relative. The women heading the influential Twelve Families of Roma Nova are to be replaced by men and the Families reduced to a charitable organisation. Women would only be able to hold servant and junior clerk jobs.

What’s in INSURRECTIO for the readers?
Both women and men say lovely things about the Roma Nova books and the age range of those readers is 16 to 87. I’ve noticed from reviews, comments and from talking to readers that they like clarity, snappy dialogue, plenty of interaction, enough description to set the story, but not so much it weighs the action down. Many women love the idea of women running things. ;-) Everybody seems intrigued by the Roman-ness and the egalitarian nature of Roma Novan society. Some readers want to book a long holiday there and even emigrate to Roma Nova permanently!

INSURRECTIO deals with dark concepts; a populist demagogue attacking a government headed by a weak ruler; the forces of irrationality gaining ground over fair-minded and well-meaning people who play by the rules; abandonment of the rule of law; reduction of women to chattels; deliberate alienation of people from each other; and in Caius Tellus an amoral power-grabber with a fragile sense of inner worth. But there are also courage, moral and physical; loyalty; honour; comradeship; resourcefulness; determination; and love.

And next?
I’m currently drafting the sixth book, intrinsically the story of how Roma Novans fought back against Caius. After that, I’m thinking of going back to the late fourth century and writing the story of Roma Nova’s foundation.

Thank you so much for joining me today and warm thanks to Unusual Historicals for inviting me to talk about INSURRECTIO.


INSURRECTIO - a taut, fast-paced thriller and I enjoyed it enormously. Rome, guns and rebellion. Darkly gripping stuff.” 

Conn Iggulden, author of the Emperor series

“Exploring the insidious spread of totalitarian ideals that undermine the social fabric of Roma Nova, INSURRECTIO is an excellent novel that builds to a fast paced, tense climax that keeps the reader on edge to the very end. Highly recommended.”
Elisabeth Storrs – author of the ‘Tales of Ancient Rome’ series

“Alison Morton's INSURRECTIO is a triumph of the imagination. She uses her forensic knowledge of ancient times to create a Roma Nova that feels utterly authentic, populated by genuine real life characters. Roma Nova is under attack from within by a merciless dictator and only Aurelia Mitela has the strength to face him. But even Aurelia's powers and principles are stretched by an enemy who seems to know more about her than she does herself. A brilliant helter-skelter mix of action and intrigue that hurtles to a bloody, heart-rending climax.”
Douglas Jackson – author of Gaius Valerius Verrens series

“Morton’s thrilling world-building is a masterclass in alternate history. You don’t just believe her version – you live every twist and turn.”
E.M. Powell – author of the Fifth Knight series

INSURRECTIO has been selected by the Historical Novel Society as  indie Editor’s Choice Spring 2016 and longlisted for the 2017 HNS Indie Award.

Where to buy:
INSURRECTIO is available as an ebook from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N Nook and as a paperback, author signed paperback and from other retailers.

Watch the book trailer:

Learn more about Alison Morton