16 January 2017

Meet My Protagonist: Aurelia Mitela - woman and warrior

Older Aurelia
Fifteen hundred years after the end of the Roman Empire, one last (imaginary) part still survives in the 20th century – Roma Nova. Its people are tough, uncompromising in defending their country and guard their Roman cultural values tightly. However, due to the grim times of their early history, women had to take up gladius and scutum (shield) and fight by the side of their menfolk. And they never lost the status this struggle gave them. In the late 1960s in this egalitarian yet still Roman society, Aurelia Mitela is the archetypal Roma Novan... 

Aurelia came to life when I was writing the first Roma Nova thriller, INCEPTIO. Then, she was the clever experienced grandmother of Carina, the book’s heroine. Let Carina tell you in her own words of her first impression of Aurelia:
She’d been so concerned for me, but not in a soppy way. Direct and ‘no-nonsense’ fitted her perfectly, but her smile had been warm. I couldn’t help speculating how it would have been to grow up with her instead of the Browns.

 I started tapping the keys, surfing for 'Roma Nova' while I was drinking and thinking. I couldn’t leave it alone. My grandmother’s name shot out at me. Fascinated, I loaded the English translation. The screen displayed a list of her business interests. Sketchy on detail, it gave some personal stuff at the end: head of the influential Mitela family, senator and government advisor, cousin to the current imperatrix. She really was a big hitter.”

In PERFIDITAS, we see Aurelia, the cool ex-Praetorian, holding the family together after they’d been falsely arrested:
“[Aurelia to Carina] ‘I’ve been through a great deal worse. I’m not a little old lady out of some genteel novel.’ 

 No, she truly wasn’t. She’d been Praetorian Guard Special Forces in her time, even led the attack to retake the city during the civil war. Although now in her mid-seventies, she definitely belonged to the“tough gals” league. She gave me a close description of the arresting party. What a difference it made when the victim was a trained professional and could give you precise, detailed information. She’d printed off her statement and signed it already.

Throughout the first three books, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO, set in the present we catch references to Aurelia’s early life, but more intriguingly, a whole range of questions are thrown up. What did she do in the Great Rebellion nearly twenty-three years before the time of INCEPTIO? Why is she so anxious when she compares the villain in SUCCESSIO to Caius Tellus, the brutal ‘First Consul’ who instigated the rebellion all those years ago? Who was the great love of Aurelia’s life that Carina only learns about in SUCCESSIO?

1960s Berlin
In AURELIA, the fourth book which takes us back to the late 1960s, we watch Aurelia as a young woman. She's 28 years old and is accused of murder during a mission to Berlin.While on remand in a Prussian prison, she has to undergo a hostile psychological assessment. Here’s the report on her:

Subject is highly rational, quick-minded and a natural leader. She sees nothing is impossible given enough time and resources. Subject has the confident personality and willpower to pursue and implement her goals, easily bringing others with her. A dominant personality.

Strategic thinker, curious, innovative, able to grasp and deal with problems with determination and precision. Energetic and excellent communication skills, happy to confront and negotiate with others. Intelligent enough to recognise other people’s talents, and work with them. Requires challenges and even failures, or her self-confidence could easily turn into arrogance and condescension.

Personalities of this type cannot tolerate inefficiency or those whom they perceive as lazy or incompetent. They can be chillingly cold and ruthless when the situation arises, operating purely on logic and rationality. 

They interact very well with others, often charming them to their cause, and paying attention to other people’s feelings – or at least pretending that they do. Most mature and successful personalities of this type are genuine in this aspect to some extent, even though their sensitivity may hide a cold and calculating mind.

This is a slant on the classic ENTJ personality  profile from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric test system popular in business to indicate psychological preferences about how people perceive the world and make decisions. I needed to make the report negative for the story, but positive aspects of this type of personality are that they are conceptual and global thinkers, able to see connections where others don’t, and to think ahead. Couple this with the intuition and sense of fair play many ENTJs possess, it  can make life frustrating for this personality when people around them don’t  grasp things the way they do. Of course, this conflict is a gift for a writer…

In essence, Aurelia is a blood-and-bone Roma Novan whose values are based on traditional ancient Roman ones; tough, loyal with a strong sense of duty and fully aware of her responsibilities as head of a great family. But her desire to keep all the balls juggling in the air with precise timing leads to her being riven by guilt if she doesn’t perform a hundred percent.

Aurelia has one vulnerability, her love for her frail daughter, Marina. But along with her determination to serve her country, Aurelia's willingness to sacrifice everything for Marina is also her greatest strength. It motivates her even when she's experiencing her darkest moments.

Is she sympathetic? Yes, because under all that resolution and toughness, she is still a human being who experiences fear, love, despair and grief. She bitterly misses the strong comradeship of her earlier military career and is exhilarated when going back into action. And then there is her devotion to her life-long love, elusive though he sometimes proves to be...

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Discover more about AURELIA


Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 20th century. Aurelia Mitela is alone – her partner gone, her child sickly and her mother dead – and forced to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer.

But her country needs her unique skills. Somebody is smuggling silver – Roma Nova’s lifeblood – on an industrial scale. Sent to Berlin to investigate, she encounters the mysterious and attractive Miklós, a known smuggler who knows too much and Caius Tellus, a Roma Novan she has despised and feared since childhood.

Barely escaping a trap set by a gang boss intent on terminating her, she discovers that her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles. She pursues him back home to Roma Nova desperate now he has struck at her most vulnerable point – her young daughter.

Available as
- eBook from Amazon,  iBooks,  Kobo,  B&N Nook
- audiobook from Audible
- paperback, author signed paperback and from other retailers

HNS indie Editor’s Choice Autumn 2015 
Shortlisted for the 2016 HNS Indie prize, then Finalist (one of four)
B.R.A.G. Medallion, October 2015 
Discovered Diamond January 2016

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Alison Morton is the author of the acclaimed Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and the latest, INSURRECTIO

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison-morton

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