Saturday, July 27, 2013

INCEPTIO (Roma Nova) by Alison Morton

at 1:30 AM

    Is there a message in your novel? Well, first and foremost, I want people to be entertained by my book, but there are themes of loss, self-discovery and uncertainty running under the thriller story. Nothing is ever as it seems and we can never be sure of what will be thrown at us. And, of course, there’s a strong tone of feminism, not strident, but very confident: in Roma Nova, women are naturally prominent in all aspects of life.

    How much of the book is realistic? As real as I can make it, given that INCEPTIO is fiction set in an imaginary country. I have a masters’ in history, I’ve travelled all over Roman Europe to many of the major sites and I’ve researched everything at least twice so I’m happy the historical elements are as accurate as I can make them. Unless writing post-apocalyptic fiction, the geography and climate must resemble the ones in the region where the imagined country lies. I’ll make a confession: I ‘borrowed’ Slovenia as the model for Roma Nova. Their real Julian Alps are perfect for the mountain area where, for instance, the grim prison of Truscium is located. (More locations here:

    Roma Nova is a high tech society and more advanced than America or Britain, so their technology has to be equally advanced. I checked the spy gadgetry and other technology with an electronics engineer so I’m reasonably confident about it.

    And finally, I have an armed forces background so the police, military and fight scenes should be correct, unless, of course, you know different…;-)

    Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? I’ve lived in several different cultures and I’ve served time in uniform in the armed forces – both these helped. I also know about the process of learning other languages well enough to be fluent – I was a translator for many years – so I know what my heroine goes through with that part of her transition to Roma Nova.

    No, I haven’t included any friends as such, but I’ve borrowed little character traits here and there.

    How important do you think villains are in a story? Crucial! I have a really nasty piece of work in INCEPTIO – he’s the perfect foil for the heroine. But in the same way that she’s not all “good”, he’s not all “bad”. It’s only at the end of INCEPTIO that we learn why.

    Sometimes ‘villains’ are a mixture. Are all criminals bad? And are all supposedly law-abiding characters honest and morally pure? In fiction we can explore complex personalities better, (comma here to break up long sentence) and create more engaging characters by avoiding the stereotypes and seeing what lies behind them.

    What are your goals as a writer? The most important one is to provide enjoyment for my readers. All others flow into that: to research deeper, to attend events and conferences to enrich my skills and knowledge and make contacts, and to fix a writing target for each day in time or word count. I’ve been trying to achieve the last goal for a while but with varying degrees of failure!

    Do you have to travel much concerning your books? Yes and no! With technologies such as Google Earth, you can look at every place in the world. And with Google Maps, you can often call up photos taken by others in the place you are looking at. You can find the nearest heliport, see the freeway approach or note there’s a hospital across the road. It’s a shame in a way that you don’t have to travel any longer.

    But, and it’s a big but, you cannot feel the atmosphere of a place on the Internet, walk on roads travelled for hundreds of years, cross a bridge nearly two thousand years old or touch the mosaic walls of a building on the ancient Silk Route. I visited Rome and Pompeii last year and was overwhelmed by the sensation of the power and complexity of the Romans. And it’s reinforced what I already knew and given me a fresh insight into the core values and attitudes of my 21st century Romans.

    Who is your favorite author and why? Robert Harris, the author of the iconic alternate history thriller, Fatherland, as well as Roman historical thrillers such as Pompeii and Lustrum. His more recent work includes The Ghost, a thinly disguised story of the recently unseated prime minister, Tony Blair. Harris adapted the book with Roman Polanski for a 2010 film starring Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall. For me, it echoed the political conspiracy, corruption and twisted allegiances in the Roman novels centred on Cicero.

    Harris is a political journalist and this shows through his writing. I love his succinct, pictorial style, the implication of tension and past memory he can conjure up in a few words:

    ‘Xavier March, homicide investigator with the Berlin Kriminalpolizei  – the Kripo – climbed out of his Volkswagen and tilted his face to the rain. He was a connoisseur of this particular rain. He knew the taste of it, the smell of it. It was Baltic rain, rain from the north, cold and sea-scented, tangy with salt. For an instant he was back twenty years in the conning tower of a U-boat, slipping out of Wilhelmshaven, lights doused, into the darkness,’

    If you are looking for tight writing, excellent research and a cracking story that challenges, I don’t think you can go wrong with Robert Harris.

    Where do you see yourself in five years? Still writing! It would be nice to think the Roma Nova novels would have spread their wings and been translated into other languages, and even been optioned for a film.



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