Dear readers, tonight with me is a woman from Roma Nova, the sole remnant of the Roman Empire to survive into the 20th century.
A former Praetorian, she is sent to investigate who is smuggling silver – Roma Nova’s lifeblood. Mysterious smugglers, lethal traps, gang bosses, and back-stabbing countrymen are only the beginning.
She is here to tell us about her thrilling adventures.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
Roma Nova? It’s in my blood and bones. Mountains, a big river, alpine pastures, vines, olives and grain fields, the smell of pines, the blue skies and the snowfields to the north, towards New Austria and west to the Italian Confederation. Then there’s Roma Nova city, the ‘urbs’. Gods, it’s beautiful; marble forum, statues, temples – our new Rome. Well, (grins) new since AD 395! Oh, and for my first adventure, it’s the late 1960s.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
I loved my first gladius. Our estate carpenter out at Castra Lucilla made it for me. She polished and polished the oak until it almost shone like metal. Maybe that’s why I was so keen to become a soldier. I spent a lot of time at the farm as a youngster as my mother was busy as senator and the imperatrix’s advisor as well as running her businesses. I swam in the lake, rode, helped with the lambing and grape picking as long as I finished my schoolwork, and sometimes not.
So are you in the military now?
I’ve served in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces for nearly ten years and I love it as much as that first day I walked into the Land Forces School after my year away in Berlin at university. Being a major means I command almost half the Praetorian Guard Special Forces. We strike where we need to we defend the imperatrix and the state of Roma Nova. That simple.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
In AURELIA, on the family side my mother’s trying to pair me off with that sleazebag Caius Tellus; some rubbish about needing more heirs. I have a gorgeous daughter, Marina, already and I’m only twenty-eight! Under those full-teeth smarmy smiles, Caius has always hated me. Spitting on my food when I was kid in the nursery, sticking my head down the waste drain when I was eight nearly choking me, humiliating me every day in front of others at school, pinching my stuff, then trying to rape me when I was sixteen…
Anyway, when I was sent to Berlin on a mission to investigate an attack on our silver trade – Roma Nova’s lifeblood – it had Caius’s fingerprints all over it. One of his Berlin gangster friends tried to terminate me. You can find out what happened in AURELIA.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
When I was injured and trapped. I was a sitting duck. They were within metres and aiming straight at my head. I can usually fight my way out of things, but I was sending up my prayers to Charon to carry me safely across the Styx at that point.
What is the worst thing about being a Praetorian?
Everybody expects you to be a superwoman. Sure we’re trained to fight, to endure, to die to protect our ruler and our country if necessary, but doesn’t everybody have a day when they feel useless and it all seems to fall apart? Oh, sometimes it’s frustrating when there’s political interference from above when you’re in the middle of an active operation.
What is the best thing about it?
That’s easy! The bond with your comrades-in-arms, the joshing, the shared purposefulness of serving your country, the challenge of hard training, pushing yourself to the edge and over it if necessary. Respect from others while trying to do some good…
Tell us a little about your friends.
Many of my friends like Numerus, a long-serving centurion, or Calavia, a young fast-track lieutenant, are in the military; this goes across ranks. When you work together on a mission or face danger with somebody trying to blow your head off on a snow covered mountain, you reply on each other implicitly and become close.
Outside, I know most of the people of my age in the Twelve Families, but close friends? Maia Quirinia was my best childhood friend, and I respect and very much like Quintus Tellus, the complete opposite of his revolting brother, Caius.
Any romantic involvement?
Ha! I thought I loved my daughter’s father, but that went sour; we just became bored with each other. We didn’t contract, what other countries call marrying, but then most Roma Novan women don’t.
Now? Well, I’m unattached at the start of AURELIA, but that horseman I met in the Grunewald…
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
I love drinking Castra Lucilla white wine from my estate or Brancadorum champagne and I’m not averse to a good French brandy. 😉 During my Berlin mission, I was introduced to pogača (a savoury pastry) by the attractive horseman.
I love keeping fit, especially swimming, and travelling, but looking after my troops and spending precious hours with my daughter Marina fill my time.
What does the future hold for you?
Once I finish this mission to Berlin, I’d love to continue in military or state service, but I know I’ll have to leave when my mother passes into the shades. With becoming a senator, running the family businesses and the farm, and trying to keep the horde of cousins in the Mitela tribe in order, I’ll have no time. Oh, and I’ll be the head of the Twelve Families who advise the imperatrix. Tell me, can we expand the day into 36 hours?
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
People think I’m paranoid, that I’m making it too personal so I keep this to myself. I worry about Caius Tellus. Those acquisitive hard eyes. He has enough wealth – his family is the richest in Roma Nova, but I think he wants more. Power, control, even domination. Well, he’ll have to get past me first. But in my heart I know it won’t finish between us until one of us is dead.
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilisation. Armed with a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her six Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.