Welcome to Alison Morton for a spotlight on her new novel, JULIA PRIMA, plus an enlightening guest post on “The Terror of Writing”
JULIA PRIMA (Roma Nova series)
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2022 / 335 pages
“You should have trusted me. You should have given me a choice.”
AD 370, Roman frontier province of Noricum. Neither wholly married nor wholly divorced, Julia Bacausa is trapped in the power struggle between the Christian church and her pagan ruler father.
Tribune Lucius Apulius’s career is blighted by his determination to stay faithful to the Roman gods in a Christian empire. Stripped of his command in Britannia, he’s demoted to the backwater of Noricum – and encounters Julia.
Unwittingly, he takes her for a whore. When confronted by who she is, he is overcome with remorse and fear. Despite this disaster, Julia and Lucius are drawn to one another by an irresistible attraction.
But their intensifying bond is broken when Lucius is banished to Rome. Distraught, Julia gambles everything to join him. But a vengeful presence from the past overshadows her perilous journey. Following her heart’s desire brings danger she could never have envisaged…
The Terror of Writing
By Alison Morton
You stare at the stodgy sentences.
You can’t think what words to write next.
You are starting to bore yourself.
Your characters are boring each other.
Nobody will want to read this drivel.
And so it goes round and round in your head.
Perhaps you’ve written ten novels or none. Or you’ve won prizes or you’re just starting off, snatching precious evening or weekend minutes. It doesn’t matter where you are on your writing journey – this writing terror hits us all.
And yes, we then find ten thousand things to distract us from our writing: emptying the dishwasher, rearranging the office, even a desire to clean the loo. Some of us fiddle around on social media doing ‘marketing’ or even draft a blog post instead of getting on with our work in progress. (Innocent face)
But it can be sorted out. Consider the following . . .
Are you writing your first draft of a new story?
Then don’t worry – this is the first rubbishy version. As one prominent author interviewed on the BBC said “All first drafts are sh*t.” This is my favourite comfort blanket. But it’s true. The first draft for me is to get the story out, however mangled or repetitive the words may be. Then I have something to work on and the real writing begins when I edit.
The scary blank screen and the pulsing cursor
Haven’t we all been there? Yes, every writer knows this horror. No word occurs, no scintillating first sentence will come. The solution? Write some words. Any words. Not necessarily very good words. Keep it simple, just a short piece of dialogue, what the character is wearing, where they are, what just happened to them – anything – but get started. “The cat sat on the mat. It had just sicked up all over my new shoes. Now I’d never go to the ball and meet my heart’s love.” Don’t worry – the good words will mosey along in their own time, often when you aren’t looking.
Are you worried about the subject matter being considered silly?
No topic that can be imagined by the human mind is silly, only if it’s poorly executed. That’s a matter of craft, skill and persistence, and it’s definitely achievable. A school for young witches, vampires, wars in the stars, beetles that talk, hundreds of murders in a sleepy English village – those don’t seem to have been ‘silly’ ideas. And as for a small country in the 21st century like Roma Nova, peopled by descendants of Ancient Romans…
Who am I to write this drivel?
No writer thinks they are good enough. We all think we’re imposters without a proper job. Let me tell you a secret – no writer is ever satisfied with their work when it finally goes off to the editor, agent, publishing house or beta reader. Every time you read through your manuscript at any stage, you see something that could be improved. But after the nth time you become completely sick of it. That’s the time to push it out into the world and close the door on it. Then start the next piece of work which will unconsciously benefit from all the effort you’ve put into the previous ones. Yes, even though you think you won’t, you will write better prose, draft more quickly, be more observant and creative with every new piece you tackle.
Have you become stuck in your series?
Perhaps you’ve written four or five books in a series, be it thriller, historical or crime and you don’t know where to go next. I hit this point in the Roma Nova series after completing SUCCESSIO. Then I thought about the characters established after four books and picked one of the main secondary ones in her seventies. What had been her life as a young woman? She certainly had her secrets. So I set about writing a prequel which expanded into four books forming a second strand in the series.
That second strand of four was complete, and I was stuck again. Perhaps I had exhausted the Roma Nova theme, so I buckled up and wrote two contemporary crime thrillers, intending to start a new series. This is an excellent option if your first series is really stuck; move on. Then I kept receiving emails and messages from multiple readers asking when the next Roma Nova story would be out. Had I thought about writing the Roma Nova foundation story in the late fourth century? Thank you, readers! The result is JULIA PRIMA which was published a few weeks ago. But (as usual!) I found I had too much story for one book, so I shall stay in the ancient world and write the sequel.
Are you afraid of nasty reviews, multiple rejections, scorn, and your work being ripped apart?
Sadly, some people have personality disorders that make them incapable of seeing anything positively. Some relish slashing and burning, but many are just envious of your achievement and of your daring and dedication. Even the very best authors, the darlings of the book world who may also be best sellers of all time, have been rejected and lambasted. Yes, you will be hurt at some time, but you are in honourable company. Not everybody will like your writing; they may dislike the genre, style or story. But you do like it and it’s yours. Nobody has the right to stop you writing your story. Make it the very best you can, then arm yourself with a dollop of self-belief and ignore the carpers.
But… sometimes there is a kernel of truth in the harshest of criticisms, so it’s worth steeling yourself and reading them. No writer can be wonderful all the time. But most help and advice will come wrapped in warm encouragement, surrounded by friendly suggestions and full of positive steps you might like to consider. Writers are like that. Editors are like that. Most people in the book world are like that. We all want writers to succeed.
And there will be readers who LOVE your words, your characters, the finely tuned plot, the clever research, the intelligent observation and the action-packed narrative and will be desperate for more. So you probably need to settle down to some writing. . .
Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her nine-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue.
She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.
Alison now lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mélisende, the heroine of her latest two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.
Social media links:
Alison Morton’s World of Thrillers site: https://alison-morton.com – Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor – Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton – Alison’s writing blog: https://alisonmortonauthor.com – Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alisonmortonauthor/ – Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5783095.Alison_Morton – BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/alison-morton – Alison’s Amazon page: https://Author.to/AlisonMortonAmazon – Newsletter sign-up: https://www.alison-morton.com/newsletter/
Thanks for a great guest post, Alison, and good luck with JULIA PRIMA