I’ve been writing all my life. I came to novel writing after seeing a particularly dire film. ‘I could do better that that,’ I whispered to my husband in the cinema theatre. ‘So why don’t you?’ he replied. Three months later, I’d written the first draft of Inceptio, my first book. A writing friend dragged me into the local writing group the evening I finished it. I survived the ordeal of reading the first chapter of my novel aloud, to strangers! I was in.
Where do you get your story ideas?
The whole concept of Roma Nova, a 21st century mini-state based on Roman values and run by women, has been forming in my head for the past 20 years. I’m consumed by a fascination of all things Roman; I’ve travelled all over Roman Europe. I even went back and did a masters’ in history to try to satisfy my addiction. And I love the idea of a strong female character in such a society, facing danger, destruction and generally saving the world with her dedication, loyalty and sense of humour.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Edit, edit, edit! No book can ever be perfect, but writers have a duty to produce their best and then to seek professional support. It’s always worth it.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
Um, no. Sometimes, you feel you are typing through tar, your fingers have turned to dough and you can’t string a sentence together. The best cure is to write. Anything. You’re likely to go back at the editing stage and delete it, but it doesn’t matter. Typing rubbish will restore the momentum. Writing is your job as well as your joy, so slog on.
If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?
Robert Harris, the author of Fatherland, Ghost, Imperium, Pompeii. Reading Fatherland, I realised you could play with history. I thought the continuum was fixed, but Harris allowed me (and many others) to consider an alternate timeline to world events. In this way, I learned that ‘what if’ could become reality…
What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?
I love a cracking story in most genres, but probably political thrillers, historical fiction, science fiction and romance are my favourites. I look for an unusual plot line or setting, or characters facing an unusual situation. Not a really guilty pleasure, but more of a comfort read, anything by Georgette Heyer.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I wanted to get my stories to readers—they are the ultimate arbiters. After many professional assessments, I was confident my work was of publishable standard. I’d submitted my chapters and synopsis to agents and received full read requests and ‘good’ rejections; “fresh, intelligent writing,” “tight dialogue,” “good action sequences,” etc. Their greatest concern was how to market “such innovative, high concept stories.” Well, good sales figures on all platforms, three BRAG Medallions, two finalist places in Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year Award, shortlisting for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award and selection as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 seems to have addressed that one!
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
Sending your manuscript out for assessment to qualified assessors. It’s a terrifying thing to do, but the advice and guidance you get back is worth the stress. And secondly, finding a writing buddy/critique partner who can give you honest feedback, but constructively. As for “da rulz” of promotion, be genuine and behave professionally.
How did you learn about Kobo?
I’d heard about them through their connection with WH Smith in the UK and FNAC here in France, but I learnt a great deal more when I met the UK Manager of KWL, at a SilverWood Books/Foyles event in Bristol, UK. He invited me to have the cover image of my first book, Inceptio, on the Kobo booth wall at the London Book Fair in April 2014. What a thrill!
You can also find Alison:
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton
On her website: http://alison-morton.com/