Alison Morton, author of the stunning alternative history Roma Nova series, and Helen Hollick, whose historical fiction ranges across the centuries from King Arthur to pirates of the Caribbean, have both taken exciting steps into new genres. I recently eavesdropped on them in conversation during their current Blog Tour, talking about the challenges and rewards of moving in new directions...
Thank you, Lucienne, for hosting a stop on our
joint tour for our new released mystery/thriller novels Double Identity by
Alison Morton and A Mirror Murder by Helen Hollick.
Helen: It was
quite coincidental that we both decided to branch out from our usual genres
into mystery/thrillers at more or less the same time, wasn’t it Alison? My A
Mirror Murder is a novella ‘cosy mystery’, while your, Double
Identity is a fast-paced thriller. What they have in common is the
theme of investigating a murder.
Alison: I wanted to write a character with strong roots in France, which is where I live. Making my heroine a dual national added another layer of interest. My previous nine-book Roma Nova alternative history series came about because I’m a ‘Roman nut’ and I’ve always wondered what a society would be like if part of the Roman Empire still existed today. I added in a twist of women running the show – but where men were not disadvantaged. Writing Roma Nova was fun, but it was the thriller element in the stories that dominated. Author Conn Iggulden, while reading Insurrectio, suggested that I write one of my heroines as a modern day character in a crime thriller. I rose to the challenge (of course!) and wrote Double Identity.
it is without the alternative history element, Double
Identity retains the kick-ass no-nonsense army heroine and an
exciting thriller element doesn’t it,
Alison? And, naturally, the same high level of
research and writing skill, so your
readers will not find too much of a difference. For myself, I’ve already
changed genres during my writing career. My Arthurian Trilogy was first
published in the 1990s, with my two 1066 era books following on – I’ve been
around as a published author for not far off thirty years now! I switched to
nautical adventure with a touch of fantasy in 2006 when historical fiction had
taken a nose-dive in the readership stakes, and pirates were popular again,
thanks to Jack Sparrow. (Good to see that the history genre recovered!)
Thank you, Helen, for your
kind words. But A Mirror Murder is historical in a way, as it is
set in 1971.
Helen: (laughs) Well, I was born in 1953, so I’d rather not think of the ‘70s as ‘historical’, but I take your point! Yes, I have used my thirteen years of experience working as a library assistant as a career for my fictional heroine, Jan Christopher, with the police investigation element being provided by her uncle and guardian, DCI Toby Christopher and his Detective Constable Laurie Walker as her boyfriend. So I’m hoping that my readers will not mind another change in genre direction and that they will still enjoy a good, entertaining read. A Mirror Murder is not a deep thriller, it’s what is termed ‘cosy’ (or cozy with a ‘z’) – so Midsomer Murders or Murder She Wrote, rather than the more involved Morse, Lewis or Vera.
Alison: I did consider using a different name, a none-gendered name as it’s generally understood that while women will buy and read books by men, men don’t return the favour for women writers. Something for us to work on! However, when I thought about my own ‘double identity’ that I would have to set up and run (website, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and the confusion at live events, I opted for staying Alison Morton. I’d rather use the time to write. The other plus for staying me is that my current Roma Nova fans seem to like my style as well as my kick-ass heroines, so I thought they might take to Mélisende and her adventures.....What about you, Helen?
I thought about changing my writer’s name when I wrote Sea Witch, the
first of my pirate-based adventures, as this series would be very different
from my ‘straight’ historical fiction, but I was already a respected writer
with a fairly large fan base (one of my novels had made it into the USA
Today bestseller list) so it seemed silly not to use my well-known name. I did consider ‘Helen
Hollick writing as Helen M Hollick’, but there didn’t seem much point. I think most of my readers are happy with the different
genres, but just in case, I do make it clear what the series is on the covers
of my non-historical books.
One of the advantages of being independently published is that we,
as authors, can write what we want to write, whereas traditional mainstream
publishers tend to contract their authors into a specific slot – and are
reluctant to release them from it, or take a chance on doing something entirely
Alison: Much as I would love to sell hundreds of thousands of books in the shops and at airports, and appear on national radio and television, I’m not sure about the constraints of a traditional deal. You are ‘under orders’ with imposed deadlines and little choice in the process of getting your book out there. Being indie means you can write what you like. Of course, you have to fund editing, cover design and any training courses, plus do all the marketing, but you have complete artistic freedom and all the risk. But I’m not averse to a bit of risk…
ALISON MORTON’S DOUBLE IDENTITY
Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder.
It’s three days since Mel des
Pittones threw in her job as an intelligence analyst with the French special
forces to marry financial trader Gérard Rohlbert. But her dream turns to
nightmare when she wakes to find him dead in bed beside her.
Her horror deepens when she’s
accused of his murder. Met Police detective Jeff McCracken wants to pin
Gérard’s death on her. Mel must track down the real killer, even if that means
being forced to work with the obnoxious McCracken.
But as she unpicks her fiancé’s past,
she discovers his shocking secret life. To get to the truth, she has to go
undercover and finds almost everybody around her is hiding a second self. Mel
can trust nobody. Can she uncover the real killer before they stop her?
A stunning new thriller from the author of the award-winning Roma Nova series, fans of Daniel Silva, Stella Rimington and Chris Pavone will love Double Identity.
Kindle (ASIN: B08P5YD3CN)
HELEN HOLLICK’s A MIRROR MURDER
The first in a new series of cosy mysteries set in the 1970s... Will romance blossom between library assistant Jan Christopher and DC Laurie Walker – or will a brutal murder intervene?
Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.
But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram, a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered...
Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into murder?
Alison Morton writes award-winning
thrillers series featuring tough, but compassionate heroines. She blends her
deep love of France with six years’ military service and a life of reading
crime, historical, adventure and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a
BA in modern languages and an MA in history.
"Grips like a vice - a
writer to watch out for" says crime thriller writer Adrian Magson
about Roma Nova series starter Inceptio. All six full-length Roma Nova
thrillers have won the BRAG Medallion, the prestigious award for indie fiction.
Successio, Aurelia and Insurrectio were selected as Historical Novel Society’s
Indie Editor’s Choices. Aurelia was a
finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The Bookseller selected Successio as
Editor’s Choice in its inaugural indie review.
Alison now lives in Poitou in France, where part of Double Identity is set, and is writing a sequel, as well as continuing her Roma Nova series.
CONNECT WITH ALISON
Helen and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farmhouse through BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show.
First accepted for publication by
William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then
became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK), with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The
Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of
Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner
Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also
writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages.
Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She also runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction. She is currently writing more Voyages for the Sea Witch series and the next in the Jan Christopher Mysteries series. She has other ideas for other tales – and would like the time to write them!
CONNECT WITH HELEN: