Read an excerpt HERE.
Click on image to buy RETALIO.
Read an excerpt HERE.
Click on image to buy INSURRECTIO. INSURRECTIO_sm
Read an excerpt HERE. Click on image to buy PERFIDITAS.


Read an excerpt HERE.
Click on image to buy INCEPTIO. Amazon bestseller

London Book Fair 2017 – Networking, America and Getting Over Ourselves

Left to right: ‘ALLis’ Joanna Penn, Jessica Bell, me, Rebecca Lang LBF 2017

Back in March 2010, I started this blog. Weeks later, in the Year of the #Ashtag, I descended on Earl’s Court for my very first London Book Fair. Breathless newbie that I was to this writing and publishing game, I was entranced.

I went there, with my planned schedule, aiming to get a feel of the industry, to increase my knowledge, to talk to people and, of course, to meet up with fellow Twitterers(sic!). All this I did. But I got a lot more.

Although it was a trade show, and it was obvious that many meetings were prescheduled business deal-makers,  what struck me was the friendliness and willingness to talk of all those I got chatting to, whether on the stands or at the coffee shops.

As a newbie to this world, I am not yet cynical or blasé, so despite my sore feet I was very satisfied with my day out.

Last week I went to my fifth one: the other four were 20132014(1), 2014(2)2014(3)2015(1)2015(2)2015(3); 2016 (INSURRECTIO launch!).

London Book Fair 2016 – INSURRECTIO launch!

As I became more established on my publishing journey, I learnt increasingly more about publishing and marketing and knew more people – agents, authors, publishers, movers and shakers. My focus shifted from sitting in talks to talking to people.

This year, I went for three days and spent 90% of my time talking to others. What about? Anything and everything to do with books, concerns, opportunities, how to do things, other people to meet.

I did go to two useful talks: Region Spotlight: America and Get Over Yourself: There Is No Such Thing As “The Reader”

Region Spotlight: America
The panellists gave an overview of the American publishing industry, from what genres and authors are most popular through to how American publishing industry differs to that in the UK, and the process of book to film and TV in America.

Panellists: US literary agent Gail Hochman, President, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents Ltd, and president of the  AAR, the professional organisation of American literary agents; Philippa Donovan, Editor of her consultancy Smart Quill, and literary scout for Mad Rabbit, a producer in LA.  Previously, she commissioned children’s and YA fiction for Egmont, and managed authors as a literary scout for Random House and literary agency A P Watt; Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Publishing Perspectives, online business magazine that covers the trends, people, and companies shaping the global book industry.

Chaired by Dr Alison Baverstock, Associate Professor Alison Baverstock PhD PFHEA co-founded MA Publishing at Kingston University.

So what did they say?
There had been slightly less growth in the book market, but audio was on the increase. Colouring in books had peaked, but scratch off books were the newest novelty! (Sigh) Romance, mystery, thriller and suspense dominated, literary fiction not so much. Bowker recorded 625,000 indie published books with ISBNs; they had no record of books published without, so that could be any figure you could think of. The chief problem in the US market was the ‘wall of content’, i.e. so many books published that it was very difficult to make yours heard about the roar.  The trend now is for fewer books of higher quality; don’t bash out X books per year in order to keep shoving books in front of your audience. And don’t just self-publish – submit to mainstream publishers too.

Publicly, optimism level for the book market is 8/10; realistically 4-5/10. Only 3% of the US market was translated work, so UK authors had the advantage of English. For TV series which are hotter than feature films, companies are looking for UK books with excellent sales, said Philippa. For fiction, Gail said you didn’t need a huge social media platform, you just needed to grab an agent with your book. Great characters, a strong story, magic writing are essential and editors like books that would be popular for book clubs. The main takeaway was that all three stressed the importance of character; a strong protagonist would win through.

London Book Fair 2013 – on the SilverWood Books stand (not posed at all!)


London Book Fair 2014 – with Orna Ross from the Alliance of Independent Authors

Get over Yourself: There Is No Such Thing As “The Reader”
Panellists: James Spackman,  freelance publisher and consultant, currently working with Profile Books; Katie Roden, publishing, marketing, branding and content strategy consultant and chaired by Peter McKay, Chief Executive of The Publishing Training Centre.

This was a session chiefly aimed at publishers, marketers and booksellers, but I wasn’t the only author in the room…

As an industry, we love books –  and attach a huge amount of value to them. But if we think ‘the reader’ looks just like us, we fail to understand the preferences and behaviour of real people who might buy books, or of the way books exist in people’s lives. How they use them, talk about them, and the hard fact that for many they are a brief holiday distraction at best and a complete irrelevance at worst.

Insight teams tend to be the preserve of big conglomerates, and don’t always manage to overcome anti-research culture to become genuinely influential. Even those that have broken through focus solely on easy targets – the small minority of the population that already buy books regularly.

Book trade people have a weird and distorted view of books; objects,  texts and cultural currency. The two lively presenters gave some hard truths with the aid of voxpops, then some practical ways to ‘get over ourselves’.

So what did they say?
Three clichés to challenge:
1. Everybody loves a bookshop
No, many people are intimidated by them, seeing them as alienating and not for them. If they do venture inside, they feel awkward as they don’t now where to look or how a bookshop ‘works’. Best quote: ‘It’s like going into B&Q if you’re not into DIY.
The solution? Go to ‘normal places’ like supermarkets, airport departure lounges and watch how people interact with books there. How do they behave around books? Join book groups. What do they choose and why? Associate with fans of the ideas behind the subject of the book.  A gem: people hate a quote on the front of a book that doesn’t tell them what it’s about.

2. Mobile
It matters. Look at how our content, description and cover appear on mobile devices. Forty-two per cent of users only use apps for books that they already use for other purposes. Reading has a ‘boring’ image and is not seen for fun and leisure. You are up against Candy Crush which is highly addictive. Why? Also consider that not everybody reads fast, so short chapters are good. Read bestsellers to see why they are bestsellers. Consider seasonal hooks like snow on the cover when releasing a book in the second half of the year.

3. It isn’t normal to have a TBR (To Be Read pile). It’s niche.
Reading for some is a holiday activity. However, everybody cares about something. Watch out for news, features, programmes in print, other media, social media about the books you are publishing/selling. Where do people spend their hard earned cash? Look for stories about people and the events they go to.

Well, for an indie author that was interesting. Many of us talk direct to our readers now; we belong to interest groups online and in real life, we are aware of mobile, bookshops are generally not our main outlets. But before we become too cocky, we sometimes don’t break out of the zones where we operate and are in danger of becoming just as insular.

London Book Fair 2015 Fellow authors from the Romantic Novelists’ Association

My take-home? However experienced you are, you can always learn something. I’m probably more ‘cynical and  blasé’ than that newbie seven years ago, but ‘despite my sore feet I was very satisfied with my days out.’

With the inimitable Jane Holland London Book Fair 2017  (Photo courtesy of Anita Chapman,

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

The heroines behind the heroines...

Authors often talk about the heroines in their books. You may have caught me mentioning Carina and Aurelia from time to time. (Whistles in the air) But a conversation about heroines and their heroes led to something else…

This post was inspired by author Helen Hollick. It’s mainly in her voice with bits and pieces from me and my writing friend Anna Belfrage. Over to Helen…

“Author Anna Belfrage, during a recent conversation mentioned a thought about the real heroines behind the fictional heroines. I wondered if heroes should also be included, but March is Women’s History Month, so let’s stick to the ladies here. (We can spotlight the men another time to balance the books.)

In this instance, Anna was referring to the writer as the heroine – the author, the person tapping away at a keyboard or scribbling with a pen on paper ( ).

The fictional heroine usually goes through hell and back in a story, or at least some sort of trauma or disaster or romantic upheaval, or complication or… well, you get the picture. But what about the writer who is creating that character, that scene, that story? Is it a case of sitting down at a desk from 9-5 Monday to Friday, tapping out a few thousand words a day, Other Half supplying a cup of tea/coffee/wine/gin on the hour every hour? Those several thousand words flowing freely, the plot flashing along, scene after scene with no wavering? Novel finished, a dutiful re-write, check for the occasional missed blooper, then off to the editor for a quick once-over?

Oh, I wish!

Courtesy of Helen Hollick

The only bit of the above that is mildly true for me personally is the tea/coffee appearing a couple of times a day in between countless re-runs of Westerns on the TV which my husband watches with avid fascination, apparently completely unaware that he watched the same John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart et al movie the day before. And the day before that.

Meanwhile, I struggle during the dark, miserable days of winter. Even the effort to get out of bed some dank, dark, damp mornings is hard work for those of us who suffer from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder – basically, a desire to hibernate during winter.) To be creative, to find the words to write when I can’t even remember the cat’s name (I am not joking!) is hard work.

Then there is the research, particularly for historical fiction writers who need to know the facts of a period or event before they can even start writing Chapter One. All genres need a certain amount of research, even fantasy and science fiction – possibly even more so, because to make the unbelievable believable the facts have to be correct, otherwise all the believability goes out the window.

For writers, meeting our new characters – male or female – is not always a walk in the park, although for me, I did meet my pirate hero, Jesamiah Acorne, on a drizzly-day Dorset beach. Long story, cut short: I was walking on the beach thinking up ideas for Sea Witch. Looked up and saw a vision of Jesamiah. Might have been my imagination, might have been a spirit from the past – no matter, I saw him. In full pirate regalia. And immediately fell in love.

Alison says hers have been swishing around in her head for decades ever since she trod on a Roman mosaic floor at age eleven! Firmly gripped by the Romans, she started wondering what the world would have been like if a tiny part of Rome had survived…

As for Anna, she blames it all on her husband. It was all because of his family history, which involved fleeing Scotland in 1624 due to religious persecution. She started reading up on the 17th century and fell in love. (Why the 17th century? A declaration of love.) One day, Matthew Graham stepped out of her murky imagination and demanded she tell his story, which she has done, over several books.

Our characters get under our skin, into our hearts, minds, lives and very being. When it is time to finish the book, or a series – oh, the heartache of saying goodbye and letting them go! To create believable characters, to bring them alive, to make them look, feel, behave, sound real, to do real (even if they are impossibly over-the-top real) things takes dedication, skill, determination and courage.

Yes. Courage.

Writing can be a hard taskmistress. We slog away in our studies, corner of a room, spare bedroom or wherever, trying to get a paragraph – a sentence – right. We edit, re-edit and edit again and again. We spend hours writing a scene, then delete it because it isn’t good enough. I have deleted entire chapters. We wake up with our characters, walk, live, play, think of, go to bed with them (No, not that sort of ‘go to bed’!) They are there with us 24/7 because if these fictional people are real to us, then they will become as real to our readers. In theory.

I am not being sexist here, but I do think women writers have a tougher time of it than do the men. Admittedly, I am talking in general here, but many women writers already have a full-time 24/7 job of bringing up children and organising the family; at least this was so thirty years ago when I gave up the ‘hobby’ of scribbling my ideas and got on with attempting to do it properly with the end goal of being published in mind. Often it is the woman who gets the kids off to school, does the housework, the shopping, the laundry, goes to her own job, collects the kids from school, cooks the dinner, gets the kids to bed… We grab coffee breaks or the bliss of a quiet hour in the evening to get that next paragraph written. I’m not saying that the blokes in between work and chores also have to snatch those golden moments where they can sit and write, but I’d wager that many an established male writer wanders off to his study in the morning, saunters out at lunchtime, strolls back to his desk to emerge around six-ish to watch TV. Lunch, dinner, clean shirts and tidy house happening via the Magic House Fairy.

At least, now, women writers can create our stories under our own name. How many of our great female writers from the past had to invent a male pseudonym to be heard and published? I think the term ‘heroine’ definitely applies to these brave and determined ladies of the past.

So why do we do it? Why do we spend hours doing this darn silly job of writing fiction? It’s not for the money that’s for sure. Very few writers outside the top listers make enough to equal a suitable annual wage. So why?

Julian Alps, Slovenia by Petar Milošević (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0)

Ever heard the answer to a question put to Sir Edmund Hilary when he had successfully climbed Everest in 1953?

Why did you want to climb it?

His answer? “Because it’s there.

Well, for us, for fiction authors, we write the words because they are not there…”


Thank you, Helen, for this wonderful post. Um, please keep writing!

To celebrate Women’s History Month, and to show you what we actually produce, I’m giving away a signed paperback copy of INSURRECTIO, featuring the ever brave (and ever fallible) Aurelia Mitela as she tries to battle the rising tide of a populist demagogue. Of course, the struggle is always personal as well as political…



Just leave a comment below by 30 March.
The draw will be made on 31 March.

Plus, plus, plus: Helen and Anna are also offering a giveaway of one of their books  to celebrate this special month! Why not pop over to Helen‘s and Anna‘s sites to discover what they are giving away.

Helen’a books:

Amazon universal link for Helen:
Sea Witch universal link:
Anna’s books:

The Graham Saga:
The King’s Greatest Enemy:


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

Writing with SAD

Fed with with the news and weather? Low energy and bored with most things? Easting more chocolate? Yes, it’s February again, the drag-end of winter. Many of us dislike that grey, liver-yellow time between the first frost in December and the first flower burst in spring.

But for a small proportion of us, it takes over our lives. We actively dread the shortening of the days.  Anxious eyes note the day length on the clock each evening. Cosy evenings around an open fire don’t do it for us. Winter means darkness, the withdrawal of life’s light, a shutting down of our being. Christmas is a brief respite; a sugar, carbohydrate and alcohol push with family and friends, but it’s soon gone. Valentine’s Day passes by in a distant drift; it’s happening out there, not inside your own world.

If this sounds self-pitying and sentimental, it’s a taste of what really happens. We’re not looking at winter blues, but at a blight on day life for several months of the year. You lose direction, daily tasks become onerous and complicated, even simple regular self-care and time slips out of your grasp. You almost can’t be bothered to make a cup of tea. For some, including me, eyesight deteriorates temporarily. Functioning on two out of four pistons is quite a good analogy.

The renowned Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder more objectively:

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

What does this mean as a writer? The first sign is that you lack the natural obsession to pour out words onto the keyboard. Your usually crap typing deteriorates to unbelievably bad levels. You miss things out, you forget how to spell. You forget to note down research sources and you even lose the plot – literally. You forget to answer emails and miss blogpost deadlines. And you fret about it, castigating yourself. That is, when it’s all passing you by as just too much effort.

Any day when you see poor sales adds to the growing black dog feeling as we lurch towards mid-winter. You become locked into your own world of failing energy. Your nearest and dearest see a moody, unsmiling person who has lost her enthusiasm for anything and gained multiple sensitivity antennae. February is worst as you’ve had months of light deterioration. And both my (thankfully short) bouts of clinical depression began in late January.

Why does this happen to otherwise energetic, well-motivated and cheery people? Nobody really knows! It’s probably one of those Stone Age things when sensible people retreated into the cave for winter hibernation.

Three things may play a role:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight  may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood and which may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is considered a subtype of major depression. Not being dramatic, you should take SAD signs and symptoms seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to even more serious problems if it’s not treated. These can include social withdrawal, school or work problems, substance abuse or even suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

So what can we do about it?
The first thing is recognising it for what is. It’s not you losing your marbles or at best feeling a bit down on every dull day. Obviously, it’s best to see your doctor about this, but I’ve found these ways of coping.

  • Getting outside even on the grottiest winter day. If it’s one of those crisp sunny days, then that’s an enormous bonus. Find somewhere sheltered to sit and lap up the sun.
  • Exercise (I know!) But if you can go for a walk as well on that sunny day you can almost feel normal. And even indoor exercise can lift your mood, even temporarily. And all that sweating, breathlessness and protesting muscles give you something different to moan about. More seriously, it can depress your ravenous appetite and keep weight gain down.
  • Indoors, work near a window, grab the sunniest room in the house for your writing room.
  • Lightbox. Now the good ones are not cheap, but mine works for me, especially if I use it in the first hours of the morning, so I regard it as an investment that has changed my life.
  • Attitude and self-discipline (also known as grit). These are the hardest; true uphill work. You have to make your brain take control. If you can set some goals/write a to-do list, establish some kind of structure to your day, even set events in your diary, it helps keep the muddle away.
  • Self care; rest, keeping warm, tea, vitamins, yoga, balanced meals at regular times, days out. Have a long, hot bath – great for both warmth and relaxation.
  • Don’t nag yourself and don’t listen to any horrible little imagined voices saying words like ‘wimp’, ‘pathetic’, ‘ought’, ‘should’, ‘lazy’ or similar.
  • Visualise: I know, it’s a bit touchy-feely, but imagine (or remember) lying somewhere pleasant soaking up so much sun that it seems to get right into your bones. Twenty concentrated minutes of that can stimulate the same responses in your body as the real thing. Apparently. Well, it seems to make me feel a little down.

I’m not a doctor, so please don’t take what I do as any kind of treatment. I’ve just learnt over the years that these things help me.

But nothing makes me feel happier than when that first daffodil bursts out of its green sheath into yellow glory.

The long days have returned.







Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

30 questions - a revealing post

Could you answer 30 personal questions in a public forum? And would you want to? There’s a quiz going round Facebook but just to be different, I thought I’d answer them here!

1. Who are you named after? My first name, nobody, but my second name ‘Mary’ pops up frequently in my mother’s family.

2. Last time you cried? When our cat died.
3. Do you like your handwriting? I think it’s characterful. Everybody else thinks it’s the perfect inline cypher system.
4. What is your favorite lunch? Anything seafood! I also like salad of any kind.
5. Do you have any kids? One son; it’s his thirtieth birthday today!
6. Do you use sarcasm? Moi?
7. Do you still have your tonsils? Nope, nor my adenoids.
8. Would you bungee jump? Probably a bit late  – I have a back problem. Possibly when younger…
9. What is your favorite cereal? My own made up muesli.
10. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Yes, anything else is a lack of moral fibre. 😉
11. Do you think you are strong? Physically, less than I used to be. Mentally and emotionally, as strong as ever.
12. What is your favorite ice cream? Vanilla, preferably with some nutmeg and cinnamon.

Courtesy of

13. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Their face.
14. Football or Baseball? Neither – couldn’t care less.
15. What is the least favourite thing you like about yourself?  Can’t think of anything in particular, but I wouldn’t mind losing 10 kgs.
16. What colour trousers are you wearing? Black
17. Last thing you ate? Greek yoghurt
18. What are you listening to right now? My husband talking on Skype with his mates.
19. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Red (or possibly royal blue)
20. What’s your favourite smell? Vanilla
21. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone? The coordinator of my writing group
22. Favorite sport to watch on TV? None
23. Hair color? Good question!

24. Eye colour? Hazel
25. Favorite food to eat? Chocolate (Of course, it’s a food!)
26. Scary movies or happy? Happy, but it has to be a strong story.
27. Last movie you watched? Sully
28. What colour shirt are you wearing? Black with a white pointillé pattern.
29. Favourite holiday? Warm, good food and some interesting Roman ruins.
30. Wine or beer? Wine, especially the bubbly sort. Cheers!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

Is writing and editing a novel a process?

Yes and no.

Writing a novel is creative – you have to have a purpose, some characters and a setting which all interact. Throw in a triggering act to stir them all up and get the story going. Storytellers have known this since the year dot.

A modern novelist is basically a storyteller with a keyboard. But she/he like the traditional storyteller has an imagination that can cast back or forward several thousand years, that looks into the darkest and lightest parts of the human psyche, that digs out motivation, phobias, obsessions and quests, that lets us delight at sunlight, trees and adventure on the high seas and cower at shadows, brutes with cudgels and our own dark thoughts. And one that takes us to places we will never go in real life…

But however uplifting or terrifying, however moral or dubious the story, it has to be written down if it’s to be read by others. Getting the story across and catapulting readers into their worlds is what writers are supposed to do. Perfectly understandably, they want to make a few bob; for some this is the main motivation. Not mine, although I’m always pleased to receive those transfers falling into my bank account.

As a series writer, I have my characters already. I let them run in my head for a while, have some conversations, get into arguments, flounce off, make up, do something incredibly noble, then something incredibly stupid.  After that I buckle down to sketch out my excuse for a plan: 30 lines which start with the inciting incident and end with the resolution. I insert three crises/turning points, a black moment and a climax – much more detail here.

The next step is to type something, usually a large bold ‘I‘ in the centre of the top line of the first page. (I use Roman numerals, for some reason. 😉 ) I look artistically into the distance, which is actually the corner of my office, half close my eyes, then, opening the said eyes, look at the screen and type the first conversation in one and a half line space. Five hundred words later, I get a cup of tea. Then I repeat. And after lunch, I repeat (The typing, not the lunch).

Writing a long piece of fiction entails dedicated slogging away for intense periods in between the chief activity of the day, i.e. going on Facebook. And then you do it again for the next few weeks/months. My books are generally 90-100,000 words. That takes a fair bit of typing. I generally bash the story out, creating a first draft that’s pretty average. However, after six books it seems to be getting easier to produce a reasonably acceptable initial draft.

Editing follows and this is a several stage process: self-edit (me), critique partner edit (free), structural edit (paid professional), copy edit (paid professional), proof-read (me). I don’t put the manuscript aside for a few weeks. It’s not good enough to enter the fallow meadow; it needs a good scything first. After a well-deserved lie-in or even a day off, I gird up, send the draft to my Kindle and read it through. I ignore all the glitches, make no notes and plough on to the end. The objective is to ensure that the story basically hangs together as a story.

Next, I print the whole thing out. Lover of eBooks that I am, I know that I spot more little horrors on paper. I blogged four years ago about my 1-12 steps for this process and I still follow it. One thing I particularly check is each character’s individual time line. Then, sick of the thing, I send the manuscript to my critique partner and have another lie-in.

My critique partner has the instincts of a velocirapter on steroids and marks up the manuscript with humorous, direct and clear notes. A lot of them. I do the same for her. We count it a triumph to receive a sheet back with no red pen marks. This relationship has taken years of trust building and is completely brutal honesty.

After the inevitable revisions and more polishing, the manuscript goes for its professional assessment with a multi-published writer and editor. Joanna Maitland has done this for the last four Roma Nova books. She takes no prisoners, but my goodness, she gets to the heart of things and piles on the advice.

More revisions, including structural. Luckily, they are now not many, but at every editing stage I see other things as I go through. At this stage I check each sentence  to see if I can find better words and fiddle with the word order to make it clearer or tighter; basically, add sparkle. Being formal, I’d call it a self executed line-edit.

When I think it’s finished, it’s off to the copy-editor. Yes, she checks my grammar and punctuation, but also continuity, cohesion, sometimes facts, but always the flow. Like any writer, I try to get my speech marks, line returns, hanging indents, spelling and typing completely right – that’s part of a writer’s job – but the editor nails them all down. We work on a collaborative, on-going basis; she raises queries, I answer them in little batches as we go along.

Then the copy-edited manuscript lands in my inbox and I read through and discuss any points with the editor that we haven’t covered during the edit. I transfer it to the Kindle (again!) and read through (again!). By this point, I am so fed up with it that I’m on the verge of consigning the characters to the pit of Tartarus and hurling myself in after them.

When the galleys come back a few weeks later, formatted and set, I’ve calmed down enough to proof-read them.

Now this could be dangerous. But  in the many years spent as a project manager and editor of translations I notched up at least a couple of million words in proof-reading. I start at the last chapter and work back. I can only do an hour at a time because the concentration of reading each word in each line is intense. For my novels I follow the excellent Alison Baverstock’s methodology in The Naked Author.

So, yes, it’s a process, but no, as without the creativity, you wouldn’t have a story. Thoughts?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, will be published in Spring 2017. Audiobooks are now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter