Christina Courtenay on going Roman

Christina Courtenay portrait

I’m delighted to welcome Christina Courtenay back to the writing blog. She writes historical romance, time slip/dual time and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings.

Christina is a Vice President and former Chair and of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014), and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes. Shadows in the Ashes (dual time romance published by Headline Review 18th January 2024) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Over to Christina to tell us how she found ‘writing Roman’!

Thank you very much for having me as your guest!

I’ve been writing historical novels for some time now, and have set my stories in various different eras. Each one is like learning a new language – you have to start with the basics and build your knowledge up until you feel confident enough to create your fictional world. That takes a lot of time and effort, but at the same time it’s great fun!

My new dual time novel Shadows in the Ashes is partly set in AD 79. I’ve previously been writing mainly about the Viking period, so going another thousand years back in time was both exciting and scary for me. I’ve always love reading about the Romans, and you learn a lot from historical novels like Alison’s, absorbing information without even realising it, I think, but I still had to start from scratch when putting together my notes.

I usually create a file with headings in alphabetical order so that I can find the details whenever I need them – houses, clothes, food, laws, daily life etc. After a while, it starts to build up a picture in my mind and that’s when I’m ready to begin writing the actual story.

Christina at the entrance to the Pompeii site

As I knew my novel would be focused on Pompeii in AD 79, I was able to narrow my research down a little, since the Roman Empire lasted a long time and not everything stayed the same. My starting point was a research trip to the site itself and the surrounding area of the Bay of Naples.

Visiting the ruins of the buried city and its neighbour Herculaneum was a wonderful experience, and vital for the invaluable details I wouldn’t have known about otherwise: how it felt to walk along the streets, what it was like to sit in a peristyle garden, how cramped the slaves’ quarters were and how dark the gladiators’ accommodation was, for example.

As the hero of my story is a gladiator, being able to stand in the magnificent amphitheatre was amazing. I could close my eyes and imagine the roar of the crowd, and how intimidating it must have been to walk into that arena knowing you might not leave it alive. I hope I have conveyed this accurately in Shadows in the Ashes! As historical authors, we can only use our imagination and the facts at hand and hope we get it right.

Thank you, Christina. The Bay of Naples is a fascinating place full of messages to us from the past.

Connect with Christina


Discover what Shadows of the Ashes is about...

Rising from the ashes … a love that echoes through time

Present Day – Finally escaping an abusive marriage, Caterina Rossi takes her three-year-old daughter and flees to Italy. There she’s drawn to research scientist Connor, who needs her translation help for his work on volcanology. Together they visit the ruins of Pompeii and, standing where Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fire on the city centuries before, Cat begins to see startling visions. Visions that appear to come from the antique bracelet handed down through her family’s generations…

AD 79 – Sold by his half-brother and enslaved as a gladiator in Roman Pompeii, Raedwald dreams only of surviving each fight, making the coin needed to return to his homeland and taking his revenge. That is, until he is hired to guard beautiful Aemilia. As their forbidden love grows, Raedwald’s dreams shift like the ever more violent tremors of the earth beneath his feet.

The present starts eerily to mirror the past as Cat must fight to protect her safety, and to forge a new path from the ashes of her old life…

Buy Shadows of the Ashes here:

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, will be out in February 2024.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.