FROM UNSEEN FIRE: Book One of the Aven Cycle by Cass Morris
Sometimes I get lucky and I find wonderful adventures in the pages of books by my fellow peers and friends. This post is no exception. I am happy to introduce, Cass Morris, a debut author with a book for anyone who loves Ancient Rome, with a twist, of course.
From Unseen Fire takes place in Aven, an alternate version of ancient Rome where elemental magic has shaped society as much as law and war. In the wake of a brutal dictatorship, two factions compete to rebuild the Republic in the shape they desire. One side is protectionist and isolationist, seeking to preserve conventional morals and keep their nation small enough to easily control; the other side is expansionist and more permissive, looking to embrace the opportunities that allies and immigrants can provide. By law, the use of magic to influence politics is forbidden, but both sides skirt the rules where they can — and some are willing to step dangerously far over the line.
I sat down with Ms. Morris to talk about her debut novel and her writing process.
SH: Where did you get the idea?
CM: I knew I wanted to write a historical fantasy with a different setting than the somewhat typical pseudo-medieval-western-Europe. I’ve had one foot in the classical world since starting Latin at the age of twelve, and so working with Rome seemed a natural fit. The Roman pantheon blended nicely with some ideas about elemental magic I’d been developing for ages, and from that, the world of Aven was born.
SH: No spoilers, please, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
CM:There are nine magical Elements, and the power to use them is seen as a blessing from the gods. About one in every thousand Aventans manifests some magical talent, but far fewer have strong powers.
SH: Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
CM: They’re mostly from my imagination, though they have some historical inspiration. Julius Caesar, Tiberius Gracchus, Germanicus and his wife Agrippina, Mark Antony, Fulvia, and many other Romans have not direct analogs, but correlations in my characters.
SH: I’m always interested in this part, but what kind of research did you do for this book?
CM: A lot of my research was reviving things I had studied in high school and college and then delving deeper. I had to get a lot more into the social history of ancient Rome than just the political overview and the “great men” narrative. Alberto Angela’s Day in the Life of Ancient Rome was supremely helpful, as were the works of Philip Matyczak. I’ve a full list of recommended resources on my website (cassmorriswrites.com/aven-cycle/the-world-of-aven/resources-and-history/). The most fun research, though, was taking a trip to Rome and spending a few days wandering around the Seven Hills!
SH: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
CM: The moment where pieces suddenly fall into place. It might be finding the plot element to
connect two scenes, or figuring out the reasoning behind a character’s actions, or seeing a connection between two characters that I hadn’t seen before. When one of those hits, I’m prone to flailing my arms about like Kermit the Frog before returning my fingers to the keyboard.
SH: How did you get into writing?
CM:I literally can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a storyteller. I got interested in writing as a career after seeing Star Wars at the age of 11, and I’ve talked about that on my personal blog [a lot].
SH: What are you working on right now?
CM: Book Two of the Aven Cycle, as well as drafting a space opera with a rakish heroine loosely based on Julie d’Aubigny.
You can buy FROM UNSEEN FIRE wherever books are sold!