I'm fortunate recently to have met Nicola, who, as NJ Layouni, writes a series of time-slip novels, and I invited her onto the blog to talk about her books: ~
There was so much that I wanted to ask her, so I began by noting that: It seems that you have been writing for a very long time, but when and how did the idea for the Tales of a Traveler series come about? Had you already toyed with stories that centred around time-slip?
Hi, Annie. Thank you so much for inviting me on to your lovely blog. Well as you say, I've been writing stories for decades, long before I learned that letters could be joined up to form words. From a very young age, I've always had 'another life' on the go somewhere, a playground to escape to – usually one in someone else's universe! When I was a child, I found inspiration everywhere. From Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Famous Five, to cartoons such as 'Lassie's Rescue Rangers', 'Battle of the Planets', and 'Thundercats', the muse to create stories was never far away. Eventually I progressed, creating epic fantasy worlds of my own, although I'm afraid to say most of them were a tad on the Mary Sue* side. (More on Mary Sue here) But throughout them all, time slip was a fairly constant theme.
Obviously since these tales are fiction, you don't need to research in the accepted sense of the word. But do you find that you need to keep records of the world you've constructed, to allow for 'continuity'?
Yes! Absolutely. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this to you before, but Hemlock was originally supposed to be a stand-alone book, but it kept on growing. Being something of a 'pantser' writer, I don't follow maps and plans – although I can see how this would be incredibly useful! - so I now have a character file to keep me in check. As you probably know, it's incredibly easy to forget something as simple as, say, a character's eye colour.
Oh yes, keeping track of those details is always difficult!
Is there a finite number of volumes in this series - do you already know how the whole story ends?
Truthfully? Okay, I'll just come out and say it. I have no idea how the story will end. Yes, I have a couple of rather foggy ideas, but nothing more definite then that, which is fine by me. As I said before, I'm not much of a plotter. If I already knew the ending I'd probably lose all interest in writing it, long before I ever got there! For me, the fun of being a writer is in the finding out. Fortunately my characters seem to be extremely fond of springing surprises on me. When writing, it's not unusual for me to be gasping with shock, and/or going nooooo!
I've recently been writing elsewhere that my characters can't do that, because they are hide-bound by their historical setting, being non-fictional characters.
You're not restricted by historical fact, because your stories are pure fiction, but do you find that your 'past' characters need to conform to any historical norms? How much freedom do you have with the context of their time-frame?
The world of Erde is pure fantasy, but in my mind, in many ways, it closely resembles C14 England, complete with its feudal system. Although I'm not tethered by the bonds of history, I do borrow heavily from this period, and all my characters – with the exception of Martha – are a product of their time.
Speaking of Martha, do you know how it is that she is able to travel in time? Do you have any theories as to how it might be possible?
Ooh! I think I'd need the assistance of a certain Mr. Hawking to properly explain the theory of time travel. However, I do believe there are places in the world where the veil separating the past, present, and future can be more easily swept aside. You know where I mean, Annie. The old places. Castles and mountains, ancient oak woods, and, of course, rivers and the sea. Haven't we visited somewhere where the echoes of the past have brushed up against us and raised goosebumps on our skin? For a fraction of a second, haven't we all heard a voice, a snippet of music, or caught the hint of a scent that didn't belong to the present? What if we could prolong that moment? What if we could follow it to its source? I'm not sure physical time travel is yet within our reach, but with the mind, I believe anything is possible.
Sorry, but you did ask! :)
Yes, I did! And I know what you mean - I believe the Irish call these the Thin Places.
What's next in the series - can you tell us anything to whet our appetites?
Book four is on its way. Let's just say that childbirth is never without its challenges... especially in medieval times!
I'm sure it might invoke some non-medieval curse-words too!
Thanks so much for talking to me today, Nicola.
You can find Nicola: