Please welcome Nicola Layouni to the blog today!
N.J. Layouni has been weaving stories all of her life–even before she could actually write. For many years, she was a dedicated ‘closet writer’, and as a result, the attic space of her home is stuffed to the rafters with piles of ageing manuscripts depicting fantastical romantic adventures, tales of daring sword-wielding heroes, and of strong, feisty damsels who aren’t too tough to accept a helping hand sometimes.
As well as being a mouthpiece for the various characters living inside her head, N.J. is a wife, and mother of two children. She lives in Lancashire, UK. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found on one of her regular online hangouts, links to which are listed below.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Only one? Oh, that’s downright cruel. I know. Let’s just say my favorite book is a massive Enid Blyton omnibus, featuring every Famous Five, Secret Seven book ever written and leave it at that, okay? 🙂
How old were you when you decided to become a writer?
I realize this might sound like a bit of a cliché, but I really have been making up stories all my life. Back when I was a wee young thing, not yet able to read and write, I lived inside my mind, living out epic tales of friendship and adventure. As you might have guessed, I was a shy, rather solitary sort of child. (In fact, I still am!) I’ve never had heaps of friends, usually just one or two besties, people who share a similar – rather warped – sense of humor. Laughter had got me through many dark days.
Tell us about your decision to write that first book, even if it wasn’t published.
My attic is full of many scribbled manuscripts; some bad, some downright terrible. Even though most of them will NEVER see the light of day, I love my old stories as only an affectionate mother could and I couldn’t ever part with them. So why did I suddenly decide to publish something? Well, both children had started full-time school and hubby began making noises about me maybe getting a paid job outside the home. The very thought of having to juggle childcare with a job I couldn’t give a damn about proved to be a tremendous personal motivator. So I joined an on-line critique group, ran my chapters through the story queues and then I set about self-publishing.
Discuss your path to publication. Do you have an agent? Do you self-pub?
I’m a self-pubber to the core. To be truthful, I’d often dreamt of going down the traditional route, but then a writer pal of mine, who was (and still is!) having massive success with her popular romance series, encouraged me to give self-publishing a try. After all, why would I say no to keeping 70% of my book royalties? In the end, the decision to self-publish was a no brainer.
What genre do you write in and why?
I write romantic time travel adventures set in an alternative medieval world. (One reader described my books as ‘Bridget Jones meets Lord of the Rings’!) My heroines are modern and feisty, and my leading men are complex and honorable… usually!
While there might be the occasional sex scene, I much prefer to concentrate on the thrill of the ‘hunt’, on the many highs and lows, on all the excitement and tingles associated with falling in love.
My books might read like historical fiction at times but it’s all pure fantasy. First and foremost, I’m a world builder, and I created the imaginary world of ‘Erde’ from the ground up. Although I love reading historical fiction I could never write it. All that attention to dates and details would stifle me. No, I like the freedom of being able to give my MC a pipe if I want to without having to consult Google for facts and dates concerning tobacco usage.
One of my biggest writerly influences is Professor Tolkien, and his epic fantasy ‘Lord of the Rings’ is one of my all-time favorite books, so if smoking tobacco is good enough for his Hobbits and Rangers, well it’s good enough for my people too!
When do you write? Do you have a set schedule, or do you write when the muse hits you?
I used to be a night writer, but since having children I’ve had to adapt. Nowadays, as soon as I’ve dropped the kids off at school, I come straight home and hit the keyboard. I can’t afford to wait for inspiration to show up, not when I have a sink full of dirty dishes, the laundry, and other housework waiting for me.
I usually write in sprints. What that means is, I set my Google timer to twenty minutes then off I go, fingers flying over the keyboard. When the alarm beeps, I get up and spend five minutes rushing about the house, emptying the bins or maybe putting in a load of laundry. But when that alarm goes off again, my butt is straight back in that chair, no messing.
My writing time is limited and extremely precious. I wish I could write at night again but I just can’t. By the time 9 p.m. rolls around, my brain has melted into mush!
Describe your favorite writing space.
A park bench is fine if I’m writing in longhand; otherwise, it’s the kitchen table where I transcribe those squiggles onto the laptop.
Any particular music you listen to when you write?
Not as a rule, no. Well, not unless I’m struggling with a particular scene. That’s when I might reach for a nice instrumental track. Harry Gregson-Williams’ ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ soundtrack has helped me through many a bloody battle scene, I can tell you that!
Kindle or paperback?
Oh, the world is plenty big enough for both, I think.
How do you start a new book? What comes first, the character or the conflict?
Oh, the characters. Always the characters.
Tell us about your process? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I still can’t make up my mind whether I’m a true-blue pantser or if my first drafts are actually a long and extremely detailed outline. Hmm…
Amazon UK author page: http://tinyurl.com/NJLayouni