Posted by: kimberlysullivan | May 16, 2014

Looking for romance, medieval battles, and time travelling adventure all rolled into one? Read Tales of a Traveller.

NJ Layouni coverHow exciting for me to have talented British writer N.J. Layouni on my site today talking about her debut novel, Tales of a Traveller: Hemlock. Book One, released on 28 April 2014.

I met Nicola virtually when she became a critique partner while we were both writing time travel novels. I loved the early version of this adventure-romance novel with a plucky heroine, Martha, who inadvertently travels from the UK’s Lake District in modern times to a medieval-like planet.

What’s a modern girl to do as battle rages around her? Will she escape the clutches of the Evil Earl? Will she fall for the handsome, but complicated, hero? Tales of a Traveller will keep you turning the pages to find out.

Thanks for joining me for an author interview for your new book, Nicola!

Thank you so much for inviting me, Kimberly.

Nicola, how exciting to see your book finally out! I’ve been dying to see this in print. Could you give us a brief summary?

Sure. The story begins with Martha, an ordinary C21 girl with a broken heart. In an attempt to clear thoughts of her love-rat ex, Tony, from of her head, she goes for a walk. (Exercise is reputed to be good for this kind of thing, right?) Unfortunately, she’s in the wrong place at exactly the right time, and she somehow ends up in Erde, a medieval version of Earth. Luckily for her, a mysterious outlaw, Vadim, finds her and takes her back to his cave. Not that Martha’s grateful!

For her own protection, Martha reluctantly assumes the role of Vadim’s ‘wife’ and tries to fit into her new reality. Love is the very last thing on her mind, but Vadim proves to be a hard man to resist.

How did the idea originally come to you?

Believe it or not, it all started with Vadim. Some years ago, a friend of mine had a dream about someone named Vadim, a man she’d never met before. Anyway, the name stuck in my head, percolating away on the back burner of my brain until my Vadim was born.

A similar thing happened with my FMC, Martha. I started with her name (shamelessly pilfered from Dr Who’s assistant Martha Jones!), then I made her as girl-next-door as possible.

Back in the day, I used to read a lot of fan-fiction. One of the most popular storylines seemed to be the modern-day girl ‘falling into’ another world–usually LOTR, Harry Potter. I played around with the concept and eventually came up with ‘Traveler’.

Okay, I’m no expert on romance novels. But from my limited knowledge, you have to be one of the romance writers most knowledgeable about medieval battle scenes. How do you manage to translate the sights and sounds of medieval battles to the page, and make your reader feel in the heart of the gory scenes?

That’s a good question! Well, in my younger days, I used to do quite a bit of medieval re-enactment–I was always a female camp follower, btw, not a soldier! Anyway, we got to spend the most wonderful weekends at some of the amazing castles here in the UK, putting on shows for the public. We’d camp out in tents, cook over fires, it was great fun. Even in the height of summer, the guys all wore armor, and despite all the safety measures, someone nearly always got hurt during the ‘battles’.

My imagination and my background as a veterinary nurse did the rest.

Tales of a Traveller

How did you go about publishing this? This is your first novel – what have you learned about the process along the way?

As you know, Kimberly, I originally had my heart set on traditional publishing. But the more I spoke to successful self-published authors, the more I was tempted to join them. I don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to find someone willing to publish an unknown author these days. Publishers are tightening their belts along with the rest of us. For me, the self-pubbing route just made more sense, but I had no intention of doing it like an amateur. If people part with their hard-earned cash to buy our books, the least we can do as authors is do the best job that we can.

First off, I found myself a great cover designer: Glendon Haddix @ Streetlight Graphics (he also formatted the book for me.), and Red Adept publishing helped me out with all the edits. IMO, this was money well spent. Top tip: Don’t Google for editors/cover designers. Talk to your published buddies. Personal recommendation is less dangerous.

Authors today – whether publishing traditionally or as indie authors – need to be savvy about marketing and promotion. How do you handle these aspects of your work?

You’re right, Kimberly. Even traditionally published authors are expected to ‘sell themselves’ these days. Self-promotion is my least favorite part of the publishing process. I use all the regular platforms (FB, Twitter, Blogger, Goodreads), and I’m fortunate that I have a lot of published friends who’ve kindly shone the spotlight on me. It’s early days yet, though. I have the feeling that my marketing strategies, limited as they are, will need to change regularly in order to keep people’s interest.

What’s one piece of advice you’ve learned along your publishing journey that you’d like to share with other first-time authors?

Thank goodness. At last you asked me something easy, Kimberly! In the words of Twilight Sparkle, friendship IS magic. Make friends with other authors. They’re not rivals, they’re an essential part of your support network. Interact with readers/fans. Don’t shut yourself away. Making friends makes good marketing sense too. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth!

When is the sequel out? And what are you working on next?

Book two: Wolfbane will be out this summer, probably around August time if I can finish writing the last few chapters! After that? Possibly a third book in the series, or I might even have a go at writing that Viking story I’ve been dying to write.

Thanks for joining me today, Nicola. And congratulations on the launch of Traveller!

Thank you so much for inviting me, Kimberly. I had fun.🙂

For purchase information, see:

Nicola LayouniTo follow Nicola, take a look at:
Nicola’s blog:
Twitter: @NJLayouni



  1. Great interview, I loved Nicola’s book. Kimberly–when are you going to publish your lost-in-Austen-esque time travel novel?? It was fabulous!

    • Thanks, Ashlinn. I loved it, too! So glad to finally see it in print. Thanks, Ashlinn – am hoping to join all you published authors one day soon. : )

  2. Thanks so much for doing this, Kimberly! You’re a star.🙂

    • Hi Nicola – I was bouncing around (quite literally) Balkan roads and didn’t have internet access for a while. SUCH a pleasure having you – and hope you’ll come back when book 2 comes out. I’m very excited for you!

  3. I like Nicola’s enthusiasm and honesty about her journey as an independently published author. Good for her! And good for you, Kimberly, for passing along the valuable experience and info.

    • Thanks, Evelyne. I’m a big believer in learning from other authors, and love that authors share so many of their experiences, mistakes, and lessons learned with the wider author community through social media. It’s sucha benefit for us all. Plus, I just loved Nicola’s book, and I’m so happy to see it in print!

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