It’s Wednesday so that means it’s guest author time. This week, please say hello to J. Arlene Culiner.
Welcome to the Wednesday blog, happy to have you join us today. Introduce yourself and tell us about yourself, your writing and your books.
I was raised in Toronto, but I’ve lived in many countries, most of them in Europe. I’m now in France, living in an ancient inn in the middle of a very dull village. As Jill Culiner, I write non-fiction (mostly Eastern European History) but also mysteries. I use the pen name J. Arlene Culiner for my romance books.
Which do I prefer writing? Why choose? I love the travelling and archival research that non-fiction demands; I love writing happy romances with very original older heroes and heroines who live in unusual places.
And because I love doing both, I’ve recently completed the three books in my Blake’s Folly Romance Trilogy (A Room in Blake’s Folly, All About Charming Alice, and Desert Rose). For these, I researched the Far West in the 1800s, the world of brothels, the silver boom in Nevada, spiders, snakes, geology, illegitimate children, and so much more. What a great time I had!
TWL-Why and when did you decide to become an author?
I’ve always written, but that’s not original. Most people write… often secretly. They keep journals, they blog, they scratch out stories, write about family grievances, about trips they’ve taken.
For me, the deciding moment came after I arrived in France. I had no money and no working papers, and I was quite desperate. What to do? A dear friend who had worked for Radio France had just died, and a week after his funeral, I walked into the radio station, went up to the program director, and announced that I wanted to take over my friend’s slot, do a program on early country music. I also told him I had free-lanced for National Public Radio in the USA. It was more or less a lie (I had done two short interviews thirty years earlier) but how would he know? How could he check?
He wasn’t enthusiastic, probably because I have a very strong North American accent when I speak French. However, I told him the accent would be excellent for a country music program. Little did he suspect I knew nothing about country music. Fortunately, he was kindly, and he told me to write scripts for a couple of programs, then to come back in a month’s time for a test run in the recording studio. I’m sure he thought I’d be a flop. Even I thought that.
I spent the month researching, writing and re-writing amusing (exaggerated) stories about country music, the singers, their horses, and speaking into a pretend microphone. Then, knees knocking with sheer terror, I went for the trial run. Much to my astonishment, I got the job. And that was my beginning as a writer (and broadcaster). I eventually went on to writing and broadcasting tall tales about my own (largely fictive) adventures in exotic countries.
While working at Radio France, one announcer, Christine, confessed she had always wanted to write a romance. This was also one of my secret dreams. We both vowed to write a novel over the next few months. I stuck with it and finished mine; Christine only completed the first few chapters of hers. I sent my manuscript out, and it was refused—no surprise: it was dreadful stuff. But I kept at it, developing a style, and finally getting manuscripts accepted.
TWL-What’s a typical writing session like for you?
No typical writing sessions. I can only write when I’m in the mood, or inspired. I’m a social-critical artist, a cartoonist, as well as a photographer, and amateur musician, so I have other ways of expressing myself when not writing.
TWL-What have you learned most from being a writer?
I’ve learned a lot of history, of course. I’ve learned how to travel to tricky places and (mostly) stay out of trouble, how to do archival research in countries where I can barely speak the language. I’ve also learned how to work on sentences until they sing, and how to make paragraphs hum with warmth.
TWL-What’s been the biggest struggle and how did you overcome it?
Marketing kills me, because I find it an irritating bore. There are so many other things I’d rather be doing with my time… and my money, because many authors fork out big bucks for marketing campaigns and reviews. I’m not willing to go there.
TWL-What’s been your biggest victory?
Winning the wonderful Tannenbaum History Award for my non-fiction book, Finding Home in the Footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers.
TWL-If you could give advice to your pre-author self, what would it be?
Advising my pre-author self would be a waste of time because I’d never have listened back then. I still don’t listen to my own good counsel. I just plunge in, head out, and flirt with disaster.
TWL-What writing tip would you offer to a new author?
Read outside the genre you write in. Read history, geography, read essay, read brilliant poetry, read excellent authors. Keep your mind sharp!
TWL-What would you like to promote today?
My Blake’s Folly Trilogy.
The silver boomtown of Blake’s Folly is now a community of abandoned shacks and weedy dirt roads. But unusual settings attract unusual people—those forced to adapt to new circumstances in order to survive; those who have never fit into mainstream society. But none are humdrum. All have dreams and a chance to fall in love.
A Room In Blake’s Folly
If only the walls could speak…
In one hundred and fifty years, Blake’s Folly, a silver boomtown notorious for its brothels, scarlet ladies, silver barons, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town. Although the old Mizpah Saloon is still in business, its upper floor is sheathed in dust. But in a room at a long corridor’s end, an adventurer, a beautiful dance girl, and a rejected wife were once caught in a love triangle, and their secret has touched three generations. The six stories in A Room in Blake’s Folly tell the tale.
Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/BlakesFollyRomance
All About Charming Alice
Trust in love and solutions will appear
Alice Treemont has no intention of falling in love. Living in Blake’s Folly, a semi-ghost town, she cooks vegetarian meals, rescues unwanted dogs, and protects the most unloved creatures on earth: snakes. What man would share those interests?
Jace Constant is in Nevada, doing research for his new book, but he won’t be staying. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes and dog hair on his cashmere sweaters. As for snakes, he doesn’t just despise them: they terrify him.
So why does the air sizzle each time Alice and Jace meet? A romance would entail far too many compromises.
Purchase Link : https://books2read.com/Charming-Alice
Secrets are the best protection against love
Rose Badger is the local flirt, and if the other inhabitants of backwoods Blake’s Folly, Nevada, don’t approve, she couldn’t care less. With a disastrous marriage and a dead-end career far behind her, settling down is the last thing she intends to do. Newcomer Jonah Livingstone is intriguing, but with his complicated life, he’s off limits for anything other than friendship. Besides, Rose has a secret world of her own—one she won’t give up for any man.
The last person geologist Jonah Livingstone expected to meet in a semi-ghost town is the sparkling and lovely Rose Badger. But Rose, always surrounded by many admirers, doesn’t seem inclined to choose a favorite. So why fret? Jonah keeps his personal life well hidden…and that’s the best way to avoid disappointment.
Purchase links: https://books2read.com/RosesDesert
All Author Links: https://linktr.ee/j.arleneculiner
Storytelling Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner