Tell us about yourself and your books.:
Young, I set out to have a life of adventure and discovery, not one of security and comfort – although those things can certainly can be appealing during life’s more uncomfortable moments. I’ve since crossed much of Europe on foot, traveled, by bus, train, car or truck throughout North and Central America, Europe, and the Sahara. I’ve lived in unique places — a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a Dutch canal, a lonely, very haunted stone house on the English moors, and presently in a 400-year-old former inn in a small French village. My sort of lifestyle means staying flexible and taking up any sort of work that presents itself: belly dancer, fortune teller, translator, fashion model, storyteller, radio broadcaster, actress, social-critical artist, photographer and writer. I’m lucky enough to have discovered forgotten communities, met strange characters, and to have had some very odd conversations. And, yes, I incorporate all into my books. So far, I’ve had five romances published and, as Jill Culiner, two mysteries and two narrative nonfiction works. I also narrate audiobooks and I have a podcast — Life in a Small French village — that can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
No. I’m not a constant enough writer to form strange habits. I don’t write every day, sometimes I don’t write for months. I don’t have one set workplace, or a ritual, or a favorite drink or food. However — is this a habit? — I do my best to 1) polish each paragraph until it shines 2) tell a really good a story with humor and great characters 3) to do research and write intelligently so both my readers and I can learn about things we didn’t know — for example, reptiles, or the settling of the west, or music.
What authors have influenced you?
I don’t know how to answer this question because I’ve read so much and been influenced by so many different writers — or, perhaps I should say I’ve been touched by them. I love those with a great style: Saul Bellow, Jean Rhys, Anita Brookner, Linda Grant, Alan Hollinghurst. I also adore intelligent travel writers like Bill Bryson, Colin Thurbron and Jan Morris. But mostly, I think it’s the older poets with their rhythm and beauty who have inspired me most.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Read. Read outside your comfort zone, outside the genre you want to write in. Read travel literature, fine writing, classics. When you are writing, explore all the senses: tell us how things smell, sound, feel, taste. Describe, in the shortest and most imaginative way you can, the setting. And avoid consumer stereotypes: write from your heart.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Write, and rewrite, rewrite again. Make each sentence beautiful. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
What are you reading now?
At the moment I’m reading Jean-Michel Guenassia’s book on the last days of Vincent Van Gogh in Auvers, near Paris. It is a fiction based on what is known about Van Gogh’s accidental death and his secret romance.
What’s your biggest weakness?
I'm easily diverted. I decide that I'll spend the morning writing, and then am distracted by a new piece of music I want to play (I play the oboe and the tuba.) I decide to practice music, and then the I notice the color of the leaves outside, and I immediately grab the dog's leashes and head out for a long trek over the green roads and sunken lanes.
What is your favorite book of all time?
It all depends on the time that a book was read. What literature I considered essential three years ago is probably no longer so now.
What has inspired you and your writing style?
As I mentioned above, the older poets have influenced me most: Earle Birney, Anthony Hecht, Roy Fuller, Derek Mahon, Norman MacCaig. I love the images they conjure up.
What are you working on now?
My latest romance is Desert Rose, and the setting is Blake’s Folly, a rundown semi-ghost town in Nevada. This rather quirky community with its strange local characters was the setting in another romance — All About Charming Alice (a new version of the book will soon be re-released by Fire Star Press). I have a deep attachment to this mythical place, and I'd like to return to it in another book. Of course, it isn't entirely mythical: Many years ago, I happened to find myself in a rundown clapboard shack semi-ghost town in Nevada, and it became the model for Blake’s Folly. There was a saloon that was the center of life and it became the Mizpah Hotel in my books. I'm very fond of that old place.
What is your method for promoting your work?
I do interviews and I guest blog. It’s very difficult to know what works, especially since there are so many writers publishing romance (and mystery too) and the marketplace is crowded. I think that the more you publish, the more chance you have of picking up a following, but I’m not even sure if this is true. However, I also have a storytelling podcast, and that is another way of making my name known: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner
What’s next for you as a writer?
When the manuscript about Rose’s grandmother is finished, I’d like to write about another Blake’s Folly character, the veterinarian Lance Potter. I’ll also be narrating some more audiobooks. I’ve already narrated two of my romances — A Swan’s Sweet Song, and Felicity’s Power, as well as my mystery, Sad Summer in Biarritz, and books by other authors, and I’m itching to start on a new project…perhaps narrating Desert Rose.
How well do you work under pressure?
Quite well, actually.
How do you decide what tone to use with a particular piece of writing?
The story leads me to where it wants to go and how it wants to sound. I have little say in the matter.
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