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.
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