Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.
Hi Beverley. Thank you for inviting me here for an author interview. Fire away!
Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write? And why?
Arlene: Oops. Not a good question. I love writing romance, but I also enjoy writing mystery. That’s not all though: I’m quite passionate about researching and writing Eastern European history, or about the evolution in rural French life. Quite a mix. But each genre is quite wonderful. I also have a storytelling podcast (see below).
Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Arlene: I suppose I can only say I influenced myself. I’ve always kept notes and diaries because I’m a contemporary artist and photographer, and that’s the sort of thing we artists do. Then, one day, I decided to try writing romance novels. After a few refusals (my main characters were in their sixties, and that was a no-no in the romance genre a few years ago) my book, Felicity’s Power was accepted by an Australian publisher who was looking for later life romances. A little while later, at one of my photography exhibitions I told the curator about my next project — Romanian immigration to Canada in 1899. She suggested I write about it instead. So I did, and my book, Finding Home in the Footseteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers , won a prize in Canadian history.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Arlene: Thinking of an atmosphere. The thought moves around in my head, shifts here and there before blossoming into a story.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Arlene: I don’t know much about cartoon characters. I’ve never owned a television. However I do like caricatures. Here’s one of my own:
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet ‘in person’ and why?
Arlene: I’ve recently completed a biography of a Jewish-Ukrainian poet, songster, and tippler who died in 1875. He spent his life wandering through Austrian Galicia, Romania, and the Ottoman Empire. I’d certainly like to tag along with him, drink some of the red wine he was so fond of, and see that vanished world. What an experience that would be!
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Arlene: I’d do what I do every day. I’d write, or play music (I play the oboe, English horn, flute, recorder, and tuba in several orchestras, bands, and chamber groups.) Or else I’d take one of the lovely ancient sunken green lanes that crisscross all of Europe, and just walk from village to village.
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Arlene: I’m working on the third romance book in my Blake’s Folly series. In this, we begin in 1899 when Blake’s Folly is a silver boomtown, see it in 1927 when the mines have closed and people are leaving, in the 1950s as a Nevada divorce paradise, in the 1970s, and in 2020 when it has become a semi-ghost town, and is the setting for my two romances, All About Charming Alice , and Desert Rose .
Blurb for Desert Rose
Men love Rose Badger, and if the other inhabitants of dead-end Blake’s Folly, Nevada, don’t approve, she couldn’t care less. Isn’t life for fun? Doesn’t a stable relationship always mean predictability and boredom? Well… perhaps things might be different with Jonah Livingstone, but he’s entangled in a complicated past relationship and off limits for anything other than friendship. Besides, Rose has another secret life—one she’ll never give up for any man.
The last person geologist Jonah Livingstone expected to meet in a semi-ghost town is Rose Badger. She’s easy-going, delightfully spontaneous, and Jonah is certain their attraction is mutual. But Rose is always surrounded by a crowd of admirers and doesn’t seem inclined to choose a favorite. Besides, Jonah is leading his own very private life, and secrets are an excellent protection against love.
Blurb for All About Charming Alice
Alice Treemont has given up hope of meeting the right man and falling in love. Living in Blake’s Folly, a semi-ghost town of rusting cars, old trailers, clapboard shacks, and thirsty weeds, she spends her time cooking vegetarian meals, rescuing unwanted dogs, and protecting 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 long. As far as he’s concerned, Blake’s Folly is hell on earth. He’s disgusted by desert dust on his fine Italian shoes, and dog hair on his cashmere sweaters. As for snakes, they terrify him. He can hardly wait to get back to Chicago’s elegant women, fine dining, and contemporary art exhibitions.
So how is it possible that each time Alice and Jace meet, the air sizzles? That she’s as fascinated by him as he is by her. That they know their feelings go deeper than raw desire. Still, it looks like this relationship is doomed before it even starts.
Excerpt from All About Charming Alice:
Suddenly Jace rose to his feet and, in that languid way of his, crossed to the doorway where she stood. Alice was a tallish woman but, still, he towered over her. Casually, stretching out one arm, he rested his hand on the doorframe, just a hair’s breadth above her head. He was close, so close. His body was supple, strong and—yes, she had to admit it—warm, fragrant. The heat of him reached her over the few inches separating them and she ached to curve into it. Aura? This man was a flesh-and-blood heat wave.
The strange, tingling excitation was flowing through her again like thick port wine. She lowered her eyes, refusing to meet his gaze, although she knew he was, once again, examining her minutely.
“And I want to take the room.”
“Look, you don’t need my room,” she said, desperation evident in her tone. “There’s a perfectly reasonable motel the other side of the Winterback Mine, out in the direction of Logan. Actually, it’s far better equipped to take in tourists than anything you’d find here in Blake’s Folly.”
“I know. Rider Motel. Air conditioning, closed circuit television. Right across from the Dew Drop Inn.” His smile was wry. “That’s exactly where I’ve been staying for the last three nights. And over and over again during those three nights I remembered Blake’s Folly and the ‘room to let’ sign on your wall. And the more I thought about it, the more appealing it got. There’s nothing worse than an impersonal motel room when you have to stay in an area for a while.” He paused, let his eyes wander over the faded wooden framing, over the settee on the veranda. “Right here, it feels more like home.”
That wasn’t it, she knew. That wasn’t even part of the truth. He was back because something hot and wonderful shimmered between them. Did she fascinate him as much as he did her? Possibly. Although she hadn’t done anything to encourage him, not even once. It would have been hard to find anyone less friendly than she’d been.
Still, there was something about him that touched her, something that had nothing to do with raw desire. Was it the warmth in his eyes? A quirk to his lips that promised humor and understanding? Or was it just plain magic, the magic that happens when the right female meets the right male? Whatever it was, she’d been unsuccessful in putting him out of her head for days.
She knew she was softening.
He must have sensed that too, and he pushed his point further. “Everyone, or almost everyone, needs the feeling there’s home somewhere. I’m sure you understand that.”
She nodded slowly, reluctance fighting with sympathy. “What are you doing in the area?”
And immediately felt the flush crossing her cheeks. She didn’t want to be interested in him. She wanted to blot him out. She’d opened her mouth, intending to refuse him, but the question had popped out instead. And that had opened the door to conversation. He’d realized it too, and she could almost feel his body relax with relief.
“I’m working on a book on the Old West, so I’ll be poking around the area for a while.”
Alice couldn’t help smiling. “Blake’s Folly’s a great place for history. Lucy Warner’s pig gave birth to fifteen piglets once. That was back in thirty-two, I think.”
His eyes met hers evenly. “Nineteen thirty-three. The fifth of August. A hot month for hard work like that.” He gave a short laugh. “Nothing important gets past us serious researchers.”
Suddenly there was a loud thump followed by a wild scraping of claws. Seconds later, a huge black dog thrust itself past Alice and threw itself against Jace, almost knocking him backward.
Killer wriggled like an eel, danced a doggie jig on the veranda floor and still managed to stare up at Jace with supplication. He was ecstatic.
Jace bent down and gingerly patted Killer’s head, then looked back up at Alice with slight embarrassment.
“Normally I never pat dogs. I never understood why anyone would want to.” He observed Killer again. “There’s pure adoration in his eyes. It gets to me, somehow.”
Killer nestled in closer, wagging his long, seedy-looking tail wildly, and Jace patted him again, this time with more tenderness.
Alice felt herself relenting. She loved animals—any animal: dogs, cats, rabbits. And snakes.
And this man was touching her too much. Far too much. She had to bring her defenses back into play. “That isn’t the way a dog normally reacts when he meets a total stranger.”
Jace met her semblance of hostility with his limpid green gaze. “I’m not a total stranger. I fed him my packed lunch the other day, remember?” He looked down at Killer, grinned ruefully. “I still didn’t know why I stopped for him. Anyway, we’ve been through all this already. And, as I said, I’m here about the room.”
Buy Links for All About Charming Alice
Social Media for J. Arlene Culiner:
Author Website: http:// www.j-arleneculiner.com
Blog: http:// j-arleneculiner.over-blog.com
Storytelling Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner
Twitter: /twitter.com/JArleneCuliner / https:/
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Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jarleneculiner /