Born in New York, raised in Toronto, Jill (J. Arlene) Culiner has lived in several cars, one closet, a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, in a haunted house on the English moors, in the Sahara desert, on a Greek island, in several French villages and has worked as a go-go girl, belly dancer, fortune teller, translator, newspaper deliverer, radio broadcaster, contemporary artist, photographer, actress and writer. She has written two mysteries set in France — Sad Summer in Biarritz and Death by Slanderous Tongue — a non fiction travel/history — Finding Home In the Footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers, winner of the Tannenbaum Award for Canadian History (Now and Then Books) three contemporary romances — All About Charming Alice, A Swan’s Sweet Song, Felicity’s Power, and a romantic mystery set on an archaeological site in eastern Turkey, The Turkish Affair. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn/museum in a French village of no real interest. Much to everyone's dismay, she rescues dogs, cats, hedgehogs, and protects all other living creatures -- especially spiders and snakes. Her wild (or wildlife) garden is a classified butterfly and bird reserve.
Okay, here’s the real stuff: I also play all the instruments in the oboe family (oboe d’amore, baroque hautboy, da caccia, etc) in several orchestras; my house is a museum that we open for Heritage Day each year as well as private visits; it has also been used in a film; I have been a contemporary artist for most of my life, so many people come to gawk. I do a podcast; I’m a photographer; and an ancient house is freezing cold in winter, so I rarely move away from my wood-burning oven.
My mystery, Sad Summer in Biarritz, was released two months ago. It certainly isn’t a romance. It’s the story of a woman who, escaping a dangerous former lover, comes to a seaside resort town hoping to find new love. But resorts can be lonely places, and the other singles she meets are embittered men. Only friendship with Vinnie, a young artist she met on the train, holds promise; but when Vinnie’s body is discovered, she is certain he has been murdered.
Another new release, is the audiobook of, Felicity’s Power. This is definitely a romance. My hero and heroine, Felicity and Marek, come face to face forty years after their romance ended. And now Felicity is determined to show Marek that love can be even more wonderful the second time around.
I did the narrating of the audiobook myself — I have worked as a radio broadcaster and an actress (https://vimeo.com/188556966) — so I thought it would be an exciting experience to read my own books. To listen to a few minutes of Felicity’s Power, go here: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Felicitys-Power-Audiobook/B072FVMTHH
Questions and Answers with
J. Arlene Culiner
- What do you want people to know about you and your process?
I can’t say that I have a “process”. Somehow an idea starts to grow, and if it becomes large enough, I have to act on it. That can take me anywhere. If it’s fiction, the characters take shape, there is an atmosphere, a setting, and even a temperature. But it’s also true for non-fiction or even a photographic exhibition. One idea took me on foot across Romania (Finding Home the Footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers). Another, to a five year stint in backwoods Hungary, learning the language and following up on post-war violence (La Mémoire Effacée). Another had me in Ukraine following in the footsteps of Velvel Zbarzher, a singer/poet who died in 1873.
- When did you know writing was what you wanted/needed to do?
I’ve always written; it was just something I did, although when I now read over what I wrote, I have to say I was just doing my apprenticeship. Then, some years ago, I finally took writing seriously. It all started when I had a daily program writing and telling my stories on Radio France. I was working alongside another broadcaster, Christine. One day, during a conversation about writing, we discovered we both nursed a desire to write romances. Then and there, we made a vow: we’d do exactly that. Christine’s book (written in French) involved a romance in Burundi, and mine featured mature lovers who meet up again in California after a forty year separation.
We began writing and comparing notes with great excitement. I did, eventually, complete my manuscript, but I’ll never know if Christine finished hers. She left to go work for another radio in the east of France, and I left for Hungary. But my manuscript, Felicity’s Power, was accepted by Power of Love, an Australian publisher looking for romances featuring mature characters — and that was something quite different, even daring, at the time (it still is unusual.) Since then, I’ve published three other romances with characters over forty years old: All About Charming Alice, A Swan’s Sweet Song, and The Turkish Affair. In 2015, I rewrote Felicity’s Power, added a few chapters, and it was re-published by The Wild Rose Press. It was released as an audiobook this summer.
- Does any music/situations/media inspire your writing process? If so, what?
Just silence. It’s a lovely, very precious thing.
- Will we see any new works from you soon? What will they be?
My mystery, Sad Summer in Biarritz, will come out as an audiobook in the next month or two. My romance, A Swan’s Sweet Song, about a country music singer and an intellectual playwright who have to fight gossip, paparazzi and their own hesitations, will also be out as an audiobook in November. I’ll be adding more episodes to my podcast, Life in a Small French Village, (https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner), and I’ll be working on a new romance as well as a mystery. But when they’ll be finished… well… I’m a slow writer, carefully re-writing over and over, perfecting, making each book as good as it can be.
5. Favorite wine and favorite chocolate?
Because I live in Europe, it’s perfectly normal to have wine with our meals. And there are so many different wines — and they are very inexpensive here too. I couldn’t possibly choose one or two as a favorite. As for chocolate, I rarely eat it, but when I do, it has to be dark specialty chocolate; after all, if I’m going to indulge, it has to be worth it.
5. Favorite movie/television programs?
Okay, here it goes: I don’t own a television, and I never, ever, go to see movies (I haven’t seen one in over thirty years). I prefer books, intense discussions, conferences, writing, dreaming, the images in my head, playing music alone or with other musicians, walking through the countryside on the green lanes, or just doing nothing at all but sitting and listening to the birds sing and the wind shifting the leaves and branches. Television or movies would cut into all that wonderful time, even pollute my own images and thoughts, pump my mind full with advertising spam. Yes, I know it sounds radical, but this choice has given me an enormous amount of freedom.
8. What are your favorite foods?
Anything with spices, herbs and lots of flavor — but it has to be vegetarian. If it is, I’ll try anything and probably love it. What I’m not fond of, however, are sweets and deserts of any kind. Untreated fruit, yes (not supermarket fruit); and naturally dried fruit, yes. But no cakes, or candies, or even jams. Neither my partner Bernard nor I have ever developed a sweet tooth.
9. What’s the best way fans can reach out to you?
On Facebook, or through the Ask the Author feature on Goodreads. I promise to answer any questions as soon as I receive them. I can also be reached at jarleneculiner at gmail dot com
Links to website and social media
My giveaway is one ebook copy of either Sad Summer in Biarritz or Felicity’s Power. State your preference, and please promise to leave a review.