Today I have the pleasure of speaking with author J. Arlene Culiner. Thanks for taking time to talk with me today.
Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me, Tammy.
To start, please tell us about your newest release All About Charming Alice.
All About Charming Alice, is a classic feel-good contemporary romance. I could also say it's the sort of love story we'd all love to live.
Alice, my heroine, has already made difficult decisions in her life. Years earlier, she abandoned a disastrous marriage, a career in film and a lifestyle that made her miserable. Now living in the ramshackle Nevada house built by her great grandfather, she rescues abandoned dogs and pursues her one great interest: studying and protecting snakes. Sure, she feels lonely sometimes, but what man would want to live with her in a depopulated community like Blake's Folly — especially when she has such strange interests?
My hero, Jace Constant, is a sophisticated city man whose life in Chicago includes elegant women, refined dinners, and contemporary art. He's only in the Nevada desert because he's doing research for a book about the far west. When he finds Killer, a ratty-looking stray dog, he ends up in Blake's Folly where he meets Alice. And, of course, the attraction between them is immediate.
Their romance doesn’t get off to an easy start though: Jace hates the desert, dog hair and he’s terrified of snakes. As for Alice, how can she give her heart to a handsome, confident and sexy man who will destroy her peace and leave her with a broken heart when he returns to the big city?
What is your favorite line from the novel and why?
Here's a tiny section I love because it shows that, no matter what either character thinks they want, fate and nature have other plans:
Desire for a total stranger? For a man whose name she didn’t even know? A man she’d never, ever, see again? Sighing, Alice looked out the large kitchen window, watched a sudden breeze catch desert dust in a gentle whirl, set branches of wild buckweed and sticky snakeweed quivering. It looked—almost—as if they were shaking with laughter.
What has surprised you most about the publishing business?
Nothing surprises me anymore. Like many of my writer friends, I've seen it all: the refusal of some publishers to take risks; publishers who don't pay royalties; publishers who exploit you or lie to you. Thank goodness, I've also worked with wonderful, indulgent, supportive publishers and I truly love them.
Do you have a particular goal that you wish to reach, in terms of writing?
I've always had the same goals: to polish each paragraph until it's so beautiful, it shines; to tell a really good a story with lots of humor and great characters; to write intelligently so that my readers and I can learn. In, All About Charming Alice, there are some authentic tales about the settling of the west and some information about snakes — just so everyone can feel less squeamish about those lovely creatures and understand how much we need them.
How do you keep your ideas fresh and imaginative?
Through the desire to learn all about things I don't know.
Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?
Hm-m-m. Well, I suppose there are few occupational risks in writing romance: romance authors fall in love with their heroes and heroines and live the love story as they're writing it. Since everything takes place in the realm of imagination, there's a lot of satisfaction with no risk. However, if a writer branches out into investigative writing and has to travel to tricky unsafe places, there certainly is risk involved. It all depends on how far you want to go.
If you could mentor a new writer, what would be your first piece of advice to them?
It doesn’t matter what sort of book you’re writing, but you have to make each sentence sing. Explore the senses: tell us how things smell, sound, feel. Describe, in the shortest and most imaginative way you can, what the setting is. And avoid consumer stereotypes: write from your own heart.
What things do you find yourself doing that you said you'd "never" do?
Procrastination is my middle name. How many times do I wake up in the morning and plan, down to the last minute, my writing schedule…then do something totally different: spend the day walking down the sunken green lanes with the dogs, meet with fellow musicians to play chamber music, get lost doing strange and unnecessary research, or even (sigh) clean the house, build stone walls, or even make a vague attempt to tend to the garden…
What do you do to relax?
To be absolutely truthful, I don’t have to. I presently live in an ancient (16th or 17th century) former inn in a tiny French village and I’m surrounded by paths, trails, trees and beauty. I’ve been an artist for most of my life, so the house is filled with my work as well as all the tools I need to do more. I live with my chosen partner; I have a huge library; I love to cook; I love animals and insects and reptiles and birds, so I’m never bored; I play three different instruments with two small (amateur) chamber groups and an (amateur) orchestra and writing and research are, for me, ecstatic acts.
If you could be any super hero, who would you be?
I haven’t seen a movie in many years (although I occasionally do acting and extra work in films to make some money) and I don’t own a television, so I couldn’t give you a hero’s name that most people might relate to. The best superhero I know about is the wonderfully intelligent (German/French) Green Party politician, Daniel Cohn-Bendit.
What writing project are you working on now?
Things are quite exciting at the moment. I’m working with The Wild Rose Press, finishing up the edits on my new romance, A Swan’s Sweet Song. I’ve also been encouraged by a small Toronto publisher to pursue a history/creative non fiction work about an itinerant 19th century poet and musician, and that project now has me buried in the archives of Paris and Vienna. And, lucky me, I’ll be heading, by train, to the Ukraine and Romania to do more research in November.
Is there anything else you would like to add today?
No, I don’t think so. Your questions have encouraged me to cover quite a lot of territory. Perhaps I should just add that I’d be more than happy to hear from anyone — other writers, potential writers, and readers — and I promise to answer all (reasonable) letters. I can be contacted through my blog (address below) and although I am on Twitter and Facebook, I’m not at all active there (I just don’t have enough time in each day for social media.)
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us today!
Thanks again to you Tammy, and to Fallen Angels.
Interviewed by: Tammy