Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author J. Arlene Culiner to HJ!

The setting for my romantic suspense, The Turkish Affair, is an archaeological site in central Turkey. My heroine, Anne, is a former American journalist who, after a scandalous affair with the wrong man, lost her job and her reputation. For the last ten years, she’s been in hiding, living in backwoods Turkey, working as a translator. She’s not interested in romance, an affair, or a partner: falling in love is just too painful. Besides, in any relationship, you have to reveal who you are — and that’s something she’ll never do.

My hero, Renaud Townsend is an archaeologist. He’s passionate about his work, about ancient history, about discovery, and about keeping his independence. The last thing he’s ever wanted is a permanent relationship: after the first excitement and immediate desire, he knows that any love story becomes humdrum, and that’s what he’s determined to avoid.
But what happens when there’s instant attraction? When caring slips into the picture? When trust becomes important? Throw in some artifact theft, a difficult climate, corrupt police, a murder, an empty beige plain surrounded by dark mountains, and the story begins.

Anne watched whirlpools of dust rise, shimmer briefly, vanish. Like phantoms. Ghosts of a forgotten world.

  • Many events in this book are true:
  • Like my heroine, I worked as a translator and guide in backwoods Turkey.
  • The story of the police demanding that archaeologists verify whether smuggled coins are fake, is absolutely true. I accompanied three archaeologists on just such a mission.
  • Leyla, the very brave and rebellious young woman who rescues Anne from a dangerous situation on a back road, really does exist. I met her and her very conservative mother.
  • Once, on an archaeological site in Turkey, I briefly caught sight of a lean and elegant man. As he headed toward a jumble of smashed pillars, the bright sun caught the golden blaze of his hair. Who was he? I never found out, but he was the inspiration for Renaud Townsend, the hero of The Turkish Affair.

I suppose some writers do dream of having their book optioned for a movie. I don’t. The technique of writing a movie scenario is so totally different, and a script lacks colorful description. Not only that: when we watch a movie, we’re passive; but when we read a book, we use our imagination actively. We picture the characters, we “see” landscapes, “hear” sounds, “touch” and “smell”. Our intellect is stimulated; we’re very involved.
I love creating atmospheres that are almost tangible, that will excite readers. So instead of a movie scene, here’s a book scene from The Turkish Affair to enjoy:

Despite snarled traffic, Renaud managed to shoehorn the four-wheel drive into a space only a short distance from the police station. Grabbing his small leather case, he and Anne set out through the noisy commercial quarter where people thronged around makeshift stalls of heaped clothing, bright beads, wispy scarves, rolls of material, tools, string, cords, batteries, radios, even car parts of unidentifiable use. The smells were intense: herbs, roasting meat, stuffed mussels, fresh oranges, cheap perfumes, drains, carbon monoxide.
He observed the chaos with equanimity, even humor. For him, it was exotic enough to be appealing, and it made him fonder of the country. Not that he’d had much of a chance to appreciate it up until now, not with the heavy load of negatives he’d had to confront since arriving.
But this morning had a holiday feel to it: the air was salt-laden and breezy; he could glimpse an alluring turquoise sea between the white buildings; and he was sharing this experience—this entire day—with Anne. Briefly, his eyes traced the line of her cheekbone, the fine mouth, the loose flutter of her hair. Not too far from the surface was a passionate, warm woman, and that knowledge made him feel very good. And incredibly lucky.

Of course, I want my readers to enjoy the lovely, sometimes difficult, romance between Anne and Renaud, but I’m also taking them on an exotic journey to a little known part of the world — backwoods Turkey — where, on an archaeological site, they’ll experience the thrill of discovery as well as danger. In other words, I’m offering armchair travel at it’s best: no last-minute panic of getting out to the airport; no check-in lines; no endless and bumpy plane ride. Only the pleasure of a good tale, and the chance to solve a mystery along with my hero and heroine.

I’m presently working on 1) a creative non-fiction work about a small village in eastern Hungary, 2) a contemporary romance that takes place in Blake’s Folly, the same Nevada community I used in my previous romance, All About Charming Alice, and 3) a series of portraits. All three projects are so different from each other, I’ll have to wait and see which pulls the strongest. They’ll all get finished eventually, I think, but none will be completed in the coming months. I need time to write a book, to perfect the story and refine the language.

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