Whether I'm sitting around the campfire, the firepit, or my fireplace the best thing is being with interesting people and having stimulating conversations. Sometimes it's learning about new people and sometimes it's catching up with old friends. Today is one of the old friend days. J. Arlene is back with me today and I hope soon she'll be an old friend of yours.


Thanks so much for stopping by the fire today, J. Since we're at camp today I'm breaking out the smores. So while I gather all the ingredients why don't you begin and introduce yourself. Who you are other than your bio? What interests besides writing do you enjoy?
Thank you for having me here on Around the Campfire. However, the first question is a difficult one. It would be so much easier if someone else answered it. Looking at me from the inside, I seem to be a rather chaotic character, always racing off in some unplanned direction, then screeching to a halt in utter confusion.
I live in a small French village and, yes, I write romances. However, I also write non-fiction books about Eastern European history, therefore I do an incredible amount of research in the French national library as well as in the libraries and archives of other countries.
I’m also a contemporary artist who creates critical scenes of daily life, then puts them in little boxes. And I write Fake News — snide stories of events that never took place, gossip about inexistent people, and completely false legends. At the moment, there are some twenty or thirty of these stories on trees and walls in a village that is four kilometers from where I live. Since this other village happens to be very beautiful, many people come to visit, and as they walk through the streets, they read these tall tales. Despite their absurdity, many actually believe they are true. Several newspaper articles have been written about them, and two days ago, I was told that a writing group will be coming out in July to discuss them.

I LOVE that! It's so whimsical and sly. Who are your cohort or go to people?
I write in English in a French-speaking country. This certainly has disadvantages. Bernard, my partner doesn’t speak or read English therefore, since I use him as a sounding board for much that I write, I have to translate. Yes, I get the idea across, but it’s impossible for him to judge the style. I do have one friend, Jean Livingstone, who is a Scottish musician. She lives in quite another part of the country, but is willing to read my romance manuscripts and offer suggestions. A most invaluable critic is the author Dee S. Knight who has read several of my drafts and given me valuable suggestions that I take seriously. Otherwise, my non-fiction publisher, Katie Isbester at Claret Press is my best guide.

Who or what books or authors are your inspiration?
I’m a passionate reader of non-fiction. Books that have certainly touched or influenced me are all of Robert A. Rosenstone’s books as well as Charles King’s Midnight at the Pera Palace, Stephen Morris’s Black Tea, Neal Acherson’s Black Sea, and Kapka Kassabova’s Street Without a Name. These, however, are just a few of my favourites. There are so many others!

Do you have any fun or outrageous talent.
I am a fairly poor musician, but I keep honking away with great determination. I sneak into several empty local village churches with excellent acoustics — all of them are from the 13th century — with my collection of beautiful 18th century oboes, set up my music stand and puff away at Renaissance and Baroque music. Sometimes people drop by to listen. So far no one has complained, thrown me out, or hit me with rotten eggs.

LOL, I bet you are better than you are letting on. What is your neighborhood like?
I live in an incredibly dull village in the west of France. There are 400 inhabitants. There are no shops. One exciting and major local event is Mr. Bourdet pushing his wheelbarrow across the main square. Otherwise…zilch. My house, a 17th century former inn on the square, has become a museum, and it is open to the public several times during the year. This does create some (minor) flurry. Other than that, it’s back to Bourdet and his wheelbarrow for excitement.

Please give Mr. Bourdet our regards. I'm so happy you sent the picture of your house. I'll post it below for our other guests. Do you have a particular object like a piece of jewelry or a keepsake of some sort? Can you tell us what makes it special to you?
When I was around twelve, my father and his friends were taken in by a very charming con man who worked hand-in-hand with an art forger. They managed to sell quite a few fake masterpieces before disappearing. Before their subterfuge was discovered, this trickster gave me a very beautiful necklace — heaven knows where it came from. It was an old European piece, with a complicated wreathing of gold leaves studded with tiny pearls, a flowery centre with a small diamond, and one long pearl droplet. How easy for me to imagine it had been worn by a princess in some dark forbidding castle. What is particularly amazing is that, despite my itinerant life — I’ve always shifted from country to country —, the necklace is still with me.

How wonderful. I'll imagine with you it was worn by some great lady. What's your worst household chore?
All household chores are anathema to me, which is why Bernard and I have a half-hearted cleaning blitz once a month. The rest of the time, things…well…they just degenerate...
Thank you for spending time around the fire with me today. Before you put more stories in boxes or pull out the oboes will you leave us a bit about your newest book and where we can find out more about you?


A Room in Blake’s Folly (published by The Wild Rose Press)
J. Arlene Culiner
If only the walls could speak…
In one hundred and fifty years, Blake's Folly, a silver boomtown notorious for its brothels, scarlet ladies, silver barons, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town. Although the old Mizpah Saloon is still in business, its upper floor is sheathed in dust. But in a room at a long corridor's end, an adventurer, a beautiful dance girl, and a rejected wife were once caught in a love triangle, and their secret has touched three generations.
Back to home page