Joining me today in The Loft is author J. Arlene (Jill) Culiner. Jill's life of adventure and discovery is evident in her tales of contemporary romance, mystery, and historical events. Born in New York and raised in Toronto, Jill has traveled through much of Europe, North and South America, and the Sahara. She funded her travels with a variety of jobs, including fortune teller, belly dancer, translator, model, radio broadcaster, actress, and writer. Her experiences in out-of-the way communities with strange characters are woven throughout her stories. Jill currently resides in a 400-year-old inn in a French village.
S: Good morning, Jill! It's so nice to chat with you again!
You write in a variety of genres. What is your favorite thing about writing romance?
J: Falling in love. Yes, that really happens. I fall in love with my heroes; I become my heroines with all their doubts, their sparkle, and their sense of humor. And I delight in their adventures.
S: Do you believe in love at first sight? Has it ever happened to you?
J: Of course, I believe in love at first sight. Yes, it has happened to me — many times. It doesn’t usually last long, but there’s hardly anything in life that’s more intoxicating.
S: Tell me about the other genres you write. What are they?
J: I love writing romance, but I do write in other genres, and that's what makes life fun I write biographies that take years of research. I write histories that keep me pouring through documents in libraries and archives, and send me to tricky countries I don't know. And I write mysteries that have me delving into the oddities of human behavior.
S: What inspires your stories?
J: Absurdity. I love it. Witnessing silliness or bad behavior is equally delightful because I need such things when creating pesky secondary characters, or for injecting a little comic relief into a story. What else inspires me? Catching secret moments, the ones that you aren’t supposed to see. Another thing that inspires me is the memory of a place. Perhaps it’s a mediocre sort of landscape, but in memory, it takes on a sheen of its own. And, in a story, it becomes a setting, mysterious, or threatening, or perfectly lovely.
S: Have you ever "shelved" a book? Why?
J: Yes, I have. Often. I used to think that I owed it to an author to continue reading a book I wasn’t enjoying. Then I decided that life just wasn’t long enough to waste time like that. I’ll happily close a book that has bad grammar, ugly sentences, or stereotyped characters that have nothing original to say. When I’m reading, I want to learn things, feel something, and be forced to think.
S: What's the best advice you have ever given?
J: Write and rewrite, cut and cut some more. Then rewrite, then cut, then rewrite, then cut.
S: What do you consider your greatest achievements?
J: Staying alive and healthy despite having been in many dangerous places, and always having the ability to laugh when I fail at something.
S: What inspired "A Swan's Sweet Song?"
J: Several things came together. I once had my own vintage country music radio show in France, and one day, a country group came to town. I was sent to interview them — charming middle-aged men — and after their last set they told me about being on the road and the sort of life they lived. I remember thinking that I had to write down their story one day. In "A Swan’s Sweet Song," Sherry Valentine’s life is much like theirs, but I also added quite a few of my own experiences as a (mediocre) actress.
S: Is there anything special you would like people to know about your book?
J: That there is nothing fictitious in "A Swan’s Sweet Song." My readers will laugh, they’ll travel to unusual places, and they’ll be able to peek into another sort of life.
Here's the blurb--
The instant Sherry and Carston meet, there's desire and fascination in the air...but they're complete opposites.
Smart-talking Sherry Valentine has fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, ever in the limelight, surrounded by clamoring fans, male admirers, and paparazzi, her spangled cowboy boots carry her from one brightly lit stage to the next. But Sherry's been on the star circuit for far too long now, and she wants a change: is it too late for her to begin an acting career?
A renowned, but reclusive playwright, Carston Hewlett cherishes his freedom, the silence of the deep woods surrounding his home, and his solitary country walks. Long-term commitments have been out of the question for many years, so why is he fascinated by a flashy country music singer? Perhaps a very short, but passionate, fling will resolve the problem.
When their names are linked in the scandal press, and Sherry's plans to become an actress are revealed, Carston is furious. Their budding relationship seems doomed.
S: Where can readers buy your book?
J: It's available at--
S: Jill, thanks so much for joining me today! If you would like to learn more about J. Arlene Culiner and her books, please visit-
Storytelling Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner