Today, I have author J. Arlene Culiner in the interview chair. We’re discussing her latest release A Swan’s Sweet Song, a contemporary romance. Don’t forget to check out the excerpt.
All About A Swan’s Sweet Song:
1. First, what’s your favourite scene in the book? Not in regards to writing, but reading, and why?
J. Arlene: I love when Carston and Sherry are called in to rescue a pregnant pig, Mrs Brown, when she has trouble birthing. This scene brings together all the misconceptions they have had about each other. It’s also funny!
2. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
J. Arlene: No, I wouldn’t. I love the story as is, with a visit to backwoods towns, then to Hollywood, back out to the country again, and finally to a theatrical performance.
3. What do you love most about your two main characters?
J. Arlene: Their warmth, kindness, intelligence and great sense of humor.
4. What makes you want to shake your two main characters?
J. Arlene: I want to shake Carston for all his prejudices, but he does work past them pretty quickly.
5. If you could spend time with one character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
J. Arlene: Difficult choice, but I suppose I’d love to hang around with Sherry, my heroine. She has a very exciting life, and she does doubt herself, which makes her very loveable.
6. Did the characters hijack the story or did you feel like you had control of your book?
J. Arlene: I had control, of course. I’m the writer. They aren’t.
7. How did you come up with the title for your book?
J. Arlene: It was a natural, as any reader can see.
8. If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the leads?
J. Arlene: I don’t know actors, particularly American actors. I don’t watch films.
9. If your book was a candle, what scent would it be and why?
J. Arlene: I’m afraid scented candles aren’t my thing.
10. If your book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
J. Arlene: An old song, Tommy Jarrell’s version of The Drunken Hiccups (also known as Jack O’ Diamonds). This early American music shows its roots in the combination of Irish folk music and blues. These are the roots Sherry loves to explore. You can hear the piece here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdKzcNnJKdI.
11. If your book was a colour, what would it be and why?
J. Arlene: A rainbow, because of the different aspects of the story.
12. If a reader asked you why they should read your book, what would you tell them?
J. Arlene: Because it’s fun, and funny, and I take readers where they don’t expect to go.
13. What can we expect from you in the future?
J. Arlene: More travels to unusual places through my books and my storytelling podcast here: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner.
J. Arlene on Writing:
1. Tell us about your writing process.
J. Arlene: I don’t have one. I’m chaotic. I write when the urge is there, I travel to unknown places, I do research in archives all across Europe for my non-fiction books, and there are months when I don’t write at all.
2. How much research goes into your books?
J. Arlene: An enormous amount. I love learning new things and transmitting information to my readers.
3. What do you enjoy most about writing?
J. Arlene: The ecstatic feeling during re-writes.
4. What do you enjoy least about writing?
J. Arlene: The first draft is hell.
5. You can only recommend one of your novels to a reader, which would you choose from the books you’ve written so far, and why?
J. Arlene: A Swan’s Sweet Song because it’s the most fun. But, then again, they’re all fun.
6. What novel was your personal favourite to write, and why?
J. Arlene: No favorites here. I loved working on them all.
All About J. Arlene!
1. Readers know about the writer you, but what about the everyday you?
J. Arlene: I’m also a contemporary artist (www.jill-culiner.com), and I live in a fake hotel which is actually a museum. I play many instruments, and I also write non-fiction. I have a new non-fiction book, In the Old Country, which will be released in October in London, England.
2. What is something unique/quirky about you?
J. Arlene: I love and rescue spiders, snakes, earthworms, snails, slugs, and any other creature.
3. What are some of your pet peeves?
J. Arlene: Noise, overwhelming perfume, people who sit in public places and don’t connect with others because they are absorbed by their telephones. We have to talk to each other!
4. Where were you born/grew up at?
J. Arlene: Born in New York, raised in Toronto. Since the age of 17, I’ve been shifting all across Europe.
5. Describe yourself in five words or less!
J. Arlene: Ironic, sceptic, funny, iconoclastic, and nice.
J. Arlene on Reading:
1. What book do you think everyone should read?
J. Arlene: The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald. Brilliant writing, rich with information.
2. What fiction genre(s) do you read the most?
J. Arlene: Mysteries.
3. Share your favourite character from a book that you’ve read, and why they are your fave.
J. Arlene: Flora Post is the mai character in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. She is level-headed, competent, and never one to be swept along by absudity.
4. On average, how much do you read every week?
J. Arlene: Hours every day.
Title: A Swan’s Sweet Song
Author: J. Arlene Culiner
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Heat Rating: Sensual
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Book Length: 210 pages
Release Date: January 15, 2015
The instant Sherry and Carston meet, there’s desire and fascination in the air…but they’re complete opposites.
Blurb: Smart-talking Sherry Valentine has fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, ever in the limelight, ever 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 suddenly 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. Is their budding relationship doomed?
A heavy fat paw clapped him on the shoulder. Carston turned, found a jovial-looking, cigar-chewing individual grinning into his face. “I’ll bet you and Sherry have a lot to say to each other, seeing both of you are in the same line of business.”
Life looked ugly again. “Line of business?”
“Sure. Entertainment. You know what I mean.”
Carston knew, instinctively, this man was tenacious and would never be warned off by a frigid look or icy tone of voice. Still, he had to try. “Being a playwright is not a line of business.”
The man ignored him, of course. His fat paw waved in the air to attract the attention of the country music singer. “Come over here, Chicken. Come chew the fat with Carston Hewlett. I told him you have a lot to say to each other.”
Carston grimaced. Thought about the sort of conversation you could have with a country music star: chart and audience ratings, fan magazines, business deals, contracts, the ins and outs of the entertainment business. Okay, okay. Maybe he was being unjust. Perhaps it the long legs and glamour that reminded him of screaming fans. But her face, well, he had to admit something in her eyes provoked, even danced. Her high, almost austere, cheekbones hinted at discipline but smile lines around her mouth and eyes indicated humor.
Without much enthusiasm, she sauntered in his direction and stopped in front of him. Boldly, she let her eyes slide up and down. Carston almost laughed. She was evaluating him, sizing him up like a chunk of roast beef or a steak, calculating how tender he might be. Well, he had nothing to be ashamed of. He had a trim body and easy grace. But this singer giving him the once-over didn’t look so pleased about the physique. Who did she think she was?
He met her eyes with an equal lack of warmth. Ms Valentine would learn, very quickly, she was out of her depth when it came to him. But even as the thought crossed his mind, he felt his fatigue and pent-up hostility trickling away. To be replaced by interest. And something akin to desire. Desire? How could his body betray him in this way? He searched for meaningless conversation to hide his reaction from her. “Hard to understand why we’re being interviewed together.”
“Exactly what I thought.”
Carston stared harder. Her voice had taken him by surprise: low, vibrant, it clashed with her flashy appearance. Now he really was intrigued. Very much so.
“We are on opposite sides of the cultural world.” He noted how condescending he sounded. Did it matter? Well, in a way, it did. He had the vague suspicion that condescension might not be the right tactic to take with Sherry Valentine.
A sarcastic smile slid over her beautiful lips. “That’s why you were sneaking out the door?”
Her words pulled him up short, shoved soft, sensual thoughts to the back of his mind. So she’d seen what he’d been up to? He felt himself squirm and sensed he had to justify himself for some crazy reason.
He shook his head. “Fatigue. That’s why I wanted to get away. What I need right now is a nice big bed with crispy sheets, just like the one waiting in my hotel room. Believe me, I know how good those sheets will feel when they slide over my skin tonight.” He stopped, shocked by his own words. Was he crazy? Talking about a bed, sheets, skin? He’d intended to keep the conversation on neutral ground — then had dropped into the trap. Reacted the way all men would. Did Sherry Valentine now expect him to pull out the big guns? Invite her back to that bed of his for a torrid night?
But she ignored the innuendo. Her lips crooked up into a smile of complicity. “A comfortable bed? Sounds heavenly. Just add a glass of wine and a good book to that picture.”
Carston stared. Had she just suggested they crawl into bed together? With a book? She must be having him on. She didn’t look like the sort of woman who’d spend bedtime hours indulging in literature. “You read a lot?” He sounded arrogant again.
Her amiable expression faded, became something warlike. “I actually liked reading, Eye of the Storm.”
He stared at her with astonishment. “You read my play?” Few enough people even went to see live theatre these days.
“Oh yes, Mr. Hewlett.” Her voice dripped sarcasm. “I can assure you we singers do know how to read.” She opened her eyes wide. “Guess what else? Way back when, I even went to school.”
He was ashamed of himself. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you. It’s just that people very rarely read plays.”
She observed him thoughtfully for a few seconds. “You weren’t by any chance thinking that as a singer of country music, I spend all my time posing for gossip magazines and chewing hay?”
He couldn’t deny she’d put her finger on it. He felt like a squirming eel. “I also find my own arrogance intolerable.”
Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.