I am so happy to have visiting author J. Arlene Culiner with me today in a truly delightful interview. She’s here celebrating her upcoming release A Swan’s Sweet Song which will be out January 23rd and is available for pre-order now! Please help Arlene feel welcome!!
Opposites attract in your upcoming release A Swan’s Sweet Song. Did you enjoy writing such different characters and their road to finding common ground? What was most difficult about it?
Yes, I loved writing about opposites, although it can be difficult. If a hero and heroine are too different, they might just write each other off as cranky, and they’ll certainly never get together. Although my heroine Sherry and my hero Carston seem to be very different, they aren’t really — as they eventually discover. Sherry leads a very public life on the star circuit, but so does Carston because he’s an award-winning playwright. Sherry loves books; so does Carston. Both have a good sense of humor and both love to laugh; both enjoy the country; both are talented; both are happy to share a glass of good wine and lovely meals. It seems to me there’s enough common ground for a nice romance. And…I almost forgot: each one thinks the other is just gorgeous — isn’t that what always happens when you fall in love?
Do you find it hard to separate yourself from your characters when you write?
Oh, I certainly can’t separate myself. I identify totally with them. That’s what’s so much fun: slipping into another world, another mentality, another physique, another home, another romance.
How did you build the worlds of a country music star and a successful playwright?
Experience. I once had my own country music radio program on Radio France – but it wasn’t just music. It was also a history of country music, how it came to exist. I had to do an enormous amount of research, then make what I found sound interesting. I also had to go out and interview musicians. Writing about Sherry Valentine was a way to use some of that information again. As for Carston’s world, I’ve worked as a professional actress — some live theater years ago, a lead role in a British film this last July, and lots of extra work in television and film — so I know about that business too.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Well, I certainly can’t answer that. If I do have strange writing habits (and this is highly possible), I wouldn’t recognize them as strange. They’d just be normal to me.
Any writing resolutions or goals for 2015?
Finish the narrative non-fiction manuscript I’ve been fighting over for quite some time now (I only have three more chapters to go, but they’re killing me. They even wake me up every day at 5 A.M. and yell at me until I start work on them). I’d also like to finish the romance that’s sitting in my computer and sighing softly.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I don’t think about the names much. They just seem to float in along with the characters and the story.
If you could live the life of any celebrity, who would you choose to trade places with?
Now there’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know of any celebrities. I’ve never had a television; I haven’t been to see a movie in years, and years, and years. I could give you the names of brilliant classical musicians I admire, and I certainly wish I could play as well as they do, but I don’t know what sort of personal lives they have, how happy they are, how much they enjoy their own company, what their dental problems are, health problems, how crabby and awful their spouses are, or what their dreams are like when they go to sleep. In other words, why would I want to trade places? I’m pleased as punch to be me, to live the life I have.
What line or book do you wish you wrote?
I wouldn’t mind being the author of Stella Gibbon’s wonderful satire (and romance) Cold Comfort Farm. Written in the 1930s, a parody of such authors as D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy, her characters are so wonderfully odd, and the atmosphere she conjures up is delightful. Re-reading that book has always been a pleasure.
If you were a professional wrestler, what would your name be?
Whoops. I know absolutely nothing about wrestling, nothing about the sort of name a wrestler would choose, nothing about sport of any kind…
And now, for the speed round (a la Actors Studio). Answer the following questions with 1 word:
- What turns you on? Silence
- What turns you off? Noise
- What is your favorite word? Analogous (it has such a nice, tongue-rolling, promisingly rich sound)
- What is your least favorite word? Like (when I hear it used obnoxiously in vile and incomprehensible sentences such as: “Hey, like I go, like, I’m doing that…like, why do I wanna, like, do that, like…”)
- What sound or noise do you love? Bees
- What sound or noise do you hate? Screaming (any screaming: in music, in arguments, in anger, in enthusiasm)
- What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Oboist
- What profession other than yours would you NOT like to attempt? Business
- What is your favorite swear word? Merde! (drawn out into two, or even three, long syllables in the French way — although real experts can even pull it into four)
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter the Pearly Gates? Howdy! (That sort of opener would convince me we could sit down together, chew the fat, drink a beer or two and solve a few global problems.)
A SWAN’S SWEET SONG
The air sizzles when a country music star and renowned playwright meet, but can opposites fall in love?
The instant Sherry Valentine and Carston Hewlett meet, there’s desire and fascination in the air…but they’re complete opposites.
Smart-talking Sherry fought her way up from poverty to stardom as a country music singer. Now, she’s ever in the limelight, ever surrounded by clamoring fans, male admirers and paparazzi, and her spangled cowboy boots carry her all across the country, from one brightly lit stage to the next.
A renowned but reclusive playwright, Carston cherishes his freedom, the silence of his home in the woods and his solitary country walks. Any long-term commitment is obviously out of the question: how about a quick and passionate fling?
But when their names are linked in the scandal press, Sherry’s plans to become an actress are revealed. And the budding relationship seems doomed.
Perhaps she could avoid meeting Carston Hewlett again and circumvent disaster. And why worry? She had a concert to do, interviews to give, and contacts to make so her name stayed in the forefront. And when this festival was over, she’d climb back into the bus with Charlie and her boys and ride away. Perhaps head for the new career she’d been dreaming about—because, according to Charlie, there was serious talk of a role in a television series…
Yes, she had enough on her agenda. No room for a temporary fling. A fling at a conference like this? That had become so commonplace, it was positively banal. And, at this stage of her life, it would also be undignified.
“There he is now,” said Charlie, ripping into her thoughts. “Right over there. On the left. You see?”
Of course, she saw. How could she miss him? Tall, mighty easy on the eye, he leaned, glass in hand, against a plaster pillar, listening to the dozen people surrounding him.
“Don’t make plans,” she warned Charlie. Yet she couldn’t avoid looking in Carston’s direction again and noticed he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. Oh, he nodded politely at what was being said, but his eyes had that vague glazed look that comes just before sinking to the floor with boredom. But didn’t he look delicious in that brown silk shirt and elegant tweed jacket; look how those jeans hugged his long legs. He was just the way she’d always imagined a successful playwright should be: cool, intelligent, strong, and sexy.
As if aware she’d been watching him, Carston turned slightly, caught her eye. She tried forcing herself to look away. And failed. For an eternity, their gaze held over the space separating them. Then detaching himself from the surrounding group, he headed in her direction.
She commanded herself to pretend indifference, but her pulse accelerated, and her heart thumped a sensual jungle beat. Was this supposed to be pleasure? Something closer to pure panic. She swallowed, tried to summon up some zen-like calm…then realized she didn’t have any available. She needed help. Fast.
“Charlie?” she gasped. Looked around. Damn! Where had that man gone now that she needed him? The only thing left to do was run. Except she was incapable of movement. Fool. The reprimand didn’t get escape muscles into moving order.
Why come over here anyway? What would they talk about? They had nothing, absolutely nothing, in common. She had to stop staring at him like this.
Here he was now, tiny inches away, his jaw a hard definite line, his body that tight, sinewy stretch she’d thought about too many times during the night. But it was the expression in his eyes, warm eyes, humorous eyes, that confirmed her instinct: the immediate, deep reaction was mutual. Try as hard as they could to avoid it, something would happen. It was inevitable.
And for once, she, Sherry Valentine, a woman with a smart answer, a flippant remark for everything, everyone, and every occasion, was tongue-tied.
About the Author:
Born in New York, raised in Toronto, J. Arlene Culiner has spent most of her life in England, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no real interest. Much to everyone’s dismay, she protects all living creatures — especially spiders and snakes — and her wild (or wildlife) garden is a classified butterfly and bird reserve.