Friday, January 17, 2020

#AuthorInterview - "The Turkish Affair" by J. Arlene Culiner

Thank you, Amber Daulton, for having me here on your blog. My new romantic suspense, The Turkish Affair, was released two days ago, so I’d like to talk a little bit about that, but I’d also like to get your opinion on a few things. So if you’ll forgive me for being nosy, there are questions for you, too.

A.D. What kind of research did you do for The Turkish Affair?

J.A.C. In order to write about the Turkish site of Karakuyu, I had to learn more about the Hittites, the people who lived in Turkey from 1700 to 1200 BCE. Luckily, I’ve spent some time on archaeological sites over the years, participating in digs, or as a photographer, and sometimes accompanying an Israeli cousin who is a surveyor, researcher, and artist. Like Anne Pierson, the heroine of The Turkish Affair, I also worked as a guide and translator in Turkey, so I know about that country’s traditions, manners, and dangers.

A.D. What process did you go through when you picked your characters’ names for The Turkish Affair?

J.A.C. My main characters’ names simply came to me — that always happens when I start writing a story. As for my secondary characters, I used the real names of people I knew in Turkey and who appear in the tale.

A.D. Are your characters based on anyone you know?

J.A.C. In The Turkish Affair, all the secondary characters are people I knew and worked with. I really did meet corrupt and violent policemen like Komisar Bulduk, and I also met Leyla, the very courageous — and outrageous — young woman who rescues my heroine from a potentially dangerous situation on a back road. Fortunately, Leyla was around to rescue me, too.

A.D. Do any of your characters take over and write the book themselves sometimes?

J.A.C. How I wish they would physically take over and write the book. That way, I could stay in my warm bed each morning, and not have to get to work on my latest manuscript. But, yes, in a way they do take over. I think about them constantly; they are in my dreams at night; and they stay with me long after a book is finished.

A.D. How long have you been writing? When did you decide to become an author?

J.A.C. I started writing as a child, creating very tiny books for my imaginary friends. As an adult, I always knew I would be an author one day, so I kept diaries and notebooks, although not with enough dedication. I also wrote many stories, even whole books, but they were fairly awful: I consider them my apprenticeship work. I decided I was a real writer when my first book, a romance, was accepted by Power of Love, once a publisher in Australia. By then, I knew I could be proud of the style I had developed over the years.

A.D. All writers suffer from writer’s block at least once in their career. What’s your go-to cure?

J.A.C. I stop writing. I take long walks along the unpaved green lanes that have crisscrossed Europe for thousands of years, or I do other work — I’m a contemporary artist and photographer, so there’s always something on the boil. Sometimes I don’t write for very long periods of time, which is just fine. What’s the rush?

J.A.C. And you, Amber Daulton? What do you do as a cure for writer’s block? Or don’t you ever suffer from that malady?

A.D. I'm definitely not immune to writer's block. When nothing is going right, I step back from the story and read. I always try to read in the sub-genre I’m writing in, in order to find inspiration. Usually, after a few weeks, my creative muse starts flowing, and I can finally get back to work.

This doesn’t happen often, but sometime I write myself into a corner, even though I’ve plotted the scene beforehand. To solve that block, I jump a few chapters ahead and start writing new scenes, leaving a big blank spot in my novel. When the later sections are done, I go back and fill in the blank areas.

A.D. Sometimes the romance genre gets a bad reputation for being cliché. How do you respond to that?

J.A.C. With amusement, and I think many romance writers learn to react in the same way. Yes, of course it’s true that some romance plots are silly, or banal — but you can say that about any genre. There are also excellent romances written by intelligent writers, although the doubters refuse to believe that. Only last week, a woman wrote to me asking for information about nineteenth century Romanian history (she had read some of my non-fiction). When I mentioned that I also write romance, she responded with a snide: “Oh no! Not bodice rippers.”

I do love doing research and learning new things. I also like passing on information. Therefore, in my romances, readers can read about reptiles, baroque music, Russian music, Western history, country music, Turkish tradition, theatre, Hollywood, desert vegetation, and foreign aid. Doesn’t sound too much like cliché writing to me.

J.A.C. And what about you? How do you respond to people who sneer at romance writing?

A.D. People who think the genre is cliché probably haven’t read many romance books. It's more than just arrogant broad-shouldered men and clingy women. These books delve into relationships of the family, friendships, hero/villain, personal demons, culture, music, history, and hope. I could go on and on. There’s action and tears, everything that makes up a Blockbuster movie.

Sometimes whenever I first meet someone and I tell him/her I’m a romance author, their eyes always get big and their mouths form an O. They’re usually impressed I’m a published author, but they’re surprised I’m writing romance. Luckily, no one has ever been rude to my face, but I know they find it weird.

A.D. Any advice for the aspiring authors out there? Particularly those who are feeling a little discouraged?

J.A.C. Just keep at it. Send out those manuscripts. Sure, rejection hurts, but only in the beginning. After a while, a rejection letter — or no response at all, which seems to be the usual thing nowadays — is no more annoying than a pesky mosquito. If your work is good, there will be a publisher who wants it… eventually.

A.D. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your hobbies?

J.A.C. I’m a musician — strictly amateur, but extremely active. That means I play in two orchestras, two concert bands, one chamber music group, and one brass ensemble. I play the flute, piccolo, oboe, English horn, euphonium (small tuba), the baroque oboe, the baroque taille, and the baroque oboe d’amore. Therefore, I’m fairly busy…and I suppose that’s why I don’t churn out hundreds of books each year.

J.A.C. And you Amber Daulton? What are your hobbies?

A.D. Hobbies? Whats that? Im busy writing.
No, really. I do have some hobbies. My hubby and I love binge-watching TV shows—our favorite is Supernatural—and we often borrow movies from our local library. Besides that, I like to read, garden, and create scrapbooks. We dont have children, but we spend a lot of time with our three demanding cats.

The Turkish Affair
By J. Arlene Culiner


Love and Danger at the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu
Priceless artifacts are disappearing from the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu in Turkey, and the site director has vanished. Called in to solve the mystery, archaeologist Renaud Townsend is hindered by both his inability to speak the language and the knowledge that the local police are corrupt. His attraction to translator Anne Pierson is immediate, although he is troubled by her refusal to talk about the past and her fear of public scandal. But when murder enters the picture, both Anne and Renaud realize that the risk of falling in love is not the only danger.


A delicious breeze tickled the air, and the little boat rocked gently. A fine line appeared between Renaud’s brows, and his blue eyes were, once again, serious. “I need your help.”
Anne stared. “My help? With what? Translating?”
“No. With something else. I have to find out who is behind the thefts at Karakuyu.”
The feeling of dread returned, but she forced herself to sound casual. “How could I possibly help you with that?”
“I don’t know.” He sighed. “I just don’t want to feel that I’m alone in this.”
What could she say to that? Tell him she was the last person he should team up with? That long ago, she’d escaped arrest by the skin of her teeth? If she did so, this splendid moment would be over. The silver-foil glimmer of romance would be tarnished forever. He’d row back to shore, drive back to Gülkale, get rid of her as quickly as possible.
“Anne?” He reached out to caress her bare arm. “Come back from wherever you are.”
“You know nothing about me,” she said jaggedly.
“Nothing,” he agreed.
She swallowed. “I could be involved in the thefts for all you know. Why ask for my help? Why choose me?”
He smiled faintly. “A good question. I suppose, quite simply, I need—or want—to trust you.”
She felt utterly miserable. Why was life always like this? Wanting someone and not being able to have them? Wanting trust, but seeing it snatched away before it came close?

Excerpt from The Turkish Affair

She was free to wonder about him again, just the way she’d been doing since first meeting him. Wondering what sort of person he was, about the places he’d been to, the life he’d lived. Was he married? Was he attached to a university? She warned herself not to delve too deeply because she couldn’t give out truthful information in return. Still, she wanted to know.
“I’ve an idea,” he said, breaking into her thoughts. “The heat’s gone. We can actually walk around without being cooked alive. How about giving me a guided tour of this town?”
“A tour of Gülkale?”
“Why not?”
She could think of a million reasons why not. Instinctively, she knew if she were alone with him, out there in the dusky evening, the situation would become more intimate, more personal. And intimacy could lead anywhere. She raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. “It’s not a very interesting place. What’s wrong with just sitting here?”
Renaud’s eyes darted toward the counter where Necmettin was standing, observing them. “To be honest, I can’t say I’m feeling comfortable. That man has been watching me since I arrived. I feel like a fat coypu sharing space with a drooling piranha.”
Anne had to laugh. He was right, of course. Here, gossip spread more quickly than melted butter on a hotplate, and since Gülkale was, at best, slow-moving, eventless, people were constantly snuffling after the next tidbit. Still, she hesitated, tempted to take him up on his offer, knowing that something as innocuous as a walk was chancy. His voice was too caressing. The heat of his body, his male scent, and something else—something indefinable—was drawing her to him. No temptations. She hadn’t run this far just to get entangled with yet another fatal Romeo.

About the Author:

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.

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