Young, I set out to have a life of adventure and discovery, not one of security and comfort – although those things can certainly can seem appealing when caught in one of life’s more distressing moments. Alone, I’ve crossed much of Europe on foot, I’ve travelled, by bus, train, car or truck throughout North and Central America, Europe and the Sahara. I’ve also lived in unique places — a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave dwelling, on a Dutch canal, in a lonely, very haunted stone house on the English moors. I’m presently in a 400-year-old former inn in a small French village.
My sort of lifestyle means staying flexible and taking up any sort of work that presents itself: belly dancer, fortune teller, translator, fashion model, b-girl, story teller, radio broadcaster, actress, social critical artist, photographer and writer. I’m lucky enough to have discovered forgotten communities, met strange characters, and to have had some very odd conversations. And, yes, I incorporate all of that information into my books and stories.
I like to have my books published in the traditional way, but I do prefer to work with small presses. As J. Arlene Culiner I’ve had five romances published; as Jill Culiner, two mysteries and a narrative non fiction work. I’ve just finished writing a non-fiction biography about Velvel Zbarzher, an itinerant, largely-forgotten 19th century poet. That project that had me burrowing through the archives of Paris and Vienna, taking trains to Ukrainian and Romanian villages, and spending a lot of time in squalid bars (he did love low places and heavy drinking.) The manuscript has recently attracted the attention of a publisher. I’m also polishing up a narrative non-fiction about life in a Hungarian village for another publisher, so I’m keeping all my fingers crossed. I narrate audiobooks as well, and I have a podcast — Life in a Small French village — that can be heard here:https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner
I don’t find writing easy. I heartily dislike writing first drafts, and I have to force myself to sit down and work at them. But when the draft is done, I start having fun. It takes me a long time to write a book: I’m not one of those authors who can pop out something new each month, or each year. I don’t write every day, sometimes I don’t write for months. I don’t have one set work place, or a ritual, or a favorite drink or food. However I do my best to polish each paragraph until it shines, to tell really good stories with humor and great characters, and to write intelligently so both my readers and I learn about things we didn’t know.
I’m also a musician (amateur, sometimes semi-professional) and I play in several bands and orchestras. I play flute, piccolo, oboe, English horn and recorder, but my main instruments are the baroque oboe and the very modern euphonium (that’s a small tuba): how’s that for variety? The house I live in, is a former village café and inn, and it is much the same as it was over a hundred and fifty years ago. I open it to the public on Heritage Day (called Journées du Patrimoine in France.) I anyone is curious about it, take a look here: http://jill-culiner.com