1. I hear you have pets in your novel. Tell us about the book.
Pets make an appearance in almost all my books. In my latest release, A Room in Blake’s Folly, we see a Nevada town evolve from a silver boomtown to a semi-ghost town in six different stories. All six are romances even though some don’t turn out the way we expect they might.
In the second story–the romance between a brothel owner and a silver baron (set in 1927)–we meet the dog Russ, one of the many animals left behind in the early 1900s when people abandoned dying boomtowns and headed further west.
In the fifth story, one that takes place in 2021, several dogs as well as snakes and spiders steal the limelight. So do my hero and heroine Lance and Lucy who are both (unsuspectingly) linked to that earlier brothel owner and silver baron; there are often genetic surprises in small communities!
A Room in Blake’s Folly blurb:
If only the walls could speak…
In one hundred and fifty years, Blake’s Folly, a silver boomtown notorious for its brothels, scarlet ladies, silver barons, speakeasies, and divorce ranches, has become a semi-ghost town. Although the old Mizpah Saloon is still in business, its upper floor is sheathed in dust. But in a room at a long corridor’s end, an adventurer, a beautiful dance girl, and a rejected wife were once caught in a love triangle, and their secret has touched three generations.
2. Why did you add animals to this book?
I add animals to my stories because I can’t imagine life without them. My dogs and cats all come from pet shelters (or else I find them along the road), and they are usually settled in near me when I write. They’d never forgive me if I didn’t mention them.
Osselot, a very stubborn twelve-year-old, was living with an elderly woman who could no longer care for him. My vet asked me to take him in.
Yellow was a nine-year-old I found wandering along the road. She had been abandoned by her owners who had chopped off her tail—why do something so stupid and cruel—and the stump was still bloody. She was a wonderful dog and lived to the age of eighteen.
Virgule—I found him at the local dog pound—was a terrible monster when young, chewing up anything that was plastic (my telephone, computer transformer, plugs). He calmed down after I adopted Yellow. He’s now twelve and very staid.
As for snakes and spiders, those creatures so hated by many, I appreciate their beauty and the role they play in maintaining a balanced environment. I hope, with my stories, I can convince a few people to take a more sympathetic look at these beasties.
Lucy Barnes, the heroine of the fifth story in A Room in Blake’s Folly, particularly loves spiders. And one day, when she’s photographing one, she happens to meet Lance Potter, the hero. Here’s how:
Lance saw the woman doubled over in the dirt road, her legs bent backward and to each side of her in what looked to be an exceedingly painful position. Had she been hit by a car? Probably not: few enough cars passed this way. She might have had an attack of some sort. He loped toward her, thinking only of rescue and alleviating pain, because that’s what a veterinarian’s job is all about, and humans happen to be animals, too.
He was less than ten feet away, when she raised her head and glared at him with fury. The look, as toxic as a poison arrow, halted him in his tracks. She certainly didn’t look as though she needed his help. She didn’t look as though she’d ever need anyone’s help.
“Um…I’m sorry. I saw you down there, in the road, and I thought…” He saw her fury seep away, transform into visible regret.
“You chased it away.”
Swinging her bent legs into a more reasonable position, she stood up without using her hands. For someone who wasn’t young, she looked to be in perfect shape. Or at least she had maintained an admirable flexibility. What was her name? Lucy something…oh yes, Lucy Barnes. For the first time, he noticed the camera.
“Look, I thought you had fallen or…”
“Yes, I realize that’s what you thought.” She didn’t look as though she were about to forgive him for it either.
“You were taking a photo?”
“Oh, sorry. A ground crab spider.”
“Of a ground crab spider?”
She relented slightly. “They’re called crab spiders because they look and move like crabs.”
“Yes,” he said dryly. “I think I’ve worked that one out.”
“What for? Why were you taking a photo?”
“Because I like them. I like macro photography. I like taking photos of spiders, and this particular spider was very pretty.”
“Pretty. Got it.”
She looked annoyed again. “Veterinarians don’t consider arachnids worthy of notice?”
“Did I just tell you that?” he said a little too defensively because she was right: he never noticed them. Okay, he never killed them either, because he knew how useful they were, but that was as far as things went. “What was particularly pretty about that one? I mean spiders look like spiders to me. I never thought aesthetics came into it.”
“Really?” She even looked surprised.
“Really.” Inwardly, he sighed, regretting his attempt to maintain chatty conversation. It was always the same when you dealt with nuts, cranks, and fanatics: they couldn’t understand how normal people functioned.
3. What other books have you written?
I have two other books that take place in Blake’s Folly, Nevada, and they are filled with animals. In one, All About Charming Alice, my heroine is a herpetologist, a woman who studies snakes, and she also rescues abandoned dogs.
In the other, Desert Rose, the rescue dog Noodle makes an appearance (although Rose is, at first, a very reluctant dog owner). However, I don’t have the new covers for these new editions, so we’ll just have to wait for a month or two.
However, I also have a rescue dog in my romantic mystery, The Turkish Affair, and he plays a very important role when my heroine finds herself in a very nasty situation.
The Turkish Affair blurb:
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.
Buy link: https://books2read.com/TheTurkishAffair
4. Tell us about your kudos or reviews.
For those who want to read a lovely review and analysis of A Room in Blake’s Folly, it can be found here: https://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/2022/05/review-tuesday-room-in-blakes-folly-by.html
Other than that, I have won awards for my non-fiction (the Tanenbaum Award for Canadian History) book about Romanian immigration to Canada, and was shortlisted for the Foreword Magazine prize.
5. How do you promote your books?
I try to guest blog as often as possible, and I give Zoom conferences about my non-fiction books. I also have guests who will leave recipes on my own blog, Food for Love, and that should be fun for everyone.
6. Where can readers learn more about your books and connect with you online?
Author Website: http://www.j-arleneculiner.com
Storytelling Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/j-arlene-culiner
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jarleneculiner-quirky-romances
Thank you for interviewing me (and my animal and insect friends) on your blog, Marcia.
From Marcia: Thank you for being my July interviewee! I love discovering romances that feature animals and look forward to reading your books!
MONTHLY BLOG EBOOK CONTEST! Would you like to win a Marcia James’ ebook? Visitors to this pro-pet blog can join in the fun, comment, and/or share photos of their pets for a chance to win one of my ebooks! Each month, I’ll randomly pick one commenter to win. To leave a comment and/or a photo, click on the word “Reply,” which is just below the social media icons for THIS interview. (Don’t scroll past this interview to the next interview.) Go Pets!