When did you decide to be a writer?
I was very lucky: I had a grandfather who was a storyteller, and he fired my imagination from the day I was born. It was only natural that I also became a storyteller (and a teller of tall tales). Of course, everyone said to me, “You should write that down. Why not write a book?”
How long did it take you to be published?
Years. I wrote turgid tales that no one was interested in. I wrote travel stories that no one accepted. Ditto for mysteries and romances. I knew I was a writer, but agents and editors didn’t agree. I got many rejections. I kept on writing, submitting. Received more rejections. It was a dreary, solitary sort of writing life, but since there was always another story I wanted to write, I couldn’t quit just yet.
And then, suddenly — after many years of apprenticeship in failure — things changed. One manuscript was accepted, published, and won a prize. Then others were accepted. Okay, I still get rejections for some manuscripts, but I now know the writing style and ideas are good — even if they’re politically incorrect — and that someone will fall in love with them one day.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Years, usually. Sometimes five or six years. Sometimes even more. I’m a perfectionist.
Doesn’t that worry you?
No. Why should it? That’s how I function. I have so many other things in my life that fascinate me, I don’t have time for worry or frustration about the birthing of a story.
What other things?
I’m a musician and play baroque oboe, oboe da caccia and oboe d’amore as well as the saxhorn, modern oboe and English horn, flute and piccolo in different formations. I sometimes get work as an actress in film; I’m a contemporary artist and photographer (http://www.jill-culiner.com). I also like heading out with my dogs and crossing countries on foot, taking Europe’s half-forgotten green lanes and trails that were in use way back in pagan times.
You say you write perfectly realistic romances. What does that mean?
My heroes and heroines are people just like us, who suddenly find themselves on the magic journey of falling in love. I’m not interested in writing about business moguls, billionaires or superheroes. I prefer intelligent men and women who feel passionately about what they do And although my settings are fascinating places — an archaeological site in Turkey (The Turkish Affair), a backwoods Nevada community (All About Charming Alice), an abandoned stretch of California coast (Felicity’s Power), or the bright lights of the country music world (A Swan’s Sweet Song) they really do exist.
Yes, I do add in a few funny, cranky, interesting secondary characters, but we find people like that all around us. And in my mysteries, there’s no overt violence, there are no car chases, no shootouts, no fisticuffs, karate chops or improbable situations: my goal is to write a good book, not copy televised drama. And, like in any good book, there’s information that allows my readers to become knowledgeable about new things (archaeology, or snakes, or the origins of country music, or foreign aid).
I also never forget that we read (and write) romances for the heady sensation of falling in love. And, because we need to feel that wonderful love is attainable, the stories have to be realistic.
Any advice for writers?
Read. Never stop reading. Read outside your genre; read books that challenge you, your ideas, your lifestyle. And, if you really want to succeed, never give up.
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