J. Arlene Culiner takes us on an exotic journey today. This writer doesn't just travel for research; she's lived her research! We can be sure the details of THE TURKISH AFFAIR are very authentic!
Do I Travel for Research?
by J. Arlene Culiner
Do I travel for research? I certainly do, and I often find myself in strange places, and uncomfortable situations. For a recently completed non-fiction biography, I found myself tramping over frozen winter roads in backwoods Ukraine — not a soul in sight. For a non-fiction book about Romanian immigration to Canada, Finding Home in the Footsteps of the Jewish Fusgeyers, I crossed all of Romania on foot. However, for my newest romantic suspense, The Turkish Affair, I didn’t have to travel anywhere: I once lived in a small town in central Turkey.
It was a very exciting time. I was working as a guide and translator (before going off to live in a community of gypsies and becoming a belly dancer). I spent much time on archaeological sites, where I learnt about the very real problem of artifact theft, and smuggling, and I saw a world most tourists never imagine. The landscape around me was beautiful but bleak; the winters were Siberian; the summers, hot and heavy. It was a dangerous time, too, and I knew there were rules that had to be respected, that the police were untrustworthy, that there was political unrest, and there were frequent arrests.
Since I always incorporate my own experiences into my books no matter what the genre, I decided it was time to write about Turkey — and to do so in a romantic mystery. Anne Pierson, the heroine of The Turkish Affair, is also a guide and translator, although, unlike me, she has a tricky past she wants to hide. And my hero? Well, one day, while passing through an archaeological site, I briefly caught sight of a lean and elegant man. And, as he headed toward a jumble of smashed pillars, the bright sun caught the golden blaze of his hair. He became my hero, Renaud Townsend.
Of course, I want my readers to enjoy the lovely, sometimes difficult, romance between Anne and Renaud, but I’m also taking them on an exotic journey where they’ll learn about another culture, its foods, traditions, history, and dangers. In other words, I’m offering armchair travel with no airport hassle, no check-in lines, and no risk. Only the pleasure of a good tale, and the chance to solve a mystery along with my hero and heroine.
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?
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 alone 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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