4.23.15 - 7 Minutes With... Andrew Culver

This week, I give you another writing member of the Culver clan – Andrew Culver, son of last week’s guest, Carol. Lest you think I know everyone in the free world – I don’t, trust me – I’ve not met Andrew, nor read him, so this interview is his introduction to me, as well as to you.

I hope, as this series grows, to share all sorts of creatives with you – from readers to writers to artists and musicians. Some are friends, some are people I admire, some are strangers I’d like to get to know better. Some I will have consumed their art, some I will plan to do so, and encourage you to do the same. Regardless, I hope you’re enjoying the glimpse behind the scenes of your favorites, and those new to you, as well.

Take it away, Andrew! It’s nice to meet you!

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Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?

I actually just did this, and it's "Love Dance" by Martin Denny, who released a lot of great exotica records in the fifties. It's pure kitsch and I love it. When you listen to Martin Denny you feel like you're in a bar in Honolulu in 1953 having a mai tai and you're surrounded by parrots and waterfalls. 

Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?

Brainstorming the next book in my series of cocktail mysteries. It's going to take place in a Mexican cantina. There will be a lot of margaritas, really good tequila, and probably murder.

What’s your latest book about?

My latest book, MAI TAIS AND MURDER, is about a guy who moves to a small town on the California coast and lives in a houseboat. He starts going to a tiki bar on the beach and he falls in love with the bar, and he gets wrapped up in a murder that could threaten everything that he cares about. He has to keep going to the bar in order to get clues to solve this murder. 

Where do you write, and what tools do you use?

I write in my house, in my writing room, with the stereo blasting and a strong cup of coffee next to me. The music has to fit the mood of the book I'm writing and it can't have lyrics for obvious reasons. Writing my last book I listened to a lot of tiki music, including the Tikiyaki Orchestra, a modern group who makes great retro exotica music. 

What was your favorite book as a child?

I read all of the Hardy Boys books. They were great because the brothers were always 17 years old and I wanted their lives. They never had to work or go to school, and they just solved mysteries all the time. 

What book are you reading now?

I just got an old translation of DON QUIXOTE by Charles Jarvis. It was published in 1742 and I just started it. I'm a little crazy about translations. I have three or four translations of Don Quixote and that many of Virgil and Homer. If it's in another language, I can't just trust one translation. Don Quixote is the greatest novel ever written because it has something the other great canonical novels don't have (except for TRISTRAM SHANDY): it's really, really funny. It's also very warm and human and it's about friendship, and on some level I would like to live in the fantasy world that Quixote lives in. 

What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?

Charles Bukowski said something like "it should come roaring out of you." I think it has to be burning inside of you first, otherwise the book won't have any urgency. Even if you're writing a cozy mystery, or a story that takes place on Mars, it has to mean something to you personally. I like to wait until I'm bursting, until the story has been percolating in me for a while and I have the major substance of it figured out before I sit down to write. I'll go for a long time talking to people about stories, characters, and locations, or making notes, or making day trips to different places in Southern California to scout locations. I will talk to my wife during the whole process and see if ideas make sense. She was a film student and she watches all the new shows on Netflix and she has a good eye for story and character, and she helps soften and round out my ideas. I will even think about the story so much that I start having dreams about it - that's when a lot of the good stuff comes out. If you're dreaming about the world of your novel, you're on the right track. I love the story that Coleridge dreamed his poem "Kubla Khan" and woke up and wrote half of it. Then a friend came over and called him away on some business, and when he returned he had forgotten the rest of the poem, so he just published it like that. 

What do you do if the words aren’t flowing?

Go for long walks. Exercise is the key for me to get ideas. I say just step away from the computer if it's not happening. I'm not going to sit there for two hours writing something that's terrible if I don't have any ideas. I like to go on a walk, plan the whole scene, and what needs to be communicated plot-wise, and what the atmosphere and setting are, and then come back and write it down. 

What would you like to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for writing books that were important to me, for following my muse wherever it took me. I always like the writers or musicians who let their muse call the shots. 

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Andrew Culver

Andrew Culver lives in Los Angeles with his wife. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and has a Master's Degree in English. His memoir, YELLOW DAYS, and other novels are available for download on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Here's a little more about Andrew's latest novel, MAI TAIS AND MURDER:

Law school dropout Aristotle McCreadie has just inherited a bunch of money from his dad, a lawyer to the stars. Now that he can do whatever he wants, he moves to the California beach town Playa Santiago. He is determined to spend his days in a houseboat lying in the sun and drinking mai tais at the legendary tiki bar, Pirate's Cove. 

But something weird is happening in this idyllic town. A wealthy old real estate mogul, and patron saint of Pirate's Cove, has just been murdered in his sprawling mansion. And whoever did it knew exactly how to dismantle the alarm system, where his cash was hidden, and where his most expensive antiques were. Now everyone in town seems to think it's no big deal and no one wants to answer Aristotle's questions about it. 

Aristotle can't enjoy his mai tais when an unsolved murder is killing his buzz. Now weird things are happening at the victim's house at night, and to complicate things, a sexy local girl wants to show him all around town. Which would be great if she didn't have a boyfriend in grad school in Portland. 

Why are the police so eager to pass off this crime as an isolated robbery? And why are people whispering about big real estate plans for Playa Santiago? Suddenly Aristotle gets the suspicion that this perfect little town is about to get very tacky and very crowded. Now the future of Pirate's Cove is in jeopardy, and this will mean the end of the best tiki bar, arguably, in the world. Which means that dozens of drinks with secret family recipes may be lost forever. The Pooka Pooka Bowl. The Mexican Mai Tai. The Naked Surfer Girl. All lost. And Aristotle can't let that happen. 

The good thing about tiki bars is when the liquor flows, people talk. So, in the interest of justice, Aristotle must go to Pirate’s Cove to get information out of these weird and colorful locals. With each mai tai he will get closer to the truth, and he may just save this town. 

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JT Ellison

Omniscient Narrator. Bestselling Author. Book Fanatic. Zen Golfer. Amateur Oenophile. Travel Junkie. Classical Lover. Comma Sutra. J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, multiple short stories and has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original of 2010 and WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense of 2012. She lives in Nashville with her husband and the ghost of a poorly trained cat. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.

4.21.15 - Your Tuesday Live or Laugh

Tuesday Live or Laugh
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JT Ellison

Omniscient Narrator. Bestselling Author. Book Fanatic. Zen Golfer. Amateur Oenophile. Travel Junkie. Classical Lover. Comma Sutra. J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, multiple short stories and has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original of 2010 and WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense of 2012. She lives in Nashville with her husband and the ghost of a poorly trained cat. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.

4.18.15 - Your Saturday Bookish

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JT Ellison

Omniscient Narrator. Bestselling Author. Book Fanatic. Zen Golfer. Amateur Oenophile. Travel Junkie. Classical Lover. Comma Sutra. J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, multiple short stories and has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original of 2010 and WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense of 2012. She lives in Nashville with her husband and the ghost of a poorly trained cat. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.

4.16.15 - 7 Minutes With... Carol Culver

I have the distinct honor of hosting Carol Culver today. Carol is good friends with Catherine Coulter, and I met her at an author’s lunch at Catherine place a couple of years ago. She’s a fascinating woman, travels all over the world teaching writing, on cruises, mostly. I am not a cruiser – that whole can’t-swim-to-shore thing freaks me out – but I might be willing to make an exception for my friend. Enjoy your introduction to her wonderful world!

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Set your music to shuffle and hit play. What’s the first song that comes up?

There's no music in the room where I work. It's hard enough to concentrate on those elusive characters and their problems without distraction. So here are the rules: no noise, no talking, no email, and no music.

Now that we’ve set the mood, what are you working on today?

A new series about a family of five sisters, which coincidentally resembles my daughter-in-law's family. She's delighted, but she hasn't read it yet.

What’s your latest book about?

The newest book I'm writing is about a woman who gets sucked into being a bridesmaid for the 7th time. This time the wedding takes place on a cruise ship. Sound romantic? Not if you get seasick. But what if the ship's physician - Dr. McDreamy - prescribes dancing under the stars, plenty of fresh air, and some TLC?

Where do you write, and what tools do you use?

I have a spacious office in my house in a redwood forest. From my window I have an ocean view which inspires me, especially when I see a cruise ship sailing out into the Pacific. Did I mention I love being at sea? I often teach writing classes aboard cruise ships. I'll be sailing in April to Tahiti and other palm-fringed islands.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I loved the Heidi books, the ones where she lives in the Alps milking cows and eating cheese. It sounded like a wonderful life, once she won over her cold and frightening grandfather. Lots of conflict and a strong and plucky little heroine. Just like I wanted to be.

What book are you reading now?

I plan to read every book by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the queen of romance novels. Great characters, wonderful settings and to-die-for heroes. I'm currently in the middle of WHAT I DID FOR LOVE.

What’s your favorite bit of writing advice?

Keep writing whether you feel like it or not. What's that Nora Roberts says? "Put your butt in the chair and some words on the page." And that means every day. Day after day. Got it?

What do you do if the words aren’t flowing?

What, words flow? You mean like water or wine? Not in my life. I just keep pounding them out.

What would you like to be remembered for?

For making readers smile and even laugh out loud sometimes. It would be great if someone said, "Yes, I get it. That's just what it feels like." But I'll be happy just to finish a new book and publish every few months. It's the world's best job. I know because I've tried everything else - receptionist, ESL teacher, PR on a hospital ship, French translator and librarian.  

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Carol Grace is the author of over 40 romance novels for Harlequin, a mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, a YA series for Berkley Jam, a mystery series for Midnight Ink, and two romances for Pocket Books. She lives in California on a mountain overlooking the ocean and she travels the world for work and fun. Next month she's off to French Polynesia.

And here's a little more about the latest book Carol just released on April 1, THE BILLIONAIRE'S BRIDE:

Abbie Porter caught her French fiancé cheating on her, then she flunked out of cooking school in Paris. Feeling like a failure Abbie leaves for Bella Vista, her home in California, determined to get a new job but never ever to get married. 

When she arrives at her family’s woodsy property she’s met by Jake Crenshaw, the new neighbor and Silicon Valley entrepreneur. It’s love at first sight for the dot-com billionaire who is not only rich, he’s gorgeous, friendly and sexy too. 

But Abbie keeps her cool around Jake. She knows better than to fall for the first man she meets after her disastrous affair in Paris. Though Jake invests in her new food truck business, helps drum up business and buys her a puppy, she tells him they can be friends, nothing more. After a few weeks of working together making French crepes in the food truck, and after Jake has repaired the flat tire on her truck and fixed the faulty griddle and eaten every test crepe she creates, she finally falls madly in love. But Jake has to take a business trip which leaves Abbie to run the truck by herself. To her surprise she’s inundated by hungry customers and her food truck is a big success. 


Turns out Jake has secretly supported her venture by underwriting the cost of the lunches and sending customers her way. When she finds out she’s furious and determined to make it on her own . . . 

Get your own copy of THE BILLIONAIRE'S BRIDE to see how it all turns out!

1 Comment

JT Ellison

Omniscient Narrator. Bestselling Author. Book Fanatic. Zen Golfer. Amateur Oenophile. Travel Junkie. Classical Lover. Comma Sutra. J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, multiple short stories and has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original of 2010 and WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense of 2012. She lives in Nashville with her husband and the ghost of a poorly trained cat. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.

4.14.15 - Your Tuesday Live or Laugh

Tuesday Live or Laugh
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JT Ellison

Omniscient Narrator. Bestselling Author. Book Fanatic. Zen Golfer. Amateur Oenophile. Travel Junkie. Classical Lover. Comma Sutra. J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, multiple short stories and has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original of 2010 and WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense of 2012. She lives in Nashville with her husband and the ghost of a poorly trained cat. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.

4.11.15 - Your Saturday Bookish

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JT Ellison

Omniscient Narrator. Bestselling Author. Book Fanatic. Zen Golfer. Amateur Oenophile. Travel Junkie. Classical Lover. Comma Sutra. J.T. Ellison is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, multiple short stories and has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original of 2010 and WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense of 2012. She lives in Nashville with her husband and the ghost of a poorly trained cat. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick.