Monday 4 April 2011

Interview and Contest: Ciji Ware and A Race to Splendor

Today I welcome Ciji Ware to my blog. She is the author of A Race to Splendor, which I reviewed yesterday. At the bottom of this blog is a contest where you can win this book.


Tell me something about yourself so we can get a better understanding about the woman behind the author.

Probably the single, most influential force in my life is that I come from a long line of writers.  Some families produce doctors; others hand down skills in the building trades from generation to generation.  Mine happen to have been wordsmiths. 

My late father, Harlan Ware, wrote the radio classic, “One Man’s Family,” as well as some 45 short stories for Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post magazines. He is also the author of the novel Come, Fill the Cup, which was made into a classic film noir starring James Cagney and Gig Young. My late uncle Darrell Ware was an Academy Award nominee for screenwriting, and my other uncle, Leon Ware, was an award-winning children’s book author. I even have a couple of ancestors who were writers:  William Ware wrote the historical novel Zenobia published in 1898, and Henry Ware, acting President of Harvard in the early 19th century, published scores of arcane works on the subject of religion.

As you can probably imagine, with an intimidating legacy like that, I didn’t have the courage to attempt to write a book until I hit forty—so for any late bloomers out there, you are never to old to try to get into the novel writing game.

However, I had an earlier career as a broadcaster and news producer:  23 years, in fact, working for all three network affiliates and the PBS station in Los Angeles.  Seventeen of those years I was an interviewer and reporter on KABC-TV, and a commentator for KABC Radio’s morning “drive-time” show.

On the personal side: I hold a degree in History Renaissance history  (about which era I have never written, oddly enough) and have been married to the same man for thirty-five years, this December.  My son, now grown, is carrying on the family tradition, only in the digital world:  he’s a professional still photographer, as well as a film and video editor and “shooter.”  He’s traveled on tour with the Beastie Boys and on location for feature films to help the director and cinematographer decide on how best to set up shoots.  I found out afterwards that on the HBO film Bright, Shining Lie, my son was dangling from a harness in a helicopter to “scout” shots in a jungle!  Frankly, writing is a lot safer.

A final bit of background: I am an avid fancier of the King Charles Cavalier spaniel.  Ensign Aubrey and I are part of the thrice-weekly dog-and-people walking group where I live in the San Francisco Bay.

 Your newest book is called A Race to Splendor. Tell us what it’s about.

The story is set in the tumultuous aftermath of San Francisco’s devastating 1906 earthquake and fire.  The heroine is a composite character based on the lives of several women (and men) apprenticed to famed Julia Morgan, California’s first licensed woman architect.  It tells the tale of a little-known today, but fiercely fought competition between Several San Francisco hotels to re-open their doors by the first anniversary of the disaster–-proving to the country and the world that the city would rise from the ashes.  Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, fresh from earning her certificate in architecture at the prestigious L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, finds herself, through a series of flukes and mishaps, in the employ of the one man determined to best Miss Morgan, Amelia’s mentoress and friend.  Intrigue, political corruption, and an undeniable attraction to the mysterious James Diaz Thayer threaten not only to jeopardize her personal life, but also prove fatal to all she holds dear.

Amidst rubble, dislocation, and deceit, Julia Morgan and the heroine, Amelia Bradshaw—young architects in a city and field ruled by men—find themselves racing the clock and each other during the rebuilding of their competing hotels in the City by the Bay.

How did you come up with the idea of setting it after the San Francisco 1906 earthquake and fire?

I started on this book long before the natural disasters of Katrina, the tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan, the BP oil spill, or the earthquake in Haiti—but I had lived through several bad quakes in Los Angeles, and had covered the aftermath of the Northridge temblor as a news reporter in the mid-1990s.

When my husband and I moved to the Bay Area in 1998, we rented a flat on Nob Hill in a building, designed around 1908 by Julia Morgan, that was only a couple of blocks from the fabled Fairmont Hotel.  Later, come to learn, that the then 34-year-old Morgan got the commission to restore the badly-scarred hotel in the wake of that cataclysm that left some 490 city blocks obliterated and an estimated 250,000 of 400,000 San Franciscans homeless for up to two-and-a-half years!  The Fairmont, the St. Francis Hotel in Union Square, and the famed Palace Hotel, a half block south of Market Street, were then in a race to open their doors by the first anniversary of the quake: April 18, 1907.  What historical novelist could resist such a call to her computer?

Are you interested in architecture?

The aspect of architecture that fascinates me the most is preserving old, beautiful buildings from the developer’s bulldozer. I have written this as a subtext for another novel of mine:  Midnight on Julia Street –set in the historic French Quarter in New Orleans.  I currently serve as vice-president of a historic preservation society where I live.  The Fairmont is a gorgeous example of beaux arts architecture and was only a few days from its Grand Opening when the quake struck.  Built on the bedrock of Nob Hill, it survived the 8.25 temblor (some scientists have downgraded it to 7.7, but whaterver…it was fierce!).  However, the firestorm that engulfed so much of San Francisco reached temperatures of several thousand degrees and the Fairmont was left a burnt-out hulk with some floors falling seven feet.  I admired the owners for being willing to hire one of the finest architects available, and to pour money into their building for a second time! 

 I see that you have written a lot of other books.  Could you tell me about those?

To earn a living as a writer, my father warned me I would have to be a “Jill-of-all-Trades” and be able to work in all sorts of media.   I guess that’s what I’ve learned to do. I’ve written two nonfiction works:  Rightsizing Your Life—Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most, and, years ago, Sharing Parenthood After Divorce-- and developed an event speaking career on these subjects, as well as having written for magazines, TV, radio, and now, online. 

However, my heart remains with historical fiction.  I’ve now authored three “full-on” historical novels(A Race to Splendor, Wicked Company, and Island of the Swans), and three paranormal/historical novels (A Cottage by the Sea, the aforementioned Midnight on Julia Street, and A Light on the Veranda).  The latter are tales that start in the present and then weave a connected story of the contemporary characters and their ancestors—focusing on how events in the past can echo down through the centuries, affecting the present.  All three were cast in this dual-story structure à la the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which rather gives the reader two novels for the price of one!

Who is your favorite hero or heroine from your books?  What makes them so special?

That’s akin to asking me which child do I like best—which, of course, is tricky to answer. My first loyalty is to the first heroine I ever wrote, Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon, whose portrait hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh and was used as part of the cover in Sourcebook’s new edition of Island of the Swans. She plunged into eighteenth century election politics at a time when women not only couldn’t cast a vote—they were supposed to stay home and sip tea.

However, I’m quite partial to my latest heroine in A Race to Splendor, Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, newly-minted architect who returns from her studies in Paris and then is tested in every way imaginable, and shows courage and integrity and ingenuity at every turn.  The women I write about were all pioneers in their fields, and for a female at the turn of the 19th century/early 20th to have the audacity to design and build buildings (especially in an earthquake zone), Amelia sprang forth as someone I would have loved to have known.  She’s a composite character, based on the men and women who actually worked for Julia Morgan, but somehow, she’s become an absolutely ‘real’ personality in my mind. I love her spunk, moxie, and her single-minded determination to forge an equal partnership with the hero—in 1906, mind you!

Are you working on something new and exciting now?

I’m noodling over a couple of ideas, and may have come up with a stand-alone sequel to A Race to Splendor.  Too early to tell, though….

An advice for aspiring writers?

The thing that’s always inspired me is reading what I love to write.  Now, to be sure, I steer clear of reading a work of fiction that’s close to a topic I’m currently working on  (There was a novel about the 1906 SF quake, for instance, that came out in 2006 and another on about the firestorm in 2010, and I didn’t want to be influenced by either)—but generally, I read what I love.  Also, if my career says anything, it urges aspiring writers to “Never give up…just keep slogging along!”  A Race to Splendor took nearly a decade to research, write, rewrite, get a new agent, sell, and then “bring forth” over an 18 month period of working with the great people at my publishers, Sourcebooks Landmark.  Writing and getting published is not for the faint-of-heart…but it is so satisfying to “go the distance” and finally see the work make it to the marketplace.  If you aspire to write, the secret is:  Just keep writing!

Thank you!

Ok time for the Giveaway

1. US and Canada only
2. Ends April 8th
3. just enter :)

Have fun :)



  1. Don't enter me as I read and enjoyed the book. Since it was my first Ciji Ware book, I look forward to reading her other ones! Nice to "meet" the author.

  2. I am looking forward to reading "A Race to Splendor".I discovered Ciji Ware's books only recently.
    My question to the author: Who are your favorite historical fiction authors?

    Don't enter me for the giveaway. I am International.

  3. What a good Q&A! Sounds like Ms. Ware comes by her talent naturally :) I don't have any questions but I'd love to win a copy of this book. I'm also adding her previous books to my TBR list.

  4. Would love to win this book, pls enter me.

    tributebooksmama at gmail dot com

  5. I always have the same question for historical fiction writers. What is your favorite time period to write about?

    I'd love to win a copy, I can't think of any other book I've read with a similar time period and setting.


  6. I love historical books, I always learn something new. Thanks lisapeters at yahoo dot com

  7. Good questions B. I loved Island of the Swans and it's characters. Since Ware rates this as her second favorit heroine please enter me. I also like the additional history she includes in this novel.
    Thanks for the contest :)

  8. Thank you for the interview and giveaway!

    Please enter me.

    Mary_Reiss @

  9. Wonderful guest interview! To come from such an illustrious family must be exciting and daunting in equal part. (And I must ask -- any relation to Harriet Ware who endowed the UUA's Ware Lecture?)

    I've been wildly curious about Julia Morgan since learning about her while touring the Hearst Castle in CA. So looking forward to reading Ciji's book. Thank you for the giveaway!

  10. I can definitely see how coming from a long line of writers would be intimidating, as if there's not enough pressure in writing and publishing a book, then there's the added pressure of carrying on a family occupation:) It would be nice too though, to have family members who understand the industry and its ups and downs. Fabulous interview!

  11. Great interview and the book looks fab too.

  12. I have never read any if Ciji Ware's books, but they look very interesting. My question is, does the author have a favorite time period out of the ones she has written in? Or a time period she wants to try but hasn't yet?

  13. Thanks for the lovely interview Ciji :D It was truly interesting

  14. Great post! Just now learning of Cigi Ware-- would love to read A Race to Splendor!
    treesandink (at) yahoo (dot) com

  15. Looking forward to read the book, especially after recent event in Japan it seems so current. It truly fascinates me how people cope with such devastating events.
    Thank you very much for the interview.


  16. I'd love to have one of her spaniels...I adore that breed too!!

    Enter me please!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Oh enter me. Between the review and this interview, I'm really interested in reading your books.
    books (dot) things (at) yahoo (dot) com

  18. Your a new author to me but I enjoyed the post and would love a chance to read your book. Thank you!

    LadyVampire2u AT gmail DOT com

  19. I think I've just met a new author to me. I hope to be reading your books soon.

  20. I live in the SF Bay Area and I've visited the hotels on the top of Nob Hill numerous times over the years, so as soon as I read the review for this book, I knew I wanted to read it. Even though I've lived here a long time, I don't know much that much about the earthquake and the rebuilding efforts. I've definitely got to remedy that.

    jen at delux dot com

  21. Thanks everyone for stopping by :D

  22. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway! Please enter me, as I add Ciji's books to my tbr list and follow you on gr.

  23. What a wonderful interview! I have read and loved two other of Ciji's books and would love to win this one to read and add to my collection of her books (they are keepers!)

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  24. Thanks for the interview! This would be an introduction to a new-to-me author :)


  25. Thank you for including me in your giveaway. =)
    tiredwkids at live dot com

  26. Thank you for the interview and giveaway!

    Please enter me.

    ceeenndee at gmail dot com

  27. You can enter me! :) I'm fascinated now having seen the interview. Architecture is one of my favorite things about visiting new cities and old historical sites. =)

    You can holler at me at twitter or here..

    thewyldhollow at gmail dot com

    Thanks Blodeuedd!!

  28. Hmm sorry I cannot enter the contest. But I did like the interview, and those books sound great.

  29. I would love to be entered! Thanks for the opportunity!

    akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

  30. Great interview! Loved the writing advice.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  31. What a fantastic guest post! I must read Ciji Ware some day.

  32. What a great interview! Thanks for the contest :-)

    smaccall @

  33. Dang, just found this post. I hope it's not too late to enter. I really enjoy historicals and have been looking for new authors in the genre. I would love to be entered in the contest.



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