Please give a warm welcome Ciji Ware, author of Island of the Swans. You can find my review here.
How are you? Hope this finds you well. I know you are a busy woman so let’s get down to business.
1. You have chosen a phenomenal historical character, Jane Maxwell, to write about. What drew you to her life story? Was it her romantic life or her personality in general?
Ciji: I was originally drawn to the real life character of Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (seen with her son in the picture in a painting hanging in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery) , because my great- grandmother, Elfie McCullough (who lived to be 96) claimed that our McCulloughs from the Lowlands of Scotland were related to the Maxwells of Monreith through marriage a few generations before Jane Maxwell was born. Later I came across an article about her life as the “Match-making Duchess” and was very intrigued that I might be related to such a fascinating historical figure. (Sadly, after five years of research, I was never able to prove I was her direct descendant, but the odd thing is, we look rather alike: dark hair, hazel eyes, and a similar bone structure!)
2. Would you say the Duchess was the last great Lady of her day, or one of the last great Scottish Ladies, considering the times she lived in?
Ciji: I believe the extraordinary life of the Duchess of Gordon puts her right up there with the great ladies of Scotland. To my knowledge, no one has to date written a serious, full-length biography about Jane Maxwell, and as I began to delve into the facts of her life, I discovered she was much more than merely an ambitious mama for her seven children—six by the Duke of Gordon, certainly, but perhaps one child, a daughter, who was fathered by someone else. Yes, she married her offspring to three dukes, a marquis and a baronet, but she was also an astute politician and a confidante of the Prime Minister and King George III and Queen Charlotte, as well as a rival of the famous Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire.
Not only that, Jane was the patroness of the poet Robert Burns and championed the publication of his first book of poems, and a heroine in the eyes of the crofters who rented lands from her husband and for whom she developed the weaving trade and other occupations that fed and clothed the poorest of the poor. Perhaps most compellingly for my story was the fact that she was virtually in love with two men over a span of three decades! At her funeral, nearly the entire population of the Spey River Valley turned out to pay her homage, which is a great testament to what an important figure she had become.
3. Where or how did your passion for Scottish history and culture start?
Ciji: Both my husband and I are of Scottish-American heritage (as you can see from this picture at our son’s recent engagement party) with the family names of McCullough, McGann, McAlister, Bell, Harris and Hunter in our family tree.
And then there was that great-grandmother I mentioned earlier and a whole raft of McCullough cousins that never let any family member forget the land from whence they came!
In 1977, working for ABC Radio and TV in Los Angeles, I got the assignment to cover the International Gathering of the Clans which brought the Scottish Diaspora from all over the world to Edinburgh. I remember marching into a vast stadium packed with Scottish hyphenates from around the globe and with a hundred pipers skirling. I was at a dead run, trying to catch up with former Mayor Lindsay of New York—decked out in his family tartan—to get an interview, and suddenly a shiver went down my spine. “My family came to America from here!” I thought. And from that moment on I entered what my husband refers to as my on-going “Scot-O-Maniac Period!”
4. You have written other romantic historical fiction novels, set in the American South and England's Cornish coastline. Do you have a favorite setting or do you like to research and explore your options? What piques your creative juices?
Ciji: I think my two favorite settings are Scotland and Cornwall (Here I am in the 1990’s with writer Cynthia Wright—both of us researching different novels near Foy, Cornwall) , though, honestly, I’ve loved all the settings for my books or I wouldn’t have been able to slough through the hard parts of writing an historical novel!
I think there are two main themes to the historical writing I do: one is that I am interested in exploring the European-American linkages, especially in settings where large numbers of European expatriates settled. The Cornish in England came to Wyoming; the Scots, French and Italians to New Orleans, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi. The Italians, Scots and English to San Francisco. My settings outside of America are chosen because they served as launching pads for my characters that eventually ended up in specific areas this country.
Secondly, I’ve always been interested in stories about women of previous centuries who managed to carve out a professional life during a time that was unfriendly to women working outside the home. I loved discovering eighteenth century women painters, musicians, actresses, and rabble-rousers operating in “the public sphere” of politics and social causes.
This, I supposed, is because I come from a long line of Uppity Women! That feisty great- grandmother of mine, Granny McCullough, graduated from Stephens College in the 1880’s – the first of five generations of college-educated women in our family.
5. Now for something a bit different. What book are you currently reading and do have any favorite authors or books?
Ciji: Now that I received an electronic “Reader” for Christmas, I’m getting very good at reading two books at once. Currently, I’m reading Tasha Alexander’s Tears of Pearl, and my old favorite, Georgette Heyer in the new Sourcebook/Landmark edition of An Infamous Army. My husband gave me another of my favs, Jacqueline Winspear’s latest: Among the Mad, that is the latest in the Maisie Dobbs series, which I just love!
6. Do have any hobbies that may distract you from your reading and writing? Any other areas of interest, like visiting museums, etc.
Ciji: My husband of thirty-three years and I have joined the local theatrical “Players” and are having a grand time singing and dancing in a series of musicals. (I’m the Flapper, second from the left!). I danced professionally (years ago), and still love it. This year I wrote, directed and choreographed “The Fooleries” for my college class reunion!
My husband and I are also quite dotty about our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Ensign Aubrey and I walk him up to three miles, three times a week up and down local hills with my walking group.
Our other passion is travel: our newly married son lives three thousand miles away, so we find we are traveling quite a bit to visit or to rendezvous in places of mutual interest. Last summer we were invited on their honeymoon in the Alps to watch Lance Armstrong go whizzing by during the Tour de France!
7. You live across the bay from one of my absolute favorite cities, San Francisco. What do you enjoy most about that area? Any favorite things to do in San Francisco?
Ciji: I grew up in nearby Carmel, California, and had wanted to live in San Francisco all my life. Eleven years ago, due to a series of amazing circumstances and coincidences, we pulled up stakes after 23 years in Los Angeles and moved smack dab in the middle of the City to Nob Hill in an apartment next door to the Cable Car Barn where the trolleys go “nighty night.” We adore San Francisco’s fabulous restaurants and each gained fifteen pounds frequenting the Fog City Diner, Boulevard, The Slanted Door, and numerous other amazing eateries.
Now we live in the first town you hit after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and love our “village life” and smaller, close-knit community, yet we feel we have the best of both worlds, thanks to being only seven minutes away from a world class city with great theater, films, museums, food, scenery, bike paths, ferries and subways. Not only that, we’re forty minutes from SFO where you can fly anywhere in the world.
8. If you had a free day to yourself, what would you do? I guess your typical relaxation day.
Cij: My favorite thing to do on a free day is to get the walking group together to take the ferry to San Francisco’s Embarcadero, shop the amazing outdoor Farmer’s Market there; drink Peet’s Coffee, and come home to cook a fabulous meal.
9. What could your readers expect to see from you in the future?
Ciji: My first new historical novel in a decade, A Race to Splendor, is about the first licensed California woman architect in a race against time--and a dashing young man who hopes to thwart her ambitious undertaking--to rebuild the famed Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill in the wake of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.
The novel debuts from Sourcebooks/Landmark in April, 2011 and I think my readers are going to be caught up in this amazing story of a city and its people struggling back from the brink of extinction. (If you recall New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, you can easily imagine what it was like for 250,000 San Franciscans to be homeless for two years.
Meanwhile my wonderful publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, is bringing out all my previous titles as trade paperbacks with glorious new covers: In addition to Island of the Swans, soon we’ll have
· A Cottage by the Sea, set in Cornwall and Wyoming about a landscape architect who must reinvent her entire life (June 2010)
· Wicked Company, set in Scotland, London, and colonial Maryland about Drury Lane Theatre and a group of eighteenth century women playwrights (October 2010)
· Midnight on Julia Street, set in my beloved New Orleans about a woman reporter who keeps getting fired for telling the truth; (Spring 2011)
· And its sequel, A Light on the Veranda, about a professional harpist, set in the amazing city of Natchez, Mississippi. (Fall 2011)
I’m beginning to work on a new novel set in the eighteenth century world of porcelain and pottery makers where women were employed in a most amazing variety of professions…
In a parallel nonfiction writing career, in 2007, my work Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most, was chosen by the Wall Street Journal “One of the Top 5 Books on Retirement”—so I also do a lot of public speaking on the subject of “downsizing with a difference”—which to me is living with only the possessions you use and love.
For a writer with as many books and papers in her life, that’s no mean trick! Basically I call myself a “rightsizing-work-in-progress…”
Thanks for your kind invitation to visit with you, Jenny. It’s been fun!
Thank you very much Ciji for answering some questions for my readers. May 2010 bring you good things. Have a great day!
ISLAND OF THE SWANS BY CIJI WARE—in stores February 2010
Re-issued in its original full length, this acclaimed and bestselling romantic historical novel by award-winning author Ciji Ware tells the true story of passionate and flamboyant Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (1749-1812). In love since childhood with Thomas Fraser, when she hears that he's been killed in America, she marries the Duke of Gordon with disastrous results. But Fraser, very much alive, returns to England to claim her love.
In addition to telling a heart-wrenching love story, Island of the Swans also paints a fascinating portrait of a powerful and controversial woman and the tumultuous era in which she lived. Patroness of poet Robert Burns, advisor to King George, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Jane Maxwell was a towering figure in her own time and is an unforgettable heroine.
About the Author
Ciji Ware has been an Emmy-award winning television producer, reporter, writer, and radio host. A Harvard graduate, she has written numerous historical and romance novels as well as non-fiction. When she's not writing, Ciji is a Scottish history and dancing aficionado. She lives with her husband in California.
Would you like to have your very own copy of Island of the Swans? Thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks, I have 2 copies to giveaway.
Here are the rules:
*Open to U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. Boxes please.
*To enter leave a comment with your email address.
*For an extra entry, post about this on your sidebar and leave me a link.
*Deadline for entries is midnight Sunday, February 28th.
Good luck everyone!
And thanks again to Danielle from Sourcebooks for my review copy and the giveaway copies.