Friday, February 5, 2010

Guest Post: Ciji Ware, author of Island of the Swans

I'm pleased to welcome Ciji Ware to Diary of an Eccentric today.  Ciji is the author of Island of the Swans, an historical novel about Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon, patronness of Robert Burns, and advisor to King George.  In Island of the Swans, Jane is in love with her childhood sweetheart, Thomas Fraser, but marries the Duke of Gordon because she think Thomas was killed in America.  However, Thomas eventually returns to England and finds her married, and Jane is torn between her husband and her first love.

I'd like to thank Ciji for taking time out of her busy schedule to share with us the reasons why she spent so many years researching and writing about Jane Maxwell.  Please welcome Ciji Ware:

Sometimes you get on a train and you can’t get off until it reaches the final station…

That certainly is what happened with Island of the Swans, the first of five historical novels that Sourcebooks Landmark is bringing out during 2010-2011, in addition to my new historical, A Race To Splendor, that debuts in April 2011, on the 105th anniversary of the devastating San Francisco earthquake and fire storm.

With Swans, I was ten years into my on-air broadcasting career with ABC in Los Angeles when I came across a brief monograph in a Scottish-American newsletter (my husband and I are both of Scottish origin) titled “The Match-Making Duchess.”

I gave a yelp because my great-grandmother, Elfie McCullough, had, for nearly all of her 94 years, been filling the heads of her children, grandchildren, and us great grandchildren with the notion that our family was a direct descendant of Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (1749-1812), know far and wide for having married off her five daughters to three dukes, a marquis, and a baronet!

She insisted that with her high cheekbones (and mine)—we were the duchess’s spitting image.  (Sadly, in all the years of my chasing down facts about Jane Maxwell’s life, I could never prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my McCulloughs of Gatehouse of Fleet were the McCulloughs that had married into the Maxwell of nearby Monreith clan a few generations before Jane was born to a lowly baronet in Ayrshire, Robert Burns’ territory south of Edinburgh.

Once I started ferreting out the truly incredible story of the ways in which this eighteenth “Woman of Fashion” not only managed to reunite the largest dukedom in Scotland with the most powerful aristocratic families in the realm, but was also a political powerhouse in her own right; a confidante of George III and Queen Charlotte; the rival of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire; the patroness of the poet, Robert Burns; and, for nearly thirty years of her life, the center of a love triangle between Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon, and the son of Sir Thomas Fraser of Struy. Before long, I headed for the Huntington, a rare book library with some four million volumes housed in San Marino, California. There, I managed to wrangle a Readership in 18th c. British American History—and a desk—and officially declared myself an “historical sleuth.”

My problem was that there was no full-length, serious biography written of Jane Maxwell, so my first task was to find out –and verify—the true events in her life as best could be ascertained by documents and other accounts of her day.  Using all my vacation pay from broadcasting, I made some five trips to Scotland to trace her haunts, read inventories of the things she owned at the time of her death, gather information about the important people in her life—all in service of garnering the “telling details” that, to me, bring to life a story of an historical personage that happened two hundred-and-fifty-years ago.

Our family had some wonderful adventures while in Scotland where we rented a house in the Highlands, and in Edinburgh where I found family letters that hadn’t been removed from the Scottish National Library shelves for a hundred years or so.  I discovered long-forgotten political cartoons that castigated Jane for her unladylike “interference” in the affairs of British statesmen.  I stumbled upon reference after reference of her enduring love for her childhood sweetheart, despite a “forced marriage” to the handsome, but enigmatic Duke of Gordon.

As time went on, I think I became truly obsessed by Jane and the events of her life.  I was driven by the belief that the world should know the true story of this remarkable woman who had often been vilified in her day (and even in our own) for being “uppity” and “forward,” and the end result is a book that could probably be subtitled “Gone with the Wind of Scotland!”

I am so delighted with the beautiful cover that Sourcebooks Landmark bestowed up this gorgeous, restored edition of Island of the Swans.  Nothing could have thrilled me more than to have the painting by Romney of Jane that hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery be melded with the haunting image of two swans—birds that mate for life.  I hope an entire new generation of readers will find this biographical novel as absorbing to read as I found it to write.

Thanks so much for inviting me to tell you about the book and the joy I experienced during the years it took to create all those pages! 

Thanks, Ciji!  I wish you much success and look forward to reading more of your work.

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.


Sourcebooks would like to offer 2 copies of Island of the Swans to my readers.  If you'd like to be entered in the giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address.

Because the publisher is shipping the books, this giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada only.  The deadline to enter is Sunday, Feb. 14 at 11:59 pm EST.


Stephanie said...

This is a fascinating interview!

I have an award for you here:

Serena said...

sounds like a fun way to be inspired and have that inspiration take you on a journey. No need to enter me.

Rebekah E. said...

Thanks for the wonderful interview.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Great interview. I love the cover of this book and i'm sure I would enjoy the story as well. Thanks for the giveaway

bibliophilebythesea AT gmail DOT com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, darling. I'm dropping in (despite the snow. It's really coming down now!) to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

mindy said...

this sounds awesome thanks for the giveaway minsthins at optonline dot net

Suko said...

If the book is even half as interesting as this guest post, then it's sure to be quite intriguing!

Please enter me in this grand giveaway. Thanks!


Mary said...

I don't usually read historical fiction but there is something about this book that feels like I'd love it.


Celticlady's Reviews said...

I have not read anything by CiJi Ware but I am interested as I will be getting a copy of her book A Cottage by the Sea for read/review.

Thank you for the contest!!


Violet said...

What a sad story and what a dilemma to be in.

Such an interesting research story too.

P.S: Don't enter me

Linda said...

Interesting post and an intriguing sounding novel. I agree that the cover is beautiful. Thanks for the giveaway.

wisteria said...

Great interview. I enjoyed reading your interview post, especially after reading Island of the Swans myself.
I loved this book!! I can't wait to read the next CiJi Ware book I requested from Sourcebooks. The history was so fascinating in this book and so well written.

Michelle said...

Thank you so much for this interview! I've read a lot about this book, and I'm now even more excited for it.


tetewa said...

I'd like to be included, count me in!

Booksnyc said...

This sounds like an interesting book. My Dad is from Scotland and I think the history of that country and how it intersects with the history of England is fascinating!

Thanks for hosting the author and for the giveaway - leenbeen2001 (At) yahoo (dot) com

brokenteepee said...

Please enter me. I would love to read this book.
thank you
kaiminani at gmail dot com

I came by way of West of Mars

Aimee said...

Wonderful interview! Please accept my entry. Thanks!


bookmagic said...

Beautiful cover, sounds like a great read. I would love to be entered

mariag said...

Sad but interestiing story.
Please enter me to win.

fmlj94 at yahoo dot com

mrsshukra said...

I would love to be entered!


Darlene said...

What a great guest post! This book sounds great from what I've been hearing. I'd love to enter Anna.

bj19662001 (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Laura Hartness said...

I've heard alot of good things about this. I'd love to win! Thanks for hosting the giveaway.

Laura Hartness
The Calico Critic
CalicoCritic at gmail dot com

Mystica said...

The post itself is so interesting that the book will be a bonus read!


Teddy Rose said...

I hadn't heard of this book before but it sounds like an awesome read. I would love to learn more about Jane Maxwell and would love to win this book.

teddyr66 at yahoo dot com

Isabel said...

So many smart women in old England are made not to seem smart by their enemies.

Great review.

Please enter my name in the sweepstakes. If I don't win, I need to look for the book.

Bcteagirl said...

I love historical fiction!! Would love a chance to start on this series, thank you for the contest!

teagirl1 at telus dot net

Esme said...

What a great interview.


chocolate and croissants at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Please enter me.

Carol M said...

This sounds good! Please include in the giveaway!
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Risingsouth said...

I would like a chance to win this.

Risingsouth at aol dot com

Nicole C. said...

This sounds like a great book. I would love to read it.


Nickolay said...

Awesome sounding book. Thanks for the chance


Sandra said...

What an enjoyable post. She's very interesting and I loved seeing the photos. And a giveaway at the bottom to boot! Sounds like a fantastic read. I'd love to be entered please Anna. Thank you.

sfuhringer(AT) sympatico(dot)ca

Miss Haley said...

I'd love to win! thanks!

Kristen said...

Great guest post and the book sounds fascinating. I totally think that Ms. Ware should stop admitting there's no proof she's rated to Jane Maxwell and just airily wave her hand and give an enigmatic nod whenever the topic comes up, allowing people to draw their own conclusions. ;-) or she could just be obnoxious like me and start calling Her Grace, "Aunt Jane." LOL! Oh yes, and please enter me for the book as well!

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

Sarah E said...

Please enter me in this giveaway!

saemmerson at yahoo dot com

Sarah E

Jodie said...

Yay I really enjoyed learning about the personal links between the author and her subject matter as well as the research.

windycindy said...

What an interesting life this author has led! Their travels in Scotland
sound delightful! I enjoy reading historical novels. Please count me in!
Many thanks, Cindi

Anonymous said...

please count me in....thanks


Anna said...

This giveaway is closed. Thanks to everyone who entered and/or publicized. I've chosen the winners via, and they've already been notified. I will announce them shortly.