Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Post: Ciji Ware


1. Can you tell me about how you became a reader and then a writer?

Well, looking back on the 8 books I’ve had published (2 nonfiction works, and 6 historical novels, including my upcoming A Race to Splendor, official pub date April 5th), I can see that I ended up writing the same sorts of works that I had always loved reading

I come from a literary family—or perhaps, I should say to sound less pretentious--I come from a family many of whose members made their livings as wordsmiths.

My late father, Harlan Ware, was what is now called in English Lit classes a “mid-century American writer of popular fiction”… an author who paid for our college tuitions and his light bill by cranking out fourteen years-worth of radio scripts for an NBC drama called One Man’s Family, set in Sea Cliff, San Francisco. He also wrote ten film scripts in the 1930s and 40s; three novels; and some forty-five short stories for the likes of Colliers magazine and the Saturday Evening Post –publications that featured fiction and that are long out of print.

We were probably the only house in a very modest track of homes on the outskirts of Pasadena—and then, later, Carmel-by-the-Sea—that had an entire room you could actually call a “library” with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that housed the volumes my parents had lovingly collected over the years.

My father and his two brothers grew up in a small town in South Dakota where there was a wonderful librarian. All three boys became voracious readers: Dickens, Trollope, and especially Mark Twain. My mother, whose parents were educators, served on the Library Board where we grew up and as such, got “first pick” of the new books as they arrived. Each member of my family was painfully aware of the ups-and-downs of the writer’s life. Depending on what project our father was working on—a Hollywood screenplay; his long-term radio gig; a short story sold four days before Christmas after a long draught of no sales at all--we were either eating beans out of a can, or reveling in caviar—literally. As my mother once said with a laugh, “Well, darlings…we Wares live from hand-to-mouth in a big way!” But whatever was happening, there were always books to read.

Despite an aura of occasional financial uncertainty, my father instilled in us how lucky we were to be “living the creative life which is, my lovelies, the only life worth living.” He encouraged backyard ballet performances, reading aloud after dinner, storytelling, and entering every essay contest announced in our school. His urged all three of his children to participate in the arts, an exhortation that carried over into my college life and beyond (I still dance in local productions where I live). I realize, looking back, how blessed I was to have a parent who cheered me on, instilling a sense of confidence that I was up to whatever challenge I decided to tackle.

My passion for historical fiction began when I “borrowed” my sister’s racy (to my 11-year-old mind) copy of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and doing that classic thing: reading it under the covers with a flashlight!

To this day, historical fiction is by far my favorite genre: everything from Jane Austen to Daphne du Maurier, Anya Seton, Rosamund Pilcher, and these days, Phillipa Gregory, Jacqueline Winspear, Tasha Alexander., and Hilary Mantel

And as for my dual career as a writer of nonfiction, my twenty-three years as an electronic and print reporter specializing in health and lifestyle issues for—mostly--ABC in Los Angeles, has prompted me to write “prescriptive nonfiction.” These are books that actually try to help people solve problems. Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most was fortunate enough to be selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the “Top 5 Books on Retirement Issues” when it debuted in 2007.

As a spin-off, I recently was hired to write a 9-part series on decluttering tips for AARP The Magazine and AARP online. I was determined to offer practical, step-by-step strategies for getting past the sometimes-depressing notion of “downsizing” to the great feeling of liberation that comes from no longer being burdened by too much “stuff.”

Since I don’t like reading “ain’t it awful?” types of nonfiction, I try to get beyond merely defining a problem by also offering readers various possible solutions.

So, thanks to my ingrained love of reading, and having been encouraged from a very early age to read widely and to “live the creative life,” I have turned my love of reading into both a fiction and nonfiction career. Thanks, Dad…

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