Friday, April 8, 2011

My inspiration for Writing about a Female Architect druring the Early Twentieth Century by Ciji Ware (and GIVEAWAY)

Laura: I am an engineer and I am very excited to read your book as the main character is a female architect during a time when such a career was not typical. What inspired you to write about a female architect during the early twentieth century?

Ciji: In virtually all of my historical novels, I’ve always asked the question “What were the women doing during this particular era?” When I moved to San Francisco in 1998 and learned that our apartment on Nob Hill was designed and built in the aftermath of the horrific 1906 San Francisco earthquake and firestorm by California’s first licensed woman architect…well, I had to find out more about Julia Morgan.

I chose to tell the story of the rebuilding of San Francisco through the lens of a composite character, Amelia Hunter Bradshaw, based on the lives of men and women who either had worked for or knew Morgan during her rebuilding of the fabled Fairmont Hotel by the first anniversary of the quake: April 18, 1907. The speedy opening of the city’s finest hostelries was key to signaling the world that San Francisco would, indeed, rise from the ashes. I was so thrilled to be able to tell a new generation of Americans about the significant role this pioneering woman architect played in the city’s rebirth.

Julia Morgan, probably best known for designing and building “Hearst Castle” in central California for the newspaper baron, William Randolph Hearst, was born in 1972 to a well-to-do family who encouraged both the boys and girls in her family to seek education in whatever fields interested them. Julia, whose father was a civil engineer, was the only woman in her graduating class of 1894 at UC Berkeley to earn her degree in the engineering department. Mentored by San Francisco architect Bernard Maybeck who taught Julia geometry during her undergraduate days, she soon went on to be the first woman in the world to earn her credential as an architect from the famed L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1902.

Within four years of her return to San Francisco from her studies in Europe, her beloved city was rocked by a tremendous earthquake at 5:12a.m. on April 18, 1906. The temblor and subsequent fire ravaged some 2,831 acres of the city, destroyed thirty schools, eighty churches, and left 250,000 of 400,000 San Franciscans living in tens and shacks for up to two-and-a-half years.

Morgan was only 34-years-old when the quake struck, but suddenly her little firm had more business than it knew what to do with, including the commission to restore the wounded Fairmont Hotel whose floors had fallen some seven feet. She and her colleagues attempting to revive “the Jewel of Nob Hill” entered into a competition with the city’s other hotels to open their doors by the one-year anniversary.

It was this rivalry that developed between the owners of such landmarks that formed the core of my novel about women who pitted themselves in a world dominated by men and yet succeeded in “putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again.” Morgan and her allies soon discovered that their competitors wouldn’t hesitate to employ daring, cunning and a variety of corrupted political ploys to rebuild their lives and fortunes in the face of such monumental tragedy.

If Morgan and her hand-picked employees had not been so well-schooled in engineering as well as design, I doubt that the magnificent Fairmont Hotel would be the enduring beaux arts beacon it has become for the City by the Bay.

Given the recent events of the quakes in Japan and Haiti; Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami in Indonesia, and the BP Oil Spill, I hope you will be as swept away as I was by the story of how communities can recover from events that shake buildings and lives from their very foundations. For more information on A Race to Splendor, and my other historical novels, you’re most welcome to visit

Giveaway Details

Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer one copy of A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware for a giveaway.

If you would like to win a copy of A Race to Splendor, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel or this guest blog.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday April 22nd.

Good luck!


  1. I love anything that has to do w/ historical fiction, and this is a part of history I've never read about before, so I'd love to read this novel.


  2. I love San Francisco, it's one of my favorite places in the world.. to read a novel about how the city was rebuild.. and told from Julia's perspective! That would be a blast!

    I really enjoyed reading the guest post :)

    my mail:

  3. I have never read anything about this time period, and of course anything with a strong female lead is intriguing.


  4. I love this time period (turn of the 20th century). It's probably my favorite historical time period to read. I also love reading about women who push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable at that time. Combine that with the amazing story that is the rebuilding of SF and I'm completely intruiged!
    I will post about this on my blog for an extra entry...


  5. Let's see... The cover is gorgeous (that's my shallow side), I love the whole idea about rebuilding in the face of tragedy and the determination that takes... Then there is the whole idea of the competition and how they went up against a male dominated system that sometimes used corrupt means to get their way. The whole idea intrigues me. :o)

    leesmithwriting at yahoo dot com

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. A (true) story about a woman architect has a "built-in" appeal to me; as a woman with an eye for design, rather than a knack for carpentry, this sounds like a book I'd greatly enjoy.

    Excellent guest post. I will post this giveaway in my blog's sidebar.


    Thanks for hosting this, Laura! :)

  8. Hi Everyone! Ciji here...hoping you find A RACE TO SPLENDOR entertaining and intriguing...however, I want to correct a typo (typing too fast on a deadline, probably :) ! Architect Julia Morgan was born in 1872, NOT 1972...but then I'm sure all you savvy people figured that out.
    All best and happy reading!

  9. Thanks for the great giveaway! The Victorian time period is one of my favorites, and I love historical fiction, particularly if it's about relatively obscure events/people - A Race to Splendor definitely covers these bases!

    susanna dot pyatt at student dot rcsnc dot org

  10. My son wants to be an architect and my father is one. Sounds interesting. lisapeters at yahoo dot com

  11. I have heard such nice things about this author. tiredwkids at live dot com

  12. I'm sure this young lady received a lot of problems working with men during the period when she was an architect. They didn't accept women who worked at much of anything. Would love to read the book. Please enter me.

    dancealert at aol dot com

  13. I posted this to my blog:

    dancealert at aol dot com

  14. Every HF novel I've read about the early days of San Francisco has included the early fires and of course the earthquake. They were a people always driven to stay and rebuild. I know I would enjoy this novel. I've read and loved Island of the Swans by this author. Thanks for the giveaway.

  15. I really enjoy reading...especially when they are inspirational and historical...this book sounds perfect for me...Thank you for this giveaway!!!

    prayn AT live DOT com

  16. I have recently come across two books that touched on and was about in greater detail the subject of this San Francisco earthquake. I think it's a sign that I am meant to read about it and or perhaps win this book. lol! Thanks for considering me!

    Margaret (goodreads)

  17. This facinating time period is so interesting. and this novel sounds compelling. thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  18. A unique historical perspective which appeals to me greatly. What a wonderful story.rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

  19. I enjoy the history of the early 1900s. This is when my grand parents came to New York from Ireland and I love thinking of what was going on when they were a young couple.
    Mike Draper

  20. I've always been interested in architecture. I would love to read a story inspired by California's first licensed woman architect. I know I would enjoy it!
    mittens0831 at aol dot com

  21. I have to say as I was reading Ms. Ware's answer to your question I couldn't help but think about all the recent disasters of the past decade. Imagine over 50% of San Francisco's citizens were homeless, the devastation from this earthquake and subsequent fire have always intrigued me. To see it through a professional woman's point of view, who is also involved in rebuilding, sounds fascinating.

    Didn't know if you were aware, but the year of birth of Julia Morgan is listed incorrectly as 1972, instead of 1872.


  22. My sister is an architect, I think San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities, just recently felt major relief knowing my friends in Japan are safe... and throw all these elements in a historical romance and I know Ciji Ware's novel is a winner!


  23. I saw this book for the first time today at Target. What caught my eye is the elegant cover and the intriguing title, "A Race To Splendor." I, too, love the turn of the century--an exciting time in history with new technology and where women were becoming mobile--taking on professions, participating in sports, auto-ing, bicycling, and ultimately gaining emancipation.

    I'm going to remember Ciji's question, "What were the women doing during this particular era?" Keeping this question in mind will keep me focused on my heroine and her endeavors. Thank you for this writing tip. I can't wait to read your your book!

  24. Oops. I forgot to add my email. By the way, I added the book to my "To-Be read shelf" at GoodReads.

  25. i love reading about strong women in historical fictions, so i am excited to add A Race To Splendor to my ever-growing ToBeReadList!!!!!

    good luck to you, Ciji, & congrats!!!!

    & thank you for the book giveaway!!!


  26. I love love love historical fiction! Thanks for such a great give away!


  27. I love historical fiction and would like to find out more about this one. Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

  28. I just blogged about your book on Historically Obsessed under the post, "Hot Historical Fiction Releases" for April 18, 2011. Here's the link:

    Thank you so much for offering this giveaway.

  29. I'm a big historical fiction fan and I love books about intelligent women. I'm very interested in reading this book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  30. This sounds so cool - I like art history stories, and architecture's part of that :o) Plus the whole idea is just a really neat one to me! And, true confession: cover love ;o)


  31. I love strong female characters in my historical fiction - women that are "before their time", smart, and not afraid to show it. This novel has been on my wishlist almost since I first saw it. Thanks for the chance to win!


  32. I blogged about your book again on Laura's Reviews. Here's the link:

    There, the big discussion is all about strong women and how the heroine in "A Race to Splendor" is a very strong women. I added that she is a path breaking pioneer because she's leading the way for women architects and engineers.

  33. Oops. Somehow, the link didn't take. Here's the link for Laura's Reviews where I blogged about your book:

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. This giveaway has ended. The winner will be posted shortly. Thank-you to all who entered!

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