Dec 05

Zana Bell – NZ author

Close to the Wind by Zana Bell.

Close to the Wind by Zana Bell.

Zana Bell’s latest novel Close to the Wind is a playful romp that takes its characters across the world, from Britain to New Zealand. It’s fun, funny and meticulously researched – I know this because a while back Zana was querying how long it would take to travel by horseback from Christchurch to Dunedin, in New Zealand’s South Island.

Zana is the first and only Kiwi author to be published by UK-based ChocLit. And you don’t need me to tell you Zana writes well – that this is her fifth novel by an international publisher is proof of that.

Hi Zana – thanks for agreeing to be part of my blog.

Hello Rae – many thanks for hosting me.

My first burning question is this: what made you pitch your novel to UK-based publisher ChocLit? I hadn’t heard of them till I read your book – how did you learn about them?

My Scottish friend sent me a book published by ChocLit and I was immediately taken by the fact that it was an historical set in Japan. So many publishers will only consider Britain or America as settings for historicals – as I found to my cost when trying to pitch two NZ historicals I’d written. When I emailed them to ask if they’d consider a book from the Antipodes they responded very warmly.

Your characters traipse across the world – what inspired you to make them do that – or were they in charge and did you just go along for the ride? (This is also a question about how you write – although you’ve surely noticed that.)

Again it comes back to the unusual setting. One historical writer had set most of her book in France but the opening chapter was set in England. Her advice was that if you start a book in Britain and hook your readers in the first pages, they’ll follow you anywhere. Of course, it is far quicker to get a character to France than NZ so it turned into a sort of historical road trip. I loved writing about the different settings, having visited Madeira when I was five and having been to university in Cape Town, it was a glorious way of revisiting them – albeit in the virtual sense.

Multi-published author Zana Bell writes historical novels set in NZ.

Multi-published author Zana Bell writes historical novels set in NZ.

And yes, I was very much along for the ride. It was the first time I’d tried writing a romantic adventure and it turned out to be tremendous fun – and harder than I thought. I have a profound admiration for PD James, Anne Perry etc. now. It’s tricky to lay clues, make motives convincing etc.

The cover tells us to expect ‘love, passion and adventure in 1860s New Zealand’. But while some readers might be anticipating, say, hot sex, the passion in Close to the Wind is of a different flavour. Tell us more.

Oh well spotted. Reader warning: adventures focus on swashbuckling action rather than bedroom antics. I would hate to set up false expectations. I can assure you no bodices were ripped in the writing of this book.

I know you’re from Zimbabwe, but what brought you to New Zealand?

My sister and brother-in-law had immigrated to New Zealand and when I was twenty

I came over to visit them. Keen to explore, I hitch-hiked from Auckland to Invercargill and back and during this time I fell in love with both the land and the people. A few years later, I landed up immigrating too.

Where do the ideas for books come from?

New Zealand is always my inspiration, particularly its history. As an immigrant, I use the research as a way to weave myself into the land.

Where can people can buy the book – is it available in hard copy and as an ebook?

Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and PaperPlus all stock the book and yes it’s also available as an ebook from Amazon and Fishpond. Links are on my website http://www.zanabell.com/

If you had a word of advice for a writer, what would it be? And what about for someone who wants to have their work published?

The road is long; never give up. Don’t keep your book in the bottom drawer. Send it off. You never know what might happen. And if it returns, send it off again. And again. And again.

Those other novels – a word or two about them?

I wrote two Harlequin contemporary novels set in Northland. They were fun to write as Northland has a hold on my heart and in Tempting the Negotiator (again, not nearly as ‘hot’ as the title would suggest!) I was able to explore Northland themes like the endangered fairy tern and overseas land ownership and development.

My historical Forbidden Frontier is based on the life and times of Charlotte Badger; convict, pirate and NZ’s first known English woman migrant. She stole a ship and sailed to the Bay of Islands in 1806. Ah, those were the days!

And what’s next on your agenda?

I have another NZ historical adventure coming out towards the end of next year set in Hokitika and Christchurch. Thank you Eleanor Catton for putting Hokitika on the world’s radar.

I’m guessing you’re an avid reader – who’s your favourite author and why? 

Oh, isn’t that the hardest question. I’ve loved Penelope Lively’s writing for many years – I think Moontiger is one of the finest books I’ve read. I love the way she weaves notions of history into her books and her characters are sharply drawn.

Many thanks for hosting me today, Rae.

Pleasure – and I knew Zana would steer us towards a great read.

(Big thanks to Zana who gave away a copy of her book to one of the lucky people who dropped by and made a comment.)

About the author

Rae Roadley

Rae is a journalist, freelance writer and writing tutor. Soon after returning to her hometown to work for Northland's daily newspaper, she met beef and sheep farmer Rex Roadley. He lived in a historic home at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour and after moving there, Rae reported on farming then wrote a newspaper column, The Country Side. Her wryly amusing tales of country life earned many followers and led her to learn more about the local people, past and present. She tells the story of her new life in 'Love at the End of the Road: Finding my heart in the country'.


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  1. Rae Roadley

    Congratulations to Sandra Sears who won a copy of Zana’s new book ‘Close to the Wind’. Her name was drawn by the farmer’s muddy paw from a hat held high by myself. Thanks for commenting, Sandra – and everyone. Warmest wishes to you all for the season. Rae

  2. Frosty Theron

    Hi Rae & Zana,
    How serendipitous – I have recently started working at Hokitika Museum and am learning as much as I can absorb about this place and how it all came together during the 1860’s, particularly how the women fared. I also grew up in Rhodesia then Zimbabwe and married a Rhodesian, we came to NZ in 1995. What a lovely interview, I can’t wait to read the book 🙂
    Many thanks

    1. Rae Roadley

      Have Zim friends up in the north – didn’t know some of you had reached Hokitika. You’ll love the book – and you might also like to read Forbidden Frontier about the first European woman who reached NZ. Thanks for dropping by.

    2. Zana Bell

      Hello Frosty, how lovely to hear from you and how great that we overlap in several areas!

      I adore Hokitika and hope you’ll enjoy the next book that starts off there. I have magnificent possum slippers that I do all my writing in, in winter. They are just the thing for hours on the computer.

      My current wip is an historical about the first pioneer column going up into Rhodesia. If you have any knowledge about this time, please let me know. Enjoying the research immensely.

  3. Justine Payen

    Hi Zana, I have just emailed Santa with my Christmas list and Close to the Wind was at the top. Really good interview Rae.

    1. Rae Roadley

      Hi Justine, I do hope Santa obliges – and thanks for the kind words – Zana is a really good interview subject!

    2. Zana Bell

      Thank you, Justine :). I too hope you find it in your stocking. 🙂 it. Merry Xmas.

  4. Elaine

    Whst s great interview.
    Looks like it will b a fantastic read.

    1. Zana

      Glad you enjoyed the interview, Elaine.

  5. Sandra Sears

    My daughter is a great fan of reading,which would be a great gift for any Christmas stock. I had also given her a copy of Love at the End of the Road for her birthday when it came out.
    Great piece of History for her.

    1. Zana

      How lovely of you to be supporting both of us, Sandra! Many thanks.

  6. Zana

    Lizzie great to see you here. We will have to swap notes at the next conference re the 1860s. What rambunctious times they must have been! Good luck with NaNo.

  7. Catherine Christie

    Haven’t managed to lay my hands on this one yet…SO looking forward to reading it. By the way, this is a great photo of you…you look gorgeous (as ever). Warm hugs, and happy Christmas!

    1. Zana Bell

      Sorry Catherine! I seemed to somehow have mucked up my reply to a while ago!

      Thanks so much for dropping by and big hugs to you and your family with Merry Xmases all round!

  8. Ellie Huse

    Like Lesley, I love your books, too, Zana. Close to the Wind is a great story! So is Forbidden Frontier, for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. I’ll look forward to your next book 🙂

    1. Zana

      Thanks for the thumbs up, Ellie 🙂

  9. Hayson Mann ing

    What a great interview. Close to the Wind sounds fabulous. It is on my TBR pile and I’m going to start reading it this weekend.

    Northland has a special place in my heart as well. We spent childhood summers in Bland Bay. I love the diversity of New Zealand.

    Congratulations on your release. I thoroughly enjoyed A Risk Worth Taking and look forward to Close to the Wind.


    1. Zana

      Hayson, we’ve had some grand times in Bland Bay. What an exquisite spot. Do hope you enjoy this book as much as you enjoyed the last.

  10. Lizzi Tremayne

    Thanks so much Rae, for hosting Zana!
    Zana, can’t wait to read your books! They’re on my list! They look great, and Close to the Wind is set in the same decade as my historical, and they’re bound for NZ… In fact, they’ve just arrived in NZ, in my NaNo project!
    Was great to catch up in Wellington!
    Kindest regards to you both!
    Best with your new book!

  11. Liz Harris

    I loved Close to the Wind, Zana, and I was interested in hearing more about your background. So thank you, Zana and Rae, for an enjoyable interview.

    1. Zana

      Great to see you down this way, Liz. Catching up on some sunshine? I’m so pleased you enjoyed the book – I really enjoy your books too,

  12. Maureen Sudlow

    great review Rae – and a good idea for a present to myself…

  13. Zana

    Hi Amy – glad to have another Northlander here! Glad also to hear you like ChocLit’s website. They are a lovely company – twice winning Publisher of the Year awards!

  14. Michelle Elvy

    Wonderful to see this interview, and I can’t wait to read Zana’s new book. I think we’ll read it aloud as a family — it’s the perfect kind of adventure for that. My girls will love it, too — I’m sure. I like how you write about laying clues and creating motivations — I can well imagine that is hard to do, and that you must pay such close attention to detail. Great to see another historical novel from you, Zana! And more to come — hooray. I will be ordering this book for Xmas too, and hope to get it in the new year. And meanwhile, I will now go look up Penelope Lively. I am glad to hear of another author to get to know and admire. Glad I stopped in for this interview, Rae and Zana!

    1. Zana

      Oh Michelle, I love the Idea of my book being read aboard a yacht in Indonesia, the main characters would be very approving of your adventures.

  15. Zana

    Thank you, Lesley 🙂 I do hope you enjoy this one too.

  16. Amy Talbot

    Great news, Zana. I think we are soulmates 🙂 I lived in Northland (Oakaura Bay) and love Hoki. I think it is because both places move to ‘ocean time’. All the best with your latest release. I checked out ChocLit’s site. Very classy.

  17. Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons

    How very timely, Rae. I am waiting for my PC to come back from the doctors (iPad is good, but it is NOT a PC! ) to publish a post on Zana that will show another side to her!!!!! I will link back to this one. Fantastic insight and i LOVE Choclits reply . great post.

    1. Rae Roadley

      Hi Jenn, Goodie and thanks – am thinking you might like to be my next blog victim perhaps early next year – before your next book in your series comes out.

      1. Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons

        Thx Rae, that would be lovely and Zana, as i posted on Facebook yesterday…. Bad end to twrrific day. PC still broken, dog bite on ankle from over protective dog! Life!

        1. Rae Roadley

          Here’s how you can meet Zana Bell on Jenn McLeod’s blog – http://www.jennjmcleod.com/2013/12/10/author-harvest-w-nz-author-zana-bell/

    2. Zana

      Hi Jenn, you are right. Wonderful as ipads are, they do have distinct limitations. Glad to hear your PC will be restored to you soon and looking forward to joining you on your blog

  18. Lesley Marshall

    I love all your books, Zana – including the children’s novel you forgot to mention! – but I particularly love the historicals, so I plan to order this from Whitcoulls as a Christmas present to myself…

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