Sailing in the wind with Zana Bell

Zana Bell grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe and studied English Literature at the University of Cape Town. After travelling for several years doing a wide range of jobs, she immigrated to New Zealand where she now lives with her family and cats in a small harbourside community.

She began writing, just for the fun of seeing whether she could actually complete a novel and immediately became hooked. Research is her primary love and writing gives her an excellent excuse to be obsessive or just plain nosey. She enjoys writing in a variety of genre but has a particular fondness for all things historical.

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Your novel is called ‘Close to the Wind’ please could you tell me about it?
It’s a swashbuckling, romantic adventure – strongly influenced by Romancing the Stone and Georgette Heyer and set in 1860s New Zealand. I love the era as I think it was a particularly exciting time for women who were daring enough to step out.

‘Close to the Wind’ is about Georgiana da Silva, please could you tell me about her?
Georgiana is the orphaned daughter of a Spanish acrobat and an English aristocratic mother. She was born and raised in a circus until her parents died in a fire when she was twelve and this sets her apart from the other Victorian debutantes she is forced to mix with. However, when she discovers an assassin has been sent after her beloved brother in New Zealand, she immediately sets forth to find him, with only her wits, her courage and her considerable acting skills to help her .Very quickly she runs into Captain Harry Trent, a man on his own mission to New Zealand….

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Are any of the characters in ‘Close to the Wind’ anything like you?
I wish! Georgiana is acrobatic, fearless and an actress. Harry walks (or, to be more accurate, sails) on the wild side. I’m a reader and writer. Enough said.

They say the journey to being published is one of the hardest an author can take, please can you describe the journey that you went on?
This book did have a long journey as there was no demand for New Zealand historicals when I wrote it. Agents and editors always suggested I write Regency or Scottish highlands or even American pioneer. But the wild beauty of New Zealand and the extraordinary range of intrepid people who washed through the gold fields in the 1860s was more than I could resist. I was incredibly lucky to find ChocLit, a publisher that positively delights in presenting readers with new worlds and slightly unusual romances.

Close to the Wind” is set New Zealand, what was your inspiration behind picking this country?
I moved to New Zealand in my mid-twenties and fell in love – both with the country and a Kiwi. Over the years I have become fascinated by its colonial history. The 1860s gold rush really opened up the country to Europe and New Zealand, attracting a number of visionaries and adventurers – plus of course, a good swathe of ne’er-do-wells and oddballs. Many of these men and women were determined to forge better lives for themselves and their families and it became the first country to give women the vote and one of the first to set up a good social welfare system

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Write what you love as it’s impossible to guess the way the market will go. The road is long: never give up

What can we expect next, any future books in the pipeline?
I have another historical coming out next year about a young woman photographer and an Irish doctor and their Anitpodean adventures when fortunes were made and lost all too quickly.

Was there any book you read as a child that convinced you that you wanted to become a writer? If so, which one was it?
No one specific book but certainly writers themselves inspired me. As a kid, I adored Enid Blyton – the Famous Five, the Fabulous Four, the Magic Faraway Tree etc. Later I moved to Georgette Heyer. But the author I most envy is James Mitchener. He wrote huge books set around the world, covering enormous spans of time. I think he must have had a lot of fun.

What is your all- time favourite book?
Moontiger by Penelope Lively. Her main character, Claudia begins the book with the intention to write a history of the world. This splendidly audacious goal sets the theme for the book. It is exquisitely written and redheaded Claudia is a force to be reckoned with.

Who are your 5 dream dinner guests?
Oh tricky. Only five? Winston Churchill for sure – he was very funny and was so multi-faceted. Jane Austen naturally. Sir Walter Raleigh – to get first-hand tales of his exploits and his own personal take on Elizabeth 1. Plus, of course, I have a particular fondness for rakish captains. Peter Jackson because I need to have a Kiwi at the table and I hope he’d land up begging to turn my book into an award-winning film. Nell Gwynne would be fun too – another actress with an exciting life on the side. If I can squeeze in a couple more, I’d go for Radio Five’s Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode as I’m a huge fan of Wittertainment. (and yes, I’m aware that most of these guests are dead. What can I say? I love history – I’d give my eyeteeth to interview any of them!)

A big thank you to Zana for talking to ‘The Love Of A Good Book’

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