Author Interview: Zana Bell

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Zana Bell recently released Close To The Wind with Choc Lit, it was a book I really enjoyed and made me want to know more about its author. So this week we bring you a little more about Zana Bell.

Hi Zana and Welcome to Beauty and Lace, thanks for talking with us.


It’s wonderful to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

What made you decide you wanted to write?

I wanted to write even when I couldn’t. Truly. One of my earliest memories is going on a ship and being fascinated by the writing room. It was all wood panelling and leather topped desks. I loved nothing more than to sit, covering page after page in squiggles. Nothing changes. These days my pages are still filled the most appalling squiggles that defeat most readers. Yay for computers!

You write a variety of genres, have you got a favourite?

Historicals tug most at the heart. I love recreating worlds, literally being transported into a completely different way of life. It’s a most convenient form of time travel where you can enjoy all the excitement and glamour of the past while benefitting in real time from indoor plumbing, heating and manageable clothing.

Do you find any genres easier to write than others?

They all have their challenges. Historicals are terrifying because I know some readers out there know a lot more than I do and will spot any research flaws immediately. Writing contemporary can be a bit worrisome in capturing the characters’ speech patterns – especially if they are from another country or are teenagers. It’s like playing a wrong note. Readers wince when you get it wrong. In fact, I’m quite tempted at times to write science fiction and just make my worlds up – but I know my husband would pick holes in my science!

Your latest release is Close To The Wind, what can you tell us about it?

It’s a swashbuckling romantic adventure – a sort of Georgette Heyer meets Romancing the Stone in the 1860s while racing across the world. Georgiana has to get to New Zealand fast to save her brother from an unknown assassin. She flees England – dressed as a boy and with an irate fiancé on her heels – aboard the ship of the dashing captain Harry Trent, a man on his own secret life-or-death mission.

What made you choose New Zealand as an historical setting?

I immigrated to New Zealand in my twenties and I wanted to capture some of the thrill of exploration and discovery that comes with going to a new country. The 1860s was a particularly exciting time here. There was a gold rush so people from all over the world began pouring into this tiny country. It was a crazy, heady time. Villages mushroomed into towns, tent cities were flung up overnight. Adventurers, soldiers, dreamers, swindlers and larrikins all came to try their luck with little more than a swagful of wild hopes. Most, of course, didn’t find gold, but many fell in love with the land itself and all the prospects it offered. As for the women, NZ offered them opportunities they’d never have had in their own countries. They must have been a feisty bunch because NZ was the first country in the world to grant women the vote!

Zana Bell author photo

Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication with Choc Lit?

I remember their launch some years ago. The name leapt out at me – fun and light-hearted. At the same time, I was finding NZ historicals a hard sell. Regency, as we all know, reigns supreme in the historical market! Then a friend sent me Trade Winds and I was impressed not only by the writing but by the production of the book as well. The wonderful Berni does gorgeous covers. It seemed to be a company that took chances with slightly unusual romances so when they had a competition seeking an Australian writer, I contacted them and asked if a Kiwi could muscle in. I was not allowed but they encouraged me to send in my ms anyway and I was delighted when they gave me The Call. It’s a fabulous publisher to write for.

Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?

I have a book coming out next year which will share the same setting – 1860s New Zealand. Lady Guinevere Stanhope has just arrived in New Zealand alone, armed with little more than her passion for the new art of photography and an overriding determination to save her family home. These take her into all sorts of adventures, including crossing paths with Finn, an Irish doctor fresh from the American Civil war. He has turned his back on medicine and is now a miner with his own very clear goals – none of which include a headstrong young woman from the English aristocracy.

Do you have a favourite place or time of day to write?

Mornings are definitely the best time for me – especially when I can just pull the laptop into bed and get at least an hour done before the day starts crowding in with a million demands.

What does being a woman mean to you?

Oh, interesting question. I think women rejoice in having many facets to our personalities – which is why we are so good at multi-tasking. Why only do one thing when three is just as easy but more fun! I also think many women are courageous – from the bold ones who blaze paths in careers and adventures to those who stay home, being strong to look after the young, the old, the infirm. Women are very good at putting others ahead of themselves. Most importantly, to me, being a woman means having wonderful women in my life to laugh and cry with: family, friends and colleagues. They are just always there, making life richer.

Thanks for your time Zana, good luck with your New Zealand based Historicals.

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