Friday 4 October 2013

Author Post and giveaway: Zana Bell

Guest post by Zana Bell, author of Close to the Wind

While I was visiting a castle in Scotland some years ago, the woman selling the tickets said, “Mae hoose is older than your country.” 

Of course, New Zealand itself is considerably older and the Maori have been here for centuries but still I know what she meant.  New Zealand is not littered with monuments hundreds of years old. In fact it has relatively few buildings even a hundred and fifty years old. But we do have Arrowtown.

Arrowtown, a charming town and tourist mecca, is nestled amidst the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps and has been preserved as an example of the gold-mining towns that abounded throughout the South Island during the 1860s gold rush. 

Gold rush. Aptly named for somehow, in those days long before cellphones and even the telegraph, the discovery of gold in a remote river at the bottom of the world could draw thousands of men from around the world in a matter of weeks and months. Tent cities erupted all over the South Island, fuelled by visions of fortunes – and oceans of whiskey. These evolved quickly into rowdy one-street towns which boomed as long as the gold held out and then were abandoned just as suddenly. Almost all now have long since vanished.  

So if you visit Arrowtown (and I hope you will one day), stand at the end of the street and imagine how it used to be. First you must erase the tourists, the skiers and the adventure sports people. Now populate these buildings with men from all around the world – English lords, Chinese peasants, German doctors, American civil war veterans, Irish rebels, Australian ex-convicts. The only thing they shared was their dream of gold. 

They were a handsome bunch – tanned and strong from their outdoor lives, so Lady Barker noted approvingly in her letters home. They lived hard, played hard. So now peel away the excellent coffee shops, the gourmet restaurants and fine clothing shops and fill these old wooden walls with saloons and bars, billiard-rooms and gaming dens. Throw in a small theatre for there were numerous travelling troupes of performers intent on separating these miners from their hard-won gold nuggets. 

We mustn’t forget the women - vastly outnumbered and greatly in demand. Prostitutes, barmaids, dancers and cooks improved life considerably for these men who spent long days panning in freezing rivers. Husbands could be found in a couple of weeks. Many women came out to New Zealand in search of new opportunities and greater independence and through their determination and struggle, they became the first women in the world granted the right to vote. 

When in Arrowtown, don’t forget to visit the Chinese section, down by the clear waters of the river. Their tiny stone hovels are truly heart-breaking and awe-inspiring. These men were only permitted to mine the tracings discarded by the first wave of diggers but thanks to their exacting diligence, they not only eked out a living of sorts but also sent money back to their families. The Chinese community still thrives today throughout New Zealand.  

Arrowtown has been the inspiration for my novel Close to the Wind in which I tried to capture some of that reckless daring those early adventurers who lived on the edge and risked all for their dreams. 

Thank you Zana!

And now to the giveaway

1. 1 copy of Close to the Wind
2. Open to ALL
3. ENDS Oct 13th


  1. I so want to visit New Zealand! It looks absolutely breathtaking, and I love the little buildings in Arrowtown. Thanks so much for sharing these pictures Zana!

  2. What an interesting blog, Zana. Arrowtown sounds both beautiful and fascinating in terms of its history. When I win the lottery ...

    Liz X

  3. Close to the Wind looks amazing and fascinating. thanks for this giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. Thank you for the lovely virtual tour. I've always wanted to go to New Zealand, I keep promising myself I will.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. That was amazing to read. I have a friend that has been to New Zealand and wants to go back. They were somewhere a little remote, they said words could not describe it. I love that you are drawing this information and inspiration for your book. It sounds like something I would like to read.

  6. I love visiting towns like that. And yes, I usually try to envision it as it was. Thanks for the tour! Do enter me for the book. :)

  7. Thank you for sharing the gold mining town, New Zealand is so pretty. This book is totally on my wishlist!

  8. An interesting read, thanks for sharing! I'd definitely like to read the book now too :)

  9. Thank you for your lovely comments.

    NZ really is breathtakingly beautiful. When I first came here, I felt I'd stepped into a fairyland. No surprises then, that Lord of the Rings was set here.

    It's a long way down but worth the journey! Do hope you'll all make it down here one day.

    1. I was going to mention the breathtaking scenery in Lord of the Rings was filmed in NZ. But I figured everybody knew that lol! I am glad that you mentioned it. As far as I know, The Hobbit, and the new one coming out in December (part of the series I believe it is called Desolation of Smaug) was filmed there too. I would love you to post more pictures. This is the type of place my husband would retire too :) And quick question. You definitely peaked my interest in your book, but I am confused about the giveaway. Usually you have to tweet something or like a Facebook page, all of which I am happy to do. Sometimes the author just wants you to leave a comment. Please let me know I do not want to miss my opportunity to win this book :) Thank you in advance

  10. I've always loved the wild beauty and mystery of New Zealand. Thanks for sharing!

  11. This looks great! Thanks for the giveaway!
    mestith at gmail dot com

  12. Aah, yet another place I want to visit. So beautiful, thanks for sharing!

  13. It must be interesting to visit like that, never went there but I would love to!

  14. Thank you Zana for the guest post :)

  15. I would love to read this book. It sounds really good. Thanks for the giveaway.

  16. I would love to visit New Zealand someday. Great post!

  17. What a great post, and exactly the kind of book I love to read. One of my favourite books is about the colonization of Australia, and one very strong woman's role in that. I would love to read something similar about a much less known country as New Zealand.

  18. I fully intend to cross the Tasman in the near future. Flying seems the best option, but for now I'll visit by reading.

  19. What a fascinasting post, Zana! So looking forwrad to reading Close to the Wind. One day I'd love to visit New Zealand. Everything crossed :)

  20. Arrowtown sounds fascinating and imagine living in one of the small hovels that the Chinese lived in. Great background to base Close to the Wind on.

  21. Interesting post. I would love a chance to read this book. Thanks for having the giveaway.



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