Today I’m delighted to welcome Zana Bell to One More Page with a guest post that celebrates her love of her adopted home country, New Zealand. Zana grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe and studied English Literature at the University of Cape Town. After traveling 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.
Zana’s latest novel, Fool’s Gold is set in New Zealand and is published in paperback today. Read on for an excerpt!
When I was 20, I fell in love with Aotearoa/New Zealand. I came over on holiday, hitch-hiked around the country and vowed I would one day return. I did four years later and fell in love all over again – this time with a Kiwi and I have never left. I’d like to share with you the joys of my adopted country.
I have never visited another country which can fit so much exquisite scenery into a relatively small country. There are: long golden beaches (clichéd, I know, but so true!), snow-capped alps, vast plains, rolling hills, volcanoes, boiling mud and hot pools, clear rivers, the bluest of blue lakes, forests and cities. But of course, you’ve seen Lord of the Rings so you already know how lovely it is. Did you realise that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian were also filmed here as were The Lovely Bones, The Last Samurai and Avatar?
Kiwis are truly friendly and laidback with a strong sense of fair play. The Maori culture is rich in art and music. There are two sayings here which I feel sum up the Kiwi attitude to life.
- Give it a go
Kiwis are always ready to try something new. If it’s never been done before, so much the better. Being a small country at the end of the world with a tiny population (4 million) is no excuse not to try. So New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote, and one of the first to implement social welfare. In 1984, it went nuclear-free despite even though this move lost the friendship and backing of the US. Famous Kiwis who’ve led in their chosen fields include: Katherine Mansfield (writer), Edmund Hillary (first man up Mt. Everest with Tenzing Norgay), Peter Jackson (film director), Ernest Rutherford (scientist), Kiri Te Kanawa (opera singer), Anna Paquin (actress), A.J. Hackett (bungy-jumping business) and Russell Crowe (well, sort of: he’s mostly Australian!). Kiwis have won the Man Booker twice, and the America’s Cup twice.
- She’ll be right
Kiwis are great inventors and problem-solvers. They can cobble incredible inventions out of a bit of wire and a few bits of wood. I have eyed some contraptions or listened to some crazy ideas with grave misgivings but always get the cheerful ‘Don’t worry – she’ll be right.’ It is of course a pioneering attitude which has been handed down the generations of independent, freethinking folk.
Which brings me to my book: Fools Gold. I wrote it as a tribute to the spirit with which this country was forged. The early settlers coming to New Zealand had great visions of new lives, new opportunities. They had to be independent, self-sufficient, imaginative and adventurous to survive this untamed wilderness. It was tough – very tough indeed – but the diaries and letters of the time reveal also the excitement and the fun they had. It was a country of young people – mostly in their late teens and twenties – away from home and all the security and restrictions of established societies. Much of the time, they were just making it up as they went: giving it a go and trusting to fate that she’d be right.
It was enormous fun to write and I hope you’ll have as much fun reading it.
This excerpt shows an early example of giving it a go and hoping she’ll be sweet!
Lady Guinevere Stanhope, alone and destitute in a wild mining town, takes a job as a dancing girl. She is preparing for her first evening’s work with Bet, the hotel owner, giving her some rough assistance.
In the late afternoon there was a knock on the door and Bet came in with a black dress over her arm.
‘Been asking round the girls and Floss says you can use ’er dress seeing as she’s about to have a kid.’
She shook it out and Guinevere saw that it was of shiny satin, cut low in the front and with very flounced skirts.
‘That’s very kind,’ she faltered.
Bet gave a short bark of laughter. ‘To be ’onest, I don’t know whether it was kindness or curiosity that made ’er give it. None of them believes you’re going to go through with it.’
‘And what did you say?’
‘I said that you’d be there, no doubt at all. Never seen such stubbornness in the face of reason in all my days!’
Guinevere accepted the compliment with a rueful smile. ‘Am I being so very rash?’
‘Yup. But I’ll say this for you – you’ve got guts.’ She paused. ‘You ain’t taken no advice before so’s I don’t really think you’re going to start now but I’ll tell you anyway. Don’t take no nonsense, right. You’ve got that fancy way with you – use it if they gets too friendly. Don’t wear slippers, wear boots ’cos they’s all ’orrid dancers most of them.’
‘Thank you. That does seem sound advice.’
‘Right you are then.’ With a nod of her head, Bet disappeared.
Guinevere struggled into the dress, which smelt strongly of its previous owner and did it up. It hung on her and the neckline was far too low. She might be a dancing girl, but she was determined that no one would mistake her for anything else and she filled the gaping bodice with lace that reached to her throat.
She did not spend much time on her hair, just winding it into a bun from which errant curls sprang to frame her face. She couldn’t stop her hands shaking however, and thought she’d never prepared with such reluctance for an evening of dancing.
When Guinevere was almost ready, Bet returned with a glass of spirit and surveyed her, head to one side.
‘That dress looks all right. A bit loose but it’ll do well. The men won’t like the lace but it’s a sensible move. Now, I know you ain’t much of a drinker but reckon you might need this tonight.’
Seeing no reason not to grasp at straws at this stage, Guinevere accepted the glass and took a sip. The raw alcohol burned, causing her to choke and her eyes to water.
‘Just chuck it down, milady. It ain’t no French wine.’
Screwing up her face, Guinevere drained the glass.
‘Good. That’ll ’elp you. Off you go then.’
Fool’s Gold is out now in paperback and ebook formats from ChocLit.
Find out more about Zana and her writing at: http://www.zanabell.com/
Love – is it worth its weight in gold?
It’s 1866 and the gold rush is on. Left to fend for herself in the wilds of New Zealand’s west coast, Lady Guinevere Stanhope is determined to do whatever it takes to rescue her ancestral home and restore her father’s good name.
Forced out of his native Ireland, Quinn O’Donnell dreams of striking gold. His fiercely held prejudices make him loath to help any English person, let alone a lady as haughty and obstinate as Guinevere. But when a flash flood hits, Quinn is compelled to rescue her, and their paths become entwined in this uncharted new world.
Though a most inconvenient attraction forms between them, both remain determined to pursue their dreams, whatever the cost.
Will they realise in time that all that glitters is not gold?