Zana Bell’s 5 Minute Tribute to Jamie Oliver

Jamie OliverI don’t cook. I hate cooking. But I love watching Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals. His enthusiasm, his mixture of reverence for the ingredients and flippancy in throwing them together is spellbinding. And it occurred to me while watching one of his shows that writing a book isn’t so very different from cooking. Please join me in a tribute to the inimitable Jamie as I show you how to write Close to the Wind in just 5 Minutes.


Now what we want to do today is write a New Zealand historical cos you know, it’s a great country with an incredible history but not many people know much about it. We’re going to mix it up with adventure and romance, let those flavours sizzle altogether. Lovely!

First up – the ingredients. We’re going to start with a good dollop of Georgette Heyer cos she goes well with everything. So what we’ll do is grab the girl-as-boy like These Old Shades and mix in a generous handful of irrepressible spirit from The Grand Sophy. But we’re going to make it our story by setting the heroine’s story in the 1860s and raise her in a circus. Ah, yes, there she is – Georgiana is beginning to emerge. Can you see her?

Okay, now we gotta get things cooking. I love the sea and old ships so we’re going get this dashing sea captain, Harry, who I’ve got waiting over here – isn’t he gorgeous with those dark blue eyes – and we’re just going to fling in him and his beautiful old vessel – yeah, like just like that.  Stir but don’t mix too much. We don’t want to lose that lovely tension, do we?

Oh, and we need some dark tones so we’re just going to drizzle this unknown assassin all over. See how the colour changes? The threat is going to add this piquancy – this bite – to the whole thing. these old shades

Next mix in the zesty zaniness of Romancing the Stone just to mix things up a bit.

Right, now locations: these are what are going to make our story particularly different. We’re going to add a pinch of Maderia. I sailed there from Africa when I was a kid. It’s a gorgeous little island. Next comes a scoop of Cape Town, one of the most beautiful cities in the world and where I went to university. It’s always good to add personal experience and knowledge. Makes it more authentic. Know what I mean. Ah, sizzling nicely.

Okay, time to plonk the whole lot into stormy seas and turn up the temperature to give Harry and Georgiana a right good basting. See how those flavours come together; collide and separate, mix and combust. Now we’re really cooking.

And last but by no means least, here comes New Zealand –  the best kept for last. We’re talking massive mountains and unexplored vast plains. Gold-mining towns teeming with men and with a hint of the wild west about it all.  Everything’s coming together now so be ready, it’s a race against the clock. Fast-living, hard-living times. Right, we’re going to flambé the pan. Gotta be quick. Strike the match and – boof!

Booti-ful. And there it is! See how it’s come together? Now, all that’s left is to sit down and enjoy the story.

Zana xx

Close to the Wind is now available in paperback and on Kindle UK and Kindle US.