Sunday, October 20, 2019

Q&A with Hazel Prior

Hazel Prior is the author of the new novel Ellie and the Harp Maker. She is a harpist, and she's based in Exmoor, England.

Q: How much did your own experiences as a harpist factor into your novel?

A: I think my enthusiasm for harps shows through and I hope I've conveyed something of the magic of harps. It was also handy to know about them so I could be accurate with the details.

Like my main character, Ellie, I once only dreamed of being a harpist, and it slowly became a reality through years of practise and some unexpected twists and turns of fate...

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your characters Dan and Ellie?

A: Lots of people come up to me after performances and say they've always wanted to play the harp, so I was thinking about the power of dreams and where they can lead you.

I thought I would have one character who followed her dream (Ellie) and the other one (Dan, the harp-maker) somebody who could make the dream come true. I wanted Ellie to be a bit wavery and insecure and that worked well for the plot. Dan, on the other hand, had to be unusual, creative and quirky. His voice and character came to me very quickly and I just went with it.

Q: The book alternates between their perspectives. Did you write the book in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character and then turn to the other?

A: I wrote the book from their alternating perspectives straight off, although some of the chapters got pulled around a lot in the editing so that events were related by the other character. I remember having some problems with structure because I wanted to give both Dan and Ellie equal space in the book.

Q: The novel takes place in Exmoor. How important is setting in your writing?

A: I love Exmoor! I live here and I went for lots of walks while I was writing the book, so I think the landscape has organically made itself part of the story.

Dan and Ellie are both people who are very sensitive to their surroundings. Sights, sounds and colours influence the way they think. The richness yet isolation of the countryside reflects some of the themes in the book, as well as adding a touch of lyricism.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm at the editing stage of my second novel, which is out next year. I'm very excited about it.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: The pheasant featured on the cover of the book is Phineas, another off-beat character who comes to play a crucial role in the story. He is based on a real pheasant, who is a frequent visitor to our garden. I'm not sure if he likes harp music, though!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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