Women and Adversity
The harp is one of the most fascinating instruments, and Hazel Prior is not only a professional harpist but author of the highly acclaimed Ellie and the Harp Maker.
Prior, 51, was born in Oxford, England but now lives in Exmoor, England with her husband, Jonathan, a freelance stage lighting technician. She has dealt with health issues for several years but takes painkillers to help relieve her discomfort.
Her novel fascinates because it’s a love story on several levels involving humans, nature and music. Add a pheasant, and the book is enthralling.
I contacted Hazel because I love harps and her story is lyrical, unusual and captivating. She declined at first, but she’s too interesting a person to overlook, and she finally decided she would answer my questions.
JAM: What was the biggest obstacle you faced when you were writing Ellie and the Harp Maker?
HP: The biggest problem was lack of confidence in my own ability. Much as I love writing, I was forever asking myself if the book was worth so much time, effort and emotion when, in all likelihood, nobody would ever read it.
The first, very rough draft was fun because I was getting to know the characters and telling myself the story. Unfortunately, it took many rewrites to pull it all together and make it work as a narrative. That’s where all the agonizing came in. Then there was a series of setbacks when I was trying to get published: problems with agents and long delays, and I nearly gave up several times. I’m very, very glad I didn’t!
JAM: What obstacles do you face now as a writer?
HP: I’ve just finished writing my second novel, How the Penguins Saved Veronica, and it has presented a new set of problems. Because readers love Ellie and the Harp Maker so much, there are now high expectations; this fact makes me quite nervous. From the moment I started thinking about it I (of course) wanted the book to be completely fantastic – with an original and engaging storyline, great characters, some thought-provoking themes and a healthy dose of humour – but this time I had to work within tight deadlines.
I put a lot of pressure on myself. I really struggled, particularly with structure because there were a lot of different elements to pull together. I have to admit I’m proud of it now, though, and very much looking forward to seeing it in the bookshops.
I’ve started to worry about book three, however. Ideas are everywhere, but will I ever find that special one, the one that inspires me so much it will fill another whole novel? My brain feels tired with all this thinking…
JAM: Why do you continue writing, as well as playing the harp, when you are in pain?
HP: Sheer stubbornness. I’ve always loved music and writing. I’ve had various health problems in the past that have prevented any progress, but now I refuse to let pain get the better of me. It takes a horribly long time to write a book and get it published and a horribly long time to learn an instrument like the harp. Having beaten those odds and, by some miracle, achieved both things, it would be a waste to stop now. I’ll admit I couldn’t do either without painkillers, though.
I’m also spurred on by my friends, my husband and anyone telling me they love my books or my music. It’s the best feeling to learn that people are enjoying what you’ve created. It makes everything worthwhile
February 13 – L. Diane Wolfe, author and owner of Dancing Lemur Press in Pikeville, North Carolina