Spotlight & Giveaway: Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

Posted August 14th, 2019 by in Blog, Spotlight / 24 comments

Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author Hazel Prior to HJ!
Spotlight&Giveaway

Hi Hazel  and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Ellie and the Harpmaker!

 

Please summarize the book for the readers here:

A story set in the wilds of the English countryside, it explores the themes of love, freedom, music and fulfilment. Ellie is a housewife with a dream which she has never quite managed to pursue. But when she meets eccentric harp-maker, Dan, that dream summersaults into reality and sets in motion a stream of unexpected events. Then Ellie unearths an important secret. Her decision to reveal it upends both their lives.
 

Please share the opening lines of this book:

A woman came to the barn today. Her hair was the colour of walnut wood. Her eyes were the colour of bracken in October. Her socks were the colour of cherries, which was noticeable because all the rest of her clothes were sad colours.

Please share a few Fun facts about this book…

I had the idea for the book from the many people who came up to me at harp performances (I’m a harpist) and declared: “I’ve always wanted to play the harp!”
I wrote the first draft with pen and paper, sitting in a field with my cat beside me.
The cover of the book shows one of the characters: a pheasant named Phineas.

 

Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?

Dan is a charmingly quirky character who counts everything from the steps of his staircase to the mushrooms on his daily walk. He lives in an isolated old Barn on the moor. When he isn’t obsessively making harps he obsessively makes sandwiches. Ellie, on the other hand, has a suppressed creative side. She doesn’t realise how much more she could do with her life.

Dan has an unusual perspective and way of describing things. His voice came to me straight away, but I have no idea where it (or he) came from. I don’t know anybody remotely like him. There’s a strength and directness to him that I was immediately drawn to and I had to find out more. Ellie also surprised me in the way she slowly realises things, gathers strength and evolves throughout the book.

 

If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?

I think I’d use the first scene where they meet because it reveals quite a lot about their characters.

Here’s a snippet:

“Do you mind my asking, have you been here long?”
I informed her that I’d been here for one hour and forty-three minutes. Before that I was out in the woods, having my walk. She smiled and said: “No, I mean, have you had this place a long time? As a workshop?”
I told her I came here when I was ten years old and I was now thirty-three years old, so that meant (I explained in case her maths was not very good) that I’d been here for twenty-three years.
“No! I just can’t believe it!” she said again. She seemed to have a problem believing things. She shook her head slowly. “I think I must be in a dream.”
I offered to pinch her.
She laughed. Her laugh was interesting: explosive and a little bit snorty.
The next thing that happened was I went across and shook her hand because that is what you are supposed to do. You are not supposed to do pinching. I knew that really.
“My name is Dan Hollis, the Exmoor harp-maker,” I said.

 

What do you want people to take away from reading this book?

First, I just want them to enjoy the read. Also I’d like them to see the loveliness of life lived simply and honestly, not dictated by society’s (often distorted) values. Beyond this, if anyone is lacking the courage of their convictions like Ellie, I want them to feel encouraged – to dare to follow their dream, whatever it may be.

 

What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?

I am at the editing stage of my second novel, now, which is due to be published next year.
 

Thanks for blogging at HJ!

 

Giveaway: One giveaway copy of ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER by Hazel Prior. Winner must have a valid US shipping address.

 

To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Have you ever had a chance encounter that changed the course of your life?

 
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Excerpt from Ellie and the Harpmaker:

Dan
A woman came to the barn today. Her hair was the color of walnut wood. Her eyes were the color of bracken in October. Her socks were the color of cherries, which was noticeable because all the rest of her clothes were sad colors. She carried an enormous shoulder bag, canvas. It had a big buckle (square), but it was hanging open. The woman’s mouth was open too. She was shifting from one foot to the other by the door so I told her to come in. The words came out a bit mangled due to the fact that I was wearing my mask. She asked what I’d said, so I took it off and also took off my earmuffs and I said it again. She came in. Her socks were very red indeed. So was her face.
“I’m sorry to be so rude, but I’m gobsmacked.” She did look it, to be honest. “Did you . . . you didn’t, did you . . . make all these?”
I told her yes.
“Wow! I just can’t believe it!” she said, looking round.
I asked her why not.
“Well, it’s not exactly what you expect to find in the middle of nowhere! I’ve been past the end of your lane so many times and I just had no idea that all this was here!”
I put my earmuffs and mask on the workbench and informed her that indeed, all this was here. Perhaps I should have pointed out as well that this is not the middle of nowhere. Not at all. Exmoor is the most somewhere place that I know and my workshop is an extremely somewhere part of it. I did not say this, though. It would have been rude to contradict her.
Morning light was pouring in on us from the three windows. It outlined the sloping rafters. It floodlit the curls of wood shavings. It silvered the edges of the curves and arcs all around us and made strung shadows on the floor.
The woman was shaking her head so that the walnut-colored hair bounced around her face. “How lovely! They’re beautiful, so beautiful! It is like a scene from a fairy tale. And how strange that I’ve stumbled across this place today of all days!”
Today is Saturday, September 9, 2017. Is that a particularly strange day to stumble across a Harp Barn? I smiled politely. I wasn’t sure if she wanted me to ask why it was strange. Lots of people find things strange that I don’t find strange at all, and lots of people don’t find strange the things that I find very strange indeed.
The woman kept looking at me and then gazing around the barn and then back at me again. Then she pulled on the strap of her canvas bag to rearrange it in a different way over her shoulder and said: “Do you mind my asking, have you been here long?”
I informed her that I’d been here for one hour and forty-three minutes. Before that I was out in the woods, having my walk. She smiled and said: “No, I mean, have you had this place a long time? As a workshop?”
I told her I came here when I was ten years old and I was now thirty-three years old, so that meant (I explained in case her math was not very good) that I’d been here for twenty-three years.
“No! I just can’t believe it!” she said again. She seemed to have a problem believing things. She shook her head slowly. “I think I must be in a dream.”
I offered to pinch her.
She laughed. Her laugh was interesting: explosive and a little bit snorty.
The next thing that happened was I went across and shook her hand because that is what you are supposed to do. You are not supposed to do pinching. I knew that really. “My name is Dan Hollis, the Exmoor Harpmaker,” I said.
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Ellie Jacobs, the Exmoor . . . housewife.”
“Housewife” does not mean you are married to a house. It means you are a woman who is married to a husband and your husband goes off to work every day and you don’t go off to work at all but embark on house dusting, house hoovering and various ironing and washing duties and other things that happen in a house, and in fact you aren’t really expected to go out of the house at all except to get yourself to a supermarket and then you go up and down the aisles with a trolley and a list looking sad. What a lot of things are embedded in that housewife word.
“It’s funny,” she mused, her eyes wandering around the barn again. “Harp playing was on my list.”
I asked if she meant her shopping list.
She paused and looked at me with arched eyebrows. “No, my before-forty list. Lots of people have them, apparently. You know—the list of things to do before you reach the age of forty. Like swimming with dolphins and seeing the Great Wall of China.”
I asked if she had swum with dolphins and she said no. I asked if she had seen the Great Wall of China and she said no. Then she added that she had a few years to go yet. I asked her how many, but she didn’t answer. Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked her that. There are lots of things you are not supposed to ask, and I fear that might be one of them. So I changed my question and asked her what would happen if she didn’t manage to swim with dolphins or see the Great Wall of China or play the harp before she reached the age of forty. She said, “Nothing.”
We were silent for a bit.
“It smells lovely in here,” she commented finally. “I love the smell of wood.”
I was glad she had noticed it because most people don’t, and I was glad that she appreciated it because most people don’t. Then she gestured toward the harps. “They’re utterly exquisite,” she said. “Will you tell me something about them?”
I told her yes. I informed her that they are Celtic-style traditional harps and they would have been fairly widespread in Britain during the Middle Ages, especially in the north and west. I told her I had carved the Elfin from my own design out of the sycamore tree that had fallen by the brook four years ago. I mentioned that I had made the Sylvan from ancient beech and the Linnet from rosewood. I showed her the drawers of strings and explained about the red ones being Cs, the black ones being Fs and the white ones being As, Bs, Ds, Es and Gs. I told her about each one being a different thickness and the importance of tension. I showed her the holes in the back and how they were anchored inside. I explained the use of the levers for sharpening the note. I told her about the pebbles. I gave her a couple of pieces of wood so that she could hold them and compare the weight. I expanded on the different resonances of different woods.
Then I realized that I had not asked very much about her, so I stopped telling her things and I asked the following eight questions: How are you? Do you have any pets? What is in your enormous shoulder bag? What is your favorite color? What is your favorite tree? Where do you live? Do you enjoy being the Exmoor Housewife? Would you like a sandwich?
She answered me the following answers: fine, thank you; no; a big camera and a notepad and a thermos with soup; red; birch; about five miles southwest of here; um; that would be very nice.
I made twelve sandwiches using six slices of bread and substantial quantities of cream cheese. I cut them into triangles because I reckoned she was a lady.
I’ve noticed that the act of cutting always helps me think. I do some good thinking when I cut up wood to make harps too. That might have been why, over the triangles of the sandwiches, I came to a decision.

***This excerpt is from an advance, uncorrected proof***

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
 
 

Book Info:

A rich, heartwarming and completely charming debut that reminds us that sometimes, you don’t find love–love finds you.

Dan Hollis lives a happy, solitary life carving exquisite Celtic harps in his barn in the countryside of the English moors. Here he can be himself, away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right or completely understand.

On the anniversary of her beloved father’s death, Ellie Jacobs takes a walk in the woods and comes across Dan’s barn. She is enchanted by his collection. Dan gives her a harp made of cherrywood to match her cherry socks. He stores it for her, ready for whenever she’d like to take lessons.

Ellie begins visiting Dan almost daily and quickly learns that he isn’t like other people. He makes her sandwiches precisely cut into triangles and repeatedly counts the (seventeen) steps of the wooden staircase to the upstairs practice room. Ellie soon realizes Dan isn’t just different; in many ways, his world is better, and he gives her a fresh perspective on her own life.
 
 

Meet the Author:

Hazel Prior is a harpist based in Exmoor, England. Originally from Oxford, she fell in love with the harp as a student and now performs regularly. She’s had short stories published in literary magazines, and has won numerous writing competitions in the UK. Ellie and The Harpmaker is her first novel and she is working on her second.
Website | Twitter |
 
 
 

24 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior”

  1. John Smith

    “Have you ever had a chance encounter that changed the course of your life?” Not that I’m aware of!

  2. aomullan

    My husband and I were both in a wedding party but had never met until the rehearsal dinner. We had our first date one week after the wedding. That date was 33 years ago this past June. In October we will be celebrating our 25th Anniversary. He’s still the love of my life and my HEA!

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