How a Harpist Became a Novelist: She Wrote About What She Loved

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This week’s Igloo Book Buzz selection is ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER, a debut novel by Hazel Prior, published on August 6 by Berkley. 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. After placing some of her short stories in literary magazines, Prior says, “I knew I’d only manage to write a whole novel if I wrote about what I loved, what would keep me passionately inspired and involved. So I wrote about harps. I wrote about the countryside. I wrote about characters who don’t quite fit in, who long for fulfillment and expression; who battle with all sorts of problems but, in the end, find the freedom to be themselves.”

Hazel Prior photo: © Martin Dearmun

Berkley Executive Editor Danielle Perez: “When the manuscript of ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER was submitted to me, I was immediately intrigued by the premise (even though I knew nothing about harps!). As soon as I started reading this debut novel, I could tell I was in the hands of a special novelist, one with a warm, quirky, witty and smart voice. I was pulled right in to Dan and Ellie’s worlds and was captivated by these characters who don’t quite fit in, albeit in different ways. Dan is happily living in the countryside, away from social situations he doesn’t feel comfortable with, carving beautiful Celtic harps. Ellie is dissatisfied with her life, and doesn’t fully realize, perhaps, that she’s searching for something more or different until the day she comes across Dan’s barn and he gifts her a harp made of cherrywood (to match her cherry socks, of course). Dan isn’t like other people she knows, and Ellie finds herself completely engaged by him and his world. I raced through the novel and shared it with my colleagues, who also fell in love with it. I can’t wait for other people to become as involved with these characters and their story as I did!”

A sampling of media praise for ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER:

  • “Uplifting escapism…fresh and sweet, rejuvenated by a set of unusual characters, the raw beauty of England and the musicality of Prior’s prose.” —The Washington Post
  • “Prior’s debut resonates with a clear voice, depicting love evolving from a friendship based upon genuine acts of kindness….Ellie and Dan, both delightful, down-to-earth characters, selflessly put each other’s needs ahead of their own, and fans of fast-paced romantic stories will enjoy watching them discover true happiness together.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “With the character-driven charm of Liane Moriarty’s and Sara Baume’s novels … delightfully heartwarming … guaranteed to tug at readers’ heartstrings.”—Booklist

Posted: August 9, 2019