~ Hazel Harps On

Jubilation and Judgement

There I go, alliterating again. Well if it’s good enough for Jane Austen…

I’ve decided to go for a two-part blog this month. First up there’s been a whole load of


Anyone who follows these blogs will know my major news. But it’s worth announcing again, if only to help me believe it myself. So here goes… drumroll, please …. I AM NOW A PUBLISHED AUTHOR! My debut novel, Ellie and the Harp Maker, is out. After all those years of only me and the book struggling with each other in isolation, my eccentric Exmoor story is spreading worldwide to readers in their thousands. It is mind-boggling, humbling, terrifying and totally joyous.

I believe in blog-brevity otherwise I’d go on and on about the excitement of publication day, my trip to London, the sparkling celebrations with my publishers and agents. Then there was the book launch at the fabulous Brendon Books in Taunton. Although I was all a-quiver with nerves beforehand I was uplifted and just so touched by everyone’s support. And we had fun!

Of course, the harp featured.

As did some wonderful saxophone accompaniment to my song 'Books Are Cool!'

(Many thanks to Tiggy Hayes for this photo)

It was great to meet up with people I've known from different times in my life; fellow harpists, fellow writers, people from Transworld and Darley Anderson agency, friends old and new. And I got flowers!

A fabulous bouquet from my publishers (complete with pheasant feathers!), a delightful posy from a Twitter friend who unexpectedly turned up, and roses and prosecco from my sister-in-law.

But having a book out isn’t roses - or tulips or pheasant feathers - all the way. Because soon comes


What do you do when all the celebrations are over and the lovely flow of congratulations has ceased? You wait for the reactions of your family and friends who, having heard so much about it, are now reading your novel for the first time. And, while you know they’ll back you, you get all squirmy and apologetic and anxious. Because they may not like it. And some of them will be searching for your voice all the way through instead of concentrating on the story… and some will assume you’re writing about yourself, your family or even themselves (No! It’s fiction!) … and some of them never normally read novels at all. When you next meet them they’ll feel obliged to say something nice. And you’ll be blushing like a tomato and wishing the earth would swallow you up, all the while desperately craving their approval.

Then there’s the public. In this Internet age, everything is subjected to reviews and star-ratings as a matter of course. How do you deal with this level of judgement - on a project into which you’ve poured years of energy, passion, emotion and commitment? You know the book far too well to assess its impact on a first-time reader, so you’ve become quite needy and hungry for praise. But you also know that it’s impossible to please everyone. Even if you’ve made the best chocolate cake in the world, some people simply don’t like chocolate.

I’ve been lucky to have wonderful reviews so far, and I am so, so grateful to everyone who’s taken the trouble to write them. They can make or break a writer’s career, and I would urge readers to put a short review on Amazon even if they bought the book from somewhere else (and I’d also urge everyone to please support their local bookshops!) However, for my own sanity I’ve decided to limit how many Ellie and the Harp Maker reviews I read. They’re not there for me to crow or cry over; they exist for the benefit of other readers.

Besides, there are gigs lined up and harp-practice won't do itself. Also I’ve now heard back from my editors about book two. There's plenty in the pipeline. On, on with the writing!

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