EJ Harper Interview
The Indie Book Butler Interview.
Indie Book Butler: Let’s start things off with an introduction. Tell us a little about yourself for those not already aware of you and your work.
EJ Harper: I grew up in the North East of England and left in 1988 to study for a PhD at Nottingham University. Following a career in science, I turned my hand to the craft of creative writing to realise my lifetime ambition of writing a novel. The art of storytelling fascinates me so, somewhat unusually, I decided to develop my début novel as an audiobook. In January 2021 Lazarus Remembered, a story told with words and music was finally released. A contemporary family drama set mainly in Australia, it runs to 12 hours and comprises an original music score by my husband, Andy Harper. Our creative inspiration is partly fuelled by our environment: we live in a 12th-century mill in South West France together with our small family of cats and dog.
IBB: You’ve got twenty words to entice us to read your book(s). What would you say?
EJH: A unique storytelling experience that illustrates how we can love so strongly yet lose so easily.
IBB: Where do you like to write?
EJH: Wherever the moment catches me.
IBB: Is there anything you must have in order to write?
EJH: Inspiration. Deadlines help too.
IBB: What books have influenced you most, both as a person and as an author?
EJH: As a child, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia: they were the first books that unleashed a sense of the magic of stories. From an author’s perspective I’d highlight Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters as novels that deliver a satisfying emotional punch and a great twist; characteristics I value in storytelling. My first audiobook was Wanting by Richard Flanagan and I found the listening experience transformed an already-brilliant story into something unforgettable. This confirmed my love for audio as a storytelling medium.
IBB: What is the one thing that has helped you develop most as an author?
EJH: Other authors. Every novel I’ve read has helped develop my love and understanding of literature.
IBB: What do you want to achieve most from your writing?
EJH: To give readers the satisfaction of a great story. The idea that I can transport readers in the way other authors have transported me is hugely inspiring. The power of an audiobook to deliver a truly immersive experience is one of the reasons I chose this medium for my début novel.
IBB: Have you received a favorite review of your work?
EJH: There have been many that I’ve enjoyed. A particular favourite included the line, ‘I missed lunch listening to this’. (Thank you, Betsy).
IBB: Were there any particular parts of the writing/publishing process that you struggled with?
EJH: I love metaphors but, disappointingly, discovered early on that writing great metaphors is not a natural strength of mine. However, I keep working on it. At least there’s a chance to improve on this whereas the editing process will forever be the stuff of nightmares.
IBB: Is there something specific you do to improve your writing?
EJH: I read and listen to as many novels as possible. When something works well I try to analyse why. Equally when something works less well I try to figure out what could be done to improve it.
IBB: What is the ideal relationship between editor and author?
EJH: One of mutual respect. The author has to feel confident their creative vision can thrive whilst the editor’s perspective shapes it for the audience.
IBB: If you had a direct line to someone who loves or hates your writing, what would you say?
EJH: Thank you for investing your time to read my work. To the lovers, I’m thrilled and to the haters, best find someone else.
IBB: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
EJH: Work hard. When you first start out don’t expect your work to be good. It will be one day but, at first, chances are it’s at best average. That’s fine. It will improve.
IBB: What does your writing future hold for you?
EJH: I’m working on a second novel that should be completed in 2021. While I’m curious about other writing opportunities such as short stories or screen-writing, my heart is with novels.
IBB: How have you set about the task of creating enticing cover art?
EJH: The cover art has to be an expression of the fundamental essence of the story. Find the heart of the story and the cover art follows. In Lazarus Remembered a huge gum tree features in the story and is almost a character in its own right, thus it was a natural step to incorporate it into the cover art.
IBB: How often do you read? What genre?
EJH: Every day, several hours a day. My go-to genre is historical fiction but I try to read a range of genres. The only one I actively avoid is horror. My imagination is wild enough without feeding it the dark stuff.
IBB: Before we let you escape, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
EJH: I was recently interviewed by Red Szell who presents Read On, an audiobook show for RNIB Connect Radio. He’s an extraordinarily inspirational man. Despite losing his sight some years ago Red continued to pursue his love of mountain climbing and writing, and combined his passion for both in his 2015 book The Blind Man of Hoy. I have nothing but admiration for Red’s achievements and urge people to check out his work as a writer and broadcaster;
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck in the future.
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