As the rest of us settle into a quiet January, Cambridge’s Holly Christina will be at the ASB Classic in Auckland.
She won’t be playing, nor will she be ball girl as she often has been in past seasons. Instead, the New Zealand singer-songwriter will be among those entertaining the crowds. It’s a gig the then plucky 24-year-old picked up after giving her card to the ASB Classic’s chief executive some six years ago, suggesting it might be an idea to offer live entertainment to fans between the games. Turned out it was, and Holly Christina has been performing at the Classic ever since.
“I’ve been upgraded to the Treehouse from the entertainment stage,” she grinned. “Now, the Classic is one of favourite summer gigs.”
Holly Christina, aka H.C. Roberts in her new literary life, has woven elements of those tennis and musical worlds into her recently-published first novel, the 410-page ‘Harp and the Lyre’ fiction piece she describes as alternative fantasy for young adults. It tells the stories of five teens facing today’s teen-centric issues – the clash of tech giants Harp and Lyre, gaming, climate change, influencers, how to navigate real life and an online life in tandem.
The book features four maps and 14 songs, the latter embedded or unlocked via QR codes, making for an unusual reading and listening experience.
Holly Christina has always had a passion for music and storytelling. She learned the piano early on, then the flute and guitar at around 12. It was the guitar that gave her the freedom to write songs and has been her instrument of choice ever since. She recorded her first album at 15, and has done around eight more since then, some released the old way, some digitally.
She has been teaching guitar since she was 16. “I work mostly with teens, so I really get what they think about.”
The novel is subtitled ‘Exposed’ and is intended as book one in what she hopes will be a fulsome series. She has left some threads that suggest there is more to come, and is already well underway with planning the next few.
Holly Christina’s own reading choice is generally more classical, things like ‘War and Peace’ rather than fantasy. The ‘Harp and the Lyre’ was seven years in the making. “It went through a number of iterations … started off as a musical in a high school, then a play before I finally settled on a novel.”
Her 2019 move from Auckland to a quieter life in Cambridge, combined with Covid lockdowns, gave her the impetus she needed to write, and she spent most of the last year doing a series of re-writes. When she first came to Cambridge, she joined the bellringers at St Andrew’s Church for a while and wrote a song entitled ‘Cambridge’ which she debuted at the church’s 2021 sesquicentennial.
Now slightly exhausted, Holly Christina wants to get her debut novel off to a good start before heading down the frenetic writing tunnel again.
“It’s been quite a journey,” she mused. “I think this summer is going to be about giving my brain a rest …”