Evy Journey, author of Hello, Agnieszka!

Dear Readers,

Today, please welcome Evy Journey, author of Hello, Agnieszka.

Elise thought she knew her mother. Agnieszka Halverson is a caring woman, a great cook, and an exceptional piano player; but living in a secure, predictable world, she’s also a little dull. Her world is devastated when her oldest son attempts suicide, and Elise finds her mother has a past—both sweet and bitter—that she must now reveal to explain the suicide attempt.

Today, Evy joins us to talk about her book.  Welcome, Evy!

I was interested in reading Hello Agnieszka because of the description of the mother as a gifted musician.  My background is in music, and my books center around not only a modern symphony orchestra, but Shawn and Niall who respectively play trombone and harp.  They say write what you know.  What is your own background in music?  Do you play piano, too?  

I have no formal education in music. But I'm passionate about classical music. I programmed our audio system to stream from classical music stations in Paris and Switzerland; I have a large music library; and my husband and I go to classical music performances. I have learned to differentiate pieces, a Mozart from a Beethoven, for example.

I also believe in the healing power of music. So, while I’m not a performer, I can say music is very important for keeping me sane and happy. I have a quote from Pablo Casals after the copyright page of the book that says it all: Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.

A very beautiful quote, and very true!  What are some of your favorite pieces?

My favorite piano pieces include Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2, Mozart's Piano Concerto #23, Schubert's Piano Trio #2. I can keep going. What I listen to often depends on my mood.

What other similarities do you have to Agnieszka's family?

My parents also immigrated from a country where political turmoil was brewing, but they were both professionals who spoke English. I was baptized a Catholic but I'm not devout. I know what it's like belonging to a minority group.

Family secrets and unknown family histories is a common theme in novels.  What drew you to this particular theme?

I guess because, as you say, it's universal. We all have families and they’re a big part of our lives.

Also, I think Elise's relationship with her mother is typical. We often assume mothers are mothers and we don't imagine that they might have had colorful pasts. Sometimes, children may unconsciously assume their parents had no life before they were born. This fact struck me when some of my nephews were looking at old pictures my mother had. They couldn’t believe how we, their parents, aunts and uncles, looked when we were about their age.

Tell us about researching the novel. What things did you have to learn about that were outside your experience?  How did you go about learning these things?

I didn’t know a thing about living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and what it's like to be Polish. My husband provided a lot of info because he went to a university in Pittsburgh in the seventies (the time of Agnieszka’s youth), and he's Polish. We spent hours talking about his family history and members of his extended family. I realized I didn’t know much about his roots so our talk “sessions” were not only useful and interesting, they were also eye-opening.

I also did online research on Polish history and the role of religion in its culture. That was my first intro to the Black Madonna. Apart from that, I did some research on soda fountains and the significance of the seventies hit, American Pie.

Aunt Jola was the most vivid character in the book, both tragic and colorful.  Her life, her successes, her difficulties, are all so real and three-dimensional that my guess is of all the characters in the books, she is someone you knew.  Is she based on a real person or entirely made up?

Aunt Jola is more a composite than one based on a specific person. I have several aunts since my mother came from a family of five girls and my father had three sisters. I also lived for a few years with a very loving and supportive grandmother (she played the violin) and a couple of aunts. One of these two went through some devastating heartaches from unfulfilled promises which I witnessed as a child. I guess they made a lasting impression on me. Another aunt was like a sister and a third acted like a surrogate mother. So, you see, aunts were a significant force in my growing-up years.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

As far as “published” fiction is concerned, the earliest I remember is a short story I wrote at 14 which made it into the school paper. But it seems I’ve always written essays/nonfiction for school, including a couple of graduate theses.

What other novels have you written?

Hello Agnieszka is Book 2 in a series of three standalone books. Hello My Love is Book 1 and Welcome Reluctant Stranger is Book 3. Before that, I wrote Margaret of the North, a sequel to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I have a book of short stories, too, called Brief Encounters with Solitary Souls. Two of those short stories are set in Paris.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m working on a fifth novel for which I have no title yet. The heroine works in a high-end restaurant so there are many references to food and cooking. After that, I’d like to write one that has art in it because that’s another one of my interests.

About the Author

Evy Journey has always been fascinated with words and seduced by beautiful prose. She loves Jane Austen and invokes her spirit every time she spins tales of love, loss, and finding one's way—stories she interweaves with mystery or intrigue and sets in various locales. SPR (Self Publishing Review) awarded Evy the 2015 Independent Woman Author bronze for her writing. She's lived and traveled in many places, from Asia to Europe. Often she's ended up in Paris, though—her favorite place in the world. She's an observer-wanderer. A flâneuse, as the French would say. The mind is what fascinates her most. Armed with a Ph.D., she researched and spearheaded the development of mental health programs. And wrote like an academic. Not a good thing if you want to sound like a normal person. So, in 2012, she began to write fiction (mostly happy fiction) as an antidote.


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