Tag Archives: Interviews

Virtual Book Tour First Stop: Heidi Ruby Miller


Heidi Ruby Miller

Heidi lives in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She has also written under the names Heidi Ruby and Heidi Miller.

She has degrees in Anthropology and Geography and a Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from
Seton Hill University. Heidi is a travel writer who also writes speculative fiction. Heidi’s travel guide MOON Pennsylvania Camping was published by Avalon in May 2006.

You can read HEIDI’S PICK SIX author interviews, including one with M. D. Benoit, on her Live Journal ambasadora.

When she is not writing or traveling, Heidi is probably playing HALO, doing yoga, or hiking.

Heidi’s Pick Six are not only fun to read, but they’re very revealing of the person who answers. Heidi provides fifteen questions to the interviewee, of which he/she must choose six to answer. Hence the revelation, not only from the answers, but of the questions “picked” to answer. Heidi’s had some pretty cool writers answer her questions so far (Alan Dean Foster, Joshua Palmatier, Nalo Hopkinson, Maria V. Snyder, to name a few), so I’m pretty buzzed to be in such exalter company.

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I’ve been tagged!

Until my friend and blogger Verna Wilder tagged me, I had no idea what this game was. It’s a take on the old children’s game, except that instead of standing there and counting when you’re ‘it’, you have to reveal five things about yourself then tag five other people you know, like, love, and/or admire.

About me:

  • I didn’t speak English until I was twenty-one. I had studied it at university and knew enough to order a meal or talk about the weather when I was transferred to Halifax, Nova Scotia and put in charge of fifteen, non-French-speaking staff. I had to learn, and real fast.
  • I met my husband when I was twenty-one. We met on a 13th of May and by 13 August (of the same summer) we were living together. We were married a year later and have been a couple for 28 years. If you want to know my age, do the math.
  • I’m the laziest person I know. I’ve developed a technique where I do everything really efficiently so I have more time for my favorite sport, relaxing.
  • I don’t watch TV. Hate it. Find it a total waste of time. I use the internet for news from around the world. Will watch DVDs, though.
  • I’m fluent in three languages, and functional in two others. Fluent in French, English, Spanish. Can get by in Portuguese and Italian. I’m currently studying Italian more in depth. Next language for me: Mandarin Chinese.

Now that I’ve suffered through these revelations, here they are. (Darn, a lot of people I would’ve loved to tag don’t have blogs)

The Tagged:

  • Cheryl Swanson. Cheryl’s a one-person whirlwind with more energy than I have. She recently started a blog to promote her fellow authors from Zumaya and she writes incredible reviews. She also lives in Hawaii (one of the islands) and is known as Surfing Cheryl.
  • Eva Kende. Eva is a Hungarian-Canadian who has lived an incredible life, both in Hungary and in Canada. She recently published her childhood memoirs in Snapshots: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain.
  • Erin O’Brien. Erin likes to run around the internet… naked, talk about sex, and make hilarious comments on life in general.
  • Edward Willett. Ed is a multi-published author who is rare: he writes both fiction and non-fiction. He’s also the diligent and hard-working (I know how much work that takes) webmaster for the SF Canada site.
  • Christopher Stires. Another fellow author, Chris always has fun pieces on his blog. Chris lives in Southern California. Right now, with -11C and snow, neither Cheryl nor Chris are popular with me. I’m swiftly turning green.
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Kellylee Evans: gotta get her CD!

KellyleeKellylee Evans is a singer/songwriter who is launching her first CD today, Fight or Flight?. Her music is called urban jazz and, although she was described as “Sade meets Erykah Badu meets Norah Jones,” she reminds me more of a mix between Cassandra Wilson (for her interpretation of the music) and Tracy Chapman (for her intelligent, sensitive lyrics).

Kellylee writes all her songs, music and lyrics. She’s had limited public exposure so far but she placed second (and won $10,000) at the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition in September 2004. The judges were Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Flora Purim and Jimmy Scott.

You can buy Fight or Flight at amazon.com, or at CD Baby, where you can listen to extracts of all the songs on the CD. You can also visit her website. CD Baby also has commentary on Kellylee and the tracks on her CD. Here, in an interview with Kellylee, I’ve taken a more offbeat tangent and let her talk about her music.

Fight or Flight is your first CD. When did you decide you wanted to record, and how did it come about?

Well, I started writing my own music in 2002 after I had an allergic reaction to some medication and bought myself a trip to the hospital. The experience totally freaked me out and led to me finally focusing on my music career. One of my first songs, “I Don’t Want You To Love Me” is on the CD. For the most part, I had been a jazz singer of standards, but I felt like I needed a change. Being a singer who couldn’t play, read or write music, I always felt like such an outsider in the jazz world. I didn’t understand much of what was going on. I just enjoyed making sounds that made me happy and that made listeners happy. Still, that outsider feeling wasn’t so good, so I began to feel alienated from jazz. There was also an issue of taste. I really like “pop” music and I want to feel open to all kinds of sounds. I wasn’t sure how that desire fit within the jazz world. Every magazine I read seemed so caught up in what was jazz and what wasn’t. Then I became caught up in it too. I began to write my own music and I started to rebel so sharply against it being called jazz. Yet, everywhere I went, people that I played it for would say that it was jazz. To this day, I think of it as more “jazzy” as opposed to jazz. I think of it as just plain music. When I write, I don’t sit down and try to write a jazz song.

Anyway, you asked how the record came about. I decided in the fall of 2003 that I wanted to get the music recorded. I wanted to make this pop record, to make a clean break from my “jazz” identity. I was so afraid that people who had heard me as a jazz singer of standards wouldn’t be open to my own original tunes. But I didn’t really have any connections in the pop musician world. I had met Lonnie Plaxico, a bass player who was Cassandra Wilson’s musical director for around 10 years, at a jam session at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. I gave him a call and sent my music down to him, just guitar and voice stuff that I did with my friend Drew Gonsalves —who is in a great dub calypso group called Kobotown— and he agreed to put together a band for me and help me with my recording. I went down to New York in January 2004 and we rehearsed for 2 days and recorded for another 2. Once I got back home, I redid my vocals at AudioValley Recording Studio in Perth and finally had my CD. I also redid a couple more tunes in 2005 with another bassist/producer in New York named Carlos Henderson.

The very first time, on your way to the recording studio, what was going through your mind?

I was scared out of my mind. I had had vocal nodules in the year leading up to the recording and my voice wasn’t very strong. I was so nervous about booking that studio time, and having a permanent record of my vocal decline, it isn’t funny. But I was reading a lot of self-actualization books at the time and one of the constant themes was “leap before you are ready,” which seems counter-intuitive and crazy, but has really worked for me on more than one occasion. And it did on this occasion. My voice totally held up and I was ultimately happy that I had decided to take the chance and do the recording. Now, whenever I hesitate on leaping into the unknown, I think back on that time.

What’s the difference, for you, between singing your songs on a gig and recording them?

It really depends on how you approach singing. On the bulk of this record, the songs were achieved with one or two takes and a couple edits here and there. So, it is truly like singing live in that you take what you get, to a certain extent. I mean, the nice thing about recording is, if something is really bothering me, I can always fix it.

But I find with singing live, you take the good and the bad and you live with it. It’s a very humbling experience. There is also so much more energy in singing live and seeing the people. The attention and positive response can really build you up and create a magical experience. But then, I say that and the energy can totally work against you. I just did a large, high profile gig where I sang two songs in front of really important industry folks and they just talked and talked and talked. Now that is very humbling. The folks in front were shushing them and trying to being very polite and proper, but even their embarrassment for me and in the people that were talking comes back to me as energy and affects my performance. My embarrassment goes back into the music and it turns into a very painful experience for all involved. You then decide on how you are going to respond to it. I try to be positive about it, but it still hurts. I kept thinking that it was my job to be so amazing and compelling that they couldn’t help but listen. I guess I can’t let it get me down. I won’t let it get me down!

Then, you have another amazing performance where you’re singing and it’s so quiet you can hear yourself breathing and we all take the opportunity to let the music wash over us. That’s amazing. I live for those moments.

How about the musicians playing with you? How did you gather them around you?

I’ve been pretty lucky to work with some really amazing people over the past few years. Even in the beginning of my career, I was being taught how to get into the band experience by some of the best players in our city. The players on my CD are phenomenal as are the musicians who play with me live. I usually meet people when I go out to watch gigs. I’ll see a musician playing and make it a point of getting their contact info. Then, I can build the band. Sometimes, the musicians bring in people that they think would be great for our sound. That has worked the best so far.

Now that it’s all done, how do you hear the musical textures on the new CD?

I think the CD has a really neat vibe to it. People have told me that the music is soothing yet energizing. I love that idea. I’ve tried to incorporate many different music influences in the sound, especially my Caribbean roots. You’ll hear this pulse through a lot of the music, even more when we are playing live, as I get the music even closer to how I originally envisioned it.

I understand you write both music and lyrics. What usually speaks to you first, words, or melody?

I find both come equally. Sometimes I will be inspired by a phrase or word. Sometimes, I will hear a melody and work from there. Sometimes, I noodle around on the piano trying out different chord progressions and see what melody would sound good on top of it. I love writing music. It feels great to be singing music that I wholeheartedly endorse. I feel like I have a voice. Not that I have ever had a problem expressing myself, but I think people look at me as some friendly, bubbly flake and then listen to my lyrics and see that my emotions do run the gamut of the human experience.

What’s the difference, for you, between singing your own material and interpreting someone else’s?

There is this feeling of true authenticity of message. I love that. It’s like, you go to the card shop and you pick up card after card after card, trying to find the one that would best express your feelings to your loved one. The blank cards seem so daunting because you will have to come up with an acceptable gem on your own. Well, I feel like I am creating the content for those cards and it is a great feeling. People come up to me all the time and tell me how one song or the next really “spoke” to them, expressed their feelings on a topic. That is an honour in my books.

What was the first song you sang on your first gig?

I really can’t remember the name of the song, but I know that I was in kindergarten and I was singing a solo and it was a big deal for me. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to be a singer, along with a bunch of other aspirations, like being an OB/GYN and a lawyer and a dancer and an actress. So many dreams, so little time!

What’s the worst gig you’ve ever had?

That would have to be that one I was telling you about before where everyone talked. What made it so bad was the visibility of my embarrassment. We were on a very central big stage. Couldn’t really hide in a corner and we’ve played a couple of gigs before where people have talked. After the second or third song in when you realize that only a few die-hards are listening and for the rest you are just pleasant (you hope) background noise, the gig turns into a paid rehearsal and a chance to see which song will make people pay attention. You also start to focus on pleasing those few people that are actually listening too.

I’m happy to say that I haven’t played that many gigs like that. We’ve been really, really lucky. Either that or we haven’t played enough gigs!

What’s the relationship between the mental knowledge you have of the tune you’re singing, and your artistic expressions of it?

Well, once you know what the melody and lyrics are (much easier when you have written the tune) that’s when you just jump and start to try different things. Sometimes I find that I will get very used to singing a tune one certain way and then, one day, something will happen where I will take a step into a new, different direction and the whole song changes, often for the better. Sometimes, you just let those mistakes fade away into the ether.

Do you like to listen to lots of styles of music?

Many different styles and sometimes nothing at all. I find that it is much easier for me to create when I am in a vacuum. When I am not listening to new music constantly, I can better determine what I want my sound to be. When I am listening, I’ll just press scan on the radio or watch the different music channels on television or on the Galaxie radio network on television. Country, opera, classical, hip-hop, world.

How do you define what is good (as opposed to what you like) when you hear someone play or sing?

Hmmm, what is good for me is usually what I like. If I don’t like it, it isn’t good for me. Might be good for someone else, but I try my best to follow my own feelings on music.

What was the first jazz record that made you go “Wow!”?

I think it was listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing “Mr. Paganini.”

What’s next for you?

Well, with the release of the CD, I will finally be able to get the music out to as many people as possible. Many performance opportunities are coming up and I love getting out there. You really can’t tell what kind of experience you will have; it’s a spin of the roulette wheel every time. Will you mess up and be upset? Mess up and be okay about it? Have an amazing performance, but still be down on yourself about some little thing. Have an amazing performance and acknowledge it, accept it and praise it. Will you be well received or ignored? You just never know, but the risk is still worth it for me. I love singing.

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Snapshots… Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain


An interview with Eva Kende

When, at the age of 15 ½ Eva Kende snuck out of communist Hungary in 1957 with her mother and other refugees, she entered a very different world than what she had known throughout her childhood. She admits an abiding love for her adopting country, Canada, while still steeped deeply in her Hungarian culture. Almost fifty years after her emigration to Canada, Eva has decided to share the experiences of her childhood with us.

Q.: Eva, what decided you to write Snapshots?

A: This is a hard question to answer. Several factors converged. First with the communications tool of the internet, I made an effort and united the members of my father’s family spread around the world. We started to reminisce. Our frequent trips to Hungary in recent years gave me the opportunity to revisit scenes and friends of my childhood which tweaked my memory. I joined a Hungarian discussion group where we often recalled the past. A number of friends questioned me about the past and last but not least Noah, my older grandson, proved to me that he can recall, in detail, events of his life before he turned two. I started to write down some of my stories. Couple of them appeared in anthologies, another is a favourite Christmas story published on the web, and all were very well received. Especially Tale of One Refugee that appeared in Looking in…Portraits of the Canadian Soul , brought a lot of feed back. Someone even used it as resource material in a social studies curriculum.

Q: When did you start writing Snapshots?

A: I started to try to organize all this material about five years ago. It’s been a long journey to get it to the point of publication. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the revolution, so it’s an appropriate time to publish this material.

Q: Some of these memories must be painful for you. Why did you feel it necessary to put these memories to paper?

A: Those of us who escaped after the 1956 revolution call ourselves ’56-ers to distinguish ourselves from the various immigration waves of Hungarians to North America that came before us and some that came later.

Talking to a number of descendants of ’56-ers, I felt that there was a need to talk about the details of everyday life as we lived it. Many of the ’56-ers either don’t want to talk about their past or do not have the communications skills to express what they have lived through, so their children don’t even know what to ask. I hope that this book will open a dialogue in a lot of homes and bring the generations closer.

Watching the orders rolling in, I am pleased to find that a lot of non-’56-ers and non-Hungarians are very interested in this subject. I think with recent political events, freedom and its meaning is on a lot of people’s mind. They want to better understand what people in other political systems experienced.

Q: Tell us a bit about your life in Canada since you arrived in 1957.

A: At first I was put into a mixed school, grades 5 to 12 to learn rudimentary English. From there they placed me into grade 6 in a regular school, but in the fall of 1957, I took my rightful place in grade ten. My mother remarried in 1957. Thanks to my new family, considerate teachers and a lot of sensitive school chums, I integrated into Canadian society rapidly.

With all that help, I was accepted into Science at the University of Manitoba and earned my degree in 1963. During the summers I was a research assistant in Botany and worked in research at the Geological Survey in Ottawa in the summer break of 1962. After graduation I moved to Toronto, working as a research assistant in hospitals and at the University. I met and married my husband, also a ’56-er, in Toronto. His career moves took us back to Winnipeg for a while, where my son Leslie was born and where I worked as a research assistant at the University of Manitoba Medical School. Our next move was to Edmonton, then to Calgary. I continued doing research.

In 1984, I wrote and published Eva’s Hungarian Kitchen, a cookbook that still has a dedicated following. When my son graduated from High School and went to Queen’s in 1986, I retired to Canmore in the Alberta Rocky Mountains. In 1998 I completed another cookbook, Eva’s Kitchen Confidence, to help beginners be flexible in their kitchen art. It was published by DiskUs Publishing.

I am always busy with community work, tole painting, crocheting, genealogy and travel. We want to see as much of the world as possible before we become too crotchety to enjoy it.

Q: What do you think of the political situation in Hungary today?

A: Hungary and its people are having a hard time. To go from a state-controlled economy (ownership, health care, pensions and price control) to a market-driven one with all its insecurities in 15 short years is difficult, especially for the older people. Exercising the right to democratic process with multi-party elections has to be learned from experience. The learning curve is steep.

Q: You say that many of your father’s family are still in Hungary. How have they fared since you left?

A: I have only one cousin and his family living in Hungary. The others escaped in 1956. One lives in Vienna and one in Chicago. Our eldest cousin passed away a few years ago, but we keep in touch with her daughter in Los Angeles. The cousin in Budapest is doing well. He seemed to have moved easily from the government-controlled publishing industry to private enterprise. He is well respected as editor of the complex website news magazine of the main Internet provider and is the proud grandfather of two lovely boys. I drew on his experience in layout and cover art in preparing Snapshots for printing. His daughter and son-in-law are both teachers, experiencing the frustrations of financial restraints that most young people have to face anywhere.

Q: What is your favourite memory of Hungary?

A: It’s difficult to choose one of the many peppered thoughout Snapshots. The summers in Miscolc-Tapolca, theatre productions and of course that Sunday in Szentendre, stand out.

Q: What do you see in your future? Any other similar writing?

A: I want to take some time off, but everyone who knows me laughs when I say that. I have several short pieces in various stages of completion, mostly about my grandchildren. I should polish them and submit them to an appropriate magazine.

Q: Where can we buy Snapshots?

A: For the time being it can be ordered through my website for direct shipping. Soon I will also make the ebook version available too. I am just beginning to approach independent bookstores and one of them promised to put it on Amazon as well.

Thanks, Eva. I hope many Hungarian friends and expatriates, as well as their children, will find answers in your book, and that those interested in history, regardless of their nationalities, enjoy Snapshots: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain.

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