Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Ashley Spires

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Ashley Spires

Binky Under Pressure (Kids Can Press) is the latest offering from writer and illustrator Ashley Spires. The titular Binky is the adorably rectangular feline protagonist of Ashley's wildly popular series of picture books.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Ashley tells Open Book about animal lovers, cryogenics and her famous seven-layer dip.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.

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What is your dream of happiness?
Creating projects I’m proud of, living close to family, eating lots of sweets and being surrounded by lots of cats and dogs and animals in general.

What is your idea of misery?
Having a loved one, human or animal, that is very sick.

Where would you like to live?
A glass bubble home that overlooks the water and the mountains and that always smells like fresh baked bread.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Humour, humility and a willingness to do chores.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Humour, humility and shopping stamina.

What is your chief characteristic?
I have a tendency to be a bit glib.

What is your principal fault?
My hair responds horribly to humidity.

What is your greatest extravagance?
CLOTHES! I have way too many clothes for someone who rarely spends her days with anyone but her pets.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
There are none. I expect everyone around me to be perfect.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their senses of humour and their tolerance of my constantly talking about the cute thing my cat or dog did. Speaking of which, the other day my cat, Fran, did the cutest thing…

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
I don’t trust or care for anyone who doesn’t like animals. Don’t even get me started on anyone who is cruel to animals.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
I can be a workaholic.

What is your favourite virtue?
I make a seven-layer dip that will change your life.

What is your favourite occupation?
Saving the world by fighting big business and creating ecological awareness in those around me. Nah, just kidding, it’s watching television. Man, I love TV.

What would you like to be?
The kind of person who saves the world by fighting big business and creating ecological awareness while watching television.

What is your favourite colour?
Royal Blue.

What is your favourite flower?
Gerbera Daisies.

What is your favourite bird?
My dog has five toy ducks. I like the one that DOESN’T squeak.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Rosa Parks was pretty kick a$%.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Gotta say, Hitler sucked.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Yikes, I’m limited by space but to be all over the map here — Anne-Marie MacDonald, Oliver Jeffers, Roald Dahl, to name a few.

Who are your favourite poets?
Roald Dahl.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My Mom, my Dad and my Grandma.

Who is your favourite painter?
David Roberts.

Who is your favourite musician?
My husband.

What is your favourite food?
A perfectly ripened nectarine.

What is your favourite drink?
An oversteeped cup of black tea, strong enough to walk on, with honey and milk.

What are your favourite names?
There is a British actor named Benedict Cumberbatch. Best. Name. Ever.

What is it you most dislike?
Not having control over where I live. And Cilantro.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Talking to animals like Dr. Doolittle would be handy.

How do you want to die?
After they’ve frozen me and all the other national treasures for safe keeping, the power goes out on the ‘S’ freezer and I and all the other poor ‘S’ surnamed saps will thaw too much for us to be saved so they’ll make us into shark food, because by then sharks will probably run at least two of the major continents.

What is your current state of mind?
Relaxed, introspective, and wondering what’s for supper.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Getting to do what I love as my career.

What is your motto?
“Ah, well. Next time.”


For a while Ashley Spires thought that animation was her future, but then photography caught her eye, which led her to bookmaking courses. These classes opened her eyes to the world of illustration and she never looked back. Delighted that there was, in fact, a career that allowed her to remain in her pajamas, hang out with her cats and be productive at the same time, illustration is the perfect job for her.

Despite the quizzical looks and baffled expressions of loved ones, 2009 saw Ashley make the big move from the coast to the prairies, where she now resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Life on the prairies will allow her to indulge in her imagination and continue anthropomorphizing her cats for her own creative endeavors.

Like Binky, Ashley does not take kindly to insects, though she rarely eats them. She has ingested a number of bugs accidentally during her frequent jogs and bike rides, but trust me, she didn’t enjoy it.

For more information about Binky Under Pressure please visit the Kids Can Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

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