Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Eileen Cook

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Eileen Cook

Eileen Cook is the author of many books for young readers and teens. Just released, Unraveling Isobel covers topics that will appeal to many teens, from internet dating to step-parents, in a darkly humorous tone.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Eileen tells Open Book about the natural talent she would most like to possess, happy birds and the evils of brussels sprouts.

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.

You can win a copy of Unraveling Isobel! Just send your name and address to contests@openbooktoronto.com by Friday, January 20, 2012, and you will be entered to win!

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What is your dream of happiness?
An entire day free from obligations, a good book and my dogs lying around my feet.

What is your idea of misery?
Trapped in the centre seat of an airplane in coach next to a person who insists on detailing what happened on their favorite reality TV show in mind-numbing detail.

Where would you like to live?
I would love to have a house by the ocean. There is something about the sound of water that completely relaxes me.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Intelligence, kindness and a sense of humour. It's also a bonus if they are willing to kill any random spiders without saying things like "I don't know why you are afraid of something so small."

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Intelligence, kindness and a sense of humour. I'm also impressed if they have a sense of style, I consider myself lucky if my clothes are clean.

What is your principal fault?
I can be a people-pleaser. I want everyone to be happy and worry too much about what people think.

What do you value most about your friends?
Dependability. I am lucky enough to have a few friends that I know I could count on in any situation. Knowing there are people you could call at 3am and they would pick up the phone is a good thing.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Dishonesty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
I worry too much. It might be the curse of the active writer imagination, but I am capable of imagining all the zillion of ways things could go wrong.

What is your favourite virtue?
Creativity, I love when people see things in new and different ways.

What is your favourite occupation?
A writer. This is my dream job.

What would you like to be?
Immortal. There are so many things to do, so many books to read, so many places to travel.... I need more time!

What is your favourite colour?
Blue or green, depending on my mood.

What is your favourite flower?
Bright Gerber daisies.

What is your favourite bird?
Robins. They aren't very exciting, but they seem like a happy bird.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
I just read a biography of Catherine the Great, she was a gusty woman.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
How is it possible to narrow this down? I really enjoy John Irving, Kate Morton, Margaret Atwood, JK Rowling. I could go on for a long time.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Harry Potter, Elizabeth Bennett, Scarlett O'Hara.

Who are your heroes in real life?
I admire anyone who goes after their dream, especially when it is hard and it would be easier to give up.

Who is your favourite painter?
I love art, everything from classics like Degas and Sargent, to modern children's book illustrators.

What is your favourite drink?
Tea. I'm hooked on several flavors from David's Teas. On the days when things aren't going well then it would be red wine.

What is it you most dislike?
Brussels sprouts are right up there. I also loathe anyone who would hurt an animal.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Coordination. I can't dance. I can't do a cartwheel, there are days I am lucky to walk across the room without falling over something. It would also be nice to sing without it sounding like someone stepped on a cat.

How do you want to die?
A long time from now, quickly, preferably in my sleep.

What is your current state of mind?
Content.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Being published. I've always wanted to be a writer and seeing my books on the shelf gives me tremendous satisfaction. I've gotten better about squealing and jumping up and down in the bookstore, now I play it cool and keep the jumping up and down inside my head.


Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. When she was unable to find any job postings for world famous author, she went to Michigan State University and became a counselor so she could at least afford her book buying habit. But real people have real problems, so she returned to writing because she liked having the ability to control the ending. Which is much harder with humans.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at her website and on Twitter at @Eileenwriter. Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

For more information about Unraveling Isobel please visit the Simon & Schuster Canada website.

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

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with great Canadian writers.

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