Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Gina McMurchy-Barber

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Gina McMurchy-Barber

Adventurous young Peggy Henderson returns for a third time in Governor General's Literary Award nominee Gina McMurchy-Barber newest book, Bone Deep (Dundurn Press). For both new fans and readers familiar with Peggy, Bone Deep is a rollicking adventure, involving a 200-year old shipwreck, risking scuba diving exhibitions and (even scarier) a meddling great aunt dead set on making a lady out of Peggy.

Today Gina joins us to take on the Proust Questionnaire, where she tells us about the household chore she'd love to skip, a fantastic summer in Borneo and the personal habits of crows.

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?
I’d like to be debt free! Then I’d cut back my job to two days a week so I can do more writing, spending time outdoors, visiting friends, volunteering and yes, more time for reading.

What is your idea of misery?
Misery is having to clean my own bathrooms — I have two sons….so read whatever you want into that one!

Where would you like to live?
I really want to live where I am living — a hundred year old farm house on four acres. There isn’t a proper right angle in the whole house and ants like to visit frequently, but I love the open fields in the bright sunlight, seeing the whole sky, the mist in the morning, hearing the frogs and coyotes in the evening — it’s magical to me.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
I admire a man who has nerve in the midst of stressful situations.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
I appreciate women who don’t mind the messy things in life and know how to use power tools.

What is your chief characteristic?
I don’t know if it’s my chief characteristic, but one that defines me is my affection — I’m all about the hugs.

What is your principal fault?
I don’t usually measure up in my own mind.

What do you value most about your friends?
I appreciate it when friends take time out of their busy lives to email me or call to see how I’m doing. I also appreciate it when they answer my emails sooner than later — especially when I’m waiting for an answer to a question.

What is your favourite virtue?
Can’t just pick one — I value good manners in people — you know, please, thank you, I appreciate that… But forgiveness is important too and generosity.

What is your favourite occupation?
I think being a field biologist would have to be up there. I did a summer in Borneo following orangutans and that still ranks as one of the best times in my life.

What is your favourite bird?
I love crows. Lots of people don’t like them, but I like that they’re cheeky, curious and clever. I know they can be rotten little buggers too — like stealing unattended lunches, or can be a danger to smaller animals. But crows are also extremely loyal to their family, even to the point of self-sacrifice.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Einstein is up there as one of my favourite historical figures. Certainly for his contributions to science, but even more because of his metaphysical curiosity and openness. “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.” Einstein

What is it you most dislike?
I most dislike the way a lot of farm animals are treated before they become bacon, or chicken nuggets, or someone’s hamburger patty. I dislike it so much I became a vegetarian — thirty years ago.

What is your motto?
To err is human, to forgive, divine.


Gina McMurchy-Barberis the recipient of the Governor General's Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History. Her YA novel Free as a Bird was nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award and her books have been nominated for the Silver Birch, the Willow Award, and the VOYA Top Shelf Award. Gina lives in Surrey, British Columbia.

Check out all the Proust Questionnaire interviews in our archives.

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