Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Rachel Hartman

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Rachel Hartman

Rachel Hartman's young adult debut, Seraphina (Random House Canada), has been causing all sorts of buzz in the fantasy community. Seraphina tells the tale of its titular heroine, who lives in a world where dragons (who can take human form) have struck an uneasy peace with humans.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Rachel tells Open Book about the importance of dancing, the unnatural natural talent she'd like to possess and her cheeky personal motto.

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?
The freedom to make art, loved ones around me, and enough time for contemplation.

What is your idea of misery?
The flu.

Where would you like to live?
With my husband, son, and dog, in the most beautiful city in the world. Coincidentally, I already live there.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
A lively intellect, a sense of humour and a kind heart.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
A lively intellect, a sense of humour and a kind heart.

What is your chief characteristic?
I love to laugh.

What is your principal fault?
I’m a bit of a pushover.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Anger, disorganization.

What do you value most about your friends?
They laugh at my jokes and they help me keep things in perspective.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
An unwillingness to try.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
A tendency to get overwhelmed and overstimulated.

What is your favourite virtue?
Compassion.

What is your favourite occupation?
Dancing, or maybe thinking.

What would you like to be?
A good partner, a good mother, a good friend.

What is your favourite colour?
Reddish-orange or reddish purple or sometimes plain old red.

What is your favourite flower?
Orange cosmos.

What is your favourite bird?
Great blue heron.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Epicurus.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Does Godwin’s Law apply here? Is the interview over if I say Hitler?

Who are your favourite prose authors?
George Eliot, Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold.

Who are your favourite poets?
Euripides, Neruda, Whitman.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Tiffany Aching, Sam Vimes, Frodo, Elizabeth Bennett.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Teachers, parents, Terry Pratchett.

Who is your favourite painter?
Marc Chagall.

Who is your favourite musician?
Iarla O’Lionaird

What is your favourite food?
Blueberries or cherries. I am also embarrassingly fond of cheese.

What is your favourite drink?
Tea.

What are your favourite names?
Aoife, Hector, Lucian, Hypatia.

What is it you most dislike?
Feeling rushed and overscheduled.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
I suppose flying is considered an unnatural talent?

How do you want to die?
Subtly, so I don’t notice I’ve done it.

What is your current state of mind?
Merry. Curious. Caffeinated.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Living to age forty, although I plan to outdo myself in 2013.

What is your motto?
Ideas are like cockroaches. There’s always more under the fridge.


Rachel Hartman was born in Kentucky, but has lived a variety of places including Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, England and Japan. She has a BA in Comparative Literature, although she insists it should have been a BS because her undergraduate thesis was called "Paradox and Parody in Don Quixote and the satires of Lucian." She eschewed graduate school in favor of drawing comic books. She now lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family, their whippet and a talking frog and salamander.

For more information about Seraphina please visit the Random House Canada 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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JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications

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