Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Scott Chantler

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Scott Chantler

Most recently the author and illustrator of The Sign of the Black Rock (Kids Can Press), Scott Chantler is the mind behind the popular Three Thieves graphic novel series. The Sign of the Black Rock is the second book in the sequence, with a third, The Captive Prince, forthcoming this fall.

In his answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Scott tells Open Book about intellectual shortcuts, truth and humour and his unorthodox taste in flowers.

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?
A long, healthy life in which I could do a new book every winter, then take every summer off to go canoeing.

What is your idea of misery?
The company of humourless, intolerant people.

Where would you like to live?
I guess I’m supposed to say someplace like Paris or Hawaii, but truth be told: Stratford, Ontario. It’s got a nice small-town vibe, but it’s also a major cultural centre thanks to the Festival. Best of both worlds. I live not far from there, and hope to make it where I retire.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Loyalty, integrity, honesty and a free-thinking intellect.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Loyalty, integrity, honesty and a free-thinking intellect.

What is your chief characteristic?
Independence.

What is your principal fault?
Self-centredness. It’s the ugly flipside of the above.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My wife and I eat out a LOT. We probably shouldn’t, as it’s expensive. But we’re both so busy, and we enjoy it.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
I tend to think of religion as something of an intellectual shortcut. But I also understand that some people are “wired” for faith, the way that some people are “wired” for reason. And that there’s a considerable spectrum between the two extremes. So I try to cut my religious pals some slack (usually).

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
People who won’t extend me the same courtesy as above.

What do you value most about your friends?
They’re easy-going, for the most part. I gravitate toward people who haven’t let life beat them. Who haven’t lost their sense of humour, who are still enthusiastic about things and who aren’t easily offended. Because man, those are rare qualities.

What is your favourite virtue?
Truth. I was tempted to say humour, but that’s a form of truth, too. My experience, both with my writing and in life, is that people don’t respond to anything quite the way that they respond to honesty.

What is your favourite occupation?
Cartoonist!

What would you like to be?
If not a cartoonist? A film director. Or a musician of some kind (I’ll bet that’s a pretty common answer).

What is your favourite colour?
Black. It’s dramatic. And always in style.

What is your favourite flower?
Was going to skip this question, but the ten year-old boy in me is shouting “Venus fly trap!”

What is your favourite bird?
The Great Blue Heron.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Pierre Trudeau.

What character in history do you most dislike?
It’s my understanding that Adolf Hitler was something of a jerk.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Maclean.

Who are your favourite poets?
William Shakespeare and Robert Frost.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Atticus Finch and Samwise Gamgee.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Legendary cartoonist Will Eisner, whose devotion to story and insistence on owning his own work has made him a role model both artistically and when I’m wearing my “business hat.” But generally, I find real life sadly lacking in decent role models.

Who is your favourite painter?
Rembrandt.

Who is your favourite musician?
Living: Jack White.
Dead: Duke Ellington.

What is your favourite food?
I don’t think I could ever choose between fajitas and pizza.

What is your favourite drink?
Coca-Cola.

What are your favourite names?
I gave them to my two sons: Miles and Mason. They’re old-fashioned, manly names.

What is it you most dislike?
So many things. But I think they can all be collected under an umbrella labelled “small-mindedness.” Stupidity, lack of self-awareness, racism, irresponsibility, humourlessness, opinionatedness, ideology, rudeness, snobbery...there are just so many ways for people to behave thoughtlessly.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
I’m not a big believer in natural talent. It’s taken 40 years for me to learn to draw and tell stories passably well, and it’s only on account of near-constant practice and immersing myself in theory. I’d like to be able to play the piano, but I understand that people don’t just drop out of the womb knowing how.

How do you want to die?
Meaningfully.

What is your current state of mind?
I’m wondering how many people are going to actually read all the way to #32.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Maintaining a high-profile career while being a stay-at-home dad has tested every inch of my patience and endurance. But I like to think that I’ve done a pretty good job of both.

What is your motto?
Ironically, given my atheism, it’s from the Old Testament. It’s Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it gladly. Because there is no work, love, knowledge, or wisdom in the grave.”


Scott Chantler is the author of all-ages fantasy adventure series Three Thieves (the first book of which, Tower of Treasure, won the Joe Shuster Award for Best Comic for Kids in 2011) and graphic memoir Two Generals, which was based on his grandfather's experiences in the Second World War. It was nominated for two Eisner Awards, two Joe Shuster Awards and the Ontario Library Association's White Pine Award for Non-Fiction. Chantler lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with his wife and two young sons. He is presently working on the fourth Three Thieves book, The King's Dragon.

For more information about The Sign of the Black Rock 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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