The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today: Fracaswell Hyman, author of the contemporary MG novels, MANGO DELIGHT (Sterling, 2017) and SUMMER IN THE CITY (2020).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? My idea of perfect happiness is waking up on a beautiful fall morning with the trees outside my window a beautiful burnt orange. As I stretch and yawn, I smile at the realization that I have completed all my deadlines and I don’t need to hurry to get out of bed, so I go back to sleep. Later in the day, I meet a couple of good friends for brunch, where we discuss film and theater with absolutely no thought or mention of our maladies. In the evening, I will arrive at the theater, take my seat, row six, center aisle. The row in front of me will be taken up by the extremely short, elderly members of a theater club whose number-one rule is: no talking once the play has begun! After an emotionally satisfying and entertaining performance, I Uber back home to bed, where I fall asleep perusing my Playbill.
What is your greatest fear? Right now, because of the pandemic, my greatest fear is never performing as a part of or seeing live theatre again!
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I am a horrible procrastinator. Over the years, I’ve tried to convince myself that procrastination is a part of my process. Still, the agony and anxiety that builds up just before I finally sit down at my desk and get on with it is awful.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Hubris.
Which living person do you most admire? Michelle or Barack Obama. Either one, take your pick.
What is your greatest extravagance? Row six, center aisle, Broadway tickets.
What is your current state of mind? Longing–and waiting for the new normal to kick in, so I can continue to enjoy the things I love in whatever new form they take.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Humility, when it holds one back from taking charge and proudly displaying one’s plumage like the peacock. (See above, note contradiction and how it makes us complex humans.)
On what occasion do you lie? When I don’t want to go somewhere or do something with others. This is one of the perks of having children, you can always pin the excuse (which is a lie) on them. But I NEVER use the lie that my child is sick! I’m too afraid that would come true. Karma, baby! <Same here, Cas. 🙂 –M.R.>
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “We need to…” I say this to my husband all the time, when what I really mean is: “I want you to…” (mow the lawn, clean the gutters, wax the floor…)
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I’d like to be a great singer-songwriter. To have the vocal brilliance of Streisand and the lyrical genius of Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I haven’t achieved it yet, but it will be when I write a novel that readers can’t put down until the end and then feel sorry that the story doesn’t go on and on.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I would like to come back as a Black man in a truly post-racist world where I could just BE, without all the baggage and obstacles I have to face because of the color of my skin.
What is your most treasured possession? My imagination.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Losing my memory and brain functions. I witnessed the humiliation of dementia and watched my mother suffer the pieces of herself falling away, slowly, painfully.
What do you most value in your friends? A sense of humor, honesty, and an unabashed appreciation for the roles we play in each other’s lives.
Who are your favorite writers? Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, Tom Wolfe, Khalid Hosseini, August Wilson, Ken Follet, Marlon James, Tennessee Williams, and Anne Tyler.
Who is your hero of fiction? I don’t have a published hero of fiction yet, but he is alive and on the way in my novel. His name is Juniper.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? I’m looking around my office and my home and I realize there are no pictures or books about a historical figure that I identify with. There are photos of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., but to say I identify with them would be reductive. I admire them, but to identify with them would mean I share their qualities and to be honest, I’m not that good a man. (Damned humility!)
What is your motto? “You’ve got to bloom where you’re planted.”
FRACASWELL HYMAN lives in Wilmington, NC with his husband, their daughter, and her pet schnoodle. Fracaswell grew up enthralled with the theater and wanted to be a part of the acting profession. He wound up writing, creating, directing and producing children’s television shows for Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and PBS. After retiring from television production he began writing middle-grade novels. Retirement also afforded Mr. Hyman the opportunity to return to his first love: theatre, where he is now happy as a clam–if the idea that clams are happy is true, but highly unlikely when they are served on the half shell! Learn more about Fracaswell on his website and follow him on Instagram. (Photo credit: James Bowling)