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: Hayley Chewins, author of the MG fantasy debut, THE TURNAWAY GIRLS (Candlewick, 2018).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Writing in an empty house with a cup of black coffee during a thunderstorm.
What is your greatest fear? A wasted life.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Overthinking.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Indifference.
Which living person do you most admire? I’m going to cheat and say my parents—they have both shown me what it means to be extraordinary.
What is your greatest extravagance? Books and good coffee beans.
What is your current state of mind? Calm and ambitious.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Neatness. Especially since this is a trait usually expected of girls. Messiness is necessary for growth and creativity.
On what occasion do you lie? I lie by omission because I rarely tell people when I’m angry or upset—but I’m working on it.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Wow.” “Beautiful.” “Amazing.” “I love you.”
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I’d love to be able to play the piano like David Helfgott.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Publishing my first book with my dream publisher!
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I’d like to be one of Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals—the ones hanging in the Tate Modern. They’re indescribably beautiful and peaceful, and I can’t imagine the things they’ve seen.
What is your most treasured possession? My toy poodle, Darfer, though she wouldn’t appreciate me referring to her as a possession!
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? A life without books.
What do you most value in your friends? Their intelligence, honesty, openness and ambition.
Who are your favorite writers? Franny Billingsley, Katherine Rundell, Laini Taylor, R.M. Romero, Gillian Flynn, K.A. Reynolds, Margaret Atwood, Roshani Chokshi, Gabeba Baderoon, Frances Hardinge, Nicole Krauss, Celeste Ng, Claire Legrand, Sylvia Plath, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Lindsay Eagar, Karen Foxlee, Angela Carter, Arundhati Roy, Kate DiCamillo, Cheryl Strayed, Kheryn Callender, Rumi, Jandy Nelson, Anna-Marie McLemore, Leslye Walton, Louise O’Neill…
Who is your hero of fiction? Jane Eyre.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Sylvia Plath.
What is your motto? “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot
HAYLEY CHEWINS is the author of THE TURNAWAY GIRLS (Candlewick, 2018) and THE SISTERS OF STRAYGARDEN PLACE (Candlewick, 2020) and likes to say that she writes books about magical girls with secrets. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Hayley studied classical voice at university for a year before switching to a degree in Italian and English Literature. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband and a very small poodle. Learn more about Hayley on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.