The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing (okay, nosy) questions. It the hot seat today: HENRY LIEN, author of the MG fantasy, PEASPROUT CHEN, FUTURE LEGEND OF SKATE AND SWORD (Holt/Macmillan, April 2018).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Writing a story that I’ve been looking for my whole life but was not able to find on the shelf.
What is your greatest fear? Leaving this world without the experiences I wanted out of it.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My constant and rather pathetic need for the world to acknowledge my uniqueness.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? The breathtaking arrogance and sense of entitlement that most human beings exhibit in their treatment of other animals.
Which living person do you most admire? J.J. Abrams. I’m feeling pressure here to name someone more conventionally noble. But I list Abrams because of what he did with The Force Awakens. He had to work under the most cramped artistic conditions possible, given the expectations and requirements of a huge corporation and the fanbase. That he created so accomplished a film that also made such leaps in diverse/representation under such circumstances and in such a short time inspires me and shuts down any complaints I have in writing to meet what my editor or genre require of me. He’s also strikes me as being dazzlingly diplomatic and kind.
What is your greatest extravagance? Video games that I buy but don’t play.
What is your current state of mind? I’m finally starting to feel like a grownup in some ways. Learning to be diplomatic and kind and measured has started to feel like second nature. Forty-eight years is a long time to take to get to this point, though.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Tie: gregariousness and self-esteem.
On what occasion do you lie? I try very, very, very hard not to tell even white lies.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Nutritious, intensely, deeply, composed of (because I never, ever remember how to use “comprise” correctly and I don’t want to mess it up).
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? Figure skating. It’s hard to imagine a more sublime form of movement.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? My storytelling. It’s what I was put on this earth to do. It’s the best thing that I have ever done or will ever do in this lifetime.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A dolphin, but in some place far from people and their pollution, and far from places like Taiji, Japan, that kill dolphins and/or sell them to “swim with the dolphins” attractions.
What is your most treasured possession? I have a lot of artwork that I love, but I’m thinking: “What would I pause to take out of my burning house?” Other than my pets, I’m stumped to say anything. I’m guessing that means my answer is “nothing.”
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? I feel like I don’t have authority to answer this. I’m not made for despair and I have many people I love and admire who have battled despair with great courage their whole lives. My lowest depths of misery are nothing compared to what many others have to deal with.
What do you most value in your friends? Appreciation of my idiosyncrasies.
Who are your favorite writers? Oh, wow. Off the top of my head, Austen, Ishiguro, Ted Chiang, Cixin Liu, Shaun Tan, George R.R. Martin, Susanna Clarke, Philip K. Dick, J.K. Rowling, David Mitchell, William Gibson, Calvino, Borges, Stephanie Meyer. I’m also pretty fond of what I’ve read by Angie Thomas, Leigh Bardugo, Peter Brown, Kevin Kwan, Janice Lee, Helen Wecker.
Who is your hero of fiction? Probably J.K. Rowling, both for her work and her outspoken online presence.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Tchaikovsky. A gay man who appreciated women and the art that women create, and an artist of almost painful expressiveness and profound depth of emotion.
What is your motto? “You can’t stop the future, you can only decide if you’re going to be part of it.”
A graduate of Clarion West Writers’ Workshop, HENRY LIEN writes speculative fiction for children and adults. Before becoming a writer, Henry – who was born in Taiwan and now lives in Hollywood, California – worked as an attorney, art dealer, and college instructor. Visit Henry at his website and find him on Facebook and Twitter.