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: Gillian McDunn, author of the MG debut, CATERPILLAR SUMMER (Bloomsbury, 2019).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Any day that includes my family, the ocean, and reading good books.
What is your greatest fear? Not appreciating what I have.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Deplore is a strong word, but I am working on being more patient with myself and specifically my writing process. I require a lot of time to think things through before I write, so I’m trying to appreciate that (instead of wringing my hands about word counts).
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Deplore is (still) a strong word, but I struggle when people are dismissive of others’ experiences.
Which living person do you most admire? I greatly admire my seventh-grade English teacher, Jackie Skahill. She is warm and kind and always makes her students feel special. From day one she saw me as a writer and that made a lifelong impression on me.
What is your greatest extravagance? I love personalized, engraved stationery. It’s expensive but the feel of the paper makes letter writing a pleasure.
What is your current state of mind? I would describe it as the feeling when a roller coaster begins and is going clackety-clackety up that first steep hill. I know big, exciting things are coming and right now I’m gearing up.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Temperance. Sometimes I think we worry about “balance” more than is desirable or even possible.
On what occasion do you lie? Sometimes I minimize my feelings if I think they will upset another person.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? In writing: “just.” In speaking, probably: “like.” I am from California and argue against the idea that it is a filler word—it has a specific linguistic value. That said, I overuse it.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I wish I picked up languages easily.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I’m very proud of my family and my writing.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A specific person seems problematic so I’m going to go with coming back as a sea otter. (Note: it must be a sea otter, not a river otter.)
What is your most treasured possession? I did pocket scrapbooking for a while, including a small album where I made a page for each day in December. I treasure those albums because they overflow with memories of my family.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Anxiety, stress, and fear over my kids’ happiness and health. Also, regret.
What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty, generosity, humor, honesty, ability to use quality emojis and gifs while texting. 😃
Who are your favorite writers? Too many to list, but recently I have read and loved GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams, THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY by Rebecca Balcárcel, and THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo. For the last one, I listened to the audiobook that was absolutely transcendent.
Who is your hero of fiction? One character that comes to mind is Sophie from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. I adore her! She’s kind, compassionate, and resourceful.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? It may be a stretch to call her historical, but I love Julia Child. She did what she wanted and built a life around her passions.
What is your motto? I’ll borrow from one of the characters in CATERPILLAR SUMMER: “Half of life is showing up.”
GILLIAN McDUNN has lived in California, Missouri,and North Carolina, and is a fan of both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. She lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, with her family.Like Cat, Gillian grew up as the big sister to a younger brother with special needs. Her next book, THE QUEEN BEE AND ME will come out in Spring 2020. Find out more about Gillian on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.