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: Jess Redman, author of the contemporary MG debut, THE MIRACULOUS (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2019).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Full acceptance of myself and all my life circumstances as they are in the present moment. If those circumstances happen to include a book, a picnic lunch, a babbling brook, a forest of autumn leaves, and my husband and two adorable children, then all the better.
What is your greatest fear? Losing a loved one and being somehow at fault.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My highly developed catastrophic thinking.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? A lack of compassion.
Which living person do you most admire? My mother. There are a lot of people who I admire less and less the more I learn about them, but I know my mother very well, and I still think she’s wonderful.
What is your greatest extravagance? I am not an extravagant person. But I do love to travel!
What is your current state of mind? Thoughtful, hopeful, anxious, slightly overwhelmed.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? I think exploring what makes a virtuous life and then striving to live that life is one of the most important and noble tasks of human existence. And I think the world is a richer place because not everyone has the same path to virtue. That being said—for me, it’s hospitality. I am very not into cooking for or cleaning up after anyone.
On what occasion do you lie? When it will not do harm but will protect. And sometimes just to avoid awkwardness.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? In writing, “just” (see above) and “all.” In speaking, “well” and “so anyway” are my fillers.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I always regret not committing to an instrument. I play piano, guitar, and saxophone—all three very badly. Being able to draw comes in at a close second.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? My writing and my wonderful family. I put a lot of time and energy and love into both.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I wouldn’t mind coming back as myself, but only if I knew everything I knew when I died. Otherwise, I would be an osprey.
What is your most treasured possession? When we evacuate for hurricanes, I take my box of writing notebooks and my box of photographs.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being unloved and afraid.
What do you most value in your friends? Passion. I love to be around people who are fully invested in and excited about something, no matter what it is.
Who are your favorite writers? Madeleine L’Engle, Ellen Raskin, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Katherine Paterson, and Lois Lowry were the writers I loved most as a child, and when I think of my favorite writers now, as an adult, these are still the ones that come to my mind first.
Who is your hero of fiction? I’m going to go with Harriet M. Welsch. She said this after all: “When I grow up I’m going to find out everything about everybody and put it all in a book.”
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Madeleine L’Engle is not exactly a historical figure, but I have been inspired by her and her work for a long time.
What is your motto? Since I was a teenager, I have repeated over and over the last lines of Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” to inspire and motivate and rebalance myself: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
JESS REDMAN is the author of The Miraculous, which Kirkus called “layered, engaging, and emotionally true” in a starred review, and Quintessence, which comes out May 19, 2020. She is a therapist and currently lives in Florida with her husband, two young children, and an old cat named SoulPie. Learn more about Jess on her website and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads and YouTube.