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 (i.e., nosy) questions. In the hot seat today: Lara Williamson, author of the best-selling MG contemporary novels, JUST CALL ME SPAGHETTI-HOOP BOY (Usborne, 2017), THE BOY WHO SAILED THE OCEAN IN AN ARMCHAIR (2015), and A BOY CALLED HOPE (2014).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Eating chips on the seafront with my family, but only if there aren’t hungry seagulls nearby. Then going home and snuggling up in front of the TV, with a cozy fire and candles around me, and a twinkling Christmas tree in the corner.
What is your greatest fear? Anything bad happening to my family or anything bad happening to me so that I couldn’t be there for my family. Their happiness means the world to me.
What is the trait you deplore most in yourself? I like to feel in control of every situation. Sometimes in life you can’t be in control of the big things that happen to you and even though I know this, it doesn’t stop me from trying.
What is the trait you deplore most in others? I believe in fairness and have a strong sense of what I consider is right, and if I think others are being unfair, unkind, selfish or lacking in empathy, then I don’t like those traits.
Which living person do you most admire? I admire my family because of all that they’ve achieved. And I admire those that work tirelessly to help and support others when they need it most. Magic comes from ordinary people who are quite simply extraordinary deep down.
What is your greatest extravagance? Probably buying cushions and scented candles and surrounding myself in things that make my home lovely. I’m a real home person – that’s where my heart lies.
What is your current state of mind? Full! I’m writing, juggling decorating, thinking about Christmas and about one hundred other things all at once. Despite all this, I’ve got a memory like an elephant.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Oh, tricky. I think they’re all important. But if I really had to pick one I’d say humility. If you do well in something, then why not shout it from the rooftops?
On what occasion do you lie? Little white lies, right? I guess I’d lie about appearance or something small like that, rather than hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes you can be too honest, and I wouldn’t want to knock someone’s confidence when I could build it up instead.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? ‘Basically!’
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I’d love to dance on the stage. I tap dance already, but if I see ballet dancers or contemporary dancers in a performance I am in awe. They tell such beautiful stories with their bodies and never a word is spoken. Sometimes I think writing is like that. The real story is in the words you don’t say, more than the ones you do.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Love. I’ve thought about this before and my greatest achievement is loving others and being loved in return.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I’d come back as a robin. Not only do I think they’re beautiful birds but, to me, they represent a loved one that you’ve lost coming back to say hello. So, I’d come back and say hello to everyone I love.
What is your most treasured possession? I don’t possess anyone, but obviously my family are treasured and if anything were to happen to them, material things wouldn’t matter one bit. In terms of material things, I treasure a little religious medal that was given to me by someone I lost. It isn’t worth anything in money terms but is priceless to me. And it gets a mention in my first book – A Boy Called Hope.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Losing someone you love. That’s a situation that you wish you could control, but you can’t. You need to let go, despite every fiber of your being telling you that you don’t want to.
What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty, trust, empathy, sense of humour, kindness.
Who are your favourite writers? As a child I loved C. S. Lewis, as he lived in the same area as me and his words were so powerful that I believed I’d walk into a wardrobe and end up in Narnia. Still do. Enid Blyton was also a big favorite of mine, particularly the Enchanted Wood and Magic Faraway books. My favorite writer right now is Frank Cottrell-Boyce.
Who is your hero of fiction? I’m going to pick Damian from Millions by Frank Cottrell-Boyce. If ever a book felt like it was written for me – that’s the one. He’s busy trying to give away all this money because he’s kind and it’s heartfelt. Plus, he’s funny too. I think if you mix humor, heartbreak and hope you’ve hooked me book-wise (and that’s me personality-wise too).
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Caroline Herschel, who worked tirelessly in the field of astronomy. And although I’m no expert I have a never-ending love of the stars and am forever enthralled by their wonder and beauty. If you’re feeling down…look up!
What is your motto? “Persistence pays off.” And it does. If you have a dream, keep chasing it!
LARA WILLIAMSON is a writer of middle-grade fiction. She was born and studied in Northern Ireland before moving to London and working as a beauty editor for J-17 magazine, where she styled photo shoots and lived in a beauty bubble of perfume and lipsticks. Lara’s debut novel, A Boy Called Hope, has been shortlisted for lots of prizes and her second and third have been nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Her interests include daydreaming, tap dancing, and writing. Not at the same time. Find Lara on her website, Twitter and Instagram.