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: Tanya Guerrero, author of the contemporary MG debut, HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA (FSG BYR, March 31, 2020).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? These days, simple joys really make me happy. As a homebody, I love quiet time at my house with a piping hot cup of coffee, a good book, and a cat to cuddle with, especially when it’s grey and drizzling outside.
What is your greatest fear? As someone with anxiety, I have tons of little fears (flying cockroaches, food poisoning, tripping and falling down the stairs, public speaking etc.) But I also have some big fears. Death, for example, is really triggering. I mean who doesn’t fear death, right?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Ahhh. I have problems when things go beyond my control. This is one of my genuine Virgo traits. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to have control over everything I do, and everything that happens. It can really trigger my anxiety to just let stuff happen. Also, I have a hard time delegating because I would rather do everything myself so it gets done right. This is something I really need to work on in 2020!
What is the trait you most deplore in others? I really value kindness above all else. When I witness situations where people are unkind, it bothers me immensely. Bullies are the worst, whether it’s a kid bullying another kid in school, or an adult bullying someone online. Any kind of bullying is an automatic unfriend and block. The older I get, the less tolerant I’ve become of bullies and toxic people in general.
Which living person do you most admire? I have a huge admiration for today’s young activists, such as Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Isra Hisri, Marley Dias, Emma Gonzalez, Desmond Napoles. Their intelligence, perseverance, passion and outspokenness at such a young age is inspiring. They give me hope for future generations.
What is your greatest extravagance? The one thing I refuse to scrimp on is travel. I always make a point of booking decent airlines, good hotels and experiences that will last a lifetime, such as a multiple zipline course over a forest canopy in New Zealand and renting a country house in Tuscany. Some of the next trips I’d like to plan are a snow experience for my kiddo in Hokkaido, Japan, and an eco-safari somewhere in Africa.
What is your current state of mind? I’ve recently experienced a bad bout of anxiety, so right now I’m taking things day by day. I’m trying to do a lot of self-care like exercise, walks, and quiet time. I know debut year can be really stressful, so I’m hoping that all the self-care I’m doing now will help me cope.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? I don’t really have a specific virtue that I find overrated, but on a related topic, I’m quite turned off by the amount of virtue signalling on social media. More often than not, I find that too many people are expressing opinions not to inspire or to provoke thought, but rather to make themselves look like a good person.
On what occasion do you lie? I try not to lie as much as possible, but as a mother (with anxiety) to a child who also has anxiety, I find it necessary to sometimes soften the hard truths in order to soothe my child’s fears.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I’m a self-professed over-user of two words: just and really.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? I would love to be skilled at crafts, (knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, embroidery, sewing etc.). Sadly, I seem to not have a knack for anything craft related.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I suppose it’s pretty cliché to answer, “Getting published.” But you know what? I worked my butt off to get where I am in my career, (though, of course luck was also a factor). So, yeah, I’m pretty proud of this achievement.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? My mom always jokes that when she dies, she wants to come back as a cat or dog in a good home. Honestly, that sounds pretty good to me.
What is your most treasured possession? A personalized copy of my late grandfather’s memoir about his experience as a political prisoner for seven years during Franco’s regime.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Choosing to keep toxic friends and family around. Removing these people from my life is something I decided to do in my forties. And honestly, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What do you most value in your friends? I would definitely say loyalty. I’ve had friends come and go, but the handful of childhood friends I’ve had have stuck around over the many, many years, and the many, many changes. We always support one another no matter what.
Who are your favorite writers? I read pretty widely as far as genres go, so here are just some of my favorites across the board: Celeste Ng, Helen Hoang, Jane Harper, Tiffany D. Jackson, Kathleen Glasgow, Dan Gemeinhart, Ibi Zoboi, and Rebecca Stead.
Who is your hero of fiction? I will always have a special place in my heart for Sherlock Holmes.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Frida Kahlo, because her life was beautiful, chaotic, complicated and filled with passion.
What is your motto? “Do it with passion or not at all.”
TANYA GUERRERO is Filipino and Spanish by birth, but has been fortunate enough to call three countries home: the Philippines, Spain, and the United States. Currently, she lives in a shipping container home in the suburbs of Manila with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of rescued cats and dogs. In her free time, she grows her own food, bakes bread, and reads. How to Make Friends with the Sea is her debut novel. Learn more about Tanya on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.