My friend Sarah Line Letellier lives in New Zealand and has just finished her novel Nights in Paris. The novel is a “fictional exploration of the lives” of writers AnaïsNin and Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Her writing has won numerous prizes. I can't wait to read the novel, for writers' lives makes great fiction. Let's face it, Rimbaud wrote great poetry, but the poetry that he made out of his life is what attracts readers to him. Sarah was kind enough to take some time off her writing schedule to fill out the Proust Questionnaire. Please check out her excellent answers below. Also check this blog and her own website for updates regarding her upcoming writing projects.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2. What is your greatest fear?
That I’ll die before my novel is published.
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5. Which living person do you most admire?
Hilary Mantel: sheer genius. (Why is it not uncommon for a male writer to be referred to as a genius, but so rare for a woman writer?)
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
If I could afford it, I’d dress in clothes from the 1890s, 1900s and 1910s.
7. What is your current state of mind?
Slightly anxious, which is my usual state of mind.
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Chastity. I just don’t see the point.
9. On what occasion do you lie?
The shadows under my eyes. They’re genetic; I think I was born with them.
11. Which living person do you most despise?
I’ll tell you later.
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Femininity (and gentle hands).
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Masculinity (and strong hands).
14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Yes; okay; all right.” I’m far too amenable.
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My favourite books are my life-long friends. I re-read them in difficult times: they keep me sane.
16. When and where were you happiest?
I’m hoping that day is yet to come!
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to time travel at will would be fascinating.
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To be less agreeable.
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The novel I’ve nearly finished writing.
20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
An indulged, pampered cat.
21. Where would you most like to live?
Where I can see the sea, and hear seagulls and blackbirds.
22. What is your most treasured possession?
A beautiful photograph of my grandparents in the 1940s.
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A combination of shame, guilt and loneliness.
24. What is your favorite occupation?
Writing my novel, when it’s going so well it’s almost effortless.
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
My addiction to tea – also my resulting frequent trips to the loo.
26. What do you most value in your friends?
Colette, Anaïs Nin, Guy de Maupassant, Hilary Mantel, Alison Bechdel, Sarah Waters and a dozen others.
28. Who is your hero of fiction?
Claudine, from the Claudine novels by Colette.
I often identify with the person I’m researching or writing about: at the moment, Colette.
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
My favourite writers.
31. What are your favorite names?
I love Arthurian and Welsh names: Galahad, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain, Gwyneth, Gwydion, Gwendoline – all those lovely ‘w’s and ‘y’s.
32. What is it that you most dislike?
Stupidity and prejudice. Oh wait: they’re the same thing.
33. What is your greatest regret?
That I have so many regrets.
When I’ve decided I’m ready.
35. What is your motto?
I’ll do it later.