Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Lena Coakley

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Lena Coakley

The author of Witchlanders (Simon & Schuster), Lena Coakley is an American-born writer living in Toronto. Witchlanders is her first novel.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Lena Coakley tells Open Book her chief characteristic, her David Bowie timeline and what the weather's like in Yorkshire.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.


What is your dream of happiness?
I don’t know, but I’m sure if I attained it I’d be completely miserable.

Where would you like to live?
By the sea.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Intelligence, curiosity, and the ability to listen and hear.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
The same qualities I admire in a man.

What is your chief characteristic?
Now that I am in my forties I am surprised to discover that my chief characteristic is persistence.

What is your principal fault?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Travel. Books and pedicures come second and third.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their willingness to cook me dinner now that I’m a starving artist.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
The ones I share.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
The need to be liked.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?
An old lady’s pampered cat.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite flower?
Purple irises because they were my mother’s favourite.

What is your favourite bird?
Snowy egrets because they remind me of my childhood on the Connecticut shore.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Oscar Wilde

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, Borges, Garth Nix, Emily Brontë, Agatha Christie.

Who are your favourite poets?
Yeats, C.D. Wright, Wallace Stevens, Muriel Rukeyser, Robert Penn Warren.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Rochester, Heathcliff and other bad boys.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My parents and grandparents.

Who is your favourite painter?
Henri Matisse.

Who is your favourite musician?
David Bowie before 1980.

What is your favourite food?
Eggs Benedict.

What is your favourite drink?
Coffee with cream

How do you want to die?
Saving a baby from a burning building. When I’m 90. But it will probably be from the eggs Benedict and coffee with cream.

What is your current state of mind?
I am writing this from the little Yorkshire village where the Brontës lived. The sheep are baa-ing and the breeze is bending the heather. Understandably, my current state of mind is excellent.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Finishing my first novel.


For more information about Witchlanders, please visit the Simon & Schuster website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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