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Laferrière Questionnaire

Helen Humphreys takes the Laferrière Questionnaire

The acclaimed author of Afterimage and Coventry submits to our very own 20 questions, courtesy of Canadian author Dany Laferrière.

About the Laferrière Questionnaire: We asked writer Dany Laferrière to reinterpret the Proust Questionnaire for the 21st century. He put together 20 questions that shine a light on who we really are, both as writers and as individuals.


1. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to tell your story?
I would definitely come back to the real world. I always thought Alice's world was a little alarming.

2. If your home were on fire, what prized keepsake would you grab on your way out?
My dog. And if I didn't have to actually carry her out, then I'd grab the little bronze sparrow that I bought in Paris when I was there researching my latest novel. My brother came with me on that trip and the sparrow sat on the small table between our beds in the hotel room. A year after that trip my brother was dead.

3. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?
I don't think I have any of the same fears. I have different, more scary ones now.

4. Would it be okay to have a miserable childhood if that were a prerequisite for becoming a writer?
I don't agree with the equation of suffering and art. I think that artists generally do better work when they're happy. I know that I do.

5. Do you wake up at night to read or write?
Mostly I wake up at night to fret, but sometimes I'll read, and sometimes too I'll write something down.

6. Do you feel anxious or excited when you start to write?
Both, and this mix of feelings carries all the way through the writing process, from beginning to end.

7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?
I like the dark. It's often a relief.

8. Do you tend to hang on to a thousand little scraps of paper, or do you regularly clean out your drawers?
I don't use scraps of paper as a rule. I use notebooks instead, so there's usually no need to have a big clearout as I'm fairly organized to begin with.

9. Which animal would you rather be: a cat or a dog?
I was partially raised by dogs, so...

10. Does love dry up your creative juices or make them flow faster?
Faster. Love is a great muse, and it doesn't seem to matter whether it's happy love or heartbreak, although happy love is a lot easier to bear.

11. Do you remember your dreams?
I do. Often they're unremarkable, but sometimes I will dream about people who have died, or who I haven't seen for a while, and I hate to wake up from those dreams.

12. What's your favourite colour?
Green. All the greens found in the natural world.

13. What's your favourite season?
Summer, but the end of summer, that hinge between summer and fall, when you can feel the cooler weather coming on, but the days still have some heat in them.

14. Does pressure motivate you?
No, it just panics me. I'm pretty self-motivated, so I don't really need pressure to produce.

15. Would you rather live to write or write to live?
I've been a writer for so long now that it's hard to separate writing from living. They're fairly enmeshed.

16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?
I'm pretty calm usually.

18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?
I've had a hard couple of years so, at this point in time, I'd be happy with an afternoon where nothing was going wrong.

19. Are you more like the sun or the moon?
The sun, although I'm more affected by the moon.

20. Do you hear voices?
No. And I'd be freaked out if I did. It's bad enough sometimes just having my own thoughts in my head.

Helen Humphreys is an award-winning author of five novels. Her last novel, Coventry, was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award, a New York Times Editors' Choice and a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year. The Lost Garden was a Canada Reads selection. Afterimage won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize; Leaving Earth received the Toronto Book Award; and The Frozen Thames was a #1 bestseller. In 2009, Humphreys was awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for literary excellence.

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