Hugh Brewster takes the Laferrière Questionnaire
The author of RMS Titanic submits to our very own 20 questions, courtesy of Canadian author Dany Laferrière. Will he sink or swim?
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?
The real world has always interested me more than any fantasy one, which is perhaps why I’ve mainly written non-fiction.
2. If your home were on fire, what prized keepsake would you grab on your way out?
My laptop. And there’s one rather good painting I might risk smoke inhalation to save.
3. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?
Big dogs. When a large Alsatian comes bounding toward me I involuntarily shrink.
4. Would it be okay to have a miserable childhood if that were a prerequisite for becoming a writer?
It depends on the degree of misery. We all had fears and insecurities as children and most of us draw on them while writing.
5. Do you wake up at night to read or write?
No, just to pee.
6. Do you feel anxious or excited when you start to write?
I have some anxiety about deadlines—as in “this will never be done!” Excitement usually comes once I’m underway and it’s going well.
7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?
Both, on occasion.
8. Do you tend to hang on to a thousand little scraps of paper, or do you regularly clean out your drawers?
I usually do a big tidy once a book is finished.
9. Which animal would you rather be: a cat or a dog?
I’d rather be neither but prefer cats to dogs.
10. Does love dry up your creative juices or make them flow faster?
The obsessive infatuations I sometimes had when younger bottled me up. But I’m now in a loving, supportive relationship which helps with creativity.
11. Do you remember your dreams?
Oh yes, particularly the ones that repeat, like the school exam dream or being onstage in a play where I don’t know the lines.
12. What’s your favourite colour?
I like blue for shirts and red for type on book jackets.
13. What’s your favourite season?
Beautiful days in late spring and fall move me more than any others.
14. Does pressure motivate you?
15. Would you rather live to write or write to live?
Writing to live is highly precarious. And living to write sounds a tad precious to me.
16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?
E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels.
17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?
Rarely paranoid but not always as calm as I’d like to be.
18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?
A beautiful country walk after a morning of satisfying work followed by a good dinner with friends.
19. Are you more like the sun or the moon?
I like to think I have a sunny disposition but can be moony on occasion.
20. Do you hear voices?
Not like Joan of Arc. But in writing fiction I have had characters say things to me.
Hugh Brewster is an award-winning writer and editor and was for twenty years the editorial director and publisher of Madison Press Books. Hugh’s latest book is RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage. His previous books include Anastasia’s Album, Inside the Titanic, 882½ Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic, On Juno Beach, The Other Mozart and others. He speaks regularly on the Titanic and his Toronto Life article on Arthur Godfrey Peuchen, a Toronto survivor of the Titanic, won a National Magazine Award. He lives in Toronto.