The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Secret Daughter author Shilpi Somaya Gowda has an 'irrational' fear of being lost at sea

The bestselling author takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda is the author of The Shape of Family. (CBC/Sinisa Jolic)

Shilpi Somaya Gowda is the author of bestselling books such as 2010's Secret Daughter, 2015's The Golden Son and 2019's The Shape of Family

Gowda stopped by The Next Chapter to take its version of the Proust Questionnaire.

Tell me about your favourite character in fiction.

"My favourite character would probably be Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. I think he's a great example of a prototypical human being, with all of his flaws and foibles. We get great insight into how a regular person can perpetrate evil and can also develop a conscience."

If you could change something about yourself. What would it be?

"If I could, I would snap my fingers and become an omnivore. I would love to enjoy eating everything. I'm not a picky eater, I love all kinds of food. But I grew up largely vegetarian. There are some things I never really got the hang of, like bacon. I know people who love bacon are very passionate about it — including my teenage daughter. And I didn't learn to eat a lot of kinds of fish. I've taught myself that as an adult, but I still don't have a very expansive palate."

What is your favourite occupation?

"I love being a writer. I fell into it a bit serendipitously. But it is the perfect profession for me because it combines the creative and artistic — which is very fulfilling and challenging — with a more analytical side. I have both sides of my brain that I like to use and I feel like this job allows me to do it."

What is your principle defect?

"I am instinctively resistant to change. I often do change because of the world I live in and the family that I have. But my initial instinct is always 'no.'"

Where would you like to live?

"I'm very fortunate to love where I live in California. But Vancouver is one of my favourite cities in the world. I also would not mind living in Paris or Rome for a couple years." 

I recall being really inspired by Terry Fox when I was younger.- Shilpi Gowda Somaya

Who are your favourite heroes in real life?

"I recall being inspired by Terry Fox when I was younger. I was not athletic at all, but after hearing about his trials I joined the cross-country team at my school and I raised money for the Terry Fox Run. I even applied to carry the torch in the Calgary Olympics. I didn't win, luckily for everyone.

"I think I I lived under the notion that if I wasn't naturally good at something that it probably wasn't something I should do. The fact that Fox had so many obvious challenges and still managed to accomplish something extraordinary by running across Canada was so inspiring. He left me and others with no excuse to not at least try to do something whether you are naturally good at it or not."

What is your greatest fear?

"I have an irrational fear of being lost at sea as night falls, the way Mark Wahlberg did at the end of The Perfect Storm. I think I watched that movie and that idea of night falling — and we see this tiny little speck of a human as the camera zooms out to see the enormity of the ocean around him.

I have an irrational fear of being lost at sea as night falls, the way Mark Wahlberg did at the end of The Perfect Storm.- Shilpi Gowda Somaya

"Just the futileness of his situation and the idea that when it got dark there'd be sharks and God knows what else under the surf. It probably started with Jaws when I was much younger and ended with The Perfect Storm." 

What is your greatest extravagance? 

"Well books, certainly. I buy far too many books. But outside of that, I would say travel and good food. I always indulge." 

What is your greatest regret? 

"That would probably be going roller skating a couple of years ago when I fell and broke both bones in my leg in two places. It was a kid's birthday party and I decided to try to be a cool mom and go roller skating with my kids. I was getting off the rink and I lost my balance and fell with my leg under me."

Perfect happiness for me is sitting in a hammock or on a beach with a good book and no interruptions- Shilpi Somaya Gowda

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

"Perfect happiness for me is sitting in a hammock or on a beach with a good book and no interruptions."

Shilpi Somaya Gowda's comments have been edited for length and clarity.