The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Why ER doctor and bestselling author Daniel Kalla thinks you should take more chances

The author of the novel The Darkness in the Light takes The Next Chapter’s version of the Proust Questionnaire. 
Daniel Kalla, ER physician and novelist. (Michael Bednar Photography)

Daniel Kalla is an ER physician, as well as the bestselling author of the novels Lost Immunity, We All Fall Down and The Last High.

His latest book,The Darkness in the Light, is a thriller about a psychiatrist, whose patients are dying. The novel follows Dr. David Spears to a remote Arctic community as he attempts to determine what is causing these mysterious deaths. From a missing persons inquiry to a pharmaceutical cover-up, Dr. Spears becomes caught up in a dangerous investigation.

Kalla recently took The Next Chapter's version of the Proust questionnaire. 

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be? 

I think I'd be more patient. I have a bit of ADHD – sort of runs in my family – and in some ways it's been beneficial to me and let me explore many aspects of my life and my career. But unfortunately, I'm not always patient enough. 

Where would you like to live? 

I grew up in Vancouver. I spend most of my life here and I hope to spend most of the rest of my life here. It's my favourite place in the world. Whenever I travel, and I've seen places I've fallen in love with across the world, none can replace Vancouver. The natural beauty, the climate, the pace, all of it just suits me perfectly. 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 

To me, loneliness is the lowest depth of misery. You know, I worked in emergency medicine and in the downtown core in Vancouver and I see some very lonely patients. And it amazes me how that affects not only mental health, but spiritual and physical health. I think it's healthy to have alone time and it's unhealthy to be dependent on others for your happiness and your contentment. But I do think social connection and feeling close and to be needed by others is one of the most basic human requirements. To feel all alone would be one of the most miserable experiences. 

I often followed a path where I did what I thought I was supposed to do and maybe not necessarily what was right for me to do.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

I think for me, as close to perfect happiness as I've found, apart from the birth of my children and other incredible moments in my life, is a blue sky spring skiing day at Whistler Mountain when there are no lineups and the scenery is breathtaking and the snow is light and fresh. There's just a kind of natural high and euphoria that's almost unmatchable to a day like that. 

What is your greatest regret? 

I wish I had taken more chances, particularly in my earlier life. I often followed a path where I did what I thought I was supposed to do and maybe not necessarily what was right for me to do. I wish I had traveled more. I wish I had explored more careers and life opportunities earlier on. No one on their deathbed regrets the chances that they did take, even the ones that fail. I wasn't confident enough to grab opportunities that slipped away. It's very important to me now not to walk away from things just because I think I might fail at them. 

What is your greatest achievement? 

Maybe I can narrow it down to a couple of things. One is just the longevity of my career as I've been an emergency physician for 27, 28 years, and now a writer for almost 20 years with over 13 novels published. And just to have survived in both those careers and hopefully matured and improved. I'm very proud of the fact that I've had an eventful and hopefully successful emergency medicine career and that I continue to publish stories that some people want to read and I continue to learn in both those pursuits. So maybe those are my greatest achievements. 

Daniel Kalla's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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