Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Jennifer Maruno

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Jennifer Maruno

Cherry Blossom Winter (Dundurn Press) is the second novel in Burlington author Jennifer Maruno's acclaimed Cherry Blossom series. These books tell the story of Michiko, a ten-year-old Japanese Canadian living in British Columbia during World War II. Jennifer's debut novel, When the Cherry Blossoms Fell (Dundurn), was shortlisted for the 2011 Hackmatack Award and the 2012 Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Award. Her historical YA novels, including Warbird (Dundurn, 2010), have earned this long-time educator many young fans. Visit Jennifer's website to find out more and to hear what her readers have to say about her work.

Jennifer Maruno launches our Fall 2012 season of interviews with her answers to the Proust Questionnaire. Read on to find out about red cardinals in her green garden, her weakness for theatre tickets and gossip, and her recommendation for tea in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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?
As a Canadian I enjoy such a good, safe, productive life. I sincerely wish the need for humans to make war against each other would stop and energies would go into creating safe, productive livelihoods.

What is your idea of misery?
Living in a war-torn country.

Where would you like to live?
I would love to divide my residences — New York City, Edinburgh, Athens and Burlington.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Kind, considerate, responsible, generous, with a sense of humour. (I just described my husband).

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Creativity, humour and a sense of adventure.

What is your chief characteristic?
Outgoing — I love meeting new people.

What is your principal fault?
Telling others what to do...and forgetting to turn off the lights.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Theatre tickets.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Irresponsibility — it is a sign of immaturity.

What do you value most about your friends?
Their ability to laugh at themselves and life in general.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Any form of selfishness or greed.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Engaging in gossip, but the other day I heard.....never mind.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?
A florist that runs a bookstore — I'd call it The Living Leaf.

What is your favourite colour?
Green, of course. We purchased an older house in October and have been renovating. Putting a walk-out into the garden was the first priority. The garden is about 30 years old and I am just discovering what flowers and fruit grow there. It is a true miracle when spring returns and all those tiny green shoots become large leaves and produce flowers and vegetables. We enjoy fresh asparagus, raspberries and all kinds of vegetables. The rabbits do too.

What is your favourite flower?
A David Austin Rose — I have two Gertrude Jeckle bushes and a Darcy Russell in my garden now and hope to get more.

What is your favourite bird?
The cardinal, especially when it appears in the yard on a snowy day.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Br├ębeuf, Blondin and Catharine Parr.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Adolf Hitler.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Adult: Elizabeth Kostova, Alan Bradley, Elizabeth George, Penelope Lively (I could do one for every letter of the alphabet).

Children's: Christopher Paul Curtis, Richard Peck, Brian Doyle.

Who are your favourite poets?
William Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Flavia deLuce, Hermione Granger, Elizabeth Bennett.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Both my parents and in-laws lived through World War II under completely different circumstances — one fought in Italy, one worked in the War Office and endured the London blitz, one was interned in New Denver and one was forced to work in a road camp in Alberta. None of them became bitter or angry. You can't get more heroic than that.

Who is your favourite painter?
Any and all of the Impressionists.

Who is your favourite musician?
I don?t know much Italian and can?t really sing along but whenever I hear the aria Nessun Dorma, especially when sung by Andrea Bocelli, I jump in with whatever words I can pronounce and hum along with the rest. The ascending and cascading notes make my heart sing.

What is your favourite food?
Shrimp — especially when it is caught that day.

What is your favourite drink?
English Breakfast Tea at the Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Read music.

How do you want to die?
On a bench in my garden with a book in my hand.

What is your current state of mind?
Completely satisfied.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Opening a brand new elementary public school which I helped design and staff, and publishing my books, of course. There is such a sense of pride in seeing your name on a cover of a book.

What is your motto?
You can't wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.


For more information about Cherry Blossom Winter please visit the Dundurn Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at the publisher's website, Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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

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