I was born on January 9th. Not the best time to be born if your birthplace happens to be the buckle on the snow belt, Buffalo, New York. Buffalo remained my home until I struck out on my own and managed to get 73 miles down the New York State Freeway to Rochester.

My life took a turn for the better- better climate, better opportunities. Writers of a certain vintage always seem to boast of the variety of interesting jobs they held before settling down to write. Jobs like fire breather on the Reforma in Mexico City, or turkey plucker. I have not done anything so exotic. Moving from present to past, I have been: a divorce lawyer, student, waitress, nurses’ aide, hospital admitting clerk, factory assembly line worker and child. 

I live in Vancouver, B.C. and in Colima, Mexico. 

The Proust Questionnaire, with Roberta Rich

Former lawyer Roberta Rich burst onto the book scene with her popular historical novel The Midwife of Venice. And she hasn’t kept her fans waiting — she has returned with a sequal, The Harem Midwife (Doubleday Canada) which picks up the story of Hannah Levi, who finds herself serving as midwife to the 1000-strong harem of Sultan Murat III. In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Roberta tells Open Book about a fabulous pen collection, what you ought to be able to trust your girlfriends with and the best kind of margarita. 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? Having people sufficiently interested in me to send me a Proust interview to complete.

What is your idea of misery? Being stuck in an airport with nothing to read.

Where would you like to live? Exactly where I do live — Colima, Mexico and Vancouver

What qualities do you admire most in a man? The ability to caulk.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman? Trustworthiness. You should be able to trust your girl friends with your wallet or your husband.

What is your chief characteristic? Curiosity.

What is your principal fault? Nosiness.

What is your greatest extravagance? Collecting Mont Blanc pens.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of? Their bad judgment in partners.

What do you value most about your friends? Loyalty.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others? Hypocrisy.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself? Total lack of a sense of direction, navigationally speaking.

What is your favourite virtue? In others — humor and wit. In myself, huge tolerance for eccentricity.

What is your favourite occupation? Writing.

What would you like to be? A movie star.

What is your favourite colour? Blue.

What is your favourite flower? Freesias.

What is your favourite bird? African Grey Parrot.

What historical figure do you admire the most? Winston Churchill.

What character in history do you most dislike? Hitler.

Who are your favourite prose authors? Bill Bryson, Carl Hiaasen, Jeanette Walls, Andrew Miller, Richard Ford.

Who are your favourite poets? Edgar Guest.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction? Anne of Green Gables, Jeanette Walls.

Who are your heroes in real life? Obama, Oprah.

Who is your favourite painter? Magritte.

Who is your favourite musician? Tom Waits.

What is your favourite food? Peanuts.

What is your favourite drink? Margarita made with limes from my own tree.

What are your favourite names? Esmé, Charles, Martha.

What is it you most dislike? Earnestness.

What natural talent would you most like to possess? The ability to paint.

How do you want to die? Suddenly and painlessly in the arms of my husband.

What is your current state of mind? Floundering for answers to these questions.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? Quitting smoking.

What is your motto? Perseverance above all.