News and Interviews

The Proust Questionnaire, with Scott Carter

Barrett Fuller is a womanizer. A boozer. A drug user. What many people don't know though, is that he's also the man behind an incredibly successful (and necessarily pseudonymous) series of children's books. Someone though, has found out his secret — and decided it is time for him to live up to the morals he espouses in his books. Or else.

So opens Scott Carter's aptly titled new novel, Barrett Fuller's Secret (Dundurn). Barrett's adventures takes a turn when he finds himself spending time with his nephew, who also seems to have a secret.

Scott, who is also a screenwriter and whose films have played at festivals across North America, joins us today to tackle the Proust Questionnaire. In his answers, Scott tells Open Book about how he's going to use his eight hundred months, one very young up-and-coming artist and reading The Road as a dad.

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?

Balance. Putting time into my wife, kids and friendships while still having time to pursue my passions.

What is your idea of misery?

My mother used to ask me what I was going to do with my eight hundred months as a way of shaking me up as a teenager, so I’d say on a personal level, my idea of misery would be not making the most of my time on the planet.

Where would you like to live?

Where I do now. I love Toronto. But having just visited Paris, that would be fun too.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

Loyalty. To himself, his partner, his family, friends and passions. It’s a tricky one to get right.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

Loyalty. To herself, her partner, her family, friends and passions. It’s a tricky one to get right for all people.

What is your chief characteristic?

That’s likely best answered by anyone but me, but I’ll say passion. I wake up excited and feel that way about most things I do until the day’s done.

What is your principal fault?

Obsessing. For example, I decided not to eat candy a long time ago, and my wife thinks I’m a fool to be so absolute.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My penchant for eating out. I love restaurants.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?


What do you value most about your friends?

Conversation. Talking to my friends is one of my favourite things to do. I love stories. Hearing them and telling them, and my friends are incredible storytellers with strong opinions and I’m grateful for that daily.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

Racism. It’s intolerable and toxic.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?

The tendency to think existentially at the expense of embracing the moment.

What is your favourite virtue?

Generosity. I’ve never understood, supported or sympathized with being cheap. It’s a high blower.

What is your favourite occupation?

I’m lucky enough to have two. Teaching and writing. Never had a bad day doing either.

What would you like to be?

Someone who enriches the lives of people I have relationships with.

What is your favourite colour?

Whatever one my four-year-old daughter is into most at the time. I’m a terrible artist, she appears to have talent and she gets me to see colours in a different way when we draw or paint together.

What is your favourite flower?

Purple lilacs. We have a great tree in the backyard and it’s quickly linking a lot of wonderful memories.

What is your favourite bird?

Hawks. I love the way they hover.

What historical figure do you admire most?

Malcolm X. One, because my mother got me to read his biography when I was young so there’s a connection to her and what drew her to him, and two, because he had the courage to admit he was wrong and recalibrate his methods. I’m guilty of tunnel vision at times, so I hold that message close as a reminder.

What character in history do you most dislike?

I took a course on the American South during university and read a book about a man named Joshua John Ward, who was the largest American slave holder with over a thousand slaves on his plantation. He was a bad man in every way and I remember disliking everything I read about him and how he lived his life.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

There are so many and it changes, but recently, Glen Duncan, Joyce Carol Oates, Craig Davidson, Daniel Woodrell and Patrick De Witt have been blowing my mind.

Who are your heroes in fiction?

Now that I have two kids, the dad in The Road tops the list. I loved the book when I first read it and wasn’t a parent, but reading it with the love of my children flowing through me was potent. It really is incredible just how perfectly he nailed the parent/child dynamic.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I look up to my wife, Keri’s magic. She just gets things right and is always graceful. I’m lucky to have one moment a year as cool as the ones she produces on a regular basis.

Who is your favourite painter?

I don’t know much about painters, but I saw a painting in Italy this summer of a tiger fighting a lion in the Coliseum and in a museum full of art, my daughter and I stared at it for a long time. So I’ll go with the creator of that one.

Who is your favourite musician?

It changes all the time. Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot by a composer named John Murphy. He’s famous for a lot of soundtracks. The Chromatics, Little Dragon, Nas and Daft Punk have also been in steady rotation.

What is your favourite food?

I love seafood, so I’ll say seafood risotto because then I get a bit of everything from the sea.

What is your favourite drink?

Green tea.

What are your favourite names?

Keri, Harlow and Clive. I had a barbecue recently. A small gathering with like ten people and there were two Chris’ two Scotts and two Matts present, and I realized I prefer the less ordinary names.

What is it you most dislike?

Discrimination. Life is difficult enough without the ignorance.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?

Being more musical would be fun.

How do you want to die?

With the warmth of my wife and children.

What is your current state of mind?


What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Having children with my wife. It’s the only thing that’s lived up to the hype. Money is comforting and reaching goals is satisfying but children are transformative and ambient in a way that is beautiful and to create life with someone you are so close to is an incredible experience.

What is your motto?

My mother drilled into me when I was young that you are getting better or you are getting worse every day but you are never staying the same. She challenged me not to strive for comfort and to accept that each day you are a better or worse husband, father, teacher, writer, friend etc than the day before and to use that reality to push for as many great moments as possible. She was big on trying to make the ordinary extraordinary and I like that.

Barrett Fuller's Secret by Scott Carter

Scott Carter is an author and screenwriter. His first short film debuted at the Exploding Cinema Film Festival in Los Angeles. Since then his films have played in festivals across North America and his script The Unspoken Promise was written for Bravo! Television. His first novel was the critically acclaimed Blind Luck. Carter is a Toronto native who still lives in the city.

For more information about Barrett Fuller's Secret please visit the Dundurn website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.