News and Interviews

Get to Know Children's Literature Star Tim Wynne-Jones on Food, Happiness, & Favourites

Tim Wynn Jones

Tim Wynne-Jones is the author of more than 30 beloved books for young readers, from picture books to YA adventures. His latest is The Ruinous Sweep (Candlewick Press), a young adult story that opens explosively, with Donovan Turner being thrown out of a car on a deserted highway, unable to remember his name or the previous 24 hours. Things go from bad to worse and soon Donovan is on the run with a dead man's briefcase, as he searches for his girlfriend, Bee.

A dark adventure that takes inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy, The Ruinous Sweep is a tale of redemption anchored in the unforgettable characters of Donovan and Bee, who readers will root for even when the odds seem stacked against them. You can read a sample chapter from the Candlewick website

We're incredibly excited to welcome Tim, an icon of kids' lit in Canada, to Open Book to get personal with our version of the famous Proust Questionnaire, a series of personal questions beloved by Proust and his friends.

Tim paints a delicious picture of his favourite colours, tells us about the joy of sad music, and shares a tasty motto we can definitely get behind. 

The Proust Questionnaire with Tim Wynne-Jones 

What is your dream of happiness?

I dream of living simultaneously in splendid isolation in a black house on the shores of the Isle of Lewis, with the North Sea crashing about outside and a peat fire inside, while also living within shouting distance and a good coffee shop of my grown-up children in Toronto and London, England.  

What is your idea of misery?

Well, there are the big and horrible miseries of war and famine and brutish infantile presidents. Then there is the misery of a long flight with nothing to read. 

What qualities do you admire most in a man?

The ability to tell the difference between a ’56 and ’57 Chevrolet Impala and to wonder what went so terribly wrong in ’58. 

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?

The extraordinary ability to get along with men – or, at least, to try their best.   

What is your chief characteristic?

My laugh. I’m a really good audience. It’s what I plan to be when I grow up.  

What is your principal fault?

Not being able to remember people’s names. I’ve also been accused of overly long hugs. Sometimes I hug a person too long in order to give myself time to remember their name. 

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?

Regrets. Everybody’s got them but they shouldn’t be allowed to create so solid a foundation that you can afford to dwell on them.

What is your favourite virtue?

Bravery. Is bravery a virtue? Well, anyway, I remember when I was young and brave and then suddenly wasn’t any more. Afraid to leap from one rock to another. Afraid to stand up to tyrannies, large and small.

What is your favourite occupation?

Writing. But a close second is the New York Times crossword. And reading a juicy murder mystery, of course. 

What is your favourite colour?

The orange of mango, the yellow of saffron, the red of Spanish paprika. My favourite colours are food.

What is your favourite flower?

The ones that grow wild along our country road. 

What is your favourite bird?

The brown thrasher for all his thousand songs. 

What historical figure do you admire the most?

Willian Shakespeare.

Who are your favourite prose authors?

Always: A.A. Milne, Kenneth Grahame, John Wyndham, John Le Carre, Graham Greene, Philip Pullman, Douglas Adams, Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami.

Right now: Mick Herron, Bernard Cornwell, Jo Nesbo, Robert Harris.

Who are your favourite poets?

Lorna Crozier, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Ron Koertge, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Amanda Jernigan.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?

Ratty, Eeyore, Pinky, Hermione Jean Granger, Elizabeth Bennet, George Smiley, Holly Martins, Lyra Belacqua, Will Parry, Xavier March, Kathy (in Never Let Me Go), Young Tommy (in Angel Square), Tom (in How Tom Beat Captain Njork and His Hired Sportsmen), Heck (in Heck, Superhero), and so many more…

Who is your favourite painter?

Joseph Cornell, who paints with things rather than colors and reminds me of life’s small and important mysteries. Edward Ardizzone and Quentin Blake, whose picture book art endlessly informs my heart of where it lives.

Who is your favourite musician?

Music is my biggest inspiration, especially sad music. To start this list would be to commit to a happily endless task. Let me give a handful of examples: Yo Yo Ma playing Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe;” John Lennon singing “No Reply;” Dawn Upshaw singing in Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs; kd lang singing “Constant Craving;” and just about anyone playing the first of Erik Satie’s “Trois Gymnopédies.” Oops! Oh well, there are people with six fingers.  

What is your favourite food?

Paella, and Greek lamb fricasse with lemon and artichokes, and pasta with cauliflower, anchovies and salt-packed capers, and Thai fish stew with eggplant and oyster mushrooms, and everything Oaxacan, and everything Middle Eastern and anything at all in Yatim Ottolenghi’s fabulous cook books! Hmm. Maybe food is my biggest inspiration…

What is your motto?

There’s always dinner.


Tim Wynne-Jones is the accomplished author of numerous young adult novels, including The Emperor of Any Place, which earned seven starred reviews, Blink & Caution, winner of the 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and The Uninvited. In 2012 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for his services to literature. Tim Wynne-Jones lives in Ontario.

Buy the Book

The Ruinous Sweep

On the night Donovan Turner is thrown out of a car on a highway in the middle of nowhere, he can barely remember his own name, let alone the past twenty-four hours. Where is he? Where is his girlfriend, Bee? In an attempt to flag down the next passing car, he startles the driver, causing a fatal accident. With sirens in the distance and the lingering feeling that he’s running from something — or someone — Donovan grabs the dead driver’s briefcase and flees. Meanwhile, Bee is fighting for Dono’s life every bit as much as he is. But when the police show up and hint that he is the prime suspect in a murder, Bee is determined to put together the pieces of what happened and clear his name. With echoes of Dante’s Divine Comedy, this harrowing journey through hell and back is a page-turning tale of guilt, retribution, love, and redemption.

A rainy night. An empty highway. And no memory. From award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones comes a riveting murder mystery that will keep readers enthralled until the last page.