1.8.14 - The Proust Questionnaire: Dr. Samantha Owens

A very, very good day. It started with the news WHEN SHADOWS FALL is getting a starred review in Booklist. A star, people! I. Am. Floored. And so excited. SHADOWS is a seminal book for Sam, I am so thrilled it's been well received, at least in one quarter. Then I wrote up a storm, since I was so inspired by this morning's bit of loveliness. 

To celebrate, here's something a little different. I thought you might like to get to know Samantha Owens a wee bit better. I dispatched a reporter to interview her using the Proust Questionnaire. This ran on the  Writerspace blog originally -- I highly encourage you to head over there and subscribe to their awesome blog.

The Proust Questionnaire: Dr. Samantha Owens

Dr. Saman­tha Owens granted me a rare inter­view this win­ter. We sat down at the Tombs, a D.C. restau­rant she likes to fre­quent, to dis­cuss her life, her posi­tion as the head of George­town Uni­ver­sity Med­ical School’s new Foren­sic pathol­ogy pro­gram. Dr. Owens was incred­i­bly can­did, agree­ing to answer the infa­mous Proust ques­tion­naire. We had a cou­ple of drinks and I ran through the ques­tions, amazed at times by her insight, and her pos­i­tive out­look despite the sad­ness that has per­me­ated her life in the past few years.

What is your idea of per­fect happiness?

Kind­ness among all people.

What is your great­est fear?

You’re kid­ding, right?

Hey, it’s part of the questionnaire.

Floods. I am deeply afraid of floods.

Which his­tor­i­cal fig­ure do you most iden­tify with?

Good­ness, Madame Curie, maybe? How ego­tis­ti­cal is that? (She laughs.)

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


What is the trait you most deplore in others?


What is your great­est extravagance?

It’s going to sound so shal­low, but clothes. Soft sump­tu­ous fab­rics — I sim­ply can’t help myself.

What is your favorite journey?

Other than cross­ing the River Styx? Kid­ding. I’d like to go to Italy. Tay­lor went and has been rav­ing ever since. Truth be told, I haven’t trav­eled as much as I’d like. There was never time, with work, then the kids… well. I’d like to travel.

What do you con­sider the most over­rated virtue?

Moral excel­lence. I don’t believe it exists. I’m con­cerned by the mob men­tal­ity I see, peo­ple gang­ing together, claim­ing moral supe­ri­or­ity but pur­pose­fully hurt­ing other peo­ple. It’s not sustainable.

On what occa­sion do you lie?  (She doesn’t answer right away. There is a dis­tant look in her eyes, but then she smiles and takes a sip of her Scotch.)

I don’t lie to oth­ers, only to myself. And it often lands me in trouble.

What do you dis­like most about your appearance?

My hands.

(I can’t help but look at them, they are sur­pris­ingly unkempt for a woman who seems so put together. Red and cracked, they look almost painful. Curious.)

Which liv­ing per­son do you most despise? (She snaps the answerher face sud­denly con­torted in anger.)

He’s no longer liv­ing – but a man named Ewan Copeland. Next.

Okay. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? (This is safer ter­ri­tory, she laughs, and I am struck again by how a smile utterly trans­forms her face.)

I tend to curse a lot, so Jesus is prob­a­bly my go to phrase.

What is your great­est regret?

That I asked my hus­band to save my lap­top. Next.

What or who is the great­est love of your life? (She seems very uncom­fort­able with this ques­tion. It takes her almost a whole minute to respond.)

I decline to answer. My life is far from over. Besides, I couldn’t pos­si­bly pick just one.

When and where were you happiest?

I’m happy right now, and that’s all I can ask.

Which tal­ent would you most like to have?

The abil­ity to forget.

What is your cur­rent state of mind? (Another laugh.)

I’ve had a cou­ple of fin­gers of Laphroaig, so I’m pretty well lubri­cated at the moment. Is that a state of mind?

If you could change one thing about your­self, what would it be? (She grows seri­ous again. This woman is mer­cu­r­ial, swing­ing moods from moment to moment. This inter­view is clearly mak­ing her uneasy.)

I wouldn’t. Every­thing that I am, every­thing that’s hap­pened to me, makes me who I am. The good, the bad, the ter­ror, the love. But there’s a scar on my stom­ach I wish wasn’t there.

If you could change one thing about your fam­ily, what would it be?

I’d bring them back to life.

What do you con­sider your great­est achievement?

Oh, that’s easy. Being the youngest female chief med­ical exam­iner in the State of Tennessee.

If you were to die and come back as a per­son or thing, what do you think it would be?

A beloved cat in a well-kempt home.

What is your most trea­sured possession?


What do you regard as the low­est depth of misery?

Out­side of inter­views? Loss.

Where would you like to live?

George­town is fine by me. I like it here. It’s very vibrant, there are a lot of great restau­rants and shops nearby. I can walk to work, and liv­ing in D.C. is amaz­ing. Maybe some­day I’ll live near a beach, where I can take long walks in the chilly air wrapped in a sweater, with a cou­ple of dogs frol­ick­ing around my feet. Idyllic.

What is your favorite occupation?

Foren­sic pathology.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Oh, I bet if you asked a few other peo­ple, they’d say I am incred­i­bly stub­born. But I’d say I’m kind.

What is the qual­ity you most like in a man?


What is the qual­ity you most like in a woman?


What do you most value in your friends?

Love and loy­alty. There’s no judg­ment from them. They often seem to know me bet­ter than I do.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Maura Iles. You know, the Med­ical Exam­iner in Tess Gerritsen’s books? She has such class, and I under­stand her. She’s a rather… eso­teric character.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My best friend, Tay­lor Jack­son, her fiancé, John Bald­win, Detec­tive Dar­ren Fletcher of the Wash­ing­ton D.C. Metro Police, and Xan­der Whit­field. All four are brave beyond mea­sure, car­ing, kind, and beloved. They will never shy away from a fight, and charge head­long into life. I admire that in them.

What is it that you most dislike?

How some­times I have urges I can’t seem to con­trol, and I embar­rass myself in front of strangers.

How would you like to die?

I will give the most banal answer I can. Asleep in my bed at a very advanced age. (She smiles wickedly.) Prefer­ably after a long night of great sex.

And now I’m blush­ing. Last ques­tion. What is your motto?

Justi­tia Omibus.

What’s that mean? (She tips her head to the side, her dark hair swinging.)

Jus­tice for all.


WHEN SHADOWS FALL goes on sale February 25. Pre-order it from your favorite bookseller today!