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!

J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of fifteen critically acclaimed thrillers and is the co-author of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. With over a million books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-five countries and thirteen languages. She is also the co-host of A Word on Words, Nashville's premier literary TV series, which airs on Nashville Public Television. She lives with her husband and twin kittens in Nashville. Visit JTEllison.com, and follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick or at Facebook.com/JTEllison14.