About Claire R. McDougall
Q. What is your birthdate?
Q. Previous occupations
A. Au pair, waitress, hotel receptionist, Edinburgh guide, house painter (but, as one of my clients pointed out, "You don't know a damn thing about painting.") Journalist
Q. Favorite job
Q. High school and/or college
A. Prestwick Academy, Lochgilphead High School, Oban High School, Edinburgh University, Dartmouth College, Oxford University
Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
A. That would have to be Beethoven
Q. Favorite movie
A. Here's a list: Braveheart, Kes, Zorba, Shadowlands, The English Patient, Dances with Wolves, Sound of Music,
Q. Favorite television show
A. Dr. G (or any forensic mystery type of programme); Neil Oliver's history programmes, Who Do You Think You Are? Downton Abby. Cosby
Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
A. An in-body experience
Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Everything at this moment is exactly as it should be
Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. In my life, I have been guilty of holding "Perfect Happiness," out in the future as the illusive goal. I hope I have come to a point of realising that happiness, or better contentment, is a question of going inward. It is perfect happiness to realise that perfect happiness was there all along.Otherwise, a bar of almost anything made by Cadbury would qualify.
Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. On bad days, my greatest fear is of expiring into insignificance. On good days, I fear being disconnected to the elan vital
Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. On a beach watching waves turn over into foam, listening to them break on the shore
Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Eeeks. All I can say is that I have four portraits on the wall of my office: Emily Bronte, Friedrich Nietzsche, DH Lawrence and John Steinbeck.
Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. I admire Barack Obama - I used to think that politician and integrity didn't belong in the same sentence. In the same vein, Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, because he faces a Bannockburn of resistance from the English government over Scottish Independence and he does so with grace and good humour. Oprah Winfrey because she gives us a good model for women coming into their power, doing good with what she has earned and seeing herself within the spectrum of history.
Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. All the usual suspects: heart, soul, love, moon. I say "Amazing," and "Really," and "Blinkin" too much.
Q. What do you regret most?
A. I sort of regret going to university at eighteen and not really having any bearings. In a sense my eight years of education was wasted on me. Still, all roads lead to where I stand.
Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I would love to conduct an orchestra
Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. You're looking at it. On one level. On another level, my children.
Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Shooting my mouth off. People don't like it, and I usually live to regret it.
Q. What’s your best quality?
Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. A conductor or a great musician. When I was younger, I wanted to be an archeologist.
Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. Shooting my mouth off!
Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Zorba would rank up there.
Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Heathcliffe. He has bad characteristics but you understand him and have to be sympathetic to him.
Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. I would have to say Jesus Christ, just because so much in history depends upon him, good and bad, and I would like to show him what became of this religion called after him and ask him what he thinks. My guess is he would say, in the words of Mr. Prufrock, "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it at all."
Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. Mindlessness and unmindfulness. In America, the propaganda of the NRA as an example of this.
Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Music. Reading. Movies. Dining out.
Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Authenticity. Honesty. Self-awareness.
Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Soup. (And chocolate)
Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. These change all the time, but songs I go back to are: Wings to Fly Us Home," by Joe Henry. "Fields of Gold," by Sting, "Good Morning Babe," Obadiah Jones, "The Game is Over," John Denver, "Dreamboat," Obadiah Jones (and "Thank You For the Music," Abba
On Books and Writing
Q. Who are your favorite authors?
A. I am a big fan of John Steinbeck. The writing is so smooth and well-crafted. Dialogue doesn't get much better. You're in the hands of a master, but one with a light touch, which is much the best kind.James Galvin wrote a fantastic little book called "The Meadow," which flouts modern convention and is almost entirely character driven (the Meadow being a character, too.) A beautiful read.Lewis Grassic Gibbon, a fantastic Scottish author of the early nineteenth century. He would have been more widely read if some of the dialogue weren't in dialect. DH Lawrence - more so in my youth, but "Lady Chatterly," (better in its "John Thomas and Lady Jane" incarnation) is still a great book. Kazantzakis: Zorba the Greek - best novel of last century. Herman Hesse - I read every one of his when I was a teenager. I liked Narziss and Goldmund in particular. I'm not sure how they would stand up to time. Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights - I've been to the Bronte parsonage in Haworth several times. Emily was the most interesting. She was accused of being possessed by the devil for writing this book, and it really was a wild breakaway kind of book in a prissy age. Emily was heaven possessed.
Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. This is a hard question, so take the answer with a grain of salt:Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckThe Meadow by James GalvinSunset Song by Lewis Grassic GibbonCannery Row by John SteinbeckZorba the Greek by Nikos KazantzakisAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtThe Collected Poems of WB YeatsI was always good at English but bad at maths!
Q. Is there a book you love to reread?
A. All of Steinbeck. All of Frank McCourt. All of Grassic Gibbon. WB Yeats. I reread The Meadow, by James Galvin, Tinkers by Paul Harding, Lime Creek by Joe Henry.
Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
A. Whatever fills up your time has become your passion
Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
A. I would write my novel if only I could find the time....see question 30 above