Q. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A. Freedom to work (write), look up, see trees.

Q. What is your greatest fear?

A. Incapacitation.

Q. What historical figure do you most identify with?

A. My youngest daughter (does she count?). Otherwise it’s mostly monks. Show me a cowl and I identify. And I never met a wretched down-and-outer I didn’t identify with. (They know it too. An old woman stepped off the sidewalk, once, into my path, in Camden Town and said to me, ‘Will you take care of me and take responsibility for me?’. These were her exact words. The wretched say this to me all the time, reminding me that I have mislaid my true calling, as monk and hospitaller.)

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

A. Selfishness

Q. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A. Deafness

Q. What is your greatest extravagance?

A. Chocolate

Q. What is your favorite journey?

A. Across the Rif Mountains of Morocco

Q. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

A. My appearance

Q. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

A. “Absolutely.”

Q. What is your greatest regret?

A. Failing to visit more graveyards (as she requested) with my youngest daughter

Q. When and where were you happiest?

A. This morning – waking each day

Q. Which talent would you most like to have?

A. Music – as an instrumentalist

Q. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

A. My muse

Q. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A. Recognizing how fortunate I am

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

A. A hawk

Q. What is your most treasured possession?

A. Childhood photos; my rings and precious family keepsakes.

Q. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A. Rejection

Q. Where would you like to live?

A. In Portofino

Q. What is your favorite occupation?

A. Scribbling

Q. What is your most marked characteristic?

A. A ready smile

Q. What is the quality you most like in a man?

A. Vulnerability

Q. What do you most value in your friends?

A. Generosity, openness of mind and spirit, patience. And talent, if it happens to be present.

Q. Who are your favorite writers?

A. The greats, from Aeschylus and Sophocles onwards. Shakespeare, Chekhov. Virginia Woolf. Currently I’m reading our contemporary Homer, Mathias Enard.

Q. Who is your favorite hero in fiction?

A. Right now: Francis Mirkovic in Enard’s ‘Zone’

Q. Who are your heroes in real life?

A. My wife, my brothers (they know who they are), my son and my daughters: I see heroic qualities in all of them. Also, devoted doctors and nurses all across the world, since time began.

Q. What is it that you most dislike?

A. Finishing a beloved book

Q. How would you like to die?

A. Snoring

Q. What is your motto?

A. “What are you doing here, you old Bedouin?”  – this comes from a poem written for me by my friend the much admired Syrian poet Firas Sulaiman, who promised to have this carved on my headstone.

Who Was That Lady?, the story of an archaeologist who develops a hugely successful new form of psycho-therapy, based on Stone Age shamanism, will be released on June 7, 2014.

Pre-order here: