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Richard Flanagan was born in Tasmania in 1961. He studied history at the universities of Tasmania and Oxford. Regarded as one of the leading Australian writers of his generation, his six novels have received numerous honours. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania.
Who is your perfect reader?
Anyone who finishes my book.
What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?
Rod Laver saying Nick Kyrgios couldn’t beat Rafael Nadal [at Wimbledon].
Which books are on your bedside table?
A tottering obelisk topped by Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment. A marvel. And not only of balance.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
From before I could write. It was the only thing I ever took seriously.
What is your daily writing routine?
Jeff Thomson, the Australian fast bowler, was once asked how he managed to bowl in such a terrifying fashion. “I dunno mate,” he replied. “I just come in and go, ‘Wang’.” There’s a lot to be said for wang in all things. I get up, sit down and make things up. There really isn’t a lot more to it.
What do you snack on while you write?
Mostly I drink.
What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
In Japan I met a former Japanese guard who had been the Ivan the Terrible of my father’s PoW camp, the only man my father ever spoke of with violent intent. He was sentenced to death for war crimes in 1946, but this was later commuted. I asked the old man to slap me in the manner camp guards did with PoWs. On the third slap, the room we were in began to roll and shudder as a 7.3 Richter scale earthquake hit Tokyo.
Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?
Whoever is fun. In my experience the famous rarely are. Theirs is not the end of the table to end up at.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
Rebekah Brooks. Because Rupert would want her free.
What are you most proud of writing?
My next novel.
Where is your favourite place?
A riverbank beach set in rainforest, just past Newlands Cascades on the Franklin river, Tasmania, five days’ white-water rafting away from anything of the modern world.
Richard Flanagan’s latest novel is ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ (Chatto & Windus)
Photograph: Ulf Andersen