On the Couch with Chris Flynn

AAR Chris Flynn - photo by Jo DuckWho is Chris Flynn?
I’m a writer from Ireland who now lives on Phillip Island. Like most writers, I’ve done a lot of different jobs in my life, from garbage man to catwalk model, pillow stuffer to Olympic mascot. I’ve always been good at adapting to circumstance and working out a way to survive. I’ve now settled into the life of an author, with my third book Mammoth coming out in the midst of a global pandemic. Timing was perhaps never my strong suit.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
The honest answer is nothing. I’m 48 now and I have complete freedom in my life. I live on a beautiful island, I work from home and unlike most creatives, I’m actually happy.

Who inspires you and why?
I’m the youngest member of a motorcycle club in Gippsland, and the older riders are an inspiration, simply because they still have a sense of adventure. Nothing seems to faze them. They live to explore and enjoy the world. It’s heartening witnessing that in septuagenarians, who ride faster and harder than me. They’re not grumpy or cynical. They’re great fun. I want to be like them when I’m old and grey. Also, Elizabeth Gilbert. She stayed at my house for a few days recently and she is everything you might expect and so much more. Funny, easygoing, full of life. She’s had a tremendous impact on the lives of women, and it doesn’t take long in her company to understand why.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Divert all our resources into tackling climate change, poverty and social injustice. That sounds glib, maybe, but when are we going to grow up and sort our shit out? I’m trying to do my part, in a small way, with Mammoth, which shows us how we can arrest global warming by attuning ourselves more to the animal kingdom and by having faith in science, creativity and empathy. Also, I’d introduce mandatory jail sentences for people who talk really loudly on their phones on public transport.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Alaska. I went a few years ago with a group of friends and it was surreal. Incredible landscapes, bizarre people and crazy dangerous animals. I went ice climbing on a glacier, which was the hardest and most satisfying thing I’ve ever done on holiday. I like activities when I’m on holiday. I hate sitting around.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I live on Phillip Island, which is basically a wilderness reserve. As long as people are up for a bracing walk, I take friends to Cape Woolamai, where we can watch surfers from the cliffs.

What are you currently reading?
Actress by Anne Enright. It’s about the life of an Irish actress who goes off the rails, as told by her daughter. I love Anne Enright. She once said, “Only bad writers think that their work is really good,” which I’m always reminded of when I hear literary boasting.

What are you currently listening to?
Caribou’s new album Suddenly. Dan Snaith is the best, he consistently delivers the goods. I’m a child of the techno generation, so I love my bleeps and bloops and space sounds.

Happiness is?
Swimming naked in the ocean, which I do every morning.

What does the future hold for you?
Oh man, who knows? Every year, my life is different. There’s no way of predicting what lies around the corner for any of us. But I’m an optimist. It’s like DH Lawrence said: “The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”

Chris Flynn is the author of The Glass Kingdom and A Tiger in Eden, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The AgeThe AustralianGriffith ReviewMeanjinAustralian Book ReviewThe Saturday PaperSmith JournalThe Big IssueMonster ChildrenMcSweeney’s and many other publications.

He has conducted interviews for The Paris Review and is a regular presenter at literary festivals across Australia. Chris lives on Phillip Island, next to a penguin sanctuary. His latest novel, Mammoth is published by University of Queensland Press and available from all leading book sellers including Dymocks.

Image: Chris Flynn – photo by Jo Duck