One Minute With: John Julius Norwich, historian

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

Sitting at home at my father's old desk in my study. The principal sight I have in front of me is the computer screen. Behind it is a picture window with a view out on to the side of our garden and a large plane tree.

What are you currently reading?

The fascinating autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which gives a wonderful picture of early 18th-century New England. I'm also deeply involved with a novel by the Indian-Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry, 'A Fine Balance'. If you love India as I do, you will find that no one can paint as vivid a picture of ordinary... Indian life as he can.

Choose a favourite author and say why you like her/him

Another Canadian, Robertson Davies. Seldom, if ever, have I enjoyed novels as I have his. They are totally unlike anyone else's – wild, fantastic and baroque, not at all what you would expect from Canada.

Describe the room where you usually write

It was, until some 15 months ago, the Reading Room of the London Library. I used it nearly every day for half a century and became part of the furniture. Since the end of 2000, however, I have had bad ankle trouble and have been largely confined to the house. The most recent book was written in my home study.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

I hope, like me: ordinary people, moderately intelligent and moderately well-educated all-rounders.

What distracts you from writing?

Nothing much. I happen to enjoy the act of writing quite enormously.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Sorry, can't answer this one – I have no idea what I'm like.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

There are only three sports that I enjoy watching: tennis, downhill skiing and diving. Young Tom Daley is the best diver of any age that I've ever seen. I'll be rooting for him in the Olympics, hoping for a Gold.

John Julius Norwich's 'The Popes: A History' is published by Chatto & Windus