Peter Carey’s 16th novel, Amnesia, features a hard-drinking old writer following the story of a young computer hacker. It takes in cybercrime, surveillance and the relationship between Australia and the US.

From Dickensian Britain and Ned Kelly’s Australia to modern-day computer hacking, Carey’s varied bibliography demonstrates a relentless desire for change. “I want every book to be unpredictable and new,” he has said.

The Australian novelist’s books, which include Oscar and Lucinda, Jack Maggs and True History of the Kelly Gang, are often set in the past, but he balks at the ‘historical novel’ tag.

“I hate historical novels,” he tells Martha Kearney, preferring the term “a book set in the past”. “I think of my books as modern novels,” he explains.

And although Carey’s books require a huge amount of research, he stresses the importance to wear this lightly. “The most important thing is the story, and the characters,” he says.

Talking Books at Hay Festival: Peter Carey screens on BBC World News on 19 and 21 June 2016.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital, Travel and Autos, delivered to your inbox every Friday.