I am extremely disciplined, says Jeffrey Archer which is perhaps why he is among the most successful writers of popular fiction today
“I am not a writer, I am a story-teller,” claims Jeffrey Archer at the launch of Best Kept Secrets, his latest book, the third in the Clifton Chronicles series. “It is a God given gift and I’m very lucky.”
The fates have certainly been kind to Lord Archer. He has triumphed over setbacks like his conviction for perjury, exit from politics and a spell in prison and churned out several more of the racy, fast-paced novels that he is so famous for. The Clifton Chronicles, his latest addition, is a saga that traces the life of the protagonist, Harry Clifton, over a 100-year-period. “I originally expected it to be five books but it may stretch to six or seven,” he says. “I’m enjoying writing it so much.”
He appears unfazed by the enormity of the task ahead of him saying that “I wanted to challenge myself and realized I would have to work very hard indeed and be very focused.”
“I am extremely disciplined,” he adds. “If I am not disciplined, work will not be done.” It is perhaps this discipline that has taken him so far. Decades have gone by since the publication of his first book Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, but he still continues to draw readers to him — with over 250 million copies sold worldwide, his novels continue to have a timeless appeal that simply refuses to wane. And if the swelling crowds at the Landmark store where the event was held is anything to go by, his popularity is unlikely to decrease any time soon.
Archer clearly loves the attention. The solitude that his writing entails is balanced by appearances such as these where he basks in the public eye. “I enjoy being at the centre of the stage,” he admits. His flagrant attempts at publicity don’t just stop with staged appearances but also extend into social media portals. He blogs regularly and has a twitter account that has garnered 13,534 followers. “I’ve tweeted three times today already,” he says. “It is a great way of getting in touch with your reader.”
In addition to the writing, Archer loves theatre, is an art-collector and also a philanthropist who organises charity auctions on a regular basis, “I give 3.3 million to the auction each year,” he says. Cricket is another long time love. “That is perhaps one of the reasons I have an affinity with the Indian people,” he says. “I do love this country and the people here.”
In spite of this kinship with India, he admits that he will never base a novel here. “Indians produce the greatest writers on earth, the last thing you want to do is play them at their own game,” he says, adding that one needs to be familiar with a place to write about it.
He cautioned would-be writers in the audience saying, “There is no way out of research however. You can’t get facts wrong.” He also admits to doing 14 drafts of every single book that he writes, “There isn’t much left to think about once you have got there.” On his predilection for strong female protagonists he laughs and admits, “I have been surrounded by strong women all my life,” stating that the three most significant among them were his mother, his wife and Margaret Thatcher — he worked with her for 11 years.
Archer claims that though he never plans out his novels, he has never suffered from any form of writers block and the words flow the minute he starts his writing. “I can honestly say to you, I wish I knew how that happens but it just does and I cannot stop it. I have no control over plot or characters. I never know more than three pages ahead.”