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‘The Clifton Chronicles is autobiographical’
Shalaka Nalawade | Saturday, 7 March 2015 AT 08:20 PM IST
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One of the bestselling British novelists, Jeffrey Archer, talks about his writing routine, the city of Mumbai, Margaret Thatcher and Fifty Shades of Grey in his interview with Shalaka Nalawade

An athlete, a member of the British Parliament, a bankrupt man, a prisoner, a cancer survivor and, above all, a bestselling author, Jeffrey Archer’s personal journey has been as interesting as his novels. Had he not experienced the ups and downs and twists and turns, the world would have missed out on a great storyteller. The author himself admits that it was sheer desperation that drove him to writing.

Today, his books are published in 97 countries in more than 37 languages, with international sales passing 270 million copies. He is the only author to have been a number one bestseller in fiction (18 times), short stories (4 times) and non-fiction (The Prison Diaries). Earlier this week, Lord Archer was in town at Crossword, Aundh, to launch his Mightier Than The Sword — book five from his seven-saga series, The Clifton Chronicles.

Catching up with the popular author at the event, we quizzed him about the autobiographical nature of The Clifton Chronicles.  “Harry is obviously me, Giles is a bit of me because he is a politician, Emma is my brilliant and talented wife Mary (shows a picture of himself with his wife when she was 26 years old). It’s only the wicked Virginia, I will never tell anyone who she’s based on,” he informed with his trademark humour intact.

It’s surprising though to find that Margaret Thatcher, with whom Archer was very close during his political stint, has not been featured in any of his books. But Archer revealed, “Margaret Thacher is going to make her appearance in the sixth book in The Clifton Chronicles. You wait for it!”

An author of Archer’s ability needs a special talent. Fortunately, he’s blessed with one. “I get ideas everyday for new stories. That’s god-given. But I work very hard, very very hard. I write from 6 to 8 am, then 10 am to 12 noon, then 2 till 4 pm and then again from 6 to 8 pm. I go to bed at 9.30 pm and I am up by 5.30 am. I write my first draft in 50 days, 350 hours. And the final book comes out after 14 drafts which is 1,000 hours. And I don’t type. I hate noise when I am writing, so I actually write down my stories the old-fashioned way — pen and paper,” said he explaining his writing schedule.

The talk obviously involved Kane and Abel, Archer’s third novel, which is now heading for its 100th reprint. “Kane and Abel is heading towards its 100th reprint and we are not sure that there’s any author living who has seen this kind of success, well, other than Harper Lee with her book To Kill A Mockingbird. She’s sold 40 million and I have sold 37 million copies of our respective books. But here’s some interesting news: To Kill a Mockingbird and Kane and Abel put together have not sold as many copies as Fifty Shades of Grey!” said the energetic septuagenarian and a living legend.   

But no matter what, Archer is adamant that he will never write a book like Fifty Shades of Grey. “I always tell people, write what you know. That’s what Jane Austen did! She was a woman who lived in a village and she wrote about women in the village,” he added.

It’s this same compulsion that has kept Archer from writing about India. “But I’ll tell you what I’ve written in the eight chapters out of the 40 in the next book in The Clifton Chronicles that are based in Mumbai. Sebastian, Harry and Emma’s son, will be falling for an Indian girl he met at Lord’s Cricket Stadium during a match and he follows her to Mumbai. That’s all I can tell you right now. But I can tell you that this book will come with its own Indian cover!” said Jeffrey who literally floored the audience with his charm, wit and intelligence at The Crossword bookstore this week.  

Now this calls for a loud cheer and thundering applause from Indian fans of Jeffrey Archer. What say folks?

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