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HindustanTimes Sat,02 Aug 2014

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I would love to see one of my books on the big screen: Jeffrey Archer
Sarthak Saraswat, Hindustan Times
March 14, 2014
First Published: 18:32 IST(14/3/2014)
Last Updated: 19:26 IST(14/3/2014)

Politics and writing have defined Lord Jeffrey Archer's eventful life. While scandals haunted his political life -- he had to resign from Conservative Party twice -- his success as an author has been phenomenal and pretty smooth. His books have sold a staggering 250 million copies.  The author has an avid fan base in India and loves to talk about the time, when more than 3,000 people turned up for one of his book launches in the country.

One of the few writers who still prefer to write their books completely by hand, Archer told HT in an interview that he often doesn't know the climax of the book when he starts writing.

"I usually know the first four or five chapters in detail, and the next 10 in outline, which will take me to the middle of the book. Then it's time to pray," he said.

Hailed by the Time Magazine as a "master entertainer", Archer continues to defy his critics and delight his fans with his once-you-start-you-cannot-put-it-down books. The latest to hit the stands is the fourth installment of The Clifton Chronicles, a five-part series.

British film actor Michael Caine (L) speaks to former MP and author Jeffrey Archer (R) in Central London. (AFP file photo)

The story revolves around Harry Clifton, a docker's son who falls in love with the daughter of the wealthy owner of the docks. The tale of Harry's life evolves through a tumultuous 20th century, the ravages of the First World War to the outbreak of the World War II, mixed with a thrilling cocktail of love, revenge, ambition and betrayal that is bound to keep you frantically turning pages to find out what happens next.

When asked about which book in the series he enjoyed writing the most, Archer refuses to choose.

"Each of the books created its own challenges, and I am still enjoying the process," he says.

The author, who has done a cameo role in the famous movie Bridget Jones' Diary, is yet to see any of his best-sellers made into a movie, though three of his novels -- Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less, Kane and Abel and First Among Equals -- have been made into TV series.

"Of course I would love to see one of my books on the big screen. Paths of Glory, my novel inspired by George Mallory's attempt on Everest in 1924, has been optioned by Columbia for a film called Everest, but, as my son reminds me, 'don't believe it, dad, until you're eating the popcorn'," says Archer.

And if any his book is considered for a screen debut, would he allow the director to tweak the plot?

"If they had a great screenwriter on board, then I believe you have to be willing to allow them to make some changes.  Not everything an author writes in a novel could be translated easily to the screen," he said.

Having been a novelist for about 40 years, the 73-year-old Archer has seen the rise and fall of several governments. A reflection of his own political stint as the deputy chairman of Britain's Conservative Party can be seen in his novels. A self-admitted admirer of strong women, several of Jeffery's novels have female characters much smarter and deadlier than males. How does he think female politicians can better represent themselves in politics? And who according to him would be the most iconic woman politician in recent times?

"Indian women have already played a major role in your nation's politics, not least, Indira Gandhi. But Margaret Thatcher is unquestionably the most iconic female politician of our time."

Author Jeffrey Archer signs a book during a book signing session in Mumbai. (AFP file photo)

Archer's book The Gospel According to Judas, which presents the events of the New Testament through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, was released in 2007. Was he worried his book would meet the same fate as that of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses --- which earned its author a fatwa--- as he was dealing with an equally delicate subject?

"Not at all. My collaboration with Professor Frank Moloney, who is one of the world's leading biblical scholars, was to write a credible and readable take on the events leading up to the great betrayal. Indeed, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he found it 'riveting and plausible'," said Archer.

Having written about 19 novels, nine collections of short stories, three plays and other non-fiction books, Jeffrey is still going strong. What's the secret of his creativity?

"There is no secret – I wish there was – I believe being a storyteller is a God-given gift, and I just wake up each morning thankful that I still have ideas, I still have the enthusiasm to write and I still love entertaining my readers."

Writing tips he would give to aspiring writers?

* Read, and then read some more…and different genres, not just your favourite type of book.

* Don't think that the first draft you do is the finished book. Edit it, and work on it again and again.

* Don't start off on a full length novel, but try a short story, or write for a magazine.

* Think about the experiences you've had, the people you've met, how have they influenced you? Then people will believe you have experienced these moments.

With a huge fan base across the world, he must have come across many fanatic fans. What's the craziest and the most touching gesture he's seen so far?

"I have an Australian fan who's read Kane and Abel 500 times!  Ugh! And one fan travelled over a 1,000 miles to hear me speak in Delhi," said Archer.


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