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‘I was rejected more times than Rowling’

The 67-year-old author is in the country to promote his latest novel, A Prisoner of Birth, a gripping page-turner about a man who is falsely convicted of murdering his best friend, reports Purva Mehra.

books Updated: May 21, 2008 00:21 IST
Purva Mehra

Jeffrey Archer’s term as a politician may have come to an untimely conclusion in 2000, when he could no longer redeem himself from the web of controversies he was ensnared in. In person, however, Archer is ever the smooth-talking diplomat who almost made it to the London mayoral election of 2000.

The 67-year-old author is in the country to promote his latest novel, A Prisoner of Birth, a gripping page-turner about a man who is falsely convicted of murdering his best friend.

“I have been on the bestsellers list in New York, London and Japan but I can finally say that I have made it because my books are being sold at traffic signals in India,” said Archer to a gathering of a few hundred fans at Landmark bookstore.

Archer — who has previously authored 14 novels, of which Kane and Abel, The Fourth Estate and Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less figure amongst the most popular — revealed that he took to the quill to salvage himself from near bankruptcy 34 years ago.

“Seventeen publishers rejected Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, until it was given the get-go by the 18th one and, to date, that novel, my first attempt at writing, has sold over 23 million copies. I finally beat JK Rowling at something, her lucky stroke came with the 16th publisher,” said Archer.

The author has sustained himself in the news as much for his storytelling abilities as for his knack for courting scandal.

Having served two years in prison for perjury — Archer had cited a false alibi in a previous libel case in 1987 — his latest work borrows heavily from his time in custody. At the book reading, however, the novelist chose to steer the conversation away from the controversies and politics and stick to his writing processes.

“From the January of every year, I allot myself 50 writing days to complete my first draft. But it’s only at my 17th draft that the book is complete. I am a storyteller, not a writer. My intention is to get readers to turn to the next page. In the case of most good writers, getting beyond page 30 is difficult,” said Archer.

Archer’s next project is a screenplay called Parts of Glory, for which he is shopping for settings while in India.

Known to be a fan of cricket, Archer also commented on the current cricket fever that has gripped the city. “T20 is great entertainment, I can see why it’s doing so well. But it’s not cricket. India batting England at Lords is a cricket match, with India at 23-7.”