With his latest book Only Time Will Tell reaching the number one spot after just a day's sale, Jeffrey Archer is on a roll. Firmly rooted to his couch in front of the television, he can't take eyes off the ongoing cricket match. As he waxes eloquent about Sachin Tendulkar, it's a task to veer the conversation back to the legend himself.
From a stint in the prison for perjury to overnight success, Archer's life is no less exciting than his thrillers. Quiz him on any autobiographical project in the offing and he laughs, "Well my new series (Clifton Chronicles) about Harry Clifton's life is semi autobiographical as there's a lot of Harry in me. The character will also grow up to be a writer, I can't divulge more right now, that's for the next four books." Ask him about his time in prison and you know you've touched a sore spot. "I wrote three books about it, that's more than enough about the prison," he offers.
With a career spanning more than forty years, the author has been at the receiving end of both brickbats and bouquets. Prod him on the most memorable ones and he reveals, "I am not bothered much by criticism, maybe the young take themselves too seriously. And as far as praise goes, there's nothing like people walking up to me and talk about Kane and Abel as if it's a part of their life."After being maligned by the British press for years, he's finally managed it to their good books. With 19 books to his name and a worldwide fan following, the author was recently awarded the Prix Polar International for his best-selling novel A Prisoner of Birth. "Public loves storytellers, and awards are given to writers. It's very flattering to win awards at my age but there are 50 million people in India who've read Kane and Abel. What award is going to beat that? In fact, I keep telling my publishers not to tell anyone about the awards because the sales will go down," he says.
So has he read any Indian authors? "Oh yes! I'm nuts about R.K.Narayan. I think he is an amazing combination of a storyteller and a writer. He gives me the flavour of India and also gives me a story, which is hard to put down."
The British author, who is no less famous than a Bollywood star in India, has recently written scripts for films based on his books Paths of Glory and False Impressions but he doesn't seem too keen on the film industry. "People in the film industry talk more than they do. Bollywood is also looking at one of my short stories called Cast Off, but with films nothing is certain. As my son says don't believe it till you're eating the popcorn."
So would he want to act in a movie? "Nope, maybe a small part which is fun to do."
20 minutes into the interview, he is still unperturbed by the volley of questions. Like many authors, Archer also suffers from an obsessive compulsive disorder - a disorder most would kill to have. "Discipline is my OCD. I like things to be in their place, my pens, pencils, clock to be in the same place. I'm eccentric in my own way, says the writer who still writes every word of his book with a pen.