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'Writing is just as much of a professional job as anything else'

Jeffrey Archer’s novels have always been popular in India. The sizeable turnout at the Landmark store in Mumbai on Wednesday, was evidence of his popularity. Vidya Balachander talks to the author...

books Updated: May 14, 2009 20:16 IST
Vidya Balachander

Jeffrey Archer’s novels have always been popular in India. The sizeable turnout at the Landmark store in Andheri on Wednesday, where the author promoted his latest novel,

Paths of Glory

, was evidence of his popularity.

Archer was in the city as part of a five-city tour to promote his latest novel.

Paths of Glory

is the Archer’s 15th novel. It is a fictional work based on the real-life story of George Mallory, who was one of the first British explorers to attempt to climb Mount Everest.

In 1924, on his third attempt to climb the Everest, Mallory, along with his partner on the expedition, Andrew Irvine, disappeared. Their mysterious deaths, and the fact that they were last seen just a short distance from the summit, have spawned much speculation about whether they actually breached the summit. Archer said this story, which had “all the ingredients” of a thriller, inspired him to write his latest novel.

Although not a thriller in the conventional sense, the novel explores the uncertainty that has always been involved with mountaineering. While it is grounded in facts, Archer said that it was necessary to take some creative licence with the plot. “You can take two facts and make a small story out of it,” he said. “But when you state that fact, it has to be spot on.”

Apart from the novel, Archer also gave tips on the art of writing to budding writers. “Writing is just as much of a professional job as anything else,” he said.

He also allowed some insights into his strict writing routine. “I am very much of a disciplinarian,” he said. “I go to my home in Spain, and start writing at 6 am. The first draft takes about 30 days.” He added that his latest novel took 15 drafts before it was ready.

On the subject of Indian writing in English, Archer mentioned that India could boast of several good “story-tellers”, including RK Narayan and Vikram Seth. “You have to define very clearly the difference between a writer and a story-teller,” he said.

So which of the two would he call himself? “A story-teller. I hope you think so too,” he said.