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Jeffrey Archer Interview: I Think India Belongs to the Next Generation of Women

Archer had travelled to India many times before, and he loves how 'kind' people are here, as well as appreciates the country's enthusiasm for the game of cricket.

Simantini Dey | News18.com

Updated:January 30, 2019, 8:46 AM IST
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Jeffrey Archer Interview: I Think India Belongs to the Next Generation of Women
Archer had travelled to India many times before, and he loves how 'kind' people are here, as well as appreciates the country's enthusiasm for the game of cricket.
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'HELL,' wrote Jeffrey Archer in bold, capital letters on a scribble board that asked the question, "What is the place of literature in the age of microblogging?" at Jaipur Literature Festival, in Diggi Palace. Very pleased with his reply, the author of best-selling books like Kane and Abel, The Fourth Estate and The Prodigal Daughter took a step back to admire the board, before being guided by an entourage of PR and team members to another part of the media terrace, where he was supposed to sit for yet another round of press interviews.

For any other 78-year-old, the hectic day at a crowded literary festival would have been an ordeal. But, Archer moved --- from a press conference,to a long session with Barkha Dutt, to thousands of book signings to endless rounds of press interviews --- with the enthusiasm and spiritedness of a teenage boy.

During his interview with News18.com, the author claimed that technology hadn't impacted his readership in the least. "They kept telling me the novel is dead. But, I'm selling more novels than I ever have...So, long live technology," said the author with a hearty laugh.

Earlier during the day, the organisers had to shut down the front lawn because the entire crowd of Jaipur Literature Festival had flocked into that particular venue to hear Archer speak (although there were other simultaneous sessions going on at the time). The 78-year-old, in fact, was so elated by the turnout that at the end of the session he asked the crowd to stop for a photograph, saying that his wife would need photographic evidence to believe that so many people had actually turned up to hear him speak.

Archer, of course, was being humble. Ask any of Archer's fans, and he/she will tell you how wildly popular and sometimes, even unpopular, the author has been over his career. A millionaire, a best-selling author, politician, part-time auctioneer, philanthropist, as well as a socialite, Archer had donned many hats in his life. However, the only title he is most fond of is that of a 'storyteller'. Archer had lived a full life, and have been accused of many wrongdoings in the past -- from 'perjury' to 'perverting justice' -- but the author infuses his experiences beautifully with his imagination when he writes his stories. In his craft of writing, Archer is the most honest and hardworking individual one will ever find.

"I do not think there is luck. Bloody hard work is what it takes. Get on your knees, and get to work. Slave. Write, write, write," said the author. "The most difficult part of being an author is the discipline when you are writing the first draft," he added. Archer has an infamously strict writing regimen. He handwrites every word. His latest book, Heads You Win, in its finished final form, is the sixteenth draft. "I wish there was a short cut, but there isn't," he said.

When he is working on a book, he shuts out the rest of the world and stays in his villa in Majorca, which he has ironically named Writer's Block. "London is too noisy. Too many busy people wanting to see me, wanting to do things. To write, I have to get away completely. Complete quiet, complete sanity to do the book. I can't mix it with something else," said the author.

Archer confessed that Heads You Win has by far been the toughest novel to write. It's a story about a young Russian boy whose father is murdered by the KGB and his mother decides that they will have to escape to survive; the dilemma is whether to go to Britain or to the United States. The author, through his novel, shows readers how that the one choice of 'where to go' makes a big difference in the life of his character by putting him in both places and showing how different his life is in either of them. "The challenge of writing about the same person in two different situations was indeed difficult," said the author. Heads You Win have so far received many favourable reviews.

Archer is one of those rare few who are called 'celebrity authors' in the publishing world, and he sure isn't complaining about his 'celebrity' status. "Someone asked me, 'do you mind all these women stopping you and taking pictures of you? Do you mind all these people wanting you to sign books?' and I said, 'The other side of it is that nobody asks you, nobody reads you. No, thank you. I'll stick with this."

While most aspiring author can't hope to replicate his success, the author suggests a simple trick that has worked for him and his writing career, saying, " I write what I write, and I always say that to others as well, 'if you want to write, for heaven's sake, do what you feel safe with.' I don't do sex, I don't do violence, I don't do bad language. I do my thing, and I pray people will read it."

Archer also told young authors to draw inspirations from all the great novelists of the past like Stefan Zweig, Charles Dickens as well as Jane Austen, whom he called a masterful storyteller. "Austen wrote ancient chick lit, but my! Did she know how to write, and did she know how to tell a story," added Archer.

Archer had travelled to India many times before, and he loves how 'kind' people are here, as well as appreciates the country's enthusiasm for the game of cricket. The author, of course, has many fans here as well, most of them are women."I think India belongs to the next generation of women." observed the author at the Literary Festival in Jaipur.

"If you look at the audience outside, over 3,000 people who came to hear me speak, I would say, 60 per cent were women, and I would say, 40 per cent were under the age of 30. And, 20 per cent were under the age of twenty. If you ask me, 'well, explain it, Jeffrey, we want to know why have they come?' I do not understand it myself," he added.

While he does not know why he has so many fans, he is full of old and new fan anecdotes."This occasion in Mumbai, when I was in a car, a boy tapped on my window. I rolled down the glass, and the boy asked, 'Would you like the latest Jeffrey Archer?' and I said to him, 'I am the latest Jeffrey Archer'," laughed the author.

"India is a great country because they teach the next generation to read. In lot of other countries, people are on facebook, or twitter, or on whatever they are on. God bless them. But in India, there is a tradition of reading," said the author.

"People of your age are still reading Kane and Abel that was written 40 years ago, and no doubt your great-grandchildren will be as well, I hope," he added confidently.
| Edited by: Shantanu David
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