Indian Stretched Time pushed the session by a good 45 minutes. The stage was set for him to comfortably engage with the audience who filled the Khemka auditorium at the Indian School of Business. But Lord Archer preferred to walk and dance, though he told us, “I am not a ballerina,” and kept the audience in splits for the next one hour. This was followed by the launch of the fifth book in ‘The Clifton Chronicles’ series, ‘Mightier than the Sword’.
“Let me start off with a very serious statement, because I am a serious person,” started the 74-year-old Jeffrey Archer. “England is going to win the Cricket World Cup this year,” he said which made anIndian cricket fanatic from the crowd respond with, “Jeffrey, India is going to win this world cup,” and Jeffrey pointed to the young man, “Well, you are as stupid as me. Haven’t you watched the Australians or the New Zealanders play?”
This is only one of the many spontaneous reactions that Jeffrey shot at the audience.
It was quite evident, that this former politico, who was a Member of the British Parliament loves this country like his own (why not? with the Indian reader base being more than 50 million), as he takes a dig at Bollywood, the Indian mentality and the audience in general.
This, he does with the same ease as praising our very own VVS Laxman for his outstanding batting. “20-20 cricket is rubbish. So is the one-day format. Cricket is VVS Laxman batting all day against the Australians and then beating them the next day,” pointed out the best-selling author, where the 100th edition of his first book, ‘Kane and Abel’ is likely to be published towards the end of this year. “That is 7, 00,000 copies,” informed Jeffrey, while his publishers are trying to find out if any other living author has had their book published for the 100th time.
Besides the jokes, he also shared some valuable thoughts.
As easy at it seems?
I wrote the book ‘Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less’, out of desperation. Like every one else who writes his first book, I assumed that the whole world would buy it and it would be an instant best seller. Absolutely not! It sold 3,000 copies in a year. That does not help a writer. My wife, a professional said why dont you get a real job? After it was released in paper back, it sold 25,000 copies in one month. I rang up the publishers and asked them to publish another 25,000 copies. They said no, it doesn’t work like that. You write another book. I insisted and they agreed. They sold them all in a month. Last month I phoned them up, and asked them why don’t you publish another 25,000 copies. That makes it 7,50,000 copies and I have to still ring them every month. I have been bloody lucky.
Author or businessman?
I surely know what is going on on the Kindle, on Amazon, what is happening to books around the world, because I want to more people to read my books. I take that seriously. Look at Jane Austen. She wrote in her bedroom about her village but we are still reading her today. If you write a good enough story, if you write something big enough, it will survive and millions will read it.
Talent or hard work?
I wake up at 5:30 am. I write from 6 to 8 am and I hand write every word. I then take a two hour break and work from 10 am to 12 pm. Another break and I go for a five-mile walk, have lunch and continue to work until 4 pm and then take another two hour break. Thereafter, I work from 6 until 8 pm and sleep at 10 pm. I do this consistently for 300 hours and it only makes the first draft. May be a 1,000 hours later it makes a fourth draft. Young people come to me and ask me, I want to write my first novel, how long will I take?
I tell them, go to a ballet. Try to imagine how many hours it must have taken for them to be that good. If you want to be no.1, talent is very useful, but hard work is what will make it happen. I made enough money after I wrote ‘Kane and Abel’. Youngsters have a notion that they can make enough money and then relax. That’s rubbish! I have worked only harder since my first book, not any less.
Blocks while writing?
I am not a writer. I am a story teller. I tell a tale. So I never know when what might strike or when a story might occur. A writer knows what he wants to say. He will probably have it all planned out. I don’t. That’s the difference between a writer and a story teller. So creativity is a god given gift and I am very lucky. I not a singer or a dancer, but I am writer who is a story teller.
Striking trend in India?
One big thing that I have noticed is Indian women of this generation – they are fiestiest, most ambitious ones I have ever come across. The men are no different from Americans or Brits who are ambitious.
I met this 12-year-old girl four years ago who wrote a children’s book then. I met her again, three days ago and she is out with her first novel. We were having a chat and I told her, I don’t have a lot of advice, but I might warn you about one thing, men. She responded, astonished. Men?! They are pathetic. They are certainly not getting in the way of my career. I thought, wow!
Among the 1,000 people that gather to meet me, around 700 will be women and around 500 will be under the age of 20.
That’s the new India. In this country, women are going to be the next generation.