Source : Times of India
International bestselling author, Jeffrey Archer was in India recently. Archer, who was one of the TOI Write India authors for season two, met us for a quick and candid interview in New Delhi wherein he spoke about the art of storytelling and his upcoming works. The former politician-turned-author, who has been to India several times before, told us that India has inspired some of his short stories. He facilitated the Write India winner of his month, Pranshoe Pandey and presented him the Kindle that he had won. Excerpts from the exclusive interview:
Tell us your experience of being a Write India author.
It was a great privilege because we do respect the Times of India a lot. Write India’s theme and idea seemed to be a strong one. I can’t remember how many people finally entered the contest, but a lot of young people got an opportunity to write. But as you see, there is only one winner!
And what were your thoughts on reading the Write India stories?
I have been impressed over the years by the high standards of young Indian writers. The next generation of Indian writers is going to be as impressive as the legends winning the Nobel Prize. I’m happy that a man has won my contest for Write India in season 2, because I have noticed in the past few years that a large part of my audience are young women who are keen writers.
One of your rules for Write India participants was to ‘Read the classics”. Why do you think it’s important to read classics to be a good writer?
To be a good writer—yes! But not a good storyteller. It is important to read the classics to be a good writer because the English is so good; that is why they are the classics. But storytelling is a God given gift. I don’t care how well educated you are, how well read you are, you can get the Nobel prize, but that doesn’t mean that you can tell a story. They are two different things.
Which classics should one definitely read, according to you?
Charles Dickens’ best book is Bleak House, which no one should miss. Pride and Prejudice, Doctor Zhivago, War and Peace, Vanity Fair are other unmissable classics.
What are your writing tips for aspiring Indian writers?
Other than reading the classics, well you have to work hard at school and get a good education but you need to understand that it is as hard as being a ballet dancer, or an actor in the national theatre in London. You cannot all be the number 1 in the bestsellers’ list. Being number 1 is very difficult. I speak with great pride that my latest book is a number 1 bestseller for 10 weeks.
26 of your books have been on no 1 list. So what’s the secret behind it?
Tell a good story! (Smiles)
You admire RK Narayan as a great storyteller…
Oh, RK Narayan’s short stories are among the best… they are among Maupassant, F. Scott Fitzgerald, O. Henry… and I think he should have won the Nobel Prize.
These days many self-publishing platforms are coming up and people are getting published through them. What are your thoughts about self-publishing?
To get your work out there is very difficult. The first 16 publishers turned away Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less so I have had that experience. But there was no self-publishing back then. Some people have done it now and have become successful. But it is just as tough as getting published. So I will be cautious about it.
You have been to India many times, 15 to be precise. Has India influenced your writings?
It is bound to because it creeps into your books. I have met so many Indian people and have so many Indian friends. I have been inspired and have mentioned many of them in my short stories. India creeps into my books partly because of my love for cricket and partly because of my love for Indians as individuals.
What are you working on next?
The public have told me what to do. They have been writing to me saying that in the Clifton Chronicles they particularly liked Harry Clifton– the hero who was a writer himself. He wrote a series of books about William Warwick. So now, I’m going to write a series of books about William Warwick and the sub-title would be ‘This is not a detective series, it is the story about a detective’. The story will follow him from the early days as a constable on the beat and it goes on till he becomes the commissioner of the metropolitan city. So we are going to do a series of seven books in a row in theWilliam Warwick series.
I have just finished the first draft of the William Warwick book. I work from 6 am to 8 am then 10 am to 12 noon, 2 pm to 4 pm, and then 6 pm to 8 pm; writing is definitely hard work.
What is more challenging for you—writing a short story or a novel? And which one do you enjoy writing more?
A novel. And if you do a series then it is difficult.
I am privileged that I love writing. But I think I would prefer writing a big novel than a short story.
And lastly, what according to you is the most important thing in life?
Loyalty! To friends, to family…
You also have this quality in India that I am very aware of and admire, i.e. patience!