Archer's love story with Hyderabad…
Jeffrey Archer's novels have been published in 97 countries in more than 33 languages. His 'Kane and Abel' is in its 124th reprint, his 'The Clifton Chronicles' saga is barely complete, and he embarked upon his first single novel in a long time 'Heads You Win', before embarking upon yet another book series. Jeffrey Archer, the master storyteller enjoys immense popularity in India where his readers range from youngsters who love 'Kane and Abel' to older women who might have read his novels in their youth and continue to love him. I am shocked and delighted at the same time, confesses Jeffrey Archer. He shared about his love for India and cricket, his memories from a visit to Hyderabad, his favourite authors, and inspiration during a brief interaction during the Jaipur Literature Festival, a few months ago.
On India: I like coming to India. The people here are gentle and kind. It also excites me when I see the next generation of Indian women. They are going to run India. I have been receiving an invitation to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, and also, one of your universities awarded me Doctorate in Literature. My wife has three honorary degrees, and I have none, so I was tempted to come.
On Indian cricket: It's as a great a team you have. I am a huge Kohli fan. He is probably the greatest batsman today. My personal hero, however, remains Rahul Dravid – His style is so wonderful, and it's a privilege to have watched him in action. And, there was Sachin of course. When I was younger Nawab of Pataudi was a friend. The love for Indian cricket is going on for many years and it will continue to grow.
On memories of Hyderabad: I love the city and I love Charminar. There is an anecdote I have from my last visit. There are many small cars in the city. I was coming from the airport. A beautiful woman driving one of these small cars crossed my car. In between seeing her for the first time until I reached my hotel, I saw her when my car crossed hers, seven times. She overtook me eight times. Any longer we would be engaged.
On being an intuitive writer: I am totally a storyteller. I sometimes do not know what is going to be my next line, leave alone next chapter. I think if I know where I am going you will know where I am going. If I don't know, then how the hell will you know?
On writing: One must write about what you know. If your mother is a hairdresser, write about hairdressing. Be it politics, business, theatre – you write about what you know. This is also the reason I will never be able to write about India. Jane Austen, one of the greatest storytellers wrote book after book on what she knew, stories that happen in a small world of hers. Dickens wrote about what he saw in London. RK Narayan is a genius, who wrote simple stories and made you turn pages. My advice is to write what you want to write and pray it is read.
Inspiration for 'Heads You Win': The inspiration for my book came from Colin Powell's mother, a Jamaican; I had read about how, when she left Jamaica with him, she was not sure if she wanted to take him to the US or Britain. He would have become an officer in the British army, he would never have become a foreign secretary, had he gone to Great Britain. I got the concept of putting him in both places, and how life would have been different. I put it in the context of Alexander Karpenko's story when he flips a coin while leaving Russia to decide where he would go; planning two separate lives.
On literary awards: Awards are for literary giants…People who are a great writer. Storytellers rarely get awards.
Favourite Indian author: For me, because I am a storyteller, I must say it is RK Narayan. He is the best. I agree with Graham Greene that he should have got the Nobel prize.
Favourite books: Public have decided its 'Kane and Abel'. It is in its 124th reprint and is 40 years old this year. But I am sentimental about 'Not a Penny More…' for which, critics passed the glory.
Favourite Characters: There are two characters I get more letters about. The wicked Lady Virginia, and Kane, about whom I got a lot of criticism when I killed him in 'Only Time Will Tell'.
Favourite authors while growing up: I remember loving Eric Embla that I re-read after 50-60 years on my long flight to India. I immensely enjoyed reading Austrian writer and storyteller Stephen Zwaig. Graham Greene was the hero of my youth. And like everyone else, I read Ian Fleming – all the bond books in two weeks. As a kid, I too read all the books that my mother brought me like Lewis Caroll, et al. Currently, I am planning to revisit classics.