What I've Learned: Jeffrey Archer
This interview, conducted by Victoria Aitken, daughter of former British politician, Jonathan Aitken, a contemporary of Archer's, originally appeared in the March 2012 edition of Esquire Middle East.
Athletics taught me that discipline and hard work are the only routes to success – no matter how talented you imagine you are.
My grandmother once told me that roundabouts are a waste of time. You should travel over the top of them.
The best lesson I learnt at school was that it is impossible to do too much reading.
You don’t truly know anyone until you are in trouble.
To anyone going to prison I would say, take a lot of good books with you.
It’s a tricky time to be a politician. I can’t see a way of solving the financial crisis; it’s so monumental.
For any young writer, do not imagine that one draft is a book, it is several drafts. And don’t give up if you are rejected; most of the world’s leading authors were rejected again and again.
I drive erratically.
What do I find unfair? Racial discrimination, snobbery and Ryanair’s attitude to baggage.
What makes me happy is seeing a magnificent play and watching a great cricket match.
I find it heartbreaking that it is impossible to give people equal opportunity.
Koi carp are great survivors, the safest for keeping in domestic circumstances. They are in a pool at my home in Cambridge.
The difference between fiction and real life is not a lot. But real life is more interesting
Being in the public eye taught me to be resilient.
If I could go back in time, there are several writers I would love to meet. Steinbeck, Dickens, Dumas, Maupassant… they are all great storytellers. They all see something different and by talking to them I could learn something.
If I could meet anyone over lunch, it would be [Thomas] Jefferson, because he was the cleverest politician of all time… and that is saying something.
In my seventies I’ve learned to give people the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve had one marriage. Forty-four years – I got very lucky.
The best thing about my children is the fact that they give me hell. They tease me and keep me in my place.
Tim Rice did a song for my fortieth wedding anniversary. It might have taken him a few minutes to write, but it took him thirty years to be that good.
I don’t know anything about solar power but my wife is a world expert on it. She’s the chairman of British Energy Foundation. So I listen to what she has to say.
An average day when I’m writing: rise at 5.30a.m., write from six to eight and then ten till eleven. Continue from two to four, take a two hour break and eat a light supper and finish off between 9.30p.m. and 10p.m. It takes fifty days to complete the first draft, which is about one thousand hours.
I write with a felt pen because I don’t like machinery or any kind of computer. It feels good coming out of a writing session with pages of hand-written script.
I write because I love it. It’s what I do. And the great thing about writing is that they can’t retire you off.
Victoria, your father Jonathan once told me, [Jonathan Aitken, former British politician] “I would write fiction if I had your gift as a storyteller.” But it’s a gift that comes with hard work. Thirty years and sixteen books in my case.
Work and work at it. I have twenty ideas a day. Then it’s how to get them in the right order, to get the reader to want to turn the page.
Innate energy drives me. Not much I can do about it; I am a driven man. Here I am in my seventies writing a five-book saga.
My next goal? Well now I can no longer captain the England cricket team I hope to sell more books. I would like a film made of one of them. Perhaps a miniseries of the five I’m working on now.
"This Was A Man", the Final Volume of The Clifton Chronicles is out on November 3rd. Jeffrey Archer is appearing at the Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL) from March 3-11. See emirateslitfest.com