Had been to Jeffrey Archer session today at Landmark Book House, Pune as part of his ‘A Prisoner of Birth’ tour…Some excerpts:
On asked whether he knows the ending of a particular work when he starts it, he said he knows the last line of his short stories but does not know the ending of a novel. Then he went on to tell how with 3 days left before deadline he had no idea about the ending of ‘Prisoner of Birth’ and how it came to him suddenly one night and he made another revision to his earlier drafts and its the best thing he’s ever written.
There was a reference to Cricket and he said, ‘The best team in the world is England Cricket team’. We obviously booed. Then he went on to say how England are going to thrash India in the next test series, he added (among all the booing, jeering, laughter of the audience), ‘Sehwag out for 4!, Tendulkar 5, gone!, Laxman 7!, Dravid 3!….’ And when our jeering grew louder than ever… he said, ‘No?... See? I AM a story-teller’. (Clapping & Laughter).
Someone asked if he could write a novel incorporating Cricket for a storyline… He said, ‘I love Cricket but 10 million people in USA, 3 million people in Japan wouldn’t know a thing about it and wont read my books…I mean I love Rahul Dravid but people in Japan don’t know him’…then he added again teasingly, ‘And why do you people want me to write on Cricket? Your team isn’t any good at it!’ (More jeering and laughter). After that he opined, ‘And I’ll tell you 20/20 is NOT Cricket, its just entertainment.(Half the people in the audience cheered for it…(older folks mainly))…Test cricket is the real thing… Cricket was when Australia thought they had you, and VVS Laxman & Rahul Dravid held on for the whole day to win it; its not when there’s three overs left and some guy in a pyjama is knockin the ball all over the place’
One lady: ‘Do you have a plot in mind for your next book..’ JA: ‘Yes’
Lady: ‘Could you tell us wh…’ JA(cutting her off promptly): ‘No’… (more laughter)
A dude: ‘What drives you to write a book, how are you inspired to write, how do you get ideas for a story….?.’ JA: ‘Don’t sit down yet, I want you to answer three questions’. Dude: ‘Ok’. JA: ‘Do you play the violin?’ Dude: ‘No’. JA: ‘Do you paint pictures?’ Dude: ‘Uhh..well… no.’ JA: ‘Do you sing?’ Dude: ‘Nnno’ (laughter) JA: ‘Me neither! .I am a writer, its all I do! I get ideas in my head all the time’
A woman: ‘Who do you like more… Kane or Abel?’.
JA: (Stumped a bit) ‘You know… as a writer I have to think as a reader. I treated both as equals… Both are strong characters…(etc. etc).. and so I am not going to answer your question wicked woman.’ (again laughter)
When someone asked about movies or plays about one of his books or plays (I forgot which), he said, ‘the cast and the director have been finalized, all we need now is 40 million dollars. Those who have it please come forward’
He said he gets 354,000 hits on his website and thousands of e-mails. He gets about 150 emails daily and 25% of all mail is from Indians. He says he reads each and every e-mail.(some clapping) ‘But I gotta tell you…You people are the worst of the lot!…No, really! You guys are the worst!...You find out each and every mistake and write it to me, and no, not a two-lined letter saying Dear Jeffrey, so & so… but a two-paged one for gods sakes’… He meant it as a compliment and we enjoyed it. Then he told us how it is impossible for anyone to write any novel without mistakes, citing the example of ‘First Among Equals’ telling how after even proof reading so many times by so many experts, it still has four mistakes.
He told his favorite author is Alexander Juma (I think that was what I heard). He also said its sad how if an author becomes popular he automatically becomes ineligible for nobel prize. On being asked what books he reads, he said ‘Don’t ever read books because they are important, that so and so people say it’s a master-piece and you should read it’. He gave an example of a very unknown author whose book was totally unputdownable and worth a read more than the 7 on his ‘to-read’ list…Then he named an apparently very important book (that I didn’t quite get the name) and said, ‘Don’t laugh! Its my record. I have read 22 pages of it and I cant read it further’ We laughed.
There were a lot of other funny anecdotes and witty answers and though I am not a die-hard fan; (not having read all his books, and not motivated enough to stand for 3-4 hours in queue to get my copy signed); I certainly will read the unread ones now. I am glad I sneaked into the front and though I didn’t get the mic to get my chance to ask a question, it was a high-quality time spent.
P.S. And I had to gloat about me being there, didn’t I? Apologies for you being on the receiving end.