Jeffrey Archer is a writing dynamo. His books have sold a mind-blowing 300 million copies in 35 different languages and at 76 he’s still at the top of his game. I’ve just read all seven of his Clifton Chronicles series and was so gripped that the moment I finished one I immediately downloaded the next.
The man is a storytelling maestro so when I heard that he was going to be a guest on the BBC’s World Book Club I applied for tickets immediately.
The moment Archer and presenter Harriett Gilbert walked on to the stage at the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in Central London the audience burst into rapturous applause. This was, we were told, the biggest live audience that the World Book Club had ever had for one of their author interviews. It was nothing, mind you, compared to the number of fans who turned out to hear Archer speak in New Delhi recently – a staggering 4,200 people.
The book under discussion was Kane and Abel, Archer’s third and best-known novel. Published in 1979, it’s the story of two men who are born worlds apart. William Lowell Kane is a wealthy Bostonian banker while Abel Rosnovski is a self-made hotelier who was born in poverty in Poland and after a series of traumatic events migrates to the US. The only thing they have in common, apart from a burning ambition to succeed, is the date they were born – April 18 1906.
As you might expect, Archer was a lively, entertaining guest, happy to regale the audience with writing anecdotes and to read three extracts from Kane and Abel, which he revealed was first called The Protagonists and then The Brothers before became up with its brilliant title.
Another fascinating detail was that when he’s writing he never knows what will happen more than three pages ahead. “Some authors plan the beginning, the middle and the end,” he said. “They have stickers on the wall. I haven’t got a clue.” He also revealed that he writes at least 14 drafts of each of his books. He keeps to a strict routine, writing in two-hour stretches – from 6 to 8am, 10am to 12 noon, 2 to 4 pm and 6 to 8pm – and has just finished the first draft of his new book. I can’t wait to read it.
The interview with Jeffrey Archer will be broadcast on the BBC World Service on June 4.