Jeffrey Archer on his greatest inspirations and the book he didn’t want to end
With nearly fifty years of novelistic experience under his belt, Jeffrey Archer shares his keys to creativity, and tells us about the books and the places that inspire him to write.
Given that Jeffrey Archer has millions of book sales to his credit, we figured that he would have something to say about bestselling writing and inspiring reading. To mark the publication of his latest novel, Turn a Blind Eye, we caught up with Archer to find out the keys to his success, asking where he writes and how, which authors he admires and which of his own characters float his boat – and finding out which book would keep him company on a desert island.
Have you ever experienced writer's block – if so, how do you overcome it?
I’ve never suffered writer’s block, and consider myself incredibly fortunate that it hasn’t been a problem – so much so, that I named my home in Mallorca, where I go to write, Writer’s Block!
You’ve been writing novels for 47 years and your books have sold over 320 million copies worldwide! Where is the most unusual place you’ve ever found inspiration?
You can never tell when and where inspiration will strike. For me, it’s most likely when I meet someone interesting. But if I’m faced with a particularly tricky part of the plot, I usually solve it in the middle of the night.
How do you get into your creative mindset/flow?
I have a very disciplined writing routine, from the time of year I like to start a new book, to the number of hours I write each day. So the creative flow usually comes because I’ve spent time thinking about the next book before I sit down and pick up my pen.
If you were stranded alone on a desert island, which book would you hope to have with you?
I’d pick a long book, perhaps The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas, Bleak House by Dickens, or anything by Stefan Zweig.
We like to think that fiction is at its most powerful when it offers us the chance to see the world from an entirely unexpected point of view. Do you agree, and if so which book have you found the most eye-opening in this way?
I agree, and I think Reunion by Fred Uhlmann is a masterpiece in this respect.
When and where do you most love to write?
I write in my home in Mallorca, because during January and February, when I begin a new book, I enjoy the warmer weather and the clear skies. My writing room overlooks the Bay of Palma, with a wide sweep of sea, and the Tramuntana mountains in the distance. It’s peaceful, and it’s where I feel most relaxed to write.
Of all of the characters you’ve written, which is your favourite and why?
I think George Mallory, the real hero of Paths of Glory: an Englishman in the 1920s who wanted to conquer Everest, ‘because it’s there,’ and he might well have done so.
Is there a genre you haven't tried writing yet that you would like to?
I’ve written fiction, non-fiction, short stories, children’s books and screenplays, so over the last 45 years feel I’ve had a go at virtually everything.
When a book is so engaging we don’t want it to end, we find ourselves both racing to and dreading the final page. What was the last book that left you feeling bereft as you finished it?
I’m the opposite. When I’m really enjoying a book I slow down, because I don’t want it to end. I know one lady who reads my books who stops with three chapters to go, and waits for a few days before she returns to it. I’m not quite as bad as that. I think A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, was the last book I didn’t want to end – fine storytelling, beautifully written.