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Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Archer’

I recently received an invite for a discussion of Jeffrey Archer’s Paths of Glory at the Taj President. At first I thought of declining. I mean, the Taj President! It’s 30 kms away! But then two things clinched it for me. The fact that my publishers were going to be there and the words ‘cocktails and snacks,’ printed in bold letters on the invite.

Accordingly, I called a cab (did I mention there was going to be booze?) at 6.30 p.m. It takes about two hours to travel from Andheri to town and I didn’t I didn’t want to be a loser and arrive at the dot of 8 which is when the event was scheduled to begin. Of course, that was the day traffic decided to let up and I ended up reaching at 7.56 anyway.

So, trying to look all dignified, I made straight for the concierge and asked him where the Library Bar was, like that was where I had wanted to go in the first place. He looked at me strangely and said the Library Bar had closed down some four years ago and there was a new lounge in place called the Wink. The Wink! Man, they need more imaginative planners.

Anyway, I ordered a beer and tried to linger over it. But habits of a lifetime die a hard death and I found myself glancing anxiously at my watch every two minutes. Till I heard an unmistakably English accent. An educated English accent. The voice was coming from somewhere to my right. I peered into the dark recesses and noticed an elderly Englishman sitting there with two Indians. Was he…? And then he mentioned the name George Mallory. Yup, he was Jeffery Archer all right.

So I relaxed, sipped my beer more leisurely and listened to ol’ Jeff crib about Indians’ time management skills. “What is with Indians? I mean, they arrive for a 3.30 meeting at 4.30 and if you ask them the reason for their tardiness they look all surprised and say but it’s only 4.30!” I found that quite funny and managed to snort beer into my nostrils while trying to laugh silently.

His talk was quite well-graphed. I guess it helps when you’ve sold millions of copies and have done this often. He knew when to make the audience laugh with his anecdotes – “a ten year old in Chennai told me that he’s read all my books and even thought one or two quite good” – and he knew when to insert a serious point, like the impressive sales figures of his books, notably Kane and Abel and Not a Penny More….

He made fun of the famous English snobbery and, in the same breath, betrayed his obvious pride in being an Oxford man himself and in being titled. Subtly, of course. As in recounting something someone had said to him. “And then he says to me, ‘Lord Archer, you do realise that save for two premises, your book has no validity.’ And he’s absolutely right!”

During the q&a session people asked him the usual stupid questions like advice for aspiring writers. Why would people ask him that? He’s been a bestselling author for over 30 years! He’s forgotten what it is to be a struggling writer. Ask him what he does with all the money.

And then the booze flowed…I don’t remember what happened afterwards.

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For an author I get a woefully little amount of reading done. And that’s because I’m usually in the middle of writing a book. And when I’m writing I don’t read (not fiction anyway) for fear of getting influenced.

That means that the only time I get for reading is when I’m in-between novels or plotting one. Which happens to be now. Accordingly, I went out day before yesterday and picked up 5000 bucks worth of books. So now I’ve got 21 titles to be read within a month, preferably less. I’m proud to declare that I made a good start yesterday and finished 2 whole novels!

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer – the dude is good! A little formulaic, but he’s the only one you can get you to compulsively turn the page on merely the promise of an intriguing question being asked by an unlikely figure at a public lecture – and the other one by Mary Higgins Clark. I hope to finish an Amy Tan today (I’ve never read her before) and a Wilbur Smith (or did I get a Ken Follett?).

When you read contemporary works from your genre, you always run the risk of getting influenced or, as Bollywood types love to say, ‘inspired.’ But that doesn’t mean that one stops reading altogether. What one can do, however, is following:

1. Try to plagiarise ideas instead of whole chunks of passages (remember how Opal Mehta got kissed…by wazzername?).

2. On the other hand, after the scandal broke, Opal got publicity like you woulnd’t believe. She actually ended up selling more. You can’t pay for that kind of publicity. Moreover, stealing just the idea cannot guarantee immunity. Just look at Stephanie Meyer. So to hell with that idea.

3. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of stealing. How much do I make in royalties vis-a-vis how much do I fork out in settling the claim? If the scales tilt in favour of royalties, go for it.

4. While you’re at it, try and steal it from bestsellers to make it easier to spot instances of plagiarism.

5. If you do happen to be a poor sod and lift from an unknown and obscure book, get a friend to blow the whistle on you.

6. If however, you must steal but the ensuing lawsuit could leave you shirtless, do it smartly and from many sources. As they say, steal from one place, it’s plagiarism, steal from many, it’s research.

7. If you must steal and rather obviously, go one up on potentially litigious authors and give them credit. You only have to look at the many ‘management’ and ‘self-help’ books on the shelves to know that this works.

8. Lastly, for God’s sake, don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar! Remember, it’s only stealing if you get caught.

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