You have a new book out. Can you give me an overview?
Is that what people say when they haven't read the book? It's a series called The Clifton Chronicles and if we look at today's bestsellers list one of them's at 15, one of them's at 18, one of them's at 23 and one of them's at 31. All five have been at number one. We'll send you a copy of the first one. You're a little behind the times.
Can't wait. You've said before that a good story can be told in three sentences. Do you still stand by that?
Yes. Kane and Able is the story of two men, both born on the same day. One with everything, one with nothing. They only meet once. But it changes their whole lives. Is that three sentences?
It depends where you put the full stops. How do you write?
By hand. I rise at 5.30 in the morning, write from six until eight. Two-hour break. Ten until 12, two-hour break. Two until four, two-hour break, then six until eight. Bed around 9.30-10, up again around 5.30.
That's impressive. It's more than I do.
That's what I thought.
In pictures: Not-so virtuous MPs
In pictures: Not-so virtuous MPs
1/17 Lord Hanningfield
Lord Hanningfield claimed more than £3,000 in a month by regularly 'clocking in' to the House of Lords to claim his £300 daily attendance allowance. The former Conservative leader of Essex Council was also convicted in May 2011 for fiddling his expenses.
2/17 Denis MacShane
The disgraced former Labour minister was jailed for six months at the Old Bailey in July 2013 after admitting making bogus expense claims amounting to nearly £13,000.
3/17 Maria Miller
Although she was cleared of making false expenses claims, Maria Miller was ordered to pay back £5,000 in overclaimed taxpayer-funded expenses on her second home. Mrs Miller’s apology in the Commons lasting just over half a minute was widely viewed as grudging and perfunctory. She resigned over the row in April.
4/17 Eric Joyce
Falkirk MP Eric Joyce was fined £1,500 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in March after admitting abusive behaviour at the city’s airport. Mr Joyce repeatedly hurled insults at baggage handlers, and abused a black police officer during the incident in May 2012. He has said he will now “reflect” on whether to continue at Westminster until the election next year.
5/17 Mark Harper
Immigration minister Mark Harper resigned after it emerged his cleaner was working in the country illegally. Mr Harper quit after he discovered his cleaner, whom he employed at his London flat for seven years, did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
6/17 Lord Rennard
The former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats faced allegations of sexual harassing several women, claims he denies. He was suspended after refusing to bow to calls from Mr Clegg to apologise to the women.
7/17 Mark Menzies
Former Conservative MP Mark Menzies resigned as a ministerial aide following allegations made by a Brazilian rent boy in March. The MP for Fylde in Lancashire resigned his position as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) amid allegations which appeared in a tabloid newspaper, some of which he strenuously denied.
8/17 Nadhim Zahawi
Nadhim Zahawi apologised in March for charging the taxpayer £5,822 to heat his stables. It later emerged that he had claimed 31p on his expenses for paperclips, 53p for a holepunch, 63p for ballpoint pens and 89p for a stapler.
9/17 Liam Fox
Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox resigned in 2011 over his working relationship with his friend Adam Werritty, which saw the Tory MP ordered to repay £3,000 of expenses for allowing Mr Werritty to live rent-free at his taxpayer-funded second home for a year. Mr Fox faced further embarrassment when it was revealed successfully claimed 3p of taxpayers’ cash for a car journey of fewer than 100 metres.
10/17 Aidan Burley
The ex-Tory MP for Cannock Chase was photographed at a Nazi-themed stag party in 2011. He admitted there had been 'clearly inappropriate behaviour’ by some of the other guests at the party in a French ski resort after the Mail on Sunday published photographs of Mr Burley at the event, where revellers allegedly made Nazi chants and toasted the Third Reich.
11/17 Jeremy Hunt
Mr Hunt admitted to sending a congratulatory text message to News Corp executive James Murdoch just hours before the minister was asked to oversee the firm's bid for BSkyB. Although Downing Street insisted that Mr Hunt had acted properly during the takeover, a Labour MP accused him in the house of deliberately misleading Parliament about his contact with News Corp over the takeover.
12/17 Brian Binley
The Tory MP for Northampton South, allegedly told a local businessmen ‘we are all totally corrupt’ talking about politicians at a drinks party during a taxpayer-funded trip to Malta.
13/17 Tim Yeo
Stood down as the chairman of the influential Energy and Climate Change committee in June 2013 amid allegations he was prepared to use his position to help business clients.
14/17 Chris Huhne
The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months in March 2013 for swapping penalty speeding points with ex-wife Vicky Pryce in an offence that the court heard had struck at the heart of the criminal justice system.
15/17 Patrick Mercer
Patrick Mercer resigned the Tory whip in May last year after he was filmed by the BBC's 'Panorama' apparently agreeing to lobby on behalf of Fiji for a pro-Fijian cross-party committee.
16/17 Michael Martin
Former Labour party MP Michael Martin became the first Commons Speaker to be forced out of office for more than 300 years following criticism of his handling of the MPs’ expenses scandal of 2009.
17/17 Jacqui Smith
Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stood down in the cabinet reshuffle amid a flurry of controversy after the MPs expenses scandal revealed her husband Richard Timney, who also ran her constituency office, had watched two pay-per-view adult movies which had then, unknown to her, been subject to a claim for reimbursement. The ‘porn scandal’ not only saw the former Labour MP Ms Smith, who was the first female Home Secretary, eventually resign but also saw her lose her parliamentary seat in May 2010.
I read that you go to Mallorca to write. So you never write in London?
No, never. I'm kept busy with noisy people like you interrupting me all the time. It's impossible. Last night, I went to a Macmillan celebration party; the night before to hear Mark Carney speak; the night before to Matthew Bourne at the theatre, and tonight I'm going to the theatre in the park. It's non-stop.
Your resilience is pretty remarkable. What do you attribute it to?
I think that's probably inborn. You see people who collapse and give in and call it a day, and you think why did they? I think that's in their nature.
At what point have you felt most despondent?
I think when my wife had cancer. I certainly felt that I'd be totally lost if she died. But they assured me that she wasn't going to and I believed them and now she's not only fully recovered but is chairman of the Science Museum.
How do you define success?
For politicians you can measure your success by whether you obtain office or achieve anything. With writing, it's quite difficult because you don't have rivals. There are those who win awards and those who sell a lot of copies. Sometimes they come together but that's rare.
Do you still hold your famous shepherd's pie and Krug parties?
Every year. I'm amazed you don't know that.
Do you think some people are jealous of your success as a writer?
I think anyone who wants to walk on to the centre of the stage will have people who are too lazy to do so and will criticise. I'd say to them, "Well, write a book yourself". And some of them do.
What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Don't go into the House of Commons as early as I did – 29 was too young. And don't be so trusting. I'm by nature an energetic enthusiast. The other side of that coin is naivety.
If you had another shot at things, what would you do differently?
I think I'd have worked harder at school – I come from that generation after the war that didn't try too hard. I now see how hard my children work, and I'm even beginning to see it in my grandchildren, . In some ways it's tough for the modern generation. But I think one is foolish at the end of one's life to start looking back the whole time. I've had a wonderful life, I've been very happy.
So no regrets?
No. I don't do regrets.
Jeffrey Archer, 75, published his first novel, ‘Not A Penny More, Not a Penny Less’, in 1976. His 34 books have gone on to sell many millions. He was a Conservative MP and deputy chairman of the party, but his political career ended in 1999 when he was found guilty of committing perjury during a libel case he had brought against the ‘Daily Star’. Archer’s novel ‘Mightier Than The Sword’, the fifth instalment in the Clifton Chronicles, is is out now in paperback, price £7.99Reuse content