My Secret Life: Jeffrey Archer, author, 71

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The Independent Online

My parents were... my father was a printer, my mother was a journalist and local councillor. I think that possibly influenced my writing career.

The household I grew up in... was a small flat in Weston-super-Mare, just after the war.

When I was a child I wanted to... captain the England cricket team – as you now know, I failed hopelessly.

If I could change one thing about myself... The lines on my forehead.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... auctioneering. I have raised £39 million in the past 30 years, and I've done over a thousand auctions.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... cooking. I'm a disaster. I can boil an egg – but even that I get wrong.

At night I dream of... Last night I had a nightmare. I thought I was still a member of parliament and that I hadn't been to my constituency in 25 years, and I woke up in a cold sweat.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Someone desperately trying to look less than 71-and-a-quarter-years old.

I wish I'd never worn... a white suit to someone's wedding. My wife destroyed it the next day. She didn't tell me how; it disappeared, that is all I know.

My favourite item of clothing... is my tracksuit. I wear it a lot because I go to the gym three times a week. I'm writing at the moment, and I'm in a tracksuit for all writing sessions.

I drive... a Mini Cooper. I used to have an old one: it lasted 17 years and then broke down, so now I have one of the new ones. My house is... an old vicarage in Cambridge; it was built in 1624.

My favourite work of art... That's a very difficult one. Probably a Rembrandt: The Man with the Golden Helmet. One look at it and you would understand – it is just wonderful, wonderful.

My favourite building... I'm not sure I have a favourite, but I do very much like Sydney Opera House.

My secret crush is... Annette Bening. She's terrific – she is such a bright woman.

Movie heaven... A Man for All Seasons, with Paul Scofield. It is British acting at its very best.

A book that changed me... Reunion by Fred Uhlman. I read it 20 years ago. It changed my view on Judaism.

My greatest regret... is that I have no daughters. I would have liked six!

My real-life villains... Those people who still perpetuate snobbery. I think we are getting better, but there are still a few people who think that because of the school they went to or the university they went to, that they are better than other people.

The person who really makes me laugh... Tony Hancock and Dame Edna Everage.

The last time I cried... I cry in films, I cry in the theatre. I think probably the last time was while watching War Horse in the National Theatre.

My five-year plan... I'm currently writing a series of books, The Clifton Chronicles. I will write five volumes in five years. They tell the story of Harry Clifton, a boy born in the back streets of Bristol – it will be his life over a hundred years.

What's the point? If you have to ask that question, there isn't one.

My life in six words... I have no intention of mellowing.

A life in brief

Jeffrey Archer was born in 1940. In 1969, he became a Tory MP and he published his first novel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less in 1976. He was made deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in 1985. In 1992, he received a peerage, but was later expelled from the party and convicted of perjury in 2001, serving two years in prison. Archer has sold over 250 million books around the world; his latest novel, Only Time Will Tell, is out now. He lives with his wife, Mary, in Cambridge