Don’t the book-buying public confuse you with the other Archer?
There is some confusion, yes. I get the odd email asking me about life in prison! But I have a very solid core of readers who are well aware that I spell my first name with a ‘G’. Jeffrey Archer’s books are different in content and style from mine.
Several of your books are rich in technical detail. How much trouble do you take to ensure you are accurate?
A great deal. Although one can never be certain that the odd mistake won’t creep in, I have always talked to experts when doing my research. And having worked as a Defence and a Science Correspondent on News at Ten I’ve had the good fortune to meet some really top-notch experts. When researching The Lucifer Network, for example, I spent ten days on board a nuclear submarine to get the detail right. Wherever possible I ask my technical advisers to check what I’ve written before publication.
Your books often have exotic foreign locations. Do you visit these places for research or rely on guide books?
I almost always visit the countries I write about. Partly because I enjoy travelling, but mostly because I find it very difficult to write about a place unless I can visualise and smell it. Some of my characters hail from these countries too – Burmese, Indonesians, Ukrainians, Iraqis, Bosnians etc – and it’s very hard to get their ‘voices’ right unless you’ve spent time talking to them.
Your book ‘Fire Hawk’ was short-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger prize in 1998. Were you disappointed not to win it?
Not at all. There were only six books on that short list, two of them American. To be nominated for the list was extraordinarily flattering. The books are chosen by fellow crime writers and critics, and there’s no tougher audience than one made up of your peers.
Where do you get your ideas from?
From all sorts of places. It could be something I read in a newspaper, or see on TV. Or it might stem from a chance remark in a conversation. Often I don’t really know what starts me on the track towards the next story.
You worked in television for thirty years. Do you ever miss the excitement of it?
No. Thirty years was quite long enough. I’d reached a point in my life where I badly needed a change. What I do miss however - writing being a rather solitary activity - is the company of the many talented and entertaining people who work in the TV industry.