HARLAN COBEN: Carey spotlights the New York Times Best-Selling Author and Self-Proclaimed Snazzy Dancer

Be Patient. There’s an interview with Harlan Coben coming.

But first…What on earth, you wonder, you do wonder don’t you, is that?

That is my copy of GONE FOR GOOD by Harlan Coben.  Okay, that was back in the day when I used to color code the good parts in my favorite books in an effort to teach myself to write. By now I’ve forgotten what all the colors stand for, except I’m pretty sure pink is for emotion.  I’ve got this passage (page 64, Gone For Good) marked with a pink sticky, so let’s see:

If Mel was lying on her belly, her feet kicking in the air, she was talking about boys and parties and that nonsense. But when she lay on her back and stared at the ceiling, well, that was for dreams. I thought about her dreams. I thought about how none of them had come true.

“I love you,” I said.

And, as though she could see into my thoughts, Melissa started to cry.

I was right. Pink is for emotion. Which is sort of my point about Harlan Coben novels. You buy them for the twists and turns and wind up reading a love story. Not necessarily a boy-girl love story, but more often than not, what’s driving the protagonist forward throughout the book is love. Love for a wife, sweetheart, brother, or child. So if you think Harlan Coben doesn’t write romance, you either haven’t read Harlan Coben, or you have a very narrow definition of the term. So without further ado (no idea what ado is) here is my Q and A with Harlan Coben.

Harlan Coben, Photo by Miriam Berkley

With 50 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last four consecutive novels, LIVE WIRE, CAUGHT,  LONG LOST and HOLD TIGHT all debuted  at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world. His first Young Adult novel SHELTER was just released this fall. His books are published in 41 languages around the globe and have been number one bestsellers in over a dozen countries. (Bio from www.HarlanCoben.com)

Carey:  If you were stranded on a desert island with one other author, yes the real author, not a book, who would it be and why?

Harlan: Boring answer: I’d rather be with a friend than a stranger.  Luckily, I have many writer-friends I admire – if I start listing them the interview will run too long – but they are all good company.

Carey:  You are known for your fantastic plot twists. What’s your secret recipe for keeping readers surprised?

Harlan: I wish there was a recipe.  It is more like a long hike through deep woods.  You have to cut a different path each time – so it’s harder.  But you know you’ve done it before – so it’s comforting.

Carey: Do you have a special way you order your food? For example, do you always hold the sprouts on your salad or ask for a side of cherries with your diet coke?

Harlan: I’m ridiculously low maintenance in that way.  So no.

Carey is about as low maintenance as a Real-New-Jersey Housewife: I’m the same! How did you come to write your first manuscript?

Harlan: I spent summers working as a tour guide in Spain for Americans traveling on vacation.  At some point I decided to write a book about the experience.  The book was horrible, but the writing virus – yes, that’s how I’d describe it – was unleashed.

Carey:  Do you have a personal hero?

Harlan: My father.

Carey: Perhaps that’s why you wrote so movingly about a father in your Father’s Day essay for the New York Times. Which of your series or which of your books is your favorite?

Harlan: It’s so hard to say.  I usually like the newer books.  I can see the seams in the old ones.  They’re like that college essay you thought was so brilliant and you find it now and think, “Wow, this doesn’t work at all.”  It’s like that with old books.

That said, TELL NO ONE was my first big bestseller and movie, so that will always hold a special place in my heart.  FADE AWAY won the Edgar and the Shamus and revealed how Myron Bolitar “became” Myron Bolitar.  So those are the two I’d pick.

Carey.   I recently finished your young adult novel, SHELTER. Mickey Bolitar tugged at my heart from the opening line. What motivated you to write a young adult novel, and will you spill any secrets about Mickey and his future?

Harlan: I have four kids, ages 17 to 10.  I wanted to write a novel for them.  I also had a great idea for a book, but the hero was only fifteen years old.  That means, yep, Young Adult.

 Carey: Your novel LIVE WIRE features Myron Bolitar, a beloved character from prior series who is also Mickey’s uncle. How do your storylines intersect?

Harlan: My stand-alone books and my series books take place in the same world.  Sometimes they intersect.  I think it’s fun when that happens.

Carey:  What do you like to read in your down time?

Harlan: It’s pretty varied, except for the fact that I read almost exclusively fiction.  Right now, for example, I’m reading a short story collection by Elissa Schappell.

Carey makes a note for her TBR pile. What scares you?

Harlan: Not much.  I get a lot of it out on paper and then I block a lot in real life.  Of course, once you have children, you always live with fear.

Carey: Please tell us about your upcoming release STAY CLOSE. Do you prefer writing series or stand alones?

Harlan: STAY CLOSE is a slightly darker tale.  Usually I have a romantic vision of the American dream and those who fight to get it.  This time, well, not so much.  It is, I believe, the best thing I’ve done.

Carey wonders where she can pre-order STAY CLOSE. Oh, here:

Harlan: I don’t have a preference between writing stand-alones or series.  They are both equally torturous.

Carey: Do you have a special cause that is close to your heart?

Harlan: Medical services for poor children.  My wife is a pediatrician and this is our big focus.  Anne runs a medical facility for foster children via Children’s Aid and Family Services in New Jersey www.cafsnj.org .

Carey: Is there a story you are itching to write, but haven’t done so?

Harlan: No.  If I’m itching to write it, I write it.

Carey: TELL NO ONE is the first Harlan Coben book I ever read. It kept me up all night and kept me surprised to the last page. It’s been made into a movie and is currently available on DVD. What do you think about how the story transitioned onto the big screen?

Harlan: I thought the French (Guillaume Canet) did a wonderful job.  It was a critical and commercial success, getting nine nominations for the French Oscar (the Cesar) and winning four of them.  It’s also readily available on Netflix Instant, so give it a watch (with subtitles).  Ben Affleck is working on an American remake, and I’m very excited about his passion and ideas.

Carey is also excited about Ben Affleck….er…his passion and ideas.  I loved the book TELL NO ONE, and I am seriously stoked that it will be made into an American film. I don’t know why I haven’t seen the French version yet, but I know what subtitled film I’ll be watching this weekend.

Harlan, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. It was truly an honor to have you here. And now I’d like to open things up for comments or questions.

We love Harlan’s books so much we are going to give away one e-copy of SHELTER and LIVE WIRE. There will be two winners. One book per winner. Be sure to check Friday’s blog to see if you are a winner.

About Carey Baldwin

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award winning author of edgy suspense by night.

Posted on December 15, 2011, in Author Interview, Author Spotlight, book recommendations, Carey Baldwin, Guest blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Wow, great interview, Carey! You are so right about emotion in Harlan’s books. Love is the key, even if it’s not the typical HEA.

    Harlan: Thanks for joining us today! I picked up Long Lost earlier this year and now I’m hooked. Your characters and the interplay between them captured me from the start, especially Win and Myron. And I love reading books where I can’t guess the ending.

    I’m excited about Shelter too, because I have two teenage boys–yikes, when did that happen??–and I’m always looking for books they’ll be interested in. Thanks!

  2. Great interview. I ADORE Harlan’s books and have turned hubby onto them, now Brother-In-Law. I am one woman salesforce for him.

    I LOVE the Myron Bolitar series. There’s something about Win that I find intriguing, besides his killing ability and snaky attitude. The last book left me gasping.

    I’m not much of a YA reader but I loved Micky from the first time he was introduced, so I’ll be reading these.

    Keep up with good work, Harlan.

    • Cynthia, thanks for stopping by! I have to say I was so surprised the first time I “met” Win. I wasn’t expecting him at all. I think the dynamic between Win and Myron really adds an extra dimension to the books.

      And Mickey Bolitar really grabbed me by the heart. As a mom, I just couldn’t help rooting for that kid.

  3. Awesome interview. I also love the French version of Tell No One. I hope the American version holds up to the excellence of the Franch.

    Just finished Shelter. Wow. I think you’re on to something with YA. Excellent.

  4. LOVE…just LOVE your books. I have to keep a list of your books I have read in my address book because I’ve read them all.

  5. Thank you for being here today, Harlan, we are really honored at the frank glimpse of the author behind such fabulous novels. (And also because as thrilled as we are with your blockbusting talent, we really did want to know if you like sprouts on your salad…)

    As someone who writes by the seat of her pants I have to ask: do you know the plot of your novels before you start or do you just have a vague idea of the story-direction and twists, and plunge from there?

    If your answer is the latter, my follow up is: does it ever get any easier?

  6. Thanks for the great interview. I love all Harlan’s books but have a special liking for the Myron Bolitar series, especially Win. Looking forward to reading SHELTER!

  7. Loved the interview. I particularly loved how it gave me a sense of how down-to-earth Harlan is, even with all his success.

    Thanks, Carey and Harlan, for that fascinating peak inside!

  8. Harlan’s books are fun and I love seeing how many women commented here–usually it’s men who seem to know him and read him. I wonder where he finds his strongest reader base, men or women.

    Thanks for bringing such brilliant authors to the interview mic so we can learn from them!

    Christine Fairchild

  9. I discovered Tell No One a few years ago while browsing through R.J. Julia (my favorite bookstore!). It was on Roxanne’s recommended reading list that summer. Since then, Myron Bolitar and characters from the stand alone books have been keeping me company on solo trips up and down I-95. Thanks, Harlan! Terrific interview, Carey!

  10. I learned of Harlan Coben’s books by way of a very enthusiastic recommendation from my nephew’s new wife years ago. I think the second words out of her mouth, after, “Nice to meet you”, were, “You have to read Harlan Coben. He’s the best.” I took her advise and bought one book. Then I glommed the rest and read them one after the other. I’m waiting now for the next one to come out.

    • LOL Steph. That’s kind of how I was after the first Harlan Coben I read – which was TELL NO ONE. I’ve also forced people to listen to me read certain short passages aloud. But I think my Cps have forgiven me by now 🙂

  11. Thanks for all the kind words.

    To answer one of the questions: “No, it never gets easier.”

    I don’t remember the other questions.



  12. Great interview, Carey. When I heard Harlan speak at RWA I almost fell off my chair when he mentioned a tattoo parlor in Wayne NJ that offered “tattoos while you wait”. I grew up in Wayne, and when I was in high school all the girls were convinced that the bad boys who must go to that tattoo parlor were just waiting for the right girl to come along and save them. LOL. Of course, we were fifteen and the fictitious boys we dreamed about were no older than 18. You could write a book about the rumors spread about that tattoo parlor and I’ve always wondered what it looked like inside.
    Harlan, have you ever actually gone inside and checked it out?

  13. Like so many others, I loved TELL NO ONE and have seen the French film via Netflix. I hope Ben Affleck makes another film because I’d sure see that too. Am now going to head for Myron.

  14. Sharon, no. In fact, I think it’s gone now. I went into another tattoo parlor last year (don’t ask) and I used that interior for a scene in SHELTER.

  15. I’ve become a bit stuck reading only romance lately. I’m so happy to see this blog! And I can’t wait to read SHELTER over the holidays. Great interview.

  16. Fantastic interview, Carey! I see already that this blog is going to be tough on my pocketbook, since I now will need to add Harlan Coban’s TELL NO ONE to my TBR pile. Is that a good place to start?

    The French film version sounds great. Fingers crossed that the Ben Affleck version makes it here in English soon.

    • I’ve got a scathingly brilliant idea. Let’s all have a TELL NO ONE instant netflix party. I’ll bring the popcorn if Harlan brings Ben Affleck.

      Harlan, thank you again so very much for joining us today. I can’t wait for STAY CLOSE and for the english language version of TELL NO ONE.

  17. Thanks Carey and Harlan, for giving me some new ideas for my TBR list. Can’t wait to start reading.

  18. Harlan, thank you so much for being here with us! I too, write YA and adult fiction. Agents and Editors are always scolding writers telling us to write one thing and build a fan base. Now, none of us are Harlans, but did you have any difficulty branching out?

  19. Great interview Carey! I love the way you word your witty questions!

  20. Harlan, thank you so much for joining us today! I have a 15-year-old nephew who will be receiving your YA for Christmas. It’s so hard for me to pick out books for him and I know he’ll love this one.

    Great interview Carey and Harlan!

  21. My pleasure. Funny — I didn’t even recognize the snippet from GONE FOR GOOD at first. Man, I’m getting old….

  22. Hi Harlan,

    I was introduced to your work through Margie Lawson’s writing courses. Carey mentioned her pink stickies denoting emotion in your book which reminds me of Margie’s courses because she color codes different elements of craft. (Pink happens to be emotion)

    Margie uses many passages from your work to illustrate stellar use of emotion, setting, dialogue, action, etc. — all with fresh prose and creative use of rhetorical devices in ways that emphasized certain passages and/or elements in your story.

    Not only has my own writing become stronger, fresher and more creative from studying your work, but I’ve developed a love for mainstream thriller and suspense I never thought I would.

    Thanks for coming out and talking with us!


  23. Thanks for coming by Joan! And absolutely, I’m sure Margie Lawson influenced my sticky note habits!

  24. Amazing interview, Carey.

    What a pleasure learning more about you, Harlan. Congratulations with your latest novel. I’m truly looking forward to TELL NO ONE and Ben on the big screen. How exciting!


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