When I Met Harlan Coben
I recently met one of my favorite thriller writers for the second time: Harlan Coben. With more than 50 million books in print and his last five consecutive novels debuting at the top of The New York Times Bestseller list, Coben is one of the most successful and skillful authors. He rose to fame with Tell No One, which was turned into an award-winning foreign film, and Coben is also well known for his popular Myron Bolitar novels. If you enjoy thrillers or mysteries in any capacity, I urge you to pick up one of his books. They’re tremendous.
But back to the book signing. So there I was at Barnes & Noble with my girlfriend, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Harlan Coben. I was telling her about his sense of humor and how he doesn’t read from his books during these events. My goal was to make sure she understood this was not going to be a boring book signing. Having read three of his books prior to going, I had a feeling she would leave with a greater appreciation of the man and his work.
When Harlan was introduced, I cringed as the book seller butchered Myron Bolitar’s name calling the fictional character Byron Molitar. It’s a strange name, no doubt about it. But either she or the person who typed up the sheet she read off of mercilessly destroyed Myron’s name. Who’s to blame? The world may never know.
Upon his arrival, Coben was met with a wave of applause and he shared the good news that Hugh Jackman is set to appear in the film adaptation of his new novel Six Years. Considering the book just came out, I though it was a heck of an accomplishment. Coben went on to say, “Working with Hollywood is like being separated by a barbed-wire fence. I throw the books over and they throw the money over. Then we both run in opposite directions. Until I’m at the movie premiere, I won’t believe it’s real.”
One of the most interesting pieces of information to come out of the evening was Coben’s criteria for what makes a good writer. “You need to have three things: inspiration, perspiration and desperation.” By this he meant, first and foremost a writer needs an idea to write about, following by a strong work ethic. Moreover, Coben feels that writers like himself are fearful of “having to work a real job” if their writing fails. This is where the desperation comes in. “I’m not fit to do anything other than write,” Coben said as fits of laughter echoed through the room.
I had the opportunity to ask Coben a question during the Q&A portion of the event, and he graciously answered. It was about his thoughts on audiobooks, and he went on to tell us about his experience narrating one of his own books. “The producer in the studio told me to slow down and that I didn’t understand the characters. I wrote the characters,” Coben said with a chuckle. He also spent a great deal of time with fans signing books, answering questions, listening to their stories and posing for photos. There’s a reason why I go see Harlan Coben when he’s nearby. Not only is he a great author, he’s a great person. Similar to Lisa Scottoline, he’s genuine. If Coben comes to your neck of the woods, make it a point to attend. You’ll enjoy yourself.