This month, best-selling author Harlan Coben is back with his 24th novel, and it’s guaranteed to be a page-turner with more than a few twists.Author Harlan Coben wants us to care so much about his characters that we lose sleep over them. The strategy is paying off — the 51-year-old writer, who’s carved a niche for set-in-suburbia thrillers in which an average guy is thrust into extraordinary circumstances, currently has more than 50 million books in print. He initially gained notice with his award-winning Myron Bolitar mystery series, which featured a wisecracking, Yoo-hoo-drinking sports agent who solves crimes. But his first stand-alone thriller, Tell No One in 2001, catapulted him into the best-selling ranks. His 24th novel, Six Years, goes on sale March 19. And the third book in his young-adult mystery series, starring the nephew of Myron Bolitar, will be released later this year. Also in the works: film versions of his novels Stay Close and Tell No One and a TV show based on the Myron books. We caught up with the busy New Jersey author to find out what drives him to keep us reading past our bedtimes.
GETTING TO KNOW: Harlan Coben
I will always make time for: My family and my writing
Right now I’m reading: The Hour of Peril, by Daniel Stashower
Last thing I bought: A stand-up desk so I can write, uh, standing up
Guilty pleasure: Corny love songs
Right now I’m coveting: I don’t covet. It’s bad for you, and I already have more than I could ask for.
Surprising fact about me: I have a tattoo. And no, you can’t see it.
Life motto: You bring your own weather to the picnic.
American Way: Why set your books in the suburbs?
Harlan Coben: The suburbs are the battleground of the American dream. It’s where you go and get married, and you have kids and the car in the garage and the picket fence. It’s where dreams come true, but they can also ripen into nightmares. It’s a placid pool where even a drop of a pebble can cause reverberations.
AW: How do you keep coming up with ideas?
HC: I sit around and I think, and I constantly ask “What if?” Six Years started with how heartbreaking it would be for a man to be at the wedding of another man marrying a woman he loves.
AW: So you’re a little bit of a softie?
HC: There’s no question. While the books are classified as thrillers, a lot of them are love stories. They are novels about ordinary people trying to achieve their dreams, but something gets in the way. I don’t write about serial killers who hack up people for no reason. I want the suspense to come more from the heart.
AW: What do you hope readers take away from your books?
HC: I try to write what I call the novel of immersion. It’s the book you take on vacation, but you have to stay in your hotel room because you have to know how it’s going to end.
AW: You’re skilled at twist endings, often hitting us with multiple surprises. Do you enjoy playing with us like that?
HC: Oh, yes. I love to fool you. It’s one of the most difficult things to do, but I love that feeling when it happens to me and I love giving readers that gasp-out-loud moment.
AW: Do you feel pretty confident each time you turn in a manuscript?
HC: No, never. Insecurity and angst are major parts of the writing process — so I always fluctuate between loving and hating every book, feeling like it’s the best book ever and the worst book ever in the same 15 minutes.
AW: What books have influenced you?
HC: Philip Roth is my all-time favorite author. I’m inspired by things other than books. I’m inspired by a Hitchcock movie, a Springsteen song, an Edward Hopper painting.
AW: What’s next for you?
HC: I want to keep writing better and better books. I want to find new ways of moving you and new ways of keeping you up all night.
AW: Will Myron be back?
HC: My guess is he will be back, but I never know.
For more information on Coben and his books, visit HarlanCoben.com