What do you do if you are a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author of 30 novels and 70 million of them are in print? Keep writing.
That’s what Harlan Coben has been doing. The prolific author of successful suspense thrillers such as The Stranger, Fool Me Once, Don’t Let Go, and Run Away, which was released in March, takes the spotlight at the Rancho Mirage Writers Series on April 10 at the Rancho Mirage Library & Observatory. The first 600 people at the event, a mix of discussion and Q&A, will receive a free copy of Run Away.
One burning question: How the author has adjusted from being binge-read to binged-watched?
Thanks to the success of Coben’s Netflix Original drama series Harlan Coben’s Safe with Dexter alum Michael C. Hall at the helm, the author signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to develop and executive produce 14 projects for the streaming service. The first of those projects is Harlan Coben’s The Stranger starring Richard Armitage, Steven Rea, and Jennifer Saunders.
As for Run Away, the book chronicles a father searching for his missing daughter. Will Simon, the book’s protagonist, be able to maneuver through the shocking and dangerous new world in which he suddenly finds himself? That question keeps readers invested until the very last page of the suspense thriller.
The author shares more with Palm Springs Life.
What inspired Run Away?
I wanted to write about the new genealogy and DNA sites that people seem to be fascinated by. I also wanted write a book on the occult. One day, I was sitting on a bench in Central Park, and a vagrant is mangling John Lennon’s songs for a dollar. I thought, “What if my lead character looked over and saw the vagrant, and it was his daughter who had been missing?” That was the start.
Is writing easy for you?
No. It’s not easy for anybody who is doing it right. I had a conversation recently with Stephen King and he said he still worries about how his book is going to be perceived and has all the same angst we all do. We’re an interesting mix, being writers, of being super insecure while at the same time having the hubris to say, “Oh, you are going to read what I am going to write, and why don’t you pay me for the pleasure of it.”
So, how do you balance success and discipline?
For me, I have four kids. I live in the suburbs. My life is extraordinarily “normal.” Gustave Flaubert has a quote that is, something to the effect, “Be regular and orderly and normal in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” That’s what I go by.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CLAUDIO MARINESCO
Are you surprised by the success of some books heading to Netflix, like The Stranger and Safe?
I’m always surprised by the success. I was asked by a French interviewer recently, “Your book is No. 1 in France, was that that one of your goals?” I thought, “Dude, that is so far past anything I was thinking of.” I am the most immodest person. I’m always surprised. I work really hard. Run Away is not a book right now. It’s not a book until you read it. A writer without a reader is like a man who claps with one hand. The reader is the other hand. It’s like playing catch and throwing the ball and nobody’s catching it. That’s not catch. The exciting part is when the characters come to life for the readers.
When did you know that this was your path?
It just became the only thing I could do. Part of being a writer is the obvious —having the inspiration and perspiration and doing the work. The other part, which is key, is desperation. [Laughs]. I’m not really fit to do anything else. Maybe you aren’t either.
I get it.
I can’t hold a real job. I’m disorganized. I’m forgetful. I’m not the brightest bulb. I’m not good at anything else. The only thing I’m good at is this. So that fear … if I didn’t have to do this, that I would have to get a “real” job, has always brought me back to my writing desk.
What do you love most about creating and writing?
Finishing. [Laughs]. Dorothy Parker gets the most credit for this quote: “I don’t like writing. I like having written.” It’s a really interesting question: Is it the process or the creation that we like? I start, as I get older, to side on the creation part. Yeah, I do like it when I’m lost in the process of writing but at the end of the day, if I don’t have anything to show for it, did I really enjoy it? I don’t think so.
What do you feel people resonate with in your books?
From what I’ve been told, Run Away is the most haunting, but I try to write the kind of book that you take on vacation to a place like Palm Springs, but you don’t want to leave your hotel … because you’d rather be with the characters in the book because they consume you.
Rancho Mirage Writers Series presents Harlan Coben at noon April 10, at Rancho Mirage Library & Observatory, 71100 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. For more information, visit ranchomiragelibrary.org. Learn more about Harlan Coben at harlancoben.com.