Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harlan Coben

I told you that I would have the second half of my series recommendations in my next blog.  I lied.  Rich, Leslie, Joni, and I made the trek from San Jose to Corte Madera to see Harlan Coben.  He was amazing.  I have to tell you about some of things he had to say.  First of all, he's hysterical.  I found myself laughing hard and out loud a lot.  He started by saying he grew up just a little East of Corte Madera - New Jersey.  That set the tone.  In fact, the only author I've heard who was as funny as Coben is Dave Barry - and he's actually a humorist.  It's not fair to compare a humorist and a mystery writer for being funny, but Coben more than held his own.

He talked very little about his new book and a lot about writing.  In fact, he actually had suggestions for the writers that were in the audience.  Here are some of his gems:

1.  Writing is inspiration, perspiration - and desperation
2.  He writes because he's not qualified to do anything else.  He thought he might make a good duvet cover.
3.  He had his new book sitting on the kitchen counter at home.  It was turned over, which showed a hardcover-sized picture of Coben.  His 17-year old daughter walked by, looked at it, and said "Ew."
4.  No matter what's he doing, there's a voice in his head telling him that he should be working on his book.
5.  Writing is communicating.
6.  3 tips:
     Don't worry too much about the setting.
     Don't do unnecessary research.  It's about imagination.
     Be honest.
7.  Treat writing like a job.
8.  He reads over his entire book every 75 pages.  He said that by the time he's done, he's probably read the first chapter 8 or 9 times.  When he's finished, he reads the entire book out loud.  He said writing without reading is like clapping with one hand.  This whole process was particularly fascinating.

He also gave some good quotes.  Elmore Leonard said:  "I always try to write by cutting out the parts people are going to skip."  Dorothy Parker said:  "I don't like writing.  I love having written."

I've now been to maybe a 100 author events.  Coben is among the top 2 or 3 that I've seen.  It's a combination of humor, interest, tips for writing, and humility.  On top of all that, every one of his books is a very good read.  It doesn't matter which one you pick up, you will enjoy it.  If you ever get a chance to see him in person, make the effort.  You'll be glad you did.

Okay, next time I PROMISE that I will reveal (drumroll, please) the second half of the series that I would recommend.  I know how excited all of you must be.


  1. Are all of his books independent from each other? No series?

  2. I concur with Lloyd's assessment about Harlan Coben!! He was amazing and clearly up there with my other favorite author speaker, Barry Eisler! Glad we made the Monday night trek to Corte Madera, and thankful that Lloyd drove!! Thanks again, Lloyd.