Message From The Author
A SUSPENSE MASTER GIVES FANS THE BOOK OF THEIR DREAMS
"I try to write as though I have a knife to my throat and if I don't write the best that I can, I'll die."
Now that's the kind of emotion you'd expect to motivate a megaselling suspense author like Harlan Coben, a perfectionist
who approaches each novel by asking himself at "every page,
every paragraph, every word, is this compelling?"
But if a statement like that brings to mind the labyrinthine plots and rococo excesses of a Dan Brown or Thomas Harris, think again. New Jersey-based Coben has earned his success (including the Edgar, Shamus and Anthony awards, the top three prizes in the mystery and suspense genre) by sticking to his suburban roots. "I like to write about people like you and me," he proudly claims. "We're quiet suburbanites, rather than the serial killer who hacks up people or the conspiracy that extends to the White House. Working in a quiet or placid pool, one little pebble can make a giant ripple."
That pebble for Coben was his name-making Myron Bolitar series, which followed the sports agent and his friends, dangerous WASP Win and professional lady wrestler Esperanza. Its popoularity grew with each installment until Coben took a break to focus on stand-alone suspense novels. Now, after six years away and with a career that has exploded into the big time, he returns to the much-loved Myron with Promise Me, out this month from Dutton.
"Whenever I get an idea," he explains, "I ask myself, 'Who would be the best person to tell this story?' For five books before this, Myron was not the best guy to tell this story." But that changed with Promise Me, in which Myron follows the mysterious disappearances of two 18-year-old girls, one of whom is the daughter of his close friend -- a girl who asked
for his help shortly after promising she would call him rather than get in a car with a drunken driver. "Myron would be the guy to make two teenagers promise something like this to him," says Coben.
Despite revisiting familiar characters, Coben stresses that Promise Me will appeal to newer fans. "I wanted to write a book that someone who's never read the series could enjoy," he says. By picking up his characters six years after Darkest Fear, the last novel in the series, Coben has been able to take his series in new directions and include some topical elements, like a romance between Myron and a 9/11 widow, something of which the author is most proud.
"I live in a town [Ridgewood] that lost a lot of people [on 9/11]," he says. "I asked permission from some of the widows who are friends of mine before I wrote [the romance].
I hope that it will resonate with readers. I hope it will continue in subsequent books."
While Coben's Ridgewood community is a powerful inspiration, another community inspires him in a different way: the brother- and sisterhood of New York-area authors. "We have a group we call the Adams Round Table," he reveals. "We meet once a month for dinner in New York. It's a little like confessional. We can whine to each other about our jobs, because we're the only ones who'll listen, our jobs are so great." Among others, the group consists of writers and friends Mary and Carol Higgins Clark, Linda Fairstein, Judith Kelman, Susan Isaacs and
Coben, who declares that all of his
novels are "to some degree love stories," knows that his focus on the specifics
of ordinary life and ordinary people
is what has earned him his success around the world. (He's published in
34 different languages.)
"My books are about the American dream, people who want to live their life and get the house and the family and the two cars and the picket fence," he says. "We call it the American dream, but it's the universal dream. And the more specific you can be, the more universal you are. The more I'm specifically about the New York/New Jersey area, the more I resonate in Bulgaria.
If you write about Any City, USA, then you won't resonate."
With his books hitting No. 1 in dozens
of countries, including at home, and a movie in production in France of his
stand-alone Tell No One (which features
a cameo appearance by Coben and is expected to be released in the U.S.), this
Jersey boy has few milestones left to achieve. But he insists that he doesn't
focus on those markers, anyway.
"I don't chase milestones or dollars
or sales. I chase readers. I want to write, each time, a better book. If I concentrate
on that, the rest takes care of itself." -- Colleen Cusick
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