Harlan Coben Plays Dead

Best-selling author Harlan Coben’s debut novel, Play Dead, has been out of print for over 15 years, but tomorrow it is being re-released! Get the author's take on his first novel and find out what's in store for readers in his next novel, Live Wire.

RT: You originally wrote Play Dead over 20 years ago. What do you remember about crafting this novel? Any standout moments?

Harlan Coben: Writing a novel is a bit like having a baby – you block the pain so you can do it again. Like several of my later books, including Tell No One, my goal here was to write the ultimate love story and then blend in stay-up-all-night suspense. You can decide if it worked or not.

RT: How do you feel it stood the test of time? What part of the book are you most proud of? In hindsight is there anything about Play Dead you look back on and want to change?

HC: There is an author letter in the beginning of the book where I state that I haven’t read this book in at least fifteen years. It may be even longer. So I don’t know how it stands the test of time. I’m sure there are things I’d want to change – there always are. But I won’t. It’s a snapshot of the writer I was then. I stand by it. As for what part I’m most proud of, that would be the pacing and twists and in the end, the raw emotion. I remember the ending and yes, I’m a sucker for it. I bet you’ll shed a tear or two. 

RT: How does Play Dead set the tone for some of your later works including RT’s two favorites The Innocent and Just One Look?

HC: Writing is one of the few activities where quantity will inevitably produce quality. I’ve gotten a surprising amount of email telling me that Play Dead is the best thing I’ve ever written. Some would view that as good news, but like most writers, I like to think I’ve gotten better over the years. The best way to learn to write a novel is to write a novel. Period. Then write another novel and another. I guarantee you you’ll improve.

Funny you mention Just One Look and The Innocent. Both too are love stories. Just One Look features married grownups with children. The couple in The Innocent is, like David and Laura in Play Dead, just getting started. 

RT: In Play Dead your main character, David Baskin, fakes his own death. In the modern age of technology, this is not the easiest thing to do. What are your top three tips for people looking to disappear?

HC: Oh I don’t think it’s harder nowadays. Modern technology giveth and it taketh away. The Internet makes it very easy to be anonymous. As for the tips, I’m saving those for books. And I don’t want any of your readers running off on me.

RT: Your characters live quite glamorous lives (being a model and sports hero). However, your book shows quite another side to their fame. Was it hard for you to imagine the problems in their ‘charmed’ lives or did this come easily to you?

HC: First off, nothing in writing comes easily to me. Nada. Not a thing. But no, it wasn’t particularly difficult to imagine people with a charmed life having issues. People are people, problems are problems. No one gets out of life unscathed.

RT: What project are you working on next? Any spoilers for your fans?

Harlan Coben: I’m writing a book in my Myron Bolitar series called Live Wire due out in March 2011. Here’s one little spoiler: It’s about Myron’s family. Here’s a one bigger spoiler: Myron is engaged. Shh, that’s all I’m saying.

Want more Coben? Pick up your own copy of Play Dead on shelves tomorrow!

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