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10 Quick Questions for Harlan Coben

Author’s latest novel, ‘I Will Find You,’ follows a father’s quest to save his son

spinner image harlan coben sitting, leaning back, with feet up and hands together
Brad Dickson/The New York Times/Redux

Best-selling author Harlan Coben, 61, has written dozens of riveting thrillers, and seven of his books have been brought to life on Netflix. His latest novel, I Will Find You, follows a father who, while serving a life sentence for murdering his son — a crime he can’t remember — discovers that his son is still alive. A jail break, help from unlikely sources and enduring familial bonds give this story plenty of twists and turns.


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What’s currently on your reading list?

I’m reading the upcoming Dennis Lehane book. He’s the author of books like Shutter Island and Mystic River. He’s one of my longtime favorites. His new book comes out in May. It’s called Small Mercies. I’m also reading The Measure by Nikki Erlick. I love to listen to memoirs on audiobook. I recently listened to The Boys [A Memoir of Hollywood and Family], which is Ron Howard and Clint Howard’s story of growing up. … As I go to sleep at night, somebody is always reading to me.

When you’re not reading or writing, what are your hobbies?

A lot of people have a hobby to have a creative outlet. My job is a creative outlet. I live, breathe and sleep writing. The only thing I do is golf. But even when I'm out on the golf course, there’s always a small voice in my head that says, You should be home writing

What’s the most unlikely place you’ve found writing inspiration?

One time, for four months, I set up shop by a deli counter in my local supermarket that had a little coffee shop. I came home smelling like olive loaf, but that worked for a while. About 10 years ago, I took an Uber for the first time from my house in New Jersey to New York. I was feeling guilty about spending the money, so I started to jot stuff down in the back of an Uber, and the writing went really well. For three weeks, I took an Uber everywhere I went. That’s how I finished the book The Stranger, which is a Netflix series now.

Speaking of Netflix, what’s the best part of adapting your books to the screen?

So far we've released seven in three languages. They’re mostly in English, but we also have a French show, a Spanish show and a Polish show. The English language ones I’m heavily involved in — I’m the creator and showrunner. It’s always a thrill. I love the idea that you can watch something from another country and dub it or subtitle it. I think that’s the magic of what Netflix does. I have several more in development. I just finished filming one for Amazon Prime [called Shelter] in New Jersey, my home state. We actually filmed in my old high school. It will probably be out sometime in the summer.

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Who would you cast to play yourself in a film?

Boy, that’s a tough one. I’d like Hugh Jackman. …  He’s a very nice man. I would pick him. … One time, when I was in France, I was doing a photo shoot [and] a bunch of people were gathering around taking pictures. I was impressed with myself that, Wow, I’m really this well known in France. But they thought I was Bruce Willis!

You’ve announced plans for a U.K. book tour. What are your hacks for staying fresh while traveling?

[I drink] two glasses of wine before I get on an overnight flight. I’m out like a light. I need to hit the ground running. If I take a nap, I’m finished for the day. It’s a tangent, but why are movies on airplanes so good? It’s the strangest thing. There must be something with the altitude that plays with my emotions, because I’ll watch something that everyone tells me later on that I would normally hate — and I’ll be on the plane, [and] I’ll be sobbing or laughing my butt off.

What was the last movie or show you liked while flying?

Last time I flew, I watched the entire box set of the new Sex in the City [reboot], And Just Like That. … I loved every moment of it. I can’t wait for the new season. Some people tell me if I saw it on the ground, I wouldn’t feel that way. I want to watch the next season on the ground and see if I like it as much.

You’re a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame from your days playing at Amherst College. Do you still shoot hoops?

No, I retired at the age of 47. I hurt my knee. My friend, who’s an orthopedist, said, “You can keep playing and end up on my table, or you can stop now.”

spinner image book cover with words harlan coben i will find you; man, woman and little boy behind the words
In “I Will Find You” a father convicted of murdering his young son discovers the boy may still be alive and sets out to find him.
Grand Central Publishing

At Amherst, you were also a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity with fellow writer Dan Brown. Do you keep in touch?

Dan and I have been friends for a long time. I was one of the first readers of The Da Vinci Code. In fact, I was one of the first people to blurb it — when you write those blurbs on the inside of books. We’re still friends. We golf sometimes.

At age 61, has your perspective on writing changed from your 30s or 40s?

I know a few tricks I didn’t know then. Each book is uniquely painful, though. It’s a little bit like golf. Every time you think you have your swing mastered, God comes along and shows you you don’t. Same thing with writing. Every time I think I have this down now, I get thrown for a huge loop. I Will Find You was really hard to write. I thought it would be somewhat straight ahead, but the story went in directions that I never expected, which is often the best-case scenario. I think I’m better now than I ever was, but that’s maybe delusional thinking. That's going to be up to the reader.


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