Arts & Entertainment

Bestselling Author Harlan Coben Shares Secrets of Writing With South Orange Audience

Author Harlan Coben signs a book for a fan after an event at the South Orange library. Credits: Kelly Carroll

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Bestselling author Harlan Coben spoke about the elements that go into writing his novels recently on Friday Sept.21 at the South Orange Public Library.

Coben said he was glad to be on home base. He was born in Newark, grew up in Livingston and currently lives in Bergen County. His most recent work, a young adult novel titled “Seconds Away,” was published Sept. 18.

He said was surprised because he was preparing to do his speech for kids but instead got a roomful of adults at the Sept. 21 event, so he decided to offer advice on writing.

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“A writer needs three things: inspiration, perspiration and desperation,” he said.

Coben said for inspiration anything can stimulate an idea and fiction writing is all about asking what if?

Next is the perspiration. Writing is not always pleasant, it’s work, he said.

According to Coben, he does not worry so much about research or outlining. He said he feels that imagination is more important to a story and though he knows the end before he starts, he lets imagination guide him.

“I compare it from driving to Newark to LA; chances are I’ll go view the Suez Canal or stop in Tokyo, but I’ll always make it to LA,” he said.

Coben also said he is a huge believer in putting the work into rewriting. The first draft is never going to be very good, the joy is to go back and look at the work put in, he said.

According to Coben writers also need desperation to propel them forward.

“I’ve written 23 novels, and been published in 42 languages and I still have doubt,” he said.

Coben said keeps writing because he has the desperation of wanting to be a great writer and does not know of anything else he could do with his life.

“I’m not meant to do anything else,” he said. “That fear that I’m not going to exist as a writer and thus not exist at all, makes me write that much harder.”

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

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