Authors We Love, Part XI: Suzanne Lilly on Harlan Coben


Thanks for having me on your blog today, Robert. It’s been interesting reading about the authors people love, such as Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Dean Bakopoulos, and Mitch Albom.


I’m falling off the literary ledge today and taking a dive into mystery and suspense with Harlan Coben. I hadn’t heard about him until I took a course from Margie Lawson. She uses hefty doses of commercial fiction in her classes to teach writers how to sustain tension and emotion on the page. Harlan Coben’s writing exemplifies this in his series and standalone novels. After reading an excerpt from one of his standalone books, I was hooked.

Just so your readers know, I’m not really into mystery. I do enjoy a good psychological thriller, but I lean more toward historical fiction and literary fiction in my reading tastes. Therefore, I never would have picked up one of his books if it hadn’t been for Margie’s writing class. However, once I started reading Harlan’s writing, I found his novels:

  • Intellectually engaging
  • Always unpredictable
  • Realistic and probable
  • Intense
  • Humorous

It’s a fine balancing act he uses when writing. The unpredictable element is what I find the most engaging about his stories. He’s the master of the modern plot twist.

The first of his books I read was Gone for Good, about a brother’s disappearance after the murder of a young woman. I was so surprised at the ending, I thought it must have been a fluke of luck. No author could be this talented. So I picked up another of his books, Caught. This is the story of the investigation of a child predator. I lost sleep over that one, and was just as surprised at the end. The taut suspense in Just One Look had me on edge the entire time I read it. We all have painful pasts, but what if you had to reveal yours to the people you most wanted to hide it from in order to save them from a crime? Old photographs bring up evidence from the past in this book.

His novels grip me because he bases his characters on people that could be real, people like your friends, people who might live right next door to you. Could the person sitting in the cubicle across from you be a killer? What if someone in your own family was accused of a deadly crime? Would you believe it? What if you knew he was innocent, but couldn’t prove it? These are some of the types of situations that come up in his books, and because they have such immediacy to real relationships, he keeps his readers enthralled.

My favorite book is Innocent about a college party fight gone awry. Here’s the back cover blurb:

You never meant to kill him….

One night, Matt Hunter innocently tried to break up a fight—and ended up a killer. Now, nine years later, he’s an ex-con who takes nothing for granted. His wife, Olivia, is pregnant, and the two of them are closing on their dream house. But all it will take is one shocking, inexplicable call from Olivia’s phone to shatter Matt’s life a second time….

You’ll never guess what happens. I dare you to try.


About Suzanne Lilly:

Suzanne Lilly is a writer at night and a teacher by day, which is why she’s known online as the TeacherWriter. Her articles and stories have appeared in numerous places online and in print. She writes light young adult romance and middle grade novels. When not busy writing, she enjoys swimming, hiking, reading, fine arts, and cooking. She lives in California with her family and furry friends and has yet to feel an earthquake.

You can follow her:

Her debut novel, Shades of the Future, published by Turquoise Morning Press, is available July 2012. What would you do if you could see your future? Would you change it to make it better? What you think of as “the gift” may in reality be a curse.

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