Bestselling author Harlan Coben visits Westminster day after release of 'Run Away'

Just a day after the release of “Run Away,” bestselling author Harlan Coben visited Westminster for an author talk that spun from his relationship with his characters to the parts of the writing process that disturb his wife and kids the most.

Hint: it’s not the subject matter, though that does veer toward dark themes.


Ted Zaleski, who by day is known as the director of management and budget for Carroll County, put on his reading glasses to lead an interview with Coben on Wednesday night in front of a full house at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster.

Zaleski described the surprising ending of “Run Away” as like hiking up a big hill. Just when you think you’ve gotten to the top, there’s more to discover.

Coben hopes that the ending will not only be shocking, but will make readers think.

"I want to be a kind of thing where you want to call your best friend to talk about it," he said during an interview before the talk.

When writing, he always starts already knowing the ending.

“It's more a question of how I'm going to get get there,” he said.

Despite the danger-filled lives of his protagonists, he said his own life is very stable.

He pointed to the Gustave Flaubert quote, where he is said to advise artists to, “Be settled in your life and as ordinary as the bourgeois, in order to be fierce and original in your works.”

“Me, I'm pretty boring. Four kids, normal house, married for many years. And suburbs,” he said. “I think I get it all out this way.”

Coben started his book tour in New York at CBS with Gayle King, who he described as a great reader whose copies of the book are always filled with sticky notes even for a short interview.

At a book signing later that night, he had an interesting interaction with a fan, who recreated him in crochet.

The miniature is detailed down to the copy of “Run Away” and the buckles on its loafers, which the real Coben wore on stage that night. A photo is now his profile picture on Twitter.

“It's weird. Well, it's not weird, it's great actually,” he said.

Zaleski asked Coben to talk about his relationship with secrets and omissions, which play a large role in the plot of “Run Away.”


“I look at it as a certain human condition that I bet you we all share,” Coben said. “We all think that we are uniquely complex and that no one can read us. And yet we always think we know what other people are feeling or thinking.”

He said he likes to play with that and, at times, take it to the extreme in his writing.

Another theme in the book is parenting as Simon deals with his daughter's addiction and questions whether nature or nurture has led her to make the decisions she does.

“It's heavy on his mind even if he thinks through it logically,” Zaleski summarized.

Coben made the audience laugh as he talked about the “delusion” that people have before they are parents that they'll have complete control over molding their children's behaviors.

Nature vs. nurture is a question that has always fascinated him and the book was a chance to explore it, he said.

The night's book talk was filled with many moments of laughter for the audience.

After a sudden tone switch when Zaleski asked about a depressing plot point following a funny anecdote from Coben, Zaleski commented, “There aren't many moments of levity in this book.”

Replied Coben: “That's why I'm doing it here.”

Later he talked with Zaleski about leaving it all on the court when it comes to his books. He tends to finish the last 50 pages of a draft in one long slog of a day.

“My kids literally know it’s ‘throw Daddy a banana and run away’ day,” he said. “I’ve seen the ending from the beginning. And nothing will stop me. It’s not a pretty thing to watch.”

Despite the effort of drafting and the editing process that must follow, for Coben a book doesn’t become complete until it reaches the hands of readers.

“Otherwise, it's a man clapping with one hand. The reader is the other hand,” he said.

Carroll County Public Library and Sykesville’s A Likely Story Bookstore partnered to host the book talk.

A Likely Story set up to sell Coben’s other titles a the event. He donated $5 from the sale of each hardcover to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research or Pony Power Therapies.

More information about Coben is available by searching him on social media and at