Harlan Coben talks about "The Boy from the Woods"

Vannessa Cronin on March 27, 2020
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Harlan Coben talks about

If there's one consistently true thing about Harlan Coben's writing, it's that it makes each new book your favorite Harlan Coben book. Because each book is better than the last. And in typical fashion, The Boy from the Woods is my new favorite Harlan Coben novel. Matthew, a high schooler barely hanging onto social status at school, is concerned that Naomi Pine, a classmate who's been relentlessly bullied by the rich kids in class, hasn't been seen in ages and no one seems to care. He turns to his grandmother, criminal attorney/TV host Hester Crimstein, for help. And she in turn calls Wilde.

Hester and Wilde have known each other for 30 years, since Wilde, aged 6 or 7, walked out of New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains with no idea of who he was or how he came to be in the woods. Taken under the wing of the entire Crimstein clan, he went on to a military career, but now lives a solitary life, practically off the grid. But he can't help but feel a little kinship with a fellow loner, and so turns his investigative skills to search for Naomi. With a high-stakes goal, and the intriguing Wilde on the hunt, plus a few Coben-patented twists, this fast-paced thriller will keep you up late for sure. We had a few questions for Mr. Coben...

Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Book Review: Your latest book deals with some big watercooler topics, such as bullying, media influence, and even corruption. How did you come up with the idea for the book, and is there anything you are hoping readers take away from The Boy from the Woods besides a great read?

Harlan Coben: I wanted to write a very contemporary thriller with all those themes, but the hardest part is to figure out how to make it into a compelling story. One day I was hiking in the Ramapo Mountains, the location of this book, and I don’t like hiking. Come on. It’s boring! After a while, it’s just more trees. I need to window shop or browse a bookstore or grab a coffee. So my mind wandered. I spotted a young boy walking in the woods and I thought to myself, “What if one day a six-year-old boy came out of these woods and claimed he’d always lived there, breaking into houses to feed himself, had no memory of any parents or anything? What if, thirty years later, that young boy (now named Wilde) STILL didn’t know who he was – and now another child goes missing in the woods?”

That’s the seed. Only the seed. Then I start to add in the important themes.

I was so happy to see Hester Crimstein again! How did the idea come about to pair the two up: were you writing a Wilde book and decided to add Hester, was it the other way around, or was it always the plan to write the two of them together?

I love Hester too! She’s been comedy relief in a ton of my books, but here she is, a successful lawyer/grandmother turning seventy years old, and I wanted to know more about her past. So I decided to give her and Wilde a shared, heartbreaking tragedy that binds them. When the book opens, they haven’t seen each other in a long time – but you know how important Wilde is to Hester. I also loved giving Hester a romance.

Do you get attached to characters, and are there any in The Boy from the Woods we might expect to see more of in the future? 

Wilde and Hester are the first duo I’ve thought could be a series since Myron and Win. Will I do it? I don’t know. It won’t be my next book, but Wilde is The Boy from the Woods, right? There are still secrets about his past I would like to explore.

I binge-watched The Stranger a couple of weeks ago and loved it. Does the Netflix deal affect your writing in any way? Does knowing your novels may be adapted for the screen in future make you write a novel with its (future) screenplay in mind?

Thank you! I’m so happy so many readers are finding my books via The Stranger on Netflix. We had a blast making it. Coming up next will be The Woods, also based on my novel. No, how I write doesn’t change because of TV. If you write a book thinking, “Oh boy, this will make a great TV series,” you are dead. A book is a book, a TV show is a TV show. They must be different. I think the worst adaptations are often the ones that are slavishly devoted to the text. TV is a visual medium. Books can be more interior. You have to reflect that in your work.



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