CBS has posted an interesting interview with my friend Harlan Coben, culled from his appearance on The Early Show. Here’s an excerpt on how he writes:
"I usually go to, like, a local coffee shop or the library. I like a
little white noise when I write, but not as much white noise as my
kids. So I usually go someplace. It makes me concentrate harder. You
look like you’re being a jerk writing in a coffee shop, but that’s
where I work best."
Coben candidly admits he’s not as big on research as many other
fiction writers. "I’m more from the, ‘Hum a few bars and fake it’
genre," he says to Smith. "Tell you the truth, I do research, but I’m
really more concerned with making sure that I am holding you hostage
and gripping you. The research has to come secondary. Sometimes a
writer uses research as an excuse not to write, not to grip, to tell
you cute factoids. I don’t want to do that. I want it do it with the
I have no problem making things up — it’s ficton, after all, so I agree with Harlan on that score. But I couldn’t write in a coffee shop or a Starbucks, I’d feel horribly self-conscious (especially in L.A.). You walk into any Starbucks in L.A., and people are sitting there writing scripts, almost as if they are striking a pose: "Hey, look at me, I’m a screenwriter. Are you impressed? Would you like to fuck me? Or, better yet, hire me?" It feel so fake to me. I’m sure some of them really are screenwriters, and they just like a good cup of coffee while they write, but I still hate it. So I try to avoid doing any writing at all in restaurants or hotel lobbies, especially in L.A., Vancouver or Toronto.
That said, I write a lot on airplanes, usually because I am on some kind of pressing deadline and can’t afford not to use the five or six hours. Writing on a plane isn’t so bad if I’m with my family or traveling Bill Rabkin, my TV writing/producing partner. But when i’m traveling alone, with a stranger sitting beside me, it’s extremely awkward. It’s not easy writing when my wife is looking over my shoulder, much less a complete stranger…especially if you’re describing a homicide or somebody having sex. I don’t blame the stranger for intruding on my privacy– we’re crammed so close together it would be damn hard not to look at the screen. So what I do is put on a pair of headphones, crank up the music, and pretend I am all alone. In a sense, I have to forget I am on an airplane at all — I have to lose myself completely in my fictional world. It usually works.
How do you feel about writing in public?