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Harlan Coben on Growing Up in New Jersey and His Friendship with Chris Christie

12-25-12

New Jersey native Harlan Coben is a prolific writer for whom the Garden State provides endless inspiration. He sat down for an interview with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider to share his experiences about growing up in Livingston, New Jersey, where he began a lifelong friendship with Gov. Chris Christie.

His work includes adult fiction stories, as well as a young adult series. He says he writes about two books per year with a new novel coming out next March.

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Storytelling is such a passion for Coben that he says he doesn’t mind when on vacation he becomes so enthralled with a book that he ends up spending all his time in a hotel room.

“I can’t leave because I have to know how it turns out.. and how cool that I have a job where I’m able to do that. I love it when I get those emails saying you kept me up all night, I stayed in a hotel room and missed my vacation. I love that.”

With over 22 books to his credit, Coben says that writing is one of those activities that improves with practice, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is good at it.

“Everyone thinks they can write a book, I think that’s not true,” he said. “Writing is one of the few activities though where quantity will inevitably make quality — the more you write [the better you get].”

Born in Newark, Coben grew up mainly in Livingston where he met the current governor when he was 11 years old.

“Chris and I were in the same little league team coached by his father. We’ve been close friends since,” he said.

They went to the same high school where Coben witnessed Christie’s political talents manifest themselves even back then when Coben was president of the senior council and Christie was president of the senior class.

“I was sort of what the Republican government wants to be now — I did nothing. I was like laissez-faire government — let people handle themselves — and Chris was actually much more hands on.”

Other important events in Christie’s life that Coben has witnessed include Christie’s swearing-in ceremony to become U.S. Attorney.

“I remember then getting all teary thinking about his mom who I’ve known also … his mom passed away and missed so many great things for him,” Coben said.

He insists that the governor is still the same person he grew up with, and as friends, they don’t always see eye to eye. “We were at the Springsteen concert recently and we would fight over an issue. It’s just Jersey guys.”

As for Coben, he’s anticipating the release of his next book “Six Years” due in March. He calls the book a real New Jersey story that takes place in Atlantic City.

Like many in New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy has been on his mind. He’s not quite sure if it’s something that he’ll write about in the future, saying “it’s one of those things that may be on every page but not necessarily specifically talked about.”


  • Ardis McCrum Pruess

    I, too, grew up in Livingston when it didn’t have a high school so we were sent to Caldwell. I moved there at age 11 when the population was about 5,000. Lots of woods, streams and horse farms behind us. Had a wonderful childhood there. A classmate of mine, Dorothy Siegel told me she was your English Teacher in high school and that Harlan Coben is a pen name? Is that so? I love your books, especially since I can picture the place settings. I’ve lived in Virginia for over 40 years, but NJ will always be home. My husband was from Ridgewood. That’s a long time ago, but seems like yesterday.