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Celebrity Q+A: Harlan Coben

The blockbuster novelist, 50, is a master of suspense. But at home, it's his kids—Charlotte, 18, Ben, 15, Will, 13, and Eve, 11—who keep him guessing.

By Patty Adams Martinez

Harlan Coben
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Claudio Marinesco

Q. What inspired you to start writing?
A. I wanted to give people that same feeling I had of completely vanishing into a book and not being able to put it down. Then I started doing young adult fiction, like my newest, Seconds Away, because I wanted to write for my kids' age group. They get a sneak peek at all my work and give feedback, even inspiration. I also hoped that both parents and children could enjoy my YA books and discuss them over dinner—which is what we did with the Hunger Games trilogy. That was pretty cool.

Q. Best parenting lesson I learned from my folks:
A. Without pushing too hard, they managed to instill in me a desire to do well. I don't know how they did it. It's almost like I'm looking at a magician trying to figure out how he pulled off a really great trick. As a parent, you always feel like you're not doing a good enough job, or not doing it as well as someone else, but you probably are.

Q. What's one thing your kids roll their eyes at that you hope is actually sinking in?
A. I always tell them, "You bring your own weather to the picnic," meaning life is what you make it. You can choose to see rain and be negative or see sunshine and be positive. I hope in the end they'll always look on the bright side.

Q. Go-to parenting motto:
A. "It's not for sissies!"

Q. My kids get embarrassed when I...
A. Tweet. They don't follow me but their friends do, so news always gets back to them. I was on the Today Show once and I tweeted twice, joking about how I love wearing makeup. All of a sudden, I get a screaming text from Charlotte, saying: "STOP TWEETING ABOUT MAKEUP!"

Q. Your wife, Anne, is a pediatrician. Does that come in handy?
A. Whenever any of the kids gets a cut or bruise, I get to say, "Go to Mom." And if Anne's not home, it has to wait until she's back, unless they're actively bleeding. Just kidding!

Q. Most awesome fans:
A. Four soldiers e-mailed me a photo of them sitting on a Humvee holding my books with a handwritten sign that said, "Coben Book Club: Baghdad Branch." That was touching.

Q. Best buds:
A. I've been friends with [New Jersey governor] Chris Christie since I was a kid, and [The Da Vinci Code author] Dan Brown was a fraternity brother. We text and e-mail regularly about everything under the sun, from religion to family, but we don't talk shop.

Originally published in the October 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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