Whether you're into 24-hour news, books, box-sets or YouTube tutorials (on literally anything), we have an understandable, if insatiable, appetite for content at the moment.
If you’re in the market for a new book to devour or box-set to binge, Ryan Tubridy spoke to multi-million-selling author and creator of Netflix hits Safe and The Stranger, Harlan Coben about his new thriller The Boy From The Woods.
As we grapple with the new reality of working from home, social distancing and limited options for entertaining ourselves, Ryan wondered whether, as a writer, Harlan, might find it easier than most to adjust.
"I think the uncertainty is the hard thing for everybody really," he said. "For me staying inside, not to make light, it’s a fine line between social distancing and being a writer. I’m also at my best when I’m stuck alone having to make myself work and keep away from other people."
"We like the ordinary man in the extraordinary circumstance. In my books, I try to put you in that person's position."
Determined to focus on the positive, Ryan and Harlan both reflected on how social distancing and self-isolation, offer opportunities to all of us to read more, to feed our brains and even to tackle our own creative pursuits.
"How many people told me over the years, 'I wish I could write a book but I don’t have time'. This is your chance. Take a pen and paper, start, why not. It might not be any good, but hey I play golf all the time, I’m no good at it, but I still like it."
Widely regarded as a master of the well-paced plot twist, Harlan’s new book The Boy From The Woods is another skillfully crafted example of his talent at work. Ryan certainly enjoyed it, describing it as "a page-turning joy to return to". Delighted to hear this, Harlan shared an anecdote of what provided the initial spark for the story: "I was hiking through the woods, which I hate. I’m looking for a coffee shop, I’m looking for window shopping, I’m looking for a book store. After a while when you’re hiking it’s like "Trees, I got it, trees. Can we move on now?"
Just at that moment, however, a small boy appeared, stirring Harlan’s curiosity and sending his writer’s brain spinning: "I see a little boy around 6 years old wandering through the woods. I think to myself, what if that boy just came out of the woods now and no one knew where he came from. He swears he’s always lived there, he broke into houses to survive or whatever else, he remembers no parents. And what if thirty years pass, he’s an adult now, and he still has no idea who his parents are, what is background is, nothing. Then another child goes missing in those woods and he has to find them. That was the seed at the start for me of The Boy From The Woods."
"How many people told me over the years, 'I wish I could write a book but I don't have time...' This is your chance."
With over 70 million books in print worldwide, there’s no denying the universal popularity of Harlan’s work. Ryan asked him why he felt people were so fascinated with the dark side of humanity that features prominently in crime fiction.
"If I ask you to name your favourite five novels that are over 100 years old," he said, "I guarantee you that at least four, if not all five, will have a crime in it. I mean crime fiction, we just call it that now, but it’s been around since Dostoevsky and Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare. We love putting characters under stress. We like the ordinary man in an extraordinary circumstance. In my books, I try to put you in that person’s position, so that you have that kind of rollercoaster ride effect."
The Boy From The Woods by Harlen Coben is out now. Listen back to more from The Ryan Tubridy Show here.
Words: Jan Ní Fhlanagáin