About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

WEEK 41--Reading Book IN THE WRONG GENRE by a Favourite Author

Here we go--Shelter by Harlan Coben.   I was very grumpy when I picked this up and began to read it.  I'm a huge fan of Harlan Coben's thrillers, especially the Myron Bolitar ones.  But  Shelter is TEEN fiction.

What is Coben playing at?  I don't want him to write for teenagers.  I want him to write for ME.  Specifically, I want more novels featuring Myron and his psychotic yuppie sidekick Win.  Who is this Mickey Bolitar and why should I care about him?

So of course, I had to read it.  Isn't this what my New Year's Resolution is all about: identifying those moments of middle aged inertia and confronting them?  Spotting my resistance to trying something new, and then combating it?

I should also admit to a vested interest here.  If my current novel ever finds a publisher, this is exactly what I will be requiring my readers to do.  I know there is a loyal band of hard core fans out there who loved my novels.  They will be scowling.  What is she playing at?  We don't want TEEN fiction.  We want more about those characters from Angels and Men. We've been waiting for 11 years!

But back to Harlan Coben's new teen novel, Shelter.  Well, I hoovered it up.  Myron appears as the hero's uncle.  Uncle?  But I thought Myron was an only child.  Where has this brother of his suddenly appeared from?  A bit of hasty back-plotting by the author here, I thought cynically.  I've since discovered that there is a whole other adult novel, Live Wire, which fills in this particular gap, and makes the whole Shelter concept plausible.  Or more plausible.  I expect.  I haven't read it yet.

This just goes to show that even the master-plotters of the genre can occasionally paint themselves into a corner which requires some ingenuity to get out of.  How does Coben go about planning his books?  Maybe I could pick up some tips.  I checked out his website under FAQ.  It was nice to see the old favourites: Where do you get your ideas from?  Are your characters based on people you know?  And there was the frequently-asked plotting question.  His answer: 'I don’t outline. I usually know the ending before I start. I know very little about what happens in between. It’s like driving from New Jersey to California. I may go Route 80, I may go via the Straits of Magellan or stopover in Tokyo… but I’ll end up in California.'

Damn.  That's what I do.  It's just he does it so much better.


  1. No - he does it his way, you do it yours. There is a difference!

    And I read your novels, and not those of Harlen Coban, because the characters live in my mind, and because I find I care about them ("Nooo, you silly girl...he's not gay, he fancies you rotten...have you still not learned and I've read this book several times over now")

    and now I've "outed" myself I'll go away...

  2. Excellent! I will make you care about the characters in my new book, too. And then I will heartlessly write 'THE END'.

  3. And then you'll have to write another one, and another one, and.....

  4. Right now, I'm looking at a beautiful picture of the cathedral of Lichfield, and I propose a toast to the merry old England.

  5. Dear Catherine

    Here I was having my annual return to Johnny, Mara et al and decided to google you to see if i'd missed anything new in the book department, when imagine my delight at discovering your blog! It would have been better to discover it back in January when it begin but hey ho! Lots of reading for me to catch up on. Your new book sounds intriguing (I am I'm afraid one of those people who have become attached to 'certain characters', but I'm sure you've heard enough of that over the years!) and i'll be looking forward to trying something new. Ok ramble over..have got six months of catching up to do!

  6. I'm really hoping your new novel finds a publisher - I'm waiting to buy it!

  7. Thank you, loyal people. I'm re-writing the novel's opeing at the moment, but am fairly optimistic this one will find a home. Though this isn't a particularly good time to be selling books. Fingers crossed.