You signed a five-year contract with Netfliks to run 14 shows of your novels. “Keep Calm” from 2008 is the sixth of them and the second in Poland. You personally work on each mod. Do you still have time to write new novels?
Now that my four children are older, I can write and work on TV at the same time. I love making edits, it’s basically the same job – only the shape of the story changes. I have to get the receiver’s attention so he can’t get himself out of the book or until the night of the series is gone. Like the man in the cave who tells fairy tales to his audience by the fire.
Are you involved in working on screenplays or filming and editing?
I usually have the biggest work I do in the beginning, writing. But in the “Keep Calm” event, I also participated in the compilation later and when we agreed on the nuts. But my main task is to tell the story – to get it right from start to finish.
My novel is more like a musical composition that I wrote, but now a Polish band is recording.
Is it possible to transfer a novel from America to the Vistula River?
Let’s look at the surroundings of the heroes – they live in a tidy estate, where they all have the same ambitions and life goals: children, a house, a car in the driveway, a well-kept garden. They say: an American dream, but that’s what life looks like not only in the United States. Also in Poland, Spain and other countries. It is a global lifestyle. Besides, I have a large number of readers in Poland.
So the producers assumed the Poles would match your characters.
Not every single one of my books can be viewed in any country, but Keep Calm is plenty comprehensive. My novel is more like a musical composition that I wrote, but now a Polish band is recording. It doesn’t make sense for me to interpret all my observations the same way I do. On the contrary, I encourage the Polish orchestra to bring its culture and traditions to this date – these are their instruments. The writer has to accept the fact that a movie or TV adaptation is a teamwork and is unable to control everything.
But you are the one who accepts any deviation from the original.
If I didn’t like them, they wouldn’t be there.
Keep Calm is an exciting family movie. In it, parents go beyond the limits of controlling their children. With better and worse results. Is this a social story?
I never thought that the last time I wrote a detective story, I would now write a social novel. Or that this time there will be more family drama, and next time there will be something about youth. I always try to keep a little of everything, but the entertainment comes first. A novel must be made available to its readers, otherwise no one will read it. And if the writer assumes in advance that he is now going to write an important novel about important social problems, then it usually turns out to be a boring book.
And you haven’t had similar dilemmas years ago: to control children or not?
It is up to the reader to decide for himself. I don’t answer such questions because I know what it leads to. If I were to state what my heroes ought to have done, it would end at once that the reader, entering the world of my novel, is biased: this is a writer who speaks against privacy. Or on the contrary: it is an absolute protection of privacy. And this leads readers to say: This writer is my right, this is my left … and I try to avoid that. People should read it without feeling that there is a hidden agenda behind my story. The worst stories are those that serve a preconceived thesis. My job is to be conservative, and it is the reader who should answer the doubts, not Harlan Coben.
So you don’t answer any political questions?
Practically never. My job is to write books and present the widest range of situations possible. Sometimes I come up with characters that represent situations and situations that I don’t fully agree with. But I have to be credible in this. The writer’s job is to be able to imitate different languages and opinions, to be able to sympathize with everyone: children, young people, old people, people of both sexes, religions, opinions. Even those with whom you do not agree. You have to be incredibly sympathetic.
Can entertainment then change the world for the better?
I think I can do more good by not being emphatically on either side of a particular conflict. People do not change their opinions under the influence of someone else’s opinion. But they can be influenced by stories. I don’t think anyone has ever changed their mind because of someone’s tweet or interview. But you can change your mind by learning about other people’s stories – they enrich people’s sensitivity. I saw my high school friends not too long ago. Everyone today has the same opinions as they did 40 years ago. Until then, I was able to decide who would vote for Trump and who would vote for Democrats.