Dean Ray Koontz is one of the United States’ most prolific modern authors, one of the most popular fiction writers today, he captivates his readers with his creative plotlines and unique characters, often incorporating a spiritual element into the story.
Dean Koontz was born in Everett, Pennsylvania. The only child of parents Ray and Florence, Koontz grew up in Bedford, Pennsylvania. Despite a rough childhood with an alcoholic father, he found solace in the characters of books, movies, and cartoons—a hobby responsible for his passion to become a writer. From the age of eight, Koontz would write short stories and sell them to his relatives for a nickel.
When he was a senior in college, Dean Koontz won an Atlantic Monthly fiction competition and has been writing ever since. His books are published in 38 languages and he has sold over 450 million copies to date.
His first job was with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where he counseled and tutored underprivileged children. After a year in this program, Koontz taught English at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School in Mechanicsburg, a suburb of Harrisburg, from 1967-1969. Still motivated to become a writer, Koontz wrote in his spare time during nights and weekends. In these years, Koontz wrote over a dozen short stories, some of them published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. At this time, Gerda, his wife, gave him the opportunity to write full-time, offering to support him for five years. Koontz’s hard work, enabled by his wife’s agreement, began to manifest in the publication of his first science fiction novel, Star Quest, in 1968. Published as an Ace Double with Emil Petaja’s Doom of the Green Planet, its cover depicts a futuristic world with the tagline: “They Drove a Salient into Another Universe.” After this first novel, Koontz continued writing science fiction books for several years. In 1971, Koontz was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novella for Beastchild. This text reenergizes the aliens and interstellar war of science fiction with Koontz’s thematic contributions of friendship and redemption. The combination of genres and themes became a defining aspect of Koontz’s subsequent novels. Eager to expand his audience and abilities, Koontz began to write and publish in others genres under various pseudonyms. Writing under ten different pseudonyms (in addition to his real name) enabled Koontz to publish across genres without being pigeon-holed as a one-genre writer, although it causes some debate over the exact number of books he has written. With the publication of the novel Chase in 1972, Koontz began to emerge as a serious writer. Chase is a suspense novel that describes the after-effects of the Vietnam War on a veteran that returns to civilian life. Less than a decade later, Koontz had his first paperback bestseller in his 1980 novel Whispers. This book features a dark story about childhood cruelty that reappears after its antagonist rises from the grave. The bestseller success of Whispers was not a fluke, as Dean Koontz has become a standard name among top contemporary writers since the 1980s. As of 2008, eleven Koontz novels have reached number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list; in addition, fourteen of his books have reached number one on the paperback bestseller list. Unsatisfied with leaving a published book as a finished story, Koontz often expands a story arc across a series of novels. Consistent with his ability to write across genres of literature, Koontz expanded to the graphic novel medium, creating an original comic book series Nevermore and an adaptation of the first novel in his popular Frankenstein series, Frankenstein: Prodigal Son. In 2008, Koontz partnered with illustrator Queenie Chan to create In Odd We Trust, a graphic novel featuring Odd Thomas, another popular Koontz character who has the ability to communicate with the dead. This installment functions as a prequel to the published novel series. In a review in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Charles de Lint enjoys the premise of the genre switch: “It moves quickly, with plenty of Koontz’s humor, and it’s fun to visit again with some of the characters who are no longer in the prose book series.” However, de Lint takes issue with the Japanese Manga style of In Odd We Trust, complaining that he “found it too hard to keep track of the characters because they all have a somewhat similar look, especially the male characters.” In spite of favorable or unfavorable reviews, Koontz constantly expands his ability to write both across genres and cross-genre novels. [
The first novel
Although Koontz was born into the United Church of Christ, he converted to Catholicism after marrying his wife, Gerda. When I started dating Gerda, we didn't have much money. We would go on Sundays to neighboring Jonestown, where she had aunts and uncles. I was so impressed with the sense of family among them and the fun they had being together and the easiness with which they interacted that I, either rightly or wrongly, identified that in my mind as being a consequence of Catholicism, which was so strong for all of them. So, it got me interested in it. When I was in college, I expanded my reading about things and ended up thinking about halfway through college that this was for me.
John D. MacDonald, Charles Dickens, Walker Percy, James M. Cain, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, James Kirkwood, William Goldman, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Elmer Kelton, Jack Vance
Dean Koontz lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Anna, and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.