Koontz describes Christopher Snow's story:
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Has he ever run out of ideas?
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Koontz on his abusive father:
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Born: Everett, Pennsylvania, 1945
Education: Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University)
Notable: Won Atlantic Monthly fiction contest as a senior in college
Book smarts: Koontz has written under pseudonyms including David Axton, Brian Coffey, Deanna Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige and Owen West.
- "Anti-Man" (Paperback Library, 1970)
- "Phantoms" (Putnam, 1983)
- "Cold Fire" (Putnam, 1991)
- "Mr. Murder" (Putnam, 1993)
- "Dark Rivers of the Heart" (Knopf, 1994)
- "Intensity" (Ballantine, 1996)
- "Sole Survivor" (G.K. Hall, 1997)
Dean Koontz tells CNN he has read John D. MacDonald's "The Last One Left" (Fawcett Books, 1991) repeatedly. A noted suspense author, MacDonald is perhaps best-known for "Cape Fear," which has been made into a movie twice -- with Gregory Peck in the 1960s and Robert DeNiro in 1991. "The Last One Left" is out of print, so you'll have to sleuth around used book stores, if you want to pick up on Koontz's trail.
Dean Koontz turns up suspense with new novel, movie
January 31, 1998
Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EDT (1215 GMT)
(CNN) -- Dean Koontz knows how to keep readers turning pages -- by keeping them on the edge of their seats. The suspense author has turned out 33 books which have sold roughly 200 million copies and, doubtless, kept many a reader up at night. Now he's throwing another 384 pages into the fray, with his latest thriller "Fear Nothing" (Bantam Books, 1998). On top of that, Miramax has just released a new movie, "Phantoms," based on a screenplay by Koontz.
CNN's Miles O'Brien talked with Koontz recently about how it all adds up.
O'BRIEN: Tell us, do you ever run out of ideas for good suspense yarns?
KOONTZ: No, because I think the more you work and the longer you work at it -- I put in 10-hour days -- and that exercises the mind and the imagination. So I haven't run out of any ideas. But if I do, I'm planning to learn plumbing.
O'BRIEN: A 10-hour day, though. That is a long day of writing. Many writers I
have spoken with don't spend nearly that much time writing. Do you find yourself exhausted at the end of that?
KOONTZ: Well, I often do it six days a week, sometimes seven, if I'm on a deadline. I find I need the time to fall into the story. And if I put in three-hour stretches, I wouldn't do that. Some days, maybe it's just me. I spend three hours looking at the screen before I get the first word out.
O'BRIEN: Where did you get the inspiration for this particular story ("Fear Nothing" -- about a character who must live by night, due to a rare genetic disorder that prevents the skin from repairing damage from light)?
KOONTZ: ... I read a piece about this illness. And I was so fascinated with it because I thought a person with this syndrome will live a life very different from ours. And a life so exotic that it must seem more exotic to us than a life lived in the farthest corner of the globe.
And the more I researched it the more that really did turn out to be the case. And it just seemed to me a fascinating subject that people would be very interested in.
O'BRIEN: An awful lot has been written about your childhood experiences with an
abusive father and how that has a lot of impact on your writing. What sort of impact did that have in this particular book, do you think?
KOONTZ: This book is about friendship and about responsibility and loyalty. And, one thing I have said that I gained from my dad -- who was a violent alcoholic and later diagnosed as mentally ill and sociopathic, not a person who ever told the truth, if he could avoid it -- I learned by his negative example ... the way to lead a life. And that is to be loyal to your friends, to be responsible.
And this book really arose because, in a sense, my dad taught me what the best
values were by showing me what the best values weren't. And in this book, I really want to write about friendship and about how people pull together to get over the worst imaginable circumstances.
O'BRIEN: Now one critic went as far as saying: "Dean Koontz would not be the
writer he is today without Ray Koontz," your father. Would you go as far as saying that?
KOONTZ: You know, that's an awful thing to think about, because I lived in terror of him most of my life. He made two attempts to kill me. And ... there was no moment that I ever had with my dad that was a good moment.
But, there's some truth in that. If he hadn't been what he was, I might not have been driven to be what I am. ... He held 44 jobs in 34 years. Frequently,
because he punched out the boss, which is a bad career move. ... And that led me to want a life that was stable. And maybe I've become a workaholic because of that. But, at the same time, I've become what I am because of that.
O'BRIEN: Let me ask you ... what are you reading right now?
KOONTZ: I'm reading for the third or fourth time a novel by John D. MacDonald
called "The Last One Left" (Fawcett Books, 1991). John is no longer with us, but I think he was one of the great suspense writers. And, basically, because his characters were so strong.
O'BRIEN: So you like to read other suspense writers?
KOONTZ: Oh, sure. I don't think we're in a competitive business. I mean, if anybody seems to be getting too close to me, I put out a contract on them.
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