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Dean Koontz
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Dean Koontz   Dean Koontz is one of the most-read authors in the world with over 400 million books sold. Over twenty of his books have hit #1 on The New York Times bestsellers list, and several movies have been made from his writing. His work has been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, Prometheus, British Fantasy Society, and Bram Stocker Award. He frequently incorporates elements of horror, science fiction, mystery, and satire in his writing, and Rolling Stone has hailed him as "America's most popular suspense novelist."

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This episode originally aired on 01/21/2010 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Dean Koontz

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Matthew Peterson: Hey, welcome to The Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction, which can be found at Iím your host, Matthew Peterson, author of Paraworld Zero. Last week I had a high fantasy episode with Carol Berg, L. E. Modesitt Jr, Dennis L. McKiernan, and Diana Pharaoh Francis. Iím really excited about the show today. This week's theme is dragons and creatures with Dean Koontz, Christopher Paolini, R. L. Stine, and Todd McCaffrey. Combined, these authors have sold around three quarters of a billion books--enough for everyone in the United States to own two or three copies.

My first guest today is Dean Koontz, the international bestselling author whom Rolling Stone hailed as "America's most popular suspense novelist." His work has been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, Prometheus, British Fantasy Society, and Bram Stocker Award and has also been adapted into several movies. Between hitting the #1 spot on the New York Times list over 20 times and selling over 400 million books, Dean Koontz is easily one of the most-read authors in the world. Thanks for being on the show today, Dean.

Dean Koontz: Well, thanks for having me there.

Matthew Peterson: Now after selling so many books, do you feel a certain pressure from your readers to give them more and more quality books?

Dean Koontz: I feel no pressure from readers or anybody. Iím just grateful I never had to earn honest work, so Iím delighted this has played out. The biggest pressure I ever get is from myself, and I sort of long ago learned you canít please everyone all the time. So some people like things more than other things and you canít scope the market and try to imagine what they want, so you just have to sit down and please yourself every time out of the gate. And thatís what itís all about. But this is all about doing something you love, and so if you allowed yourself to be pressured too much, youíd stop loving it.

Matthew Peterson: Well, that philosophy is a good one. A lot of people have enjoyed your books, and youíve written quite a few so far. I wanted to talk about one of your latest series: The Dean Koontzís Frankenstein. What gave you the idea to reinvent Mary Shelleyís Frankenstein?

Dean Koontz: Well, there were two things that sort of happened around the same time: 1. Some Hollywood producers--thatís a word that should come with ominous music in the background.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Da, da, da . . . .

Dean Koontz: But they came to me and wanted me to reinvent Dracula for a television series. And I said, ďAh, thereís just endless vampire stuff all the time. Reinventing it would yet once again... doesnít strike me as anything interesting. But what if we reinvented Frankenstein?Ē And at first they were reluctant, but then they thought about it and said yes. And as they were deciding whether to say yes or not, it got to be a more and more appealing thing for me, and I was at the moment re-reading The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis, which I read every few years again. Thatís a most amazingly timely book--now more than when he wrote it 60 some years ago. And it was in reading that book I got the idea of how to reinvent Frankenstein. And sort of it was that C. S. Lewisí book, a non-fiction piece, that really inspired readdressing this famous piece of fiction. And of course, when they filmed it, they dropped all the stuff that reinvented it and turned it into a sleazy mess. So, I took my name off it.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Dean Koontz: But Iíve enjoyed writing them. Certainly the material is more timely than ever, in our time. The hubristic scientist, the potential of science to become scientism, all of those things are now more true than ever, so itís an interesting thing to do and Iím working on the fourth book now, which I never imagined. I thought three would be the limit.

Matthew Peterson: Well, who would have thought that C. S. Lewis would give some of the inspiration for a Frankenstein adaptation? [laughs]

Dean Koontz: Well, and when you read The Abolition of Man, youíll understand why, and thatís why I end up quoting Lewis at the front of each of the first three books. And Iím getting my motivation on the second series--three more books--from Chesterton. I came across a Chesterton quote and it was just perfect for Lost Souls, which is the first of the new Frankensteins--comes out June, I think.

Matthew Peterson: Well, what can you tell us about the Lost Souls?

Dean Koontz: Well, the action moves from New Orleans to rural Montana. And the new Victor who was at the end of book three... I donít want to give anything away. There is suddenly a new Victor, but he has a totally different idea about how to approach the creation of a new race. So all of Victorís wild ideas and over-the-top things in the first three books will be totally different now. And what heís creating is actually a little spookier than anything Iíve quite come across before.

Matthew Peterson: Hmm.

Dean Koontz: Those who survive the first series show up again because they come to realize this isnít finished.

Matthew Peterson: Well, with your Frankenstein series, there was a lot of changes from the old Mary Shelley one. Like Frankenstein, for example, in the Mary Shelley books is the creator; heís the doctor, the inventor of this monster. In yours itís more contemporary, modern day; Frankenstein is the monster, in a sense, right?

Dean Koontz: Thatís one of the turns the story has taken that to say that in the end it wasnít the poor creature who was created that was the more horrific thing; it was the doctor, who did the creating. And Victor has become the monster, and the monster has become humanized. And turning those two around was one of the original intentions of this. And then, doing it as not a horror series, really, but doing it as a kind of cross-genre police procedural big kind of fantasy action thing... with a lot of humor. And itís doing things in a new form that always excites me, so when I thought, ďAh, Frankenstein! And the monster is the good guy! Thatís good enough for me. I want to find out about this.Ē

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah. Thatís interesting. And you know, I didnít watch the movie. I think it was in 2004. That whole year I was writing my first book and just didnít watch any TV or movies or anything. So I understand, like you said, you pulled out of that movie. A lot of your books have been put into movies. Is there a particular movie that you did like the adaptation of?

Dean Koontz: I thought the best one was the mini-series of Intensity. And in that case I got to choose the writer and the director, and it made a world of difference, instead of just getting the average megalomania--maniacal--director to deal with it. So I thought that one came out pretty good. There were moments of other pictures I liked, but none of them fully succeeded. I just havenít had much luck with Hollywood, but my world view and the average world view of Hollywood is so different that I think they just get it in their head if they do buy something of mine, they have to turn it 180 degrees around. And when they do that, they ruin it, so I basically am very hesitant to sell film rights anymore. I only do it with people whose body of work I can look at and say, ďOkay, theyíve got something going on.Ē But that doesnít happen very often anymore.

Matthew Peterson: Iíve heard that same thing from many authors and their movie adaptations. Kind of an interesting thing. You know, they do have to make some changes, but you would hope that the movie has something to do with the book. [laughs]

Dean Koontz: Well, you know. Iíve written... I donít know if itís 6 or 7 screen plays. Some were theatrical. Some were TV. All were green lighted. And all but two of them were actually produced. I had them remove my name from several of them anyway.

Matthew Peterson: Ohhh!

Dean Koontz: Or diminished use. In one case I paid as much to get my name taken off the posters as they had paid me for the film rights, which is not good business. That was the movie Hideaway, which was a disaster.

Matthew Peterson: Well, hopefully weíll see some more in the future, or maybe a better adaptation of Frankenstein as the series continues.

Dean Koontz: Well, thereís somebody very interested all of a sudden, and theyíre very strong producers. So we sat down and talked about it, and they understand perfectly what it is. So Iím a little hopeful. I donít know. Weíll see.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, good. Well, thatís something to look forward to. Well, letís move on to the Odd Thomas series. Thatís hugely successful. And Iím sure all these TV shows like Ghost Whisperer and Ghost Hunters have helped fuel the interest in this genre. What gave you the idea to write about a guy who communicates with the dead?

Dean Koontz: I was sitting here working on the face, and suddenly the lines came into my head, ďMy name is Odd Thomas. I lead an unusual life.Ē And I knew it had nothing to do with the face. And I turned to write it down, because something about it appealed to me, and the next thing I knew Iíd written out an entire first chapter by hand, which Iíd never done before or since.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Dean Koontz: And it was almost like automatic writing, it so fully came to me. And what I thought originally was going to be the most interesting thing about it was the notion that, in all these stories about people who see the dead or talk to the dead or so forth, they pretty much lead ordinary lives, except they have this ability. And I thought, ďIf you actually had this ability or any actual amazing power, you wouldnít lead an ordinary life at all.Ē It would be utterly impossible, the input to your mind from being able to see these things would be so over the top that you would have to defensively cut back on your interaction with the world. Youíd have to lead a very restricted life in order to cope with this hugeness that is your talent.

And as a consequence, I though Odd was going to be interesting for that reason--what a constricted life he would lead--and he does in many ways. But what he became more interesting to me for was his humility. And that seems to be the central thing that has driven most of the interest in the series. A lot of people just love the character, and so do I. Iíll be doing, God willing, three more books with him.

Matthew Peterson: Well, that is why people continue reading, because they like the characters. The story is great--the unique aspects of what he does--but itís who he is that really draws readers in.

Dean Koontz: In book four, I suddenly realized what his ultimate destiny was, and so Iíve been really excited about doing three of them in a row and putting them all out within say 14 or 15 months. And thatís my current intention.

Matthew Peterson: So weíll be able to see some more, then. Well, thatís good. Well, one of your latest novels, Breathless, came out in November. Again, it looks like youíre touching on the science fiction or the fantasy elements. What will readers see in Breathless that they might not see in your other books?

Dean Koontz: I donít want to give anything away, because itís quite unusual. When I delivered it, I thought there were a couple things in it that people were going to say, ďOh no, no, noĒ or get argumentative about. And to my great surprise, everyone whoís read it in my professional life--publishers, editors--worldwide have just gone over the top about it. And I at first was taken aback. I was waiting for somebody to call and say, ďHow dare you say thisĒ or ďWhy would you think you could get away with saying that?Ē And instead, nobody ever raised those issues.

And itís been one of the best received books Iíve ever delivered. And I think itís because of one thing: Everybody who reads it says to me, ďI felt so up at the end of it. I was so full of hope, and I felt so upbeat.Ē And I think Iíve stumbled on the right book for the right time. Nobodyís full of a lot of hope right now. So a book that actually gives them that apparently will be seen as more satisfying than usual. And thatís all Iím going to say about it.

Itís got a dog in it, but itís not just a dog story. And itís got an element... I wonít say whether itís science fiction or what it is. Itís just very different.

Matthew Peterson: Well, I know a lot of your books do have some sort of dog element in it. Thatís interesting. Iím excited to read Breathless, Ďcause I havenít read Breathless yet.

Dean Koontz: Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: Let me ask you one last question. What are you working on right now?

Dean Koontz: Right at this moment, Iím working on Lost Souls, the Frankenstein. And when thatís finished I will immediately move on to a book called What the Night Knows, which is an idea Iím just kind of bouncing off the walls about. So itís always a great thing when something excites you very much, but then if itís exciting you very much and youíre working on another book, you have to tamp that down and get the other book finished. So Iím working on Lost Souls and enjoying it, but ready to start What the Night Knows the moment I finish it.

Matthew Peterson: Well, good. Iím excited to take a look at those. Well, weíre about out of time, but itís been a great joy speaking with you today. Iíve been speaking with Dean Koontz, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Odd Thomas and Frankenstein. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Dean.

Dean Koontz: Thank you for having me there. I hope I was moderately coherent.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Very much so.

Alright, make sure you visit to listen to Dean Koontzís bonus question. Donít go away, Iíve got Christopher Paolini coming up next, followed by R. L. Stine and Todd McCaffrey.

  Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.  

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