Arts & Entertainment
Suspense novelist Koontz writes about people 'finding hope, redemption'
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With 50 books to his credit, Catholic author Dean Koontz can clearly be thought of as a successful novelist.
So successful, it's easy to think of him as a brand -- an idea with which he's not comfortable.
"That word," he said. "It reminds me of a fellow who interviewed me: 'What's it like being a god of fiction?' I laughed out loud."
Pictured: Catholic author Dean Koontz poses for a photo with his dog, Anna, in 2009 at his home in Newport Beach, Calif. Koontz is the author of "Odd Apocalypse," the fifth in a series titled "Odd Thomas." The series is about a young California fry cook who keeps doing battle against the bizarre and malevolent while on a quest to achieve perfect humility. (CNS photo/Dan MacMendan, Contour by Getty Images)
Koontz added, "I've had publishers who wanted me to keep doing the same thing," but "I don't know how you brand what I do without misconstruing." In one such skirmish, he said he was able to keep the word "horror" out of a description of his books.
"I'm suspicious of branding because it can limit you, it can put you in a narrow frame," he said. Still, he noted, "If you'll like the name, you'll get the same. You'll still have some of that stuff that you like," regardless of the subject matter of his latest book.
It just so happens his next title, to be released July 31, is "Odd Apocalypse," the fifth in his "Odd Thomas" series about a young California fry cook who keeps doing battle against the bizarre and malevolent while on a quest to achieve perfect humility. "I've never experienced perfect humility," Koontz told Catholic News Service in a July 16 telephone interview.
Koontz said the series will go to seven novels before it reaches its conclusion. For a while, it seemed he would be lucky to get the first one in print. "I got a little bit of resistance," he recalled. His publisher at the time "disliked the book so much he wouldn't talk to me about it," he said. "When the reviews started coming," Koontz added, it became obvious that Odd Thomas -- the character's first and last names -- "was touching some nerve. I don't know if I ever got a bad review."
What's more, there will be an "Odd Thomas" movie in theaters next year. Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the 2009 "Star Trek" movie prequel, plays the title character. The movie also stars Willem Dafoe, Patton Oswalt and Leonor Varela, currently in the cable-TV updating of "Dallas." The film was directed by Stephen Sommers, who directed the first two "Mummy" movies and wrote all three screenplays. Koontz said he thought Sommers' "Odd Thomas" screenplay "was perfection. I couldn't find a wrong note."
Koontz acknowledges he has "a very low boredom threshold" and wants to be entertained by what he writes. At the same time, though, "there's an obligation to give them (readers) their money's worth in terms of a reading experience." He says he's been asked, "I want you to write a book that's very dark and very noir and everybody dies in the end and there's no meaning to anything." To which he replies, "You don't need me to do that. It's everywhere."
"That's not what I do," Koontz said. "I write about people trying to find hope and redemption in their lives from suspense."
Koontz became a Catholic after he started dating his wife, Gerda Cerra. "My family was dysfunctional. My father was a violent alcoholic who had 44 jobs in 34 years. There was always someone who was not speaking to somebody else," he said. On the couple's dates, "we would go to Johnstown (Pa.) where her aunts and uncles lived. I saw all these houses where there was a totally different attitude and unlike anything I ever saw in my house.
"My wife didn't ask me to convert. But it was in college that I began the path."
Koontz and his wife go somewhere regularly to worship, but asked CNS to not disclose the location. The reason: security. "We don't like to announce where we can be found. I don't want to go to church with a security group. I can't do public speaking without a security contingent," he said. "There are some bad people. Death threats, we get a lot of those. We get fan mail that is very strange. One woman sent us 5,000 letters in four years."
One correspondent Koontz is pleased with, though, is the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.
"Archbishop Dolan started writing me to tell me what a fan of the books he is, before he became a cardinal," he said. "I knew I must be doing something right."
— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service
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