Best-selling author Dean Koontz has thrilled his fans in one blockbuster novel after another — from Watchers and False Memory to The Face — now available in paperback — and his most recent best seller, Odd Thomas. Where does he find such inspiration? In this online chat he answers questions about his novels, the future of character Chris Snow, | tips for writers, | reveals his muse.
New Questions as of June 11, 2004
Question: I am a 15-year-old Panamanian and am currently reading a huge book that contains three of your novels — Shattered, Whispers, and Watchers. How did you get the inspiration for each of your books, and are any of your characters in these three books based on real people? Jaime, Panama City, Panama
Answer: Fictional characters are seldom if ever entirely modeled upon real people. If they were, they might not feel natural to a particular story and theme, but might seem to have been imposed upon it. I've dealt with the subject of the character-theme relationship in the first round of these questions, so I won't repeat myself. In the time I save by not repeating myself, I'll play a game of crocodile golf, a recreational activity that features nests of surly reptiles instead of the traditional sand traps, which enlivens an otherwise tiresome sport by the prospect of sudden death. Watchers was inspired by a lifelong love of dogs, by the Jung quote that is featured at the front of the book, by reading I'd been doing into the future of genetic engineering, by thinking I'd been doing about the difficulty of changing who we are even when we recognize the need for change. Whispers was inspired by a Freudian world view left over from college, which I eventually grew wise enough to abandon, by a fascination with California, which is virtually a character in the novel and which I had at that time adopted as my new home, and by a desire to take on characters and character relationships of a more complex texture than I'd been able to do in the genre word that preceded this novel. Shattered was an early book, and the motivation was simpler: I'd long admired short, simple, punchy suspense stories by Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Brian Garfield, and their peers; and I wanted to try a book like that.
Question: Have you ever written about any real-life experiences? And how does your wife feel about your books? Amy
Answer: Virtually every novel includes real-life experiences of mine. I have not, of course, been pursued by a beast that has escaped from a genetic engineering lab, do not suffer from xerodermapigmentosum, and haven't encountered aliens. But the details of daily life, the little background and character moments that support the primary story line are often based on real events. Indeed, Gerda, my wife, says that when she reads a new novel, she is reminded of numerous moments in our own recent lives which have been folded into the story. Gerda is my staunchest supporter and, next to me, she is my toughest critic. Generally, she prefers books like From the Corner of His Eye and Fear Nothing and Odd Thomas to books like The Taking, but as she was reading the manuscript of The Taking, she said at the midpoint, "This isn't my kind of thing, and I'd hope you wouldn't write another one like it anytime soon, but I sure am having fun with it." So she has the broad taste to accept all kinds of books.