Question: As a mother to a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome, I notice many of your books have characters with DS in them.
I also notice that they are always treated respectfully, a rare find-usually books contain outdated information regarding DS. I was just wondering if you have someone "special" in your life that inspires you to place these characters in your books? My favorite quote is from your novel Seize the Night: "Those who don't perceive beauty in the face of a Down's syndrome person are blind to all beauty or are so fearful of difference that they must at once turn away from every encounter with it." This quote is hanging on my wall at work and it is a daily inspiration to me. Thank you. Jackie, Milford, N.H.
Answer: Dear Jackie — you are an inspiration to me, as are so many parents of Down's children, as well as those whose children have severe physical disabilities. My wife and I have long worked with organizations assisting the disabled, and we have been impressed that virtually all those parents say that their special children were blessings, that in caring for their children and helping them to achieve a full life, they (the parents) have grown emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. You are exceptional people, and because of that, your children will be exceptional and, by their example of triumph over hardship, will give hope to those in search of it and will inspire more tolerance and compassion in society.
I have no DS person in my family, but those I have known are gentle, kind, and in many ways a lesson to those in our world who value flash and glitter and only the standard for beauty that our largely shallow pop culture promotes. My books are based on a worldview that values taking responsibility for those around us and thus brightening the corner where we are; a worldview that also values perseverance in the face of hardship. The rewards of self-discovery and the rewards to the community of those values are deep and lasting.
Tips for Aspiring Writers
Question: If someone were trying to get a publisher interested in a manuscript, what makes up a great query letter? Bianca, Raleigh, N.C.
Answer: You need to interest an agent first. What agents want to see in a query letter is the story of your novel captured in 100 or fewer words, the fewer the better, in such a way that presents its concept clearly and in such a way that makes it sound fresh. They don't want long plot summaries. They don't want to be told that it is thrilling or suspenseful or moving. They want to be shown in a succinct fashion that it's exciting.
This means, unfortunately, that they favor "high concept" over subtler or more complex stories. But as a new writer, you have to deal with the new realities of the industry. The perfect high-concept novel is arguably Jurassic Park, which could be presented like this in a query letter: "Using DNA preserved for millions of years in amber, scientists engineer dinosaurs, which are alive again in our time. They lose control of the project." Not only thrillers and genre fiction lend themselves to high-concept summaries. Books like The Lovely Bones and The Five People You Meet in Heaven are high concepts, too.
Question: First, I just want to tell Mr. Koontz he is a fabulous author. I have read about 75 - 80 percent of all your books since I was in my early teens. What advice would you give to a beginning writer on story development? Heather, Colorado Springs, Colo.