The Secrets of their Success interview

Dean KoontzI’ve always resisted the cliché, ‘Today’s guest needs no introduction.’ And there are two reasons for that: for one thing, it’s one of those remarks that needs qualifying, and in so doing I think I’d end up at odds with the aforementioned claim. For another, those who need no – or little – introduction often provide the meatiest substance for an opening paragraph, and my guest today is no exception. Frankly, we’re in the presence of greatness – honestly, it’s true. He’ll shake his head at me for using such lofty rhetoric, I know, because despite his vast achievements he seems to have remained somehow unpretentious – at the very least down-to-earth. And in case you’re wondering at the magnitude of said achievements, permit me a small instruction. Go to Wikipedia and search: ‘Best-selling fiction authors.’ You’ll see a list populated by such revered denizens as William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Agatha Christie and a host of other authors endlessly cited by literature professors the world over. Well I’ll tell you something: today’s guest currently occupies the number seventeen spot on that roster, and by the figures quoted therein has sold around 400 million books. Take into account that some of the literary heavyweights above him on that list have been in print for several centuries, and that’s quite an achievement. But – every achievement starts somewhere, so to tell us how it all began allow me to hand over to the one and only: Dean Koontz.

“I was writing stories when I was 8 and selling them to relatives and neighbors,” Dean says. “I was writer, agent, and publisher all in one – and, I am quite sure, also a pest. I wrote in high school, and one of my English teachers, Winona Garbrick, encouraged me. In college, I won a top prize in a national college-student writing contest sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly, and I sold that same story to another magazine for $50, which was more money then than it is now and which allowed me to buy about a hundred paperbacks.

“We were quite poor, and therefore through high school I had held part-time jobs of one kind or another, during which I realized that I would never be happy working under a boss. After college, during the two years I taught school, that realization was reinforced on a daily basis. The education bureaucracy frustrated me. My wife, Gerda, said, “I know you want to write. I’ll support you for five years, and if you can’t make it in that time, you’ll never make it.” To this day, I am humbled by her generosity and her faith in me. I accepted her offer – and was immediately labeled a lazy, shiftless bum by many in our families!

“So you might say that in the early years, I was inspired by the need to be my own boss and to work at a task I loved instead of at some job that had no purpose for me except to pay the bills. During a lonely childhood, in a dysfunctional family, books had been my escape and salvation; therefore, to make a life of books was as close to bliss as I expected to get in this world.”

Read the full interview @ The Secrets of Their Success.

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