From Friday, July 9th 2010
You Are There by Erica Jong | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor
It's the birthday of blockbuster best-selling author Dean Koontz, (books by this author) born in Everett, Pennsylvania (1945). He grew up in an impoverished, drunken, and violent home, and after he went away to college he converted to Catholicism, he said, because it helped him make sense of the chaos of his childhood and to appreciate mysteries in life.
He sold the first short story he ever wrote and then got 75 rejections before selling his next story. Now, he's one of the most highly paid authors in the world -- the sixth highest, to be exact, tied in that place with John Grisham at 25 million dollars of earnings per year. (The top five, in order: J. K. Rowling, James Patterson, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel).
Koontz's books have sold 400 million copies. Eleven hardcovers and more than a dozen paperbacks have been No. 1 New York Times best-sellers.
He works 10 or 11 hours a day, usually five days a week. He says that on good days, he winds up with five or six pages of finished work. But on bad days, he ends up with only a third of a page. Rather than writing a quick first draft and coming back to it later, he revises each page of the novel, however long it takes -- 20 or 30 times is normal -- before he feels good moving on to write the next page. He said, "I began this ceaseless polishing out of self-doubt, as a way of preventing self-doubt from turning into writer's block: by doing something with the unsatisfactory page, I wasn't just sitting there brooding about it."
He said: "I have more self-doubt than any writer I've ever known. ... The positive aspect of self-doubt -- if you can channel it into useful activity instead of being paralyzed by it -- is that by the time you reach the end of a novel, you know precisely why you made every decision in the narrative, the multiple purposes of every metaphor and image."
His novels are often set in Newport Beach, California. They often feature intelligent Labrador retrievers, bougainvillea flowers, unethical scientists, and references to T.S. Eliot and Alice in Wonderland.
Dean Koontz said, "Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. [And] sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled."