Interview with the Master of Suspense, Dean Koontz (part 1)

Dean.Koontz.TrixieScanMy love of Golden Retrievers and Dean Koontz’s brilliant writing began decades ago when I read Koontz’s book, ‘Watchers‘.  One of the heroes of the story was Einstein, a super smart golden retriever.  I promised myself that when I retired and could dedicate time to a larger dog,  I would own my first Golden.   I remember back to getting my first; Sadie.  I was so excited that  I sent Dean photos of her, (nine weeks old) romping in gold and red fall leaves.  I enclosed a note from Sadie to Trixie and  darned if she didn’t write back.

Dean and Trixie, circa 2000



Q: Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?

A: I have a home office. I work at a horseshoe-shaped desk, the long arms of which are fifteen feet. The desk is made of (and the office is paneled with) honey-toned quarter-cut anigre, and the desk top is of black marble with gold veining. There are bookshelves with books but also a collection of Bakelite radios from the Art Deco period. Most of the radios still work, though you have  to wait for the vacuum tubes to heat up.

I’ve got an under-the-counter fridge in a vestibule area, packed full of Diet Pepsi, which is to me like spinach to Popeye. I have a sofa on which I never nap, big windows with an ocean view that I rarely see because I keep the pleated shades down at all times while working. I know I’m a potential slacker, so I don’t tempt myself.

Q: Do you have any special rituals when you sit down?

A: Door closed, blinds lowered, Diet Pepsi at hand, current research books and materials to one side–and then start to sweat.

Q: What is your mode of writing?

A: Entirely on computer. I work on one page, revising and polishing until I can’t make it better, then move on to the next. Some pages might get 20 or more drafts before I move on. At the end of every chapter, I print out and read it because I see things on the page that I didn’t see on the screen. I pencil the chapter, print it out, pencil it again if necessary, and then continue with the
next chapter. I build a book the way coral reefs are built: millions of little calcareous skeletons piling up one atop another, though in my case the skeletons are drafts.

Q: Do you have a set time each day to write, or do you only write when you are
feeling creative?

A: I get up at 5:45, shower, walk Anna, the dog,

Photographer: Thomas Engstrom
Photographer: Thomas Engstrom

and have breakfast at my desk no later than 7:30, usually 7:00. I read the Wall Street Journal during breakfast–not primarily for its financial news but for its other features–and perhaps look through whatever magazine came in the previous day’s mail. After half an hour, I set to work, often by 7:30, and work straight through to dinner. I never have lunch because it makes me foggy-headed. If I waited until I felt creative, I would never have had a career. I long ago learned that a day that starts out badly, when nothing comes out on the page or comes out wrong, can suddenly turn into a good day a few hours later, when suddenly everything starts to click. The brain can be cajoled into being creative.

Q: What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

A: I don’t have any. I don’t procrastinate because I love the English language and the process of storytelling, and I’m always curious to see what will come to me next. If you procrastinate a lot, you might be one who loves having written, but doesn’t so much like writing. I’m the opposite: I enjoy the hell out of writing but don’t like what follows: promotion and publicity, which I always strive to keep to a minimum, sometimes to my publisher’s dismay.

Q: Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing and for how long?

A: Sometimes, if I’m in what psychologists’ call a flow state, I can be amazed to look at my watch and see that it isn’t eleven o’clock, as I think, but almost dinnertime. Flow states don’t come along that often, but even on other days, I never think time is passing slowly. Being paid well for something you love to do–it’s a grace.

Q: Who or what is your muse at the moment?

A: I’ve just finished a novel, THE CITY, that’s a first-person narrative by a black piano man who, at the age of 57, is looking back on some amazing, wondrous, and mysterious things that happened to him between the ages of 8 and 12. His grandfather was a piano man, too, and was a well-known and admired musician in the Big Band era. So what keeps my fingers flying on the keys right now is Big Band music in the background. I’ve always loved that music, and I would argue that it’s the richest musical period in American history……..

Join us for Part 2 on July 1st!

DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring my INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!

In addition to my twice weekly blog I also feature an interview with another author once a month. So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!     Ace Atkins is my July author.

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