Dean Koontz Biography

Author (1945–)
Dean Koontz is a bestselling thriller writer who has been keeping readers on edge since the late 1960s with titles like The Door to December and Odd Thomas.


Dean Koontz was born in Everett, PA, on July 9, 1945, and graduated from Shippensburg University in 1966 with a degree in English. Koontz quit his high school teaching job to work on his writing career, and he published his first novel, Star Quest, with Ace Books in 1968. He soon began branching out into various genres under several pseudonyms before settling on the thriller novel, an arena in which he would become a massive worldwide success. Today, Koontz has written more than 120 books with over 450 million copies in print.

Early Years

Dean Koontz was born on July 9, 1945, in Everett, Pennsylvania, and grew up an only child in nearby Bedford. To find respite from an abusive alcoholic father, Koontz turned to reading and watching movies, pastimes that would greatly influence the rest of his life.

“When I was a kid, writers were my heroes because they took me out of that awful house,” Koontz has said. “Books were an escape from the violence of the household and the poverty.”

You might say Koontz’s writing career began when he was eight, when he started writing short stories and selling them to his relatives for change. Following that path, Koontz graduated in 1966 from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University) with a bachelor of arts in English. His college career was punctuated his senior year with the Atlantic Monthly Creative Writing Award, which he won with a short story titled “The Kittens.”

Becoming a Published Author

Soon after graduation, Koontz married Gerda Ann Cerra, his high school girlfriend. His first jobs were with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where he worked with children, and as an English teacher at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School. Koontz continued to pursue his passion, writing when he wasn’t busy with work, and he produced notebooks full of short stories. During this period, his wife made a deal with him: He could quit his job and work for five years toward getting a writing career off the ground while Gerda supported him.

In 1968, the first of Koontz’s many novels appeared, a sci-fi work called Star Quest, and it was followed by several others in the genre. In 1971, Koontz’s novella Beastchild was recognized with a Hugo Award nomination, and after that Koontz began experimenting with other genres under pseudonyms. Publishing under such names as Deanna Dwyer, John Hill, K.R. Dwyer and Brian Coffey (among several others), Koontz produced books in genres such as suspense, gothic romance and mystery.

Great Literary Success

After releasing scores of titles, Koontz's 1980 novel Whispers became his first paperback bestseller. A series of suspense books followed including Phantoms (1983), Darkfall (1984), Strangers (1986) and Watchers (1987).  Since those early days, Koontz has written dozens of books, and he’s gone on to sell more than 450 million copies in 38 languages. Of those books, many have hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list—among them The Bad Place (1990), Hideaway (1992), One Door Away From Heaven (2002) and What the Night Knows (2010). In 2003, he released Odd Thomas, another New York Times bestseller and the first in a popular series which included Forever Odd (2005), Brother Odd (2006), Odd Hours (2008), Odd Apocalypse (2012), Deeply Odd (2013) and Saint Odd (2014).

Graphic Novels and Screenplays

Not content to dominate the paperback thriller, Koontz also writes graphic novels, creating such unique works as the series Nevermore, Frankenstein: Prodigal Son and In Odd We Trust. Several of Koontz’ books have also been turned into TV movies and theatrical releases, including Demon Seed (1977), Whispers (1990), Hideaway (1995, starring Jeff Goldblum and Alicia Silverstone) and Odd Thomas (2013).

Koontz isn't prolific by accident: He says he puts in 60-70 hours per week on his creations, working through dozens of drafts before he gets each book just right.

Dean Koontz

Author Dean Koontz in 2009  Image: s_bukley /

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