Dean Ray Koontz (born July 9, 1945) is an American author best known for his novels, which can broadly be described as suspense thrillers, but also frequently incorporate elements of horror, science fiction, mystery, and satire. Several of his books have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List, 14 hardcovers and 14 paperbacks reached the number one position. Koontz wrote under a number of pen names earlier in his career, including "David Axton", "Leigh Nichols" and "Brian Coffey".
In his spare time, he wrote his first novel, Star Quest, which was published in 1968. Koontz went on to write over a dozen science fiction novels. Seeing the Catholic faith as a contrast to the chaos in his family, Koontz converted in college because it gave him answers for his life, admiring its "intellectual rigor" and saying it permits a view of life that sees mystery and wonder in all things. He says he sees the Church as English writer and Roman Catholic convert G.K. Chesterton did. Koontz notes that spirituality has always been part of his books, as are grace and our struggle as fallen souls, but he "never get[s] on a soapbox".
In the 1970s, Koontz began writing suspense and horror fiction, both under his own name and several pseudonyms, sometimes publishing up to eight books a year. Koontz has stated that he began using pen names after several editors convinced him that authors who switched back and forth between different genres invariably fell victim to "negative crossover" (alienating established fans and simultaneously failing to pick up any new ones). Known pseudonyms used by Koontz during his career include Deanna Dwyer, K. R. Dwyer, Aaron Wolfe, David Axton, Brian Coffey, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Owen West, Richard Paige and Anthony North. As Brian Coffey he wrote the "Mike Tucker" trilogy (Blood Risk, Surrounded, Wall of Masks) in acknowledged tribute to the Parker novels of Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake). Many of Koontz's pseudonymous novels are now available under his real name. Many others remain suppressed by Koontz, who bought back the rights to ensure they could not be republished; he has, on occasion, said that he might revise some for re-publication, but only 3 have appeared - Demon Seed and Invasion were both heavily rewritten before they were republished, and Prison of Ice had certain sections bowdlerised.
After writing full-time for more than ten years, Koontz's acknowledged breakthrough novel was Whispers, published in 1980. The two books before that, The Key to Midnight and The Funhouse, also sold over a million copies, but were written under pen names. Thus although Whispers is Koontz's third paperback bestseller, it was the second credited to Koontz. His very first bestseller was Demon Seed, the sales of which picked up after the release of the film of the same name in 1977, and sold over two million copies in one year. Demon Seed's success may have been a fluke, but from 1979 on, Koontz's books regularly became paperback bestsellers. His first hardcover bestseller, which finally promised some financial stability and lifted him out of the midlist hit-and-miss range was his book Strangers. Since then, 12 hardcovers and 13 paperbacks written by Koontz have reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.
Bestselling science fiction writer Brian Herbert has stated, that "I even went though a phase where I read everything that Dean Koontz wrote, and in the process I learned a lot about characterization and building suspense."
In 1997 psychologist Katherine Ramsland published an extensive biography of Koontz based on interviews with him and his family. This "psychobiography" (as Ramsland called it) often showed the conception of Koontz's characters and plots from events in his own life.
Early author photos on the back of many of his novels show a balding Koontz with a mustache. After Koontz underwent hair transplantation surgery in the late 1990s, his subsequent books have featured a new clean-shaven appearance with a fuller head of hair. Koontz explained the change by claiming that he was tired of looking like G. Gordon Liddy.
Koontz does not spend much time on partisan politics and doesn't believe politics solves many problems. Since 1988, however, he has contributed almost $73,000 to conservative, Republican candidates and causes. He donated to the 2008 US Presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and John McCain. He and Mrs. Koontz have contributed over $138,000 to Republican candidates for federal office and Republican organizations (1991–2009). In 2005, he supported Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger with $5000 in cash donations and more than $100,000 for a fund-raising dinner for 123 guests.
Many of his novels are set in and around Orange County, California. As of 2006 he lives there with his wife, Gerda. In 2008 he was the world's sixth most highly-paid author, tied with John Grisham, at $25 million annually.