Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Dean Ray Koontz had an abusive father and an impoverished and rigorous childhood. Nevertheless, he graduated from Shippensburg State College. While a college senior, he won the prestigious Atlantic Monthly Creative Writing Award for his short story “Kittens,” a victory that pushed him to continue writing. After college, he worked with the Appalachian Poverty Program and as an English teacher at Mechanicsburg High School, but after several years, his high school sweetheart and wife, Gerda, offered to support him for five years to determine whether he could make it as a writer. By the end of the five years, she had quit her job to handle the business end of Koontz’s writing, although it was not until fifteen years had passed that they were both fully supported by his writing.
Koontz’s first novel, written while he was a teacher, was Star Quest, a science-fiction novel published as part of an Ace Double in 1968. In the 1970’s, he began writing and publishing works of horror and mainstream literature, many of which appeared under a variety of pseudonyms. His novella Beastchild received a Hugo Award nomination in 1971. Koontz used pseudonyms to avoid negative crossover, a phenomenon wherein work in a new genre alienates existing fans and fails to create new ones. He divided his works in different genres among a number of pen names: David Axton (adventure), Brian Coffey (short...
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