After attending Phillips Exeter Academy and Amherst College, Dan Brown moved from New England to California, pursuing a career in music. Brown’s first publication was not fiction but a self-produced album of children’s music. He also met his future wife, Blythe Newlon, in Hollywood. The pair moved back to New Hampshire in 1993, and Brown started teaching English at his old high school.
In the mid-1990s, after recording another album, Brown shifted his focus to writing. Brown’s first novel, Digital Fortress (1998), a thriller involving the National Security Agency, introduces his long-standing interest in codes and code-breaking, an interest Brown attributes to his mathematician father. However, Brown and his wife also wrote lighter works, such as Men to Avoid: A Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman, a joke version of a self-help book.
His earlier books sold only moderately well, but Angels and Demons and then, especially, The Da Vinci Code became international best sellers. They also drew substantial nonliterary attention to Brown. His speculations about the history of Jesus have struck many Christians as ranging from disrespectful to heretical, and they carry more weight than views articulated in most works might because Brown insists so strongly and repeatedly that his novels are based on fact. Precisely what Angels and Demons is based on has been the subject of both public debate and legal battles. Brown has been charged with copyright infringement over The Da Vinci Code’s similarity to an earlier novel and, in a separate case, to nonfiction works. All of this controversy can sometimes obscure the fun Brown has with his books, particularly in his characters’ names, which are often based on people he knows.