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.
Dan Brown was born on June 22, 1964 in Exeter, New Hampshire. His mother was a professional musician who specialized in sacred works, and his father, Richard Brown, was a Presidential Award-winning math teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy. After attending Exeter himself and graduating in 1982, Brown went to Amherst College, where he received a bachelor's degree in English Literature in 1986. He returned to teach at Phillips as an English instructor.
While teaching in 1996, Brown began generating ideas for his first novel when he learned that the U.S. Secret Service had detained one of his students for composing an e-mail message that appeared to threaten the president of the United States. The novel, titled Digital Fortress (1998), explores the tension between privacy and national security. His second novel, Angels and Demons (2000), introduces a character that would become the hero of his future works, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, and concerns the Illuminati, a secret society that plots to bomb the Vatican. Deception Point (2001), his third novel, is a political thriller that begins with the NASA discovery of a meteor believed to verify the existence of extraterrestrial life.
If Brown's first three novels moderately interested reviewers and readers, his fourth novel, The Da Vinci Code, a thriller exploring the possibility of a radically alternative Christian history, made him a worldwide celebrity. In fact, Brown became as famous for the controversies he incites in this novel about Christian history, Arthurian legend, and Leonardo da Vinci as he was for the number of novels he sold. During the two years after its release in early 2003, The Da Vinci Code sold an estimated twenty-five million copies worldwide in forty-four languages in its hardcover edition. In 2005, Brown was named one of the "world's 100 most influential people" in a special issue of Time magazine. In that feature, Michele Orecklin dubbed The Da Vinci Code "The Novel That Ate The World" and noted that the Bible was one of the few books to sell more copies since the debut of Brown's novel at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The novel was named Britain's Book of the Year at the British Book Awards in London in 2005. Accepting the award via telecast from his home in New Hampshire, Brown was already at work on his next highly anticipated novel, The Solomon Key, a sequel to The Da Vinci Code set in Washington, D.C. with Robert Langdon investigating the secret world of the Freemasons. As of 2005, Brown was living in New Hampshire with his wife, Blythe.