A Q&A with Dean Koontz
Your Heart Belongs to Me is very suspenseful but at the same time an affecting love story. How difficult was this to pull off?
Well, life is full of suspense and, if we're lucky, it's full of love as well. From minute to minute and day to day, we never know what will happen to us, good or bad, so suspense is the fundamental condition of existence. That doesn't change when we fall in love or when we love a child or a sibling or a great dog. In fact, the more we love, the more we have to lose, which puts a sharper edge on the suspense in life and in Your Heart Belongs to Me. Ryan Perry, the lead of the story, enjoys self-made wealth and good health and the love of a good woman—so when all that starts to slip away from him, it's actually easier for me to move readers to the edge of their seats and keep them there.
Your books are full of details about how things work in the real world—like life in a monastery in Brother Odd, the management of a great Bel Air estate and the intricacies of police work in The Face. Your Heart Belongs to Me is rich with details about medical conditions and heart transplants. Since you don't specialize in one kind of novel, how do you learn about all these different things? Do you engage in a lot of Internet research?
I never go on-line. My writing schedule and other obligations keep me busy 18/7. The other six hours, I sleep. I know that I am a potentially obsessive personality and that it's easy to become obsessed with one aspect or another of the Internet, until hours a day are consumed by it. Therefore, I stay away. I do most of my research from books and publications, and by conducting interviews with specialists in whatever fields my story will touch upon. One of my assistants is on-line, and in a pinch, if I can't turn up a fact I need, she can get it for me. As a high-school and college student, I hated research and libraries. I always shamelessly made up the facts in reports that I wrote, and cited nonexistent books by nonexistent writers in my footnotes. And I always got away with it! But as a novelist, I've been surprised to find that I greatly enjoy doing research. I think the difference is--in school, they told me what I had to learn, and I bristled at authority; when I chose the subject, I proved to be an industrious autodidact.
Your hero in Your Heart Belongs to Me, Ryan Perry, is different from your other heroes, like Odd Thomas and Mitchell Rafferty and Tim Carrier. What was it about the story you were telling in Your Heart that required this change?
Most of my heroes come from ordinary occupations—a fry cook, a baker, a mason, a gardener, a bartender—which makes them like many of my friends in real life. But Ryan Perry in Your Heart Belongs to Me has made a couple hundred million from an Internet business. For this story, I needed a hero who, at the opening, has everything: he's wealthy, he has a beautiful girlfriend whom he loves and who loves him, he essentially leads a life of leisure at 34, he's vigorous and handsome and charming.... And then everything that really matters begins to slip away from him. He had to be at the top in order to be at risk of a long fall. As he begins to think that some people in his life are involved in a conspiracy to kill him, he needed to be a man of exceptional resources to pursue that investigation.
Where did the idea for Your Heart Belongs to Me come from?
I was on the phone with a friend, talking about a smorgasbord of things, when the subject of heart transplants came up, and he told me something, an anecdote, that astonished me. Before I hung up, I had spun that small fact into a story that I couldn't wait to write. I've already made it clear to him that he gets no royalties! Story ideas have come to me from lines in songs, from a scrap of overheard conversation, from just about everywhere. And sometimes a story pops into my head, and I have no idea what the source of it was. Thank God this keeps happening; otherwise I might have to learn an honest trade like plumbing.
What is next for you? Another Odd Thomas novel?
There will be three more Odd Thomas novels, but my book for spring 2009 is not one of them. It's titled The Other Side of the Woods and is in the vein of Life Expectancy. I'm having great fun with it. Even when writing is hard, I always have fun with it. In fact, the harder it is, the more fun it is, because the challenge is what makes the work worthwhile.
From the Hardcover edition.