Describing Dean Koontz as a popular author of suspense novels is an understatement. His books have been published in 38 languages and sold more than 400 million copies worldwide. But what I discovered when I read his book Brother Odd a few years ago was that you can enjoy a Koontz story strictly for its engaging writing, characters and plot. But if you read the same story through a spiritual lens, you’ll be able to appreciate it on an even deeper level. I recently had the opportunity to interview Dean Koontz on “Christopher Closeup” (full podcast here ). Here’s an excerpt:
CC: I’ve heard a number of converts to the Catholic faith say that, initially, it wasn’t theological or intellectual arguments that won them over. It was the example of good Catholic people. You had a similar experience in your life. Tell me about that.
Dean Koontz: By the time I was going to college, I was looking for a different path from where I had been. Then I began to be drawn to — I wouldn’t say more organized, but a more formalized kind of faith. I did become engaged, more and more as the years went by, by the intellectual rigor that lies behind the Catholic Church. A lot of people will possibly laugh at that but if you know St. Thomas Aquinas and some of the other famous writers of the Church — or laymen who wrote brilliantly from a Catholic perspective like G.K. Chesterton — then you understand what I’m talking about. There is a deep intellectual basis behind it and that always appealed to me.
CC: A facet of your book Brother Odd that I appreciated was that it established that faith and science are not enemies. When did you realize that faith and science…are historically linked as walking hand-in-hand?
Dean Koontz: The birth of science comes out of the Catholic Church. People always say, “No, no, Galileo.” They don’t really know the history; they just know talking points. The reality is through various times in the Catholic Church, various sciences were founded and encouraged. There is no distance between (faith and science) except for what people try to make for political reasons. I’m interested in a number of sciences. I read a lot in quantum mechanics and I’m interested in molecular biology too. They’re not incompatible with faith but especially quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is ever-more describing a universe to us that’s uncannily like some things that faith believes.
CC: Dean, in your books like Brother Odd and One Door Away from Heaven, you talk about the dignity of special needs children and you talk about modern bioethics. How and why did these life issues become so important to you?
Dean Koontz: My wife and I have long worked with a charity for people with disabilities – Canine Companions for Independence. They train service dogs for all kinds of people with disabilities. People who are paraplegic or quadriplegic, with one of these dogs, can live on their own when they couldn’t before. They have great effect on autistic children. Working with that and being a part of that, I saw that a lot of these people were shunted aside. There’s a lot of people who think they shouldn’t be given medical care. People like Peter Singer think a disabled child should be allowed to die or should not be given antibiotics because they have nothing to contribute to the world. [(Singer’s] an idiot. If you bring these [disabled] people into your life, I’ve discovered – I’ve never found one who whined or complained like average people do. I’ve never found one who wasn’t grateful for every good thing that comes their way. And I haven’t found one that wasn’t an inspiration to people. If you can inspire other people by your own courage and your own stoicism, you’ve had a very valuable and important life. So they bring a great deal to the world… I’ve featured Down Syndrome kids in books at times and I’ve gotten literally thousands of letters from people who have Down’s children. Every single one of them says, “This was the best thing that happened to me.” They’re not pretending; they’re not trying to make the best of a bad situation. They’re saying it really was a tremendous benefit to their lives. That’s why I wish people would stop thinking that you have to be the perfect physical specimen in order to be worth living. That is far from the truth.
CC: Do you think that addressing those issues in story form may be a more effective way of getting the point across than say, a priest in a homily or an op-ed piece in a newspaper?
Dean Koontz: I think so because you disarm people with a story, you charm them with humor, and then you let them think about these other issues. For me, it’s a wonderful method by which to promulgate at least the thought of these things, at least to make people stop and wonder if they’re really right to think these things.