Daniel Gerhard “Dan” Brown (born June 22, 1964) is an American author of thriller fiction who wrote the 2003 bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code. Brown’s novels are treasure hunts set in a 24-hour period, and feature the recurring themes of cryptography, keys, symbols, codes, and conspiracy theories. His books have been translated into 52 languages, and as of 2012, sold over 200 million copies. Three of them, Angels & Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003), and Inferno (2013), have been adapted into films.
Brown’s novels that feature the lead character Robert Langdon also include historical themes and Christianity as motifs, and as a result, have generated controversy. Brown states on his website that his books are not anti-Christian, though he is on a ‘constant spiritual journey’ himself, and says that his book The Da Vinci Code is simply “an entertaining story that promotes spiritual discussion and debate” and suggests that the book may be used “as a positive catalyst for introspection and exploration of our faith.”
Dan Brown was born and raised in Exeter, New Hampshire, the eldest of three children. He grew up on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father, Richard G. Brown, was a teacher of mathematics and wrote textbooks from 1968 until his retirement in 1997. Brown’s parents are singers and musicians, having served as church choir masters, with his mother, Constance (Gerhard), serving as church organist. Brown was raised an Episcopalian, but has stated he had drifted away from Christianity before finding a renewed interest in religion.
Brown’s interest in secrets and puzzles stems from their presence in his household as a child, where codes and ciphers were the linchpin tying together the mathematics, music, and languages in which his parents worked. The young Brown spent hours working out anagrams and crossword puzzles, and he and his siblings participated in elaborate treasure hunts devised by their father on birthdays and holidays. On Christmas, for example, Brown and his siblings did not find gifts under the tree, but followed a treasure map with codes and clues throughout their house and even around town to find the gifts. Brown’s relationship with his father inspired that of Sophie Neveu and Jacques Saunière in The Da Vinci Code, and Chapter 23 of that novel was inspired by one of his childhood treasure hunts.
While on vacation in Tahiti in 1993, Brown read Sidney Sheldon’s novel The Doomsday Conspiracy, and was inspired to become a writer of thrillers. He started work on Digital Fortress, setting much of it in Seville, where he had studied in 1985. He also co-wrote a humor book with his wife, 187 Men to Avoid: A Survival Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman, under the pseudonym “Danielle Brown”. The book’s author profile reads, “Danielle Brown currently lives in New England: teaching school, writing books, and avoiding men.” The copyright is attributed to Dan Brown.
In 1996 Brown quit teaching to become a full-time writer. Digital Fortress was published in 1998. His wife, Blythe, did much of the book’s promotion, writing press releases, booking Brown on talk shows, and setting up press interviews. A few months later, Brown and his wife released The Bald Book, another humor book. It was officially credited to his wife, though a representative of the publisher said that it was primarily written by Brown. Brown subsequently wrote Angels & Demons and Deception Point, released in 2000 and 2001 respectively, the former of which was the first to feature the lead character, Harvard symbology expert Robert Langdon.
Brown’s first three novels had little success, with fewer than 10,000 copies in each of their first printings. His fourth novel, The Da Vinci Code, became a bestseller, going to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list during its first week of release in 2003. It is one of the most popular books of all time, with 81 million copies sold worldwide as of 2009. Its success has helped push sales of Brown’s earlier books. In 2004 all four of his novels were on the New York Times list in the same week, and in 2005 he made Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the year. Forbes magazine placed Brown at No. 12 on their 2005 “Celebrity 100” list, and estimated his annual income at US$76.5 million. The Times estimated his income from Da Vinci Code sales as $250 million.
Brown’s third novel featuring Robert Langdon, The Lost Symbol, was released on September 15, 2009. According to the publisher, on its first day the book sold over one million in hardcover and e-book versions in the US, the UK and Canada, prompting the printing of 600,000 hardcover copies in addition to the five million first printing. The story takes place in Washington D.C. over a period of 12 hours, and features the Freemasons. Brown’s promotional website states that puzzles hidden in the book jacket of The Da Vinci Code, including two references to the Kryptos sculpture at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, give hints about the sequel. This repeats a theme from some of Brown’s earlier work.
Brown’s fourth novel featuring Robert Langdon, Inferno is a mystery thriller novel released on May 14, 2013, by Doubleday. It immediately became a bestseller.
In a 2006 interview, Brown stated that he had ideas for about 12 future books featuring Robert Langdon.
Characters in Brown’s books are often named after real people in his life. Robert Langdon is named after John Langdon, the artist who created the ambigrams used for the Angels & Demons CD and novel. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca is named after “On A Claire Day” cartoonist friend Carla Ventresca. In the Vatican archives, Langdon recalls a wedding of two people named Dick and Connie, which are the names of his parents. Robert Langdon’s editor Jonas Faukman is named after Brown’s real life editor Jason Kaufman. Brown also said that characters were based on a New Hampshire librarian, and a French teacher at Exeter, André Vernet. Cardinal Aldo Baggia, in Angels & Demons, is named after Aldo Baggia, instructor of modern languages at Phillips Exeter Academy.
In interviews, Brown has said his wife, Blythe, is an art historian and painter. When they met, she was the Director of Artistic Development at the National Academy for Songwriters in Los Angeles. During the 2006 lawsuit over alleged copyright infringement in The Da Vinci Code, information was introduced at trial that showed that Blythe did research for the book. In one article, she was described as “chief researcher.”
In late 2016, Brown has revealed that Doubleday will publish his next book, entitled Origin. It is going to include his famous fictional character, Robert Langdon. This is his seventh book published overall, and the fifth book in his Robert Langdon series. It is due to be published on September 27, 2017