Koontz Airs It Out : Service Allows Author to Do Radio Interviews Around Country From Newport Home


If it isn’t Rochester, it’s Boston. Or Tampa. Or Toledo. Or Chicago. . . . Like with the Bill Murray character in “Groundhog Day” who keeps encountering the same day over and over, the questions--and answers--begin to take on a familiar ring.

It’s a Morning Drive Radio Tour, and the featured guest needn’t leave home to do one. It’s done over the telephone via a teleconferencing company in Montgomery, Ala., that links up authors with radio stations around the country.

Authors such as Dean Koontz, with a string of bestsellers to his credit and a hot new book out.


“I shower and have a diet cola beside me, and I’m ready to hit the airwaves,” says Koontz in his Newport Beach home at 4 a.m., which, when the three-hour time change is factored in, is prime drive time on the East Coast.

Beginning with “Brother” Wease on WCMF-FM in Rochester, N.Y., at 4:20 a.m., Koontz spends four hours crisscrossing the country, fielding questions from radio show hosts and callers. In all, this morning, there are 16 back-to-back radio interviews. (Later in the day, there will be several newspaper phone interviews and two photo shoots, including one for a newspaper in Australia.)

Tell us, they all say, what “Intensity” is about?

Koontz’s newest suspense thriller, which after only two days of sales will check in at No. 9 on the upcoming New York Times hardback bestseller list, looks to be the latest in a string of publishing successes.

Koontz tells Wease in Rochester: “With the new one I tried to write one that would scare even me and also one that would leave you feeling kind of uplifted at the end.”

To that end, “Intensity” (Knopf; $25), is about a young psychologist who risks her life to save the next intended victim of a serial killer who has just murdered the family the young woman was spending the weekend with in the Napa Valley.

The Friday morning radio tour, the second of four Koontz will do this month, is a guaranteed boon to sales.


“The author can reach about 4 million people in one morning,” says publicist Laura Donnelly of Planned Television Arts, the New York City-based book publicity company that arranged Koontz’s drive-time media blitz.

The company has conducted Morning Drive Radio Tours, telephonic newspaper tours and satellite television tours for Howard Stern, Michael Crichton, Jackie Collins, John Grisham and other high-profile authors.

The advantage of a radio tour over a cross-country book tour, Donnelly says, is that the author avoids having to live out of a suitcase for weeks. “It’s very comfortable,” she says. “They have a lot of fun, and they can do it from their bedroom if they want.”

In Koontz’s case, it’s from his book-filled upstairs office in his home in gated Harbor Ridge.

Outside, it is as dark as Koontz’s imagination as he sits down at his glass-topped desk to await his first interview. Down the hall, his wife, Gerda, is sound asleep.

For Koontz, who resists going on national book tours because they take too much time away from his writing, a radio tour is a godsend.


“You can reach out to people in all these different cities and not spend all your time traveling to accomplish it,” he says before going on the air.

Koontz did his first radio tour last year to promote “Dark Rivers of the Heart”: He did 28 interviews in seven hours.

“Actually, I enjoy radio so much that I don’t find it particularly tiring,” he says.

Koontz, who also has done satellite television tours--the author sits in a studio and answers questions from television show hosts. They can see him, but he can’t see them. “That makes it rather unnerving,” says Koontz, who prefers radio.

“That’s because 95% of the time people on the radio have read the book; on television, almost never,” he says.

“Beyond that, the on-air personalities on radio tend to be livelier. A lot of them have a very good sense of humor. As a consequence, the interviews are often more fun than television.”

And unlike television interviews, which are usually taped and edited, he says, “on radio what you have to say goes out there 100% the way you want to say it.”


The radio interviews generally run from five to 15 minutes. But one he did last year with radio host and former “Partridge Family” cast member Danny Bonaduce out of Chicago went into overtime. It was the last interview on the schedule, Koontz recalls, “and we were having so much fun it ran to 50 minutes.”

The interview with Bonaduce gave Koontz a sense of the impact of promoting a book over the radio. “Dark Rivers of the Heart” had been hovering at the No. 6 spot on the bestseller list in Chicago for several weeks, he says, “but the week after I did the show we popped to No. 1 in Chicago.”

Despite the repetitive nature of the questions asked during a radio tour, Koontz says time goes by surprisingly fast.

“Because you have to be quick on your feet, you’re focused, and one interview leads right into the next,” he says. “If one interview is not all that wonderful, the next one will perk up. There’s no time to get bored.”

During a break, Koontz says he feels the interviews are going fairly well but concedes he’d rather be at his computer working on his next novel.

“The reality is you need time to sit and work on your work and to polish, polish, polish it, and if you don’t do the best possible book, then nobody’s going to want to interview you,” he says.


Meanwhile, Fisher, Todd and Erin from WJIM-AM in Salt Lake City are on the line: “Your new book is called ‘Intensity,’ and if you had to encapsulate just enough to get someone interested to crack the book open, what would you tell them?”

“Well,” Koontz says, “I wrote this one because I really wanted to crank up the suspense and scare myself. . . .”


Drive Time With Dean Koontz

Interview Q & A: A Sampling

Here’s a sampling of the banter on Dean Koontz’s radio tour:

Greg Hill of WAAF-FM in Boston: “I wanted to know where you get your ideas.”

Koontz: “I said at some point a couple of years ago that there’s nothing scarier than what’s on the evening news. Paying attention to what’s going on in the world keeps giving me endless numbers of ideas.”

Hill: “Is that why your bad characters are always named Dan Rather? . . . Hey, what about comparisons between you and Stephen King?”

Koontz: “I don’t really think we do the same thing at all. I don’t write about vampires or werewolves or haunted houses. I like what he does; we simply aren’t in the same field as far as I can see. Why people make that comparison is we both write scary books.”


Ron and Ron of WSUN-AM in Tampa: “Even as a kid, did you like to lie in bed at night and make up things to scare yourself?


Koontz: “Not really. I had a pretty horrible childhood. My father was a violent alcoholic and diagnosed as a sociopath, so I was always sort of afraid he might kill all of us. I escaped into books. . . .”


Chris Holman of WJIM-AM in Lansing, Mich.: “I just finished reading ‘Mr. Murder,’ and I tell you, you’re a scary guy.

Koontz: “It’s a good thing I’m able to scare people because I have no other skills at all, and I would go on the public dole otherwise.”