Along with Stephen King, Koontz is the preeminent horror writer of his age, selling millions and millions of books worldwide. Koontz had a horrific childhood; his father was an abusive alcoholic and his mother was mentally unstable, and they both actively discouraged him from pursuing a writing career. However, when the 12-year-old Koontz won an essay contest, the seed was planted. He studied education and was a high school English teacher from 1967 to 1969, at which point he began writing full time. At the end of the '90s, Dean Koontz has written nearly 80 books of suspense or horror.