Picks and Pans Review: The Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown Returns
Such is life for the author whose 2003 conspiracy-filled thriller sold 81 million copies worldwide, turned him into a household name—and also got him branded anti-Catholic for suggesting that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene, among other sacrileges. ("I have enormous respect for all religions, including Catholicism," he says now.) Controversy comes with the territory, and while father-of-our-nation fans can relax—The Lost Symbol mentions G.W. only in passing—Brown fully expects he'll "raise some eyebrows" with his new book, which sends Da Vinci's symbologist Robert Langdon rifling through secrets hidden in D.C. by a secret society of Freemasons (see review). "If someone disagrees with what I've written, they have every right to shout it from the rooftops," says Brown, citing Freemasonry and noetic sciences—studying the superhuman powers of the mind—as possible flash points. "Debate is a wonderful way to engage people."
Not to mention sell more books, though Brown isn't exactly strapped for cash. "After Da Vinci came out, someone said, 'Why aren't you driving a Maserati?'" he says. "It didn't occur to me. I'm not attracted to fancy cars. My one extravagance is that I'm building a house that's a work of art."
The son of a math teacher and his church-organist wife, Brown stumbled on thriller-writing after his efforts at Barry Manilow-style songwriting fizzled. "The rap craze hit," he says, "and I was the uncoolest person in L.A." He lives with wife Blythe, 57, once his music manager and now his research assistant, in Rye Beach, N.H., not far from where he was raised (Episcopalian) and once taught prep-school English. "My life hasn't changed," he says. He rises daily at 4 a.m. to write, taking breaks to hang upside down in gravity boots to "increase blood flow." He has an iPhone with the Mona Lisa as background, but drives a plain Toyota hybrid and doesn't like getting noticed. "I love meeting fans," he says, "but what people don't realize is, when you approach a famous person, you feel like you know them—but they don't know you."
Brown already has his next story in mind, but first, "I'll probably go to Anguilla, sit on the beach and read," he says. "Nonfiction."