Dan Brown (born June 22, 1964) is an American author of thriller fiction.
Brown was born and raised in Exeter, New Hampshire, the oldest of three children. His mother Constance (Connie) was a professional musician, playing organ at church. Brown's father Richard G. Brown taught high school mathematics at Phillips Exeter Academy from 1962 until his retirement in 1997. Richard was a prominent mathematician -- he wrote the bestselling mathematics textbook Advanced Mathematics: Precalculus with Discrete Mathematics and Data Analysis, and had been offered a job to work at the National Security Agency, but declined because he did not want to move his family out of New Hampshire. Richard was also chosen by President George H.W. Bush to receive the "Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching".
Phillips Exeter Academy is an exclusive boarding school, which required new teachers to live on campus for several years, so Brown and his siblings were literally raised at the school. The social environment was mostly Christian. Brown sang in the church choir, attended Sunday school, and spent summers at church camp. His own schooling was at public schools in Exeter until the 9th grade, at which time he enrolled in Phillips Exeter, as did his younger siblings Valerie and Gregory when it became their turn.
After graduating from Phillips Exeter in 1982, Brown attended Amherst College, where he was a member of Psi Upsilon Fraternity. During his Junior year at Amherst, Brown went to Europe to study art history at the University of Seville in Spain, which is where he first began seriously studying the works of Leonardo da Vinci.
Brown graduated from Amherst in 1986, and then played around with music for awhile, creating effects with synthesizer music, and self-producing a cassette entitled SynthAnimals which included a collection of tracks such as "Happy Frogs" and "Suzuki Elephants." He formed his own (vanity) record company called Dalliance, and in 1990 self-published a CD entitled Perspective, targeted to the adult market, which sold a few hundred copies.
In 1991 he moved to Hollywood to pursue a career as singer-songwriter and pianist. To support himself, he taught Spanish classes at Beverly Hills Preparatory School.
While in Los Angeles he joined the National Academy of Songwriters, and participated in many of its events. It was there that he met Blythe Newlon, a woman 12 years his senior, who was the Academy's director of artistic development. Though not officially part of her job, she took on the seemingly unusual task of helping to promote Brown's projects -- she wrote press releases, set up promotional events, and put him in contact with individuals who could be helpful to his career. She and Brown also developed a personal relationship, though this was not known to all of their associates until 1993, when Brown moved back to New Hampshire, and it was learned that Blythe would be accompanying him. They later married, at a location near North Conway, New Hampshire. (Rogak, 2005)
Along with helping his singing career, Blythe has also been a major influence on Brown's career as an author, as she assists with much of the promotion involved with his books. She co-wrote both of his early "humor" books, which were written under pseudonyms, and there is speculation that she may have helped with other books as well. In the Acknowledgement for Deception Point, Brown thanked "Blythe Brown for her tireless research and creative input." In interviews, Brown says that his wife is an "art historian" and "painter", though there is no record of her having worked professionally in this capacity, aside from her assistance with the book research.
Brown and Blythe moved to his hometown in New Hampshire in 1993. Brown became an English teacher at his alma mater Phillips Exeter, and gave Spanish classes to 7th graders at Lincoln Akerman School, a small school for K-8th grade with about 250 students, in Hampton Falls.
Also in 1994, while on holiday in Tahiti, he read Sidney Sheldon's novel The Doomsday Conspiracy, and decided that he could do better. He started work on Digital Fortress, and also co-wrote a humor book with his wife, 187 Men to Avoid: A Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman, under the pseudonym "Danielle Brown" (one of the 187 items in the book was "Men who write self-help books for women"). The author description on the book said, "Danielle Brown currently lives in New England: teaching school, writing books, and avoiding men." The copyright, however, is listed as "Dan Brown". It sold a few thousand copies before going out of print.
Digital Fortess was published in 1998. 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.
In 1996, Brown quit teaching to become a full-time writer. His first three novels had mediocre success, but the fourth novel, The Da Vinci Code, became a runaway bestseller, going to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list during its first week of release in 2003. It is now credited with being one of the most popular books of all time, and as of 2005, has sold more than 25 million copies (mostly in hardcover) around the world. 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 #12 on their 2005 "Celebrity 100" list, and estimated his annual income at $76.5 million USD.
Brown is interested in cryptography, keys, and codes, which are a recurring theme in his stories. He is currently the most famous celebrity in New Hampshire, and his novels have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Brown is working on a new novel, called The Solomon Key, which will reportedly take place in Washington DC, and feature the secret society of the Freemasons.
He says that he currently has outlines for at least 12 future books, one of which involves a famous composer's "all factual" associations with a secret society. Speculation is that this may mean Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was also a Freemason.