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Koontz received no encouragement from his parents as far as writing was concerned. They considered books and reading to be a waste of time and money, and actually discouraged him from reading. Undaunted by this, Koontz began selling original fiction when he was eight years old. He wrote short stories on tablet paper and sharpened them up with colorful covers, stapled the left margin of each story, put electrician's tape over the staples, and tried to peddle them to relatives and neighbors, usually for a nickel a story. When he was twelve he won a wristwatch and twenty-five dollars in a nationwide newspaper essay competition, writing on the subject "What being an American means to me". He realized early the need to charge a fee for his work in order to be taken seriously.

As a senior in college Koontz won a fiction competition, and wrote consistently from then on.His first 'real' fiction sale was called "Kittens" which he sold while still in college at the age of twenty. He graduated from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University), and his first job after graduation was with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where he was expected to counsel and tutor underprivileged children on a one-on-one basis. His first day on the job, he discovered that the previous occupier of his position had been beaten up by the very kids he had been trying to help and had landed in the hospital for several weeks. The following year was filled with challenges and struggle, but Koontz was more highly motivated than ever to build a career as a writer.

Koontz wrote when he could - nights and weekends - and continued this as he left the poverty program and started teaching in a suburban school district near Harrisburg. After teaching there for about a year and a half, Koontz's wife, Gerda, made him an offer too attractive to refuse: She offered to support him for a period of five years, so that he could pursue his freelance writing full-time. "if you can't make it as a writer by that time, you'll never make it." She told him. Of course Koontz made full use of those five years and by the end of that time his wife had quit her job in order to run the business end of her husband's galloping writing career. By this time Koontz had published a great deal of science fiction, both short stories such as "Unseen Warriors" (Worlds of Tomorrow, 1970) and novels like "The Haunted Earth" (Lancer Books, 1970) and "Demon Child" (Lancer Books, 1971).

Among the writers who influenced Koontz , John D. Macdonald stands among the top of the list. Koontz refers to Macdonald as a "brilliant writer" and, speaking of works he has read of Macdonald's, said "When I read something like 'Slam the Big Door', 'Cry Hard Cry Fast', 'The Damned', or 'The End of the Night', I usually turn to the last page thinking, "O.K. Koontz, face it, you don't belong in the same craft as this man; go learn plumbing, Koontz get yourself and honest trade!". His respect for writers of this caliber obviously played a part in his severely critical view of his own work. Koontz is an admitted obsessive-compulsive, and this personal characteristic drives him to accept nothing but high quality work from himself. A novel normally takes him from five months to a year to complete, and he often works seventy hours a week.

In 1976 the Koontz's moved to southern California, where they presently still reside.