BOSTON • Dan Brown writes fiction, but the footnote is that he likes to insert plenty of facts into his books, which have sold 200 million copies.
Among the topics addressed in his latest thriller, Origin: the wide-ranging talents of Winston Churchill, the appeal of abstract art and insane developments in artificial intelligence.
Brown prefers literature that is instructive and, ideally, not wholly invented. "I feel like if I'm going to take time reading, I better be learning," he said recently in his house in New Hampshire in the United States.
Of his novels, he said: "This is the kind of fiction I would read if I read fiction."
Origin, Brown's eighth novel, finds his familiar protagonist, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconography Robert Langdon, embroiled once more in an intellectually challenging, life-threatening adventure.
Origin, which hits stores tomorrow, has an initial print run of two million copies, eventually extending to several dozen countries in 42 languages.
Brown, 53, spent four years writing and researching the book.
He rises at 4am each day, prepares a smoothie and makes so-called bulletproof coffee, with butter and coconut oil, which he said changes "the way your brain processes the caffeine" so as to sharpen your mind.
His computer is programmed to freeze for 60 seconds each hour, during which time he does push-ups, sit-ups and anything else he has to.
Although he stops writing at noon, it is hard for him to get the stories out of his head.
"It's madness," he said of his characters. "They talk to you all day."
Brown's books have made him rich, but he does not have the aura of a rich person.
His house, concealed behind gates, is not so much the home of a flashy millionaire as that of a person with the means to alter his surroundings in any wildly idiosyncratic way he and his wife want to.
Push a button on a library shelf and it swings around to reveal a secret shelf that contains the first Brown book (The Giraffe, The Pig, And The Pants On Fire, written when he was five).
Touch the corner of a painting in the living room and it slides aside to expose a hidden room whose walls are decorated with gold records.
They were awarded to Brown as a result of vast audiobook sales in Germany.
The house is also full of paintings, sculptures and unexpected additional works by Brown's wife, Blythe, who has a taste for the macabre.
"Blythe has a fixation with death," Brown said cheerfully.
"Once, she literally took me on a date to a cemetery."
The two met more than 20 years ago in Los Angeles, where Brown moved to after graduating from Amherst College in Massachusetts.
He grew up in Exeter, New Hampshire, and went to high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father taught mathematics.
At the time, Brown was a not-successful musician.
His future wife, more than a decade older than he is, was the director of artistic development at the National Academy of Songwriters.
Because of their unequal work relationship, they dated in secret for seven years, Brown said.
At one point, they even attended the Grammys, but with fake dates, to conceal the romance.
Brown does not have a lot in common with Edmond Kirsch, the futurologist and entrepreneur of his new book, but they do share a car: the Tesla Model X, the least expensive version of which costs about US$80,000 (S$109,000).
Among other things, it can drive and park itself.
Its owner seems a little bit bemused to find himself in possession of such a rarefied object.
"I'm not a car person," he said.
"Three years after The Da Vinci Code (2003) came out, I still had my old, rusted Volvo.
"And people are like, 'Why don't you have a Maserati?' It never occurred to me. It wasn't a priority for me. I just didn't care."
Which means that Langdon is not likely to take the road to solving anything remotely linked to motoring any time soon.