“The Da Vinci Code” author, who grew up in New Hampshire, spoke at a benefit for The Music Hall’s “Writers on a New England Stage” series in Portsmouth.
Brown is working on a new book that again features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon as protagonist. In addition to “The Da Vinci Code,” Langdon’s appeared in “Angels and Demons” and “The Lost Symbol.”
Brown was witty throughout the session in the late 19th century brick theater, and set the tone of the evening with several personal anecdotes from his childhood, which influenced his thoughts on the tense coexistence of science and religion.
Despite persistent questioning from his fans and the media, Brown was tight-lipped about his next novel.
Brown said it took a year and a half to research and that he is “well into the process of writing it.”
“The novel will be set in Europe, in the most fascinating place I’ve ever been,” he said.
Asked when the new book will be released, he said only “It’ll be done when it’s done.”
The author said he felt no pressure to complete the novel soon.
“My publisher wants good books, not quick ones,” he said.
Brown began the session by introducing his parents and telling the crowd his mother Constance’s birthday was Saturday.
“I owe everything to my parents,” said Brown, whose father was a math teacher and mother was a church organist and piano teacher.
Brown says he was encouraged to ask questions at home as a child. He believed both his mother’s religion and his father’s science, but became confused when the two conflicted. He told the crowd that one day, at age 13, he asked a priest how to go about reconciling those differences.
He said the priest replied, “Nice boys don’t ask questions like that.”
He posed the question to the crowd, “How do we understand the story of Adam and Eve in the face of modern evolutionary knowledge?”
Brown cautioned the audience that both science and religion are necessary to understand the big questions that face all major faiths, namely: “Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die?”
Brown said he knew that “The Da Vinci Code” contained some controversial ideas, but never expected the firestorm that followed the novel and the movie.
It was a rare chance to hear from the 47-year-old, who seldom makes public appearances while writing.
Brown closed the evening by playing “Happy Birthday” to his mother on the piano while the audience sang. Afterward he met with members of the audience and signed copies of his books.