The Da Vinci Code author DAN BROWN gives readers more puzzles to solve in his long-awaited new book, Inferno.

In the world according to best-selling author Dan Brown, everything’s a code to break, usually with time pressing furiously against his hero’s back. In his new book, Inferno (Doubleday, $30), which features Brown’s go-to good guy, Robert Langdon, investigating a diabolical mystery surrounding the legendary work of Italian poet Dante Alighieri, the 48-year-old author pulls out all the stops to race your pulse and keep the pages turning.

American Way: Your books often deal with codes, symbols and conspiracies. Why do you think readers love these kinds of stories so much?
Dan Brown: I believe that we, as human beings, crave an ordered universe. The notion that life is random or meaningless is terrifying to most of us. When bad things happen in our world, we take comfort in assuring ourselves that there is a reason behind it. My fascination with conspiracy theory, ancient symbols and secret codes, I believe, stems from the fact that I see them as a direct reflection of our human need to believe that some powerful force lies hidden beneath the surface of our daily lives.

AW: You’ve been obsessed with codes and ciphers since you were a child.
DB: My parents decided not to have a television when I was young, and instead we spent long hours doing math puzzles, crosswords, anagrams and practicing music. Every Christmas, my father would create an elaborate treasure hunt … and at the end of the trail, the last code would direct us to our hidden presents. One year, our final code was this strange word: TOCEP. After a bit of puzzling over it, we all began shouting for joy, having realized that our big present that year was a family vacation to Epcot.

AW: Many readers would be surprised to know you were once very active in your college glee club.
DB: My involvement with music afforded me opportunities to perform in many of the great cathedrals of the world — architectural masterpieces that later appeared in my novels. In 1983, I sang with a group that performed at San Marco’s Cathedral in Venice. I recall being mesmerized by the sea of gold tiles in the cathedral walls. Now, those same gold tiles play an important role in a plot twist of Inferno.

AW: It’s been 10 years and 200 million books sold since The Da Vinci Code was published. How does all of that change a man’s life?
DB: Strangely, life feels very much the same for me. I still wake up at 4 o’clock every morning and face a blank page. My characters don’t care how many books I’ve sold, and they still require the same amount of energy and attention.