Fans have held their breath for six years for Dan Brown’s follow-up to his blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code, which sold an astounding 80 million copies worldwide. The wait finally ends at midnight tonight when readers can finally get their hands on The Lost Symbol, which follows Harvard’s Robert Langdon as he become enmeshed in a mystery involving the history of the Freemasons in Washington, D.C. Why such a long wait? In a rare interview appearing in this week’s issue, Brown tells Entertainment Weekly that during his long absence from the public eye, he made himself a promise. “I will not write a lame follow-up. It could take me 20 years. But I will never turn in a book that I’m not happy with. Four years ago, I wasn’t happy with the book. Five years ago, I wasn’t happy with the book.” Finally, amidst a flurry of articles trumpeting the 45-year-old author as the white knight come to resuscitate a wheezing publishing industry, he felt ready to return. “And if the book weren’t good,” he says confidently, “I’d be terrified.”

Brown makes it clear he didn’t spent that last six years procrastinating. “I write seven days a week, starting at 4 o’clock in the morning, including Christmas,” he says. “I worked on this book at 4 in the morning in my hotel room while I was living in London and going to court. I’ve probably written 10 novels worth of pages to write The Lost Symbol.” The first review, from the New York Times, has already hit the Internet — and it’s a rave.

Brown, however, knows not all critics are in love with his work, something he learned the hard way. “The Da Vinci Code had the audacity to park at No. 1 for a little bit too long,” he says. “And it became very en vogue just to trash my books.”