Author James Dashner addresses the possibility of writing more Maze Runner books, talks about inspiration for his new series, and more.
In the first part of our interview, James Dashner spoke about his anticipation and excitement for The Maze Runner movie adaptation. And speaking of The Maze Runner, could we ever expect another book in this beloved series?
Hypable: Are there any more ‘Maze Runner’ books to come?
James Dashner: Not in the foreseeable future. All my focus right now is on the Mortality Doctrine series coming out. And the movie, of course, is taking a lot of my focus. I’ve gone from never, never, never, to never say never. I’d consider it because, I didn’t realise how passionately they wanted a book about Thomas and Teresa before the maze, or from the perspective of someone else. I’ll think about it.
So another prequel?
Yeah, because there’s really no story after it’s over. I’ve thought about it, but I would have to get really creative. I could always come up with something like, where they went is not as isolated at they thought.
Did you still work out the backstories for those ‘Maze Runner’ characters whose past weren’t revealed within the books?
In a general way. I do have a lot of background notes. I’m not quite as off the cuff as Stephen King, so who does no outlining, and no plotting. I do some of that, but I took the journey of The Maze Runner trilogy with my characters.
Thomas and Teresa I worked out quite a bit, and the others I thought about, but to me their story started with The Maze Runner. When I went back and did the prequel, I changed things. I definitely thought more about their pre-story since then, and it would be something fun to explore in further prequels.
Challenges in writing ‘The Maze Runner’
Did you feel any pressure going into the dystopian market, given the overwhelming amount of YA novels?
I think I would have cracked from the pressure if I had come in after the fact. Honestly, I had never heard the word dystopian when I started The Maze Runner – I started it in 2005, and we sold it to Random House in 2008.
That was before Hunger Games came out, and I was just so blessed and lucky to come out at the same time as The Hunger Games, and get grouped in this dystopian group. I personally don’t consider it a dystopian, it’s much more a post-apocalyptic, but they’re grouped together. But who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t had the boost of Hunger Games fans looking for something else.
You set up a large challenge for yourself in ‘The Maze Runner’ series, when you have to build a realistic character who essentially has no past, or backstory. How did you approach that?
It was one of the toughest things I have ever done. I didn’t realise until I was into the book that I could not reference his memories. You never really think about it, but it is so important when you are developing a character.
So I took the approach of being in Thomas’ head, experiencing this with him, feeling the confusion, the disorientation, the frustration, that these people are sick of answering people’s questions, and they don’t even want you there.
I think it worked, the feeling that you’re with Thomas. It was tempting to do it in first person, but for some reason it didn’t feel right. So many books in the Young Adult area are first person, and I just wanted to be different.
I wanted to be in Thomas’ head, but not so overtly that we are literally hearing every thought. I wanted it to have this feel of a grander feel when someone is observing. But every book in the trilogy is from his point of view, so in a way you’re in his head, and there’s some separation there.
To me that feels a little more epic in scope. In fact, the whole first draft of The Eye of Minds was in first person, because I wanted to try it. I thought it was pretty good, but my editor convinced me, so I had to rewrite the whole thing back to third person.
And you can’t just replace “I” with “He”. I think I will write a first person book, but for this new series it just didn’t work.
‘Eye of Minds’: ‘Inception’ meets ‘The Matrix’
Speaking of ‘Eye of Minds’, what was your inspiration for this new series?
The idea came from way back in the ’90s, when I saw The Matrix movies. I love The Matrix with every ounce of my soul, and when I watched those movies I kept thinking that there was this plot twist that was going to happen. It never happened, in any of the three movies, and that never left me.
That plot twist would have been so cool, and it stuck in my head, and sure enough 12 or 13 years later, I plotted it out and wrote it. It was also heavily influenced by Inception. I keep telling people it is The Matrix meets Inception. It’s got that dream within a dream aspect to it from Inception.
Inception blew me away, this concept that when you’re dreaming if it feels real, you can never, ever be sure that you’re awake ever again. I just adapted that to a virtual reality, and just like in The Matrix, if it feels totally real then how do you ever know that you’ve come out of it. That created some really awesome twisty, turny, mind-trippy stuff.
There are some parallels between ‘Eye of Minds’ and ‘The Maze Runner’, particularly with a young male protagonist dealing with an adult situation that he never should have to. Why do you feel drawn to that set-up?
That’s such a hard question to answer. My protagonists are usually male, because that’s what I am, and I feel like I can most genuinely depict a male. Then if something seems cool to me, I’m drawn to it.
From the time I saw The Matrix, that idea was living inside my brain. The Maze Runner was such a huge chunk of my life, basically five years of devoting my life to it.
It was fun, and refreshing, and exhilarating to take that spark of an idea, and create an entirely new world. That was the real excitement of it.
And how many books will be in this new series?
It’s a trilogy. I have completely outlined all three books. It’s not a trilogy just to be a trilogy, this is the classic three-act structure, and it made perfect sense to be a trilogy.
Are we looking at a similar release schedule to ‘The Maze Runner’ series, with one each year?
Yes, with all my heart. I have actually already written the second book. So this Fall, the next Fall and the next Fall.
You don’t feel any pressure putting yourself on that kind of schedule?
I actually feel pretty relieved, because for a couple years there I had to finish my 13th Reality series, and then I got involved with the Infinity Ring series. But the fact that those are basically done and I can throw all my focus back into one series at one time is liberating.
Right now all the pressure I feel is about The Maze Runner movie. That’s the thing I am stressed about. Eye of Minds might take a year, but I think it will build. Who knows if it gets as big as Maze Runner, but sometimes that is kind of a once in a lifetime thing.
The Eye of Minds will be released on October 8 2013.