James Dashner was born and raised in Georgia but now lives in the Rocky Mountains with his family. He has four kids, which some might think is too many but he thinks is just right. Once upon a time, James studied accounting and worked in the field of finance, but has been writing full time for several years. (He doesn’t miss numbers. At all.)
In his free time, James loves to read, watch movies and (good) TV shows, snow ski, and read. (Reading was mentioned twice on purpose.) Most of all, he’s thankful that he gets to make a living writing stories and considers himself pretty much the luckiest guy on the planet.
I was lucky enough to interview James about the Maze Runner book series, the (huge!!) new movie based on it, and much more!
Kristin Centorcelli: I’m very, very excited for The Maze Runner movie, and really enjoy the books as well! What inspired you to write the series?
James Dashner: Lots of different things, accumulated over the years. I think the first spark came when I watched The Shining as a kid. I was scarred for life by the scene at the end where Jack chases his kid through the garden maze with an axe. Books like Lord of the Flies and Ender’s Game. The TV show Lost. I think you can see all those influences.
KC: When you started the series, did you already have a specific number of books planned, or did you just decide to see where the narrative took you?
JD: I planned it out in a very general sense, and it just seemed to feel right as a three-part act. I also told my publisher from the very beginning that someday I’d like to write a prequel, which is why there are now four books total. Things changed along the way, but a lot of the major decisions were made from the very beginning.
KC: What made you decide to write for young adults?
JD: Other than the age of the characters, I felt like I wrote this book for any and all ages. It seemed like a story best suited to have teenagers as the main subjects. I will say that my teenage years were the most magical when it comes to reading, and writing books like this helps me return to that magic.
KC: What’s been one of your favorite parts of writing the Maze Runner series, and why do you think the series has engaged so many readers?
JD: I love storytelling, and I love using my imagination. This story was just so much fun for me. It felt unique and full of possibilities, and I loved exploring the craziness that ensued. I think that readers have latched on to the same thing that fascinated me so much: the eeriness and terror of considering a dark future. It just adds another layer to that otherworldly feel, knowing that it’s even a tiny bit possible.
KC: What do you like to see in a good book? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
JD: Characters. I read all kinds of different books, and in the end, what matters most are the characters. I have to connect to them, feel like they’re real. Otherwise, who cares what happens to them? This is something I’ve struggled with in my own writing and I’m always trying to improve.
KC: You wanted to be a writer from a very young age. What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
JD: I wrote some truly awful stories as a kid. I’m talking really, really bad. But it sure was fun! I still have a copy of a story I wrote when I was eight years old about a mammoth that gets stuck in a tar pit. Then a saber-toothed tiger tries to kill it but finds itself stuck in the mud, too. A caveman comes by, tries to kill both animals with a spear. You know, for lunch. Of course, he gets stuck. The last line of the story was “And they all died.”
KC: Have you read any particularly good books lately? Anything you’d recommend?
JD: Like I said, I read all kinds. Recently, I’ve really enjoyed Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican and Dangerous by Shannon Hale. I’m always looking forward to the next Stephen King!
KC: What are a few of your favorite film adaptations of popular novels?
JD: Lord of the Rings stands above all the rest. I think Peter Jackson was so brilliant at taking the spirit of the books and the characters and translating that to the big screen. I will always love those three movies (the extended versions, of course!). I also think Harry Potter and Hunger Games did a fantastic job.
KC: What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
JD: Well, I’m always writing. Right now I’m really excited about my new series, The Mortality Doctrine. The second book just came out, and I’m writing the third. I’m also looking forward to working on the movie versions of the next Maze Runner books. It’s going to be a busy but fun few years!