What’s it like to take a world in your mind’s eye and not only put it down on paper but have it created into a major motion picture? Adam Nugent speaks with James Dashner. He’s the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Maze Runner series. Learn how he finds inspiration for his books, how there’s a special place for all kinds of creativity in the space, and what exciting work lies ahead!
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In this podcast excerpt, best-selling author James Dashner shares with Adam Nugent how he became a professional writer and who his favorite author is. He also gives a sneak peek into his upcoming novel.
AN: I think most of our listeners know the Maze Runner, it’s a hit book series and movie. Let’s go back just even before. How did you even get into writing?
JD: When I was a kid, I would always say that I wanted to be an author someday, but even I didn’t really believe it. It was kind of like saying I want to be a quarterback or an actor or something. It just seemed like a pipe dream. I was just a huge nerd, read tons of books, loved reading. That was my favorite thing to do growing up. When I went to college, I chose accounting as my major, which really surprised a lot of people. But you know, I just wanted the security of knowing I could get a job. But while I was in college and maybe because I was studying accounting, I really got more serious about writing. And I wrote my first novel in college.
AN: What was that novel? What was that story?
JD: It was called A Door in the Woods, and it ended up getting published by a really small publisher. It’s still around, and it’s kind of fun because it’s my first book. It had a lot of stuff that was based on my childhood and just a goofy fantasy story. But, but you know, I was very realistic. I knew that becoming successful and making a living as a writer would be very difficult.
I kept doing the accounting thing, and I worked in accounting for probably eight years after college before I became a full-time writer. But during those eight years, I just kept writing. I had a series called The 13th Reality. That was with a little bit bigger of a publisher and a little more successful. And then The Maze Runner was my big break.
I think I wrote it in 2005, and it went through a few rejections, a few rewritings, but I just was really in love with the story. My wife really loved it. Finally, we sold it to Random House, and it just slowly built an audience spread around the world. I think we ended up in 45 languages. And then, of course, the movie was the big break. 20th Century Fox made all three books into a movie, and that just expanded our audience hugely. It’s just been a fun ride.
AN: What other authors inspire you?h
JD: I’m a huge Stephen King fan. I mean, he’s his name kind of deserves its own place. He’s leaps and bounds above anyone else. In terms of my favorite authors, one of my best days of my life was when I got to spend a day with him few years ago, and he was just everything I imagined. He’s just this funny, smart, kind, humble guy with an insane imagination. He’s my favorite. But you know, I’ve read so many books throughout my life. I’m a big fan of everything from Charles Dickens to Terry Brooks to Brandon Sanderson. I also like reading nonfiction a lot, especially World War II history.
AN: Do you mind sharing what the premise of this novel that’s getting ready to come out?
JD: it’s about this guy who grew up in South Carolina, and it keeps jumping time from when he’s an adult, which is current day, back to when he was a kid in South Carolina. And when he was a kid, there was a serial killer on the loose, which is actually based on a real guy who was around when my mom grew up in South Carolina. His name was Peewee Gaskins, really, really, truly an awful person. But some things happen when he’s a kid and similar things start happening when he’s an adult and he’s back there visiting with his own kids. It starts to unravel the mystery of the connection between the two time periods and a lot of good characters and development. Just a fun mystery/thriller/scary story that develops as it moves.
AN: When can we expect to be able to go buy that and pick it up?
JD: Probably this Christmas.