James Dashner, the author of The Eye of Minds, has been very generous with Lytherus and its readers — not only did we get one, but two interviews! Our second interview with the Maze Runner and Eye of Minds author focuses on his latest book, the Eye of Minds, which we reviewed earlier this week.
We kept the interview spoiler-free for readers who have yet to read the book, but James’ answers give an interesting insight into the unique and rich world the author created, as well as his experience with video games and programming, his habit of writing in dark worlds, and whether or not he envisions a similar future for our own world.
Lytherus: For readers who aren’t familiar with the Eye of Minds, can you give us a general overview of the story as well as a quick explanation of how this story differs from The Maze Runner?
James: THE EYE OF MINDS is basically about a group of friends who are majorly plugged in to the virtual reality world of the future, called the VirtNet (or the Sleep), which is extremely advanced. They are also experts at hacking the code behind the VirtNet. The trouble starts when a gamer named Kaine starts doing very bad things, and people start showing up brain-dead in the real world.
It’s very different from The Maze Runner in its world-building and plot, but the spirit and tone and darkness are definitely there.
Lytherus: This book is a huge change of pace from the Maze Runner trilogy. What made you want to explore all new territory?
James: I always want to try something completely different (channel Monty Python there). It’s my hope that when I’m dead and gone people will remember me as an author who never wrote the same books with different names.
Lytherus: Was there any pressure for you to stay in the Maze Runner world rather than risk branching off into a new series?
James: No, never. That story has been told, and my agent and publisher definitely wanted to give our fans something new. There may be other prequels or something in the future, but never a sequel.
Lytherus: Did any part of you want to write something a bit lighter and happier after being in the Maze Runner’s “dark place” for so long? Why did you decide to stay dark?
James: I never really decided to go light or dark. I just write the stories as they naturally come out, and I think a book needs serious conflict to be worth reading. And to me, conflicts are usually dark. Breaking Bad, anyone?? J
Lytherus: Your book deals with some pretty serious themes, from suicide to psychopathic serial killers and mind control. Does writing about such heavy themes ever take a toll on you?
James: Honestly, they don’t. Not in the long term, anyway. Death scenes are hard, but I get so much joy from eliciting and feeling emotion that it’s worth it. That’s why storytelling is so great.
Lytherus: Tech takes a dark toll in the VirtNet, and does in our world as well. Do you think the reality of your world – a future where we all live in virtual reality – is a possibility for our own world? What do you think the implications of this technology existing in our world would be?
James: I absolutely, 100% believe that the virtual world depicted in the book is not only possible, but inevitable. Even in 20 or 30 years. When you see how quickly our technology takes leaps and bounds, I just have no doubt. And it scares me and fascinates me at the same time. When virtual reality becomes indistinguishable from the real world, how can you ever truly know what’s real and what’s not ever again? I love thinking about it! Maybe we’re all in the Matrix right now.
Lytherus: Hacking and gaming are prevalent throughout your book. Are you a big gamer? Do you dabble in coding?
James: My dad was a computer programmer, and I’ve loved video games since I was a kid. And gaming in general. I did take enough programming classes to at least get it, but I wasn’t cut out for actually becoming good at it. That’s why I pretend with Michael and his friends.
Lytherus: How did you feel about hacking allowing you to go wherever you want in the story? If the characters hit a roadblock, they can hack their way through it using a number of creative means. Was this a powerful tool while writing, or more of a hindrance?
James: I actually tried really hard to make sure the reader never sees it as the “easy way out.” I hate Deus Ex Machina and I try to avoid it with all my heart and soul. For example, they can’t hack their way into the Black and Blue Club so they figure out a creative way to do it—mess with the bouncers instead and blackmail them. They can’t hack away from the KillSims, the Path, etc. It’s a tool, not a magic get-out-of-jail-free card.
Lytherus: You have a strong dynamic between the series’ main character, Michael, and his two best friends Bryson and Sarah. How was it writing around three characters, each with their own unique traits and personalities?
James: This is always hard for me. I had another series where there was a boy and two friends (a boy and a girl). It’s called The 13th Reality. And of course, Harry Potter has that same dynamic. People cry cliché, but it just makes sense. You want your main character to have a couple of friends, and you want there to be a main female character. And I’m a guy, so I prefer to write from the perspective of a guy. I did try to make them unique and avoid stereotypes, but sometimes avoiding a stereotype has become a stereotype in itself (The Hermione Syndrome—I just made that up). You can never please everyone, but I just do my best.
Lytherus: The end of the book features a huge plot twist and cliffhanger no one was expecting – and to keep this interview spoiler-free, we won’t address it directly. However, we do want to ask: can we expect more of these out-of-left-field twists in future Mortality Doctrine books?
James: I’m glad it gotcha! That was one hard part about outlining the series. I don’t like to do plot twists just for plot twists’ sake, but I knew there had to be something strong at the end of books 2 and 3 because of how book 1 ends. A lot of thought went into it, as well as some long discussions with my editor. But I feel very good about where the story goes.
Lytherus: What can we expect from the Mortality Doctrine going forward?
James: The 2nd book is already complete (The Rule of Thoughts) and will come out in the fall of 2014. The third and final book will come out the following fall.
Lytherus: What fantasy and science fiction books have you enjoyed lately? We have quite an audience of DashnerArmy fans and we’re sure they’re clamoring for more books to read – recommend a few!
James: I love Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time. I love anything by Peter F. Hamilton. I also highly recommend The Chaos Walking trilogy. And, of course, anything by Stephen King.
Lytherus: Thanks for stopping by, James!