Author Chat with James Dashner
Interview Contributed by Nanouk, Staff Reviewer
Last week I got the chance to interview James Dashner at the Paleis Hotel in The Hague. He was in the Netherlands for two days. On Wednesday he did a book signing at Paagman (book shop) and on Thursday he did interviews. My interview was very last minute and I had my cousin’s friend driving me to the interview to get there in time, but it was all worth it. Are you curious to find out more about the author of The Maze Runner series? Keep reading!
Nanouk: How do you like the Netherlands so far?
James Dashner: We think of it, in America, as a place with wooden shoes, windmills… and so to think that I come here, and have all these people know who I am… It’s just weird. It’s like crazy!
N: And we don’t even wear wooden shoes…
JD: I know! It’s so cliché. Like my wife bought tiny wooden shoes. It’s really cool to be here and to have fans here I definitely don’t take it for granted.
N: Most of the questions I have for you today, are actually coming from all of the Dutch fans. They were very excited that they could ask you questions. So I think, the number one question was about how you get your inspiration for the books?
JD: Yes, I feel like it’s just not really one thing. But it’s the fact that I love to read, and love to watch movies, I love so many TV-shows. So I consume so much storytelling that it just creates an idea factory in my head. Everything I see in life, it triggers an idea, and you know, if I see a cool old building, I immediately think: What’s the story behind that building? Or has something terrible happened inside that building? Or, you know, whatever! Or that there’s another world through that door. Something has created that mindset. That’s why I purposely always during the day watch at least a TV-show or a movie, and probably read an hour or two per day. I want to keep it fresh.
N: Is there any special inspiration for The Maze Runner series?
JD: Definitely. The first inspiration came from the movie The Shining, the big maze scene at the end. I was very young when I saw it, probably something that I shouldn’t have done. It scarred me for life *laughs*. But that maze stuck with me and I’ve always been amazed with mazes. And than the book The Lord of the Flies, all these boys they’re stuck on an island. Which is a very obvious influence on The Maze Runner. A bunch of boys stuck in a maze. And the TV-show Lost, it’s one of my favorite things of all time. A lot of the ways they develop mysteries, and the way in how they would end their episodes, like that. It is so brilliant, and it really influenced me when I was writing The Maze Runner.
N: I can definitely see these three things coming together! Also, I got about ten messages from people who wanted to know exactly that, so that’s great.
JD: It’s probably the number one question I get. About where I got my ideas from.
N: A lot of characters die in the books. Especially in The Maze Runner. Not everybody liked the fact that some of the characters died. How does it feel to kill a character?
JD: Oh I love being a murderer. I can do it without going to jail, it’s great. No *laughs*, for some reason, The Maze Runner story, I wanted it to be a very harsh, dark story, to show what these characters went through, and the ones that survived, it really showed the feelings and emotions, and the change that would come over them. The fact that these stories can pull that kind emotions out of people… I mean, I’ve never seen so much passion as I’ve seen with a certain death in the third book. You probably know what I’m talking about. (Yes, I know). I just can’t believe it. People tattooed things, they make shirts, they constantly make me sign a certain page that he or she dies. It’s something I can’t believe it. I always tell people: what could be a better testament? That you’ve succeeded in telling a story and that it can create that kind of emotions in people. I always get tweets that say: “I hate you I hate you, OMG OMG, I love you I love you”.
N: It’s like: we hate you, but we also love you.
JD: Yeah. So, I think that’s a great thing. I love it when a story effect me in a way. Like A Game of Thrones. Have you read Charlotte’s Web?
N: *Embarrassed* I’ve seen the movie.
JD: I don’t think I’m spoiling anything about a story that’s been written 50 years ago. But the spider is named Charlotte, and the pig is Wilbert. The spider is very wise, but she dies. I’m sorry to spoil you. That effected me as a kid. I was devastated. I was so sad. And to think that that influence me thinking about storytelling for the rest of my life. It’s something that makes you feel, even if it makes you sad, or angry, that’s just pure power. And it’s not just superficial, it also prepares you for life. Because everybody is gonna have somebody they love die. And in a way you’re a bit prepared for it. You understand death through storytelling. And I think that’s very powerful.
N: Yes, definitely! And if you’ve read A Game of Thrones, you’re very well prepared…
JD: Oh yes, more prepared than you probably should be.
N: Do you regret killing some of the characters?
JD: There is one character that I regret killing. I feel like it is one too many. But for some reason, at the time, it felt right. And it’s not the one that people feel so passionately about. That one I know from long time ago. But there one towards the end, that I wish I hadn’t killed. (So he actually told me WHO it was, but I won’t spoil it for the people who haven’t finished reading the series yet. But I agree with him. But it was a mercy kill.)
N: There were a lot of questions about the movie. First of all, do you like the movies? I guess that’s a thing in the YA world: they turn all of the books into movies. Some of them turn out good, and some of them turn out terrible.
JD: I am very happy with the movies. I’d much rather have these high quality, well written, great music, great visuals and fantastic actors. I would much rather have that. A movie that is true enough to the spirit of the book. Than some terrible made, terrible acted movie that follows the book very closely. We got the best we could possibly get. Yes it could be a little bit more true to the books, and that would have maybe made me little bit more happy, but we should not push our luck. We’ve got some great movies. I’m very happy. I do feel bad in some way for my friends, who’s movies been made and were not so good. Compared to some of them, we can be very happy.
N: I feel like The 5th Wave was a book that I really liked, and really enjoyed, and there were a lot of bad reviews about the movie. What happened?
JD: I don’t know, I haven’t seen the movie yet! Which is crazy because I usually see every movie! So… you did or didn’t like the movie?
N: I liked it, but I also didn’t like it because they tried too hard to make it a YA movie. Have you read the books?
N: It’s very raw. And very real…
JD: … and they made it very cheesy?
N: Yeah, they did! The boy takes of his shirt. And he’s in the water.
JD: So they kind of Twilighted it?
N: Yes, that’s the right word for it. I thought: this could be a great movie. And then they tried to get the girls to love the movie and you know…
JD: And that’s the thing I’m so happy about with my movies. They did not Twilighted it. There’s absolutely, at least in the first movie, no romance. And in the second there’s just the tiniest, barest end of it. And it proves that you don’t have to have a sappy romance line to be successful.
N: There was one question about Dylan O’Brien. Did you know about him before he was cast for The Maze Runner?
JD: I did not know him, I did not watch Teen Wolf. The second I heard that he was cast, I watched Teen Wolf, and fell in love with it and fell in love with him as an actor. And no one could be a bigger fan of him. I think he is extremely talented as an actor. And right now, he’s still kind of considered like this handsome guy that all the girls love and blah blah blah. Which is true, BUT, I think in Hollywood he’s recognized more that he’s a natural actor. And I think that he’s gonna be as big an actor as anyone. I very strongly believe that.
N: I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen with his career!
JD: He’s doing a movie this summer with Mark Wahlberg [Deepwater Horizon]. It’s a true story about an oil rig in the ocean that blew up. And it’s a very exciting and terrifying story, and he’s one of the main characters. He’s already in high demand, and because of Teen Wolf, and The Maze Runner, he hasn’t been able to do much. But now that, well, people think that Teen Wolf is ending, but… we’re not sure. And The Maze Runner is definitely ending with this movie.
N: About that… I’m so happy that they didn’t decide to make two movies of The Death Cure!
JD: Yes, true. I think we’re going to see Dylan in a lot more stuff. He’s going to become a giant movie star.
N: I hope he leaves Teen Wolf behind him at some point.
JD: Yeah, it’s time to move on.
N: I have one question from Angela, she’s a very big fan of yours. She wanted to know what your first story that you wrote was about?
JD: When I was a kid, I wrote a story about a mammoth, and a sable tooth tiger, this was way before Ice Age, and it was the worst story ever written by any human. This mammoth gets stuck in the mud, and started sinking. He was scared. I was trying to make it all scary. He couldn’t escape. And then the sable tooth tiger tried to eat him, but he got stuck in the mud too. And they’re both trying to escape. And than a cave man comes by, and he tries to kill them, but he got stuck too. And they were all sinking. And the story ended with: “And they all died.”
N: Oh, well, that’s very sad.
JD: I’d say it’s some kind of a precursory of The Maze Runner. I liked to kill people from a young age. That was actually the first story that I still have a copy of.
N: Do you have any strange writing habits? Like only writing in the morning?
JD: I love to listen to movie soundtracks while I write. I don’t think that’s unusual but it’s definitely something, and unique and inspirational. Another thing I really love to do.. I have to do it in little spurts and reward myself. So a typical day for me is I’ll write for an hour or two, then watch a movie, then write for an hour or two, go to lunch, write for an hour or two, watch another movie… or something like that. Read a book! It kind of breaks up my day. A lot of people make fun of me and give me a hard time because I have such a ‘hard life’, watching a bunch of movies. But I always tell them: it works! So I’ll just keep doing it.
And then… the time was up! I got 20 minutes of interview and I enjoyed every single second of it. James Dashner is a very down to earth author, who obviously loved to talk to his fans about his books and movies and everything else going on in his life. Thanks again for having me, I know you’ve got a very busy schedule. This interview meant a lot to me and I enjoyed talking to you so much! Can’t wait to read more of your books! (Big thanks to the Dutch publishers, Uitgeverij Q, for getting me the interview!)
A big thank you to both James Dashner and Nanouk!
**Nanouk is a 21-year old lit/film student from the Netherlands, who spends her time reading as many books as she can and writing about them with the same amount of love. She enjoys talking to other booklovers on social media (& IRL) and dreams about a house that is big enough for a room that will only include a couch and lots of books.