I love books that are good. Who doesn't? But I've found one that is not only good, it is excellent. It now sits on my shelf right next to my all time favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth. Who is this newcomer to my coveted shelf of only-the-finest books?
It is The 13th Reality, by James Dashner, just released March 3, 2008. (Actually The 13th Reality is the title of the series.) Even though I have an ARC copy, I am waiting with baited breath to get an official hardback of "Book One: The Journal of Curious Letters!"
This is why I marched into my local Borders bookstore yesterday and demanded a copy (nicely, of course). They have 6 on order and my name is the first in the list to get my copy (I'm sure it's because I asked so nicely). You better run to your bookstore and do the same, because they will go fast when they come in!
After reading The 13th Reality, I had to learn more about the background of the book. So I emailed James Dashner, the 13th Reality man and author himself, if he would oblige. And to make it fun - since The 13th Reality is YA fiction (like the Harry Potter series) - I invited two kids do the actual interviewing!
David is six years old; Cassandra is twelve.
David: How did you come up with the idea for The 13th Reality?
JAMES: It came from some serious brain pounding after being given one week to come up with a proposal for my eventual publisher. I'd submitted a different book to them, and they liked my writing, but didn't feel that particular book was right for them. So I worked my tail off to write a proposal for an idea that had always bounced around in my head: The concept of a group helping kids by sending out riddles and clues, but also horrible, dangerous things that try to stop them while they solve the mystery.
David: What was it like when you were writing your very first book about Jimmy Fincher compared to now?
JAMES: Totally different. Then, I didn't know if it would get published. This was done with a deadline. I really like the second way!!
David: How did you come up with more ideas for the next 13th Reality book? Isn't that a lot of work?
JAMES: I'm just always thinking, I guess. And when a cool idea pops in my head, I write it down.
David: How old will Tick be in the second book?
JAMES: It ends right at his 14th birthday.
[Now for questions from my daughter, Cassandra.]
Cassandra: What was the funnest part about writing The 13th Reality?
JAMES: Creating Mothball and Rutger, I think.
Cassandra: How did you come up with your characters?
JAMES: Most of them are based on people I know or characters I've loved in other books.
Cassandra: Who was the hardest character to write about?
JAMES: Mistress Jane. I wanted her to be evil, but have a human side. I think I did a much better job in Book 2.
Cassandra: Who was your favorite character to write about?
JAMES: Tick. He's basically me.
Cassandra: What was the hardest chapter to write in Curious Letters?
JAMES: The one where MG explains everything. I wished I had spread that out more.
Cassandra: How did it feel when you were finished? Sad to be at the end? Relieved?
JAMES: I was beyond ecstatic. Not sad, because I knew I had 4 more books to write in the series.
Cassandra: How do you start writing a book? Where do you get your inspiration?
JAMES: My inspiration comes from loving to create stories. I start by creating a very simple outline and then going from there.
Cassandra: What do you do when you run out of ideas while writing?
JAMES: Honestly, I don't very often. If I do, I stop and think. Seriously!
Cassandra: What is your writing schedule like?
JAMES: All over the board. But mostly in the evenings and Saturdays.
Cassandra: How do you plot out your books?
JAMES: I just do a simple list of the main events I think need to happen. Then I expand that a little and develop how they will happen. It usually just ends up as 2 pages of detailed notes. Then I start writing, referring back to that outline often and making further notes or changings things as needed.
Cassandra: What is your favorite part about writing books?
JAMES: Coming up with cool plot twists and writing exciting action scenes. Also, hearing that a reader liked my book.
[And now a question from me...]
C.S.: What advice do you have for new writers?
JAMES: Well, there's a lot on my blog, but here's something: Rejection is part of the game. It hurts, and it will always hurt. But no matter how good you are, no matter how brilliant your work, the odds are astronomical that you will never receive a rejection. Or 10, or 20, or 100. If you learn to accept it and keep submitting, reworking when necessary what you've written, you'll find a home.
I'd like to thank James Dashner for the time he took to answer two new fans' questions - in spite of his busy schedule. He is touring around the United States doing book signings. Check the official 13th Reality website to see if he is coming to a city near you. He not only is a very nice man, but he is a terrific Latter-day Saint who is making the world a better place through his talents. The 13th Reality is a great tale, but it also contains a message of truth and uplift.
Very few books make it to my highly coveted only-the-best book shelf, but The 13th Reality now has its very own spot. This book is that good. In fact, it is not just good, it is excellent. You don't have to take my word for it . . . just check out these readers' opinions!
For all my readers, run to your local Borders, Barnes & Noble, or Books-a-Million and request your very own copy . . . before they are gone.