Richelle Mead says she has been writing since she was a child, first picture books and then short stories. But she was never sure if she had “the maturity and focus” to write a novel, which sounds pretty ironic coming from the author of the bestselling Vampire Academy YA series who is launching a new adult series, Age of X, with the first book, Gameboard of the Gods (Dutton, June).

“I cannot not write a series,” says Mead. “Whenever I start a book, I know it is going to be part of a big saga.” She says her ideas come to her as big sprawling stories with plots that tend to span several books. “You conceive things in the first book that you know are going to come to fruition in the last book,” she adds. “I am not even sure if I could tell a self-contained story in one book.”

Gameboard of the Gods takes place 100 years in the future in a world rebuilt after a virus kills half the population. In the Republic of United North America, “unlicensed religion” and belief in the supernatural is strictly forbidden. Justin March was an investigator hunting down religious extremists before he was exiled after a job went very wrong, but he gets called back into action to solve the mystery of a string of ritualistic murders with the help of a Praetorian soldier with enhanced reflexes and unworldly beauty named Mae Koskinsen.

Mead says that she has heard from other fantasy writers that one of the reasons the genre lends itself to series is that the authors spend so much time imagining and creating worlds with rich detail it would be a shame to let that go after one book.

Mead lives in Seattle with her husband and young son now, but the idea for Gameboard of the Gods came to her when she was finishing her master’s degree in comparative religion in her native Michigan. She even consulted the first draft she did of the book in 2002 when she got to work on what became Gameboard.

“At the time, I thought I was so cutting edge and brilliant,” says Mead about the technology in her first draft. “But now, 10 years later, it’s old hat.” Staying ahead of technology’s evolution is a particular challenge for fantasy and science fiction writers, Mead notes.

She will be signing copies of Gameboard today, 10:30–11:30 a.m., at Penguin’s booth (1520).