The Finisher, David Baldacci’s debut YA fantasy in March, introduced iron-willed Vega Jane, who takes a stand and fights to do what’s right after discovering that her village of Wormwood is built on dangerous lies. In a sequel, The Keeper (Scholastic Press, Sept.), which will have a 250,000-copy announced first printing, the heroine faces even more daunting challenges as she leaves Wormwood to discover the truth about her world—and navigates her way across the Quag, a terrifying land of bloodthirsty creatures and sinister magic.

Baldacci tackled new challenges himself writing this follow-up story. He notes that, even though he had already established the characters of his teenage protagonist and her best friend, Delph, “I had to create a brand-new world out of nothing as they escape from Wormwood and venture into the Quag and confront its evil inhabitants.”

The author, who discovered when he wrote The Finisher how freeing fantasy can be, found that taking Vega Jane and Delph onto new and terrifying turf was “just as, and in some ways more, liberating” than his first foray into the genre. Whereas the residents of the village of Wormwood are “bound by some rules,” he explains, “in the Quag, the sky is the limit—anything goes. I could go in any direction I wanted and make that world frightening, startling, wicked, and dangerous, so I threw in everything.”

Baldacci is far from finished building new worlds for Vega Jane and Delph to survive. He is now writing the third, still untitled, book in the series, in which the intrepid teens discover a new land beyond the Quag. “It’s a place that seems more benign at the start, but when you scratch the surface you realize that maybe it is as dangerous, or even more dangerous, than Quag,” he says. With future adventures in mind for Vega Jane, Baldacci expects that the series will encompass “at least four, maybe five” installments.

The Virginia author recently returned home after touring to promote Memory Man, his latest novel for adults, and was pleased to see young readers as well as grown-ups attend his events. “It was gratifying to see so many kids there, and to discover that adults, too, liked The Finisher. When I wrote that book, I hoped it would appeal to readers ages 10 to 110, and it does seem that everyone enjoys reading it. I think fantasy is as liberating for the reader as for the writer—in a way, it’s a fountain of youth.”

Baldacci, whose 27 bestselling books for adults have sold more than 110 million copies worldwide, says that he alternates between writing his adult books and YA novels—on a daily basis. “I am spending half my day writing a new adult thriller, and other half working on my third Vega Jane fantasy. I’m not the kind of writer who counts words or pages: I write until my tank is empty, and then stop until I can fill the well up and begin again.”

The author looks forward to greeting fans of any age on Friday, 2:30–3:30, when he autographs galleys of The Keeper at a ticketed signing at Table 1.

This article appeared in the May 29, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.