Like a character in one of his high-stakes fantasy adventures, James Dashner has a lot to contend with – in his case, all good. On October 8, Delacorte will publish The Eye of Minds, which takes readers into a world of gaming where the line between what’s virtual and what’s real becomes blurred. That same day, the author embarks on a 13-city tour to promote the new YA novel, and the publisher issues a boxed set of The Maze Runner, his previous YA trilogy. An e-book, The Maze Runner Files, offering an inside look at the world in which the series is set, pubbed in August. And Dashner’s fiction makes its silver-screen debut on February 14, 2014, when 20th Century Fox releases a film adaption of book one, The Maze Runner.

Films, in fact, provided the inspiration for The Eye of Minds, the inaugural book of the Mortality Doctrine trilogy. “The idea has been with me a long time,” Dashner told PW. “I had the first spark when the Matrix movies came out in the 1990s. They are some of my favorite movies of all time, and I kept thinking as I watched them that this certain plot twist was going to happen – but it never did. Then when the movie Inception came out, I was struck by its concept of a dream within a dream. So for The Eye of Minds, I applied this concept to a virtual reality world with that plot twist that never happened, but had always stayed in my head.”

Dashner noted that although he enjoyed creating The Eye of Minds, it was one of the more difficult novels he’s written. “It had to be structured a little more carefully than the others, so I did more outlining than I’ve ever done on a novel,” he said. “I very much wanted the resolution and ending to be well supported by the rest of the book.”

Asked if his new novel has common threads with The Maze Runner series, which has sold 2.4 million copies since its 2009 debut, the author responded affirmatively. “Even though the stories are developed in different ways, in both instances the characters are putting themselves in unexpected situations where reality is a little confusing,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of people say that they were confused and disoriented reading the first 30 or 50 pages of The Maze Runner, and I intended that. I wanted to make them feel the same way the main character did when thrust into that situation. In a similar way, The Eye of Minds immerses readers in a virtual world where they may be confused, since they don’t know what’s real or what’s not. I hope they feel a bit uncomfortable reading it.”

Dashner said he expects that his new novel will appeal to videogame fans, of which he is one. He has been playing them since childhood, and in recent years has gravitated toward role-playing and board games as well. “I’m trying to embrace my nerdiness to its full extent,” he explained. “Gaming is a different form of storytelling, and a whole new way to interact with stories. You feel like you’re a character, and that concept fascinates me. Stretching my imagination and bringing an entirely new world to life in The Eye of Minds was very exciting.”

Beverly Horowitz, v-p and publisher of Delacorte, noted that The Eye of Minds was an ideal story for Dashner to tackle, given his affinity for gaming and his storytelling skills. “Of course we always tell authors to write what they know about, and James is passionate about gaming and is also well aware of today’s constantly changing technology,” she said. “You need a huge imagination to explore what can happen in the virtual world, and he certainly has that. At the same time, this is good old-fashioned storytelling about good and evil – that battle never goes away.”

Dashner’s editor, Delacorte executive editor Krista Marino, viewed The Eye of Minds as an evolution for the author. “This new book, like The Maze Runner, is basically about the protagonist’s search for identity,” she said. “But it is so much more complex, with its technological angle. It’s the same battle between good and evil of course, and what James does is highlight that gray area between what’s good and what’s evil. As both series go on, you realize it’s not as black and white as it seemed.”

Promoting the Novel, Launching a Movie

Delacorte has embarked on a wide-reaching marketing campaign for The Eye of Minds, which has an announced first printing of 350,000 copies. The publisher has sent Dashner to several major conventions, where promotional posters with art by comics illustrator John Van Fleet were distributed. In July, Delacorte staged an online contest that invited design submissions for a logo for the Dashner Army, the self-appointed name for the author’s fans. From the more than 4,000 entries received, Dashner selected 10 logo finalists, and Army members voted on the winning logo, which is posted on the Eye of Minds Web site.

Looking ahead, an eight-city movie theater promotion tying in with the opening weekend of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22–24) will feature the distribution of 38,000 chapter samplers. Also scheduled are consumer and library print and online advertising, and Delacorte has created a floor display for retailers.

Dashner’s The Eye of Minds tour will span several months and includes an international leg that will take him to England and Ireland, a first for the author. Though he frequently connects with his fans – half of whom he estimates are adults – via social media, he enjoys meeting them face-to-face. “It’s never gotten old, and I can’t imagine it ever getting old,” he said. “It is so rewarding to have written something and then see in the eyes of readers that it has entertained them and made them speculate about things.”

After wrapping up his tour, Dashner will gear up for the February release of The Maze Runner movie, which is produced by Wyck Godfrey and directed by Wes Ball. Both contacted the author early on, letting him know they wanted him to be involved in the film.

“I gave feedback on the script and Wes Ball called me with questions and invited me to visit the set several times,” said Dashner. “Everything about the movie exceeds the highest expectations I could possibly have. Every character and scene is true to the vision and the spirit of the novel. I am beyond thrilled, and I think fans of the book will love it. I really love movies, and being involved even on a small scale with a movie was amazing – but the fact that the movie was based on a book I wrote is incredible.”

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner. Delacorte, $18.99 Oct. ISBN 978-0-385-74139-2

The Maze Runner Files by James Dashner. Delacorte, $1.99 e-book Aug. ISBN 978-0-385-38541-1

The Maze Runner Trilogy Boxed Set by James Dashner. Delacorte, $29.97 Oct. ISBN 978-0-385-37379-1

The Maze Runner Movie Tie-in Edition by James Dashner. Delacorte, $9.99 paper Dec. ISBN-978-0-385-38520-6