James Dashner, Rebecca Stead, and Christopher Paolini are among the big-name writers participating in Random House Children’s Books’ new Twitter Author Chat series. Dashner, whose Maze Runner prequel, The Kill Order, was released this week by Delacorte, launched the weekly program Thursday night. He answered readers’ questions online – some previously submitted via hashtag #rhkidschat, and others posed live during the session. Solo and themed group chats with middle-grade and YA authors will continue throughout the fall; fans can follow the chats by searching for the #rhkidschat hashtag on Twitter.

Dominique Cimina, director of publicity and corporate communications for Random House Children’s Books, explains that the company has been staging online author chats for several years, but this is the first time that it has launched a structured series. “The success of our earlier online chats and the growth in importance of social media has driven this initiative,” she says. “With this series, we are taking a more scheduled approach to author chats. Our goal is to open up the conversation between authors and their fans in a bigger and broader way. The scheduled approach allows for prepared questions and gives us and our authors a chance to promote the chats ahead of time.”

The author chats, which include book giveaways, will take place on a weekly basis from now until mid-November. Cimina anticipates that there will be a second Twitter Author Chat series to promote spring 2013 releases. She also notes that the company “is looking to expand Twitter chat sessions to include a variety of perspectives and involve not just authors but booksellers, reviewers, and other media.”

Authors featured in the launch Twitter Author Chat series include Rebecca Stead (Liar & Spy, Wendy Lamb Books), Tessa Gratton (The Blood Keeper, Random House BFYR), N.D. Wilson (Ashtown Burials: The Drowned Vault, Random House BFYR), Daniel Marks (Velveteen, Random House BFYR), John Stephens (The Fire Chronicle: Book Two: The Book of Beginning, Knopf), Adele Griffin (All You Never Wanted, Knopf), Alyssa Sheinmel (The Stone Girl, Knopf), Mark Frost (The Paladin Prophecy: Book 1, Random House BFYR), Anna Jarzab (The Opposite of Hallelujah, Delacorte), Margo Lanagan (The Brides of Rollrock Island, Knopf), Lauren Morrill (Meant to Be, Delacorte), and Christopher Paolini (Inheritance trade paperback and Deluxe Edition, Knopf).

The Twitter Author Chat series is being promoted through Random House online outlets and social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and the company’s teen community Web site, which has more than 70,000 members.