Authors often say that fictional characters have a way of taking on a life and a voice of their own, inside their creator's imagination. James Dashner knows the feeling well. "Unless you're a writer, you would think we're psycho," he jokes. Clearly, the voices of Thomas and the other "Gladers" who star in Dashner's 2009 dystopian thriller, The Maze Runner, still have plenty to say.

Fans will get a taste of what that is when Dashner signs sneak peek excerpts from the second in the Maze Runner trilogy, The Scorch Trials (Delacorte, Oct.) at the Random House Children's Books booth (431) today, 9–10 a.m.

Following that, 11–11:30 a.m., the author will be at Table 10, signing the Aladdin paperback editions of the first two books in his 13th Reality series, The Journal of Curious Letters and The Hunt for Infinity. The hardcover edition of book three, The Blade of Shattered Hope, published by Shadow Mountain, hit shelves last month.

Dashner notes that The Scorch Trials "picks up just four hours after The Maze Runner ends, so it's a very, very direct sequel." In the latest adventure, the Gladers are on a mission to cross the Scorch, a wasteland filled with people called Cranks who have been ravaged by a disease that drives those infected insane. "Readers start to find out why the Gladers are being put through these trials," says the author.

Dashner went through some trials of his own on the way to being published.

Roughly 10 years ago, when he got serious about writing, Dashner says he entered into a contract with a small publisher in his home state of Utah, to publish a fantasy novel for kids. The house, Cedar Fort, specialized in religion publishing and asked Dashner to pay some of the costs for producing the book, as it was a risky venture for them. Eager to make his mark, Dashner bit at the offer and began "pounding the pavement," as he calls it, to sell A Door in the Woods. "I'm glad I went through it all, making school visits and doing signings where I sold only two or three books. I worked my tail off," he recalls. "Now it's fun to tell that story at conferences."

Next up is the third book in the Maze Runner trilogy. Then, Dashner says, "I already have two or three other ideas. I'll probably decide around Christmas what to do next." In the meantime, Dashner and his family are planning a post-BEA trip to Georgia, where he grew up: "We'll visit family and relax— we're all looking forward to that."