James Dashner, the New York Times Best Selling author of “The Maze Runner” series was the special guest speaker August 27, 2020 at the weekly Deer Park Rotary Zoom meeting.  Wes Player, immediate past president of the club introduced his nephew James as “Jamie”; the name he’s known by in the family.  James, the son of Wes’ oldest sister, was born and raised in Georgia and currently lives in Utah with his wife and four children.
As a young boy, James was always interested in writing and wrote his first full novel while in college.  Knowing that writing might be a tough way to make a living, James chose to pursue math in college and graduated from Brigham Young University with a master’s degree in accounting and began his career as a Certified Public Accountant. 
James continued to write on the side, submitting stories with varying results.  His move into publishing came in baby steps with books selling by the dozens until 2008 when the first book in “The Maze Runner” series was purchased by Random House. It was with some emotion as he recounted being with his wife, children and “sweet mother” when he got the word from his agent that Random House had purchased the Maze Runner series and he realized that he could make it as a writer.  He quit his accounting job and started on the path as a full-time author. When asked what drew him to writing, he believes it was the atmosphere of the rich family history of stories dating back to before the Civil War passed through the generations of his family living in South Carolina.  Probably the biggest thrill he ever had was having the Maze Runner series picked up by 20thCentury Fox, being on the set, meeting the cast and being in attendance at the premiere.
Although the Maze Runner was written for older teenagers, it was popular with middle schoolers and read by adults as well.  The first book of the series didn’t make it onto the New York Times “best seller” list but the second did and the third, not only was on the list, but was #1.  James said the series is “huge” in South America and is actually more popular outside of the United States than inside.  “The Maze Runner” has been published in 45 languages and has taken James to all of the continents with the exception of Antarctica.  He’s been trying to find a way that he and his wife could change that.
When asked who his favorite authors are, Stephen King was at the top of the list. He is currently working on a Stephen King thriller type novel that will probably come out by next fall.  Included in other books that James has written is “The 13thReality” series which was based in Deer Park, Washington.  Wes, known by James as “Uncle Wesley” asked when he and his family might next visit in Deer Park.  James said he’d like to come in the winter after seeing all the beautiful snow in Wes’ pictures.
James expressed appreciation to Deer Park Rotary for it’s emphasis on literacy and work that we do in the community.  Although our club members look forward to meeting again in person, it was a real treat to have James join us via Zoom and spend this time together.  For all of his success and notoriety, he is a very well-grounded person and as one member put it, “he is a regular guy”.