James Dashner Says Goodbye To The Maze Runner Series: 'It's Definitely Bittersweet'

Five books and two (soon-to-be three) movies later, it's all over: The Maze Runner series is coming to a close with the release of The Fever Code, book five in the #1 New York Times bestselling series. Author James Dashner tells Bustle that saying goodbye to Thomas, the Gladers, and the world of The Maze Runner is "definitely bittersweet."

"Luckily we still have one movie to make it last a couple of years longer," he says.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner, $7.49, Amazon

Dashner's series began in 2009 with the release of The Maze Runner. In that book, Thomas wakes up in a metal box that brings him a mysterious location called The Glade. The inhabitants — The Gladers — work to stay alive while simultaneously trying to solve The Maze: an amorphous labyrinth of concrete walls that shifts daily and is monitored by a strange breed of monsters called Grievers. As the series progresses in The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, more and more information about the dystopian world of the Gladers become known: the earth has been ravaged by solar flares and an incurable virus, and a mysterious organization called WICKED has taken control. In 2014, Dashner's bestselling series hit the big screens with Dylan O'Brien starring as Thomas. A second film was released in 2015, and a third will be released in 2018.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, $8.88, Amazon

But Dashner always felt there was more to the story than the three original books. The author decided to take a step back and tell readers how the Maze and WICKED came to be through two prequels: The Kill Order, released in 2012, and The Fever Code, out Sept. 27, 2016.

The Death Cure by James Dashner, $8.49, Amazon

I spoke to James Dashner about The Fever Code, saying goodbye to Thomas and The Gladers, and what comes next. Here are five things I learned:

The Fever Code by James Dashner, $9.62, Amazon

1. He Always Wanted To Write At Least One Prequel

"I had the general frame of the prequel in my head, but not too many details," he says. "I always wanted at least one prequel, though, even before the original Maze Runner was released. I just thought the nature of the story, with the lost memories and all the intrigue, really lent itself well to flashbacks. I’m really happy with how things have turned out and the order of how we’ve presented the overall story."

2. There's Tons Of Backstory That Isn't Even Included In The Prequels

The first prequel focuses on the events that led to the dystopia of the original series, and the second focuses on specific characters' backstories. But Dashner says there's much more world-building and history that he could have written about in The Kill Order and The Fever Code.

"If anything there’s more story before The Maze Runner than what the trilogy contains," he says. "I think the entire trilogy takes place over a few months, where we had an entire world almost destroyed, a virus unleashed, and over a decade of life lived by our main characters within the confines of WICKED headquarters. It was hard to limit all of that to two books, actually."

3. Returning To His Original Characters In The Fever Code Was 'Bittersweet'

In The Fever Code, Dashner returns to the Gladers, telling their backstories and explaining how they ended up in the Glade. Writing about these characters again, he says, was "surreal, weird, [and] bittersweet."

"I did have a lot of fun revisiting these characters I had missed so much," he says. "It was a huge risk to have all-new characters in The Kill Order... that book is the closest I've ever come to a stand-alone novel. But The Fever Code itself was much closer to the vision I had for prequels when I was thinking about that potential years ago."

4. He Doesn't Have A Method For Creating His Characters

The world of The Maze Runner is filled with interesting, dynamic characters, but Dashner says he doesn't have a real method for creating these vibrant characters.

"I don’t really do lengthy charts or outlines or notes on each one. A lot of it is just in my head, relying on my instincts," he says. "They feel more real that way. I mean, I don’t have a chart on what my mom is like, and yet I could describe her to you for hours upon hours. Maybe that’s a lame analogy. But let’s go with it."

He says he does have a favorite character: Minho. "I love that he’s reckless, funny, irreverent, but also fiercely loyal," he says. "Of all the Gladers, I think he’s the one you never really doubt."

5. He's Working On His First Stand-Alone Project

Though saying goodbye to The Maze Runner series sting, James Dashner is excited about what comes next. The author has penned five series, so he's excited to try his hand at something new.

"My next project is probably going to be a stand-alone novel, something along the lines of a thriller/horror tale," he says. "I’m working on it, so we shall see!"

The Fever Code by James Dashner, $9.62, Amazon

Images: Maria Wood, courtesy of Random House; 20th Century Fox (5)