An Interview with DJ MacHale – Morpheus Road

16 Apr

D.J. MacHale is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pendragon series. He has written, directed and produced many television series and movies for young people including the cult-favorite TV show ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK. His work has been seen on Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel, HBO, Showtime, PBS, Discovery Kids and the broadcast networks. D.J. lives with his family in Southern California. Today, he talks to about his new book, Morpheus Road, which is being released on April 20, 2010. Please visit his website at

About Morpheus Road:  Marshall Seaver is being haunted. In The Light, the first installment of this chillingly compelling trilogy, sixteen-year-old Marshall discovers that something beyond our world is after him. The eerie clues pile up quickly, and when people start dying, it’s clear whatever this is–it’s huge.

Marshall has no idea what’s happening to him, but he’s soon convinced that it has something to do with his best friend Cooper, who’s been missing for over a week. Together with Coop’s sister, Marsh searches for the truth about what happened to his friend, ultimately uncovering something bigger than he could ever have imagined. will be doing a giveaway of an autographed copy of Morpheus Road beginning on April 20, 2010. The contest will run for two weeks – details to be announced.  Please enjoy the trailer for Morpheus Road at the end of the interview.

1. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. I understand that you have a background as a writer and producer for children’s television. My children loved Flight 29 Down, which you co-created and produced, and you were also the co-creator and producer of Are You Afraid of the Dark, as well as several other successful children’s shows. You author the very popular Pendragon series, which is Young Adult series with a male main character. Now you have taken a more macabre turn down Morpheus Road. Is Morpheus Road your first venture into the horror/suspense genre? Tell us a little about the story.

I’ve actually worked quite extensively in the genre. “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was all about being spooky. Between the 91 episodes and twenty some odd books and computer games, board games, articles, etc., I wrote more scary stories than the average bear. I also wrote and directed a movie for Disney called “Tower of Terror”, and created several scary TV shows that never got off the ground. So I’m fairly well versed in the world of horror/suspense, that’s why I wanted to write the Morpheus Road trilogy so much. After having gotten away from that genre for a few years, and written so many books, I thought it would be fun to go back to my roots and write a spooky book. So for me it was like going home. A very creepy home.

2. What inspired you to write in this genre? Do you think there is a large market for it in the Young Adult demographic?

I’ve always loved scary stories. I like the notion of normal people being confronted with totally abnormal challenges. It also allows me to flex my creative muscles by coming up with unique and surprising scares. That’s the fun part. Coming up with the scares. There’s a scene in Morpheus Road: The Light where the main character, Marshall, is home alone and you know something spooky is going to happen. He knows something spooky is going to happen. And it does. But rather than encountering a monster or horrific image, he is drawn to his living room by music box music and finds that the room is completely, impossibly, decorated for Christmas. It twists his head inside out, and then the terror happens from there. I love stuff like that.

As for there being a market in the YA demographic, I hope so! But that’s not why I’m writing the story. For me, it always starts out with an idea that excites and interests me. I write it, and then the story itself determines who it will appeal to. For instance, Flight 29 Down was definitely a “girl” show. Guys watched it, but girls LOVED it. Another book series that will soon come out is called The Monster Princess. I came up with the idea for a little troll who dreams of becoming a princess, and the only place that story could exist was with a picture book which will appeal to very young kids. I found with my Pendragon series that the largest number of readers are boys . . . of all ages. From 9 to grandfathers. So I think my job is to tell the best story I can, and then see who likes it!

3. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this novel when you were writing or editing it? What is it about this book and its genre that you think boys in particular will enjoy?

Like I said, I write the story the best way I can and then see who likes it. But for whatever reason, most of my writing appeals to boys, which is kind of cool since everybody is trying to get boys to read. Girls are easier. Boys are tough. But it’s not like I said: “I’m going to write a book for boys!” I just write what I think is fun, and in most cases, guys like it.

And what I think is fun is showing normal guys rising to the occasion. Or sometimes not. That’s what I think so many guys like about my stories. They can see themselves in the story and reacting the way the characters react. That’s key for me. I want the readers to imagine what they might do in hairy situations. I love that stuff, and I’m a guy, so I guess other guys do too!

4. I noticed that you started the book with a prologue. A lot of writing “experts” discourage the use of prologues, but to me it came off like a voice-over at the beginning of a movie setting the stage for the action, which I think will appeal to the tastes of young men. Does your television background influence your writing?

I never listen to experts. I just write what I think works. One of the reasons I have used a prologue, and did it with Morpheus Road: The Light is that I think it’s important to set up the main characters early on. As much as I like action, I think the heart of a story rests with interesting characters that you get to know and care about. Or hate. To do that, it takes a bit of exposition early on. Call it my movie-instinct, but when you want to grab somebody up front with a book that is expected to be exciting, starting out by introducing characters doing “normal” things might turn off the more impatient reader. So a short prologue is my way of saying: “This is the kind of story it’s going to be so relax. Learn about the characters and then the fireworks will start.”

5. Morpheus Road is the first book in a planned series. How many books will be in this series, and what can you tell us about the “rest of the story?”

Morpheus Road is going to be a trilogy. I don’t want to give away anything about where it’s going because there are some big surprises. But I’ll say this much, it’s going to be one of those stories that starts out small and just keeps on building and building in ways you could never imagine.

6. You have a book trailer for Morpheus Road, which we have embedded in the Boylit Blog site. How did the making of the trailer come about? We have a great interest in book trailers here because we think it’s a great way to market to boys.

I think the Morpheus Road trailer is awesome. Publishers are always looking for new ways to get the news out about their books and my good friends at Simon & Schuster started making trailers that are seen before movies in the theaters. When I heard that they wanted to do one for Morpheus Road, my first reaction was: “Great, but boy it better be good if it’s going to be on the big screen!” And they pulled it off. It’s going to be seen in late May in certain theaters before the film “Prince of Persia”. It’s gotten such a great reaction that they’re already throwing ideas around about what the trailer for Morpheus #2 will be!

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Written by Carl

  1. Karen Strong

    April 16, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Thanks for a great interview! Loved the Pendragon series and this trilogy looks like it’s going to be really good. Trailer was very intruiging and spooky. This will definitely be on my TBR list this summer!

  2. Kirsten Lesko

    April 16, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Excellent interview! Impressive all-around.

  3. Dee Garretson

    April 17, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Great trailer! It’s one of the best I’ve seen

  4. Christina Farley

    April 18, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Wow. What a book trailer! And I really liked the interview. So interesting.