SALT LAKE CITY — When Utah author Ally Condie and her co-author Brendan Reichs released their first middle grade horror book last year, they hoped it would be a fun book for kids. 

But the New York Times best-selling duo weren’t expecting just how much “The Darkdeep” would really take off. 

“I’ve never had a book sell like this,” Condie said during a recent interview. “When we went to our middle school visits and we talked about the book, the kids got really excited about reading it. They wanted to buy it; they asked their librarian if their librarian was going to buy it. They went kind of crazy.” 

Condie, who resides in Pleasant Grove, is most known for her young adult dystopian series, “Matched,” but has also written an Edgar Award-nominated middle grade novel, “Summerlost.”  Reichs, who lives in North Carolina, had only written young adult series (“Virals” and “Project Nemesis”) before “The Darkdeep,” so the middle grade market was new to him.

“It’s just an interesting thing to write in the middle grade channel and see how different it is from young adult,” Reichs said. “But one of the things that was different was the level of enthusiasm for the book when it came out — it was pretty unmatched.” 

Ally Condie
Ally Condie is the co-author of “The Beast.” | Kanab Writers Conference

Now Reichs and Condie are excited to release the sequel to “The Darkdeep” on Sept. 24, titled “The Beast” (Bloomsbury, 336 pages, ages 8-11). 

Capturing the spirit of “Stranger Things” and “The Goonies,” “The Beast” continues the story of Nico, Opal, Tyler, Emma and Logan as they take on their new roles as torchbearers, or caretakers of an ancient magical whirlpool called the Darkdeep, hidden in the wilds of their Pacific Northwest hometown. Just when they thought they had the magical creatures the Darkdeep produces under control, more start appearing without explanation. At the same time, a YouTube series arrives in town bent on capturing the town’s mythical giant sea creature, the Beast, on camera.

Before the kids know it, everything is spiraling out of control. It turns out the Darkdeep is only a small portion of the otherworldly problems they have to deal with to save their town.

After a pretty steep learning curve with “The Darkdeep,” Reichs and Condie agreed that co-authoring “The Beast” went much smoother. 

“We already knew the characters,” Condie said, “and we got to take some of the things we seeded in the first book and have them explode and make them bigger.” 

They said their biggest challenge was expanding the plot without losing focus on the characters. With multiple subplots and five main characters to develop, they had to work hard to keep everything integrated and tight. 

“That’s why we did so many drafts,” Reichs explained. “As we got closer, we were satisfied that it hangs together well, but there’s a lot going on. It’s definitely not an actionless book.” 

The main theme in “The Darkdeep” is the kids learning to overcome their fears. In “The Beast,” Condie and Reichs tried to show them coming together to defeat their monsters as a team. 

Brendan Reichs is the co-author of “The Beast.” | Provided by Penguin Young Readers Group

“‘The Beast’ is about a group of individuals working together when everything around them is falling apart,” Reichs said. “In the first one they’re finding their trust in themselves; in the second one they’re finding their trust in each other.” 

The series’ as-yet-untitled third book is scheduled for an October 2020 release. Reichs and Condie said they’re open to adding more books to the series after that, but nothing has been decided yet. 

“I would be very surprised if under any scenario we don’t co-author more stuff in the future,” Reichs said, whether it be in “The Darkdeep” series or something else. 

Both have individual projects in the works as well: Condie is working on another young adult novel, though not a sequel to her recent young adult release “The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe.” Reichs has multiple novels across age categories in the works, none of which have been officially announced.   

But fans will be able to count on “The Beast” to get them into the Halloween spirit starting Sept. 24. 

“It’s the perfect fall, spooky-time book that kids are looking for right now,” Condie said.