SALT LAKE CITY — No. 1 New York Times best-selling author Brandon Mull is currently writing his 20th novel, but he still feels a jumble of excitement and fear every time he publishes a new book. 

“You never get used to it, because it’s so unpredictable,” the Utah-based author recently told the Deseret News. “You can never be sure about how people will react.”

That includes his newest book — the third in the “Dragonwatch” series — “Master of the Phantom Isle” (Shadow Mountain, 384 pages, ages 9-12), set to release Oct. 1. After the cliffhanger ending in book two, “Wrath of the Dragon King,” Mull hopes book three will satisfy the readers who have been clamoring to know what happened. 

Utah author Brandon Mull’s latest book in the “Dragonwatch” series, “Master of the Phantom Isle,” hits shelves Oct. 1. Mull will have book signings at Skyridge High School in Lehi on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 2 and 7 p.m. | Provided by Shadow Mountain
'I missed those 'Fablehaven' characters': Best-selling Utah author Brandon Mull goes back to the forest
3 writing tips from Utah author of Fablehaven series Brandon Mull

After being cursed to lose all memory of his past at the end of book two, Seth has aligned with the dark unicorn, Ronodin, and takes up residence on the Phantom Isle, where there’s a secret gateway to the Under Realm of the dead. Ronodin intends to use Seth’s magical powers for his evil ends, while Seth’s sister, Kendra, takes up the quest of saving a fallen dragon sanctuary in the hopes of finding the answers she needs to save her brother.  

“Dragonwatch” is a sequel series to Mull’s first books, the “Fablehaven” series, and Mull said he returned to Kendra and Seth’s story because he realized he still had unanswered questions about their futures. 

“There was more to explore than I realized, which has been exciting and fun and a relief,” he said. “It feels like they’re still growing up, they’re getting used to how to fit into this magical world, and if anything, I feel like I’m able to explore them more completely in this series than I was in the previous series.” 

Only two years older than at the start of the five-book “Fablehaven” series, Seth and Kendra aren’t aging a year every book like in “Harry Potter.” Mull has learned that hardly any time has to pass for his characters to experience a whole lot of trouble. He is still planning on writing two more books in the “Dragonwatch” series before he’s done, and his intent is to release one a year. 

The biggest challenge with “Master of the Phantom Isle,” Mull said, was figuring out how to write Seth’s memory loss. He decided to let Seth maintain his procedural memory, but lose his identity and his experiences. 

“He understood what cereal is and how to pour it, but he didn’t remember what his favorite cereal was or what cereal tasted like,” he said. “He knew about everything in theory but he had no personal experience with anything.” 

In turn, Seth’s memory loss allowed Mull to put him in situations his character never would have been in otherwise, and thus was able to explore dark places like the Under Realm. 

Concurrently with the third “Dragonwatch” book, Mull will be releasing a picture book on Oct. 1, “Smarter Than a Monster” (Shadow Mountain, ages 4-8), illustrated by his cousin Mike Walton. It will be his first picture book since his last “Pingo” book in 2012, and is meant to be a survival guide to show kids how to use their imaginations to defang the monster under the bed. 

Mull said writing picture books presents a different kind of challenge than full-length novels. 

“You only have a limited amount of words and space to say something that will interest a little kid,” he said. “A lot of the storytelling is done with the pictures … so thinking about how the story would work with these words in concert with pictures is the biggest part of the challenge, especially since the pictures don’t exist yet.” 

Mull is also working on a secret “experimental” project that if all goes well, fans can look forward to in the future. 

“I have no plans to return with ‘Fablehaven’, but if I come up with a great story, I’ll always be willing to return to that world and those characters.” 

In the meantime, Mull still has two more “Dragonwatch” books to work on, and he plans to take his characters and readers on a wild ride. 

“I try to write my series so that they crescendo,” he said. “There’s some really big obstacles for our characters to overcome still before the series is over.”

And that will bring an end to Kendra and Seth’s stories — at least for now. 

“I have no plans to return with ‘Fablehaven’,” Mull said. “But if I come up with a great story, I’ll always be willing to return to that world and those characters.” 

If you go …

What: Brandon Mull book signing

When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Where: Skyridge High School, 3000 N. Center St., Lehi