(CBS News) J.J. Abrams is known as the creator of shows like "Lost," "Alias," and "Person of Interest." As a film producer, he's brought new life to "Star Trek", and he's preparing to reboot "Star Wars." But now, the master storyteller is collaborating on a book, simply called "S." Recently, CBS News' Bill Whitaker sat down with Abrams to learn how this piece of fiction became reality.
Abrams may be best known for directing on-screen spectacles like "Mission Impossible III," "Super 8," and "Star Trek - Into Darkness." But 15 years ago, about the same time he was working on "Armageddon," an act of fate got Abrams thinking about writing a book. It started when he found a paperback book at the Los Angeles International Airport. Abrams told Whitaker recently, "Inside, someone had written in the book, 'To whomever finds this, please read it, and leave it somewhere for someone else to find it.' It was this notion of a book being used as vessel of communication between two people, and something about that felt like it was a seed of something potentially exciting and intriguing."
For more on the story about finding the paperback, watch Abrams' web extra below.
That seed of an idea haunted Abrams for more than a decade, all the while he was busy becoming one of the most prolific filmmakers in Hollywood. In 2009, he met Doug Dorst. Abrams laid out his tale and Dorst brought it to life. Abrams said, "It's an amazing thing. And only someone who is as smart, and has won 'Jeopardy!' as many times as Doug could possibly accomplish this."
Dorst, a three-time "Jeopardy!" champion, went to work taking a novel approach to the story. It's a book within a book -- a harrowing tale of two students who communicate in the margins. But then you, the reader, become sucked-in as mysterious post cards and notes tucked between the pages actually fall into your hands.
Whitaker said to Dorst, "(Abrams) comes to you with this idea, you don't go, 'That's just crazy. Who -- who can do this?'"
"Oh, I did," Dorst said, "I did say, 'That's just crazy.' And -- and I have no idea if I can do it.' But I'm certainly not gonna say 'no' to this."
Abrams' Bad Robot production company created the trailers. His passion for writing becomes evident on a visit to his office, where he's surrounded himself with a collection of vintage typewriters. Abrams said, "I'm old enough to have written many things -- before there were computers. And so I wrote on a typewriter. I loved it! It bugs me that in offices there are no sounds of typewriters anymore. "
Beyond the typewriters, one of Abrams' favorite treasures is a working, turn-of-the-century print shop. Abrams said, "Everyone uses it here, it's a cool thing to see how many people have gotten into printing because it's available to them."
Abrams' appreciation for history grounds him, while at the same time, his career is catapulting him into rarified air. He'll helm new releases of both blockbuster franchises "Star Trek" and "Star Wars." A new "Mission Impossible" is also in the works. He said, "We have a number of projects in various stages, and I try to be available when I'm needed on all these things."
Asked if he's "the maestro," Abrams said, "That's definitely not what I'm saying. I'm more like a chicken with my head cut off just running around trying to, you know, put out fires."
Abrams' films have grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide, according to Rentrak Corp., a measurement and analytical services company. But he tells Whitaker he won't be making a movie out of the book - he simply had a story to tell.
Watch Bill Whitaker's full report above.