BarnesandNoble.com Book Club Q&A with Brandon Sanderson Edit
Question: What kind of mental "retooling" does it take for him to work on an already established world/storyline like Wheel of Time since this is someone else's work? Also, were there there a lot of notes or material left by Mr. Jordan to work from?
Brandon: I thought about this quite a lot during the months when I was reading the Wheel of Time again straight through, trying to figure out how I would approach writing the final book. Obviously, this project wasn't going to be like anything I'd done before. I couldn't just approach it as I did one of my solo novels. And yet, it felt like trying to match Robert Jordan's style exactly would have made me lapse into parody.
A lot of the mental 'retooling' I did focused on getting inside the characters' heads. I decided that if I could make the characters sound right, the book would FEEL right, even if some of the writing itself was different. I also decided that I would adapt my style to fit the project. I became more descriptive, for one, and wrote viewpoint with the more intimate, in-head narrative style that Mr. Jordan used. Neither of these were attempts to match how he wrote exactly, but more me trying to match my style to The Wheel of Time, if that makes any sense.
In answer to the second question, he left LOTS of notes behind. He wrote complete scenes in places, dictated other scenes, left piles of notes and materials. The prologue was almost all completed by him (that will be split half in this book, half in the next.) The ending scenes were written by him as well. In the middle, there are a lot of scene outlines as well.
That's not to say there wasn't A LOT of work to do. The actual number of completed scenes was low, and in some places, there was no direction at all what to do. But his fingerprints are all over this novel. My goal was not to write a Brandon Sanderson book, but a Wheel of Time book. I want this novel (well, these three novels, now) to be his, not mine.
Question: Is it possible for someone who has not read all 11 books in The Wheel of Time series to be able to follow and enjoy reading The Gathering Storm?
Brandon: My agent did just that, actually. He said he had a lot of trouble through the first half of the book, then had a blast with the second half.
I honestly wouldn't suggest it. The Wheel of Time is meant to be an in-depth, immersive experience. There's a lot going on in these books, and they are not episodic--meaning the story is one long saga. It would be a little like tuning in to the Lord of the Rings movies and only watching the last chunk of the final movie.
If you're determined, you could read The Encyclopaedia-WoT has some excellent summaries of the books, chapter by chapter. But you'll be missing out on a lot of fun. There will not be summaries posted in the books themselves--the WoT is just too long and involved for that to work. (And Robert Jordan always resisted letting the publisher add anything like that.)
Question: You have created some fantastic, original and well thought out magical systems. Where did you get the inspiration for the metal-based system of the Mistborn series and the breath-based system of Warbreaker?
Brandon: Thank you! During the early days of my career--before I got published--I found myself naturally creating a new magic system for each book I wrote. I'm not sure why I did this. I just found the process too involving, too interesting, to stop.
For Mistborn, I came to the book wanting several things. I wanted a great magic system that would enhance the graceful, martial-arts style fights. This was going to be a series of sneaking thieves, assassins, and night-time exploration. And so I developed the powers with a focus on that idea. What would make the thieving crew better at what they did? I based each power around an archetype of a thieving crew. The Thug, the Sneak, the Fast-talker, etc.
At the same time, I wanted to enhance the 'industrial revolution' feel of the novels through the magic system. I wanted something that felt like an industrial-age science, something that was a good hybrid of science and magic. I found myself drawn to Alchemy and its use of metals, then extrapolated from that to a way to release power locked inside of metal. Metabolism grew out of that. It felt natural. We metabolize food for energy; letting Allomancers metabolize metal had just the right blend of science and magic.
For Warbreaker, I was looking back a little further, shooting for a more Renaissance-era feel. And so, I extrapolated from the early beliefs that similarities created bonds. In other words, you could affect an object (in this case, bring an object to life) by creating a bond between it and yourself, letting it take on a semblance of your own life.
Moving beyond that was the idea of color as life. When a person dies, their color drains from them. The same happens when plants die. Vibrant color is a sign of life itself, and so I worked with this metaphor and the concept of Breath as life to develop the magic. In this case, I wanted magical powers that would work better 'in' society, meaning things that would enhance regular daily lives. Magical servants and soldiers, animated through arcane powers, worked better for this world than something more strictly fighting-based, like in Mistborn.
Question: How long did it take for you to complete the Mistborn Trilogy?
Brandon: I wrote the entire trilogy, straight through, starting in the beginning of 2003 and ending in early 2006.
Question: How much research, if any, went into the making of the Mistborn trilogy?
Brandon: I did quite a bit, mostly reading about the era of the industrial revolution, alongside researching alchemy and eunuchs.
Question: To further the above question by Nadine: How did you ever keep the unique power systems all straight and use them so well for your readers to understand?
The powers, to me, were just so fascinating, well developed, and unique on so many levels! I think with a lesser artist than yourself the powers might have been too much to take in, but I found them quite easy to follow and understand. Just amazing! You seriously are one of my favorite authors. I'll be in line for all of your books!
Brandon: Thanks! It took a lot of practice. Keeping them straight for myself isn't so difficult--it's like keeping characters straight. The more I've written, the easier it's become.
What is more difficult is keeping it all straight for the readers. This can be tough. One of the challenges with fantasy is what we call the Learning Curve. It can be very daunting to pick up a book and find not only new characters, but an entirely new world, new physics, and a lot of new words and names.
I generally try to introduce this all at a gentle curve. In some books, like Warbreaker, starting with the magic system worked. But in Mistborn, I felt that it was complex enough--and the setting complex enough--that I needed to ease into the magic, and so I did it bit by bit, with Vin.
In all things, practice makes perfect. I have a whole pile of unpublished novels where I didn't do nearly as good a job of this. Even still, I think I have much to learn. In the end of Mistborn One and Warbreaker both I think I leave a little too much confusion about the capabilities of the magic.
Question: And last but definitely not least, You seem to have left the New World of Mistborn open for a book maybe featuring Spook in the future, any thoughts?
Brandon: I did leave it open. But that's partially because I feel that part of any good book is the indication that the characters continue to live, the world continues to turn. I want readers to be free to imagine futures for the characters and more stories in the world.
For Mistborn, I'm not planning--right now--to do any Spook books. I do have plans to do another trilogy set in the world, though it would take place hundreds of years later, once technology has caught up to what it should be. Essentially, think guns, cars, skyscrapers--and Allomancers.
Question: Who or what was your inspiration to start writing fantasy?
Brandon: When I was 14, I discovered the fantasy genre through Barbara Hambly's DRAGONSBANE. After her, I read McCaffrey and Rawn. They are really the ones who inspired me to start. When Robert Jordan's books came along, I was done for. ;)
Question: Which of your books is your favorite?
Brandon: Tough call. Right now, Warbreaker is the best written--though The Gathering Storm is better, I think. I think that Way of Kings will be awesome too. But you didn't ask for the best, you asked for my favorite. In that case, I'd probably have to say Elantris, as it was my first. Question: Which of your characters is your favorite?
Brandon: Tie between Lightsong and Vin.
Question: Were books a natural part of your childhood?
Brandon: Unlike a lot of writers, I wasn't a big reader when I was younger. I came to it late, when I was in eighth grade. Until then, none of the books (mostly ones about boys with pet dogs) that people had given me worked. And then I discovered fantasy. From then on, you never found me without a book. Often two or three.
Question: And do you have a favorite book or author?
Brandon: Right now, Pratchett is my favorite living author. Jordan was my favorite for a long, long time. I'd add the original three ladies--McCaffrey, Rawn, and Hambly--to that as well, as they were the ones to get me into this genre.
Question: In a recent (May 2009) interview you stated the following:
Q: What do you have planned after you finish Wheel of Time?
A: My next series will be The Way of Kings, which is the start of a big epic for me. I've plotted it as ten books. Fantasy writers, we get into this business because we love the big epics. We grow up reading Brooks and Jordan, and we get to the point where we say, "I want to do this myself."
This should tie you up for a good ten years after you finish The Wheel of Time. Does it mean that you are not going to write anymore one- or three- volume epic fantasy novels?
Can you give us some hints as to what The Way of Kings will be about?
Brandon: I've told Tor that I want to release KINGS on a schedule of two books, followed by one book in another setting, then two more KINGS. The series of KINGS has been named The Stormlight Archive. (The Way of Kings is the name of the first volume.)
So I should be doing plenty of shorter series in between. We'll see how busy this all keeps me. I think I'd go crazy if I weren't allowed to do new worlds every now and again.
But, then, KINGS turned out very, very well. (The first book is complete as of yesterday.) What is it about? Well...I'm struggling to find words to explain it. I could easily give a one or two line pitch on my previous books, but the scope of what I'm trying with this novel is such that it defies my attempts to pin it down.
It happens in a world where hurricane-like storms crash over the land every few days. All of plant life and animal life has had to evolve to deal with this. Plants, for instance, have shells they can withdraw into before a storm. Even trees pull in their leaves and branches. There is no soil, just endless fields of rock.
According to the mythology of the world, mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. Well, a group of evil spirits known as the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms, but the Voidbringers chased them there, trying to push them off of Roshar and into Damnation.
The voidbringers came against man a hundred by a hundred times, trying to destroy them or push them away. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, men resisted the Voidbringers ten thousand times, finally winning and finding peace.
Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world, essentially, is at war with itself--and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne.
That's the backstory. Probably too much of it. (Sorry.) The book follows a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn't understand and doesn't really want to fight. It will deal with the truth of what happened deep in mankind's past. Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?
I've been working on this book for ten years now. Rather than making it easier to describe and explain, that has made it more daunting. I'm sure I'll get better at it as I revise and as people ask me more often. ;)
Brandon: Needless to say, this will have some major spoilers for the Mistborn series. So turn back now if you don't want to read them.
Question: In Mistborn: There was mention of a man named Adonasuim. We were wondering if this man may have been Preservation, whom "died" before Vin took over. Is that who he was or was he someone else?
Brandon: The man who died before Vin took over was named Leras. (I've occasionally written it as Laras. I've said the names in my head for years, but I'm only now writing them down as people ask me on forums.) Leras, like Ati (aka Ruin), were NOT Adonalsium. (Sorry about the typo on that one in MB3. I wrote it down on the manuscript, and it didn't get put in quite right. We'll get it fixed.)
Adonalsium was something or someone else. You will find out more. There are clues in Warbreaker and The Way of Kings.
Question: In Mistborn #3 Hero of Ages: It isn't mentioned where all the Steel Inquisitors, Kandra, and Koloss went in the end. Do you feel that they were removed from the world and Sazed took all the lost souls to his better place?
Brandon: Marsh survived. (He'll show up in the Mistborn sequel series.) The Kandra were restored, and have taken a vow to live only in animal bodies. There will never be any more of them, but they are functionally immortal. So you'll see them again. The Koloss who were in the cavern at the time survived, and were changed to become a race that breeds true, rather than Hemalurgic monsters. More below.
Question: Also, We just took for granted that Sazed is with Tindwyl now. Is that so?
Brandon: Well, here's the thing. What Sazed is right now is something of a god in the classic Greek sense--a superpowered human being, elevated to a new stage of existence. Not GOD of all time and space. In a like manner, there are things that Sazed does not have power over. For instance, he couldn't bring Vin and Elend back.
Where Tindwyl exists is beyond space and time, in a place Sazed hasn't learned to touch yet. He might yet. If you want to add in your heads him working through that, feel free. But as it stands at the end of the book, he isn't yet with Tindwyl. (He is, however, with Kelsier--who refused to "Go toward the light" so to speak, and has been hanging around making trouble ever since he died. You can find hints of him in MB3 at the right moments.
Question: Of the people that were sick for the 16 days in comparison to just the 1 day, it is mentioned that they would be able to burn more precious metals (atium). Could it also be possible they are/were Mistborn - with the ability to burn all 16 metals?
Brandon: Well, what was going on here was a clue established and set by Leras before he died. He wanted something to indicate--should he be unable to inform mankind--that what was happening wasn't natural, but instead something intentional. He worried that men wouldn't be able to realize they were being made into Allomancers.
And so, the mist was set to do something very specific, as has to do with the interaction between the human soul, Allomancy, and the sixteen metals.
Each of the 'Shardworlds' I've written in (Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, Way of Kings) exists with the same cosmology. All things exist on three realms--the spiritual, the cognitive, and the physical. What's going on here is an interaction between the three realms. I don't to bore you with my made up philosophy, but I do have a cohesive metaphysical reasoning for how my worlds and magic works. And there is a single plane of existence--called Shadesmar, the Cognative Realm--which connects them all.
You will never need to know any of this to read and enjoy my books, but there is an overarching story behind all of them, going on in the background. Adonalsium, Hoid, the origin of Ati, Leras, the Dor, and the Voice (from Warbreaker) are all tied up in this.
Question: I'm really curious where the inspiration for Elantris came from. I really enjoyed that book. =)
Brandon: As with all of my books, there wasn't one single inspiration, but a number of them. A few of them here were: Chinese and its writing system, and how it relates to Japanese and Korean. The difference between teaching others of your faith in order to help them, as opposed to teaching them in order to aggrandize yourself. What it would be like to live in a leper colony. A king made into a beggar. A woman who, like a friend of mine, felt she was too tall and too smart for men to find her attractive. Magical servants that didn't look like any I'd read about before. And the thought of telling a story about someone who was basically a good, normal person--without a deep, dark past or terrible hidden flaw--who got trust into the worst situation I could imagine.
Question: Also just some technical questions--did you get noticed from JABberwocky from a cold-query or did you have connections?
Brandon: Originally, I queried. I got turned down. I then met Joshua at the Nebula awards and he told me to query again. That time, he liked the query and read sample chapters--then rejected those, but told me to submit to him what I wrote next. That happened a number of times, each book getting a rejection--but stronger encouragement that I was getting closer.
Question: What was the journey like when you first sought publication?
Brandon: Long, frustrating, and difficult. I wrote 13 novels before I sold Elantris, which was my sixth. The big change for me happened when I managed to figure out how to revise. I always had good ideas and got better and better at storytelling. But it was the power of revision that finally got me published.
Question: How long did it take?
Brandon: About eight years of dedicated writing and being rejected.
Question: I'd wager not long, considering how well written Elantris is. =)
Brandon: You're too kind. But remember that it was my sixth book. The first ones were dreadful.
Question: Are you comfortable working with editors and marketing people by now?
Brandon: Yes, actually. I've always been very comfortable with that part of the job. I think that after working so long on my own, being ignored, I was just finally happy to HAVE editors and marketing people.
Question: What is the best part about promoting your books? (in your opinion)
Brandon: Easy. Meeting my readers and having the chance to thank them, in person, for supporting me in my writing addiction.
Question: As a writer, what's your favorite part of the process?
Brandon: The first few chapters of a new book. When the world is exciting and new, and I get to do something different and challenging.
Question: Do you have a "drawer-full" of ideas waiting to be put to paper?
Brandon: More like a brain-full, but yes. It's particularly bad now as I had to shelve a number of projects I was working on in order to do the WoT. I don't regret it at all, but those stories keep pounding on the inside of my skull, yelling and begging for me to let them out.
Question: How do you come up with and create the maps for your novels? Is it a process of thought while creating the story itself or does it come later once you've written the story as a means to depict the places you've written about? Also do you scetch them yourself before having them drawn or is the process usually entirely done by a separate artist?
Brandon: I usually sketch myself out something vague to use as reference, then make it more and more detailed as I work through the book. At that point, I approach and artist and have them help me come up with a good visual style for the book and the map. If it's an artist I know well, I can sometimes let them do more of the work--the mistborn maps, for instance, were developed by Isaac with very little input from me beyond the text and some basic instructions.
Question: As the Gathering Storm draws near release, there are many WOT fans that have a large worry that you will not do RJ justice and ruin his series (especially after 4 years of waiting). How big of a worry is this for you, having to fill his shoes, and what are you doing to prepare yourself?
Brandon: They are right to worry, and I don't blame them at all. They have no assurance whatsoever that I won't ruin their book--the past has proven, I think, that series get ruined more than they get saved when a new author steps in.
I hope, very sincerely, to be in the second category, the one who saves a series rather than kills it. But only November will offer any proof other than my word, and I fully expect people to worry right up until they've read the novel.
The only preparation a person could really have for something like this was to be a lifelong fan. I think this book is good. I think it is VERY good. I'm not worried anymore myself, though I was quite worried when I began.
What can I offer fans right now? Only the promise that the book has had Harriet and Mr. Jordan's assistants working from the beginning to make certain I didn't screw it up. Beyond that, I've made it my first priority to stay true to his wishes and notes, and not deviate unless there is a very, very good reason.
(The only times I've 'deviated' was in to offer more explanation or depth to a scene. I haven't cut anything he wanted to be in the book, save for a few places where he contradicted himself. I.E. There were some scenes where he said "I'm thinking of doing this or this" or "I'm thinking of doing this, but I don't know." In those places, I've made the final call.)
All I can ask is this. Give me a chance. Read the book. After that, we'll talk.
(The most stressful part is probably the realization that no matter what I do, I won't be able to please everyone. Robert Jordan couldn't do that himself. So I will fail some of you. But I hope to please the vast majority of you.)
Question: Are you annoyed that people call you BS? After all your initials aren't the most flattering acronym.
Brandon: Honestly, I've lived with it all of my life. I've been called that since grade school. Heck, I sign my books with my initials. So no, it doesn't bother me.
All: I'm going to have to let that be it for the time being. I'll try to come back later tonight and do some more, but I'm driving home from Idaho tonight. So I might not be back until tomorrow afternoon.
Question: So first and foremost, is there going to be a 2nd Warbreaker?
Brandon: Yes, but I can't promise when. I want to do a book that deals more with the Lifeless and Nightblood, following Vasher and Vivenna a little further. But the WoT made me shelf this project for now. We'll see. It should happen eventually.
Question: Next I’ve been hearing about The Way of Kings series you are starting. Are you planning to have that as a single book or going to try and make it like a trilogy like Mistborn or a large 10 or more book series?
Brandon: It's going to be a big series. No promises on length right now, but I feel that it is going to be long. I have 10 books plotted right now, though some of those might get combined--essentially, there are 10 plot arcs I want to cover. But expect it to be big. The first book is done, and came in at 380,000 words before editing.
Question: Could you tell us, if you know, whether the Prologue of TGS is going to be published early ? It was for the last three books.
Brandon: I really wish I could give you something firm on this. I know it was done previously, and I've asked for it to be done again--just because so many people want to see it. But there's a big time crunch on this book, and I don't know if Tor can spare the energy for this right now. We'll see. I'll ask again.
Question: Brandon, how do you feel your identity and upbringing as a Mormon has affected your work?
Elantris, for instance, centers around a magic system that has essentially been broken because something in the world has changed--a "new revelation" if you will. And then Mistborn has at its core a set of holy writings that have been altered by an evil force.
These things seem decidely Mormon to me, or at least informed from a Mormon perspective. Do you feel that is the case?
Brandon: I don't set out to put anything specifically Mormon into my books, but who I am definitely influences what I write and how I write it. I'm always curious at the things people dig out of my writing--neither of the two points you mention above are things that I was conscious of, though they certainly do make interesting points now that you look at them.
My goal in storytelling is first and foremost to be true to the characters--their passions, beliefs, and goals. No matter what those are. I'm not trying to make a point consciously ever in my writing--though I do think that good stories should raise questions and make readers think.
Who I am as a person heavily influences what I write, and I draw from everything I can find--whether it be LDS, Buddhist, Islamic, or Atheist. It's all jumbled up there in that head of mine, and comes out in different characters who are seeking different things.
In other words, I'm not setting out to be like C.S. Lewis and write parables of belief. I'm trying more what Tolkien did (not, of course, meaning to compare myself favorably with the master) in that I tell story and setting first, and let theme and meaning take care of itself.
Fiction doesn't really exist--certainly doesn't have power--until it is read. You create the story in your head when you read it, and so your interpretations (and your pronunciations on the names) are completely valid in your telling of the story. The things you come up with may be things I noticed and did intentionally, they may be subconscious additions on my part, or they may simply be a result of your interaction with the text. But all three are valid.
Question: On a different but related note, I really love that you honestly look at religious convictions in your books and that you don't portray such convictions in a shallow way.
Brandon: Regardless of a person's beliefs, I think they would have to admit that religion and spirituality has played a large part in our development as a people. It's a very important thing to so many of us--and I also think that for most of us, our beliefs are nowhere near as simple as they seem when viewed from the outside. I appreciate your praise here, though I think I still have a lot to learn. There's a real line to walk in expressing a character's religious views without letting them sound preachy--the goal is to make the character real, but not bore the reader.
Question: Will The Way of Kings series be based on one of the worlds and magic systems you have already created or are you inventing a totally new one for this series?
Brandon: It will be new. There are going to be a lot of different types of magic in the world (I see there's a question below asking about that, so I'll answer more there.) But there will be two main magic systems for the first book. The first will deal with the manipulation of fundamental forces. (Gravity, Strong/weak atomic forces, Electromagnetic force, that sort of thing.) The second will be a transformation based magic system, whereby people can transform objects into one of the world's ten elements.
Question: Brandon, with you being a writer specialized in cool and unique magic systems, how was it to use and write with the magic system in Wheel of Time? Hard or easy? Did you have to come up with new weaves, or did Jordan already have unmentioned weaves written down somewhere? And how did it work for you to write channeling battles?
Brandon: Well, the Wheel of Time magic system was one of those that inspired me to make magic systems the way I do. I've long loved the magic in Mr. Jordan's books, and think he does a very good job of walking the line between having it feel scientific and still feel wondrous. He does tend to go a little bit further toward wonder--as opposed to science--but that has a great number of advantages for his story.
In answer, I've come up with just a few new weaves, but mostly I wanted to use his weaves in new ways. I think there's a lot of room to explore the use of Weaves and how people interact with the magic. Don't expect a LOT of this though. The focus is on the characters and the Last Battle at this point, but there were a few places where (mostly in throw-away, background moments) I was able to explore the magic a tad. I actually found it one of the easier things in the book, though I DID have to keep looking up how specific weaves were created. It gets confusing, particularly since men and women often do the weaves differently.
As for channeling battles...well, I can't really tell you if there are any of those in the book without giving anything away, now can I? So we'll have to RAFO that. ;)
Question: You have stated in your blog (http://www.brandonsanderson.com/blog/784/Another-Long-Winded-Explanation-of-Various-Things) that Mistborn had three magic systems (Allomancy, Feruchemy and Hemurology) and also that the Way of Kings will have upwards of 20. For comparison, how many magic systems would you say the Wheel of Time series has? Two (One Power and the True Power)? How do you classify other abilities (not necessarily related to the One Power or True Power) such as dreamwalking, viewing the pattern, wolfbrother-hoodness, and changing 'luck' or chance? Would you classify these abilities as a magic system in and of themselves? Has your chance to see the background material Robert Jordan left changed how you view these abilities?
Brandon: This kind of gets sticky, as it's all up to semantics. Really, you could say that Mistborn had a different magic system for each type of Misting. But at the same time, you could argue that something like X-Men--with huge numbers of powers--all falls under the same blanked 'magic system.' And take Hemalurgy in Mistborn 3--is it a new magic system, or just a reinterpretation of Allomancy and Feruchemy?
So what do I mean by twenty or thirty magic systems in KINGS? Hard to say, as I don't want to give spoilers. I have groupings of abilities that have to deal with a certain theme. Transformation, Travel, Pressure and Gravity, that sort of thing. By one way of counting, there are thirty of these--though by another way of grouping them together, there are closer to ten.
Anyway, I'd say that the Wheel of Time has a fair number of Magic systems. The biggest one would be the One Power/True Power, which is more of a blanket "Large" magic system kind of like Allomancy being a blanket for sixteen powers--only the WoT magic system is far larger. I'd count what Perrin/Egwene do in Tel as a different magic system. What Mat does as something else, the talents one can have with the Power something else. Though I'd group all of the Foretelling/Viewing powers into one.
Sounds like a topic for a paper, actually. Any of you academics out there feel like writing one?
Let's just say that The Wheel of Time has a smaller number of larger magic systems, and I tend to use a larger number of smaller magic systems. Confusing enough? ;)
Question: One common theme in magic systems across fantasy is the use of artifacts to focus, increase or do something specific with the magic. Inclusion of artifacts is something you have avoided in your magic systems (although I will say I haven't missed them). Is there a reason for this? How has your writing changed with the 'forced' introduction of artifacts (i.e. finishing the Wheel of Time)? Do you plan on using artifacts in your own works after you finish the Wheel of Time?
Brandon: I've not done artifacts for the same reason I've not yet done a lot of things--not because I don't want to, but because I like to keep the focus in a given book or books. There wasn't room for yet another extrapolation in that direction when writing the Mistborn books, and the magic system didn't really allow for it.
However, I think there is a lot of room to explore magic artifacts. I've long been wanting to do something that refines magic and uses technology based on it, in kind of a magic-punk sort of way. KINGS, for instance, does use artifacts and magical items--very specific kinds, mind you, that are built into the framework of the magic system. But they're there. One of the big elements of this world will be the existence of Shardplate (magically enhanced, powered plate armor) and Shardblades (large, summonable swords designed to cut through steel and stone.)
This isn't really because of the WoT--I wrote the original draft of this book long before I was published, let alone working on the WoT--but I have always lilked the use of artifacts in the WoT world, and it has been fun to use some of them in that setting.
Question: I found this on a blog posted July 2008. Does it have any relationship to reality?
- ...No matter your race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or belief system, you will find something to love in "The Way of Kings". There were pirates, ninjas, monkeys, fireworks, grand journeys, infidels dragged through streets by dragons and a fair amount of buckles swashed. There were ladies romanced, men romanced, sheep romanced and one scene where even two mice get it on. And if you can forgive an inordinate amount of abuse aimed at Canadians, this just may be the book for you. Be forewarned, however, if you can't abide graphic depictions of sexual content that would make Laurell K. Hamilton blush and cover her naughty bits, you might want to skip this book...
- ...The way Brandon Sanderson breathes life into this story is inspirational. The characters, the storyline, the magic -- seemingly woven (as only Brandon can) from sheer nothingness. One of my favorite parts of the book is where the Wizard Ooflar divides one rather simple system of magic into five complex subsets, each with its own arcane history and labyrinthine steps. Who would have thought the apprentice Pemberly could put an entire village to sleep by tapping out a quadrille in her clogs? Although it would seem implausible, somehow his magical system works, especially the dance-off. I also enjoyed the ten-day feast in section two, chapter 85. I don't know if I'll ever forget the scene in which we see King Horag the Midleth eating live grunthyean orbs. (gag) I loved this book and can't wait for the sequel...
Brandon: Ha. These are some of the amusing fake reviews for KINGS that readers have been posting on Amazon. For some reason, Amazon put up a page for this book years and years ago, when I got my first contract. Somehow, they heard I was working on a book called THE WAY OF KINGS, and jumped the gun in adding a page for it, even though I was still working on the book. (I've been planning, writing, and wrestling with this story for some ten years now.)
Anyway, readers noticed the page and began having fun with it. None of them have read the book, but that hasn't stopped them from reviewing it. There are even pictures of it, including photoshops of me holding a fake book. Look for it on Amazon. It's rather amusing.
Question: Your stories are so indepth and unique in the magical systems and religions. I was wondering if you have always, even through childhood, been creative with stories? Have some of the ideas in these books been something you created when young and then evolved into a story now? Have you always been interested in writing stories as you grew up? Did you have that notebook in class scribbling full of stories and ideas while sitting in class supposedly taking notes?
Brandon: I've spoken before on the fact I didn't discover fantasy, and reading, until I was fourteen. (The book, if I haven't mentioned it on this forum yet, was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly.)
Before then, I was a daydreamer. I was always daydreaming--I was never in the room where I was supposed to be listening or studying. I was off somewhere else. Oddly, though, I didn't make the connection between this and writing until I was given that first fantasy novel.
When I read that book (and moved on to McCaffrey, as it was next in the card catalogue) I discovered something that blew my mind. Here were people who were taking what I did, sitting around and imagining stories, and they were making a living out of it.
I hit the ground running, so to speak. Started my first novel the next fall, began gobbling up fantasy books wherever I could find them, began writing notes and ideas in my notebooks instead of (as you guessed) the notes I was supposed to be taking. Even after all this, though, I was persuaded that people couldn't make a living as an author. So I went to school my freshman year as a bio-chemist, on track for becoming a doctor. That lasted about one year of frustrating homework and classes spent daydreaming before I made the decision to try becoming a writer.
Question: Is there any information about Way of Kings that you can give us at this time?
Brandon: I've wanted to do a long epic for a while. I guess that's what comes from reading Jordan and the others while growing up. And so, way back in the late 90's--when I was experimenting with my style--I started working on ideas for a longer form series. I knew the real trick for me would be to do it in a way that it didn't feel stale after just a few books; there needed to be enough to the world, the magic, and the plot arcs that I (and hopefully readers) would keep interested in the series for such a long time.
What it gives me (the thing that I want in doing a longer epic) is the chance to grow characters across a larger number of books. Dig into their pasts, explore what makes them think the way they do, in ways that even a trilogy cannot. In KINGS, I don't want to do a longer 'saga' style series, with each book having a new set of characters. I want this to be one overarching story.
One of the things that has itched at me for long time in my fantasy reading is the sense of loss that so many fantasy series have. I'm not complaining, mind you--I love these books. But it seems like a theme in a large number of fantasy books is the disappearance of magic and wonder from the world. In Tolkien, the Elves are leaving. In Jordan, technology is growing and perhaps beginning an age where it will overshadow magic. It's very present in Brooks, where the fantasy world is becoming our world. Even Eddings seemed to have it, with a sense that sorcerers are less common, and with things like the only Dragons dying, the gods leaving.
I've wanted to do a series, then, where the magic isn't going away--it's coming back. Where the world is becoming a more wondrous place. Where new races aren't vanishing, they're being discovered.
Obviously, I'm not the first to approach a fantasy this way. Maybe I'm reading too much into the other books, seeing something that isn't there. But the return of magic is one of the main concepts that is driving me. Well, that and enormous swords and magical power armor.
Question: Also, how did the experiment with Warbreaker turn out, and are you planning to do this with any other things you write?
Brandon: It's so hard to tell, sales-wise, how it helped or hurt. I don't, honestly, think it hurt--and I think it could only have helped, as more and more WoT readers turned their eyes on me and were able to grab a book to read for free. I do plan to do it again in the future, most likely with the Warbreaker sequel.
Question: Finally, do you have any advice for people that would like to write for a living?
Brandon: First and foremost, don't give up. It can take a while. It takes time to master anything--whether it be writing, playing the piano, or brain surgery. People are willing to dedicate eight years or more to becoming a doctor. If you really want to be a writer, you need to be willing to dedicate the same amount of time and effort. Practice. Practice some more. Write a book, then write another, then write another. (I didn't sell my first, or my second, or my fifth. Elantris was my sixth book.)
Secondly, write what you love. Don't try and guess the market. Read the type of books you want to write, pay attention to what they do, and decide what it is you want to say and how you will add to the discussion. What makes your additions to the conversation unique? Write it because you feel it inside of you, not because it's what seems to be hot right now.
Finally, if I may make a plug, hop over to writingexcuses.com and listen to me and the others on our writing podcast talk about this sort of thing. ;)
Question: Just one question, though I'm expecting a RAFO: Will the White Tower, the physical structure itself, be destroyed at the end of TGS or any other point in aMoL?
Brandon: Sorry, but...well, RAFO. I'm under contract not to give things like this away. We do know that Egwene has foreseen a strike by the Seanchan on the White Tower. We don't know how this will happen, though, or even if she's interpreting things correctly.
Question: When it comes to crazy plot twist, fascinating characters, magic systems, humor, religion, etc. What do you feel, for you, is the hardest part to get on paper or come up with?
Brandon: I would say that the most difficult parts have to do with getting a character's internal conflicts (if they have them) right. Sometimes, this can take a lot of exploration. Sazed in MB3 took a LOT of work before I was satisfied.
Second hardest is getting the humor right, particularly witty style humor like in the Lightsong sections of Warbreaker. There are frequently times when I spend hours on a single line in sections like that.
Question: By the way, all of your work is pure Awesomeness!
Brandon: Thanks! I try my best to avoid watered-down awesomeness, if only because of the aftertaste. ;)
Question: How difficult was it to come up with new magic systems considering the wealth of fantasy out there with already established magic systems(that seems to just get re-used in different formats by various other authors)? Do you have more systems to be used in future novels? If so how do you go about envisioning them and creating the rules in the first place?
Brandon: I've got a few very nifty ones reserved for the future. Don't worry; I'm not nearly out of ideas yet. And I'm constantly having new ones I don't have time to use.
There IS a lot of fantasy out there. And yet, I think there's a great deal of room left for exploration in magic. The frontiers of imagination are still rough-and-tumble, unexplored places, particularly in this genre. It seems that a lot of fantasy sticks very close to the same kinds of magic systems.
One of the things I've come to believe is that limitations are more important than powers in many cases. By not limiting themselves in what their characters can do, authors often don't have to really explore the extent of the powers they've created. If you are always handing your characters new powers, then they'll use the new and best--kind of like giving your teen a new car every year, rather than forcing them to test the limits of what that old junker will do. Often, those old cars will surprise you. Same thing for the magic. When you're constrained, as a writer, by the limits of the magic, it forces you to be more creative. And that can lead to better storytelling and a more fleshed out magic.
Now, don't take this as a condemnation of other books. As writers, we all choose different things to focus on in our stories, and we all try different things. Jordan's ability to use viewpoint, Martin's use of character, Pratchett's use of wit--these are things that far outshine anything I've been able to manage in my works so far. But I do think that there is a great deal of unexplored ground still left to map out in some of these areas. (Specifically magic and setting.) A great magic system for me is one that has good limitations that force the characters to be creative, uses good visuals to make the scenes more engaging while written, and has ties to the culture of the world and the motivations of the viewpoint characters.
Question: I love Mistborn! (also Elantris). I can hardly wait to begin on Warbreaker. I know many have questions on the metal based ideas. In Elantris, where did the idea for the disease come from?
Brandon: Three things. First, some reading I was doing about leper colonies. I wanted to tell a story about someone locked into a similar situation, only tie it to the magic of the world and the history of the city itself.
Secondly, I had this crazy desire to do a book starring zombies that nobody would realize were zombies. It was one of those things that stuck in my head. Undead corpses, with weak bodies that slowly stop working? As heroes? Could I make it work? Finally, the idea of pain that didn't go away. What would happen if every little wound you took continued to hurt just as badly as it had in the first moment of pain? And what if that pain never, never went away?
Question: Are you going to write more about the Mistborn? There's still those mysterious metals, and it's a brand new world out there now so many possiblities you could do with that! :)
Brandon: I will, someday, write a follow-up trilogy to Mistborn. It will be set several hundred years after the events of the first trilogy, after technology has caught up to where it should be. Essentially, these will be urban fantasy stories set in the same world. Guns, cars, skyscrapers--and Allomancers.
That's still pretty far off, though. The other metals are being revealed on the poster I'm releasing of the Allomantic table. Should be for sale on my website sometime soon, though someone here can probably link to the image I posted of it, which has the other metals explained. (I can't remember where exactly that link is right now.)
Hero of the new trilogy would be a nicrosil Misting.
Question: Also, was there an inspiration for Vin and if so who/what was it?
Brandon: Vin has been hard for me to pin down, inspiration wise. I tried so many different variations on her character (even writing her character as a boy) that it's hard to pinpoint when I got it right. There was no one single inspiration for her. (Unlike Sarene, who was based on a friend of mine.) She's a mix of my sisters, a good writer friend of mine, and a dozen different other little bits of people.
The time when I got her character RIGHT was when I wrote the scene that became her first in Mistborn, where she's watching the ash blow in the street, and envies it for its freedom. That, mixed with Kelsier's observation that she isn't a bad person--she just thinks everyone else is--were the big points where her character took form.
And...wow. These forum pages are pretty long, aren't they? I originally looked in and thought "Three pages? I can do that pretty quickly." And then, I realized they kind of go on, and on, and on.... I'm supposed to be here through tomorrow, but I'll probably keep accepting questions until tomorrow evening, then make a post that 'ends' the submission phase of the process. Then I'll slowly work through the questions that were posted before then. That's going to be enough work that I don't think I'll have a chance to say anything on the other thread(s) about my books specifically, so if you want something answered there, move them over to this thread. (If you don't mind.)
Question: Brandon, you are noted for your fairly concise epic novels. But I am curious about how the final volume of The Wheel of Time, which was envisioned by Robert Jordan as a final and single book, get to be so long? Not just a little longer but incredibly longer (possibly over 900,000 words). 1. Did Robert Jordan totally miscalculate the size his final book? Or didn't he get too far writing it and had no idea of how long it would be? 2. Is it including every note Jordan had on the subject because no one is sure what he really wanted to use? 3. Is it being turned into a self-contained trilogy because a lot of people (like me) haven't read the entire 11 book series (or by now have forgotten the story), and it has to include some back-story?
Brandon: I've wondered this myself, actually, in some form. As a long time reader of the series, when he began saying it would be one book, I was very curious how he'd pull it off. And then I saw the notes, and I was left scratching my head a little bit.
It's not option three--I was doing a little bit more of this, but Harriet requested that I scale it back. Her opinion (and it was Robert Jordan's opinion) is that the series is much too long to spend time recapping in every book. She was right, and I trimmed a lot of it.
No. 2 might have some influence here. Robert Jordan could have chosen to cut out characters and leave out scenes he had in the notes; it doesn't feel right for me to do that.
But I think, overall, it's something that you didn't mention at all. Robert Jordan knew this was going to be a BIG book. He began promising it would be the last, but also that it would be so big that readers would need a cart to get it out of the store. I think he was planning a single, massive book at 800k words or so.
But he DID want it to be one book--partially, I suspect, because he knew his time was short. He wanted to get it done. If he hadn't been sick, however, I don't think he would have started calling this the last book.
Harriet has told me on several occasions that she didn't think he would have done it in one book, if he'd been given the freedom to approach the writing how he wanted. In the end, there is SO much to do that it was going to end up like this no matter what. Unless I crammed it all in and forgot about a lot of the characters. Would Robert Jordan have been able to do it in one book? Really? I don't know. I think that, if he'd lived, he might have worked some magic and gotten it done in one 400 or 500k volume. But I feel the need to be very careful and not ruin this series by strangulation. It's not going to go on forever, but it does need a little room to breathe.
Question: As an author, you have acheived moderate success. People like you and have heard of you withing the genre and you have established a relationship with your publishing company that let's you get a lot of books published.
This is the level of success I want as a writer and I am just wondering how financially viable this is. Like, can you write only or so you need a so-called day job. Are you able to support your family with your writing alone? That kind of thing. Sorry if that is kind of a personal question. I've just always wondered how much money a writer makes once they've "made it".
Brandon: I had a lot of questions like this myself during my days trying to break in. Everyone told me it wasn't possible to make a living as a writer--that, like an actor or a musician, I'd spend my life poor and obscure.
One of the big turning-points came when I met and talked to a professional writer who had had modest success. Not a huge name, but a person who had done what you hope to do. Publish a book every year, never be a household name, but well-known enough in-genre that a large portion of the readers had seen his books on the shelves, though many still had no idea who he was. (The author was David Farland, by the way.)
I wish I could give you that same experience, though it's going to be harder while not face to face. The main tone of the meeting and his encouragement was this: IT IS POSSIBLE and YOU CAN DO IT!
Not everyone can make a living at writing. But it's very within reach, and for the dedicated author willing to practice and learn, it's not as difficult to make a living as many make it out to be.
I do make a living full time at this, and have for several years now. In the early years, it wasn't what many would call a 'good' income, but it was enough for me. Now, it is an excellent income. Not "Fly to Europe every week" income, but certainly "Take your friends out to eat once in a while" income.
A standard royalty for an author would be to 10-15% on a hardcover, and around 8% on a paperback. Usually, the percentage gets better the more copies you sell.
Now, books don't sell the huge numbers that people usually think they do. If you sell 2k hardcover copies in your first week, you can get on the NYT list. (Though it's not certain--it depends on what week it is and what other books came out. 3k is a pretty sure bet, though.)
Elantris--an obscure, but successful, book--sold about 10k copies in hardcover and around 14k copies its first year in paperback. I've actually sold increasing numbers each year in paperback, as I've become more well-known. But even if you pretend that I didn't, and this is what I'd earn on every book, you can see that for the dedicated writer, this could be viable as an income. About $3 per book hardcover and about $.60 paperback gets us around 39k income off the book. Minus agent fees and self-employment tax, that starts to look rather small. (Just under 30k). But you could live on that, if you had to. (Remember you can live anywhere you want as a writer, so you can pick someplace cheap.)
I'd consider 30k a year to do what I love an extremely good trade-off. Yes, your friends in computers will be making far more. But you get to be a writer.
The only caveat here is that I did indeed get very lucky with my placement at Tor. It's the successful hardcover release that makes the above scenario work. If you only had the paperback, and everyone who bought the hardcover bought that instead, you'd have to be selling around 60k copies to make it work. That's very possible, and I know a lot of midlist writers who do it. Anyway, numbers shouldn't be what gets you into this business. If you have to tell stories, tell them. To be a writer, I feel you need to have such a love of the process that you'd write those books even if you never sold one. It's not about the money, and really shouldn't be. (And sorry to go on so long. I just feel it important to give aspiring writers the same kinds of help that I got.)
Question: Is Clod a Lifeless Arsteel?
Brandon: Yes. Good eye.
Question: Are/were all the Five Scholars Returned?
Question: How could Vasher become Drab, since he would have to give up his Big Breath to do so?
Brandon: The Divine Breath can be hid. Essentially, you have to view yourself NOT as a god at all, using a very specific bit of mental gymnastics. As a Returned, your body changes based on how you see yourself. (This, by the way, is an indication that Lightsong was more pleased with himself than he ever let on.
You don't lose your Divine Breath, but it does go into hiding, making you look like a normal person. But you're still Returned, and are consuming a Breath at one a week. If you give away your other Breaths, you retain this hidden one, but your body will still consume its own spirit if left to do so. So you still need a Breath a week to survive, and will die the week you don't get one.
I left this as an intentional place to explore the magic in the sequel, which I had planned to be writing (and posting on my website) by the time Warbreaker was out in stores. The WoT has diverted me, and so I feel bad, since this ends up being a confusing question that a number of readers have had. The hints toward how this is working are very difficult to find. (The biggest one is probably in the opening, where Vasher thinks about how he could reach the Fifth Heightening instantly, if he wanted to.)
Question: Can you give any history on Denth? I don't know what he did as one of the Five Scholars. What was his roll during the Manywar?
Brandon: Boy, you know, I'd rather leave the history of the Five and the Manywar for the sequel. Denth was there, and at first he tried to stop it, work as a peacemaker, and eventually took Vasher's side. Until the death of his sister.
Question: How would a tongueless God-King give up his Breaths?
Brandon: It involves the God King having a child. (Yes, it's possible.) I talk a little more about this in the annotations, but don't want to give too much away here.
Backup plan is to have a Returned heal him, like actually ended up happening.
Question: If you could pick any actress to play Blushweaver in a movie based on Warbreaker, who would you pick? Monica Bulluci and Salma Hayek are top picks on your forum! Brandon: Monica Bellucci is a fantastic choice. Either her, or Angelina Jolie.
Question: What's the earliest that we'll be seeing more of Scribbler (I'd heard a bunch about it at TWG, and so I found the sample chapters on your site and now I'm REALLY wanting more of it, so I'd like to know when I should start looking again...)?
Brandon: Sigh. I really want to do something with Scribbler, but I can't justify it right now. I'm doing the fourth Alcatraz because I can't put it off any longer because of contracts, and KINGS because Tor really wants a solo Brandon book next year. But I can't justify working too much on a project that hasn't been sold and which--if published--would end up pulling me into another side trilogy. I have to leave the WoT with the space it needs and deserves. Until it is completed, I have to shelve side projects. That, unfortunately, includes Scribbler. For now.
There are some things in the works with it, and I'm very excited about the possibilities. But there's nothing tangible I can give you now. It's coming. Maybe sooner than I've made it sound, but best to be careful as nothing is set yet.
Question: Do you know when we'll start seeing Way of Kings? Sample chapters in particular. This series sounds freaking amazing and I can't wait to see more of it. So, yeah..now that the first draft is finished (congratulations, by the way), I'm quite curious...
Brandon: My plan is to start releasing sample chapters of Kings next year sometime in the spring. Not too close to draw any attention away from the release of The Gathering Storm, but far enough ahead of the Kings launch to give a good preview. February, perhaps? If you don't see them by then, I officially give you permission to send my assistant a reminder email to 'poke' me into doing it.
Question: And lastly, do you think you're going to be able to do any readings at the Idaho Falls signing later this year, or is it going to be entirely focused on WoT? Because I (and I'm sure others) would TOTALLY love to hear some solo-Brandon stuff. (Oh, and related, do you know WHEN the I.F. signing will be?)
Brandon: I'll be doing a signing during the Christmas Season, though it will be focused on the WoT. (It's going to be very close to Christmas, maybe the Friday or Saturday before.) Perhaps I'll ask the bookstore if I can come back after the WoT fans are sated to do a reading on another day, after Christmas, focused on my own work. I'll consider it. Seems like it might be a good idea.
Question: Hey Mr.. Sanderson, I know that AMoL should be finished in the next couple years (at the latest.) I know that you tend to work on multiple projects. Unless you are planning to do another (totally) new project can we expect another Warbreaker, Elantris, or preferably Mistborn book as you release the ten Way of Kings books?
Brandon: I do like to work on multiple projects. During those early unpublished years, I was always hopping from book to book, and it became habit for me. It really helps me keep fresh, allowing me to try new things and experiment with my style. One of the hardest thinks about working on the WoT has been the number of side projects I've had to set aside because of lack of time.
And so, with the Way of Kings series (aka The Stormlight Archive) I plan to do the books on a 2-to-1 ration. Meaning two Stormlight books, followed by one random side book. Generally, you should expect three books every two years from me, as that's been my speed. So there should still be a Stormlight book every year, though we'll see.
Some will be new things, others will be in current series. My current plans are to do an Elantris sequel in 2015, for instance, and I'd like to do the second (and final) Warbreaker book eventually.
Question: Also, is there a common reality/universe throughout all of you works (WoT excluded)? The gods and magic system of your books you have mentioned as pieces of a larger source. I know I am mistaking the language a bit it was a while ago that I read this. But Preservation and Ruin were linked and you referenced possible deities in Elantris, not to mention Austre. I know your magic systems are all well thought out and the rules have practical founding. With this in mind, I assume your deities and beings of power would have universally applied links and rules as well. I figure they all exist in the same multi-verse.
Brandon: I am remaining mostly closed-lipped on this topic, as I don't want to spoil the story and discovery. There is a lot of discussion about it on my website. I can confirm what I've said earlier, that there is a common character appearing in the books, and that there is a single cosmology to all of the Shardworlds and their books (Elantris, Mistborn, Warbreaker, White Sand, Dragonsteel, The Silence Divine, etc. Those last three are unpublished, by the way.) There is also a connection between how the magic works in each book, as well as the fundamental metaphysics of the worlds.
Question: I almost forgot, now that The Way of Kings first book, first draft is finished. When can we expect that to hit the shelves?
Brandon: August or September of next year. (Huzzah!)
Question: Now my interest is perked. Which character is in both Mistborn and Elantris? I must know!! Of corse if it is a secret for another book don't tell me.
Brandon: I suggest looking through my forums and talking to the people there. Also, some questions on this forum talk about the issue. I don't like to spell things out, and so I stay away from giving too much. Look around; it's not to difficult to find, now that people have begun to catch on.
Question: Oops, I missed the Twitter Q&A, but I noticed there you're doing a signing in the DC area later this year. Thanks!
Brandon: Yup. Soon after The Gathering Storm is released. Details will be on my website soon. Will also be in New York, at the B&N flagship store on Manhattan.
Question: Is it possible that there could be more than 4 Alcatraz books, or will the story conclude there?
Brandon: I pitched the series at 6 books, but only signed on for four at first. And so, while I'll be fulfilling my four book contract (happily) I don't know that I'll have time to write an Alcatraz book in 2010 (for 2011 release.) I may have to let it stop at four for now, as to not take time away from the Wheel of Time. We'll see how I feel once I've finished all three of those, and we'll see how interested readers are in the books. But there's certainly a possibility.
Question: Welcome and it is great to know that you live not too far from me. My question is this. I know that Orson Scott Card taught some Comparative Science Fiction class at BYU. Did you every take it and if so how much influence did it have on your wanting to write? I have enjoyed all of your books and at family gatherings that do get discussed.
Brandon: I actually never got to take a class from Mr. Card, though I have enjoyed his books quite a bit. From what I hear, he has excellent advice for writers, but he wasn't teaching any classes at BYU when I was there. I did take a class from David Farland, which was extremely helpful. By then I was already a very dedicated writer (I had just finished Elantris) but didn't know much about the business at all. Mr. Farland's class taught me a lot about the nuts and bolts of getting published, and one could say that I owe my eventual publication--and a lot of my success--to what he taught and how helpful he was in how he taught it. Excellent person and writer.
Question: When is the next Alcatraz book coming out?
Brandon: Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia is in stores October 1st (though Scholastic often ships early, so you might find it as early as September 1st.) Book four--Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens--is being written now and will come out the following October.
Question: Now my question: is Warbreaker going to be the start of a series? Brandon: I've talked about the sequel. I wouldn't call it a series, though, since I'm only intending it to be two books. I actually plotted it at one, then during drafting decided that some of the things I wanted to do would be better in a sequel, and started calling it a two-book series. Tor signed me for two, and have put the second one on infinite hiatus, allowing me to turn it in whenever I want.
Question: About your characters, Brandon: Which ones are the most like yourself?
Brandon: There's a piece of me in every one of them, but I'm not really like any of them. People who know me well say that Alcatraz's humor reminds them of my humor (which is different from Lightsong's humor or Kelsier's humor, which are different from mine.) Elend in the original Mistborn book represents so of how I've been known to act (bringing books to social events.) Shuden in Elantris has a lot of me in him, actually. Raoden has my optimism, Hrathen my logical and thoughtful (and dangerously devious) mind, Vin my pragmatic determination, and Sarene my utter lack of skill with painting or drawing. :smileywink: In the end, I don't know if I can pick one who is most like me. Perhaps you should ask my wife. She'd probably be better at seeing this than I am.
Question: Your favorite male and female characters you've written?
Brandon: Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by favorite. A lot of people ask me this question, and my response is often different. Who am I writing at the time, what I am feeling at the time? Lightsong makes me laugh, but Kelsier is conflicted in a more personal, dangerous way--and that appeals to me. Vin is best rounded, but Sazed is (perhaps) closest to my heart.
Question: Your favorite male/female characters of all time?
Brandon: Man, I'm bad at answering questions like this. Okay, male is probably Jean Valjean. Female...urg... Moiraine, maybe? Sioned from Dragon Prince is pretty awesome too. Double urg. I don't know. Jenny from Dragonsbane has long been one of my favorites, so maybe I'd pick her.
Question: About research: What, if any, research for your novels have you done, and how did you do it?
Brandon: The calling of a fiction writer, particularly a fantasy writer, is to know a little bit about a lot of things--just enough to be dangerous, so to speak. I tend to read survey books that talk about history--things that give overviews, such as the history of warfare, or the history of the sword, or navigation. That kind of thing. I would say I do a fair amount of research, but mostly it's an attempt to dump as much into my brain as possible for spawning stories and writing about things intelligently. For Mistborn, I researched canals, eunuchs, and London during the mid 1800's.
Question: The Eternal Question: Mac or PC?
Brandon: PC. Not out of any avid devotion, but because it's what I've grown up on. My wife is a Mac person, though.
Question: Your word processor of choice?
Brandon: Word. Same reason as above.
Question: Do you have music on real loud when you write (I've heard Steve King writes like that) or is it soft in the background?
Brandon: Soft in the background.
Question: Is the Way of Kings your biggest work planned or do you have something on the shelf that's bigger?
Brandon: Well...depends. Dragonsteel is plotted at seven books. And I plan two more trilogies, eventually, in the Mistborn world. But KINGS was always planned and plotted to be the big war epic, focusing on large numbers of characters across a large number of books. Mistborn will span hundreds and hundreds of years, though, so it could be 'bigger' by some definitions. Dragonsteel also is in the running, but for reasons I can't really explain without giving away things I don't want to.
Question: Your favorite movies?
Brandon: Gattica. The Fifth Element, actually, is up there too. The Prisoner of Azkaban movie. Empire Strikes Back. Sneakers. Jacky Chan's Operation Condor. (I know, I know.) The Emperor's New Groove. Star Trek: First Contact.
To be honest, that's probably not a great list. Those are the movies I watch over and over, but there are a lot of movies I love, but have only seen a few times. I'm not generally a 'watch it over again' type of guy, so it's hard to pick favorites. I come back to the genre films or things like Jacky Chan because they're quirky and rewatchable, but that doesn't actually mean they're my favorite--or that they've influenced me as much as other films. For instance, Laurence of Arabia blew my mind, and The Sting influenced how I write quite a bit. But I've only ever seen those films once. But I do keep coming back to Gattica as one of the movies I think does what storytelling should do, when done perfectly right.
Question: Your favorite music?
Brandon: Depends on the month. Right now? Daft Punk. Before that? Anything by Harry Gregson Williams. (Often, his music is better than the film it is in.) Metallica has been a long-standing favorite of mine, though I've been listening to a lot of Desprez lately. Question: I'd also like to thank Brandon here for being so wonderfully accessible. It's an excellent gesture Brandon, great of you. Your fans will always love you for it.
Brandon: No problem! Though that list above made me work. (Wipes brow.) I'm terrible at the "What's your favorite..." type questions.
Question: I have some more in-depth questions that might be RAFO'd. For fans who want to know what I'm talking about, go here. Here they are:
Who is Hoid in WoA? We (TWG) have found some candidates:
- Wolfhound merchant
- Terris person that Elend meets after Vin went back to Luthade
- Teur or old Jed (the two Skaa in the first Sazed chapter)
- Crazy canibal Skaa (I doubt it though)
We already know it isn't the man who discovered duralumin, or the skaa leader outside the dress shop, or the old skaa who waits with the Holy First Witness when the koloss attack. I think those were all of the characters that we found as candidates.
Brandon: People are really close to this one, and I noticed that later in this thread, you or someone else mentioned the footprints in the deleted scene.
Hoid's appearance in MB:WA is a little unlike the others. When the scene at the Well was moved in revision, one of Hoid’s major influences on the book had to go (For various reasons.) Left in the book is only one little hint, really. A character notices something odd about someone, but doesn't dwell on it. You can probably find the line if you look very closely.
Let me say this. Hoid got wrapped up in things he didn't expect to be involved in, and they dominated much of his time during the events of MB:WA. He spent most of the book in a different place from most of the viewpoint characters. He's only near them for a very short time, and he's deeply in disguise. I couldn't include his name, as he'd never have used the name "Hoid" for himself there, because it wouldn't have been right for the disguise. He'd have used another pseudonym. (He didn't, by the way, mention one.)
I've probably said too much already. Now, perhaps what people should asking me is this: “What Hoid has been up to in all of these books?” Or, maybe they shouldn't ask me, as I wouldn't be likely to answer. (There are clues in the novels, however.) No, he’s not just hanging out. Yes, I know what he’s been doing. Will I write his scenes some day? Maybe. We’ll see. There may be short stories posted on my website.
Question: Now this one will probably be RAFO'd: I know you already said that there are four shards outside of Ati and Leras in your other books. Could you tell us the numbers per book? Is just a standard two per book? Or do some have more than others?
Brandon: Some world have more than others. You have seen the effects, influences, and work of four other Shards. One Shard, however, was no longer on the world by the time the story was told there.
Question: I know that we've "interacted with two directly" (the pool in Elantris, and The Voice that called Lightsong back to life) that we've "seen it's power" (Dahkhor??) and another that we've seen their infulence (I have no idea on this one, though I think it might be whatever pointed out Aon Rao in Elantris to Raoden)
Brandon: Nice guesses on most of those. You’ve got some things right. You’ve got some things wrong. The only thing I'll confirm (and I don’t think I’ve said this before) is that The Voice is, indeed, one of the Shards of Adonalsium. (Endowment is that Shard’s true name, by the way.)
Question: My last question shouldn't be as hard to answer and that is: Who is in charge of the Mistborn movie you mentioned at the #tweettheauthor? Thank you so much, I love your books!
Brandon: It is a small production studio, so nobody you'd recognize. The producer is a fan of the Mistborn books who has some credentials in independent films, and who has impressed me with his treatment of the books and his determination to make the film. This individual is starting a production company to focus on the film. We're in the contract stages now, and once that is done, I can be more specific.
It's not like the Alcatraz movie, which was optioned directly by a studio. Because of that, the Mistborn movie is probably a lot less likely to happen--but, the hands it is in are quite good. Anything having to do with Hollywood is a long-shot in the first place, so (after meeting with the producer) I decided that I'd rather take the slightly more unlikely chance in exchange for the opportunity to work with someone I felt understood the books.
Question: BTW, Thank you for your Terry Pratchet recomendation. I have read almost all of them and love them.
Brandon: The man's a genius. Pure and simple. It took him a little while to convert me, but now that he has, I’m a big fan.
Question: I have a very specific question about The Wheel of Time series. One of my favorite characters has been MIA for way too long. I'm assuming Moiraine Damodred returns to the playing field I'm just wanting to know if it will be in the upcoming book or further on?
Brandon: This is exactly the sort of thing I've been asked by the Jordan estate to stay quiet about, I'm afraid. (Sorry.) Some things the fans are expecting will happen in this book. But some things had to be saved for the next two volumes. And of Mr. Jordan's instructions were quite surprising, when seen in the light of what everyone expects will happen. That's really not an answer, is it? Well, let's just call it a RAFO.
Question: What is the x in Aon Mea? Is it one of the Shard-pools?
Brandon: Afraid not. Aon Mea references the expanded region within which the "Elantris Effect" will create Elantrians. The X is fertile valley with a high density of life, a place with a lot of cognitive activity. (Cognitive as defined by Realmatic Theory includes the 'thoughts' of all things that exist, not just human beings. The more complex the life form, the stronger its presence on the Cognitive Realm.)
Question: I'm feeling a little bewildered; I keep seeing references to "Hoid" throughout these boards and the twitter page, and I'm assuming this is a character who makes a short appearance in each book. If so, is there an actual story going on with him, or was he just someone put in as a sort of "Easter egg?"
Brandon: I think I've covered this in responses I gave before getting to your question. My forums have a lot more information. (And a lot of guesses.)
Question: If you were going to write a novel in a genre other than scifi/fantasy which genre do you think that you would write in?
Brandon: Hmm... Perhaps a historical. Something I could really sink my teeth into. I could also see myself writing a mystery or a thriller.
The thing is, unless I'm under some kind of restriction, I know that any of those three would probably end up having fantasy or sf elements. It's just how I think.
Question: Have you ever considered writing a non-fiction book based of Writing Excuses?
Brandon: I have indeed considered it. We'll see. I guess it depends on how much interest there is.
Question: In MB3, What happened to Kelsier's bones, and will they play any significance in any of the sequels? Brandon: The bones survived the events of the last book. We might see them again. Speaking of relic-like items, Sazed's rings survived as well. We might see those again.
Question: Mi'chelle is wanting to know for a fanfic she's wanting to write if when you cut/break an object that has been awakened if the object then "dies", or if the pieces will try to carry out the command. Also, either way, can the breaths be recovered from it?
Brandon: The object does not die, and will try to continue its purpose. The level of damage will determine just how well it can continue. The Breaths are recoverable. (Though there could be some loss of Breaths, depending on how the item is destroyed.) There's a scene near the end where Vasher Awakens some clothing, then it gets cut down and he recovers the Breath.
Question: She (and I) would also like to know more details of the Mistborn movie. The last she heard, you'd rejected it being a tv series. So, yeah. Any more details?
Brandon: Did a big post on this just above. I think that will answer the request for details.
Note that I rejected the tv series not because of the idea of doing a tv series itself, but because I wasn't confident in the production studio who was making the offer. More details will come once contracts are signed.
Question: Peter said if we did enough begging, we could see some Nightblood replicas. Can you give us more details? And exactly HOW much more begging would be necessary (Mi'chelle says keep it below $100...I say below $50, but I suppose if you must go higher, I might be able to compensate...)?
Brandon: I've had an offer from a swordsmith who was at JordanCon. These would be more expensive replicas, though, as they be hand-made by the swordsmith himself. He does very good work, but the price he mentioned was $200, I believe.
I've put Peter in charge of looking into this and seeing how viable it is. The cost might be too high for the readers to want to buy them. What we'd do is take pre-orders, and then do a limited edition run of maybe ten or twenty swords, hand-made by the swordsmith. If we had ten or so preorders, we'd be able to do it.
Question: If the gang from WE were put in a horror film, obviously Dan would be the killer. But what order do you think everyone would die in? And how would they die? (The victim list includes: you, Howard, Jordan, Pemberly, Stacy, and Peter)
Brandon: Ha! Well, let's see. If Dan were the killer, I think he'd try to take out Howard first, since Howard is obviously the most dangerous of us all. Though he sees me more often, so he might try to get to me first. I'd put it in this order:
- Pemberly (he'd leave the women for last because he's a very gentlemanly killer.)
And then Stacy would take Dan down in a surprise ending. She'd edit him out of the script or something.
Question: And lastly, Mi'chelle and I had an idea while conversing....Have you done firesides, and would you consider doing them?
Brandon: It's an interesting idea. I honestly don't know. I think I could come up with something. (For those confused, it's an LDS church-group thingy.)
Question: Is Adonalsium going to be mentioned by name in Warbreaker and The Way of Kings or is he going to be an underlining "God"(I don't know what to call him yet) idea? I am curious now, so I will have to keep my eyes open for him.
Brandon: Adonalsium (Ahy-doe-Nahl-see-um) will be mentioned by name again. Ruin and Preservation were what have been called Shards of Adonalsium. (The Voice from Warbreaker is another Shard.)
Question: Is this "character" a common link between your books for religion or magical or maybe even both?
Brandon: Adonalsium has to do with the Cosmere, which is the word Realmatic philosophers use to refer to the greater universe of the Shardworlds. It's hard to separate religion, magic, science, and society in most of these worlds. So "both" is a good guess.
Question: I was curious because he just seemed to appear and nothing further on him/it. Thank you for mentioning that he is in these 2 other books, I will have to look for hints of him.
Brandon: The word Adonalsium (or, well, the miss-spelling of it) appears in only one of the books. Other clues and links between the books can be found as well. (Some people on my forums have spotted some of them. Others have gone unspotted so far.)
Question: Melissa, I think we have members from another forum joining us and they have information that we don't have. Maybe even advanced book information, like we know nothing about the Way of Kings and only heard about the book recently and know nothing of its content. Could some of you newcomers introduce yourselves (maybe on our "Introduce Yourself" thread and not clutter up this one) and tell us where you are from? We love the information you are bringing and introducing on this thread but we are confused.
Brandon: I posted on my website that I'd be doing this, and I don't often have time to interact on forums. (They are a delightful way to interact with readers, but have proven a HUGE time-sink for me in the past. As you might have noticed, I tend to write--and respond--in depth when people ask questions of me.) So I only appear on forums occasionally. Hence the involvement of those from my forums looking for some answers to questions.
Some backstory might help you all. I began writing in earnest in 1997. During those years, I shared the books I wrote with a group of friends. This group worked with me on The Leading Edge, a science fiction fanzine/semiprozine at BYU. Eventually, once we graduated, we founded the Timewaster's Guide, partially as a forum where we could hang out. (Tage and Ookla from the TWG forums--aka Ben and Peter--are among them, and are still very good friends of mine. Another easter egg is to watch how Ben Olsen and Peter Ahlstrom are treated in the acknowledgements of many of my books.)
The overarching story and theme of my books, what I wanted to accomplish as a writer, and how I approached the fantasy genre, all took shape during this time. These readers read many of my most important, and influential (on me as a writer) novels while in draft form. The biggest three of these during this era were White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Elantris. (On the tail end, I wrote--but never finished--the foundations of what years later became Warbreaker.)
The next era of my unpublished writing was when I worked on the worlds, stories, and themes that eventually became Mistborn, The Way of Kings, and a book called the Aether of Night. Many of my writing group friends have read these books, including the first draft of Kings (which is very, very different from the current draft.)
Anyway, these unpublished books are NOT canon yet. I don't canonize a novel until I publish it. But some of the hidden themes (including Hoid and Adonalsium) of my books are present in these novels. (Dragonsteel and Aether of Night are particularly connected--though of the unpublished Shardworld books, White Sand is probably the best written.) Again, none of this is cannon yet. (For instance, I've taken chunks out of Dragonsteel to use in the revision of The Way of Kings.) However, these old books do contain clues that aren't available to the average reader.
Dragonsteel can be ordered through inter-library loan through the university library system. There are only four or five copies in existence. The BYU library has one (the book was my honor's thesis.) I believe the honors department has one. My thesis chair has one. (And maybe the committee has one, I can't remember.) I've got one in my basement. And I believe Ben's sister may have sneaked a copy out of the trash when I was cleaning out old manuscripts. (That might be White Sand.)
I do have intentions of rewriting these books and publishing them eventually. They each have pieces of the story. (Though I may decide to shift certain themes from one series to another as I eventually write and publish them.) I've been known to email White Sand or Aether of Night to readers who email and ask. (Though it does make me cringe a little to do so. In many of these books, I was experimenting with magic, theme, and narrative style--some experiments were a success, some were failures.) Dragonsteel is frozen; I don't send it out any longer, as to not spoil the parts of The Way of Kings that I decided fit better in that world. So the only way to get it now is to borrow it from BYU. I've been told that Dragonsteel is the only undergraduate BYU honor's thesis ever to have been be read so often that it needed to be rebound. (A dubious honor, I'm not sure how I feel about so many people reading a book of mine that is that mediocre.)
Question: Fantasy has always been a "series-powered" genre but it seems that lately several authors (or publishers) just don't know when to suitably end a long-running saga... Drawing out a series for the sake of more installments, it seems.
And there seems to be fewer and fewer standalone novels like Warbreaker and Elantris. (I love standalone novels, by the way, and am hoping that that "format" makes a return!)
Any comments on this from your perspective? Thanks!
Brandon: It's a good question, Paul. One I've been considering, actually, for a long time. Certainly, there's an economic piece to it.
When a stand-alone comes out, it tends to gather praise from both readers and reviewers. Then proceeds to sell far fewer copies than a series book does. The Wheel of Time didn't hit #1 on the NYT list until book eight or nine, I believe, and I don't think Sword of Truth hit #1 until book ten. Series tend to sell better. Even as readers complain about them. And so I think publishers do push for them.
But why do they sell better? Well, I think this is partially the learning curve factor. We like fantasy for the same reason that fantasy is hard to read: the learning curve. Starting a fantasy book can be tough because of how many new names, concepts, societies, religions, and laws of physics you have to learn and get used to. Epics, with their dozens upon dozens of characters, are even tougher in this regard. And so, after investing so much energy into becoming an expert in the world, we want to get a good payoff and be able to USE that expertise.
Beyond that, I think that fantasy is character driven--and when we fall in love with characters, we want to read more about them. Fantasy, particularly the epic series, allows us to follow characters across sweeping, life changing events. Fantasy (like historicals) give us lots of pages and time to know these characters. So we want more from them.
But the very thing that we love about fantasy in this regard also tends to present problems. We want lots of characters, but eventually this large cast gets overwhelms us and makes the books seem to drag. Personally, I think these complaints will be much lessened when some of these great series are done, and you don't have to wait years and years between volumes.
Anyway, Terry Brooks talks a lot about this in his biographical work Sometimes the Magic Works. (Bet you can find it here on BN.com, and I highly suggest the book as a quick, interesting, engaging read.) He mentions how, when he left Shannara to write other things, the fans begged and begged him for more. Until finally he broke down and gave them more books in the world.
A lot of authors I know tend to live in this state of perpetual wonder and amazement that, finally, people are actually enjoying and reading their works. (After all the years of failure trying to break in, I know that I feel this way a lot.) When someone comes to you and talks about how much they love one of your works, asking you to write more...well, we're storytellers. If people want a story, we want to give it to them. It's hard to say no. (Though so far I have.)
I intend to keep writing stand-alone novels. But I do so knowing that 1) they will not sell as well as series books and 2) readers will ask me for more, and so each stand alone will only increase the number of requests for future books that I can't write. I'm in the fortunate place that I can write, and publish, what I want--whether it be series or stand alone--and no longer have to worry about the money.
But, in my heart, I've got a strong desire to write a big epic. I grew up reading them. I want to see if I can do one, my way, and add something new to the genre. So maybe that's the reason. Looking through Robert Jordan's notes, reading interviews, I don't think he ever artificially inflated the length of his series because of publisher desire or money reasons. I think he loved the long-form epic, and wanted to tell the story his way, no matter how long it took. And as he added more characters, it took longer and longer.
In a way, being free from the worry of finances gives creators a chance to really explore their vision the way they want to. And...well, we’re fantasy writers, so we can get a little long winded. Kind of like this response, eh? ;) Thanks for the question.
Question: Will the material written for AMoL by Jordan remain intact in the published novel or will you rewrite it to match your on style of writing?
Brandon: I am leaving it as intact as possible. In some places, a paragraph at the beginning or end of a section has to be changed to streamline it into the rest of the narrative. In others, line edits have to be done (mostly by Harriet) to fix the language. (Nothing we have from him is in more than a rough draft form.)
But where I can, I'm not changing anything. Because of this, readers who look very closely might be able to tell where I wrote and where he wrote. But I don't think it is noticeable without detailed scrutiny. I suggest to readers that they read the book straight through the first time without trying to pick out which piece was written by which author. I'm hoping to get permission to speak more specifically about how it was all divided once the three books are all out. Then, you can know for certain. But for now, I would prefer (and I'm certain Mr. Jordan would prefer) that you see through the prose and enjoy the story.
Question: Hope you can answer this one. In the world of the Wheel, would the soul of an animal be reborn as the same animal when that particular age comes again, like humans are?
Brandon: I don't know of anything specific that Jim said about this, and I've read a lot of the FAQs and interviews. Still, it might be out there hiding somewhere. I'll put this on my things to ask his assistants about so I can know if he did. As far as I understand, the only thing we know about animals and the Wheel is that wolves go to the world of dreams when they die.
However, looking at the sources Mr. Jordan is drawing from and the overall mythology of the series and world, I'd guess that they are reborn, and as the same animal. There is no talk of a person being reborn as a slug in their next life, and the fact that wolves are proven to have spirits gives subtle indication that other animals do as well. If so, I'd guess they are bound to the wheel like everything else, and rewoven into the pattern. What I say, however, is not cannon in the same way that what Jim said was. Let me do some more digging to find an answer, if there is one, and ask me again some other time. (And if anyone knows of an interview where he talked about this, feel free to post and point me in the right direction.)
Question: Which is your favorite Pratchett novel and why?
Brandon: The Truth is my favorite. As a writer, and one who likes to explore the nature of the truth in his works, a novel that deals with someone trying to publish a newspaper in a fantasy world mixed philosophy and laughs in the way only Pratchett can. However, Guards Guards the book where I suggest people new to Pratchett start. (I suggest avoiding the Colour of Magic as your first experience, even though it's technically the first book in the series. They are all stand alone novels, really, and Guards Guards can be seen as the beginning of the best sub-series within the series.)
Question: In Mistborn, you say its planet is called Scadriel. In-universe, where (or when) did the name Scadriel come to be used to be describe the Mistborn planet? Did the Lord Ruler and his obligators use that as the name of the planet, or did it come later, post-MB3? Or is "Scadriel" just what you as an author use to refer to it?
Brandon: It is "In Universe" so to speak, though the name itself isn't known to the people on-planet. The Lord Ruler was the only one who understood the exact nature of a planet, really, though some of the obligators and noble scholars had a general idea. Astronomy was one of the scientific areas where the Lord Ruler didn't mind people doing research, so long as it kept their interest away from chemistry or a science that could lead to advances in weaponry.
Scadrial would then have been the name that Ruin and Preservation understood for the planet, as well as certain other groups and individuals of a less directly divine nature.
Question: Is there a rationale to how Hemalurgic powers are distributed? I tried to look for a system, but they seem rather randomly distributed. For example, the spike which steals Allomantic powers for a particular quadrant is not always in one particular spot.
Brandon: That is correct, it's not always in one particular spot. None of them are. I used as my model on this magic system the concept of acupuncture and pressure points. Placing a Hemalurgic spike is a very delicate and specific art. Imagine there being a different overlay on a human body, like a new network of nerves, representing lines, points, and 'veins' of the soul's spiritual makeup.
What is happening with Hemalurgy, essentially, is that you're driving a spike through a specific point on a person's body and ripping off a piece of their soul. It sticks to the spike on the Spiritual Realm. Then, you place that spike on someone else in a specific place (not exactly the same place, but on the right spiritual pressure point) and 'hot wire' the spirit to give it Hemalurgy or Feruchemy. It's like you're fooling the spiritual DNA, creating a work-around. Or, in some cases, changing the spirit to look like something else, which has the immediate effect of distorting the body and transforming it into a new creature.
Hemalurgy is a very brutal way of making changes like this, though, so it often has monstrous effects. (Like with the koloss.) And in most cases, it leaves a kind of 'hole' in the spirit's natural defenses, which is how Ruin was able to touch the souls of Hemalurgists directly.
Question: Can you tell us what the rest of the Feruchemical and Hemalurgic powers are? Since, you know, you won't be writing in the Mistborn world for many years, and those Feruchemical and Hemalurgic Tables might not even come into existence if the Allomantic Metals one doesn't sell. Pretty please?
Brandon: I will release this eventually. I'm still tweaking the powers--their names, and how they function--and so I'd rather hold off on revealing anything specific right now. We might include them in the RPG, though.
Question: When is the Table of Allomantic Metals coming out?
Brandon: Printer emailed me today for final confirmation. Should be very soon now.
Question: Hemalurgically, atium steals Allomantic Temporal Powers. But, that seems unlikely, since atium is a god metal. It wouldn't fit in with the rest of the magic system. Did Preservation, in addition to switching Cadmium and Bendalloy for Atium and Malatium, also switch atium's Feruchemical and Hemalurgic powers with Cadmium? Because it seems to me there's not a lot of atium Marsh can use to live for hundreds of years into the next Mistborn trilogy.
Brandon: Preservation wanted Atium and Malatium to be of use to the people, as he recognized that it would be a very powerful tool--and that using it up could help defeat Ruin. But he also recognized that sixteen was a mythological important number, and felt it would make the best sign for his followers. So he took out the most unlikely (difficult to make and use) metals for his sign to his followers. But that doesn't have much to do with Hemalurgy's use here. Remember that the tables--and the ars Arcanum--are 'in world' creations. (Or, at least, in-universe.) The knowledge represented in them is as people understand it, and can always have flaws. That was the case with having atium on the table in the first place, and that was the case with people (specifically the Inquisitors) trying to figure out what atium did Hemalurgically.
Their experiments (very expensive ones) are what determined that atium (which they thought was just one of the sixteen metals) granted the Allomantic Temporal powers. What they didn't realize is that atium (used correctly) could steal ANY of the powers. Think of it as a wild card. With the right knowledge, you could use it to mimic any other spike. It works far better than other spikes as well.
As for Marsh, he's got a whole bag of atium (taken off of the Kandra who was going to try to sell it.) So he's all right for quite a while. A small bead used right can reverse age someone back to their childhood.
But this was a little beyond their magical understanding at the time.
Question: Will Sazed appear at all in the Stormlight Archive?
Brandon: There are no current plans for him to do so.
Question: In the days of the Final Empire, how does one acquire a Kandra Contract? It's not like they can just walk up to their hidden Homeland and ask for their services.
Brandon: Same way you would go about hiring an assassin. Secretly, using contacts who have used them before. You have to be in the know and well-connected, either with the upper-class or the underground.
Question: Are you going to write another WoT encyclopedia?
Brandon: Harriet, Maria, and Alan are working on one. Harriet promised it to Tor a few years back, and I think it's been officially announced that she's working on it. There is no firm release date. After AMOL is complete, I'd imagine.
Brandon: Hey all! I do mean to get through the rest of these questions. Haven't forgotten you. (I don't even know if anyone is still checking the thread or not. But I intend to keep at it.)
Question: I've just read Warbreaker twice now and really enjoyed it both times.
I read that although you've planned another book in the Warbreaker world you're not certain of when you can begin writing it. As it is the only book of yours that I've read to date, I've had to skip some of your answers to other questions that contain spoilers for your other book One thing I noticed in my skimming was that the character Hoid has turned up in other books of yours.
He's very intriguing and at one point I thought he might be Vasher in disguise. Is he a Returned or is he not constrained by the magical construct?
Brandon: Well, he's certainly not Vasher in disguise. Keep an eye out for him in other books of mine you read. He's constrained by magic like everyone else, but he has some extra experience, so to speak.
Question: Also I wondered whether you will ever publish an encyclopedia of your interlocking worlds and their relationship to each other within their cosmos?
Brandon: I plan to do something like this, as things progress. It won't happen until the future, however, and will likely happen only on-line. There will eventually be short stories showing some of what is going on behind the main stories of the novels. I do have some novels planned which would deal with all of this in a more direct way, but they are decades away from being written.
Question: Since you established that all the worlds you created in your books are linked, any chance to see in the (very) distant future a book/series that delves into this overarching story/universe/rules more directly? Possibly with a crossover of characters from your different stories, specifically characters that became "immortal" or at least achieve a "different" state: Sazed, Kelsier, Raoden. Is that something you would even be interested in doing? Or will you stick to placing subtle hints in your different books/series about the overall system?
Brandon: VERY distant future is correct. I will confirm that I do have stories planned that delve into what is going on behind the scenes. There will be short stories dealing with Hoid, most likely posted to my website.
Some of these stories are novel length, and I can't say what I'll do with them. Perhaps I'll write them out in novel form and release them in bookstores, but I have a feeling that most of my readers would be completely confused by them. So perhaps these will all just be on my website only. (If they are released that way, they'll most likely be free for download and reading.)
The subtle hints will continue until then. Mostly, I want the stories to be enjoyable and self-contained. I don't want anyone to HAVE to know any of the behind the scenes, regarding Hoid, Adonalsium, and the rest. (Yes, there is more.) Those are there for the readers who want to dig, and who want to see the greater story. But I don't want them to overshadow the stories of the books themselves. At least not yet.
Question: Is the world of Alcatraz part of this whole system or is that completely different since targeted to different readers?
Brandon: Alcatraz is NOT part of this system. The Alcatraz books (indeed, most of the YA books I've planned or written) need to be off on their own.
Question: WOT question: Did you go through ALL the notes from RJ on the Wheel of Time (if that is even humanly possible) or just those related to Memory of Light?
Brandon: Mr. Jordan left behind notes for the series which, word-length wise, is in EXCESS of the length of the written novels. That was just too much for me to handle. I've used Mr. Jordan's assistants for fetching information from these reserves, and have focused most of my efforts on the notes specifically left for AMOL. The Guide has been very helpful. But mostly, if I need to know something from the notes, I send Maria and Alan searching while I work on the actual prose.
Question: WOT question: Rereading the series right now to get ready for TGS, currently on book 4. Has RJ included details in his note about who made Callandor and who placed it in the Stone of Tear (and how).
Brandon: There were notes on Callandor, and the sword will play a part in the final three books. More, I cannot say. However, I'll make a note to suggest that Harriet consider this question when creating the Encyclopedia, so anything that doesn't end up in the last books is revealed there.
Question: WOT question: Probably RAFO, but same question about the land beyond the Aiel Waste (don't remember the name)? Has RJ done some worldbuilding on it and are we going to see it before the series ends or is it some Tolkienish "Oh yeah, forgot to mention or include it on the map but there's some other kind of lands out there, just so you know. But you ain't going to see it, besides they probably don't care about the fate of the world out there".
Brandon: RAFO. (But don't hold your breath. Robert Jordan said specifically: "I have no plans to send Rand to Shara" and I know several other times where he said similar things.)
Question: You mentioned in an earlier answer that learning to revise was one of the biggest factors in making your work publishable. Would you give us an idea of the process you go through when you revise?
Brandon: Thanks for the question, Isaac! (Isaac, by the way, is the person who introduced me to my wife and set us up on our first blind date.)
I view working on a book in the same way a sculptor might view working on a block of wood. The first draft is generally focused on getting things in place so I can work on them. In essence, I cut out the crude features of the sculpture--but when it’s done, there is still a lot of work to be done. Readers who see the book in this stage can tell what the basic arcs and characters will be, but the emotional impact is lessened by the crude edges and unfinished lines.
Here’s my process in a nutshell:
Draft one: Write the book in draft form.
Draft two: Read through the entire book, fixing the major problems. Often, I’ll change character personalities halfway through the first draft as I search to figure out how I want the character to sound. I don’t go back then and revise, as I need to try out this personality for a while before I decide to actually use it. Similarly, often I’ll drop in new characters out of the blue, pretending that they’ve been there all along. In the second draft, I settle on how I want things to really look, feel, and work.
Draft three: Language draft. Here I’m seeking to cut the book down by 10%. I write with a lot of extra words, knowing I’ll need a trim. This will make the prose more vibrant, and will make the pacing work better.
In a perfect world, this is where I writing group the piece and/or send it to my editor. (For lack of time, my writing group is getting Draft Two of THE WAY OF KINGS. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do draft three by the end of the year.)
I let readers read the book, and I take some time off of it. I begin collecting things I want to change in the book in a separate file, called “Revision notes for ***”, listing the name of the book. I organize these by character and by importance and/or pervasiveness. For instance, a need to rewrite a character’s motivations will be at the top. Fixing one specific scene so that it has proper foreshadowing will be near the bottom.
Once this is all done, and I’ve gotten feedback and had time to think, I read through the book again with my revision notes file open beside the book file itself. I actively look for places to change, kind of like a sculptor looking over the statue and seeking places to knock off jagged chunks and smooth out the sculpture’s features. I’ll do this process several times, usually. In-between, I’ll often do line-edit drafts, like the language draft above, where I’m focused on getting rid of the passive voice and adding more concrete details.
Question: A bit left of center question. Are you a role player? I ask because on writing excuses I think I heard you mention it
Brandon: Yes, I am a role player. Have been since I discovered the TMNT RPG back when I was a young teen, and have been doing it pretty much ever since. When I play, I’m almost always some kind of magic user (duh). When I GM, I prefer to homebrew my own system.
Question: The question that I have for you is, now that you know the ending of Wheel of Time after the final book has been released will it be a world that you could set a game in? Or will it be like Tolkien where after the end of LOTR the world is pretty much over? I ask cos it looks to be a great place to set an RPG and I want to know if I should be looking to a time before Eye of the World or if I should run a new age?
Brandon: I’m going to stick pretty close to things Mr. Jordan has said or implied regarding this. Things he has said have implied strongly that it is not going to be like Tolkien; though the Wheel will eventually turn to a point where the One Power is forgotten and the land becomes like our world, that is NOT the 4th age. I think it would still be a fantastic place to set an RPG game.
Brandon: Again, sorry to take so long on these. I am still planning to get through all of them, eventually. I’m on the home stretch. (If anyone’s still around to read.)
Question: WOT questions: Will all three AMOL books feature Rand, Mat, and Perrin?
Brandon: Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: They will all three appear in all three books, but it will not be equally balanced. Some characters will be more of a focus in some of the books, and other will be more of a focus in others. This is particularly true of the first two volumes, where I had to juggle which characters would be a focus in one, and which will be a focus in the other.
Question: I ask because you said the prologue Robert Jordan wrote would probably be split over two books.
Brandon: Yes, it will be. I don’t know yet if the third volume will have a prologue or not. The Material Mr. Jordan wrote for the prologue is split, half in the prologue of TGS, half in the prologue of the second volume.
Question: Does this mean story arcs are getting split as well?
Brandon: I tried to keep story arcs contained in a single book. We’ll get glimpses from some of the characters in the first book, with a more complete story arc in the second book. And we’ll get story arcs in the first book from some characters, followed by glimpses in the second.
The split actually turned out really well. I think I managed to get a balance working where characters don’t vanish for entire volumes, but we still get to have complete character arcs. --
Question: Also, who was your favourite character to write? And don't say Bela.
Brandon: It’s really, really hard for me to answer this, since when I’m in a character’s head, that character is the most important in the book. They’re all my favorite when I’m writing them--that’s just the way it has to be as a writer.
It is also hard to answer without giving spoilers that I’m not certain I want to give. For instance, some characters were interesting to write for different reasons. In some places, I was expanding on things Mr. Jordan left behind, in other places I was trying to piece together what I think he would have done based on the momentum of the books. In some places, I was writing based mostly on my instincts as a writer. I was doing a lot of different things with a lot of different characters, getting a balance of action, drama, and fun. Which is my favorite among all of that? It depends on what I’m feeling like that day.
If really pressed on it, I’ll probably say that going into this, my favorite thing that I anticipated would be finally (after all of this time) writing Rand’s character through the end of the series. Like many, I was initially hooked into this all by his story, and--regardless of other favorites at different points in the series--who he is as a person is vitally important for driving these last books.
Question: Any plans to tour Warbreaker or The Gathering Storm in Toronto or other Canadian cities?
Brandon: I’ll be in Montreal on Saturday the eighth! Less than a week away now. I’m hoping to get to other cities in Canada for future tours, but I’m going to start with this one visit. We’ll see. We might be able to manage a several-city Canadian Tour next year.
Question: I'm not English and I hope you won't mind too much the grammar and spelling errors left leave here and there.
Brandon: Well, I do speak English as my native language--and I’m certain I’ve got my fair share of errors here and there in my posts. So if you’ll forgive me, I’ll of course forgive you. ;)
Question: As many, I'm a huge fan of the Wheel of Time series, I can't say why it appeals to me so much but it just feels so epic, so detailed, so grand, I wonder how can anyone not love it.
I'm also really eager to read the end of the saga, and I must say that I'm really happy with your decision to split the book in 3 and cover all that is left to be answered.
Knowing you will finish Robert Jordan's book I was curious to read your previous works and see if I will like or love them as I do with WoT.
I must say that I found them quite enjoying and yet, and I beg you not to be offended by my impressions, I could not find the epic feeling I love so much in wot.
I find your characters to be very practical which is great in a way but for me it takes away the epic feeling, the unknown, the maybe, the what if. So finally reaching my question, if it's not too silly, do you plan to make the characters react, speak and think, as they do in your books or will you follow a more Jordan's way of doing?
Brandon: I think the thing you’re talking about is something very intentional on my part, related to the fact that I wanted my books (particularly the ones I did at the beginning of my career) to be more self contained. Elantris, Warbreaker, and even Mistborn exist (in my mind) as a kind of ‘calling card’ to readers. Something that says “I want to show you that I can tell a story, so that you’ll trust me--eventually--when I do something much larger in scope, something where the pay-offs aren’t as immediate.”
I love the self-contained fantasy epic form. However, one of the things I felt that those books needed was cohesion. I had to make my magic very, very tight.
Unknowns are great, and they DO lend to the epic feel of a story. One of the things that the WoT has over my books (beyond Mr. Jordan’s fantastic storytelling ability) is the sheer power of scope. The magic is far from being understood, and it’s larger--and vaster--than the characters can understand. There’s a vast wealth of history and world--not to mention numerous machinations by dozens of different groups and secret cabals--making the characters (particularly at the beginning) feel very small compared to it all.
I think that’s the sense of what you’re talking about. It has to do with the characters, and it has to do with the magic. But it also has to do with the scope. You don’t always get an immediate pay-off in the WoT books. Some threads hang through books, finally getting revealed or resolved long after they were introduced.
I’m not trying to imitate Mr. Jordan. Instead, I’m trying to adapt myself to the Wheel of Time. (If that makes any sense at all.) In other words, I want to maintain this feel, and write these books appropriate to the Wheel of Time. I don’t want these volumes to feel like Brandon Sanderson books; I want them to feel like Wheel of Time books.
But artists in any medium learn to work with different styles and forms. Many of the things that seem like natural voice in a novel are conscious choices we make, as we work to create a certain feel for a novel. If you read and compare my Alcatraz books to my Epics, you’ll see what I mean. Even the Mistborn novels have a different feel from the stand-alones. (And Mistborn 2 and 3 have a different feel from number one.) So, the end answer is this. Yes, I’m trying very hard to maintain what it is you love about the Wheel of Time, rather than trying to force the Wheel of Time into a different box or style.
Question: So, Brandon. Hoid. I remember you saying at the I.F. signing last year that he was in WoA. We, your dedicated fans who like scouring books searching for obscure characters who have any possibility of being the mysterious Hoid, have yet to find him. Peter sent us on a hunt for him (Hoid, not Peter...) in the deleted scenes, and we found his boot-print.
Now, I think he broke the pottery there too--the one holding the larasium--and since there's broken pottery in the actual version, I think he may have snuck into the cavern and broken it as well. If so, is this Hoid's part in WoA? This trace of him? I commend you if it is. It is clever, making us think it was a person, when in fact it's just something he did.
Brandon: You are on the right track, but wrong on one point. Hoid does appear in the book.
I had originally toyed with making his touch on the novel more obscure, but decided that I wanted to be consistent with the other novels by actually having him appear. Once I realized I’d probably cut the scene with the footprint, I decided I needed this actual appearance even more badly.
Fortunately, I knew what Hoid had been up to all this time, and had placed him in a position where several characters could run into him. In WoA, Hoid believed (as Vin did) that the Well was in the North, even though it was not. He spent much of the book pursuing this idea.
Through events, however, he discovered he was wrong. He made the realization after Vin did, but only because of a chance meeting. (This is recorded in the books. Let’s just say he was listening in when someone implied that the Well was in Luthadel.) He hurried to Luthadel, and was in the town, skulking about in the last parts of the novel. He isn’t seen here, though he does still infiltrate the Well. (Hoid is quite proficient at manipulating Shadesmar for his own ends.)
Question: Just a sudden question that popped into my head: Do you like Joss Whedon's work, specifically Firefly and Dr. Horrible?
Brandon: I enjoyed Firefly quite a bit; I was actually among the (apparently small) group of people who watched it during its original broadcast run. I’m impressed with Joss’s writing, though I’m not an enormous fan of his on the level of many of my friends.
I missed Dr. Horrible. Been meaning to watch that, actually... There. Just added it to my Netflix queue.
Question: Additionally, how much time would you say that you spend researching on any given work, and what are some of the things that you research?
Brandon: That one’s really too hard to judge. Research for me is on-going for any given work, and I don’t track how much time I spend on it. Generally, I dig into specific topics when the need arises, then do more ‘cast out the net’ general reading for ideas the rest of the time. Generally, I’ll only dig in deeply if a topic is important to a specific story. (Such as--for Mistborn--researching canals or the effects of being made a eunuch at various ages.)
Question: I hope this isn't a RAFO, but how accurate is the WoT 12 product description on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites? It implies Rand and Egwene get the spotlight in book 12.
Brandon: Well, it so happens that I wrote the majority of that product description myself, and so I'd say that it is rather accurate.
Jason's review (at Dragonmount) implies some things about the focus of the book as well.
You'll notice that I'm not flat out answering the question you seemed to be getting at. (Is this book mostly about Rand and Egwene?) That's because I don't want to dig into this too deeply. If I begin talking about which characters have the focus in this volume, people will start trying to pry out of me if "such and such" character appears, and if so, how often. I want to spoil as little of this book as possible.
Therefore, I refer you to the two sources above (the product description and Jason's review) and will say that they are accurate in as much as what they say, but will note that neither talks about everything that is in the book. I have said before that almost all major viewpoint characters appear in TGS (there is one absent) and that it focuses on several of the characters, while the second book focuses on others. But even the characters not being focused on have parts in each book. Some of the things you've been waiting a long time to see happen in this book. Others were reserved for the next volume. Let's leave it at that for now.
Question: One other question, what is the name of the planet that Elantris is on?
Brandon: Elantris: Sel
Way of Kings: Roshar
White Sand: Taldain Dragonsteel: Yolen There are others, but I haven't talked much about those yet, so I'll leave them off for now.
Question: Are there any useful exercises you could give to a writer who's trying to improve their technique? I've heard the one about four different people describing the same place, but I was wondering if you had any other good ones.
Brandon: Try to describe an extended scene, with various things happening, four different times, once with a focus on visuals, once on scents, once using touch, once using sounds. See if you can evoke a different feel each time, using the same scene but different senses.
Practice both discovery writing and outline writing. Meaning, practice writing stories where you just go off on whatever strikes you, and practice writing a story where you spend a lot of time on an outline. Try to figure out which method works best for you when trying a specific type of story, and perhaps try some hybrids. Anything that helps you write better stories more regularly is a tool to keep practicing.
Try a dialogue scene, where you try to evoke character and setting using ONLY dialogue. No descriptions allowed. (This is best when you're focused on making the characters each distinct simply through how they talk. Finally, listen to Writing Excuses. ;)
Question: Any idea when you'll be releasing the full table of Allomantic metals and associated phonetics shown in your blog post about vinyl decals? (http://www.brandonsanderson.com/blog/735/Allomantic-Metal-Vinyl-Decals!)
Brandon: Very, very soon. It's at the printer right now. Should happen this month, if all things go well. We will start with the limited edition prints on the nice paper with the expensive inks, signed and numbered by myself and Isaac. Poster prints will come eventually too. And, of course, we'll also release in standard desktop sizes for free, for those who can't afford a poster.
And...I think that's it! Wow. Sorry to take weeks to answer all of these. I got to the end, however, which is progress. (The last time I did this, I didn't give a cut-off date for the questions, and got swamped quickly.)
Thank you again, Paul, for inviting me. And also for those who spent time reading my books and discussing them. I'm going to make a final attempt to put in an appearance in the Warbreaker thread here in a bit. I hope to do this again. It was fun. Beyond that, I'll probably do something like this on my own forums here in the next few months. So if you've got other questions, you can save them up for then.