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A Memory of Light Dayton Signing ()
#51 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

The Cosmere—How?:

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

"I don't know if it's something I can answer, simply because I don't know how." He went on to relate his feelings when reading Asimov's Foundation, and how cool it would have been if Asimov had known from the beginning that he was going to be tying all these things in, and the subtle hints he could have left in the earlier stories.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#52 Copy


I think [Brandon] would benefit a lot from finding some kind of way in-universe to convey when we can be certain that the character is dead. Something like what we see of Vin and Elend in Secret History after they die. I think that he was trying to prove how definite their death was.. I don't know how he could realistically or smoothly accomplish this, but I think that until we see some proof beyond what is normally expected to see for a death, we can't be 100% sure that anyone is dead.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I've been thinking about this. Spoilers below.

The issue is, resurrection is a major theme of the cosmere. The very first line of the first chapter of the first cosmere book starts with someone dying. The story is about his return to life.

The death of Adonalsium, and the questions surrounding the persistence of his power, is THE single pervasive theme of the works. And so, I've returned to this theme multiple times--from Sazed's more metaphorical rebirth in Mistborn Three to Syl's more literal one in Words of Radiance.

At the same time, the more this theme continues, the more it undermines the reader's ability to believe someone is really dead--and therefore their tension at worrying over the safety of characters. So we need a better "Dead is dead" indication, otherwise every death will turn into Sirius Black, with readers being skeptical for years to come.

So, let's just say it's something I'm aware of. Josh, of the 17th Shard, was the first one to raise the issue with me years ago. We need a balance between narrative drama and cosmere themes of rebirth.


I figured Nightblood was your answer to dead is dead.

Brandon Sanderson

He's certainly AN answer. But there are way more ways to kill someone in the cosmere--I just need to be more clear on how that works, giving the right indications to readers.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#53 Copy


When will be see the whole Cosmere-concept (Shards, the plans of Hoid) at the level of the books? In the third Mistborn trilogy or earlier? In which books do you plan to finish the "hidden story" which connects all your earlier books?

Brandon Sanderson

Third Mistborn Trilogy will certainly include some of this. We shall see if I do any of Hoid's stories before then.

Boskone 54 ()
#54 Copy


In the annotations for Elantris, you were talking about the shardpool. I know that it was the earliest one of three, and the cosmere wasn’t fully developed.

Brandon Sanderson

I have expanded it since.


So that annotation felt a little odd.

Brandon Sanderson

I’ll have to go back and look at it. I knew that they were going into the cognitive realm when I wrote it, but I had changed… Roshar for instance, did not have the spren when I wrote that. And Mistborn was only in the outline stages. No, when I wrote Elantris I hadn’t even written Mistborn. I also, you have to remember, early in my career I was being very vague about all of this. Because I was worried that people would get distracted by this and it would hurt my career. So you notice in the early appearances of Hoid, I used pseudonyms for him. Even in unpublished books where it’s obvious it’s him, he’s got a pseudonym and you never know. Because I didn’t want people to get this and be like, “He’s trying too much.” So I was really coy about a lot of things. But other things I didn’t figure out until later on, when I’m like “How exactly is this going to work?” It really helped once I had Peter to help me work out the physics of it and I could bounce ideas off of someone who knew enough about realmatic theory and stuff like that.

YouTube Livestream 9 ()
#55 Copy


Is there a particular subgenre of fantasy or sci-fi that you would like to tackle in the future?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, I do know what I am going to be tackling in the future, and it's this sort of... I don't know if there's a good name for it. A lot of people call it magepunk. I don't know that I like that as much. It's this fusion of fantasy elements and science fiction elements. As I move the cosmere more towards science fiction, it's moving more toward space opera science fiction. I love The Fifth Element. One of the things I love about The Fifth Element is this idea of this space religion. That kind of throwback fantasy religion mashed up with far future science fiction is so much fun to me. This is what we love about Star Wars, right? It's the everything-but-right-now. All the past stuff that's cool, all the future stuff that's cool. Now, do this poorly and it can feel like it's a story that's just throwing everything and the kitchen sink at you. What I'm hoping I'll be able to do is have realistic extrapolations, where things that aren't present in our world are natural to be present in the future of the cosmere. But I do like that idea, I do like when magic becomes the foundation for science fiction. Other than that, subgenres of fantasy that I would like to tackle, what haven't I tackled that I would like to try some time... I don't know. I haven't really done a true Weird West. Wax and Wayne kind of touches on that, but I haven't done what I would consider a real authentic Weird West story. That I could totally see as being something that I do in the future. Maybe if anyone thinks of cool ones, they can put them in the chat and we can throw those out.

Shadows of Self Houston signing ()
#56 Copy


How many scripts did you write and submit before you got Elantris picked up?

Brandon Sanderson

How many scripts did I write and send out before I got Elantris picked up? So novel-length things, Elantris was my sixth. It sold while I was writing my thirteenth, which was The Way of Kings. You shouldn't have to do that, I was really bad when I started. The other thing is I was not good at revising, and I sometimes wouldn't even send books out, because I was like "I can learn do that better, I'll just write another book", which was the wrong attitude to have but it ended up working out for me so I don't know that I'd change anything! I did collect rejections but really-- My first five books were very experimental. Someone told me your first five books are usually terrible, which is not necessarily true but it was the right advice for me. I sat down and I wrote five.

My first one was an epic fantasy, because I was pretty sure that's what I love. My second one was a space opera. My third one was a sequel to that epic fantasy. Then my fourth one was a comedy, like a Bob Asprin-style fantasy farce. And then there was a cyberpunk. And then there was Elantris. I wrote those five, and after I sat down and wrote those five and said, "ok, epic fantasy's what I love, I'm gonna go with that." That's when the idea of the Cosmere started going for me, and I sat down and I wrote Elantris, a book called Dragonsteel which is kind of Hoid's origin story, and a book called White Sand which we're currently making into a graphic novel. Those three books I got the best feedback on when I was submitting them and that's when I really started to push it, in getting it published. So you can imagine that what I did is I practiced for a while, I wrote a book that I thought was pretty good and during the three years it took to sell that, I ended up writing some more, because I do that. 

White Sand vol.1 release party ()
#57 Copy


I've also heard rumor that there's a chronology? <On the cosmere?>

Brandon Sanderson

On my computer, yes.


No, that was going to be in [Arcanum Unbounded] or *inaudible*.

Brandon Sanderson

No, not a chronology. Not a timeline. I've been preparing one that eventually I'm going to release. But I don't think I'm *inaudible*. I did consider it, but...

DragonCon 2016 ()
#59 Copy


So, when you were starting to write your books, did you have the idea for-- Like [???] magics tied together or did you have that from the beginning?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, excellent question. So, he's asking about the Cosmere, where all my epic fantasies are tied together. Where did that come from. I can trace a few paths back in my brain where that came from. What I can say is that it was built in from the beginning of the books you have been reading. But you remember, those weren't my first written books. I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. Elantris was number six. Way of Kings was number thirteen. And so-- I love this idea of a big, connected universe. The first person I can remember doing it, that blew my mind, was when Asimov connected the Robots and the Foundation books, which I thought was so cool when I was a teenager.

Another path that I trace this [concept?] also, though-- I don't know how many of you guys did this, but when I'd read a book--I still do this, actually--I would insert behind the scenes a kind of character that was my own, who was doing stuff behind the scenes. Like I would insert my own story into the story, just kind of take ownership of it in a strange sort of way. I remember doing this with the Pern books. I'm like "Oh, no, they think that person is who they think they are, but nooo! This is this other person!" And so I had this kind of proto-Hoid in my head jumping between other people's books.

So when I sat down to write Elantris, I said "Well, I want to do something like this". All the people I've seen doing this before-- and they've done it very well. Michael Moorcock did it, and Stephen King did it, and things like this, I'm not the first one to connect their books together, not by a long shot. I felt like a lot of them, they kinda fell into it, and as a writer, having seen what they did, I could then do it intentionally, if that makes sense. And so I started out with this idea that I was just gonna have this character in-between who is furthering his own goals, and built out a story for him, and then I went-- After I did Elantris, I wrote a book called Dragonsteel, which isn't published, and it was his origin story, for this character. And then I wrote some more books, and so, of course-- and things like this. Eventually Elantris got published and the other ones didn't, and they weren't as good as Elantris was. And so I took them all as kind of "backstory canon", and moved forward as if they had all-- they were all there and they had happened, but nobody else knew but me. Which allowed this cool foundation for you like "wow, that stuff has happened", because I had books and books of material that I could treat as canon in this way, to let me know where thing were going. So it wasn't planned-- It was planned from the beginning, but not the beginning of my writing care. From about book six was where it started.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#60 Copy


I have to say though, I don't get annoyed by the fact that you want to write the side projects, but I do get perplexed by how big the State of the Sanderson is getting. You keep adding more things that I want to read, and it gets no closer to getting written! I've been waiting for a sequel to Warbreaker for 7 years now, and a sequel for the Rithmatist for over 3 years, and I've been getting excited about Silence Divine and Dark One for years just reading the chapters or descriptions you've read out at signings. Now you're adding a novel set on Threnody, and one on Silverlight?


Brandon Sanderson

Original Cosmere sequence (from around 2003 or so.)

Core books:

Dragonsteel (7 books)

Mistborn (9 books)

Stormlight (10 books)

Elantris (3 books.)

Secondary stories

Unnamed Vasher prequel (1 book)

White Sand (3 books)

Unnamed Threnody novel. (1 book.)

Aether of Night. (1 book.)

Silence Divine (1 book.)

This version was after I decided I'd trim back Aether of Night, but felt confident that Dragonsteel would be coming out soon. (I tried a rebuilt version of it in 2007.)

By 2011, some things had changed. First, I'd rewritten Stormlight, and had sucked Bridge Four off of Yolen, following Dalinar (who had been moved to Roshar for the first draft of TWOK.) Warbreaker had been given a sequel. Dragonsteel, having lost the entire bridge four sequence, refocused to be more about Hoid and shrunk from seven books to between 3 and five, depending on what I decided needed to go there. Silverlight had grown from just a place I referenced to a place I wanted to do a complete story for. And, of course, Mistborn got another era. (Dark One also moved to the cosmere somewhere in here.)

So, a lot of these have been brewing all along, and I haven't really been adding that many books--I've actually been shrinking the numbers as I feel certain things combine, and work better together than alone.

I still suspect we'll end up in the 40 book range, but most of the new ideas for the cosmere I have, I try to limit to novellas so that we don't end up with too many promised books.


Thanks for the answer! I'm going to go ahead and believe there are even more books hidden in your outline you've never talked about because that makes me feel better, especially something like Skyward (since I remember you saying that was YA).

Brandon Sanderson

There are, but I'm very aware of how much I've put on that list so far--so I've been trying to combine stories, or make others into novellas.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#61 Copy


How did you come up with the idea for the cosmere? Because I just think it is the greatest idea ever and the more I learn about it the less I realize I know.

Brandon Sanderson

It was partially me wanting to do a big fantasy epic that also had room for standalones, I wanted to do both and so the idea of the hidden epic behind the scenes was really appealing for me 'cause it let me do everything I wanted to do.

Starsight Release Party ()
#62 Copy


Do you have the endings of all of your books already pre-planned or does that kind of evolve as you go along?

Brandon Sanderson

I have the ending of Stormlight 10. I have the ending of the Mistborn series. But I don't have all the endings of all books.

The main core line of the Cosmere, I do have, but those are subject to change as I go. I don't necessarily have the ending of the Threnody book. Like, that I would have to outline and sit down.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#63 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

When do we get to officially get to know what's going on in the Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

All of my epic fantasy books are connected with continuing characters. That's a way off, and that's because I don't want people to feel like they have to have read all my previous books to enjoy the series. It should be about the characters. Eventually I will write one that's a mashup, but we're not there yet. I'll be very upfront about it when I do it. For now it's just easter eggs.

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#64 Copy


Do you have the "end state" of the Cosmere in your mind? Do you know where, thirty years or so from now, where the main characters will be once all major Cosmere series are finished? Or do you plan on having them end at all?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I have a plan--but remember, we'll be dealing with a lot of new characters by then. The goal is not to take everyone you're reading about now, and have them appear in the final books. Some will persist, but my end game is more focused on events.

MisCon 2018 ()
#65 Copy


If you had a chance to go back for Elantris and the early Mistborn books and stuff like that, would you potentially consider adding more crossover characters, because you did put Hoid in all of those, but would you potentially put other smaller things from other planets, like other worldhoppers, in it?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the cheeky answer to this is, I've read The Monkey's Paw, and I've read enough science fiction stories to know that if someone says "Do you want to change this thing about your past?" that you say "No." Because depending on the writer you are either going to end up in a horror story, or you are going to have to learn some lesson about how important you are, or your family is, and then it will all be a dream, so no, I wouldn't.

But really the answer is no, I wouldn't change. I like the fact that the cosmere has a very light touch on those early books. I like it in part because I feel like people who are just getting into my fiction, I don't want them to feel like they have to follow everything to enjoy one book. And yeah, I'm adding little bits more into Stormlight, but that's inevitable because so much will take place in Shadesmar, which by it's nature is far more cosmere-aware, and so we're going to have to do more things the further Stormlight gets and the further Mistborn gets, because it will become inevitable. And that's fine, I'm embracing that. The further we go in the cosmere, the more you're going to have to be on board for the idea of the crossovers working. But I don't want the initial books that you get into to have to be like that. I was very intentional with my light touch on those early cosmere books and I wouldn't go back and add more. Even Way of Kings, right? Has what has Hoid and Felt in it, and that's just about it.


Felt's in Words of Radiance.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, is he in Words of Radiance? He's not even in Way of Kings.

Several Questioners

*talking over each other*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you saw Galladon, you saw the seventeenth shard. So there's like one scene in the whole book, maybe two, depending, but Hoid isn't even very Hoid-like in that first one. It's the second one where he mentions Adonalsium and stuff—

Several Questioners

*correct the previous statement*

Brandon Sanderson

Is it the first one? It's the first one. It's that party at the thing with Dalinar. So there's two scenes in Way of Kings, and that's very intentional. By the time we get to the second stage Stormlight books, and the fourth stage Mistborn books, you'll just have to be on-board. But by then you're entrenched. If you're reading Stormlight seven, then the Stormlight series is already longer than everything else, so you might as well just've read everything else.

YouTube Livestream 9 ()
#66 Copy


Will the tenth book of the Stormlight Archive be the last book in the cosmere universe, or there a plans to continue with other stories in the cosmere universe indefinitely?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the last chronological book of the cosmere sequence is the final Mistborn book. So the way that the structure works right now. Elantris, Mistborn era 1, Stormlight Archive first five, Mistborn era 2, Elantris 2 and 3, Stormlight Archive 6 through 10, the the final Mistborn era, is how I'm going. 

Right? Did I miss one? I missed an era. So, I'm going to do the Wax and Wayne era and the 1980s era kind of together, and mash those together. 

So, era 1, era 2/3, Stormlight 1-5, Stormlight 6-10, era 4 of Mistborn, is how it is right now. Era 4 of Mistborn will the the last chronological. We will have the flashbacks to Dragonsteel after Stormlight 10 but before era 4 of Mistborn

I do not intend it to go indefinitely. If I manage to get all of that done before I die, which I hope I will - I move pretty quickly, then there's a decent chance I will write other cosmere books that happen in the cosmere, probably during this time frame at some point, unconnected or only tangentially related and things like that. But I do intend that to be the final book of the cosmere sequence, and I have no plans for anything chronologically after that. 


Did you mention Warbreaker in there?

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker is a side project. I do count Warbreaker, there will be a sequel to Warbreaker. But Warbreaker, Emperor's Soul, Silence Divine, all of these things I might write, the unnamed Threnody novel, these are not what I consider the core, essential cosmere books that I need to write. I need to do Dragonsteel, Mistborn, Elantris, and Stormlight, and that's like your core sequence of stories, and if I can get Aether of Night in there - I sure hope that I can - if I can get the Threnody novel in there - I sure hope I can - and some stuff like that.

The requirement I placed on myself is no more than three years between Stormlight books, with a slightly larger break between 5 and 6, cause the first five are an arc. But I'm hoping no more than five years there, but we will see. And gotta just keep moving, keep going, keep writing, so that my own mortality does become a factor in the cosmere sequence. interview ()
#67 Copy


When was the concept of cosmere, one big Universe that connects all your stories was born? Do you remember the very beginning, the first thought of it?

Brandon Sanderson

I can start to talk about this because there's a couple of things. I remember being a teenager and reading books, and I would always insert my own characters into other writers' books. This is the beginnings of Brandon the Writer. So I would read, like, a-- an Anne McCaffrey book and I would insert my own characters and eventually Hoid started jumping between all the books I was reading. And so when I started writing my own books, I started inserting him myself. I blame that. I also blame how Asimov connected Foundation and the Robots series. When I read that it kinda blew my mind, and I wanted to do something like that.

I knew when I started writing Elantris I was going to do something like this, I wanted to start connecting everything together. I put Hoid into it and stuff like that, but as I've gone back through my notes, it was really during the years following that I really designed the cosmere. Like when I first wrote Elantris, I had no idea how I was going connect it all, I just knew I was going to. But like-- You know Shardpools. I put the pool in and then I'm like "I don't know what it is". By the time I got to Mistborn I knew all this stuff and fortunately Mistborn was the first one-- Mistborn I was working on when Elantris sold, right? And so I was able to go back and revise Elantris to make sure it matched everything that was coming for the future.

Though I do have to admit, when I first wrote Elantris, a lot of things I'm like "Ah this'll connect somehow. I'll put this in. Sure”.


And by now, can you say that you already know how Cosmere will end?

Brandon Sanderson

I do know how The Cosmere will end, yes. I'm an outliner. It could always change. But I have-- So you know the core series, Stormlight and Mistborn, and the last book of The Cosmere is the last Mistborn book, which I have an outline for. So, we shall see. At least chronologically it's the last. I don’t know, I write a lot and so who knows. Yeah, you know, keeping track of it all, I’m sorry.

Shadows of Self San Francisco signing ()
#68 Copy


The whole Cosmere thing, is there an end to it, and do you have a specific year in mind for when that will be?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there is an end. Here’s what has to be happen before I finish it. We have to do another two Mistborn trilogies, The Stormlight Archive, at least three Dragonsteel novels. That’s the soonest I can do. I’ll probably have to do a few more Elantris and Warbreaker, but that’s the minimum. Because the third Mistborn trilogy is where we bring things to a head.

Manchester signing ()
#69 Copy


Do you ever find it difficult writing for two kinds who read your books, the kind that only want to read it and have a lot of fun and take nothing away from it, and the people who obsess over every sentence for hidden cosmere-ic meaning?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, right, right. For those of you who don't know, though I'm not sure there are many who don't know still, all of my epic fantasies are in the same universe and there are characters in each book who are interfering with each other's stories. There are characters from Mistborn in Way of Kings, and there are characters from Elantris in Mistborn.

This was done, for a little bit of backstory, I love big epic fantasy works, if you can't tell Wheel of Time is one of my favorites ever, I like the big things. Breaking in I felt that it was a lot to ask new readers to take a chance on me as a writer by saying "it's book one of 25" I felt it was better to say "here is a standalone novel, self-contained that you can enjoy reading and kind of figure out who I am as a writer." That's kind of my purpose for Elantris and Warbreaker, and lately Emperor's Soul. "Here's how to try out my writing style to see if you like it." But loving these epics I couldn't help connecting them and hiding an epic behind the scenes. This was partially inspired by Asimov, who later in life joined his two main series, the Robot books and the Foundation books in what I felt was a clever way. But it had some problems in that he had to juryrig it after the fact. He'd been writing these books for decades and then he brought them together and I thought "wouldn't it be cool if someone were to take that idea and start it from the get go." It's this whole shoulders of giants thing, people try something out and you go "that was awesome, can I improve upon it?" or "whoah I'm not ever going to try that because that had certain issues" Book 10, the Wheel of Time fans know--

Robert Jordan actually talked about that book about how he wish he hadn't written it the way he did.  I have the advantage of having read Robert Jordan, so I can see how that book went wrong and I can avoid making that pitfall. I went ahead and did this hidden epic because I thought it was really interesting, I did not expect it to come to the forefront as much as it has. Which is awesome, people started peeking these things out. Secrets that I embedded in Elantris, That I didn't expect to come out for another ten fifteen books people are already asking me about. Which means I kind of need to step up my game to make sure that all this stuff is very subtle. The whole idea is that you don't have to have read Elantris to read Mistborn, you don't have to have read Mistborn to read Way of Kings, they are all easter eggs right now. Eventually I will write a series that ties them all together in a direct way, that's many years off, and I will be very upfront with "You have to read all the others, you will be very lost if you aren't familiar, at least go read the summaries of the books before you start this one." We are far away from that.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#71 Copy


Do you have a plan for the entire concept of the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I do.


Do you have an Allomancy dude fighting a Surgebinding dude?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh yeah it's going to be cool. It's going to be super awesome. The Allomantic space battles are really great. It's going to be like 15 years, sorry. But they are really cool.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#72 Copy


So with the cosmere, do you come up with stories and see if they fit? Or does the cosmere  kind of lend itself to stories already?

Brandon Sanderson

It's mostly the first. *audio obscured* When I come up with a story I'll ask, "Does this fit the cosmere?" and if not-- Like, for instance,  this one, that I read tonight [Perfect State], just doesn't fit the cosmere. I don’t want to be doing far-future science fiction stuff yet in the cosmere, and when I do, virtual reality is not a cosmere thing. So I can't write that as cosmere. Or the Rithmatist which I bounced back and forth. Would have been, could have not been. I just eventually decided it didn't fit the story. When things do fit, I put them in.


Is that a really exciting moment? Or just sort of "Ohhh that's nice"

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it's just like that. I like all my stories.  The Cosmere-- One of my rules for myself is "The Cosmere is not my entire body of work" because then I would just be shoehorning  things in and I've found sometimes when authors create a multiverse they shoehorn everything in. Stephen King did this, Asimov did this. It doesn't work. I think if it is an intentional thing I'm deliberately doing, then it gains more power, it's cooler than if I were trying to make everything connected.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#73 Copy


I loved the ending of Words of Radiance. When you come up with an idea for a new cosmere book, do you have to go "Oh, now I have to figure out how this fits in with everything else", or do you have it pre-made?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a few little holes that I can slot things into, and I try to get them to fit the roles, like I know there are certain things that need to happen, and if it doesn't fit the role, I just go ahead and make it a minor planet, like Shadows for Silence, where I can write a story, but I can't put as much magic into those books. So I've got a few restrictions on me, but I think that's important for maintaining the continuity.

Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing ()
#74 Copy


In the first three Mistborn books, and Elantris and Warbreaker, you focus a lot on sort of gods and religion, is there a particular reason for that?

Brandon Sanderson

Why do I focus on gods and religion in my books. Well there's a couple of reasons. The main one is the kind of overarching story of the cosmere, which all my books are connected, there is some divine force named Adonalsium that was broken apart long ago and the scions of that-- people who have that power are showing up and causing problems and things on planets. So that's kind of the hidden epic behind the scenes, and so because of that religion is a very big part of what happens there.

I'm also a religious person. For those who don't know, I'm Mormon, I'm LDS. And so religion is important to me and whatever I'm fascinated by works it's way into my books. Now I'm generally the type of writer who doesn't feel like I should go into a book with a theme, I should explore what the characters are passionate and let the theme manifest naturally. And so I do that a lot, I don't go in saying "Oh I'm going to teach people this" I say "Who is this character, what are they passionate about" But the things I'm interested in you see. That's why you end up with stories about a god who doesn't believe in his own religion, from Warbreaker. Or you end up with these different things, with Kelsier founding a religion to use it, or having people with different types of faith. And I really think that part of the point of fiction is to, for me, to explore different ideas from different angles and try to just tackle them. And so you'll see me coming back to some of the same concepts again and again, because I want to try them from a new angle, see how this person thinks, see how this character deals with it. Because that's just really interesting to me.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#75 Copy


In the early 2000s, you started toying with this idea of the cosmere, these interconnected stories that are separate, but you've got your little Easter eggs. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Marvel movies started coming out. Were you like, "Wow, I can't believe this got so popular, this idea of--"

Brandon Sanderson

Like, it had always been in their comics. I didn't invent interconnected universe. I didn't even invent them in books. Like, Michael Moorcock, I don't know if you guys have read Michael Moorcock, but I really like Michael Moorcock's work, and he connected a bunch of his things together. And Stephen King famously did it. I think the one that first blew my mind when someone did this was when Asimov connected Robots and Foundation together. 'Cause I had read the Robots books, then I read the Foundation books, and then I read the later Foundation books and I'm like, "They're the same world?!?" That was a very mind-blowing moment for me.

But when I was writing a lot of this stuff in the late 90s, early 2000s, the rule of thumb was, "People don't want continuing narrative." Like, I still remember watching the DVD extras on the Deep Space Nine DVDs. (Which is the best Star Trek, fight me.) And in Deep Space Nine, they would talk about how they would have to-- they had this big arc they wanted to do for seasons. Go listen to it, it's hilarious. They're like, "But we couldn't tell the executives about that, because they would say 'People don't want continuing story arcs, they want individual adventures.'" So, they would write the Ferengi episodes, which were standalones that were goofy and funny, and sent those as their samples to the studio execs, and hide the fact they were making this big, interconnected epic out of Deep Space Nine. And that was the conventional wisdom. That's just where storytelling was going. So, I'm like, "I have to be really hidden about this, everybody's gonna--"

But, Marvel wasn't the first case we have. It was the television show 24. When 24 came out (this is old news to a lot of you, it's like 20 years ago), but when that show came out, people were like "Wow, a continuing narrative. Some people really like this." And then Marvel did their thing, and Marvel became Marvel over the next years. And that was, like, a thing. And then Netflix started doing stuff where it's like, "We're releasing a whole season at once so you can binge. It's like a nine hour movie." And meanwhile, this whole time, I'm like, "Yes! I was born at the right time!"

I will tell you that when DMG came to buy the Cosmere, it was with stars in their eyes, because shared universes were suddenly the thing, and I had the only one on the market for sale. They're all really really stretching, they're like, "Universal Monsters universe?" They're always trying to make some shared universe. And meanwhile, they're like, "There's a guy who already has one. We'll just go buy it!" That was a big part behind them grabbing that. I think that now, people are more wary, because so many of them that they tried to make failed. But the reason they failed, at least in my opinion, is because they did it the wrong way. Instead of starting with something great, that people would want more of, they started saying, "You are going to get 30 of these. You'd better like the first one. Oh, you think it's mediocre? Well, you'd better like the second one, right?" Where this has always been a theme for me with the Cosmere, that I really want each individual story to stand on its own, and if you want to dig into the connections behind them, there is that depth for you to dig into, and you can start making all of these connections and being part of the fandom. But if you just want to read Warbreaker, it is a standalone. You don't need any of this other stuff, it's all Easter egg, and I think that is part of the issue with some of these. It's this thing I told the writers the other day. This magic phrase of, "Everybody wants to start a book thinking it's a standalone and wants to finish it thinking, knowing it's a series." Like, you want to pick up that first book, or whatever it is, and have it be so good that it wraps up and just knocks your socks off. And at that point, you want a sequel. You don't really want the sequel when you start, you just want a good well-told story. So, I tell a lot of writers, try to make sure that first story is really good, and then worry about sequels. So, that's been my philosophy, and hopefully it has worked out.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#76 Copy


And are there parts-- Are the cosmere novels chronological so far? So when you eventually go back to Warbreaker the effects of Vasher being on Roshar...

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, no, they are not all going to be chronological. Most of them have been chronological so far, but we are getting to the point where they're stopping to be because like Way of Kings was before Alloy but now we've gone back and done Words of Radiance which is a jump backward and then we are going to be jumping to the next Alloy which is a jump forward. I'm pretty sure that's how it goes.

Orem signing 2014 ()
#77 Copy

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Another thing he talked about was some common themes that appear in fantasy. One of them is that Rennassaince air of the Rise of the Common man. You see that in Mistborn for example. The great writing question of the Cosmere, the underlying theme is, What do men do when given the Power of the Gods? How do they act? What do they do?

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#78 Copy


I know that Mistborn, Stormlight Archive, Elantris are set in the same universe, and they've all kind of got certain Shards and I was reading that, like, you might do a book about that? 

Brandon Sanderson

I will eventually, there's no 'might' about it, but I always try to talk somewhat timidly about it because I don't want the focus to be on that, I want the focus to be on each story that's happening. For instance, The Stormlight Archive will only be about The Stormlight Archive. I will be upfront when I do a crossover, but it is many years in the future. For now, I like it being a behind the scenes thing for fans who really want to get into it. I don't want to scare a reader who'll be like "I can't read Mistborn because I haven't finished all of these other books". You can read Mistborn on its own, and there will be cameos that you will notice as you do more, and the more I write, the more to the forefront some of these things will come, but I will lead you gently into it. But yeah, I will be doing crossovers eventually.


And when did you kind of-- was that something you wanted to do from the very beginning, or were you halfway through--

Brandon Sanderson

No, that was something I wanted to do from the beginning. I was inspired by Isaac Asimov combining his Robots books and his Foundation books, and he did it late in his career. It kind of felt a bit hacked together a bit, but it blew my mind when he did it and, as a writer, I always thought, what if somebody did this from the get-go.

The actual origins of the kind of worldhoppers for me was reading books as a teenager and inserting Hoid into them. I really did this.... Do you read books and you like change what is happening in the book, or maybe it's just a me thing? I would have my character interacting with the characters in the books, in my head, as I played the movie of that book in my head, while I was reading it, and there was this character hopping between worlds, with this knowing smirk on his face.

And so, when I was working on Elantris I said, "OK", I knew I had something in that book that was good, that was important, that was relevant, I was very confident in that book. It was my sixth novel, by the way, so I kind of had a handle on these things, and so that's when I decided I'm going to start doing some of this, I'm going to insert Hoid into this and I'm going to start planning this larger epic. It was particularly important to me because I knew I was not going to write a sequel to Elantris immediately, but I wanted to be writing epic stories, and the reason I didn't want to write a sequel to Elantris is because, if an editor rejected Elantris I wanted to be able to send them another book, because when you're getting close to publishing you'll start getting rejections that are like "This is actually a really good book, it doesn't fit our line, you just wrote a great mystical llama book but we just bought one of those, do you have anything else?". I wanted to be able to send them "here's my next thing" rather than "oh, I've got a sequel to the one you just rejected". And so I sat down and wrote the sequel, which was not a sequel, it was called Dragonsteel, which was Hoid's origin story. And then I jumped forward and I wrote White Sand which is another book connected to all these things and it went on, you know, it went crazy from there. And then when I actually sold Elantris it was already going and already in there, and I was able to sit down and write Mistborn, well in hand, knowing what was going to happen. That's why you find Hoid in Elantris and Mistborn and the sneaky, the scary-- well, it's not sneaky and it's not scary-- the moment in the third book when Vin gets creeped out by Hoid is a very important moment, Cosmerologically, but I'm not going to tell you why!

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#79 Copy


Secret history gave a lot of answers but a lot more questions. Will we get more answers in the next Mistborn book?

Brandon Sanderson

The next Mistborn book will have some answers but not Secret History level answers. It is still mostly focused on Wax and Wayne, Steris and Marasi, and finishing up their stories. By the time we get to third era Mistborn we are gonna start seeing a lot more creep in of some of this stuff. Its really fourth era were gonna see the most. The further we go in the Cosmere the more things will creep in. Mistborn; there be a lot more creeping in than in Way of Kings.

Words of Radiance San Diego signing ()
#80 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

When are we first getting a look at the cosmere coming together?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The third Mistborn trilogy is going to involve--it's the first one I planned to do a lot with. I doubt I will do much in the second Mistborn trilogy, more than I probably have done [so far]. It's fun for me, so I'll keep including things in. You'll notice that Hoid is a bigger part of the Stormlight than previous ones, but I still don't want it to come to the forefront quite yet.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#81 Copy


So you've mentioned, and you've said this many times before, that you don't have to feel overwhelmed by the Cosmere if you are just a casual reader that wants to read a trilogy and that's it, you don't have to get too much into it, but do you fear this might taint a bit for readers as you keep developing the Cosmere and making it more prominent and relevant to the story itself?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe I should be more scared than I am, but currently I am not very frightened of this idea, for a couple of reasons. When I do stories that are very deeply involved in the Cosmere and the connections, I will be very upfront with it, and give warnings, so the readers will probably not end up in those books unless they are wanting to. The readers I'm most worried about are the ones who haven't started any of my books yet feeling overwhelmed, or feeling they have to read them in a specific order. As long as they don't start with books like Secret History, that says at the beginning, "Don't start with this book," they'll be fine.

I think one of the strengths of science fiction and fantasy is that the genre does not coddle its readers. Even books in this genre for younger readers are very challenging with their worldbuilding and a lot of the events that happen in them, and I think that the fans are ready and willing to accept this. And the reason our genres tend to have books that become long-term classics is because of this depth. If you go back to the era when Dune was written, you will find Dune and many other science fiction and fantasy books of that era, like Anne McCaffrey's work and Ursula LeGuin's work, that is still being read, and is still considered very important, but if you read in some genres that did not try that depth and complexity, those authors did not last as long, and so I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't add this depth where I can.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#82 Copy


What was the reasoning behind there being many, many years between different stories in the different parts the cosmere, like the huge gap between… Warbreaker and Way of Kings. Like why is--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, why are there some huge gaps in the length of the cosmere. There's-- I want the cosmere to be more than just a little blip of time. The concept for the cosmere was never something, to me, like the Avengers for instance. Which a lot of people kind of view it that way, particularly because the Marvel movies have been so big, and that's good. But it's not like all these concurrent stories with the same characters converging. That's not how I have ever planned it. Now there are certain people who are functionally immortal or close to it that will be involved in things across time, but this is-- I'm telling an epic story, right? And I knew we needed thousands of years between some of the events. For instance, Roshar, we start in the Prelude at 4500 years or whatever before the book starts. It's like, if I didn't have some big gaps, then what are all the stories that are happening in between? It feels illogical and false to me to have all the stories happen in a short time period. Now as certain part of the magic allow more communication and connection, then we will have to, by nature, kind of accelerate some of those things. But I feel like if I spent, you know, ten thousand years or whatever, and only had all the stories happen in the last 50, it would feel really weird. So that’s why.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
#83 Copy


Where in the publication sequence did you realize everything was going to be part of the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, when I wrote Elantris I’d already written a draft of White Sand, so I set them in the same universe. And then when I wrote Dragonsteel I told the pre--so these were all unpublished. So by the time I was publishing it was all very well set.

Orem signing ()
#86 Copy


Do you have intentions to have a conclusion to the Cosmere, or is it something that's going to be ever expanding?

Brandon Sanderson

I did build a conclusion in, and I will write toward it. My goal is to get to it before I get too old. And then if I want to still noodle in the cosmere, do planets that we didn't get to or things like that. So the cosmere main timeline that I'm working on, my plan is to try release a book every year or so in this main timeline. Depends on how long the Stormlight books are. *laughter*

Oathbringer rough draft was 540,000 words. A normal novel is considered 90,000-100,000. The Way of Kings was 300,000. This happens to us fantasy writers. It depends on how long the Stormlight books take. But the main line is 10 Stormlight books in two 5 book arcs. First 5 book arc, then there'll be a break in-world of about a decade. So it won't be as big as the Mistborn jumps. But there'll be a break in world and then we'll come back to it in book 6. And book 6 is where we kind of refocus on different characters, some characters go through the whole thing. Some characters kind of fade more into the background and new characters become the focus. So you can imagine it as two series set in the same world.

We have the mainline Mistborn series, which is taking Mistborn through a bunch of different eras, eventually landing us in science fiction, space travel. I originally plotted those as 9 books, but then I wrote the Wax and Wayne books as more part of that... But the ending of the Cosmere is the science fiction Mistborn trilogy. Chronologically, that's the last thing I have in the plot. That science fiction Mistborn trilogy is space opera. It's Star Wars meets the cosmere. That's our endpoint. 

Right before I write that I will do Dragonsteel, which is Hoid's backstory. Which is flashing back to the beginning of the cosmere, before Adonalsium was Shattered. So that's our time line. You'll get that-- So right now, it's finish the first 5 Stormlight books, do the 1980's level Mistborn books, next 5 of Stormlight, Dragonsteel, ending.

I'll probably work some Elantris books and a Warbreaker book in there but that's my main line. Anything that's not in there, like the Threnody novel and things like this, I plan to do but they have to fill a slot of a side project when I have extra time. Might be pushed to be a novella, instead. That's my main line plan. And that's plenty for me to do. And granted, I just finished book of mine number 42 or 43 or something like that, that I've written since I turned 21. So in 20 years, I wrote 40 books. That sounds like a lot but it depends on how long Stormlight books are.


Like, last year, I basically only did one thing. I had Snapshot and then Stormlight. Those take a lot of work.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#87 Copy


Before you started on all of your books, did you already have an idea of how they all came together or was it a sort of--

Brandon Sanderson

I did by the time I was writing Mistborn. But the thing you have to know about my career is that I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. So, in a lot of those early novels I had no idea what I was doing, that's how authors are. By the time I wrote Mistborn, which was book number fourteen--it was the second book published--but I really had an idea of what I was doing then. Elantris had to be retrofitted a bit to fit into it, because Elantris had been written when I was still figuring things out, but by Mistborn the whole thing was coming together and I had quite a good idea of what I wanted to do.

General Reddit 2021 ()
#88 Copy


Do you know which book is gonna be the Final book released in the Cosmere? Chronological/Release Date

Brandon Sanderson

Almost 100% certain it will be the final book of the space-age Mistborn trilogy. (Right now, that is Era Four--but it's not impossible that I'll slip another smaller era, like the W&W era books, in as a Mistborn cyberpunk story while working on the back five Stormlight books.)

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#89 Copy


Do you have future intentions of grouping characters or descendants from across the Cosmere together against a common foe?

Brandon Sanderson

The future of the cosmere does involve much more crossover between the worlds, but don't think of it like the Avengers--the goal isn't to bring together a group of heroes, but to show the intersection of cultures and ideals, told through the eyes of those who live them.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#90 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I've watched this conversation with interest, and wasn't planning to step in, as it's exactly the sort of thread that's generally better without me. Author intervention can derail a good discussion.

But after considering, I decided I did want to talk about this topic a little. There are two things going on here. One is the mistake I made with Jasnah in Words, which I've mentioned before. One is a larger discussion, relevant to the cosmere.

Warning, WALL OF TEXT. This is me we're talking about.

You see, Jasnah wasn't originally meant to be a fake-out. Jasnah originally was going to go with Shallan to the Shattered Plains--but she was really messing up the outline, diverting attention from Shallan's character arc and pointing it toward Shallan/Jasnah conflicts instead.

My biggest breakthrough when outlining the book in detail was the realization that the book would work so much better if things I'd planned to do with Jasnah in it were diverted to later books. When that came together, WORDS really started working. Hence her jaunt into Shadesmar. I initially wrote the scenes with it being pretty clear to the reader that she was forced to escape--and it was super suspicious that there was no body.

In drafting, however, early readers didn't like how obvious it was that Jasnah would be coming back. I made a crucial mistake by over-reacting to early feedback. I thought, "Well, I can make that more dramatic!" I employed some tools I've learned quite well, and turned that into a scene where the emotion is higher and the death is more powerful.

HOWEVER, I did this without realizing how it mixed with other plotlines--specifically Szeth's resurrection.

We get into sticky RAFO areas here, but one of the biggest themes of the Cosmere is Rebirth. The very first book (Elantris) starts with a character coming back from the dead. (As I've mentioned before, a big part of the inspiration for Elantris was a zombie story, from the viewpoint of the zombie.) Mistborn begins with Kelsier's rebirth following the Pits, and Warbreaker is about people literally called the Returned. (People who die, then come back as gods.) The Stormlight Archive kicks off with Kaladin's rebirth above the Honor Chasm, and Warbreaker is meant as a little foreshadowing toward the greater arc of the cosmere--that of the Shards of Adonalsium, who are held by ordinary people.

Szeth's rebirth, with his soul incorrectly affixed to his body, is one of the things I've been very excited to explore in The Stormlight Archive--and the mistake with Jasnah was letting her return distract from that.

That said, you're not wrong for disliking this theme--there's no "wrong" when it comes to artistic tastes. And I certainly wish I'd looked at the larger context of what happened when I shifted Jasnah's plot in book two. (Doubling down on "Jasnah is dead" for short term gain was far worse than realizing I should have gone with "Jasnah was forced to jump into Shadesmar, leaving Shallan alone." I consider not seeing that to be the biggest mistake I've made in The Stormlight Archive so far.)

However, the story of the cosmere isn't really about who lives or dies. We established early on that there is an afterlife (or, at least, one of the most powerful beings in the cosmere believes there is--and he tends to be a trustworthy sort.) And multiple books are about people being resurrected. What I'm really interested in is what this does to people. Getting given a second try at life, being reborn as something new. (Or, in some cases, as something worse.) The story of the cosmere is about what you do with the time you have, and the implications of the power of deity being in the hands of ordinary people.

More importantly (at least to me) I've always felt character deaths are actually somewhat narratively limp in stories. Perhaps it's our conditioning from things like Gandalf, Obi-Wan, and even Sherlock Holmes. But readers are always going to keep asking, "are they really dead?" And even if they stay dead, I can always jump back and tell more stories about them. The long cycle of comic books over-using resurrection has, I think, also jaded some of us to the idea of character death--but even without things like that, the reader knows they can always re-read the book. And that fan-fiction of the character living will exist. And that the author could always bring them back at any time. A death should still be a good death, mind you--and an author really shouldn't jerk people around, like I feel I did with Jasnah.

But early on, I realized I'd either have to go one of two directions with the cosmere. Either I had to go with no resurrections ever, stay hard line, and build up death as something really, really important. Or I had to shift the conversation of the books to greater dangers, greater stakes, and (if possible) focus a little more on the journey, not the sudden stop at the end.

I went with the latter. This isn't going to work for everyone. I'm fully aware of, and prepared for, the fact that things like Szeth coming back will ruin the stories for some readers. And I do admit, I've screwed it up in places. Hopefully, that will teach me better so that I can handle the theme delicately, and with strong narrative purpose behind the choices I make. But do warn you, there WILL be other resurrections in my books. (Though there are none planned for the near future. I took some extra care with the next few books, after feeling that things happening in Words and the Mistborn series in the last few years have hit the theme too hard.) This is a thing that I do, and a thing that I will continue to do. I consider it integral to the story I'm telling. Hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to achieve these acts with the weight and narrative complexity they deserve.

If it helps, I have several built-in rules for this. The first is that actual cosmere resurrections (rather than just fake-outs, like I did with Jasnah) can happen only under certain circumstances, and have a pretty big cost to them. Both will become increasingly obvious through the course of the stories. The other rule is more meta. I generally tell myself that I only get one major fake-out, or one actual resurrection, per character. (And I obviously won't use either one for most characters.) This is more to keep myself from leaning on this narrative device too much, which I worry I'll naturally do, considering that I see this as a major theme of the books.


(Sharders, please don't start asking me at signings who has had their "one death" so far. This is me drawing the curtain back a little on the process, I really don't want it to become an official thing that people focus on. Do feel free to talk about the mechanics of resurrection though--it should be pretty obvious now with Elantris, Warbreaker, Szeth, and a certain someone from Mistborn to use as guides.)

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#91 Copy


Do you ever find you own stories, your own characters, coming back and influencing you?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.  More, it's like I have these things I'm really interested in.  And so I find myself rounding those things again and again.  And I've actually started a list of 'You've covered this thing, Brandon.  You can't do this one anymore'.  Just because I work in the cosmere where everything is connected, so the underlying physics of the books are sometimes very similar.  And so I just have to be very careful not to repeat myself too much.  

Chris King interview ()
#92 Copy

Chris King

We've seen some hints of the over-arching cosmere story arc, what was the inspiration behind that story originally?

Brandon Sanderson

I had an idea for a book when I was fifteen and just getting into fantasy novels—just getting into meaning, reading everything I could get my hands on and diving in face first—and I developed that idea over the next few years. I started writing and realized I was just no good as a writer yet. Which was okay, it wasn't a big deal to me. I realized this story was beyond my ability to approach, it was a vast, enormous story. And so, years later when I was writing Elantris I thought "Well let's just pretend I wrote that book and it was awesome and it's the prelude to what's going on here." That expanded into something much larger and much greater.

I've mentioned before, part of my inspiration for this was the fact that one of my favorite writers, Asimov, later decided to connect two of his main story universes, the Robot books and the Foundation books. It was really cool when he did it and I felt what would happen if I started doing something like this from the get go. I've known several authors who do it at the end of their careers—well I guess Stephen King's not even at the end of his career, in the middle of his career—saying let me tie a bunch of these things together. What if I seeded all of this from the get go and use this story, this awesome story, that I wasn't able to write when I was younger as a foundation for it.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#95 Copy


I have a cosmere question. At the end of Words of Radiance, Szeth receives Nightblood. The wiki told me it was a sword from Warbreaker, but I didn't realize how significant it was till I read the book. This, to me, seems like the first major cosmere crossover. All the other crossovers so far seem to have just been cameos (Hoid tells stories, or there are mysterious people hunting somebody, etc). I will RAFO, but it does seem like Szeth getting the sword means Nightblood will play a not-insignificant role in Stormlight 3. Does this mean the cosmere books are going to converge more going forward? Specifically, would someone need to have read Warbreaker to understand Oathbringer? Till now your different cosmere series have been readable in any order (and I didn't read them in publication order). Similarly, Mistborn: Secret History seems to be a prerequisite for at least the next Mistborn book.

Brandon Sanderson

One thing you have to remember is that in my cosmere outline, Warbreaker was a prequel to The Way of Kings, explaining Vasher's backstory. So I consider them more closely connected than some other things. But you could consider this the first major crossover.

Nightblood will be re-introduced, so those who haven't read Warbreaker will be brought up to speed.


Wow. Cool to see this.

One of my "concerns" is that eventually the cosmere stuff will overwhelm the individual series arcs.

Kinda like the Marvel Avengers movies, whilst they are great on their own, they lose some of the individuality that an Iron Man movie might have. If the overall story adds characters then you may end up with a Captain America: Civil War movie which whilst was amazing. Wasn't really a Captain America movie and would lose so much to someone who had only seen Capt America movies.

That being said I totally trust your judgement on this, I say concerns but I don't mean in a bad way.

That being said is any book flagged for an Avengers style "battle for the cosmere"?

Brandon Sanderson

I do have some plans for mixing later on, though I'll be very forthright about when those books come out. Meaning, so long as I'm not talking about these things as the main focus of a series, you don't have to worry about it taking them over. Conversely, you can be very excited when it does happen, as those stories will be very clear about what they're attempting to do.

One thing I do try to warn people is that the cosmere isn't an "Avengers" style concept--the goal here isn't to collect a variety of heroes from a variety of worlds and then throw them at a problem. It's more of a, "What if you could watch the world of something like Star Trek develop, by seeing individual engaging stories from various planets, then slowly watching them merge into a larger universe."

While some characters will, obviously, continue on through the series, and the Vessels of the Shards will be very important, the focus of the greater cosmere storyline is the cultures, the magic, and the evolution of the planets, while the individual stories are about the people who live on them during turning-points in their history.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
#96 Copy

Lance Alvein

To get us started, Brandon, do you want to give everyone a quick idea of what the cosmere is?

Brandon Sanderson

*laughs* Okay. So, here's what's going on: When I first was trying to break in—this was over ten years ago now, like fifteen—someone told me that your first five books were generally unpublishable. That was fairly good advice; I found that for most people it's really just your first novel; your second novel tends to get really good. For me, I did end up writing five experimental books that I never published; Elantris was my sixth book. Another piece of advice I got while I was working on it, however, was: you don't want to start with a big epic, the reason for that being is that you want to give a chance for readers to read something, you know, a single volume, or maybe one or two books before—so they can see, so they can trust you to finish a story before you jump into a big epic. It actually seemed like pretty good advice to me; it also works very well with publishing because approaching editors and things like that, you want to be able to send them a book, and if they reject it, but say, "Hey, I'd like to see something else by you; this wasn't the right project for me, but I like your writing." You can't really send them book two of that series, right? Because, you know, they want to see something new, and so I sat down to write a sequence of three or four standalone epic fantasy novels that potentially could have sequels maybe, but the idea was to make them standalone. But, kind of in my heart, I've always loved the big epic. You don't grow up reading Robert Jordan and Tad Williams and Melanie Rawn and people like this, without saying, "I want to do that." And so, what I started doing was actually building a hidden epic behind the scenes with all of these books, the idea being that there were characters who were crossing between the worlds that would have a story that someday I would tell that wouldn't be directly important to the book itself, but would lay the groundwork and give foreshadowing to something very large coming.

And so I designed this thing—you know, I'm a worldbuilder—I designed this thing with a sequence of planets and a story behind the story, and people crossing between them. And so, when I wrote Elantris, I embedded all of this in there, and then my next books were in that sequence jumping around—some were before, some were after—and things like this, so there are these continuing characters. Well, years and years later, I decided I would finally start writing something big and epic; I was tired of not getting published; I was tired of all the advice people were giving me; I had written a couple of books that were not very good based on the advice that people had given me. I said, "I just want to write my big epic," and that's when I started Way of Kings, and wrote that. And I'm like "I'll the launch into the big epic, some of these things are going to be more important to the series" It was kind of me honestly giving figuratively the bird to all of publishing, saying, you know, "You've told me that my books are too long, that two hundred thousand words is too long; I'm gonna write one that's four hundred thousand," so, you know: "I don't care; it's gonna be big and awesome and it's the book for me." I spent eighteen months working on this book, and right after I finished it, I sold Elantris. It sat on an editor's desk for a year and a half. He finally picked it up and read it, and tried to get a hold of me the next day wanting to buy it.

And so, suddenly I sell Elantris which I had written like five years before, which had all these things embedded in it, and I sent that editor The Way of Kings, because you know he wanted to buy two books from me. He's like, "Alright, the standalone is great; what else do you have?" so I sent him Way of Kings, and he panicked. *laughter* He was like, "Ahhhhh, this is huge, and what are all these illustrations that you're talking about, and I don't know if we can-- can we break this into like four books?" And I'm like, "No no, it's gotta be one book." And he's like, "Ahhh...." But fortunately for him, I didn't feel the book was ready at that point, otherwise I might have forced him to publish it. I felt my skill wasn't up to the task of doing that since I'd practiced only doing standalones up to that point, and so I said, "I want to do a trilogy so I can practice the series format; I've got a pitch on this book called Mistborn that I want to write for you." And Mistborn was the first book that I ever wrote knowing it would get published. So when I sat down to write Mistborn, I had already sold Elantris, and Elantris was coming out, and it all of this stuff embedded in it, and I'm like, "Do I keep going with that or not? Do I just go all in?" And so I decided to go ahead and do it, and so Mistborn has all of this behind-the-scenes sort of story things built into it, and there's a character from Elantris—it's the beggar that Sarene meets near the end—who is also in Mistborn, who is the beggar that Kelsier talks to, that they wanted-- pretending to be blind, that he gets information from, and then this character keeps appearing in all of the books as kind of a little Easter egg that was not so Easter-eggery because the fans found it right away. *laughter*

And so the cosmere is my name for this big universe, which is actually, you know, just a play on "cosmos"—it's not the most original word—but it's something I had actually come up with when I was a teenager, so, it's one of those relics that's in there that if I were to do it now, I might name it something a little less obvious. I don't know; it does work, and it is a fun name, so that's there. The character's name is Hoid, and there are other characters moving between the planets, and so there is a buried, deeper story to all of my big fantasies. The thing that I want to tell people, though, is that you don't need to read them in order because these are just Easter eggs; there's not a story there that you can really piece together yet. I don't want people to feel they have to read Elantris before Mistborn, or they can't, you know-- If you read them all, at some point you will have some little extra tidbits of information, but there's not something there that's going on that's chronological that you need to know about right now, but that's in a nutshell what's going on there; there is an underlying theory of magic for all of the epic fantasies that they all follow. I love the concept in science of the unifying law, right? If you guys have studied physics, there's this belief that somewhere out there there's a unifying theory that will unite all of physics, and because right now, you know, the things that happen on the macro scale don't really match what happen on the quantum scale, and you kind of have to have two sets of equations, and people believe that someday we'll find that link that'll put them all together, and that's fascinating to me, science is, and so I have a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds that people in-world on various planets are figuring out with regards to theirs, but if they had all of the pieces they could kind of put it all together. Interview ()
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We were wondering, I know that you always told us that it's not necessary to read the rest of the cosmere but after what happened in The Rhythm of War, could you still say--and potentially in Mistborn Era 3 now--could you consider that maybe there will be a moment where you might need, for the sake of enjoying the whole thing, and all the Easter eggs, and the story behind the story, maybe it's needed to have a small background?

Brandon Sanderson

If you want to enjoy the Easter eggs, then yes. But I still maintain Mistborn Era 4 marks when you are going to be completely lost if you haven't read everything else. Things that happen in Rhythm of War, I think you can understand conceptually, even if you don't know the other players. If you were telling a story about America during the Vietnam War, and you knew about the war happening in Vietnam and kind of the implications on the American citizens who didn't want to go to war and things like that, you don't necessarily have to read the book that is taking place in Vietnam to understand all of that. It would help, but if the focus is on--if you can outline what people need to know in a few sentences, I don't know how spoilery you want me to go, I'm trying to use a metaphor that's not my books.

We're trying to keep it non-spoilery.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, and so if you in this situation were to have somebody who said, "There's a war going on, it's very unpopular, and lots of people's loved ones are dying for reasons they don't think are justified and legit," you could know that and still have this whole story happen over here. That's the sort of thing that I believe is happening at the end of Rhythm of War. You're learning a few things about the cosmere yes, but you can listen off one, two, or three points, and you get those points and you understand that there is a foreign sort of thing going on that is affecting what we're doing. But you only have to know those points for its effect on the story of the Stormlight Archive. It's a little more involved than I've gone in the past, but I still maintain that could read only the Stormlight Archive and you won't be lost, you won't feel like you're not getting part of the story. You will feel, I hope, that there's a lot more to explore and understand if you read further. The Way of Kings Re-Read Interview ()
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As a man of many projects, you seem very good about compartmentalizing your workload to be able to complete or advance a project independently while midway through even larger commitments. That being said, even authors such as Stephen King have viewed a certain project as their 'life work'. Would you consider The Stormlight Archive to be this to you (or at least your early life's work-being as young as you are) or rather does your ability to compartmentalize extend to your accomplishments as well as your workload in that you can view your achievements independently?

Brandon Sanderson

I consider the Cosmere sequence to be my life work—of which the Stormlight Archive is a major part, but it's not the only part. Compartmentalizing projects is the nature of how I work, to keep myself fresh, but the interconnection of the cosmere means it's not entirely compartmentalized.

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So are you going to write a Sixth of the Dusk novel?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably not. A lot of the little cosmere novellas that I'm doing, they are less important to the overarching plot of the cosmere that I designed. And so I want to visit them, show different places in the cosmere and how the magic is affecting different worlds, but the goal is not to incorporate them into the mainline story. I mean the main story takes place mostly on the planets you've seen, with a couple of other ones, and I'm sticking to that.


So are you going to write a series that ties all the major ones together?

Brandon Sanderson