Who are your biggest literary influences?
Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)
Robert Jordan *laughter* and Victor Hugo.
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Who are your biggest literary influences?
Robert Jordan *laughter* and Victor Hugo.
This isn't so much a question as just something I noticed... When I first read a summary of the Deadpool movie... to trigger his powers, they basically tortured him. And as soon as I read that, I was like, "They Snapped him!"
Now, I can't claim ownership of this. I think you will find the idea of "anguish brings powers" reaching back to the early days of the Golden Age superhero comics. And to a lot of the early 70s and 80s fantasy that I was reading and absorbing during those formative years. So, I can't take credit for that. I think it's a very common trope. And so I would not suggest that the writers of Deadpool have anything to do with it... I wouldn't think that they had read-- Just because it's part of the general understanding. I mean, I bet there's a TVTropes page for it, right? ...They'll probably have some pithy name for it or something, "Traumatic Power Inception" or something like that, they'll have some page for it. And you can go find all the places where it came from.
For the Thrill, did you get the idea for that from Ether in the Book of Mormon?
No, not specifically. But I mean, I've read Ether so many times, it's got-- Yeah, that seems like a very natural connection.
What happened to Rand? He's not dead?
So Robert Jordan wrote everything from Rand stumbling out of Shayol Ghul until the ending, with the exception of the Perrin scenes, which I added to that epilogue. Harriet says--his wife--says he sat laughing to himself as he wrote the scene with the pipe, but he did not tell her what it means.
The pipe where he-- he lit the pipe just by thinking about it.
That's also something-- he's using the Tel'aran'rhiod power to light it in the real world?
I do not know. Now, I have my theories. I think that because Rand touched the Pattern directly, when he was doing what he was doing, that he now has influence over the Pattern.
So he can change and manipulate things? But he's-
That's what I think, but Robert Jordan didn't say, and he did write those scenes himself before he passed away. So, I wrote the actual Last Battle-
All of it? That was so epic.
Yes. So he took over-- where he left was right when Rand stumbles out. The Last Battle chunk before that was me. He wrote Mat in the Tower of Ghenjei... He wrote most of Egwene in The Gathering Storm, and then little snippets of Egwene all the way through. Perrin was almost one hundred percent me; he didn't leave much on Perrin. With Rand, he wrote little chunks here and there...
So I do not know. Now, I can tell you that there in the notes that when the balefire streams, when they crossed, intertwined [Rand's] soul with Moridin's soul. And one thing that his assistant said is that the [soul] that wanted to live found the body that was going to live, and the [soul] that wanted to die found the body that was dying. And that's what happened.
They swapped bodies because he had this thing-- Why didn't he go in and say "hey everybody?" ...He didn't want to be with his family and friends anymore?
I think he probably came back-- He just needed a break. I'm pretty sure that he eventually let them know, but he just needed a little time. So, but I don't know for sure.
I thought it was super cool, going in, the chase between Slayer and Perrin.
I had a lot of fun with that scene.
...Also, you told me last time I saw you, that Tel'aran'rhiod is basically-- Is that kind of where you got the idea of the parallel universe in the other books?
Yeah, Shadesmar. Shadesmar you can tie directly back to my love of Tel'aran'rhiod. It's kind of mixed with that in my love of some ancient Greek philosophy things that are not that important, but yeah.
OK, so I haven’t read all of those books, but, judging by the books that I've read, one married couple is particularly important to you. Is it true?
Yes, I would say. This is in part because I think that stories ignore family a little too much. Too often, I feel that stories that I've read either ignore the family by making someone just an orphan with no family or ending the story when the heart stuff starts, such as being a couple.
What does that have to do with Legion?
Oh, Stephen Leeds. Stephen Leeds has a very, very large family, he just makes most of them up.
I really loved the character Lightsong, he was my favorite and probably one of the most interesting characters I've ever read about. Did you have anyone in particular in mind when you came up with him? How did go about developing him as a character?
Rupert Everett was sitting in the back of my mind.
Actually, in order to develop Lightsong's character well, I didn't want to imitate any one voice. That's something we always stay away from. But I had been wanting to work on writing humor in a different way from what I'd previously used. I spent a lot of time watching and analyzing the movie THE THIN MAN, the old comedy/mystery/crime film with an emphasis on very witty characters making wisecracks as they investigate a murder. If you haven't seen it, it's delightful. Along with AN IDEAL HUSBAND and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, those were my three sources of inspiration. I was trying for a blend of those two styles—and then of course added my own sense of humor.
What is your favourite drawing so far? What is your next project?
I think Shardplate is my favorite page. My favorite drawing... I think I'll have to think on that.
My next Brandon project is, unless something breaks, Stormlight III. Of course, Shadows of Self just came out, and Bands of Mourning will hit the shelves early next year, so those are the next things to see print.
Nice! Are there any other artists that inspire you in particular?
Oh gosh, lots and far too many to list!
If I was hoping to emulate anyone in my Stormlight work, it'd be artists like Alan Lee and John Howe for Peter Jackson, or Ralph McQuarrie and Johnston for George Lucas, or Ron Cobb and Chris Foss or Syd Meade for Ridley Scott.
I think Brandon's got the legs. But we've got a long way to go. :)
Raoden is an expert at manipulating his surroundings. This doesn't make him "manipulative," in my mind. (You can read about a real manipulator in my next book.) Raoden simply knows how to take what he is given and make the best from them. In a way, this is the soul of creativity. Raoden is like a master composer or an artist–except, where they take images or sounds and combine them to suit their needs, he takes the situation and adapts it to create something useful. Outside of Elantris, he took his father's edicts and turn them against the man. However, thrown into a terrible situation like the pit of Elantris, Raoden really has an opportunity to shine.
He's kind of like a magic unto himself. I've known people a little like him in this world–people who can defy convention and reality, and just make things work. Somehow, Raoden can make three out of two. He can take the pieces and combine them in new ways, creating something greater than most people thought possible.
In short, he's the perfect hero for this kind of book. When I was writing Elantris in the winter of 1999 and spring of 2000, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at BYU. The book I'd written before it was called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora–undoubtedly the strangest, most-un-Brandon-like book I've ever constructed. Pandora was a SFstory about a man made immortal though careful–and expensive–application of nanotechnology. The process slowly drove him mad.
Pandora was a dark, grisly book. The man character could withstand alarming injuries without dying. One prime theme of the novel was dealing with the psyche of a man who could slaughter thousands of people while being shot to pieces, then find himself reconstructed a short time later. It was a rather violent book–probably the most disturbing I've ever written.
When I got done with that book, I reacted against it by wanting to devise a plot that didn't depend at all on violence. Elantris was the result. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who could succeed without having to beat up on the people who opposed him. I took away his physical abilities and his royal resources, leaving him with only his wits and his determination.
Somebody asked me if there's any Lovecraftian influences in my books, because I do enjoy Lovecraft. And so I thought, "Well this would be a good interlude to read," for that reason.
Do you purposefully take ideas from the Book of Mormon and turn them inside out, on their head, so no one knows where you got the ideas from? Like when you have Kelsier saying, in this moment, and he defeats the Lord Ruler, just in Ruler's capital city, and like how in the Book of Mormon when the La-āmanites, besieged Zaraellmə-ī, because no one else can see it coming?
So, I don't intentionally take, usually, from the Book of Mormon. There's a lot of unconscious things coming out. The only thing you can say is that I based The Way of Kings a little bit on King Benjamin's speech.
Near the ending of The Emperor's Soul, I loved how the old man ends up repeating an act for which he had earlier chastised his young charge. A little O Henry touch?
It's good that you caught that. I didn't want it to be "beat you over the head" obvious, or too subtle.
What inspired you to start writing?
It was the books I was reading. I wanted to learn to do what they had done. Anne McCaffrey was a big part of it. But I was reading it, I was like, these books have had such a profound effect on me, I want to learn to do that for other people.
Rand/Dark One confrontation through The Wheel of Time series...was it some kind of inspiration for Dalinar/Odium confrontation from your own series?
It's very heard to separate out what in my series is WoT influenced--since all of it is influenced deeply by reading the WoT when younger. So I'd say it most certainly was.
Warbreaker. When it talks about the God King, the way he sees the world, and he talks about even a little blemish on someone's skin is so beautiful. To me, it sounds like, if you think about the love of God for Christ, that is how they would see us. Is that kind of what you were going for?
Sure, absolutely. I mean, I don't think I was thinking that when I was writing it, but certainly my Christian upbringing is going to make those things pop out in my fiction, so I would say "Yes, that's a valid interpretation." But you kind of have to look at that as reader response interpretation. Rather than "This is what the author intending," it's "This is what the author was unintentionally drawing upon." Reader response is the wrong term. Whatever the correct literary-- I would have known it in college... Because reader response is that author intent does not matter. If you respond to it a certain way, that's a valid interpretation. And there's a certain thing that's like, the author's upbringing informing how they write their text. Like, it's not deconstructionalism. Historicism.
Is Hoid named after the Sephira of Hod? Like with an Ashkenazi pronunciation? The Kabbalistic thing.
Oh, the Kabbalistic thing. Not consciously, though the Double Eye is based a little bit on the Kabbalah tree of life, consciously. That's the illustration on the front cover of the first Stormlight book. And I have read a bunch of Kabbalah, so it's totally possible that it ended up in there on accident.
Were you ever influenced by the Silmarillion?
Excellent question. I didn't read Tolkien until late. I tried Tolkien when I was young, and I bounced off of it because I was not a really good reader at the time. And I didn't read Tolkien 'til college. I didn't read the Silmarillion 'til grad school. So, while I would say "Yes," I am not as Tolkien-influenced as a lot of writers are. I'm more influenced by the writers who were influenced by Tolkien. Like Robert Jordan, and people like this, who were very Tolkien-influenced. And I read them growing up. And Tolkien, I was finally able to read and really get an appreciation for, but it was later in my life.
Fourth - Outside of books, what influences his writing?
1. People he knows (Sarene is based on a friend, etc; also includes character conflicts)
2. Cinema, especially when it does something poorly and he wants to do it better
3. video games may be an influence, unsure.
Was all of your work on Firefight, is that based on the Butterfly effect?
It is a little bit, definitely.
I've been dying to ask you this question, especially ever since I've read Way of Kings, it's been growing on me. How much of your work has been influenced by Terry Warner? Bonds That Make Us Free?
I haven't read any of him.
For this story, with Dalinar hiring the guy who shot at him with an arrow, was that at all based on Genghis Khan?
It was, that's where I got it. [...] I used to, when I first published <The Way of Kings?>, "You guys recognize this" and no one did, so I stopped talking about it. He was famous for not only that *incomprehensible*, but for recruiting people from every battlefield he went to. The better soldier you were, the more he wanted you in his army.
So, Shadows for Silence... Threnody, or Hell at least, is based off of Judaism, right? And Shade sounds a lot like the Hebrew word for demon, Shedim. Is there a relation?
Yes... yes. But it's not an in-world reason, it's just in my brain, right?
Okay, so I was going to ask like... do they have chicken legs, which is how [Jewish demons are depicted]
No, they don't. But, you know, things like She’ol [Hebrew word, the Jewish interpetation of the afterlife in certain texts] and things like that, they're in the back of my head - mostly because of Stormlight. I would say, I hadn't thought about it before, but that's definitely an unconscious influence on me. But they do not have chicken legs.
Have you seen The Last Starfighter, Brandon? Because I feel a need to re-watch it after reading your sample chapters (which were excellent).
I love The Last Starfighter, so you could say that it's certainly an influence.
The Origins of Siri and Vivenna
Back around the year 2000 or 2001 I started writing a book called Mythwalker. It was an epic fantasy novel, an attempt to go back to basics in the genre. I'd tried several genre-busting epics (one of which was Elantris) that focused on heroes who weren't quite the standards of the genre. I avoided peasant boys, questing knights, or mysterious wizards. Instead I wrote books about a man thrown into a leper colony, or an evil missionary, or things like that.
I didn't sell any of those books. (At least, not at first.) I was feeling discouraged, so I decided to write a book about a more standard fantasy character. A peasant boy who couldn't do anything right, and who got caught up in something larger than himself and inherited an extremely powerful magic.
It was boring.
I just couldn't write it. I ended up stopping about halfway through—it's the only book of mine that I never finished writing. It sits on my hard drive, not even spellchecked, I think, half finished like a skyscraper whose builder ran out of funds.
One of the great things about Mythwalker, however, was one of the subplots—about a pair of cousins named Siri and Vivenna. They switched places because of a mix-up, and the wrong one ended up marrying the emperor.
My alpha readers really connected with this storyline. After I abandoned the project, I thought about what was successful about that aspect of the novel. In the end, I decided it was just the characters. They worked. This is odd because, in a way, they were archetypes themselves.
The story of the two princesses, along with the peasant/royalty swap, is an age-old fairy tale archetype. This is where I'd drawn the inspiration from for these two cousins. One wasn't trained in the way of the nobility; she was a distant cousin and poor by comparison. The other was heir to her house and very important. I guess the idea of forcing them to switch places struck some very distinct chords in my readers.
Eventually, I decided that I wanted to tell their story, and they became the focus of a budding book in my mind. I made them sisters and got rid of the "accidental switch" plotline. (Originally, one had been sent by mistake, but they looked enough alike that nobody noticed. Siri kept quiet about it for reasons I can't quite remember.) I took a few steps away from the fairy tale origins, but tried to preserve the aspects of their characters and identities that had worked so well with readers.
I'm not sure why using one archetype worked and the other didn't. Maybe it was because the peasant boy story is so overtold in fantasy, and I just didn't feel I could bring anything new to it. (At least not in that novel.) The two princesses concept isn't used nearly as often. Or maybe it was just that with Siri and Vivenna I did what you're supposed to—no matter what your inspiration, if you make the characters live and breathe, they will come alive on the page for the reader. Harry Potter is a very basic fantasy archetype—even a cliché—but those books are wonderful.
You have to do new things. I think that fantasy needs a lot more originality. However, not every aspect of the story needs to be completely new. Blend the familiar and the strange—the new and the archetypal. Sometimes it's best to rely on the work that has come before. Sometimes you need to cast it aside.
I guess one of the big tricks to becoming a published author is learning when to do which.
One of my favorite aspects of your books is you always have this character that kind of has a submissive personality starting out and they evolve into a more dominant personality. Do you have an author for a series that kind of inspired this?
Inspires me? He says frequently I have a character who's in a submissive position that becomes dominant through the course of the series. Do I have an author that I'm relying on specifically. No more than the "Hero's Journey", the general idea of the person growing and becoming master of their domain where once they were not. I don't think I have a specific person I'm looking at for that. But it is a fun type of story to tell, just because of the way you can show progression with a character.
I've been thinking about Idealism as a philosophy and how the concept of the... Cognitive Realm is sort of like a very realistic version of Idealism. Is there any influence there at all?
Oh, definitely. I was a closet philosophy major in college. I didn't actually do that, but I attended a lot of philosophy classes. And I'll tell you this, philosophers don't know to write. That's the most annoying part. You read their essays, and they're full of brilliant ideas, with these enormous run-on sentences that make no sense. You have to like-- So I got really frustrated by that. But I really loved the classes and reading and things like that, and the touch of it is all over my books. If you look for it, you'll find a lot of the different philosophies, you'll find all those guys in different places on different philosophers and different religions and stuff like that.
Do you read non-fiction at all? I'm a history grad student. I'm reading some of your stuff. I was kind of wondering if you ever did get inspiration from history or things like that?
Yes I do like them. I really like pop history books. So if you've got any good suggestions, just like you know, history of war, history of. . . Honestly, I end up at the Barnes and Noble browsing their discount things for pop history and pop science books, and you find really interesting ones there a lot of the time.
Also what is it about about the Fantasy genre in particular that lends itself to these sorts of questions about the nature of religion?
Well I think that there are a lot of things. One of them is that fantasy is one of these genres where we can take away a lot of the contemporary baggage. For instance, since it is hard to talk about things like the Catholic Church and the religion without getting into the social issues in our world right now, but if you create a fake religion that you can narrow down and focus on one aspect of it-- Fantasy is really good at that. Tolkien did it with racism, let's have an elf and a dwarf and have them interact, and take away all the baggage of civil rights era America or England and instead said "Let's see if these two races can get along".
It's the same reason why I like Star Trek, you can kind of create a scenario and--
But I also think that because of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis having such an influence on the genre you can do Good vs Evil, which lends itself. Like Robert Jordan's works there's no religion there's just a lot of spirituality. So there is no religion because people can actively check and see if God is real, the Creator. The magic is there, it's the proof, they don't need a religion. Which is a really interesting way to approach it.
The Horneater names are very similar to Polynesian names...
That is the direct inspiration. I love how Polynesian languages sound, and it's something I've been wanting to use for years.
Vin and Elend dine with Cett
And, we have our second "ball" scene in this book. Some people really enjoyed those in the previous book; at least one reviewer hated them. However, I like them–particularly for the visuals they let me use when going into the gorgeous noble keeps. As you may recall, these are based loosely on gothic cathedrals, which I just think would be an awesome place to have a ball.
Cett was, perhaps, too fun a character to write. I needed someone the opposite of Straff, and it was very fulfilling to write in an enemy to this series who was completely straightforward and belligerent. He still stands out to me, quite different from any of the other antagonists in the series.
He knows Elend well–that should be enough to hint that he kept an eye on things in Luthadel, despite his attitude which implies that he didn't care about the place. He's watched Elend's rule very carefully, debating whether to make an alliance or to make a play for Elend's throne. If the truth be told, he would have probably gone for the alliance if Straff hadn't moved against Luthadel.
He walks a careful line. He's not a good man, but he IS an effective leader in some respects. I wanted him to offer a third viewpoint on leadership in this book, one that is actually accurate. Being a leader isn't easy–not at all. There are a lot of ways to do it, and I don't want to imply that any one of these people–Elend, Cett, or Tindwyl–are wrong. That's what makes it so tough to be a leader.
Cett offers the perspective of open, honest tyranny. He doesn't lie to you. He tells you just what he's going to do, and he has a point that many of the things he does are safe.
But, what do you choose when you have to choose between safety and freedom? You can probably guess that I wrote a lot of this book during the heightening of security in America surrounding the September 11 attacks. The last couple of years, there has been a lot of talk on this topic, and it wormed its way into my writing. I didn't put it there intentionally, but I did monopolize on it when I found it there.
I don't have any answers. I just write what I see, and force my characters to make choices.
A question in general with your writing process. Do you learn a lot from your students that have gone on to become authors in their own right? Do you come back looking at their works and maybe saying "I can incorporate this kind of style into my writing?"
I would say I tend to learn more from the writers who were with me when I was breaking in who are around my age, 'cause we're all kind of going through the same things. So people like Dan Wells or Mary Robinette Kowal that are kind of my group that broke in around the same time, I try to talk to them a lot about writing. This is where my writing podcast came from, Writing Excuses. It was me just wanting to ask them how they fix thing, how they deal with this thing, how they deal with that. Certainly, some of my students have gone on to do really great stuff that is inspiring. Brian McClellan's Powder Mage books are great. Charlie Holmberg, who writes the Paper Magician, the Glass Magician books are great. Lot of really great writers. I don't know how much credit I can take from them. But I am inspired a lot by a lot of the books that I read. But I wouldn't say that group specifically. Though working with new writers is kind of inspiring in its own way. Less about the things they're writing, and more just remembering what it was like, and the passion you have when you're a brand new writer. That kind of fresh-faced innocence is handy for someone, the longer you go.
Was Hoid's role as the royal jester in The Emperor's Soul influenced by Robin Hobb's character the fool?
I assume there are decisions you have to make on the fly while doing the art, so I was wondering: are there any of those that have made it into the lore, and maybe actually made changes to some of the plot elements? If so, what is your favorite thing you added to the story through the illustrations?
Actually, most everything that makes it into the book has been reviewed and discussed and approved, so even the decisions I make on the fly are subject to change.
There's a series of character illustrations that were done early on, for the initial book pitch before the first novel was fully written. When Brandon eventually wrote descriptions for those characters in the text, the illustrations I'd provided played a part in what he wrote, which was wildly gratifying.
You've been pretty open about Dalinar being somewhat based off of Genghis Khan.
Subutai more than Genghis Khan, but yeah.
Is Kaladin based off of George Washington?
Not intentionally. But I can see the parallels as you bring them out. Kaladin was partially based on my reading about... People who have won the Medal of Honor share an interesting characteristic. A strangely statistically high number of them are older brothers. Eldest brothers. Eldest sons. Same with astronauts. And it is that protective instinct that, as an older sibling, you learn, but it can backfire on you as well for various reasons. Kaladin, I was reading a lot about that, so you've got this whole eldest brother superhero complex thing going on.
Brandon, what has been the influence of your LDS religion on your writing? Have aspects of Mormon doctrine been incorporated into your worldbuilding?
I'm very interested in the concepts of religion and the ideas that surround it, and I often find myself writing books that deal with things I'm interested in myself. I allow the themes of books like these to grow naturally out of the world I've built and out of the stories that I want to tell. Specifically, I kind of let the characters decide what the themes of a book are going to be. I don't go into it saying, "I'm going to write about this," but the worlds that I create betray my own interests very strongly.
What is it about faith and deity? This is something that is unique about us as human beings, something very interesting to me, and it felt like this area was an open space to explore in fantasy in ways that hadn't been done before. I always find myself gravitating toward things that I feel haven't been explored as much as they could have been. That interests me and fascinates me.
The scene where the children talk about art is one I nearly cut from the book on a couple of different occasions. I worry that this is one of the scenes that contributes overly-much to the "Kiin's family is out of place" feeling that people occasionally get. In addition, I worry that I made Kaise too intelligent here. Three things make me retain the scene. First, I think it's kind of amusing. The second is a spoiler, so I won't say much on it—just let it suffice that I wanted to give Kaise and Daorn some good characterization.
For you spoiler readers, those two would be the main characters of any sequel I wrote to Elantris. I'd set the book about ten years after the ending of this one.
The third reason for retaining the scene is because I put it in, in the first place, quite intentionally. Kaise, and to a lesser extent Daorn, are a small reaction against Ender's Game. When I read that book, and some of Scott's other works (which, by the way, I think are all brilliant) I got to wondering if children who were as smart as his really would act the way they do in his books. Not to disagree with one of the greatest sf minds of our time, but I wanted to take a different spin on the "clever child" idea. So, I presented these children as being extremely intelligent, but also extremely immature with that intelligence. I'm not convinced that IQ brings maturity with it, and think there's only so much "adult" you can have in a kid. So, I put in Kaise and Daorn to let me play with this idea a little bit in Elantris.
So Kaladin, he has a lot of Christ-like qualities being the who protects those who can't protect themselves. When you were writing the character of Kaladin did you ever make a conscious decision to make him a Christ figure or--
The question is... Kaladin has some Christ-figure feel to him, was that intentional when I was writing the character. Actually it wasn't, there's nothing really intentional about that allusion. But I can definitely see it. Being Christian myself a lot of what I find heroic is related to my faith. But I very rarely do conscious things like that, mostly-- This is for English majors, "I bet he got it from here" and things like that. So it was not intentional but I can totally see where you are making that connection.
Speaking of Dave Wolverton, did he inspire you to explore unusual avenues of magic?
The question is, speaking of Dave, Dave Wolverton/Farland, he uses several pen names, did he inspire me to seek out new avenues of magic, because The Runelords is one of the best magic systems in fantasy. I usually credit it as the best magic system in fantasy. The thing is, I hadn't read Dave, until I took his class. In his class I was writing Dragonsteel, so White Sand and Elantris were done. So yes, like reading his, I'm like, "Wow, I need to up my game." Garth Nix did the same thing to me. I read him during that era, I'm like, "Sabriel's great, I need to up my game." I would step back and credit Robert Jordan in part. You might say, "Oh, his magic system is a little bit soft, not as hard." But it was a lot harder than the things that were around the time. Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner books were another big inspiration for that. And partially it was me saying, "I don't think fantasy's doing this sort of thing enough. It's something I'm interested in and good at. I want to try bringing it to fantasy." But yeah, Dave's books, the Runelords, that magic system is incredible.
How much of your own books were you consciously looking at books like Jordan and saying, "I like that kind of world," and trying to create that kind of world in your own stuff?
I spent most of my early career, as I kind of implied earlier, reacting against books that I had really liked. The main purpose for this being that I felt that Robert Jordan and various other authors really covered that type of story and that type of world really well. And so I said, "Well, what other room is there to explore?" And so you see me reacting against.
For instance, Mistborn is a direct reaction to the Wheel of Time. Mistborn began as the question, "What if Rand were to fail?" That's what spun me into creating that entire book series: what if the prophesied hero were not able to accomplish what they were supposed to accomplish? And that became the foundation of that book series. So you can see where I was going and things like that. A lot of times I will read something, and if it's done very well I'll react against it, and if it’s done very poorly then I’ll say, "Oh, I want to try and do this the right way". And both of those are kind of an interesting style of reaction to storytelling. So I would say I was deeply influenced, but it's more in the realm of, "Hey what have they done? What have they covered really well, and where can I go to explore new ground?"
I've noticed that the glyphs seemed to take inspiration from Arabic word art and calligraphy... Do you think you could talk a little more about how it inspired the making of glyphs and the art behind them? Did you draw from any other written languages (like Chinese calligraphy) when creating this system?
Good question! The biggest influence was definitely Arabic word art and calligraphy. That's something Brandon and I wanted to do from the start with the glyphs, and I realized that in order to make both glyphs and word art work, I'd have to take things a step farther and figure out the building blocks of the glyphs. I can't think of any other systems off the top of my head that I drew direct inspiration from.
The second biggest influence was the need for the glyphs to be symmetrical to reflect the holiness of symmetry within Vorin culture. I had an old iPod touch (it was new back then) and a simple symmetry app. When I found myself with a few minutes, I'd spend time sketching interesting shapes. I saved the best of these for use in The Way of Kings. Using those as a base, I started coming up with calligraphic shapes that would allow me the look I wanted, and over a bit of time, I developed a lexicon of shapes to use in the creation of glyphs. This helped keep the style mostly consistent from one glyph to another. Though there are levels of complexity in glyphs, I believe--everything from creating a glyphward for religious purposes to scrawling the shorthand version of a glyph on a map to indicate whose army is where.
I was wondering in which ways has the LDS religion/theology influenced your writing? I mean, aside from trying to keep your books relatively clean and accessible. For example, it seems like the oaths of the Knights Radiant have some similarity to LDS covenants.
I don't think being LDS can help but influence my writing, though I personally follow Tolkien's philosophy: I stay away from specific allegory. I just try to write the best story I can, staying true to what the characters believe (or don't believe.)
So while I don't doubt that people can find parallels, I leave that for readers to theorize about. Most are not intentional, but that doesn't mean they aren't real.
Are there any specific ways you feel like it has shaped your writing in a more general sense? An obvious example, I expect, is the general avoidance of explicit language and sexual content. (something I, for one, appreciate) Does anything else like that come to mind?
Of course I mean that in a roundabout way. It would be rather strong to say that Mormonism directly affects the writing you produce. I'm sure you don't write explicit sex scenes because you are not comfortable with it (or whatever) rather than because the church says not to. But certainly it has shaped who you are, and you shape the stories. So I assume it's possible to trace a few lines from one end to the other.
You're right; I think these things are possible to trace--and the example you give is a good one. I've described the lack of sex scenes in my books the same way you just did.
I'd say that certainly, the sense of hope in my books is shaped by my faith. I didn't do it intentionally, but if you look at Mistborn, you find lots of quotes about faith in the face of trials--which is a very religious way of looking at the world. Some of my more secular friends might point out a fallacy in this thinking; they'd say that while determination is an important human emotion, doubling down on something just because you want to believe is the opposite of being self-reflective.
My belief in what makes someone heroic, or a good leader, is probably also very directly influenced by my upbringing and belief.
Is Kaladin's name influenced by Dune?
I've read Dune many times, so maybe? It's more looking at-- A lot of Dune names are Arabic inspired, and I went to that region for a lot of the names. But I think the word "Paladin" was probably more in the back of my head. I didn't even think of it until I started writing it, and I'm like, "Oh I bet that's where I got it." But it's often kind of based off of like, Khalid, or things like that? Like a lot of the Arabic names go Khalid.
I was actually just thinking that the other day how the Knights are a lot like paladins.
It wasn't like, "I'll come up with the word." But after I started writing I'm like, "Oh I bet that's why the name felt right to me". But you can't separate an author from their influences, and I've read Dune like 5 times.
Yalb the Sailor
This chapter is Yalb's time to shine. One of the things I love about The Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan's use of side characters who sometimes pop in, steal the show, then vanish. I love how they show up now and then in the text.
I'm not sure I can do the same thing here. Robert Jordan had worldbuilding reasons why small characters would get tied to the main characters and keep appearing in their lives again and again. I don't have those reasons.
Still, writing Yalb, I wanted him to really pop off the page even though he's only in the book for a few pages in these early scenes. I intend for him to return. In another type of story, he'd be one of the main characters.
The map of Kholinar looks like a lion's head. Is that an allusion to Caemlyn?
It was not a conscious decision to make it look like Caemlyn. The city shapes are based on cymatic patterns that have deep-rooted origins in the history of Roshar. I may make a lot of unconscious allusions, but something like the Misted Mountains are a conscious reference.
We know that 10 is an odd number in the cosmere. And I noticed that the Lord Ruler specifically released 10 Allomantic metals. Was there a reason behind that or is that just a coincidence?
No, that was a coincidence right there. Ten is an odd cosmere number for Roshar, and there are reasons why this is. . .
Well it wasn't just Roshar, it was also Nalthis in Warbreaker.
Nope, that one is a coincidence. Sometimes they just pop up that way. Part of the original reason that Roshar was 10 was I was going for a 10 day like Robert Jordan did, which I thought was cool. But then I ended up writing the Wheel of Time so I'm like 'I have to do something different now'. So it turned into the two five-day weeks. Two five-days becoming a 50 day month.
Lightsong Listens to the Priests Discuss War
Is this an antiwar novel? I'm not sure, honestly. I didn't sit down to write one, certainly. I rarely try to interject messages into my books, though sometimes they worm their way in. (The Alcatraz books are particularly bad about this.)
A war here would be a bad thing. Idris and Hallandren shouldn't be involved in trying to kill one another. But am I, myself, antiwar? Again, I don't know how to answer that.
Is anyone prowar? War is a terrible, terrible thing. Sometimes it's necessary, but that doesn't make it any less terrible. I'm no great political thinker. In fact, being a novelist has made me very bad at talking about political topics. Because I spend so much time in the heads of so many different characters, I often find myself sympathizing with wildly different philosophies. I like to be able to see how a person thinks and why they believe as they do.
I didn't mean this to be a book about the Iraq war—not at all. But war is what a lot of people are talking about, and I think it's wise to be cautionary. War should never be entered into lightly. If you ask me if the Iraq war was a good idea, you'll probably find me on both sides of the argument. (Though I certainly don't like a lot of aspects about it, particularly how we entered it.)
Regardless, this isn't a book about anything specific. It's a story, a story told about characters. It's about what they feel, what they think, and how their world changes who they are.
As a very, very wise man once said, "I don't mind if my books raise questions. In fact, I like it. But I never want to give you the answers. Those are yours to decide." —Robert Jordan. (FYI, that's not quoted exactly. I can't even quote myself exactly, let alone other people.)
Just finished a trip to Zion and Bryce National Parks; did those parks and the surrounding area influence the Shattered Plains? Really felt like I should be looking for gemstones and watching out for chasmfiends while cayoneering.
Yes, they were a big influence. In college, one of my roommates (Micah Demoux, for whom I named Captain Demoux) was a photographer, and he took me on many nature photography trips in southern Utah. Roshar is a direct outgrowth of this.
Were Shardblades influenced by lightsabers?
Yes *long aside about how everyone in the last 40 years was so influenced*, but not sure how direct of an influence
I know you've been asked several times about other authors that have influenced your work, but are there people in other lines of work, other medias, that you deliberately learn from? And if so, who?
Yeah. So, I do really like film. I love films that, like-- one of my favorite films of all time is Gattaca. And I really like films that do interesting things with narrative, like parallel narrative between characters and stuff like that. I like films are trying, even if they fail, to do really interesting things. Like, Interstellar; I really liked Interstellar. Interstellar is a hugely flawed movie, but it's, like, so ambitious and interesting. And I like it when movies do that. So, I do study a lot of films. I like movies that have good structure. I love the original Star Wars trilogy for its structure. It teaches you so much about structure that Lucas apparently didn't learn. He learned other things; Lucas had really big dreams and great ideas and I really liked that he-- Even in the prequels, I liked that he told us a consistent narrative across three. I like doing that.
Watchmen was really influential on me, as like basically everyone who's read it. Watchmen was influential. And some other graphic novels. I loved Kingdom Come when I first read it back in the 90s or whenever it was. The roommate gave me that, and I'm like, "Wow, these do different things with the medium that I--" Yeah
I read a lot of webcomics, also. I don't know how much influence they have over me. But Dr. McNinja, until it ended, was my jam. But I would list those. Films, and the occasional really powerful graphic novel that have influenced me a lot.
So is this [interludes] your way of kind of introducing more world details, worldbuilding--
Yeah. This is a way of me introducing more worldbuilding. Because-- See, one of the differences between myself and the previous generation of epic fantasy writers is I tend to be very-- I tend to stick with one location, alright? The generation before me-- and I love these books, but the generation before me-- the Tad Williams, the Robert Jordan, and things like this-- tended to be quest epic fantasy. You'd go one place-- It's kind of following the grand Tolkien tradition. "We gotta get over there. We're either chasing somebody or being chased by somebody." Right? And you then travel across a varied landscape, meet lots of interesting people on your way to the place. Well I don't like to do that. I think it's partially because I grew up reading those. I'm like-- Those authors covered that really well. Or maybe it's just my natural inclinations. I write a little more Anne McCaffrey style, right? She would pick a really interesting location and spend a lot of time on it. And that's what I like to do as well. So you don't get to travel as much in my books. A lot of times in my books it's like, "We're traveling!" Chapter 1: "We're going to go on this trip!" Chapter 2: "Hey, we're there!" We cut out the, you know, the boring stuff in the middle, and we go to an interesting location. And I really like to dig into this interesting location. It let's me as an author really explore various parts of the setting. But what that does is it means you don't get as much of the breadth. Like when you have to traipse with Frodo and Sam all the way across Middle-earth, you feel how big Middle-earth is. And you don't get that in Mistborn, where it's like, "We're going to stay in the city!" and things like this. And so, in Roshar, being able to say, "Here's what's happening across the world in a different culture," is really valuable to me in the interludes. But I also know that some people just don't want to read that, and I wanted to give them a clue that this is the scene that you can skip and read later if you just want to get back to the main character.
Where there any specific fantasy books that you read as a child that inspired you to write fantasy?
Yes, excellent question. I was not a reader until I had a teacher, eighth grade teacher--this is true--Ms. Reeder. *laughter* Yes, it's really true, R-E-E-D-E-R, was my teacher in eighth grade and she gave me a fantasy novel for the first time and convinced me to read it. It took a little work on her part because I was not a reader. It was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hamley, a kind of classic standalone epic fantasy-- And it's standalone because the sequels she wrote twenty years later when she was really depressed are very different. They're worth reading but they don't feel like sequels. Dragonsbane's a fantastic book. All of Anne McCaffrey's books were next to that in the school library, like in the card catalogue, under the title so I went to them next and they had a huge influence on me. I would say those two were the biggest. And then Melanie Rawn's books were next to those, so I read all of those.
And then the first book series I discovered on my own, when it wasn't already finished, was The Wheel of Time. Wheel of Time, the first book came out about a year after I got into reading fantasy novels and I found the big one on the shelf and was like "Oooh that's a big book. *laughter* I'm going to read that big book." And I had no idea what I was getting myself into. *laughter* Now lots of Wheel of Time fans can say that, they didn't know what they were getting into. I trump them, okay? I really didn't know what I was getting myself into in picking up that first Wheel of Time book and reading it.
What book has inspired you the most?
I'd say Les Miserables.
Oh really, why's that?
I love Victor Hugo’s writing style. His use of character and his use of language.
As an English teacher, what inspired you to be a fantasy writer?
I was inspired by the book Dragonsbane which was given to me by an eighth-grade English teacher at Lincoln East High School, who was convinced I was reading below my level and felt I needed to be stepping up my game a little bit. And she took me to the back of the room and had me browse on her little shelf of books that she'd read, that she'd recommend to me. And that book worked for me. It probably shouldn't have - it's about a middle-aged woman having a midlife crisis - but I loved it.
I don't really read much, but-- *laughter* I listen to all of the audio books of all your books... And one thing I really respect that you do is you're very punk rock about how you approach things. Like "Three [prologues], yeah why not?" It actually reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy, like when that came onto the scene it was just "Dang, these guys are doing everything. The best, the newest, the freshest thing." And I was actually curious, have you ever actually played Final Fantasy, where you inspired by it? Especially because the swords are HUGE like in Final Fantasy.
I will admit, there's a bit of me saying "Man, what would it take to make giant swords realistic?" *laughter* Like I actually-- No, this is real. Like fantasy art, and particularly Japanese fantasy art, has these oversized weapons that's completely unrealistic. But that's a challenge to me.
I actually played-- Like I have Final Fantasy cred. *laughter* I played One, on the original Nintendo, right? When it was released. And I have actually played them all. Ten is my favorite. As an aside, what I loved about Ten was-- The voice acting really helped, but I loved that-- Like Ten is what taught me that you don't have to have an angsty, depressed character. Angsty, depressed characters are awesome but sometimes you can have a hero who's not angsty and depressed and it works out alright. But I would call myself deeply influenced by that, certaintly.
How much of an impact did interviewing professional fighter pilots have on the story? Did anything learned from them actually change parts of the book in significant ways? Did you learn anything weird or unusual that you found fascinating?
The pilots were a HUGE help. The biggest issue I had, which was really hard to get through my skull, was the different ways that G-forces interacted with the human body.
I knew the basics, and had flight suits operating correctly and was watching for people pulling too many Gs. But the fighter pilots kept explaining things like "eyes out" and how it wasn't just number of Gs, it was the direction they were pulling. It wasn't until I called one of them and had a lengthy conversation that it started to click with me.
From there, some of the direct feelings of pulling Gs--feeling like your skin is sliding off your body, or that you've aged a hundred years--I got from them.
As always with a sf/f book, one of my goals is to walk the line between realism and fiction. I tried to make the battles feel real enough to not kick an actual pilot out of the story, but at the same time, I specifically gave the fighters technology that we don't have, in order to spice up how the combat would work.