Who is Vin modeled after? Is she modeled after a real person?
She was not... I don't think there was a specific model for Vin.
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Who is Vin modeled after? Is she modeled after a real person?
She was not... I don't think there was a specific model for Vin.
The line about a Svordish epic is, for those of you who are wondering, a reference to the monomyth. (I.e., the heroic archetype.) It's ironic that I should include a nod to Campbell in my novel, since I rant about fantasy writers paying him too much heed in one of my critical pieces regarding Elantris. (I posted it in the Elantris resources section.)
Robert Jordan has said that in The Wheel of Time, even material objects have a thread in the Pattern. In The Emperor's Soul, you have a world where objects have souls. Was Jordan your source for this?
Both stories draw from the same Asian belief system.
"Hama," Galladon's word for grandmother, is actually another theft from the real world. One of my cousins has a little son who calls his grandmother "Hama," and I always thought it was a cute nickname. The really funny one, however, is when he refers to my grandmother–his great-grandmother. She's Big Hama. (In keeping with this tradition, Sarene's childhood nickname for Kiin is "Hunkey Kay," a child's version of "Uncle Kiin." This is a spin off of what that same little kid in the real world calls my mother. She's "Hunky BaBa," or "Aunt Barbara.")
What did I warn you about we writers and filching things?
What inspired Hemalurgy?
So Hemalurgy was probably-- It's hard for me to say, because it's been fifteen years, but I think I started with the image of the Inquisitors with spikes through their eyes. At the same time I was trying to work up a third magic system to go in the trilogy so I could have one magic, two magic, three magic, and I wanted one that was super creepy and evil. And I built it around those two ideas.
I was just wondering what your inspiration was for the setting, for the United Isles.
The United Isles. We call this historical fantasy, this is where you take a historical period and you fantasize it. I knew I was so divergent from our world that I wanted people immediately to know, complete alternate dimension. I wanted an easy early sign that when you read this, you weren’t going to be asking, “What happened in the War of 1812 in this?” I didn’t want you to be asking that, I wanted you to say, this is so different from our history that I can’t take anything for granted anymore. Which allows me to sweep away expectations and rebuild them in the way I want. You run into this all the time in fantasy, like, you ever want to write a book about vampires, everyone’s immediately going to bring to that world a lot of expectations. It’s much more important early on to sweep away expectations if you’re not going to fulfill them. So with Rithmatist, I was looking for a way to do this, and the idea of America as an [planet?] archipelago was really cool to me, and I also wanted to indicate that things were really bizarre. It’s a much smaller planet version of Earth, so I could put in time distances and say, you can take the train to London and it doesn’t take that long. In their terms it takes forever, for us it’s not that long. Smaller planet, denser core, everything’s islands. This is to say, I’m throwing out everything about our Earth and rebuilding a fantastical version of it.
What was your inspiration for Waxillium?
My original pitch for myself for Wax was Clint Eastwood finds out that he's inherited a noble house, and has to move to New York City and take over the family finances.
Where did the idea for Girl Who Stood Up come from?
Girl Who Looked Up grew out of my love of folklore and fairytale. And the various incarnations of Pandora myths all around the world, in different societies, presented differently, would be my guess at the inspiration there.
So my question is how'd you create the Legion *inaudible*?
Ooh! Good question! So, Legion is a lot of fun, and it's very weird. What happened is, I really do think, as a writer, I have all these weird voices in my head who are telling me to do different things.
One day, I was talking to a friend of mine who writes a lot of psychological horror, and I was talking about schizophrenia, and I said, "Hey, what if all those voices helped you out instead of drove you crazy?" And he said, "That doesn't sound like a horror story. That sounds like a fantasy story, you should write that." So I did.
Is Slowswift an Allomancer?
No. Slowswift is a cameo for Grandpa Tolkien.
What was your inspiration for kandra?
So, I knew that I wanted to do a shapeshifter, but I worried about the whole-- The first idea was that you take the bones of the person you killed, sort of thing. I worried that that would be too-- I wanted a limitation on that. So I'm like, "Well, what if they can't kill people? Why can't they kill?" and I kind of extrapolated from there. But the first idea was that idea of you can become someone if you can get their bones first.
I've taken some visual art classes. I'm terrible at drawing—as you would expect from someone without a lot of experience—but I felt it would be important to know how visual art works and how artists think. Listening to the professors talk was in many ways more useful than the practice itself, though I did enjoy the drawing as well.
(As a side note, my final project for an art class in 2002—a basic drawing class—was a landscape of Roshar with rockbuds and the like. I took a stab at doing my own concept art, and bad though it was, it did help me start to visualize the world.)
How Shallan thinks here is really a blend of how I think as a writer and how I've heard visual artists think of their process. I'm drawing heavily on my own experience, and because of that blend, I suspect that to many artists her process will sound odd.
Did you know Hurl's fate before you started writing it all?
Yes, I built that all out in the outline... I needed somebody who was the image of Spensa who went the wrong way, as kind of like a model for what she would see herself in. And part of the inspiration for Skyward is Top Gun, which has that as a major theme. So it was a very natural sort of thing to weave into the story as I was going.
An actual Skyward question: Were you inspired by the anime Gurren Lagann at all for this? That anime starts out with humans living in caves and being attacked in order to keep their population down. The cave dwelling and constant attacks is the only connection so far that I see (the rest of the anime gets pretty crazy and I don't think you'd go that far).
I'm afraid I haven't seen Gurren Lagann, which is probably an oversight--a lot of people talk about it being great.
Where did Wayne come from? ...Who is he modeled after?
He is not modeled after anyone specific. He came from me wanting to write a character who changed his personality based on the hat he wore. Like, literal, a person who wears lots of hats... I started a short story with him as the main character, and I found he needed someone to play off of, and that's where Alloy of Law came from.
Sazed is my absolute favorite character in any book now. I love the way he talks and his passion for religion. I think that’s really really cool. (interrupted)
How did I come up with Sazed? Is that where you’re going?
Yeah, and the religion thing, because you have so many. Did you study religion?
I do study it. I do a lot of studying religion. It fascinates me. I’m religious, I want to know what people find sacred. The origin of the idea for Sazed was the idea of a missionary for all religions. I can actually point at the moment, though, but it comes from a goofy movie.
What goofy movie?
The goofy movie is the original Mummy with Brendan Fraser. There’s a moment where the dumb guy tries holding up a religious symbol and talking and nothing happens, so he pulls up a different one and he pulls out a different one. That moment actually spawned the, “What if that were serious? What if there was somebody who tried to match a religion to the individual?”. That spun me into Sazed, the whole concept of Sazed. You can trace the origins of this deep and important character to the dopey, evil sidekick in a Brendan Fraser movie.
So, where did you get the name Roshar from?
I have no idea. It's been twenty years that I've been calling it that. I don't know what my specific inspiration was. It's just one of those words that just felt right.
What influenced the creation of the writing system in Warbreaker?
I'd been writing a lot of kind of grungy books, Mistborn and Elantris are both sort of grimy, and my editor pointed that out and suggested I write something colorful.
So, the chalk circles in Rithmatist. Are they, like, related to the chalk circle quote that you get with the BYU honor code?
No, that's not an inspiration I'm aware that. It could have been in the back of my head, but it was not a specific inspiration.
What inspired the Epics?
I got cut off in traffic and thought, "you're so lucky I don't have superpowers because I would totally blow up your car!" And then I started to think about how I couldn't be trusted with superpowers and what the world would be like if no one with superpowers could be trusted.
Are any of the characters in your books strongly influenced by people you know in real life? Would you be able to share a few if so?
Sure! Most are cameos. Many people in Bridge Four are based on friends/family members. Skar, Peet, Drehy, Bisig, Yake, and a few others are friends or family.
Sarene was loosely based on a friend of mine from college.
As silly as this may sound, one of my favorite things about The Stormlight Archive thus far has been the flora you describe in the world.
What inspired you to spend time developing unique and world-appropriate plants? I feel like plants are so often an overlooked detail, even in books with heavy world-building.
I knew that I wanted some worlds in the cosmere to be truly strange. Fantasy tends to shy away from very odd ecosystems, but I think it shouldn't. (Even in Mistborn, we started with strange flora.)
For Roshar, I started with the storms, then worked toward what I think would have evolved there (erring on the side of the fantastical.) The primary inspirations were tidal pools and coral reefs.
Hoid has… a lot of things influencing that. I liked the Robots story in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, I wanted to have a character that moved behind the scenes of each story like that.
What was Skyward inspired by and how long have you been working on it?
I've been working on it since about 2012, on and off. It was inspired by my love of stories about kids finding dragon eggs.
What was the driving force for Kaladin?
Two things: one, being a surgeon and a big brother, another was writing a hero who never thought he was succeeding.
Where did the idea for the light bands come from? I think they are pretty neat!
I started with my desire to have starfighters changing directions quickly by using energy ropes to spear asteroids - and worked backward to have something that could foreshadow this.
Would food from Hallandren be considered men or women's food in Alethkar?
Food from Hallandren I think is mostly going to be considered masculine food. Let me see-- I'd have to go and look and see at my notes what they're eating because there's a lot of Pacific islander influence on the area, not the culture, but where they are. So there's going to be a lot of fruit in their diet, but I think I mention that-- yeah I think it's gonna be mostly man-food. Actually no, I'm going to retract that, it's going to be both. They're going to be weirded out by it, because they're not-- you know, like our food, if they came here and ate, they would be weirded out by it. Number one a lot of it would be too bland. So they'd be like ehh, we're not sure.
Where'd you get the inspiration for the Shattered Plains?
I can't say specifically, but probably the cliff's in Southern Utah had a large bearing on it.
Siri and Susebron Eat a Midnight Meal
This is a scene lifted almost from my own life. While on my honeymoon, Emily and I thought we were being so indulgent by ordering room service at three a.m. It was on a cruise ship, and you can do that kind of thing without having to pay extra for it. It kind of felt like the entire ship's kitchens were there for our whims. And so, a variation on the event popped up in this book.
That doesn't happen to me very often in books. Usually, it's hard to point toward one event in my life that inspired a scene. But those sorts of things are peppered throughout this book. Another one is the scene where Siri tries to look seductively at Susebron, then bursts into laughter. My wife is absolutely terrible at looking seductive—not because she isn't pretty, but because whenever she tries, she ends up having a fit of laughter at how ridiculous she thinks she looks.
Chapter Fourteen - Part Two
Vivenna Enters the Court
Color harmonics are one of the things in this book that, I think, have some very interesting philosophical implications. I've always been fascinated by the concept of perfect pitch. Pitches and tones are an absolute; music isn't just something we humans devise and construct out of nothing. It's not arbitrary. Like mathematics, music is based on principles greater than human intervention in the world. Someone with perfect pitch can recognize pure tones, and they exist outside of our perception and division of them. (Unlike something like our appreciation of other kinds of art, which is dealing with things that are far more subjective.)
However, I wondered if—perhaps—there are perfect steps of colors just like there are perfect tones, with color fifths, sevenths, and chords and the like. In our world, nobody has the ability to distinguish these things—but what if there were someone who could? Someone who could tell something innate about color that isn't at all subjective?
I'm not sure if I explained that right, but it intrigued me enough to become part of this book.
Wellen/Wells is a cameo on two levels. First off, you may remember him from book two as a random viewpoint we got during Vin and Zane's assault on Cett when he was staying in Keep Hasting. Wellen was the guy on the wall who distrusted the mists—and was the only survivor of his squad after Vin and Zane blasted through them to attack the keep itself.
Well, Cett's army—and therefore Wellen—joined with Elend's army. He ended up remaining in Luthadel as part of Penrod's force. He also happens to be based on my pal and fellow writer Dan Wells, whose first novel I Am Not a Serial Killer comes out from Tor in March 2010.
Chapter Fifteen - Part One
Siri Sees the God King
I think this is my favorite plotline of the book. The Siri/God King one, I mean. It's hard to choose, but this is the one that I felt most interested in. (Though Lightsong's ending chapters are powerful too.)
I wanted the God King to be an enigma, much like Vasher is, at the beginning of the book. Well . . . that's not quite true. Right at the beginning, I wanted him to be scary and dangerous. I wanted the reader to perceive him as Siri did.
By now, however, you should be wondering more. Who is he? What are his motives? Is he angry with her or not?
The driving force behind this, actually, is the Lord Ruler. In Mistborn, a part of me always felt that he was just a little too stereotypical an evil emperor. True, I worked hard to round him out, particularly through the later books. But writing him made me want to take an evil emperor archetype in a very different direction.
I've spoken on the reversals in this book. Well, one thing I realized after the fact is that the novel is—in a lot of ways—about reversals of my own writing. Things I've done before, but taken the opposite direction. Almost like I need to react against myself and explore things in new ways, particularly in cases where (like the Lord Ruler) I did things that were more conventional to the genre.
I think that's why this book has so much resonance with my previous books. Or maybe it doesn't really, and I'm just seeing something that doesn't exist. A lot of my ideas in writing, however, come from seeing something done in a movie or a book (or even in one of my own books) and wondering if I could take it a new and different direction. I hope that doesn't make me feel like I'm repeating myself.
You're also famous for your magic systems, do you start with the effect you want to achieve or the mechanic you want to use?
It depends on each magic system, they're all different. Sometimes there's just a really interesting-- Mistborn's a good example of this. I built Mistborn because I wanted a different power for each thieving crew member and I had in the back of my mind a few cool powers to use, but others I just developed. I'd be like, alright, we need something for the fast-talker. So therefore you get the thieving-crew and the classic thieving-crew elements, and I wanted something to improve every one of them. So while I had the Pushing and Pulling already, because that was really interesting and I'd been working it out in my head, I didn't have all these powers set out for the team, so I developed those.
In other cases it's just, you know The Stormlight Archive started with the fundamental forces in physics and extrapolating outwards from them until I had ten fundamental forces because I wanted to do fantastical fundamental forces. So that one started in physics.
The magic for Warbreaker started because my editor called me, true story, and said "ah, after Mistborn and Elantris you've done some very dreary settings, very nice but very dreary, let's do something with more color in it". More color it is!
So, I'm entering a portion of my current book [Mistborn] where I have to devise a lot of names. Anyone want a Cameo? I could throw in something close to your name, or perhaps a version of one of your usernames, if you wish. Firstcomers get speaking parts.
Well, Lord Rian Strobe just got added to the book. He's even got a line! (He asks a young lady to dance.)
OutKast: Elariel is a good fantasy name--won't have any problems with that.
Tekiel: Can probably use that one straight-up, if you want.
Okay, 'House Erikeller' just got mentioned as one of the major noble houses in the book. They probably won't have a big part, but they are weapons merchants, which I thought you might appreciate.
Gemm, I didn't so much as give you a character as base an entire cultural dialect off of your language patterns. They're a bunch of underground street punks who like to speak in a slang that (intentionally) confuses everyone else. There is a character in the book from that culture, though he's a few years younger than you.
Well, House Elariel and the Lady Stace Whiten just got cameos. House Elariel throws a party that some characters attend; Lady Whiten is a young woman that is supposedly one of characters' dates, but he ditches her. (Sorry. He's kind of like that.)
Okay, busy night.
First off, House Tekiel showed up in the book. In connection with that, I managed to work in House Geffenry and House Izenry.
My favorite for the night, however, is the appearance of Lord Charleir Entrone. He shows up only as a corpse, having been stabbed in the back while in a drunken stupor, but he has a reputation of being a twisted connoisseur of underground bloodfight gambling.
This short story actually has a very interesting backstory.
If we flash back to January 2006, we find me having been dating Pemberly (her real name is Emily, but she goes by Pemberly online) for about two months. Our relationship was still quite new, and we weren't exclusive yet. (Though I wanted to be. I was pretty sure I wanted to marry her by that point.)
Well, at one of our dates, Pemberly told me an amazing story. It seems that one of her eighth grade students—a girl named Matisse—had done a book report on Elantris. Now, Matisse didn't know that her teacher was dating me. She didn't even know that Pemberly knew me. It was just one of those bizarre coincidences that happens just to prove to us all that the world is a funny place.
Now, when I say book report, that doesn't get across the scope of what Matisse did. Being a clever, creative girl, she went the extra mile. Instead of a simple write-up on the book, she did a Dragonology-style book on Elantris. This thing is amazing; it has sketches and bios of the characters, strips of Elantrian cloth stapled in as examples, little pouches filled with materials from the books, all of that. A total multisensory experience dedicated to the novel, all handmade. Pemberly showed it to me, and it was honestly just about the coolest, must humbling thing I'd ever seen. Matisse had obviously loved the book very much.
That set me thinking of something I could do as a thank-you surprise to Matisse, who still didn't know that her teacher was dating one of her favorite authors. I'd had this idea itching in the back of my head.
The High Priest Tells Siri She Needs to Produce an Heir
Note that in a previous section where I said that I couldn't delve as deeply into Siri's plot in this book as I could have in one where there was only one viewpoint character, I didn't mean that I didn't intend to give her a lot of political intrigue and plot twisting. I only meant that I decided it was best to keep things a little more focused for her, rather than adding a lot of subplots.
I've been wanting to do a story like this one, with a woman sent to marriage in a politically hostile country, since I wrote Elantris—where Sarene arrived and found out her wedding couldn't happen. Again, this is an attempt to turn in a new direction for me, but the inspiration is the same. Sarene arrived and found that her fiancé had died and the court didn't care about her. Siri arrives and does get married, then has far too many people paying attention to her.
Yeah, I figured I hadn't given Alan a cameo, and I wanted to. So, I named a mountain [in Mistborn: The Final Empire] after Morag.
Did you struggle with the limits of the Magic world and magic system since you're so used to creating your own?
I worried about this a lot when going into the Wheel of Time--but I found that I really like taking an established magic system and pushing it this direction or that direction. It's a lot of fun to me to dig into how something works, and see if I can "break" it in interesting ways.
I suspected I'd have a similar experience with MTG, and I did--though I did need something I could play with to be unique. I settled on the kind of "Gonti/Nightveil Specter" ability to steal spells from someone else, then use them yourself. This was a really fun space for me to play with, and I found it thoroughly engaging.
Skyward question! The light line is mentioned as using two fingers to shoot it out. Are they the middle two fingers, and was this inspired by any jovial community arachnid folk?
First draft didn't have specific controls to shoot it out, and during revisions, I thought, "Oh, what the heck. It's not a big part of the story anyway." So yes. :)
Where did you get the idea for a chasmfiend?
This actually a pretty good one. So, what has happening with the Stormlight books is-- Originally, the Shattered Plains were not in Stormlight. If you didn't know about this, Stormlight started without the Shattered Plains. And when I came back to the series to write it after kind of failing at that 2002 version and wanting to try again, I hired a concept artist to do sketches of characters and settings for me. His name was Ben McSweeney... Ben is the person I eventually hired to do a lot of the artwork, because he had done all this great concept art. And one of the things he did is, he drew a giant brain coral, 'cause I said, "Give me corals, things that you would normally find underwater in a coral reef, but above ground, and this is where we're gonna start our big brainstorming," and he did this giant one that people were walking through the cracks, and there was a little crustacean monster in there. And I'm like, "Oh, that looks like the Shattered Plains. Hey, the Shattered Plains! Why didn't I think of that? They work really well!" 'Cause they had originally been in Dragonsteel, they hadn't really worked there. So, I brought the Shattered Plains over, and the original inspiration for a chasmfiend was that little beastie. It looked more like a crayfish, that he had stuck in one of these grooves. That's where chasmfiends came from.
The linguistics there, with the... for the Aonic... so, I had a couple of inspirations there. By the time I was writing this book, I was looking to do a little bit more interesting linguistics, I was looking to explore linguistics, and I like that one of the ideas I had is... I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Letter-day Saints - Mormon - and I served a two year mission in Korea. While I was in Korea, I fell in love with the relationship between the Korean language and the Chinese language.
If you're not familiar with how that is, in a lot of Asia, Chinese was the writing system for years. For centuries, people wrote in Chinese, even if they didn't speak Chinese, because Chinese is a logographic language, it's not phonetic. When you write the character, the <Hànzì>, you can pronounce it in any language. It can be written... read in any language - we can read them in English, you can read them in Hebrew. They just mean a concept, it's like hieroglyphics, right?
But what this means is, it's really hard to learn to write, because you just have to memorize every symbol and they're very complex, very intricate. So, around... I think it's 1400, someone will have to look that up to make sure, but... the king Sejong of the Korean people, who is remembered as their favorite king, he came in and said "My people are illiterate because Chinese is just too hard to learn. We aren't Chinese, we don't speak Chinese, we're trying to use their writing system for our language. Let's develop an alphabet."
They got a bunch of scholars together and they built an alphabet by which you can write Chinese in Korean, in an alphabet that's a Korean alphabet. It's really fascinating linguistically, because they create Chinese characters that are phonetic to take the place of Chinese characters in their language and then surround them with grammar only in Korean. So, you have like "Chinese character, Chinese character, Korean grammar... Chinese character, Chinese character, Korean grammar..." and you could replace those characters with Korean ones if you want, or you could just leave the Chinese - really cool.
I wanted to develop a language that had these symbols that would also have... that were from an old language... that would then have grammar around them in another language. It was really interesting to me and that's where the Aons came from, this kind of language that predates their culture, predates their linguistics in Arelon. And that they have developed alongside and that they use in their writing system... and if you were to read Aonic, you would see these big Aons and then little Aonic text between them that is bridging all these ideas together with actual linguistics.
So, the Aons I wanted to stand out, I wanted to... when you read them in English to be able to say... and I experimented with making them all caps and it just looked really weird, but that that would be the way that... then you would have to have "RAO" and "den", "RAO" would always be in caps and "den" and readers had real troubles with that. It just read... it looks like you're screaming, right? So, people would read the name *loud* RAO- *speaking normally again* den, *laughter from audience* which is not what I wanted to say.
So I went back, but I still wanted these... So, I used the two long vowels sounds. Whenever you hit a name, they're all gonna have two long vowel sounds in them that are stressed and then an unstressed Aonic portion pushed onto it. So it's /ˈɹeɪ.ˈʊ.dɛn/ [Raoden], where you've got a-o, and you've got /iːniː/ [Ene], /sɑː.ˈɹiː.ˌniː/ [Sarene], and things like that. And even Elantris... I say /e.ˈlɑːn.tɹɪs/ [Elantris], they would say /ˈiː.leɪn.tɹɪs/ [Elantris], and things like that.
I built this just, like, have... I love it, when in fantasy, the form and the function meld together, so that what you're putting on the page actually enhances in all ways the culture and the magic together, but it did make for a difficult reading experience. My first review I ever got for Elantris [...] My first review that ever came in was "This book is great, but the names are terrible. Brandon Sanderson can't name anything. Keep him away from naming things, because the first book he published might be the most linguistically challenging, let's just say."
This cosmere that you have is gigantic, enormous, and wonderful, by the way. But, it's one of those things... how long has that been kicking around in your head before you started putting it down on paper?
For those who aren't aware, and might just be here having read the Reckoners, all of my epic fantasy books are connected. But they're all connected through little cameos. And I did this before Marvel movies, let's just point that out! They're copying me, I'm sure. I'm sticking to that. But there's little cameos for the various things because there's a story behind the story. I started doing this because I knew, in my career, I was going to have to... just the way I am, I need to jump between worlds to keep myself really interested. But I also like big epics. So it's me trying to have my cake and eat it, too, right? Lots of little things, but a hidden big epic. Right now it's all cameos, you don't have to worry about it, it's never really relevant to the story. Each story is self-contained. And then, if you want more, you can dig into it, and... it goes pretty deep. The guy who bought the Emperor's Soul movie rights was like, "Oh, I hear that this is connected," so he went and started reading. And, like, a few months later, he called us and said, "Uhhh, I just read the whole Cosmere. Uhhh, my brain is breaking." So, you can jump down a rabbit hole with the Cosmere if you want.
So, how long has this been kicking around? I can trace it back to a couple of events in my youth, as a budding writer. First one was, I've talked about this idea that you're the director of the book when you read it. When I was a kid, what I would always do is, I would want to have some sort of... it's hard to explain. I wanted some control over the story, even though it was a book I was reading, I wanted to participate, and so I would always insert a character behind the scenes. Like, in the Anne McCaffrey books, when there's somebody who's a nobody, I'm like, "Actually, this is some secret agent type character," and things like this. And I would always insert these characters into the books. But I would even be like, "Oh, this is the character from this other book, that I'm now reading." I would have my own headcanon, is what you call it, that would be parallel to the book canon, with this story behind the story happening. I also remember really being blown away when Isaac Asimov tied the Robot books and the Foundation books together, and thinking that was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. Where I'd loved these two book series, and the conclusion to them is interwoven, and at the end of the Foundation books you kind of get a conclusion for the Robot sequence as well. That kind of blew my brain, and I'm like, "I need to do this."
So that's the origin, and that's kind of really the origin of Hoid. He's in the first book that I started writing, in very proto-form. He's kind of the same character who had been hanging out in Anne McCaffrey's books and other people's books as I'd read them. And that was it for a while, until I became a better writer, and then started actually building an epic. So, it's been around for a while. I would say the actual origin of the Cosmere was when I wrote Elantris, and then jumped back and wrote the book called Dragonsteel, which was this next book that I wrote after that, which was the origin of the Cosmere, kind of the prequel to all of it. And then I went and wrote White Sand. And those three together were my beginning. Only Elantris, of them, got published so far, although White Sand does have the graphic novel.
What inspired you write Way of Kings? Was that your first one?
That was not my first one. It's different-- There are lots of different ideas that usually come together to make one book. And Way of Kings is lots of different ideas. One of them was wanting to tell a story about a world where the highstorm, where the magic storm hit it periodically... The idea of how life would have to adapt to a storm. But there are lots of different ideas that come together.
MaiPon and JinDo are based on Korea and China you've said, I thought that Dominion and Devotion have some resonance with Confucianism-
They do, the yin and the yang and things like that, absolutely.
So that was intentional?
That was very intentional. Yeah, I've always been fascinated with, like, the blue and the red, right? The things that are opposite but to some cultures and not to others. Like, that was really, that was the Ruin and Preservation thing, right?
What was your inspiration for Kaladin? What made you want to make him?
Kaladin's origin was in me reading about the interesting lives of surgeons in pre-industrial eras. Surgeons who were at times treated no different from a butcher, and at other times straddled this line between superstition and science in a really interesting way. And I wanted to write a surgeon who straddled that line. Where the superstition was against them, but in some ways the science that they knew also worked against them because the people didn't trust it. That's a really fascinating character. He started more as his dad, and as I worked the books he became Kaladin the son of a surgeon instead of the surgeon himself.
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?
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.
Basically Bridge Four, the starting sequence was one of the most intense things I have ever read in my life. I was in tears, I couldn't stop it, to the point I kept flipping through to the next Bridge Four part. I was just wondering where you got the inspiration to go so dark with Kaladin and what he went through.
That's an excellent question. Bridge Four in the original Dragonsteel was a happy accident, back then I wasn't as good at outlining as I am now. I kind of got to this place and went "Huh, I want to do something interesting here" and I kind of discovery wrote myself into it. It didn't work nearly as well as it did in Way of Kings, but that's because I was still figuring it out. I think the original inspiration was-- Something that I like to do with Fantasy is take the geography and see how the unique geography of the area influences the culture of the people who are living there, in this case the warfare, a subset of the culture interaction. This happens with the weather on Roshar as well. I think this is something Fantasy allows us to do, to explore what is fantastical, yet keep it very grounded in the human experience because I find books interesting when I'm interested in the characters. Having this cool place, the Shattered Plains, is not nearly as awesome as having this cool place and "oh no the people I like are dying here". This idea was one of the ideas, I think the inspiration was medieval siege warfare and just how awful that sounds to me. Having to be one of these people running a ladder to climb up the wall. Just "Okay, here's your ladder, good luck". This idea of just having to run into the face of something terrible, to know you are probably going to lose your own life or your friends are going to lose theirs was just so awful to consider. And when that happens, as a writer you are like "Oh I got something. That sounds awful, I'm going to write about it" That's just what we do. Anything that inspires powerful and profound emotion in myself is something I look to use in my books because I figure if it inspires profound emotion in myself it will work on the page to do the same thing with my characters.
Origin of Awakening as a Magic System
I never did write out in annotation form an explanation of where Awakening came from. I believe I talked about the origin of the term Awakening, but never the actual powers of the magic.
As I've said, I wanted to do something that had a very "vulgar magic" feel to it. Something gritty, dealing with the forms of people, like voodoo or hedge magics. I wanted to have something that reached back into our cultural unconscious, and something that dealt with necromancy in a new way.
Those are all pieces of the puzzle. Another piece, however, was the desire to do an animation magic—a magic focused around bringing inanimate objects to life on order to serve you. As I've said, it's very tough to come up with completely new powers nobody has written about or used (though I think I've got a few in store for The Way of Kings). However, a good magic system can be crafted from the interpretation of old powers used in new ways with interesting limitations and cultural connections.
I've seen people bring objects to life in books or movies, but I've never seen a formal magic system designed completely around it.
One of the other things I'm always looking for is new ways for people to gain their magical powers. As much as I like Mistborn, the "It's genetic and you're born with it" method of gaining magical abilities is just about the oldest and most commonly used way. It's used so much because it makes sense, and because it's easy to explain. Breath, and its transference, came from my desire to come up with something different—something that had an economic component, something that allowed anyone to become a magic user, but which still had limited resources so that not everyone could be one.
I'm still trying to innovate in this area, but I think my favorite part about Awakening is the concept of Breath and how it's transferred. It turns people into resources for the magic, but in a way I hadn't seen done before.
Do you ever take inspiration for some of your characters from people you know, in your life?
Yes and no, meaning generally I don't base characters exactly on people I know. There are a few exceptions. Skar from Bridge Four is Skar my friend, Ethan Skarstedt, who is a person in my writing group, he's in the military, and he's the only person I knew who actually would do a good job in that situation I put him in. But most of the time what I'm doing is I'm taking some interesting aspect about a character. When I was writing Elantris I knew a woman who was 6'1" and she complained about her height a lot. And had never heard that, I'm like, "Wow, that's really interesting." I'd never considered that being 6'1" in our society as a woman would have all these extra associated problems, and I took that and used it in a character and then had her read it and said, "Does this feel right?" But it's not as if that character represents Annie. It means that one aspect of Annie sent me into an interesting character conflict or interesting trait a character could have that I found fascinating. That happens a lot.
Where do you get your people from? Do you take inspiration from people you know in real life?
Yes, yes I do. Sometimes, sometimes not. As I said, usually the seed that starts a character for me as I grow them is a conflict. For Kaladin it's the conflict between being trained as a surgeon and finding out you are really good at killing people, and how do you deal with that. For some it can be very simple, for Sarene I had a friend who is a woman that is 6 foot 2, or whatever she is, *to the side* How tall is Annie? She's tall. Anway, Annie's tall, and she always complains about how tough it is to be a tall woman. Which is something I never thought of, I'm like "I'm going to use that. I'm going to make use of that in a story," Of course that isn't her whole personality, but that little seed, you drop down and I grow a personality around it as I try someone out... That person I knew, a piece of her turned into a character. For other things, it's just trying and trying and trying untill something works, as I explained before. It is "What has their life done to them", often times it's "What are the passionate about? What do they want? Why can't they have what they want?" Those sorts of things lead me into creating a character