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#NookTalks Twitter Q&A with Barnes & Noble ()
#51 Copy

NOOK

Did you have the ending planned out for the Reckoners series when you started writing?

Brandon Sanderson

Then I build a series around the ideas and themes that worked in the first book.

I had the ending of the first book well in mind. Once I finished it, I sat down and plotted the next two books.

This is very common for me in a series. Writing the first book, making sure I have the characters and ideas down first.

Legion Release Party ()
#52 Copy

Questioner

In Calamity, Calamity's part of a mysterious group or civilization, really weird motives, we don't find out much about them. Was that <pointed, in any way,> part of the plot from the start?

Brandon Sanderson

It was.

Questioner

Do you have a plan to explain that civilization?

Brandon Sanderson

I will someday  explain that. At the very least, if I just have to sit down and write an essay on it, to give the closure. Yes, I will. And I do apologize for that. Apocalypse Guard was going to delve into this, but then the book got cancelled. By me.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#53 Copy

Questioner

Is Calamity the last book in the series?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a plan to do a book about Mizzy. But before I do that, I am writing a book called The Apocalypse Guard, which takes place in the alternate dimension that Megan sees into in these books. So, you should enjoy those. They'll be kinda the same style, but different characters from the alternate dimension. They're a blast, I just finished the first book.

DragonCon 2019 ()
#55 Copy

Questioner

Do you have any leatherbound plans for the Reckoners series?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I plan to do Reckoners. What we haven't decided yet is if we'll just do three in one volume. That's what I kind of want to do. My team's like, "We don't know if people will like that as much." So we're just kind of asking around, the fans. You would prefer it in one volume, right? 'Cause, together, they're about this length, right?

Questioner

Maybe the Mitosis side story as well.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, we definitely would find a place for that.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#56 Copy

Questioner

I think you're going to get asked a lot about the Cosmere today, so I wanted to make a question about the Reckoners saga, because, while I was reading it, there was one recurring thought in my mind, and it was, "Gosh, I wish I could have read this as a teenager," and it's equally enjoyable as a adult, but that kept running in my mind, and I was wondering if when you wrote it, you wrote it with these audiences in mind, or it's simply that David is so real and so like us when we were fifteen or fourteen that it came out that way?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm very curious that you noticed this, because in the United States, this is actually published as a young adult novel. In the UK and Spain, and France, it is published as an adult novel. And I very much left it up to my publishers to decide what was best for their market, because David is nineteen, which puts it on the border between is this a young adult or an adult novel. However, when I was writing it, my target reader in my head was me at age fourteen, because, when I was young, it wasn't that nobody gave me books--people did give me books, they tried to make me into a reader--but the books were all boring, and I think the great power of science fiction and fantasy is that we are able to mix deep thought and exciting narrative. Every morning, my wife makes a smoothie for my children with ice cream. They love ice cream, my three little boys, so they're very excited, and every morning she adds a handful of spinach to it, because they love the color green and they think it's cool to drink a green drink. Of course, she adds it because the spinach is very healthy, and I feel like science fiction and fantasy is very good at this blend for books. All of our books are green, because we deal with very important issues, but we mix them with wonder, exploration, adventure, and human experience.

The Reckoners is about power corrupting. I started the first book after driving on the road and nearly getting in a car wreck because someone pulled in front of me too quickly, and I was very annoyed with this person, and in that moment I imagined myself blowing the car up. I thought, "You are so lucky I don't have superpowers." It was a very cool explosion, too. Yeah, I have a good imagination. After this, I was immediately horrified, because I write books about people, generally, who get incredible powers, and then go on to protect others, but in that moment, I had the worry that I could not be trusted, myself, with those powers. So, The Reckoners is about what happens if people start gaining superpowers, but only evil people get them. It's Marvel's universe with no Avengers.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#58 Copy

Questioner

All the people with powers fit into one category.

Brandon Sanderson

All the people with powers fit into one category? Yes.

Questioner

Was there a reason you chose to do that?

Brandon Sanderson

Was there a reason I chose to do that? Well, I'm not sure if I can answer that... So I assume you're asking-- The original premise for Steelheart was that everyone who has superpowers is evil.

Questioner

Yes.

Brandon Sanderson

And that is just the original premise so that is not a spoiler. In my-- The reason I came up with the series is I wanted to tell a story about a world where Superman was not there to save you, or what not. Where it was "what if people started gaining these powers and did terrible things with them". When I was touring for the first book I told people the story of how I came up with that, I imagined-- when someone cut me off in traffic I imagined blowing their car up and feeling very satisfied and like "Yeah" and then feeling really guilty because I'm like "Is that really what I'd do with superpowers? Oh... Well I better write a book about it." *laughter* It's what authors do, anything that makes us think, or makes us have strong emotion, we're like "Well that's going in a book". And so it was an intentional choice, it was the whole premise and concept for me. And then the question became did the powers corrupt, or did only evil people get them, or what's going on. And that is one of the primary questions going on in the first book. They've mostly kind of drilled down to an answer by the second book.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#60 Copy

Dancingedge

We have seen that Epics have a compulsion to pick a name for themselves (and have been told that some apparently have very bad taste) but is there also some kind of compulsion for them to be at least somewhat appropriate or for example could Nightwielder also have called himself Sunshine Shimmer (if he were such inclined)? And on a similar note, about when does this need start to manifest itself.

Brandon Sanderson

It is possible for him to have named himself that.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
#61 Copy

Questioner

How do you come up with the David analogies and the metaphors?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, man, this is so much harder than you think it is. For those who haven't read them, the main character is really, really bad at similes. And where it came from is, there's actually a contest every year, where people intentionally try to write bad similes, and submit them. And every year it comes out and makes me laugh. Just-- I love it. And I started writing Reckoners, and-- Normally, you read this things as an author, to watch out for things to not accidentally do. If you read the bad metaphors, you can be like, "Oh, this is why you don't want to do this. You don't want people laughing." You get aware of this sort of thing. It's very good for you as a writer to watch. And, lo and behold, I'm writing a book series, and I wrote a metaphor, and I looked at it, and I'm like "That is really bad." And you do this as an author sometimes, and sometimes they slip in the books, you just write it and they're really bad. And I went to delete it and I'm like, "What if I ran with that?" This is because I tend to discovery-write my characters. So, I outline a lot for my settings, and I outline a lot of my plots, and then I go freewrite who these characters are, and then usually I have to do a lot of rebuilding of my plot after I figure out who's who. And in the Reckoners, I just ran with that, I did the whole sequence, I did the whole first chapter like that, and I'm like, "This is really fun." And then I locked myself into it, and it got so hard. Being bad on purpose is, like, ridiculously difficult. But it was also part of the fun. I would save them up, I'd be walking on the street, I'd think of something, and I'd be like "Ooh, how do I make that bad?" And I'd spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes writing a really bad metaphor. And sticking it in my pocket, because they all have to be bad in different ways. If they're all bad in the same way, then that's not any fun, you get used to it. So they all have to be bad in different ways, too. So, yeah, it was harder than I thought, but it was a blast.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#62 Copy

Dancingedge

Concerning the terminology for Epics, the definitions given for High Epics and a prime invincibility are effectively the same, meaning every High Epic should have one. However, in Steelheart David says that only a couple of the hundredths of High Epics in Newcago have one. Did David change his terminology between books or is there another reason. (I would also appreciate definitions for what differentiates a minor from a lesser Epic.)

Brandon Sanderson

Prime invincibility is the cream of the crop of High Epic, in David's estimation. The hardest of the hard to kill. However, other people define things differently. "High Epic" means "I have a power that, if you stand there and try to shoot me, it doesn't work." That's why in his definition, Regalia doesn't fit the bill--though many others would say her power of keeping herself hidden as she does would totally count. All a matter of semantics, but to him, there's a specific gradation.

Calamity release party ()
#63 Copy

Questioner

You mentioned the other ruined cities... Are there any other cities that you were thinking of putting into the book, but ended up not?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I had-- I brainstormed a few with the team. Cities I was thinking of-- Toronto we-- Toronto was the big one.

Isaac Stewart

What was the funny, weird thing about the city?

Brandon Sanderson

Um... I wanted to do a mushroom city, and I didn't do that. I dunno, I had a bunch of them that I bounced off of Isaac and Peter. This is the one we decided on just because the salt thing is so *unintelligible*, you know?

Isaac Stewart

Yeah, we did a lot of Canadian cities, is what we were thinking at first.

Brandon Sanderson

And then Random House came in and said, "Can it be an American city? Please?" I'm like, "Okay, but you'll have to fight off the Canucks."

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#65 Copy

Questioner

Would the weaknesses that you thought of for Firefight... Is that, did you think of that when you were writing Firefight, did those apply in Steelheart?

Brandon Sanderson

They should apply in Steelheart. The things that I thought of in Firefight should apply in Steelheart, the weaknesses.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#67 Copy

Dancingedge

What exactly is needed to make a motivator? In Firefight they operated on Oblivion to build the bomb, yet people still trade with any amount of Epic cells. Does the amount simply relate to power or is there something else?

Brandon Sanderson

This is covered in detail in book three. I've been pretty sneaky about some of this setup, on purpose.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#68 Copy

TwiLyghtSansSparkles

What are the extent of Snowfall's powers and territory?

Brandon Sanderson

I have notes on this, but if I come back to the Reckoners world in the future, I don't want to be locked into things I say here. Part of the point of mentioning Epics like this is to foreshadow for future books, but not leave myself too locked in, so I can construct the story I need to.

FanX 2021 ()
#69 Copy

Questioner

Have you ever thought about making the Steelheart series a graphic novel?

Brandon Sanderson

You know, we thought about it for a while. And then what we eventually decided is that we wanted to focus our graphic novel efforts on things that hadn't been published yet. There is actually a mini graphic novel of Mitosis, the short story, but that's the only one. That was when we were experimenting with it. It's not impossible that someday we will.

Firefight release party ()
#70 Copy

Questioner

Why did you choose the cities you chose for Steelheart and Firefight?

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted to choose cities that I was familiar with. Like cities I had driven in, cities I knew my way around in, and things like that. Which-- It was really just based on that concept, though I've always liked Chicago because as a kid going to Chicago-- that was the big city close to Nebraska. It was the one I knew and it was like the mid-western big city, if that makes any sense. So I always felt a kinship to that. That's why I picked Chicago. I also wanted one with a lake so I could fre-- turn the lake to steel.

Questioner

...Have you chosen one for Calamity?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. I originally chose Montreal, and my publisher-- I actually said "We could do Montreal or Atlanta" and they like Atlanta better. So I decided to go ahead and go with Atlanta.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#71 Copy

Questioner

Steelheart and The Rithmatist, are they a part of the Cosmere as well?

Brandon Sanderson

They are not, yup.

Questioner

Just someone in line said that Steelheart was Hoid's planet, but I thought that they were not part of it.

Brandon Sanderson

They are not part of it. Anything that mentions Earth is something that I didn't want to be in the Cosmere.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#72 Copy

Darudeboy

Still don't see why The Reckoners can't be a part of the Cosmere. Especially with all that why down in the last book. Sooooooo shard like

Brandon Sanderson

I'll dig into it eventually, but there are good reasons why the powers don't fit the magic of the cosmere.

It's important to me that I don't go stuffing things into the cosmere willy-nilly. The stories that fit should go there, and contribute to the lore of the cosmere. The ones that don't should be able to have their own lore and mechanics.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#73 Copy

Dancingedge

In Steelheart you mentioned mind control Epics. Just how extensive are some of the mind control powers and are they likely to diffentiate between normal people and other Epics?

Brandon Sanderson

Mind control powers among Epics are more subtle than you might find in something like the Marvel universe. (Making someone think they want a sandwich, so they wander away from their post, instead of directly controlling them.) But stronger manifestations do exist. They're more rare.

Generally, mind control powers will have more trouble with Epics.

Arched Doorway Interview ()
#74 Copy

Rebecca Lovatt

How much time do you spend during the initial planning stages of writing your novel, developing your magic systems and going through the laws and such?

Brandon Sanderson

It really depends on the book. For Steelheart, I didn't need very much. On that I'm using a superhero-themed story, and all I really needed to know was: How did people start getting their powers? How are their weaknesses developed? How are these things interrelated? From there I can just look at each power set and say, "Okay, this person has this power set."

You don't have to extrapolate quite as far with superheroes. At the same time, they are very limited magics that only work within a certain small realm, so the reason you don't have to do as much extrapolation is because there isn't as much to do. In that case, it was the matter of a week.

With something like The Stormlight Archive, it was a matter of months or years of working on the magic systems. It really varies.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#75 Copy

Questioner

This is a question I was wondering when you did Steelheart. When you were developing the story did you ever think of what kind of Epic you would be?

Brandon Sanderson

*laughs* Uh, no, I didn't really. My-- The Alcatraz books were kind of focused on dumb things I do. Steelheart I was really just kind of looking at comic book lore, and dealing with, you know, tropes from comic books.

Questioner

Thank you.

Brandon Sanderson

Uh-huh.

TheHunter

But in that car, where you thought, "If I had super powers..."

Brandon Sanderson

Oh yeah, that's true!

TheHunter

What were you going to do to that car?

Brandon Sanderson

I was gonna blow up the car.

TheHunter

So there's your answer.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, blow up the car, yeah.

ICon 2019 ()
#77 Copy

Questioner

If you were in the Reckoners books, what kind of superpowers would you have and what would be your weakness?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm canonized in the Reckoners books and the Reckoners board game as Quicksand. My weakness is early mornings.  Wake me up too early and my powers go away.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#78 Copy

Questioner

How did you think of the idea for some who could, like, pull alternate realities through?

Brandon Sanderson

I was looking for a different type of illusionist, because in the Stormlight Archive I did illusionists straight-up. So I wanted to do somebody who did something similar, but had a different origin for those powers.

General Reddit 2013 ()
#79 Copy

Chlis

Is this book part of the Cosmere? Since it's based in Chicago I'm wondering if that maybe isn't the case?

Brandon Sanderson

No, most of my "breather novels" are not Cosmere. The Cosmere requires meticulous planning and continuity. That's not usually good for what I'm looking to do when I take a break from a big project for a small one, though occasionally I can fit in a novella or such.

Miscellaneous 2019 ()
#80 Copy

Steven Bohls

The most exciting project I'm working on right now. I discussed before getting to know Brandon Sanderson, and we ended up becoming really good friends. And he has a book series, the Reckoners series: Steelheart, Firefight, and Calamity. And he was approached a little while ago by Audible. They saw a lot of success with those books on Audible and wanted him to write a spinoff series for it. But he's got a lot on his plate right now, and he actually asked me to pick it up for him. It's been really exciting.

He's been fairly hands-off, which has been both good and bad. I wish I had a little bit more direction, but it's also been nice to have full autonomy. He just kind of said, "Take it where you want." Right now, we have this spinoff series of a different team of Reckoners set in that Steelheart world. But we decided just a few weeks ago that we wanted to consolidate these books when we go to print and kinda change them a little bit to actually be Book Four and continue the series. Four, Five, and Six, and stuff. It'll hopefully mash together these two different Reckoners teams.

It's pretty exciting. They have kind of a demanding schedule for these three novellas, but it'll be shorter books for Audible. But once we can go to print (Audible's gonna hold the rights on them for two years, and then we get to go to his press, Delacorte), that's when it'll be released as Book Four.

Take Me Away

That's a really interest project to be taking over and moving new direction at the same time.

Steven Bohls

It's tricky because, when he approached me about the project, he said, "Okay. We want this to be a series that people don't have to have read any of the Reckoners books before, and they can just pick it up fresh. But we also want it to be satisfying to everyone who's read it before. And also we want it to be three independent books that are following a new team. And also we want it to be a sequel." So it was super intimidating. I kept telling myself, "Okay, I can do that." And then it got more involved and more involved, trying to simultaneously make it a sequel as well as a spinoff has been a little bit challenging.

So far it's going really well. I'm almost done with the first one in the spinoff trilogy.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#82 Copy

Questioner

From context and usage, it's fairly clear, sort of, what the word "slontz" means, but what exactly does it mean? Where does it come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Where does the word "slontz" come from? Alright, alright. Um-- *long pause* Boy, can I even dredge up where that came from? I like to use, particularly in certain worlds where it seems like it fits, I like the made-up swear words. And the made up names, just because I think slang evolves, and slang being individual to the world feels much-- And I know some people find them goofy, but it feels more realistic to me than them using our curse words. It just doesn't seem right. Now there are worlds where it was right, like in Mistborn I used our curse words because I was like, "These are a bunch of thieves living on the street," I wanted it to feel a little harder. Though, you know, it's me, so it's never gonna be that hard. But "slontz," I think I was like, "I wanna come up with some fake Yiddish word that sounds cool," honestly. I like the Yiddish. I hang out with my editor and my agent in New York, and they're both Jewish, and they use all these words that are so much fun. I'm like, "I want a word that sounds like that." I didn't spend too much time on the linguistics of that one, I'll be honest, it was just a fun word that I came up with.

Oathbringer release party ()
#83 Copy

Questioner

Do you plan to write any more books in the Steelheart universe?

Brandon Sanderson

...There's a big story here. So, the book that I started writing right after finishing Oathbringer in June was called The Apocalypse Guard. This is in the same universe as the Reckoners. And I wrote the whole book, and there were some things wrong with it, as happens sometimes with books. And so I thought, "Eh, I'll send it to my editor, and see what my editor at Random House thinks." She read it, she got back, she's like, "I like some things about it, but it's got these problems." I'm like, "Oh, those are the same problems I thought it had; that's not a good sign." So I got on and I brainstormed, and said "What do you think we should do?" She's like, "Well, maybe this or this." I spent, like, two weeks working on a really in-depth revision document. And I revised about 20% of the book following this document and it was worse. It didn't fix the problem. And so I'm like, "I need more time on this book. This book is not working. I'm sure I can fix it eventually." Like I told you, I stopped writing The Stormlight Archive in 2002. So, I pulled that book and set it aside. And I actually, I sent it to Dan Wells, actually, 'cause he's one of the best writers I know. And I'm like, "Dan! Something's broken. Can you tell me what's broken?" I'm waiting to see what Dan has to say on that, but for now, that's where Secret Project [Skyward] came from, 'cause I'm like, "Well, I don't feel good releasing Apocalypse Guard next year, I have to fix it first, it's just not good enough." So, I pulled out an outline for something else... and I said, "Well, I'm gonna write this right now, 'cause I feel like I can write this, and it's gonna work." So, I started writing this.

The answer is, yes, there will be more books, and there will even be, if I get around to it, a book about Mizzy as a protagonist, if I can find-- Like, I have to get The Apocalypse Guard working first.

General Reddit 2015 ()
#84 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Some statistics/fun facts on [Calamity]:

  • The Book Guide (my planning file) was started in late December, but that was mostly made of me grabbing the notes for this specific book out of the general outline file for the trilogy, and pasting them in here.
  • Chapter One was started January first.
  • Chapter Fifty was finished May 5th.
  • Includes the shortest prologue I've ever done, at 61 words.
  • I wrote 13,200 (somewhere around 12-13% of the book) words yesterday across around thirteen hours. (With a break to go watch Ultron in the middle.)
  • This series is unique in that I wrote the first chunk of it years ago, around 2008, but then didn't have time to return to the project until a few years back. Unlike many of my series, I didn't plan out the entire trilogy before the first book--I wrote the first book, sold it, then put together an outline for all three books.