Are the Terris people in the Mistborn series based on a race/religion in real life?
No specific single inspiration. Many partial ones.
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I have a question in regards to the soulstamps… When Shai is creating it she blows flakes off of it. Are those flakes able to be enchanted and do they have any power?
Do the flakes that Shai blows off the front of the soulstamp have any hidden power? The answer is, no. I'm sorry, nice theory. The blowing off is actually just related directly to my experience. Soulstamps come from--
I lived in Korea for two years as a Mormon missionary, and then I went back to Taiwan to visit because there's a huge Brandon Sanderson fan base in Taiwan. For those who don't know, what happened is the publisher who got The Emperor's Sou-- No, no, the publisher who got Mistborn in Taiwan, published it the same month or so that Hunger Games came out, and everyone who was looking for-- read The Hunger Games wanted something like it ended up buying Mistborn. So actually-- *laughter* It's one of those things over here, like The Maze Runner or one of these other YA dystopians are what took off in the kind of halo of The Hunger Games. Over there, Mistborn was in the halo of The Hunger Games. It actually sold about as well in Taiwan which is-- So we just sold tons of copies in Taiwan. So I went back and it was really fun-- by the way you can go to my timeline on Facebook and whatever, and here, people like to ask questions. A lot of the superfans like to have a question and things like that. There, the superfans like to get pictures. And so there are like 5,000 pictures of me and teenage schoolgirls *laughter over Brandon* just all over Facebook from that period. But I went and visited the palace museum.
And anyway, I remembered a time in Korea where I'd seen someone carving these and he would do a little of this and blow it off, do a little bit and blow it off. Kind of the old-school carver. Now most days it's actually-- they're actually made by machines. You load in a design, you lock in your little tojong into the machine, and it goes and it will carve it out to look like the little computer design. But you see occasionally old school people carving them hand-- That's why I made it do that, because I'd actually seen someone carving one. There is not supposed to be any hidden magical meaning, other than the fact the stone that they're using is a traditional type of stone, which may or may not have Invested properties.
How did you think of your powers with Alcatraz?
How did I think of the powers in Alcatraz. So if you aren't familiar with the Alcatraz books, they are books about a family who all have a magical talent and they are all based on stupid things that I do. *laughter* I am really good at breaking things. This is my phone. *shows phone, laughter ensues* This is my tablet, it only looks this nice because the last time I dropped it I have a nice assistant who took it to the store to fix it last month. So that'll last a few months. So Alcatraz's magical powers is that he is able to magically break things. I'm always late. I wasn't late today because we came up early to have dinner, but I was late to dinner. I'm late to everything So I have another character in that who has the superpower of magically arrive late to things, but he'll arrive late to things like bullets and tax day. They turn into superpowers. It started as me wanting the goofy things I do to become superpowers and extrapolated out from there.
I wanted to ask-- So you--I think more than almost any other fantasy author--you create universes and then you leave them behind. Entire uni-- I almost feel like you could sit down-- you could have like pages of a physics lecture in each of your universes and you would have equations for how it works. Do you have-- Have you always had these ideas for these various universes with gods and magic systems and things like that, or are you always creating them, sort of as you go?
It's yes and no. A lot of the ones you're seeing in the cosmere are things I created at the beginning to be kind of what the cosmere was. But I left some holes intentionally cause I knew I would come up with cool things that I wanted to add, and so I built in that wiggle room, and I'm always coming up with new ones. And there are way more that I want to do than I can write, like the one I keep wanting to find a chance for is--
Do you guys know how Nikola Tesla tried to create wireless energy? I think I've talked about this one. Like, he tried to create wireless energy, and I'm like "What if there were a world where that happened naturally?" Where you had a natural current going, and you could like set your lantern on the ground and it would create a current from the sky to the ground and your light bulb would just turn on. You don't need electricity. And how would-- What if we have giant toads that could shoot out their tongues that would create a current, and they're like taser tongues? *makes zapping noises* Stuff like this. And so, I started jumping in to looking at electricity and things like this, and current and whatnot, and that's just all back there and I'm like "Aww, someday I need to be able to write this." But there are so many things that I want to write that I just don't have the time for, so it's a yes and no.
So do you have, like, "what if" questions and then you build a universe from there?
Usually they're "what if" questions, but Sanderson's Zeroth Law--I've got these laws on magic you can look up, they're named humbly after myself--so Sanderson's Zeroth Law is "Always err on the side of what's awesome". And usually it's less even a "what if?" and it's a "That's so cool, taser toads!" Like if you really want to know the truth of where The Stormlight Archive started, there's all this cool stuff, like part of it was like "What if there was a storm like the storm on Jupiter". And then I eventually changed it to a storm that goes around the planet, something like that, but the real truth was "Magical power armor. YEAH! Magical power armor is cool! Plate mail power armor! Why would you need plate mail power armor?" Y'know, and it starts with the really cool idea. Mistborn started by me drifting in a fog bank at eighty miles per hour in my car and loving how it looked as it drove past and saying "Is there a world where I can imitate this feel, where you look out and it streams by." It's those early visuals or concepts that make me say "Oh yeah, I wanna do that!". That is where my books really come from, and then I layer on top of them the "what ifs?" and trying to build a realistic ecology based around these ideas.
What do you base the codes on, from The Stormlight books? Do you have anything specific--
I don't have anything specific. It's kind like a general-- lot's of different things, looking at bushido and knightly code and things like this and just kind of building my own out of it. The words "Life before death" were like one of the first things I thought of for the book and I'm like "I gotta use that. It's going in there." And eventually it grew out of that.
The Kandra were my favorite part of the Mistborn series. What was your inspiration for them?
For the kandra, I started with the idea that a thieving crew would need a good "inside man" type, who could do costumes. None of the powers fit this, but I knew I also wanted to foreshadow Hemalurgy. From there, developing them was an organic process digging deeply into the history and worldbuilding I was doing.
The idea of the wolfhound kandra appealed to me a great deal before even starting the first book, and was where I targeted my plotting after it struck me.
I was interested if, the Wax character, if he was inspired a little by Sams Vimes by Terry Pratchett.
Yeah, absolutely. Vimes had a deep effect on me as a writer so any time I'm writing a copper you'll end up with some Vimes but I'd say Wax has a little extra Vimes, so does Dalinar, Dalinar's got a bit of Vimes in him to.
One of your characters wishes for and is given capacity... That is one of my favorite concepts of all the books that I read of yours. Can you talk about the inspiration for that gift of limited and maximum capacity?
To not give spoilers, there is a character in The Stormlight Archive who has asked the Old Magic, which is a force that kind of has references in things like The Monkey's Paw and what-not, a force that doesn't always give you things exactly the way you want them. And I built, by the way, the Old Magic into The Stormlight Archive because I felt that at a certain point, while I love to do these rule-based magic systems, I wanted there to be a contrast to it... It's kinda like this idea that, yes, modern science and things have explained a lot of stuff, but there's something primal, perhaps, in the past, I don't actually know. But that idea that there's a primal magic that doesn't really adhere to the rules, we can't anticipate it, was really, I felt, vital for me to include so that I didn't overexplain everything in the books.
So, there's a person who asked for capacity. It wanted to be, let's say, strong enough to lift (it's not actually strength, but it's more of an emotional thing) what was coming. That, I feel like, is a very real thing to wish for, right? I have frequently, like... people say "What would you wish for," and I say "The ability to fly," because I would love to be able to fly. But really, if I sit and think about it, capacity, ability, the capacity to hold all of this stuff in my head, would probably be the sort of thing that I would wish for. So this character, in some ways, is giving wish fulfillment for me, because that's what I would maybe ask for if given the opportunity, but even that kind of turns on its head because the Old Magic just doesn't get people in the way that people think they should be gotten.
Do your children sometimes inspire your writing?
Having children has certainly been a big help in understanding the way that younger people think. I spend a lot of time reading with them, and seeing what engages them in other books. This has been an excellent help to me in my writing.
So far, I haven't taken any of their specific ideas–but they're still a little young. They do offer suggestions, but they tend to be things like, "You need a big orange dinosaur that builds itself a robot suit to fight ninjas."
On second thought, that's a pretty cool idea, isn't it?
Elend in the Mists after Vin Leaves
I wanted to include a reference to mistwraiths in this book. They're a minor world element, but aspects of their origins are a piece of the puzzle that gets explained further. . .in book three.
The mists are indeed coming earlier in the day, and they are staying later in the mornings. They're getting stronger, you might say. Elend doesn't know this, but some of the very outer parts of the empire already have mists lingering almost to the afternoon. The answers to why are coming. . .in book three.
The mist spirit doesn't want Elend to go to Luthadel. And yes, it was using Allomancy on him. (Influencing his emotions, as it's done several places through this book.) It doesn't work very well. The thing doesn't have much of a mind remaining. The answer to why. . .yes, you guessed it. Book three.
As you can tell, I'm using this last section of the book to set up The Hero of Ages. I didn't want to do this–I wanted all three books to stand well on their own. However, the events in the third book are just too large to deal with in one novel, so they spilled over into the end of this one. I actually began foreshadowing a lot of these things in book one–they were just easier to hide then.
By the way, the scene where Elend stands there, looking into the darkness, hearing leaves rustle and thinking how frightening it is. . .well, that's a scene from my life. Nothing big, but one night I was just walking past a darkened backyard and I heard rustling like that. I stood for a while, looking into that darkness, realizing just how creepy it was to stand in shadowed light and stare into the void without knowing what was back there. I had to put that in a book.
So, your Legion series, where the guy has multiple hallucinations and everything like that-- Where did you come up with your idea? Was it just hanging out--
Where was the idea for Legion, which if you are not familiar with it Legion is this weird thing where I have a guy who's a genius, he can study any topic and learn that topic and become an expert in it very quickly but the information appears as a hallucination who can coach him in that information. So it's like he's a schizophrenic but instead of the voices telling him to kill people they tell him how to hack computers or things like that.
The idea came because I was actually working in a writing group with my friend Dan who was working on a book called The Hollow City which is about a real schizophrenic, not a super-powered schizophrenic in a weird Brandon-world. And I'm like "Oooh this would be so cool, what if his hallucinations helped him? What if--" and he's like "That's not my book, I don't want to write that book" and I'm like "But it's so cool!" and he's like "Then you write it!" So I did. And that's where it came from. A lot of time being a writer is realizing "Oh I wish someone would do this, HEY! I know someone who can do that, ME!" and then I write the books.
Of all the books I've written, I think this one hearkens most closely to our own world. Usually, when I develop cultures and languages, I try to stay away form basing them too closely on any one Earth society or race. I'm not certain what made me do things differently in Elantris. It's not just fencing–JinDo, with its obvious links to Asian cultures, is a good example too. And Fjorden's language has some obvious references to Scandinavia. (Dilaf's name comes from Beowulf, actually. I named him after Beowulf's heir, Wilaf.)
Anyway, in this chapter we find two very obvious "borrows" from our world. I've always been fascinated by fencing, though I've never participated myself. The idea of turning swordfighting into a sport intrigues me. In addition, I found the light, formalized dueling appropriate to the tone of this book, so I took the opportunity to write it in. (I do realize, by the way, that Hollywood has done some interesting things to fencing. Most real fencing bouts are much shorter, and far less showy, than what we see depicted. This is pretty much true for any kind of fighting, however. Think what you will, but combat is usually brutal, quick, and really not that exciting to watch.
This kind of fighting is very appropriate in some books. However, I allowed myself the indulgence of doing my fencing scenes a bit more flourish than one would find in real life. It felt right in the context to have the participants spar, parry, and jump about for far longer a time than is realistic. If you need justification, you can assume that in Teod, the rules for fencing are very strict–and so it's very hard to actually score a point on your opponent, forcing the battles to be prolonged.)
The other item of interest in that scene is, of course, Shuden's ChayShan dance. As mentioned above, his culture is pretty obviously borrowed from Asia. In fact, the link is so strong that some readers have trouble imagining his features as anything but Asian. (Note, once again, that this is not the case. The JinDo have dark brown skin. Though, I guess you'll imagine Shuden however you wish.) The ChayShan is a martial art I devised to feel just a bit like Tai Chi–though ChayShan focuses on speeding up the motions and gaining power from them. I've always kind of thought that Tai Chi would look more interesting if it slowly sped up.
With Steelheart every superhero I've worshiped as a kid, was pretty much blown to bits and replaced with the scariest bunch of "supers" I've ever seen. How did you come up with the idea to take superheroes (and even today's, not even close to epic level, villains) and make them so amazingly evil?
I was on book tour, driving a rental car up through West Virginia when someone aggressively cut me off in traffic. I got very annoyed at this person, which is not something I normally do. I'm usually pretty easygoing, but this time I thought to myself, "Well, random person, it's a good thing I don't have super powers—because if I did, I'd totally blow your car off the road." Then I thought: "That's horrifying that I would even think of doing that to a random stranger!"
Any time that I get horrified like that makes me realize that there's a story there somewhere. So I spent the rest of the drive thinking about what would really happen if I had super powers. Would I go out and be a hero, or would I just start doing whatever I wanted to? Would it be a good thing or a bad thing?
If you've read the book, then you probably won't be surprised to find that a partial inspiration for it was the Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, you'd have to search pretty far to find any kind of detective story that isn't somehow influenced by good Mister Holmes. This story, however, is more consciously inspired along those lines. I purposely developed a mysterious (almost even magical) series of robberies along the lines of what you see in the Holmes stories. The technological era is similar as well.
Of course, the characters are much different—even down to the character roles and dynamics. I wanted Wax to be a thinker, but more of a lawman than an eccentric. Wayne has enough eccentricity for three characters. I wanted the way that Wax approached solving a problem like this to be more methodical, more like a lawman who has grown accustomed to doing things on his own—but who has procedures he follows.
Beyond that, I wanted Wax to be solid. Many people are going to prefer Wayne for obvious reasons, but I prefer this story to be about Wax. (I'll talk more about Wayne's origins later.) Wax's solidity helps anchor the story, I feel. Perhaps I find him more interesting than others will, but the different parts of him that are warring inside create for a stronger dynamic than some of the other characters, who are more static.
So you've mentioned, and you've said this many times before, that you don't have to feel overwhelmed by the Cosmere if you are just a casual reader that wants to read a trilogy and that's it, you don't have to get too much into it, but do you fear this might taint a bit for readers as you keep developing the Cosmere and making it more prominent and relevant to the story itself?
Maybe I should be more scared than I am, but currently I am not very frightened of this idea, for a couple of reasons. When I do stories that are very deeply involved in the Cosmere and the connections, I will be very upfront with it, and give warnings, so the readers will probably not end up in those books unless they are wanting to. The readers I'm most worried about are the ones who haven't started any of my books yet feeling overwhelmed, or feeling they have to read them in a specific order. As long as they don't start with books like Secret History, that says at the beginning, "Don't start with this book," they'll be fine.
I think one of the strengths of science fiction and fantasy is that the genre does not coddle its readers. Even books in this genre for younger readers are very challenging with their worldbuilding and a lot of the events that happen in them, and I think that the fans are ready and willing to accept this. And the reason our genres tend to have books that become long-term classics is because of this depth. If you go back to the era when Dune was written, you will find Dune and many other science fiction and fantasy books of that era, like Anne McCaffrey's work and Ursula LeGuin's work, that is still being read, and is still considered very important, but if you read in some genres that did not try that depth and complexity, those authors did not last as long, and so I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't add this depth where I can.
In your novellas Legion and The Emperor's Soul, there was a common theme of a creation of character. Were you making a comment on that as a writer?
The Emperor's Soul was much more so, specifically dealing with the artistic process. That was part of the theme for me. Legion was more "Wow, this idea's awesome." I originally told Dan (from Writing Excuses) that he should write this, it's really quirky. He said, "I got my own ideas—go write it yourself!"
I have a question about Shadesmar. What inspired the beads where everything in the actual reality is a bead in Shadesmar?
If I were being truthful, it probably goes all the way back to a Michael Whelan painting I saw when I was a teenager. But at the end of the day, I thought it was a really interesting image and a good reflection. I want things to reflect the real world—the Physical Realm—but in a different sort of way. So I like the kind of crystalline nature of it and things like that.
What was your inspiration for Kaladin?
Kaladin was inspired originally by reading about surgeons in the middle ages.
What idea sparked Stormlight for you?
The very first seed for everything was a man who's brother to a king. The king gets assassinated and the nephew becomes a bad king. How he copes with that is what I started thinking about. We all have somebody in our family. That became Dalinar and Elhokar in The Stormlight Archive.
Was Shallan's ability to draw intentional, just so you could have her draw all the maps?
Yes, basically that was the seed for her. I was inspired by people from history like Darwin who was a scientist and did drawings. That was part of the concept that made me put Shallan into the books. All those drawings are intended to give you a sense of immersion.
Is the Breakaway inspired by Korean outdoor markets?
Yes... Night markets, right?
Each of the characters is a little autobiographical, mostly noticeable in retrospect. Raoden represents my belief in the power of optimism. I'm an optimist. I can't help it; it's just the way I am. And so, a hero like Raoden often grows to represent my beliefs. His conflict--that of being cast into the most horrific place in the kingdom--is an outgrowth of me trying to devise the most hopeless situation I could, and then make the conflict for my character the attempt to retain hopeful in the face of that.
Sarene represents an amalgamation of several people I knew in my life, most notably Annie Gorringe, a friend of mine in college. Not that Sarene acts just like her, of course--but that some of the conflicts in Annie's life, mixed with some of her personality quirks, inspired me to develop a character that ended up in my book.
Hrathen is as much a piece of me as Raoden. I served a mission for the LDS church, and while I did so, I thought often about the 'right' way to share one's beliefs mixed with the 'wrong' way. It seemed to me that focusing on the beauty of your message, mixed with the needs of the individuals you met, was the way to go. When you start to preach just to be preaching--or to convert not because of your concern for those around you, but because you want to seem more powerful--you risk beating the life out of your own message.
So, in a way, Hrathen represents my fears of what I could have become--a warning to myself, if you will.
What was the inspiration for Sazed's spiritual turmoil?
He came from several ideas. One idea was the missionary for all religions. Which was that the cool concept, that originated his story, was someone who tried to fit a religion to someone like you fit shoes to somebody. "Let's find the right one to fit them." When I was developing that character and working on it in the outlining process, and after I tried a few scenes and knew that I liked who he was, the question that followed up is, "What does he really believe?" As I developed the character, I settled on "He doesn't know," because that's not what he does, he tried to suit to other people. I knew that the story had to put him in a crisis of deciding what does he actually believe, and what is his belief system, because that is who he is. The inspiration of that was simply growing out of who the character was as I saw this character, and trying to create a crisis that would force him down that path, to make the hard decisions.
In Stormlight Archive what inspired you to come up with the idea of bridges & how they carry them across chasms?
I wanted a form of siege warfare that was different from anything that readers had seen before, but had the same despair to it.
Your characters often gain confidence from beg to end of a book. What inspired that trend of personal growth?
My own life! :)
Who is Rock, of your friends?
Rock is one of the ones that isn't. The core of Bridge Four isn't, yeah, Rock, and Teft, and Moash, and Lopen. Those aren't-- It's all the ones that aren't the main characters, except for Skar, I just named after my friends.
Is Mistborn: The Final Empire based on the French Revolution.
Yes it is. Specifically the stuff with Elend.
So, could you give us some examples of how the ideals that spren represent work in other magic systems, like we have Forging where you get plausibility, or Returned how they're beautiful or any other systems?
Okay, one more time on that.
Okay, so you know the ideals the spren are manifestations--
How-- Do those have impacts on other magic systems?
Yes, yes, in the same way the Returned- that's the exact same system at work there.
Is it the same reason why the Lord Ruler has to die of old age, and why you can't heal yourself into being an octopus or something?
Um... Yes, that is all connected in the exact same way.
Okay, so it's all like these highfalutin Spiritual ideals?
And are there like, median Cognitive ideals that gradually kind of influence these, or--
Yeah, they transcend between the three. I mean the original concept for the Three Realms is Platonic philosophy.
So it goes up *makes absurd reverse-waterfall hand gesture*
Yeah, it goes up and it comes back down. A lot of the Cognitive is-- So like, the Cognitive has a bigger effect on how you can heal and things like that. Does that make sense?
But the power to heal is a actually a Spiritual thing.
So it's like the Spiritual says "I want to be like this" and the Cognitive is like "Okay I'll try really hard to be like that, but I have a limit."
Right. Right. Filtered through how you see yourself, yeah.
If you were a Smedry, what would your talent be?
I base most of the talents of the people in the Alcatraz Books off dumb things that I do. So I am famously bad at dancing. Famously. So I would definitely have that one. I am always late; that came from me. (Though really, secretly, it came from my mom; 'cause she is even more late that I am.) Most everything thing in there is me. But I would say probably "bad at dancing", that would probably be my best, because I am just really bad at dancing. It's not even in a funny way, it's just in a boring way.
Do you sometimes draw inspiration from real world people?
Yes, I do. Usually it's a conflict a person has, which I want to depict. Most of Bridge Four are friends of mine.
What was your inspiration for Wayne?
Wayne had a lot of inspirations... Obviously, there's some Mat Cauthon going on for me when I do Wayne, particularly the way that Mat would see the world differently from the that way he would act. The original inspiration for Wayne was a character who changed personalities based on which hat he wore. He was actually the lead in a Mistborn story I was writing, and he didn't work well without someone to play off of... Some characters work way better when they are surrounded by more normal people. Not gonna say anything about things like the Minion movie (which my children loved), but it's very hard to tell a story about everyone being crazy instead of having a framework of someone to keep it going in the right direction. So that was a big inspiration for Wayne.
The other big inspiration for Wayne was something I noticed about human nature, where I wanted to tell a story about a character who had some really deep-- Wayne should bother you. Like the way he treats Steris. And the way he treats Ranette. And the way he treats some of the people in his life should really bother you. And one of my goals with Wayne was to tell a story that mimics what I see in real life, where there are people I know and I love who also have this way about them that you realize they aren't quite-- grown-up's the wrong term... Like, all of us are the heroes in our own group of friends. We're all the hero of our story. We each have different things we're working on. And some of them are classic good storytelling things, like "I'm gonna learn to be more bold." Which is totally me. Totally something I need to work on. But some of them are "I treat people who aren't in my inner circle really poorly, especially if they're trying to get into my inner circle. And then when you're in my inner circle, I have a dysfunctional relationship with you a lot of time." And I thought I could only really do that with a character that you loved while you were really annoyed by them, because otherwise I feel like the character wouldn't work. Maybe I could do it a different way, but I really wanted to dig into that in these new Mistborn books, and Wayne was my vehicle for doing this.
Some kind of nebulous sort of writerly things going on there.
Were any aspects of Elantrsi at all biographical? In my case, at least, my writing is often unintentionally reflective of my own experiences. Is this the case for you as well?
Every book is a little autobiographical. You can’t separate yourself from your work, though I try not to include intentional messages in my writing. (That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to my books having meaning; it just means that I don’t tent to approach them with the idea “I want to teach something in this book.”)
Each of the characters is a little autobiographical, something that is most noticeable to me in retrospect. Raoden represents my belief in the power of optimism. I’m an optimist. I can’t help it; it’s just the way I am. And so, a hero like Raoden often grows to represent my beliefs. His conflict–that of being cast into the most horrific place in the kingdom–is an outgrowth of me trying to devise the most hopeless situation I could, and then make the conflict for my character the attempt to retain hopeful in the face of that.
Sarene represents an amalgamation of several people I knew in my life, most notably Annie Gorringe, a friend of mine in college. Not that Sarene acts just like her, of course–but that some of the conflicts in Annie’s life, mixed with some of her personality quirks, inspired me to develop a character that ended up in my book.
Hrathen is as much a piece of me as Raoden. I served a mission for the LDS church, and while I did so, I thought often about the ‘right’ way to share one’s beliefs mixed with the ‘wrong’ way. It seemed to me that focusing on the beauty of your message, mixed with the needs of the individuals you met, was the way to go. When you start to preach just to be preaching–or to convert not because of your concern for those around you, but because you want to seem more powerful–you risk beating the life out of your own message. You also get in trouble when you focus on putting other religions down (or challenging others on their beliefs) instead of just talking about what makes you believe like you do.
So, in a way, Hrathen represents my fears of what I could have become–a warning to myself, if you will.
Did you go into creating Davriel with the color pie in mind? What colors would you say he is?
I went into the story knowing I wanted to write a black-alinged hero. Someone who showed off the pragmatic side of black, and someone whose ambition was different from traditional black-aligned ambition.
I'd say that Davriel is black primary, with a strong secondary blue aspect. There is a slight white tertiary side to him, mostly in his belief in organized systems and society that makes sense. (Though he prefers these boundaries for others more than for himself.)
How much freedom do you get from Brandon for the maps and symbols and so on?
I get a lot of freedom with the maps. There were actually times we've changed parts of the books to fit the maps.
May I have an example?
We changed around directions in the Kholinar chapters a lot.
And the glyphs and other symbols?
For the glyphs I have a symmetry tool which I play around a lot with. We developed the glyphs later in full from those images we liked.
For the Allomantic symbols I had a couple different ideas which didn't seem to work well. Then I had an idea about a bunch of nails lying around haphazardly and from that image the Allomantic symbols evolved.
What's your Smedry talent?
...I usually say "being long-winded." But the truth is, when I wrote the books, I kind of did all the stuff that I do as the first powers. So I'm habitually late, bad at dancing, good at breaking things... But if you actually go "What's the core one," probably being long-winded. I can say things that could be said in one word, in seventeen instead.
I know you went on mission in Korea, as did I, did anything come from that?
Yeah, quite a number of things have been influenced by it. I'd say the biggest influence is Elantris, the writing system is based on the idea of Korean and Chinese mixed together. But Asian philosophy, like the kami and things like that are also common in Korea, that belief that everything has a soul. So yeah it's had a huge influence on me, just the way I worldbuild-- I mean just the fact, I don't know if you've read The Way of Kings… I don't know if you know but everyone's Asian, right? Like Szeth, the white dude, is the one that looks weird them. And that's just because-- It was partially influenced by that.
What was it that inspired you to write a superhero series in which all the super-powered heroes had become so corrupt?
What made you think about people with superpowers that could destroy the world, since most people make people with super powers the good guys?
I did it exactly because I hadn't ever seen anyone do it! I've enjoyed the superhero genre quite a bit during my years, and as a writer I'm generally looking to do something similar to stories I've loved in the past. At the same time, something in me rebels at just doing "the same thing" again. This is the conflict of fan against artist inside me and the result is usually that I spend time thinking about a genre of stories, and try to find a take on it that feels fresh and original. It's like eating my cake and having it too! I feel that I can add something to the genre, giving people a new story, yet also incorporate some of the things I love about the genre the things that make it really work.
Syl's inspiration came from a lot of different places. I'm not sure if I can point to one thing. The spren are inspired by Japanese mythology, that everything has a soul. That is the original inspiration for it. But Syl as a character, I'd been toying with forever, and I think she came about as a counterpoint to Kaladin's darkness; a figure of light that I knew that the story would need.
I was just wondering if you were going to continue the mirroring as the Elantris and Warbreaker series continue...
They are probably not going to continue that way. There will be some things, like there will be some tonal things. Part of the reason I wrote Warbreaker was this idea that I'm like "I wrote this whole book about the city of the gods but I didn't actually get to deal with people living as gods". So I came back to the topic because of that reason but the second one is probably going to be a little bit more like my unpublished book Aether of Night. I'm going to fold in some of those ideas.
Who or what was your inspiration to start writing fantasy?
When I was 14, I discovered the fantasy genre through Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane. After her, I read McCaffrey and Rawn. They are really the ones who inspired me to start. When Robert Jordan's books came along, I was done for. ;)
What was the thought process behind Shinovar being so similar?
A couple of reasons. One is, by having some sort of Earth analogue on-world, I could give some contrast, and I could have a kind of an explanation for why they might use words like chickens and things until I can get to the big reveal. Like, if there weren't Shinovar there to act as a red herring, I think it would give away the twist very early.
Beyond that, I like the idea of the people that are like us being the alien ones to the society. Kind of helps separate it and make it this is a different world, this is a different culture. So, it gave me a lot of advantages. Plus it also gave an explanation for how they could-- humankind create a foothold on this planet after coming across. So, lots of different thought processes behind that.
I'd love to hear what some of your inspirations were for Skyward. I know you've listed How To Train Your Dragon and The Last Starfighter, but I'm curious if there are any books or movies that inspired you for the sci-fi worldbuilding and starfighter combat? As someone who loves pretty much anything starfighter, from Wing Commander to Stackpole's Rogue Squadron books, I'd love to hear how you approached it or if you have any reccos I'm not aware of!
I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching interviews and videos about what it's actually like to fly or take G-forces. Tom Scott did a nice one on centrifuges. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMKcO-T5Y4o
As for starfighter books, there really aren't a ton are there? Most everything in books focuses on the Lost Fleet/Honor Harrington/Vorkosigan style large ship combat. Stackpole is great, but you've already read him. A Fire Upon the Deep is great, but again, not a lot of starfighter battles. I'll have to think about it more--I don't have any that were specific inspirations for this series.
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?
*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.
But in that car, where you thought, "If I had super powers..."
Oh yeah, that's true!
What were you going to do to that car?
I was gonna blow up the car.
So there's your answer.
Yeah, blow up the car, yeah.
I've seen a lot of forum posts about the mistcloaks themselves. What is the standard wear underneath those?
So there isn't a lot of standardization, because Mistborn are rare and each Mistborn commissions their own cloak. Most of the time, I think you're going to find that they would wear a buttoning shirt with short sleeves. Probably something dark would be my guess, probably a dark gray. But it just really depends on the person.
Okay. I was thinking about working up a Mistborn cosplay--
My theme for clothing other than miscloaks was a look a little of-- Dickensian London was my inspiration, so.
Talking Horses that Talk about Their Feelings
A fun story about this chapters beings by me admitting that I didn't come up with the "TenSoon digests a horse" trick at first. I tried writing this scene with Sazed clinging to TenSoon's wolfhound back as they ran to the south. It was awkward to describe, even more awkward to imagine, and it never worked that well.
Eventually, while working on a solution to the problem of getting Sazed south to the Homeland, I realized that TenSoon could just digest another body and use that. Easy fix, and one that fit marvelously with the magic and setting.
This intersects another story relating to my friend Nate Hatfield, one of the guys in my writing group. He's a big fan of Dinosaur Comics, a webcomic that often deals with philosophy or literary criticism. Years ago, he brought a comic to the group where one of the characters in the comic strip complains that fantasy books are all about talking horses that talk about their feelings.
All through the writing of book two of Mistborn, Nate took delight in the Vin/TenSoon scenes as they were about a talking dog who talks about his feelings. He never let me live that connection down.
And then, almost just for him, I had TenSoon take on the body of a horse for a few chapters. I doubt I'll ever hear that end of that one. At least he didn't end up saying much about his feelings. ;)
How do you come up with your concepts on flying across all of your books? They're a little different from usual flying.
So, I look for something that just hasn't been done before. Almost all powers in fantasy books have been done. But can you put some interesting restriction on them that'll make it more actually interesting to write? A little different? I spend a lot of time just kinda brainstorming these sorts of things.
In Warbreaker how did you come up with the idea of using colors for magic?
You know it's the goofiest story. A lot of them have really awesome stories and this one is just goofy. In this one I had written Elantris and written Mistborn and they are both kind of dark and my editor said to me, I kid you not, "Your next book needs some color to it" and I said "Oh I'll do a color-based magic system then". And that's where it came from.
You sort of have to be productive to write the Cosmere, because it's really complex. Did you have it planned in advance when you first started, did you really have a very, very clear idea of what you wanted, or was it just the structure?
So, for those who don't know, it has been referenced, my epic fantasies are connected behind the scenes with a lot of secret characters who are moving between the different stories. If you haven't read my books, don't get intimidated by that. It is mostly to be found if you dig for it, but not intended to be distracting from the main story of each book.
And it did start from the beginning, at least from the beginning of Elantris, which was actually the sixth book that I wrote. It wasn't there in the first few books, but by the time I wrote Elantris it was there. I can trace the idea to a couple of places. From a very young age, when I would read books, I can remember doing this for Anne McCaffrey, it was always very fun to me to imagine a character that was hiding behind the scenes in the story that she wrote that I had inserted, that the other characters didn't know this character's secret motive, and they would appear in the various books that I read. I would say, "Oh, that's him. Ooh, that's him in this other book," written by different authors. That is the origin of the character Hoid, most likely.
I can also point toward Isaac Asimov as an inspiration. In the late 80's, early 90's, when I was first becoming a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, I read Foundation, and then read the robot books, and then read his connecting the two of them together, which was one of those moments that broke my brain, and as I've read other people's works, I've found other authors who did similar things. Michael Moorcock is one, even the Marvel and DC comics did a lot of this. Famously, Stephen King did it with the Dark Tower books.
One theme I've noticed is that many of them feel like they decided to add this as a feature after having finished several books, and thought, "What a cool idea, I will connect them," and having seen them do this, and like it, I ask the question, "What if someone started from the get-go, from the first book, setting up a hidden epic behind the scenes?" Like most writers, I owe a great deal to those who came before and provided inspiration for the things that I do.
How did you come up with the idea for a bead ocean?
The bead ocean? I honestly have no idea where the bead ocean came from. It's one of those images that grew out of building the world for Stormlight. I hit upon it and I just went with it and it works. It wasn't directly inspired by anything specific that I can think of. Maybe you'll find some journal entry from me as a kid being like "I went to the ball pit and it was awesome! What if they were made of glass?"
Skyward: Is Rodge a hat tip to Anne McCaffrey?
Yup, he is! The White Dragon is one of my inspirations here.