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EuroCon 2016 ()
#302 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.

Oathbringer London signing ()
#303 Copy

Questioner

When you start planning your books, is there anything you start with? Is there always some sort of starting point, or do you start whenever an idea occurs and you run with it?

Brandon Sanderson

Every book is a combination of multiple ideas that are bouncing around in my head. And when they start sticking together, like when I've got an idea for a cool idea where "There's a storm all the time," mixing with "Hey, I want to tell this story about these ancient orders of knights." with "Ooh, this magic system might develop here." When these all start sticking together, that's what makes a book for me. And then I sit down and write out all the ideas I had, and then start I organize it into an outline.

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

Questioner

How did you come up with Shardblades?

Brandon Sanderson

Here's the thing, I've seen a lot of fantasy art-- I love fantasy books, right-- and people often depict these enormous swords, which are completely impractical. So one of my pitches for Stormlight was "I want a world where they had to have weapons like they depict in this fantasy art" and I retrofitted it, what would they need these to actually fight? So that was the pitch for myself on Shardblades. And I was also annoyed that the coolest magic swords were in a science fiction story, Star Wars, I want cool magic swords that are not in a science fiction story.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
#305 Copy

Questioner

How did you come up with The Stormlight Archive's gem magic/technology?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the things to keep in mind is I that developed this book before Mistborn was published. I do wonder if sometimes people are going to say, "Oh, he did metals before, and now he's doing crystals." But the thoughts arose quite independently in my head. You may know that there is a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds--a behind-the-scenes rationale. Like a lot of people believe there's unifying theory of physics, I have a unifying theory of magic that I try to work within in order to build my worlds. As an armchair scientist, believing in a unifying theory helps me. I'm always looking for interesting ways that magic can be transferred, and interesting ways that people can become users of magic. I don't want just to fall into expected methodologies. If you look at a lot of fantasy--and this is what I did in Mistborn so it's certainly not bad; or if it is, I'm part of the problem--a lot of magic is just something you're born with. You're born with this special power that is either genetic or placed upon you by fate, or something like that. In my books I want interesting and different ways of doing that. That's why in Warbreaker the magic is simply the ability to accumulate life force from other people, and anyone who does that becomes a practitioner of magic. 

In The Way of Kings, I was looking for some sort of reservoir. Essentially, I wanted magical batteries, because I wanted to take this series toward developing a magical technology. The first book only hints at this, in some of the art and some of the things that are happening. There's a point where one character's fireplace gets replaced with a magical device that creates heat. And he's kind of sad, thinking something like, "I liked my hearth, but now I can touch this and it creates heat, which is still a good thing." But we're seeing the advent of this age, and therefore I wanted something that would work with a more mystical magic inside of a person and that could also form the basis for a mechanical magic. That was one aspect of it. Another big aspect is that I always like to have a visual representation, something in my magic to show that it's not all just happening abstractly but that you can see happen. I loved the imagery of glowing gemstones. When I wrote Mistborn I used Burning metals--metabolizing metals--because it's a natural process and it's an easy connection to make. Even though it's odd in some ways, it's natural in other ways; metabolizing food is how we all get our energy. The idea of a glowing object, illuminated and full of light, is a natural connection for the mind to make: This is a power source; this is a source of natural energy. And since I was working with the highstorms, I wanted some way that you could trap the energy of the storm and use it. The gemstones were an outgrowth of that.

Oathbringer London signing ()
#307 Copy

Questioner

It was actually really interesting, because I started reading Oathrbinger-- I'm a teacher, I teach philosophy, and I was actually using that with my students, which is interesting because it came out particularly randomly. Is there inspiration for some of the philosophy that goes in?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a philosophy minor. There's a bunch of random philosophical-- yeah. It's all over the place.

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

Questioner

What's your inspiration?

Brandon Sanderson

It really depends on the book. If you want to know the inspiration for the Mistborn books, you can google Sanderson's First Law. It's an essay I wrote about how I came up with the magic system. That'll help you see where some of the ideas came from and how I take them and use them.

Questioner

What about The Stormlight Archive?

Brandon Sanderson

Stormlight, the original inspiration was the storm of Jupiter. The big storm that rotates around Jupiter, and I wanted to do something that had a perpetual storm like that.

JordanCon 2014 ()
#309 Copy

Questioner

Will you tell us a little about the sword from Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood is a weapon that I devised. He is partially inspired by my love of Michael Moorcock's writing. He was built into the cosmere using many of the foundational cosmere magic system things that exist on multiple worlds.

Oathbringer London signing ()
#310 Copy

Questioner

I think Kelsier is one of the best-crafted fantasy characters I've seen in the world. He resonates with me on new levels. What exactly were your influences in the character when you were constructing him?

Brandon Sanderson

Two big influences for Kelsier. The first is, I wanted to do kind of the classic rogue archetype guy, but someone who had had something so fundamentally life-shaking in his life that he had to look deep within and become somebody else. But it's mixed with the other big inspiration, which is, there's kind of some psychopathic tendencies to him, and he would be a villain in many other books. But in this one, he's what the world needed. And those two combinations created for me a really nice tension inside a character.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#311 Copy

Questioner

And my last one, Obliteration, the Epic, is based on an author.

Brandon Sanderson

He is based on an author.

Questioner

It's Jim Butcher, right?

Brandon Sanderson

I couldn't say if it were, with these handsome locks and wearing a trenchcoat, and the goatee.

Questioner

It's totally Jim Butcher.

Brandon Sanderson

Well Jim Butcher doesn't have hair like this anymore. He cut his hair.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#312 Copy

Questioner

What inspired the sword stances in The Way of Kings? Windstance and stonestance--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it was old-school, what they call-- the old books that you would see-- sword training guides. Where you would see a guy in a stance, and then go like this, and things. I just thought they were really interesting, and I developed the stances around that.