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Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

You have a couple of fantastic running jokes, such as the High Imperial.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

How do you think of those things and when do you decide to commit to a great joke like that?

Brandon Sanderson

When do I decide to commit to a running joke. See Spook doesn't consider that a joke, he thinks it's awesome. So with this, I love-- I'm kind of going to expand this to not just jokes-- Which, definitely-- It's the sort of insider things. I love, in series that i have read a lot of books on, when there is something you will only get if you have been invested in the series. I love this stuff. It is part of the seed of the Cosmere, this idea that if people are reading my books they will start to see and make these connections. It's important to me that it never becomes the forefront, at least until I'm very clear to people that this is-- now you have to have the background of all of the books. That hasn't happened. There will be series that I do that with but I want you to be able to read Stormlight and not feel like you have to know a thousand pages of the wiki behind-the-scenes stuff before you can appreciate it. But I do like these inside references and things like that, and so it comes very natural to me. Some of it's planned out, some of it is something that I think of as I'm working on the story. Some of it's seeded, some of it just works. So you do it as it works. I wouldn't say that I-- With like High Imperial. High Imperial I knew about the time when I decided Spook was going to be a larger character in the series. But if you know Mistborn, my original-- I wrote the first book, did a quick outline of the second two, and then wrote the second two and Spook was the big discovery written surprise. He wasn't intended to be the main character that he became in the later books. And so once he-- I was writing the third book, I'm like "Oh, I know what's going to happen here. I know where this is going." And High Imperial grew out of that.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#2 Copy

Questioner

I heard a rumor that the universes of all your books are interconnected?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Most of my books, not all of them. If a book mentions Earth, it is not connected to what I call the cosmere, I kind of made this decision early on. So for those of you who don't know, my epic fantasies are indeed all connected. There are characters who cross over between them. I've been planning this for twenty years so I've got this intricate thing going on. There will eventually be big crossover books but for right now I don't want people to feel like they have to read everything in order to understand what's going on, and so for right now each of the books are only cameos. But you will be able to notice characters crossing between and there will be big crossover books eventually.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

I know that Mistborn, Stormlight Archive, Elantris are set in the same universe, and they've all kind of got certain Shards and I was reading that, like, you might do a book about that? 

Brandon Sanderson

I will eventually, there's no 'might' about it, but I always try to talk somewhat timidly about it because I don't want the focus to be on that, I want the focus to be on each story that's happening. For instance, The Stormlight Archive will only be about The Stormlight Archive. I will be upfront when I do a crossover, but it is many years in the future. For now, I like it being a behind the scenes thing for fans who really want to get into it. I don't want to scare a reader who'll be like "I can't read Mistborn because I haven't finished all of these other books". You can read Mistborn on its own, and there will be cameos that you will notice as you do more, and the more I write, the more to the forefront some of these things will come, but I will lead you gently into it. But yeah, I will be doing crossovers eventually.

Questioner

And when did you kind of-- was that something you wanted to do from the very beginning, or were you halfway through--

Brandon Sanderson

No, that was something I wanted to do from the beginning. I was inspired by Isaac Asimov combining his Robots books and his Foundation books, and he did it late in his career. It kind of felt a bit hacked together a bit, but it blew my mind when he did it and, as a writer, I always thought, what if somebody did this from the get-go.

The actual origins of the kind of worldhoppers for me was reading books as a teenager and inserting Hoid into them. I really did this.... Do you read books and you like change what is happening in the book, or maybe it's just a me thing? I would have my character interacting with the characters in the books, in my head, as I played the movie of that book in my head, while I was reading it, and there was this character hopping between worlds, with this knowing smirk on his face.

And so, when I was working on Elantris I said, "OK", I knew I had something in that book that was good, that was important, that was relevant, I was very confident in that book. It was my sixth novel, by the way, so I kind of had a handle on these things, and so that's when I decided I'm going to start doing some of this, I'm going to insert Hoid into this and I'm going to start planning this larger epic. It was particularly important to me because I knew I was not going to write a sequel to Elantris immediately, but I wanted to be writing epic stories, and the reason I didn't want to write a sequel to Elantris is because, if an editor rejected Elantris I wanted to be able to send them another book, because when you're getting close to publishing you'll start getting rejections that are like "This is actually a really good book, it doesn't fit our line, you just wrote a great mystical llama book but we just bought one of those, do you have anything else?". I wanted to be able to send them "here's my next thing" rather than "oh, I've got a sequel to the one you just rejected". And so I sat down and wrote the sequel, which was not a sequel, it was called Dragonsteel, which was Hoid's origin story. And then I jumped forward and I wrote White Sand which is another book connected to all these things and it went on, you know, it went crazy from there. And then when I actually sold Elantris it was already going and already in there, and I was able to sit down and write Mistborn, well in hand, knowing what was going to happen. That's why you find Hoid in Elantris and Mistborn and the sneaky, the scary-- well, it's not sneaky and it's not scary-- the moment in the third book when Vin gets creeped out by Hoid is a very important moment, Cosmerologically, but I'm not going to tell you why!

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

I loved the ending of Words of Radiance. When you come up with an idea for a new cosmere book, do you have to go "Oh, now I have to figure out how this fits in with everything else", or do you have it pre-made?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a few little holes that I can slot things into, and I try to get them to fit the roles, like I know there are certain things that need to happen, and if it doesn't fit the role, I just go ahead and make it a minor planet, like Shadows for Silence, where I can write a story, but I can't put as much magic into those books. So I've got a few restrictions on me, but I think that's important for maintaining the continuity.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
#6 Copy

Lance Alvein

To get us started, Brandon, do you want to give everyone a quick idea of what the cosmere is?

Brandon Sanderson

*laughs* Okay. So, here's what's going on: When I first was trying to break in—this was over ten years ago now, like fifteen—someone told me that your first five books were generally unpublishable. That was fairly good advice; I found that for most people it's really just your first novel; your second novel tends to get really good. For me, I did end up writing five experimental books that I never published; Elantris was my sixth book. Another piece of advice I got while I was working on it, however, was: you don't want to start with a big epic, the reason for that being is that you want to give a chance for readers to read something, you know, a single volume, or maybe one or two books before—so they can see, so they can trust you to finish a story before you jump into a big epic. It actually seemed like pretty good advice to me; it also works very well with publishing because approaching editors and things like that, you want to be able to send them a book, and if they reject it, but say, "Hey, I'd like to see something else by you; this wasn't the right project for me, but I like your writing." You can't really send them book two of that series, right? Because, you know, they want to see something new, and so I sat down to write a sequence of three or four standalone epic fantasy novels that potentially could have sequels maybe, but the idea was to make them standalone. But, kind of in my heart, I've always loved the big epic. You don't grow up reading Robert Jordan and Tad Williams and Melanie Rawn and people like this, without saying, "I want to do that." And so, what I started doing was actually building a hidden epic behind the scenes with all of these books, the idea being that there were characters who were crossing between the worlds that would have a story that someday I would tell that wouldn't be directly important to the book itself, but would lay the groundwork and give foreshadowing to something very large coming.

And so I designed this thing—you know, I'm a worldbuilder—I designed this thing with a sequence of planets and a story behind the story, and people crossing between them. And so, when I wrote Elantris, I embedded all of this in there, and then my next books were in that sequence jumping around—some were before, some were after—and things like this, so there are these continuing characters. Well, years and years later, I decided I would finally start writing something big and epic; I was tired of not getting published; I was tired of all the advice people were giving me; I had written a couple of books that were not very good based on the advice that people had given me. I said, "I just want to write my big epic," and that's when I started Way of Kings, and wrote that. And I'm like "I'll the launch into the big epic, some of these things are going to be more important to the series" It was kind of me honestly giving figuratively the bird to all of publishing, saying, you know, "You've told me that my books are too long, that two hundred thousand words is too long; I'm gonna write one that's four hundred thousand," so, you know: "I don't care; it's gonna be big and awesome and it's the book for me." I spent eighteen months working on this book, and right after I finished it, I sold Elantris. It sat on an editor's desk for a year and a half. He finally picked it up and read it, and tried to get a hold of me the next day wanting to buy it.

And so, suddenly I sell Elantris which I had written like five years before, which had all these things embedded in it, and I sent that editor The Way of Kings, because you know he wanted to buy two books from me. He's like, "Alright, the standalone is great; what else do you have?" so I sent him Way of Kings, and he panicked. *laughter* He was like, "Ahhhhh, this is huge, and what are all these illustrations that you're talking about, and I don't know if we can-- can we break this into like four books?" And I'm like, "No no, it's gotta be one book." And he's like, "Ahhh...." But fortunately for him, I didn't feel the book was ready at that point, otherwise I might have forced him to publish it. I felt my skill wasn't up to the task of doing that since I'd practiced only doing standalones up to that point, and so I said, "I want to do a trilogy so I can practice the series format; I've got a pitch on this book called Mistborn that I want to write for you." And Mistborn was the first book that I ever wrote knowing it would get published. So when I sat down to write Mistborn, I had already sold Elantris, and Elantris was coming out, and it all of this stuff embedded in it, and I'm like, "Do I keep going with that or not? Do I just go all in?" And so I decided to go ahead and do it, and so Mistborn has all of this behind-the-scenes sort of story things built into it, and there's a character from Elantris—it's the beggar that Sarene meets near the end—who is also in Mistborn, who is the beggar that Kelsier talks to, that they wanted-- pretending to be blind, that he gets information from, and then this character keeps appearing in all of the books as kind of a little Easter egg that was not so Easter-eggery because the fans found it right away. *laughter*

And so the cosmere is my name for this big universe, which is actually, you know, just a play on "cosmos"—it's not the most original word—but it's something I had actually come up with when I was a teenager, so, it's one of those relics that's in there that if I were to do it now, I might name it something a little less obvious. I don't know; it does work, and it is a fun name, so that's there. The character's name is Hoid, and there are other characters moving between the planets, and so there is a buried, deeper story to all of my big fantasies. The thing that I want to tell people, though, is that you don't need to read them in order because these are just Easter eggs; there's not a story there that you can really piece together yet. I don't want people to feel they have to read Elantris before Mistborn, or they can't, you know-- If you read them all, at some point you will have some little extra tidbits of information, but there's not something there that's going on that's chronological that you need to know about right now, but that's in a nutshell what's going on there; there is an underlying theory of magic for all of the epic fantasies that they all follow. I love the concept in science of the unifying law, right? If you guys have studied physics, there's this belief that somewhere out there there's a unifying theory that will unite all of physics, and because right now, you know, the things that happen on the macro scale don't really match what happen on the quantum scale, and you kind of have to have two sets of equations, and people believe that someday we'll find that link that'll put them all together, and that's fascinating to me, science is, and so I have a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds that people in-world on various planets are figuring out with regards to theirs, but if they had all of the pieces they could kind of put it all together.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
#8 Copy

DrogaKrolow

When was the concept of cosmere, one big Universe that connects all your stories was born? Do you remember the very beginning, the first thought of it?

Brandon Sanderson

I can start to talk about this because there's a couple of things. I remember being a teenager and reading books, and I would always insert my own characters into other writers' books. This is the beginnings of Brandon the Writer. So I would read, like, a-- an Anne McCaffrey book and I would insert my own characters and eventually Hoid started jumping between all the books I was reading. And so when I started writing my own books, I started inserting him myself. I blame that. I also blame how Asimov connected Foundation and the Robots series. When I read that it kinda blew my mind, and I wanted to do something like that.

I knew when I started writing Elantris I was going to do something like this, I wanted to start connecting everything together. I put Hoid into it and stuff like that, but as I've gone back through my notes, it was really during the years following that I really designed the cosmere. Like when I first wrote Elantris, I had no idea how I was going connect it all, I just knew I was going to. But like-- You know Shardpools. I put the pool in and then I'm like "I don't know what it is". By the time I got to Mistborn I knew all this stuff and fortunately Mistborn was the first one-- Mistborn I was working on when Elantris sold, right? And so I was able to go back and revise Elantris to make sure it matched everything that was coming for the future.

Though I do have to admit, when I first wrote Elantris, a lot of things I'm like "Ah this'll connect somehow. I'll put this in. Sure”.

DrogaKrolow

And by now, can you say that you already know how Cosmere will end?

Brandon Sanderson

I do know how The Cosmere will end, yes. I'm an outliner. It could always change. But I have-- So you know the core series, Stormlight and Mistborn, and the last book of The Cosmere is the last Mistborn book, which I have an outline for. So, we shall see. At least chronologically it's the last. I don’t know, I write a lot and so who knows. Yeah, you know, keeping track of it all, I’m sorry.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Before you started on all of your books, did you already have an idea of how they all came together or was it a sort of--

Brandon Sanderson

I did by the time I was writing Mistborn. But the thing you have to know about my career is that I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. So, in a lot of those early novels I had no idea what I was doing, that's how authors are. By the time I wrote Mistborn, which was book number fourteen--it was the second book published--but I really had an idea of what I was doing then. Elantris had to be retrofitted a bit to fit into it, because Elantris had been written when I was still figuring things out, but by Mistborn the whole thing was coming together and I had quite a good idea of what I wanted to do.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#10 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

When do we get to officially get to know what's going on in the Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

All of my epic fantasy books are connected with continuing characters. That's a way off, and that's because I don't want people to feel like they have to have read all my previous books to enjoy the series. It should be about the characters. Eventually I will write one that's a mashup, but we're not there yet. I'll be very upfront about it when I do it. For now it's just easter eggs.

Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing ()
#11 Copy

Questioner

In the first three Mistborn books, and Elantris and Warbreaker, you focus a lot on sort of gods and religion, is there a particular reason for that?

Brandon Sanderson

Why do I focus on gods and religion in my books. Well there's a couple of reasons. The main one is the kind of overarching story of the cosmere, which all my books are connected, there is some divine force named Adonalsium that was broken apart long ago and the scions of that-- people who have that power are showing up and causing problems and things on planets. So that's kind of the hidden epic behind the scenes, and so because of that religion is a very big part of what happens there.

I'm also a religious person. For those who don't know, I'm Mormon, I'm LDS. And so religion is important to me and whatever I'm fascinated by works it's way into my books. Now I'm generally the type of writer who doesn't feel like I should go into a book with a theme, I should explore what the characters are passionate and let the theme manifest naturally. And so I do that a lot, I don't go in saying "Oh I'm going to teach people this" I say "Who is this character, what are they passionate about" But the things I'm interested in you see. That's why you end up with stories about a god who doesn't believe in his own religion, from Warbreaker. Or you end up with these different things, with Kelsier founding a religion to use it, or having people with different types of faith. And I really think that part of the point of fiction is to, for me, to explore different ideas from different angles and try to just tackle them. And so you'll see me coming back to some of the same concepts again and again, because I want to try them from a new angle, see how this person thinks, see how this character deals with it. Because that's just really interesting to me.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

From the very beginning did you already know-- like cosmere? Like was that your goal setting out?

Brandon Sanderson

It was my goal very early on. In fact, before I wrote any books I wrote a short story about Hoid. So he goes back to before the very first book that I wrote. So yeah it goes back pretty far. I can trace inspirations back to Asimov tying Foundation and Robots together and feeling like that was really cool and wanting to do something like that, if it makes sense. And so I would say that’s probably like the first seed was when I read the later Foundation books and they tied them together.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#13 Copy

Questioner

How does time work in the Cosmere? Or a better question to ask: are any of the books happening at the same time in the Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm gonna have to look at the timeline. Most of them do not happen concurrently. Mostly they have been at distinct points. But the closer we get to modern and future era Mistborn world, the more overlap there is between them, just kind of by necessity 'cause they eventually start ramming together. So, the further we get in the Cosmere, the more likely things are overlapping.

So, I don't know that we've had anything actually overlap yet, in fact I'm pretty sure that we haven't, unless you count some of the short fiction might overlap. But even then, I don't think anything big overlaps, but it will start happening soon.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#14 Copy

B-more_freshout

I think [Brandon] would benefit a lot from finding some kind of way in-universe to convey when we can be certain that the character is dead. Something like what we see of Vin and Elend in Secret History after they die. I think that he was trying to prove how definite their death was.. I don't know how he could realistically or smoothly accomplish this, but I think that until we see some proof beyond what is normally expected to see for a death, we can't be 100% sure that anyone is dead.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I've been thinking about this. Spoilers below.

The issue is, resurrection is a major theme of the cosmere. The very first line of the first chapter of the first cosmere book starts with someone dying. The story is about his return to life.

The death of Adonalsium, and the questions surrounding the persistence of his power, is THE single pervasive theme of the works. And so, I've returned to this theme multiple times--from Sazed's more metaphorical rebirth in Mistborn Three to Syl's more literal one in Words of Radiance.

At the same time, the more this theme continues, the more it undermines the reader's ability to believe someone is really dead--and therefore their tension at worrying over the safety of characters. So we need a better "Dead is dead" indication, otherwise every death will turn into Sirius Black, with readers being skeptical for years to come.

So, let's just say it's something I'm aware of. Josh, of the 17th Shard, was the first one to raise the issue with me years ago. We need a balance between narrative drama and cosmere themes of rebirth.

dce42

I figured nightblood was your answer to dead is dead.

Brandon Sanderson

He's certainly AN answer. But there are way more ways to kill someone in the cosmere--I just need to be more clear on how that works, giving the right indications to readers.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

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?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

Secret history gave a lot of answers but a lot more questions. Will we get more answers in the next Mistborn book?

Brandon Sanderson

The next Mistborn book will have some answers but not Secret History level answers. It is still mostly focused on Wax and Wayne, Steris and Marasi, and finishing up their stories. By the time we get to third era Mistborn we are gonna start seeing a lot more creep in of some of this stuff. Its really fourth era were gonna see the most. The further we go in the Cosmere the more things will creep in. Mistborn; there be a lot more creeping in than in Way of Kings.

Boskone 54 ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

You have two characters, Hoid and Vasher, who really stand out even if you don’t know anything about the cosmere. Are people who aren’t cosmere-aware going to be left wondering what the heck is up with them?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, probably. But it’s okay to have some mystery, I figure, as long as I don’t let the cosmere stories really distract. If there are occasionally things where you think, “That was weird, I don’t get that” or “That guy’s kind of different.” That’s fine. It’s when you start to feel like everyone else is laughing at a joke you don’t know, when you’re not part of something and you can’t understand the piece of fiction because of it, then we’re in trouble. Unless it’s a side story. Like Mistborn: Secret History, you’ve got to know the cosmere to get most of that, and that’s okay. But the main line books I will write in such a way that… So the Stormlight Archive is the story of Roshar. It’s not necessarily the story of all the different elements influencing Roshar. Maybe someday I’ll do one that has that, but I’ll be very up-front about it.

Stormlight Three Update #3 ()
#18 Copy

wispirr

Given that these Stormlight books are (understandably) taking longer than you originally planned, have you had to re-outline your plans for the Cosmere overall to keep it from getting too big to finish? If each Stormlight book were to take 3 years going forward, then after Oathbringer it would be 7x3=21 years before the whole series is finished, and then all the Mistborn sci-fi and Dragonsteel books would have to happen, in addition to any other projects you're planning. At least that's the plan as I understand it. I definitely admire your ambition!

Brandon Sanderson

No revision plans right now, but I am watching. Considering my career so far had only been about ten years, and I've made great progress on the Cosmere, my instincts say I will be okay. But it is worth considering.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#19 Copy

Questioner

So with the cosmere, do you come up with stories and see if they fit? Or does the cosmere  kind of lend itself to stories already?

Brandon Sanderson

It's mostly the first. *audio obscured* When I come up with a story I'll ask, "Does this fit the cosmere?" and if not-- Like, for instance,  this one, that I read tonight [Perfect State], just doesn't fit the cosmere. I don’t want to be doing far-future science fiction stuff yet in the cosmere, and when I do, virtual reality is not a cosmere thing. So I can't write that as cosmere. Or the Rithmatist which I bounced back and forth. Would have been, could have not been. I just eventually decided it didn't fit the story. When things do fit, I put them in.

Questioner

Is that a really exciting moment? Or just sort of "Ohhh that's nice"

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it's just like that. I like all my stories.  The Cosmere-- One of my rules for myself is "The Cosmere is not my entire body of work" because then I would just be shoehorning  things in and I've found sometimes when authors create a multiverse they shoehorn everything in. Stephen King did this, Asimov did this. It doesn't work. I think if it is an intentional thing I'm deliberately doing, then it gains more power, it's cooler than if I were trying to make everything connected.

Chris King interview ()
#20 Copy

Chris King

We've seen some hints of the over-arching cosmere story arc, what was the inspiration behind that story originally?

Brandon Sanderson

I had an idea for a book when I was fifteen and just getting into fantasy novels—just getting into meaning, reading everything I could get my hands on and diving in face first—and I developed that idea over the next few years. I started writing and realized I was just no good as a writer yet. Which was okay, it wasn't a big deal to me. I realized this story was beyond my ability to approach, it was a vast, enormous story. And so, years later when I was writing Elantris I thought "Well let's just pretend I wrote that book and it was awesome and it's the prelude to what's going on here." That expanded into something much larger and much greater.

I've mentioned before, part of my inspiration for this was the fact that one of my favorite writers, Asimov, later decided to connect two of his main story universes, the Robot books and the Foundation books. It was really cool when he did it and I felt what would happen if I started doing something like this from the get go. I've known several authors who do it at the end of their careers—well I guess Stephen King's not even at the end of his career, in the middle of his career—saying let me tie a bunch of these things together. What if I seeded all of this from the get go and use this story, this awesome story, that I wasn't able to write when I was younger as a foundation for it.

Chris King interview ()
#21 Copy

Chris King

When you reach the end of the Cosmere will there be something else? Or do you feel this will take most of your writing career to achieve?

Brandon Sanderson

Yah, I think this kind of the Story of my writing career. Now, who knows. As I plotted it, right around mid-Mistborn series time, I came out with thirty-six books, of which I've done what five or six? More than that--

Chris King

Three, four, five, six, seven?

Brandon Sanderson

Seven. I think there is plenty of time so ask me in thirty years.

Chris King

This one's kind of similar here: When or if you reach the end of that, were you planning on expanding more or were you going to get done with what you had planned and be done with it, or--

Brandon Sanderson

That's really a "ask me in thirty years" sort of thing. I want to see if I can get this whole thing done. I want to do it in— There's this sort of tension to it, in that I view this as— The arc is my life's work. But at the same time I don't want to be belaboring it. There are cool things going on that I want to get to and I want to tell people about. And so there's this push and pull inside of me, wanting to do this. We will see.

Boskone 54 ()
#22 Copy

yulerule

In the annotations for Elantris, you were talking about the shardpool. I know that it was the earliest one of three, and the cosmere wasn’t fully developed.

Brandon Sanderson

I have expanded it since.

yulerule

So that annotation felt a little odd.

Brandon Sanderson

I’ll have to go back and look at it. I knew that they were going into the cognitive realm when I wrote it, but I had changed… Roshar for instance, did not have the spren when I wrote that. And Mistborn was only in the outline stages. No, when I wrote Elantris I hadn’t even written Mistborn. I also, you have to remember, early in my career I was being very vague about all of this. Because I was worried that people would get distracted by this and it would hurt my career. So you notice in the early appearances of Hoid, I used pseudonyms for him. Even in unpublished books where it’s obvious it’s him, he’s got a pseudonym and you never know. Because I didn’t want people to get this and be like, “He’s trying too much.” So I was really coy about a lot of things. But other things I didn’t figure out until later on, when I’m like “How exactly is this going to work?” It really helped once I had Peter to help me work out the physics of it and I could bounce ideas off of someone who knew enough about realmatic theory and stuff like that.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

In a lot of your books there are, like, things that make them seem like they might be connected...

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, "in a lot of my books there are things that make them seem like they might be connected." *crowd laughs* What's that?

Questioner

Is there going to be a crossover?

Brandon Sanderson

"Is there gonna be a crossover?" So for those who don't know, my books-- my epic fantasies are all connected. There's a hidden epic happening behind the scenes. There will be someday that I will do crossovers, but I am not doing it right now. The focus right now-- I don't want people to like read the books and be like, "I am so lost." I don't you to feel like you have to read my whole body of work to appreciate what's going on in one of them. So while there will be cameos, and sometimes they will be moderately relevant to the plot, it's only gonna remain mostly cameos for the moment, until I do a series which is upfront going to be, "Here's the big crossover. You have to know all eight magic systems or you're gonna go crazy."

Firefight release party ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

Is there ever going to be a mash-up where different magic systems are actually going to collide and--

Brandon Sanderson

The question is is there going to be a mash-up where different magics, from my books, collide. Yes, there will be. I came up with the concept of what I call the cosmere… Long ago, it was about 20 years ago now, when I wrote my very first story that was about a guy traveling between different planets in a magical universe. Where he would go to the planet, try to figure out how the magic worked, then just get it working, then see if it was something he wanted to learn about and know. And that grew over 20 years into what I call the cosmere, which is a collection of planets in a fantasy universe, in which all of the magics are interacting in interesting ways. And we will eventually have some cool crossover books but right now the series I am writing are about the series themselves and so we won't have crossover yet but it will happen eventually.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
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Mondoodle

Do you have future intentions of grouping characters or descendants from across the Cosmere together against a common foe?

Brandon Sanderson

The future of the cosmere does involve much more crossover between the worlds, but don't think of it like the Avengers--the goal isn't to bring together a group of heroes, but to show the intersection of cultures and ideals, told through the eyes of those who live them.

Alloy of Law York signing ()
#29 Copy

callumke (paraphrased)

Can you tell me something about the cosmere that you haven't told anyone before?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

There are inhabited planets in the cosmere that don't have any Shards there. There may be inhabited planets that only have a Splinter of a Shard. There are 10 core cosmere planets, which tell the overarching story of the cosmere.

callumke (paraphrased)

Are all the cosmere books so far set on these 10 core worlds?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. 

callumke (paraphrased)

Are there any of the 10 core worlds without a Shard?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

All 10 core worlds have significant Shardic influence.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#30 Copy

Questioner

How many of the worlds in the cosmere do you eventually plan to talk about that we don't know about?

Brandon Sanderson

...From what's been released, you've gotten almost all the important ones. There's, like, two or three ones I would consider relevant to... for instance, the planet that the Aethers, from Aether of Night, which is an unpublished book-- that's still part of the cosmere, I'm gonna do some stuff there. There are a couple of other worlds, one is mentioned in Oathbringer, just very briefly, in one of the epigraphs. There are others that I'll get to. But, when I designed the cosmere: Scadrial (Mistborn), Sel (Elantris), and Roshar were my pillars of the Cosmere story. With Yolen, the planet where it all started, just kind of being behind-the-scenes relevant. Those are the pillars of our story. Other planets will come into it, but those three-- there's nothing more important than the ones you've seen already.

Manchester signing ()
#31 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever find it difficult writing for two kinds who read your books, the kind that only want to read it and have a lot of fun and take nothing away from it, and the people who obsess over every sentence for hidden cosmere-ic meaning?

Brandon Sanderson

Right, right, right. For those of you who don't know, though I'm not sure there are many who don't know still, all of my epic fantasies are in the same universe and there are characters in each book who are interfering with each other's stories. There are characters from Mistborn in Way of Kings, and there are characters from Elantris in Mistborn.

This was done, for a little bit of backstory, I love big epic fantasy works, if you can't tell Wheel of Time is one of my favorites ever, I like the big things. Breaking in I felt that it was a lot to ask new readers to take a chance on me as a writer by saying "it's book one of 25" I felt it was better to say "here is a standalone novel, self-contained that you can enjoy reading and kind of figure out who I am as a writer." That's kind of my purpose for Elantris and Warbreaker, and lately Emperor's Soul. "Here's how to try out my writing style to see if you like it." But loving these epics I couldn't help connecting them and hiding an epic behind the scenes. This was partially inspired by Asimov, who later in life joined his two main series, the Robot books and the Foundation books in what I felt was a clever way. But it had some problems in that he had to juryrig it after the fact. He'd been writing these books for decades and then he brought them together and I thought "wouldn't it be cool if someone were to take that idea and start it from the get go." It's this whole shoulders of giants thing, people try something out and you go "that was awesome, can I improve upon it?" or "whoah I'm not ever going to try that because that had certain issues" Book 10, the Wheel of Time fans know--

Robert Jordan actually talked about that book about how he wish he hadn't written it the way he did.  I have the advantage of having read Robert Jordan, so I can see how that book went wrong and I can avoid making that pitfall. I went ahead and did this hidden epic because I thought it was really interesting, I did not expect it to come to the forefront as much as it has. Which is awesome, people started peeking these things out. Secrets that I embedded in Elantris, That I didn't expect to come out for another ten fifteen books people are already asking me about. Which means I kind of need to step up my game to make sure that all this stuff is very subtle. The whole idea is that you don't have to have read Elantris to read Mistborn, you don't have to have read Mistborn to read Way of Kings, they are all easter eggs right now. Eventually I will write a series that ties them all together in a direct way, that's many years off, and I will be very upfront with "You have to read all the others, you will be very lost if you aren't familiar, at least go read the summaries of the books before you start this one." We are far away from that.

Shadows of Self San Francisco signing ()
#33 Copy

Questioner

The whole Cosmere thing, is there an end to it, and do you have a specific year in mind for when that will be?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there is an end. Here’s what has to be happen before I finish it. We have to do another two Mistborn trilogies, The Stormlight Archive, at least three Dragonsteel novels. That’s the soonest I can do. I’ll probably have to do a few more Elantris and Warbreaker, but that’s the minimum. Because the third Mistborn trilogy is where we bring things to a head.

Oathbringer Newcastle signing ()
#34 Copy

Questioner

Is Obrodai going to be the setting of Dark One?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question. That is also a RAFO. Sorry, sorry! This is partially because Dark One pops in and out of the cosmere a lot, depending on which version I'm doing. It's been the hardest book. For those who don't know anything about, this is a book I talk about in my blog once in a while... It's like the Harry Potter story, except you get told "By the way, you're the Dark One who's gonna destroy the world, so we're gonna assassinate you while you're a teenager, so that never happens." It's a really cool story that I have never been able to get to work.

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, and Obrodai is one of the Shardworlds, but I keep popping Dark One in and out of the cosmere. Sometimes it feels too self-referential to the fantasy genre to actually be in the cosmere. Because I don't want the cosmere to be self-referential, right? Whenever something gets even a little too silly, I'm like, "Nah, this can't be in the cosmere anymore." So, we'll see what happens.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#35 Copy

Questioner

And are there parts-- Are the cosmere novels chronological so far? So when you eventually go back to Warbreaker the effects of Vasher being on Roshar...

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, no, they are not all going to be chronological. Most of them have been chronological so far, but we are getting to the point where they're stopping to be because like Way of Kings was before Alloy but now we've gone back and done Words of Radiance which is a jump backward and then we are going to be jumping to the next Alloy which is a jump forward. I'm pretty sure that's how it goes.

Words of Radiance San Diego signing ()
#36 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

When are we first getting a look at the cosmere coming together?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The third Mistborn trilogy is going to involve--it's the first one I planned to do a lot with. I doubt I will do much in the second Mistborn trilogy, more than I probably have done [so far]. It's fun for me, so I'll keep including things in. You'll notice that Hoid is a bigger part of the Stormlight than previous ones, but I still don't want it to come to the forefront quite yet.

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#38 Copy

Talbertross

Do you have the "end state" of the Cosmere in your mind? Do you know where, thirty years or so from now, where the main characters will be once all major Cosmere series are finished? Or do you plan on having them end at all?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I have a plan--but remember, we'll be dealing with a lot of new characters by then. The goal is not to take everyone you're reading about now, and have them appear in the final books. Some will persist, but my end game is more focused on events.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#39 Copy

Questioner

I was actually wondering if you'd do space opera? *audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

There will be space opera in the cosmere. There'll be quite a bit of it actually. The only space opera I've written currently has not been true space opera. I don't know if you've read my two science fiction stories. They're both free on my website. And they're a little more social science fiction, though they take place far future, kind of space opera-y. They're not cosmere right now-- Err they are not cosmere. But I will eventually write full-blown space operas. They're going to be awesome.

Firefight release party ()
#41 Copy

Questioner

So are you going to write a Sixth of the Dusk novel?

Brandon Sanderson

Probably not. A lot of the little cosmere novellas that I'm doing, they are less important to the overarching plot of the cosmere that I designed. And so I want to visit them, show different places in the cosmere and how the magic is affecting different worlds, but the goal is not to incorporate them into the mainline story. I mean the main story takes place mostly on the planets you've seen, with a couple of other ones, and I'm sticking to that.

Questioner

So are you going to write a series that ties all the major ones together?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#42 Copy

Questioner

So, one of the things I know, you have your own universe that you've produced, and it's fantastic. what's the series you're gonna create or have created that's the cornerstone, that will have the largest impact on the universe.

Brandon Sanderson

I would say Mistborn going all the way through is probably the most impact. Stormlight is gonna have a decent one, so is the Elantris world.

Questioner

Is there gonna be a union book or series?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the final Mistborn series.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#43 Copy

Questioner

Can we expect a Cosmere Avengers?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes and no. You can expect crossovers between the planets. My goal is not an Avengers-style, one character that you... like, if it were a true Cosmere Avengers it would be like, "Oh, we're going to have this character from this series, this character from this series," that's not what I'm going for. I'm going for more of a clash between the cultures and worlds. There will definitely be characters that you know that end up involved in that. But it's not, I'm not shooting for an Avengers-style thing, I'm shooting for more... It's more like imagine Star Trek, and retrograde back to all of the stories you're telling on the separate planets before they meet each other. Less Avengers, more "We're going to have an intergalactic... thing, going on." These are all of the origins of the cultures and peoples that are going to be involved in that. And since there are some immortals around, you will see people.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#44 Copy

Questioner

Had you planned to write... the whole Cosmere when you initially started?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I wrote Elantris, had a bunch of the ideas. I started planning right then, and it has evolved a lot since. A lot of Elantris kind of got retrofitted into the things I came up with over the next four or five years... By the time I did Mistborn, I had most of this in mind, but it changes so much, even while I'm writing it. 

Questioner

So, like, when you had Warbreaker, it was--

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker, I wrote as a prequel to Stormlight. I had already written Stormlight One by that point, but I didn't like it, so I wrote about Kaladin's swordmaster, who was in the first book in that version.

MisCon 2018 ()
#46 Copy

Brainless

If you had a chance to go back for Elantris and the early Mistborn books and stuff like that, would you potentially consider adding more crossover characters, because you did put Hoid in all of those, but would you potentially put other smaller things from other planets, like other worldhoppers, in it?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the cheeky answer to this is, I've read The Monkey's Paw, and I've read enough science fiction stories to know that if someone says "Do you want to change this thing about your past?" that you say "No." Because depending on the writer you are either going to end up in a horror story, or you are going to have to learn some lesson about how important you are, or your family is, and then it will all be a dream, so no, I wouldn't.

But really the answer is no, I wouldn't change. I like the fact that the cosmere has a very light touch on those early books. I like it in part because I feel like people who are just getting into my fiction, I don't want them to feel like they have to follow everything to enjoy one book. And yeah, I'm adding little bits more into Stormlight, but that's inevitable because so much will take place in Shadesmar, which by it's nature is far more cosmere-aware, and so we're going to have to do more things the further Stormlight gets and the further Mistborn gets, because it will become inevitable. And that's fine, I'm embracing that. The further we go in the cosmere, the more you're going to have to be on board for the idea of the crossovers working. But I don't want the initial books that you get into to have to be like that. I was very intentional with my light touch on those early cosmere books and I wouldn't go back and add more. Even Way of Kings, right? Has what has Hoid and Felt in it, and that's just about it.

Chaos

Felt's in Words of Radiance.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, is he in Words of Radiance? He's not even in Way of Kings.

Several Questioners

*talking over each other*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you saw Galladon, you saw the seventeenth shard. So there's like one scene in the whole book, maybe two, depending, but Hoid isn't even very Hoid-like in that first one. It's the second one where he mentions Adonalsium and stuff—

Several Questioners

*correct the previous statement*

Brandon Sanderson

Is it the first one? It's the first one. It's that party at the thing with Dalinar. So there's two scenes in Way of Kings, and that's very intentional. By the time we get to the second stage Stormlight books, and the fourth stage Mistborn books, you'll just have to be on-board. But by then you're entrenched. If you're reading Stormlight seven, then the Stormlight series is already longer than everything else, so you might as well just've read everything else.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#48 Copy

Questioner

What was the reasoning behind there being many, many years between different stories in the different parts the cosmere, like the huge gap between… Warbreaker and Way of Kings. Like why is--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, why are there some huge gaps in the length of the cosmere. There's-- I want the cosmere to be more than just a little blip of time. The concept for the cosmere was never something, to me, like the Avengers for instance. Which a lot of people kind of view it that way, particularly because the Marvel movies have been so big, and that's good. But it's not like all these concurrent stories with the same characters converging. That's not how I have ever planned it. Now there are certain people who are functionally immortal or close to it that will be involved in things across time, but this is-- I'm telling an epic story, right? And I knew we needed thousands of years between some of the events. For instance, Roshar, we start in the Prelude at 4500 years or whatever before the book starts. It's like, if I didn't have some big gaps, then what are all the stories that are happening in between? It feels illogical and false to me to have all the stories happen in a short time period. Now as certain part of the magic allow more communication and connection, then we will have to, by nature, kind of accelerate some of those things. But I feel like if I spent, you know, ten thousand years or whatever, and only had all the stories happen in the last 50, it would feel really weird. So that’s why.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
#50 Copy

carnivorouspickle

If you hadn't had the opportunity to write for MtG, would any of these characters have made it in one form or another into one of your other books, or would they only fit in this setting? If they would have made it into a different story, which one?

Brandon Sanderson

I've wanted to do this story for a number of years, and it was inspired by me asking myself (after my first visit to WoTC a number of years back) what I would do if I were to write a story for them.

I didn't seriously consider doing this in another setting, since the concept of demons and contracts isn't really a Cosmere one--and the first ideas were for Davriel and Miss Highwater. That said, spren bonds have some slight similarities, so it's not impossible.