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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#1 Copy

Askhundel

Do you think once you're done with the Cosmere's main story (assumably Mistborn 4th era), if you're not tired of it by then, you might write more stories set in the cosmere (for added lore/backstory/immersion) ?

Brandon Sanderson

In this perfect world where I somehow manage to finish early, then yes, I'd certainly do more. But that's a LONG ways off still.

Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing ()
#2 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.

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

Questioner

How did you come up with the idea for the cosmere? Because I just think it is the greatest idea ever and the more I learn about it the less I realize I know.

Brandon Sanderson

It was partially me wanting to do a big fantasy epic that also had room for standalones, I wanted to do both and so the idea of the hidden epic behind the scenes was really appealing for me 'cause it let me do everything I wanted to do.

Cosmere.es Interview ()
#4 Copy

Cosmere.es

We were wondering, I know that you always told us that it's not necessary to read the rest of the cosmere but after what happened in The Rhythm of War, could you still say--and potentially in Mistborn Era 3 now--could you consider that maybe there will be a moment where you might need, for the sake of enjoying the whole thing, and all the Easter eggs, and the story behind the story, maybe it's needed to have a small background?

Brandon Sanderson

If you want to enjoy the Easter eggs, then yes. But I still maintain Mistborn Era 4 marks when you are going to be completely lost if you haven't read everything else. Things that happen in Rhythm of War, I think you can understand conceptually, even if you don't know the other players. If you were telling a story about America during the Vietnam War, and you knew about the war happening in Vietnam and kind of the implications on the American citizens who didn't want to go to war and things like that, you don't necessarily have to read the book that is taking place in Vietnam to understand all of that. It would help, but if the focus is on--if you can outline what people need to know in a few sentences, I don't know how spoilery you want me to go, I'm trying to use a metaphor that's not my books.

Cosmere.es

We're trying to keep it non-spoilery.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, and so if you in this situation were to have somebody who said, "There's a war going on, it's very unpopular, and lots of people's loved ones are dying for reasons they don't think are justified and legit," you could know that and still have this whole story happen over here. That's the sort of thing that I believe is happening at the end of Rhythm of War. You're learning a few things about the cosmere yes, but you can listen off one, two, or three points, and you get those points and you understand that there is a foreign sort of thing going on that is affecting what we're doing. But you only have to know those points for its effect on the story of the Stormlight Archive. It's a little more involved than I've gone in the past, but I still maintain that could read only the Stormlight Archive and you won't be lost, you won't feel like you're not getting part of the story. You will feel, I hope, that there's a lot more to explore and understand if you read further.

Alloy of Law York signing ()
#6 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.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#8 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!

Chris King interview ()
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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.

YouTube Livestream 5 ()
#10 Copy

Questioner

How do you decide which stories need to be told when as you work your way through the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Mostly which stories need to tell when in the cosmere is affected by what I'm most excited to write right now. The cosmere so far has been separated enough that I can look at what I'm really passionate about and write it, and there's been no reason so far to put those very out of order chronologically. The further we go, the more that'll have to be. Like, the Wax and Wayne books happen chronologically after Stormlight 1 through 5. So it's already begun a little bit, but for the most part it was "What am I passionate about writing? What do I feel like is the best book for me to write?" And then I make sure it fits into the chronology rather than otherwise. Again, the further we go, the more these things lock into place. Like White Sand is jumping backward in time, and when I do Dragonsteel, it's going to jump even further, so this will happen more and more as we go, but right now? I write what I'm passionate about.

/r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
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Job601

Your books are unusual for the fantasy genre in that they are interested in exploring traditional Christian values, usually coming down in their favor (especially faith in providence and the willingness to believe in a divine plan for the world and the individual, something which comes up again and again in your work.) At the same time, your characters have reason to be suspicious of the specific forms of religious practice in their worlds, and the cult of the survivor in particular can be read as a conflicted portrayal of religion: it's a kind of religious belief which works in some way for its faithful despite being based on a falsehood, and Kelsier is a kind of dark parody of Christ. The cosmere seems to have an implicit theology which separates the truly divine, which is fundamentally inaccessible even to the most knowledgeable characters, from the apparently divine shards and splinters. I guess my question is, how do you think about integrating religious themes into a fantasy universe, particularly given your systematic style?

Brandon Sanderson

There are a lot of things mixing here--more, probably, than I'm aware of myself. (This is the sort of area where I let reader analysis and criticism do the work, as they're probably going to be able to notice connections more explicitly than I will. Like most writers, I'm working by instinct much of the time.)

One element I can talk about is the need for the cosmere to have questions that will go unanswered. This is most expressly manifest in the "big" questions. Is there a God? What is the actual afterlife like, if there really is one? Is there such a thing as a soul, and are cognitive shadows the actual person, or a manifestation of the magic imitating a person's thought processes?

The reason I don't answer these as myself (though characters certainly have ideas) is because I feel it important the text not undermine the characters who choose not to believe in these things. Though I think I've found answers in life, people rationally disagree with me--and to express only my worldview in the books would severely hamper my ability to have characters who disagree with me, and other characters.

In short, if I were to say, "Yes, there's an all-powerful God" then it would directly undermine characters like Jasnah, who argue otherwise. At the same time, I want characters like Kelsier to develop naturally, and do things that are in line with how sometimes, religions develop on our world, without having it be a statement. (Or, at least one other than, "Hey, this happens some time on our world. It happened here too.")

Fantasy offers some unique opportunities to explore the human condition with religion, and I want to take advantage of that, to see where it takes me and to see what I can learn from the process.

Firefight release party ()
#14 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.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#15 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 ()
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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.

Firefight release party ()
#17 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.

Fantasy Faction interview ()
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Fantasy Faction

Someone from Earth is about to be sent off to the cosmere. They've read your first Stormlight book, but they've never really taken time to really dig deep and find out about how it sits in the overall "cosmere", so they're totally unprepared. What basic concepts regarding shards, magic systems and world hopping do you think are most important?

Brandon Sanderson

The first, most important thing to say to the person who's being sent there is to enjoy the story you're in. All of the cosmere stuff, the interconnection between my books and all these wonderful little things, are right now mostly Easter eggs. Which means that if you spend the whole book only worried about that, you're going to miss the beauty and fun that is the book that you're part of. I often say to people, don't worry if you read them "out of order," because it's all Easter eggs right now. Don't worry and stress if you miss something about the cosmere, because while someday that might be important, you first need to enjoy the book that you're part of. But the primer I'd give to this person is that the worlds are connected. If you show up on a planet and there's a guy named Hoid around, then be very afraid, because you're someplace very dangerous.

DragonCon 2019 ()
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Questioner

Is Khriss planned to be a major character in the future of the Cosmere, or will she be more of a behind-the-scenes source of knowledge?

Brandon Sanderson

I do plan some more--some actual Khriss stories. I mentioned I had a Silverlight story in the back of my head--she would have been one of the viewpoint characters of that if I ever get to write it. She will be in the background of most everything, but I do plan a few stories, that will have her. She will come the forefront the more the cosmere comes to the forefront, and more interaction between them.

For those who were curious, my plan for the Cosmere all along has been - now that I have something to point to, people say is it like the MCU? And, yes and no. I'm not developing specific characters to bring forward, some of them will of course will still be be around. My whole goal with the Cosmere is to push toward something a little bit more like Star Trek or Star Wars, in that lots of different cultures, lots of different things--more Star Trek I guess - interspace situation, the conflicts that come between cultures and ideals and things like that, is what I'm pushing for. Rather than taking like the champions of each book and having them. So the characters are important, certainly, but when you're reading a given book series, that's where your characters are important. If you're thinking about the future of the Cosmere, think more about the clash of cultures, is where I'm pushing that.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#20 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.

Shadows of Self San Francisco signing ()
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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.

YouTube Livestream 9 ()
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Questioner

Is there a particular subgenre of fantasy or sci-fi that you would like to tackle in the future?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, I do know what I am going to be tackling in the future, and it's this sort of... I don't know if there's a good name for it. A lot of people call it magepunk. I don't know that I like that as much. It's this fusion of fantasy elements and science fiction elements. As I move the cosmere more towards science fiction, it's moving more toward space opera science fiction. I love The Fifth Element. One of the things I love about The Fifth Element is this idea of this space religion. That kind of throwback fantasy religion mashed up with far future science fiction is so much fun to me. This is what we love about Star Wars, right? It's the everything-but-right-now. All the past stuff that's cool, all the future stuff that's cool. Now, do this poorly and it can feel like it's a story that's just throwing everything and the kitchen sink at you. What I'm hoping I'll be able to do is have realistic extrapolations, where things that aren't present in our world are natural to be present in the future of the cosmere. But I do like that idea, I do like when magic becomes the foundation for science fiction. Other than that, subgenres of fantasy that I would like to tackle, what haven't I tackled that I would like to try some time... I don't know. I haven't really done a true Weird West. Wax and Wayne kind of touches on that, but I haven't done what I would consider a real authentic Weird West story. That I could totally see as being something that I do in the future. Maybe if anyone thinks of cool ones, they can put them in the chat and we can throw those out.

A Memory of Light Dayton Signing ()
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Questioner (paraphrased)

The Cosmere—How?:

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

"I don't know if it's something I can answer, simply because I don't know how." He went on to relate his feelings when reading Asimov's Foundation, and how cool it would have been if Asimov had known from the beginning that he was going to be tying all these things in, and the subtle hints he could have left in the earlier stories.

Chris King interview ()
#24 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.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#25 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.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

How are you going to finish the cosmere stuff? Like when you get to book 35, how are you gonna resist like book 36, we're gonna say "Courage is held by dude named Steve and according to Hoid he's pretty cool." Just extend it another ... how are you going to finish?

Brandon Sanderson

We'll see. We will see. The thing is there's a beginning, middle, and end to the Shattering of Adonalsium and the involvement there. More stories can be told in the cosmere, but there's a beginning, middle, and end to that. When I finish that, that is the sequence that I wanted to tell.

Questioner

And you have that outlined out?

Brandon Sanderson

I do.

MisCon 2018 ()
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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.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#28 Copy

Questioner

If I were to start reading your books, which you would recommend I start with?

Brandon Sanderson

Normally, I recommend that people either start with a book called Mistborn or a book called Warbreaker.  Warbreaker is a standalone.  It has a little more romance to it and it's a little lighter. Mistborn is a little more action oriented and a little more plot focused.  So it just depends what you're interested in.  

JordanCon 2018 ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

Is Hoid gonna get his own book?

Brandon Sanderson

So, here's the grand Cosmere timeline as I have it right now... I'm going to write Wax & Wayne 4 this fall. This will be the end of the Wax & Wayne sequence. They have been really fun to write, those books. And I've got some really good Wayne stuff in this one, so be excited. So, I'll finish that, and that is the next Cosmere book I will do. January 1st, my requirement is I-- What I'm trying to do now, is I'm trying to do half my time Stormlight, half my time other stuff. That's the kind of balance I'm looking to do for my sanity. So, January 1st is when it's been 18 months since I turned in Oathbringer, and at that point, I have 18 months to get Book 4 done. So, I will start January 1st writing Stormlight 4, rain or shine. Everything else kinda has to be put aside. And then, we'll go until that book is done.

After Stormlight 4; at this point, the Wax & Wayne books are done, so we finally have opened up room to do either an Elantris sequel or a Warbreaker sequel. I'll do one of the two of those in between. And then we will do Stormlight 5. And then, we have the first sequence of Stormlight books finished. And at that point, my goal is to do Mistborn Era 3. Three of those. 1980s level, spy thriller-ish Mistborn stuff. And then we will come back and start on Stormlight 6. 6-10, different cycle. This is how I make sure this all kind of fits together. So, we will do that.

And at that point, we will do-- plan is, right now, the Dragonsteel sequence. Which is however many books I decide to do about Hoid's backstory. He has shifted to be the main viewpoint character of those. He was a side viewpoint character when I originally wrote them, but now I've kinda stolen all the pieces of that story that were not about him and put them in other books. So what remains is his backstory. I plan those to be first-person stories that he's telling, if I can get them to work.

So, then, we wrap out the Cosmere with the Mistborn science fiction series, the kind of Dune-esque far-future science fiction Cosmere thing. That is my grand timeline. Somewhere in there, I want to get one sequel to Warbreaker, two sequels to Elantris, and one Threnody novel. So, that's my goal. And that, I think, is doable before I die. We're just gonna keep that as our goal moving forward, and try not to add too much more to it, though there will be novellas and things like that as they pop up.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Daedos

When did you develop your idea to have multiple series playing out on different planets? How many separate stories do you plan to tell in said universe, and will your Dragonsteel books be the last?

Brandon Sanderson

I started doing this early in my career before I got published, when I felt that writing sequels was not a good use of my time. Just look at the hypothetical; if I'm trying to get published and I write three books in the same, if an editor rejects book one, he or she is not going to want to see book two. But if an editor rejects book one but is optimistic about my writing, I can send them a book from another series and they can look at that.

During my unpublished days I wrote thirteen books, only one of which was a sequel. So I had twelve new worlds, or at least twelve new books—some of them were reexaminations of worlds. But I wanted to be writing big epics. This is what I always wanted to do; something like the Wheel of Time. So I began plotting a large, massive series where all these books were connected, so I could kind of "stealth" have a large series without the editors knowing I was sending them books from the same series. It was mostly just a thing for me, to help me do the writing I wanted to be doing. And then when publication came I continued to do that, and told the story behind the story.

I originally plotted an arc of around 36 books. The total has varied between 32 and 36; 32 would work better for the nature of the universe, but the question is whether I can fit everything into 32 books. I won't say whether Dragonsteel will be the last or not.

Shadows of Self Houston signing ()
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Questioner

How many scripts did you write and submit before you got Elantris picked up?

Brandon Sanderson

How many scripts did I write and send out before I got Elantris picked up? So novel-length things, Elantris was my sixth. It sold while I was writing my thirteenth, which was The Way of Kings. You shouldn't have to do that, I was really bad when I started. The other thing is I was not good at revising, and I sometimes wouldn't even send books out, because I was like "I can learn do that better, I'll just write another book", which was the wrong attitude to have but it ended up working out for me so I don't know that I'd change anything! I did collect rejections but really-- My first five books were very experimental. Someone told me your first five books are usually terrible, which is not necessarily true but it was the right advice for me. I sat down and I wrote five.

My first one was an epic fantasy, because I was pretty sure that's what I love. My second one was a space opera. My third one was a sequel to that epic fantasy. Then my fourth one was a comedy, like a Bob Asprin-style fantasy farce. And then there was a cyberpunk. And then there was Elantris. I wrote those five, and after I sat down and wrote those five and said, "ok, epic fantasy's what I love, I'm gonna go with that." That's when the idea of the Cosmere started going for me, and I sat down and I wrote Elantris, a book called Dragonsteel which is kind of Hoid's origin story, and a book called White Sand which we're currently making into a graphic novel. Those three books I got the best feedback on when I was submitting them and that's when I really started to push it, in getting it published. So you can imagine that what I did is I practiced for a while, I wrote a book that I thought was pretty good and during the three years it took to sell that, I ended up writing some more, because I do that. 

EuroCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

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?

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
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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.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
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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.

DragonCon 2016 ()
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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.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
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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.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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Aethling

Is there a chance that any dead protagonists will miraculously come back (IE Vin, Elend, Lightsong) to help fight later battles? You have shown Kelsier having influence after he died, and Sazed makes a statement about keeping in touch with Vin and Elend.

Brandon Sanderson

I don't want to be unsympathetic to people's love for these characters, but I feel that as a writer I must resist the urge to bring back characters in this manner. I feel it would undermine my storytelling. I never want to get to the point where people read and the tension of a character being in danger is ruined by the thought, "Well, even if they die, they'll probably just be brought back in the future."

I'm not saying I won't ever do it, but I want to be very sparing. I like how Robert Jordan did it with a certain character's return in [Towers of Midnight]. It was foreshadowed, built into the story itself, and relevant.

There are characters--in the 36-book-cosmere-superoutline--who return when thought dead. Some have not met their perceived end yet, while others have. So it's going to happen, but I want it to be very rare.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

As the Cosmere gets a lot bigger, what is your biggest worry going forward writing the books?

Brandon Sanderson

Going forward, my biggest worry is making sure that I do things like get The Stormlight Archive done as a solid, complete whole, rather than letting it become... like, too distracted about the Cosmere. Like, I'm not worried about that for Mistborn, but I'm worried about that for Stormlight. Stormlight needs to be a self-contained whole, it needs to be a self-contained epic, and I have to be really careful not to-- in the later books in particular-- let it turn into the Avengers, something like that. So that's my biggest worry right now, is that I will let too much of that seep in. I'm being very careful about it.

JordanCon 2014 ()
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Questioner

Concerning everything on Roshar, is it safe to say The Stormlight Archive will become the backbone series of the story of the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

There are three backbone series: Dragonsteel, Mistborn, and The Stormlight Archive. And Mistborn is past, present, future, Stormlight is the center, and Dragonsteel is the beginning. So really it goes: Dragonsteel, Mistborn, Stormlight, Mistborn, Stormlight, Mistborn is basically how this backbone sequence goes.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#42 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.

YouTube Livestream 9 ()
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Questioner

Will the tenth book of the Stormlight Archive be the last book in the cosmere universe, or there a plans to continue with other stories in the cosmere universe indefinitely?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the last chronological book of the cosmere sequence is the final Mistborn book. So the way that the structure works right now. Elantris, Mistborn era 1, Stormlight Archive first five, Mistborn era 2, Elantris 2 and 3, Stormlight Archive 6 through 10, the the final Mistborn era, is how I'm going. 

Right? Did I miss one? I missed an era. So, I'm going to do the Wax and Wayne era and the 1980s era kind of together, and mash those together. 

So, era 1, era 2/3, Stormlight 1-5, Stormlight 6-10, era 4 of Mistborn, is how it is right now. Era 4 of Mistborn will the the last chronological. We will have the flashbacks to Dragonsteel after Stormlight 10 but before era 4 of Mistborn

I do not intend it to go indefinitely. If I manage to get all of that done before I die, which I hope I will - I move pretty quickly, then there's a decent chance I will write other cosmere books that happen in the cosmere, probably during this time frame at some point, unconnected or only tangentially related and things like that. But I do intend that to be the final book of the cosmere sequence, and I have no plans for anything chronologically after that. 

Questioner

Did you mention Warbreaker in there?

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker is a side project. I do count Warbreaker, there will be a sequel to Warbreaker. But Warbreaker, Emperor's Soul, Silence Divine, all of these things I might write, the unnamed Threnody novel, these are not what I consider the core, essential cosmere books that I need to write. I need to do Dragonsteel, Mistborn, Elantris, and Stormlight, and that's like your core sequence of stories, and if I can get Aether of Night in there - I sure hope that I can - if I can get the Threnody novel in there - I sure hope I can - and some stuff like that.

The requirement I placed on myself is no more than three years between Stormlight books, with a slightly larger break between 5 and 6, cause the first five are an arc. But I'm hoping no more than five years there, but we will see. And gotta just keep moving, keep going, keep writing, so that my own mortality does become a factor in the cosmere sequence.

Boskone 54 ()
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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.

Tor.com The Way of Kings Re-Read Interview ()
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Underbelly

As a man of many projects, you seem very good about compartmentalizing your workload to be able to complete or advance a project independently while midway through even larger commitments. That being said, even authors such as Stephen King have viewed a certain project as their 'life work'. Would you consider The Stormlight Archive to be this to you (or at least your early life's work-being as young as you are) or rather does your ability to compartmentalize extend to your accomplishments as well as your workload in that you can view your achievements independently?

Brandon Sanderson

I consider the Cosmere sequence to be my life work—of which the Stormlight Archive is a major part, but it's not the only part. Compartmentalizing projects is the nature of how I work, to keep myself fresh, but the interconnection of the cosmere means it's not entirely compartmentalized.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

Are you ever going to expand on the cosmere in its own book or is it going to be a long *inaudible*?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, the thing that started it all, Dragonsteel, is going to be about the cosmere a lot more, and the third Mistborn trilogy will be also.

Questioner

I like how you have that background going through all your different cosmere novels, tying them together

Brandon Sanderson

I want to make sure that it never becomes the forefront until I am warning people, "Now, you need to know this stuff."

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
#48 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.

Brandon's Blog 2015 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

As I was developing the Cosmere, I knew I wanted a few threads to span the entire mega-sequence, which was going to cover thousands of years. For this reason, I built into the outline a couple of "core" series.

One of these is the Stormlight Archive, where we have the Heralds who span ages, and which I eventually decided to break into two distinct arcs. Other series touch on the idea of long-standing characters. Dragonsteel, for example, will be kind of a bookend series. We'll get novels on Hoid's origins, then jump all the way to the end and get novels from his viewpoint late in the entire Cosmere sequence.

With Mistborn, I wanted to do something different. For aesthetic reasons, I wanted a fantasy world that changed, that grew updated and modernized. One of my personal mandates as a lover of the epic fantasy genre is to try to take what has been done before and push the stories in directions I think the genre hasn't looked at often enough.

I pitched Mistorn as a series of trilogies, which many of you probably already know. Each series was to cover a different era in the world (Scadrial), and each was to be about different characters—starting with an epic fantasy trilogy, expanding eventually into a space opera science fiction series. The magic would be the common thread here, rather than specific characters.

There was a greater purpose to this, more than just wanting a fantasy world that modernized. The point was to actually show the passage of time in the universe, and to make you, the reader, feel the weight of that passage.

Some of the Cosmere characters, like Hoid, are functionally immortal—in that, at least, they don't age and are rather difficult to kill. I felt that when readers approached a grand epic where none of the characters changed, the experience would be lacking something. I could tell you things were changing, but if there were always the same characters, it wouldn't feel like the universe was aging.

I think you get this problem already in some big epic series. (More on that below.) Here, I wanted the Cosmere to evoke a sense of moving through eras. There will be some continuing threads. (A few characters from Mistborn will be weaved through the entire thing.) However, to make this all work, I decided I needed to do something daring—I needed to reboot the Mistborn world periodically with new characters and new settings.

So how does Shadows of Self fit into this entire framework? Well, The Alloy of Law was (kind of) an accident. It wasn't planned to be part of the original sequence of Mistborn sub-series, but it's also an excellent example of why you shouldn't feel too married to an outline.

As I was working on Stormlight, I realized that it was going to be a long time (perhaps ten years) between The Hero of Ages and my ability to get back to the Mistborn world to do the first of the "second" series. I sat down to write a short story as a means of offering a stop-gap, but was disappointed with it.

That's when I took a step back and asked myself how I really wanted to approach all of this. What I decided upon was that I wanted a new Mistborn series that acted as a counterpoint to Stormlight. Something for Mistborn fans that pulled out some of the core concepts of the series (Allomantic action, heist stories) and mashed them with another genre—as opposed to epic fantasy—to produce something that would be faster-paced than Stormlight, and also tighter in focus.

That way, I could alternate big epics and tight, action character stories. I could keep Mistborn alive in people's minds while I labored on Stormlight.

The Alloy of Law was the result, an experiment in a second-era Mistborn series between the first two planned trilogies. The first book wasn't truly accidental, then, nor did it come from a short story. (I've seen both reported, and have tacitly perpetuated the idea, as it's easier than explaining the entire process.) I chose early 20th century because it's a time period I find fascinating, and was intrigued by the idea of the little-city lawman pulled into big-city politics.

Alloy wasn't an accident, but it was an experiment. I wasn't certain how readers would respond to not only a soft reboot like this, but also one that changed tone (from epic to focused). Was it too much?

The results have been fantastic, I'm happy to report. The Alloy of Law is consistently the bestselling book in my backlists, barring the original trilogy or Stormlight books. Fan reaction in person was enthusiastic.

So I sat down and plotted a proper trilogy with Wax and Wayne. That trilogy starts with Shadows of Self. It connects to The Alloy of Law directly, but is more intentional in where it is taking the characters, pointed toward a three-book arc.

You can see why this is sometimes hard to explain. What is Shadows of Self? It's the start of a trilogy within a series that comes after a one-off with the same characters that was in turn a sequel to an original trilogy with different characters.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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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.