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Shadows of Self San Francisco signing ()
#1 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.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#2 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.

FanX 2018 ()
#4 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

How far are you into the Cosmere stuff, like how much more can we expect?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

There are 10 books of Stormlight, around 12 Mistborn, 3 Elantris, 2 Warbreaker, 1 Threnody, 3 Dragonsteel.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever find you own stories, your own characters, coming back and influencing you?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.  More, it's like I have these things I'm really interested in.  And so I find myself rounding those things again and again.  And I've actually started a list of 'You've covered this thing, Brandon.  You can't do this one anymore'.  Just because I work in the cosmere where everything is connected, so the underlying physics of the books are sometimes very similar.  And so I just have to be very careful not to repeat myself too much.  

Tor.com The Way of Kings Re-Read Interview ()
#6 Copy

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 ()
#7 Copy

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."

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#8 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.

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.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
#12 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.

Chris King interview ()
#14 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.

A Memory of Light Dayton Signing ()
#15 Copy

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.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#16 Copy

yahasgaruna

I have to say though, I don't get annoyed by the fact that you want to write the side projects, but I do get perplexed by how big the State of the Sanderson is getting. You keep adding more things that I want to read, and it gets no closer to getting written! I've been waiting for a sequel to Warbreaker for 7 years now, and a sequel for the Rithmatist for over 3 years, and I've been getting excited about Silence Divine and Dark One for years just reading the chapters or descriptions you've read out at signings. Now you're adding a novel set on Threnody, and one on Silverlight?

DEAR GOD MAN DO YOU WANT ME TO DIE OF ANTICIPATION?!

Brandon Sanderson

Original Cosmere sequence (from around 2003 or so.)

Core books:

Dragonsteel (7 books)

Mistborn (9 books)

Stormlight (10 books)

Elantris (3 books.)

Secondary stories

Unnamed Vasher prequel (1 book)

White Sand (3 books)

Unnamed Threnody novel. (1 book.)

Aether of Night. (1 book.)

Silence Divine (1 book.)

This version was after I decided I'd trim back Aether of Night, but felt confident that Dragonsteel would be coming out soon. (I tried a rebuilt version of it in 2007.)

By 2011, some things had changed. First, I'd rewritten Stormlight, and had sucked Bridge Four off of Yolen, following Dalinar (who had been moved to Roshar for the first draft of TWOK.) Warbreaker had been given a sequel. Dragonsteel, having lost the entire bridge four sequence, refocused to be more about Hoid and shrunk from seven books to between 3 and five, depending on what I decided needed to go there. Silverlight had grown from just a place I referenced to a place I wanted to do a complete story for. And, of course, Mistborn got another era. (Dark One also moved to the cosmere somewhere in here.)

So, a lot of these have been brewing all along, and I haven't really been adding that many books--I've actually been shrinking the numbers as I feel certain things combine, and work better together than alone.

I still suspect we'll end up in the 40 book range, but most of the new ideas for the cosmere I have, I try to limit to novellas so that we don't end up with too many promised books.

yahasgaruna

Thanks for the answer! I'm going to go ahead and believe there are even more books hidden in your outline you've never talked about because that makes me feel better, especially something like Skyward (since I remember you saying that was YA).

Brandon Sanderson

There are, but I'm very aware of how much I've put on that list so far--so I've been trying to combine stories, or make others into novellas.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#17 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.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#18 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."

Brandon's Blog 2015 ()
#19 Copy

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.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#20 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.  

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#21 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.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
#23 Copy

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.

Alloy of Law York signing ()
#24 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.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#26 Copy

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.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#27 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.

Shadows of Self Houston signing ()
#28 Copy

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. 

JordanCon 2016 ()
#30 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.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#31 Copy

Questioner

I really enjoy things like Alloy of Law and Emperor's Soul, do you see yourself doing any more of those in-universe novellas? Maybe more tightly cobbled to the stories they're from?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I do see myself doing many more novellas. I enjoy the process, it helps me get stories out of my brain that are itching at me without having to start another 7 book series or whatever. What I'll be reading to you tonight is from a novella though it is not cosmere. Though I do have several more cosmere novellas going. If you haven't read the ones I've released, there's one called Sixth of the Dusk which is ebook original and in the Writing Excuses anthology, and then I have another that is in George R.R. Martin's Dangerous Women anthology... called Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell. And that is the other weird place you can get one of those. I'm planning to do many more, I really enjoy it.  I think short fiction is fun and exciting and I'm-- short for me

BookCon 2018 ()
#32 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

How did you know that Stormlight and Mistborn were going to be the focus [of the cosmere]?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

A lot of writers figured out the *inaudible* exploration. And I had the advantage when I broke-in that I had written all these books before, and I was able to go back and say, "The Way of Kings, there's something special about--" right from the beginning, there's something special about that.

I was able to look back at say, Mistborn, which had I had tried the magic system. The magic system really worked, my best magic system. I know this has the best magic magic system, if I can match a plot to it that makes it a good book, I can make that magic system kind of the spine of what I'm doing.

...So I got lucky on that. In some ways, not publishing for a long time was the luckiest thing that could have happened to me.

Stormlight Three Update #3 ()
#33 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.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#35 Copy

Arcanist

When will be see the whole Cosmere-concept (Shards, the plans of Hoid) at the level of the books? In the third Mistborn trilogy or earlier? In which books do you plan to finish the "hidden story" which connects all your earlier books?

Brandon Sanderson

Third Mistborn Trilogy will certainly include some of this. We shall see if I do any of Hoid's stories before then.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#37 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.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#38 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.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#39 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.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#40 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 ()
#41 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.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
#42 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.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#43 Copy

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.

Stormlight Three Update #6 ()
#44 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.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#46 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.

Oathbringer Newcastle signing ()
#47 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Is Obrodai going to be the setting of Dark One?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
#48 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.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#49 Copy

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.