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EuroCon 2016 ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

I would not like to say commonplace, but there are some prejudices of people when they read you, when they read your work, because of the religious elements, right? This can be a challenge, but there are three things that are absolutely important in your work. One is faith, the other one is moral, what you organize around faith, and then you always, always have the critical spirit that really fights against all of this, and that tries to find value. And this is very peculiar, because you were discussing very transcendental, very important things with this touch of spirituality, but there's always reason and a critical spirit underneath. I would like to know whether you could explore this farther?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. It is something I have thought about a lot as well. I am a man of faith. I am religious. I am Latter-day Saint for those who don't know. And I am a man of science. I was a chemistry major originally in college, and I am a very big believer, at the same time, in skepticism and logic, and I have a somewhat more rational approach to my faith than perhaps many others do. But I'm not sure if even that is true, I just think that many people are not as vocal as some of those who are faithful, but determinedly ignorant, also.

I feel that, as a writer, one of my mandates is to express multiple viewpoints on topics, and try to work through them by having rational people, sympathetic people, on multiple sides of an argument. Few things bother me in fiction more than a cast of characters who all agree on some topic, except for one idiot who exists to be proven wrong. I don't think that's who we find truth. I think we find truth through disagreement by people who all have good arguments. When two people who disagree discuss an issue, and both listen to each other, both learn, and their understanding of the world expands. And because of my own inherent biases, by being religious, one of the things I seek very strongly to do is to make sure that the opposing opinion to what I believe is strongly represented by someone making the arguments that that side would make if they were writing the book. A falsehood or a weak belief can survive dumb challenges to it, but truth can survive good arguments against it, is what I believe. So you can see, I'm very fascinated by this topic, and the things that fascinate me come out in my books, but it is very important to me that my stories be about questions and not about answers, because of all of this, that questions lead to truth, and thinking you have answers don't go anywhere.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five

Vin and Elend dine with Cett

And, we have our second "ball" scene in this book. Some people really enjoyed those in the previous book; at least one reviewer hated them. However, I like them–particularly for the visuals they let me use when going into the gorgeous noble keeps. As you may recall, these are based loosely on gothic cathedrals, which I just think would be an awesome place to have a ball.

Cett was, perhaps, too fun a character to write. I needed someone the opposite of Straff, and it was very fulfilling to write in an enemy to this series who was completely straightforward and belligerent. He still stands out to me, quite different from any of the other antagonists in the series.

He knows Elend well–that should be enough to hint that he kept an eye on things in Luthadel, despite his attitude which implies that he didn't care about the place. He's watched Elend's rule very carefully, debating whether to make an alliance or to make a play for Elend's throne. If the truth be told, he would have probably gone for the alliance if Straff hadn't moved against Luthadel.

He walks a careful line. He's not a good man, but he IS an effective leader in some respects. I wanted him to offer a third viewpoint on leadership in this book, one that is actually accurate. Being a leader isn't easy–not at all. There are a lot of ways to do it, and I don't want to imply that any one of these people–Elend, Cett, or Tindwyl–are wrong. That's what makes it so tough to be a leader.

Cett offers the perspective of open, honest tyranny. He doesn't lie to you. He tells you just what he's going to do, and he has a point that many of the things he does are safe.

But, what do you choose when you have to choose between safety and freedom? You can probably guess that I wrote a lot of this book during the heightening of security in America surrounding the September 11 attacks. The last couple of years, there has been a lot of talk on this topic, and it wormed its way into my writing. I didn't put it there intentionally, but I did monopolize on it when I found it there.

I don't have any answers. I just write what I see, and force my characters to make choices.

Shire Post Mint Mistborn Coin AMA ()
#3 Copy

Jazzy-Kandra

I've noticed that the glyphs seemed to take inspiration from Arabic word art and calligraphy... Do you think you could talk a little more about how it inspired the making of glyphs and the art behind them? Did you draw from any other written languages (like Chinese calligraphy) when creating this system?

Isaac Stewart

Good question! The biggest influence was definitely Arabic word art and calligraphy. That's something Brandon and I wanted to do from the start with the glyphs, and I realized that in order to make both glyphs and word art work, I'd have to take things a step farther and figure out the building blocks of the glyphs. I can't think of any other systems off the top of my head that I drew direct inspiration from.

The second biggest influence was the need for the glyphs to be symmetrical to reflect the holiness of symmetry within Vorin culture. I had an old iPod touch (it was new back then) and a simple symmetry app. When I found myself with a few minutes, I'd spend time sketching interesting shapes. I saved the best of these for use in The Way of Kings. Using those as a base, I started coming up with calligraphic shapes that would allow me the look I wanted, and over a bit of time, I developed a lexicon of shapes to use in the creation of glyphs. This helped keep the style mostly consistent from one glyph to another. Though there are levels of complexity in glyphs, I believe--everything from creating a glyphward for religious purposes to scrawling the shorthand version of a glyph on a map to indicate whose army is where.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#4 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.

Words of Radiance Washington, DC signing ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

What theologies and philosophies did you draw on to create Vorinism?

Brandon Sanderson

Vorinism is a hodge podge of a lot of different things. Part of is the Jewish Kabbalah--

Questioner

The mysticism of Jewish--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the Jewish mysticism. Part of it is Jewish mysticism, part of is [Islam], but there are a lot of things that are just drawing from philosophies rather than theologies. I'm trying to remember what specifically we were doing... But the main concept was the idea of a church that had been subsumed by a monarchy to the point that the [the church] would be very servile. And that concept led me to a lot of the Vorinism discussions.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#6 Copy

JKOustin

Rand/Dark One confrontation through The Wheel of Time series...was it some kind of inspiration for Dalinar/Odium confrontation from your own series?

Brandon Sanderson

It's very heard to separate out what in my series is WoT influenced--since all of it is influenced deeply by reading the WoT when younger. So I'd say it most certainly was.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

Where there any specific fantasy books that you read as a child that inspired you to write fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, excellent question. I was not a reader until I had a teacher, eighth grade teacher--this is true--Ms. Reeder. *laughter* Yes, it's really true, R-E-E-D-E-R, was my teacher in eighth grade and she gave me a fantasy novel for the first time and convinced me to read it. It took a little work on her part because I was not a reader. It was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hamley, a kind of classic standalone epic fantasy-- And it's standalone because the sequels she wrote twenty years later when she was really depressed are very different. They're worth reading but they don't feel like sequels. Dragonsbane's a fantastic book. All of Anne McCaffrey's books were next to that in the school library, like in the card catalogue, under the title so I went to them next and they had a huge influence on me. I would say those two were the biggest. And then Melanie Rawn's books were next to those, so I read all of those.

And then the first book series I discovered on my own, when it wasn't already finished, was The Wheel of Time. Wheel of Time, the first book came out about a year after I got into reading fantasy novels and I found the big one on the shelf and was like "Oooh that's a big book. *laughter* I'm going to read that big book." And I had no idea what I was getting myself into. *laughter* Now lots of Wheel of Time fans can say that, they didn't know what they were getting into. I trump them, okay? I really didn't know what I was getting myself into in picking up that first Wheel of Time book and reading it.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

I've always thought in Steelheart, or in the Reckoners series, what influenced your characters like that, like was there comic books behind that? 

Brandon Sanderson

I've read a lot of comics, so you can find--

Questioner

Any specific ones that influenced you?

Brandon Sanderson

Watchman influenced everyone. Kingdom Come is one of first that made me really think about comics. My favorite was the old Eastman and Laird original Turtles. But I don't know if that's as much inspiration as me just enjoying it. I don't know. I like the graphic novels like the Killing Joke... that feel like a self-contained story.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Were you ever influenced by the Silmarillion?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question. I didn't read Tolkien until late. I tried Tolkien when I was young, and I bounced off of it because I was not a really good reader at the time. And I didn't read Tolkien 'til college. I didn't read the Silmarillion 'til grad school. So, while I would say "Yes," I am not as Tolkien-influenced as a lot of writers are. I'm more influenced by the writers who were influenced by Tolkien. Like Robert Jordan, and people like this, who were very Tolkien-influenced. And I read them growing up. And Tolkien, I was finally able to read and really get an appreciation for, but it was later in my life.

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#10 Copy

Cade

Brandon, what has been the influence of your LDS religion on your writing? Have aspects of Mormon doctrine been incorporated into your worldbuilding?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm very interested in the concepts of religion and the ideas that surround it, and I often find myself writing books that deal with things I'm interested in myself. I allow the themes of books like these to grow naturally out of the world I've built and out of the stories that I want to tell. Specifically, I kind of let the characters decide what the themes of a book are going to be. I don't go into it saying, "I'm going to write about this," but the worlds that I create betray my own interests very strongly.

What is it about faith and deity? This is something that is unique about us as human beings, something very interesting to me, and it felt like this area was an open space to explore in fantasy in ways that hadn't been done before. I always find myself gravitating toward things that I feel haven't been explored as much as they could have been. That interests me and fascinates me.

Orem signing ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

Is Kaladin's name influenced by Dune?

Brandon Sanderson

I've read Dune many times, so maybe? It's more looking at-- A lot of Dune names are Arabic inspired, and I went to that region for a lot of the names. But I think the word "Paladin" was probably more in the back of my head. I didn't even think of it until I started writing it, and I'm like, "Oh I bet that's where I got it." But it's often kind of based off of like, Khalid, or things like that? Like a lot of the Arabic names go Khalid.

Questioner

I was actually just thinking that the other day how the Knights are a lot like paladins.

Brandon Sanderson

It wasn't like, "I'll come up with the word." But after I started writing I'm like, "Oh I bet that's why the name felt right to me". But you can't separate an author from their influences, and I've read Dune like 5 times.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Finds an Alley to Sleep In

One of the big stories I'm worried about channeling here is Les Misérables. It's one of my favorite stories of all time, so sometimes it's difficult not to find myself drawing upon Hugo's story and characters. That constant fight to keep myself from leaning too much on what has come before went into overdrive in these chapters.

In the end, however, I think that Vivenna's scenes belong here and accent the story. So yes, if you noticed them, there are some echoes of Fantine in these sections—Vivenna selling her hair and noticing the prostitutes most prominent among them. These two items, most of all, I considered cutting. But in the end, I decided that if there was anyone I was proud to have influencing my writing, it was Hugo, and I left the references. Partially as an homage, I guess—though that's always the excuse of someone who ends up echoing a great story of the past.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#14 Copy

Questioner

Also what is it about about the Fantasy genre in particular that lends itself to these sorts of questions about the nature of religion?

Brandon Sanderson

Well I think that there are a lot of things. One of them is that fantasy is one of these genres where we can take away a lot of the contemporary baggage. For instance, since it is hard to talk about things like the Catholic Church and the religion without getting into the social issues in our world right now, but if you create a fake religion that you can narrow down and focus on one aspect of it-- Fantasy is really good at that. Tolkien did it with racism, let's have an elf and a dwarf and have them interact, and take away all the baggage of civil rights era America or England and instead said "Let's see if these two races can get along".

Bystander

It's the same reason why I like Star Trek, you can kind of create a scenario and--

Brandon Sanderson

But I also think that because of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis having such an influence on the genre you can do Good vs Evil, which lends itself. Like Robert Jordan's works there's no religion there's just a lot of spirituality. So there is no religion because people can actively check and see if God is real, the Creator. The magic is there, it's the proof, they don't need a religion. Which is a really interesting way to approach it.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

We know that 10 is an odd number in the cosmere. And I noticed that the Lord Ruler specifically released 10 Allomantic metals. Was there a reason behind that or is that just a coincidence?

Brandon Sanderson

No, that was a coincidence right there.  Ten is an odd cosmere number for Roshar, and there are reasons why this is. . .

Questioner

Well it wasn't just Roshar, it was also Nalthis in Warbreaker. 

Brandon Sanderson

Nope, that one is a coincidence. Sometimes they just pop up that way. Part of the original reason that Roshar was 10 was I was going for a 10 day like Robert Jordan did, which I thought was cool. But then I ended up writing the Wheel of Time so I'm like 'I have to do something different now'. So it turned into the two five-day weeks. Two five-days becoming a 50 day month.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

Do you get any of yours [inspiration from mythology]?  Like I know you mentioned sciences and physics. 

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah a lot of science and physics is where it's coming from.  A lot of, I mean, having lived in Korea for two years, and speaking Korean, a lot of my linguistics come from Korean, and the idea of Spren comes from Asian mythology: the idea that everything has a soul.  So that's an inspiration.  

Questioner

I want to look into ancient Asian culture, and it sound like something to do.  

Brandon Sanderson

There's that.  I would bet that the three kingdoms stuff has some influence on me, and Sun Tzu's Art of War has been an influence on me, and things like that.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#19 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Stories are one of the most powerful ways of bringing about change. In your opinion, how can authors strike a balance in their storytelling between raising awareness about things like violence against women, while telling an engaging story, without being pedantic or preachy?

Do you think it's important for influential authors such as yourself, who are read all over the world, to make a conscious effort to include characters in your stories that show reinforcements of respecting women as people and as human beings?

Brandon Sanderson

Definitely a big "yes" to your last one.

This is a big issue, and I'm glad you asked it, because it's something I've thought about quite a bit. At its core, it comes down to, "How do you write a story that explores difficult questions without preaching." Because, at the end of the day, we're picking up an epic fantasy book because we want to go to a new world, enjoy this new world, and have an interesting adventure. And we're not picking up it up because they want Brandon Sanderson to lecture them. And certainly, there are authors I do read to be lectured. So it's not a blanket statement, "This is how someone should do something."

But for me, there's a couple of core tenets. One is the one I've already mentioned. Which is, if I'm going to put a character in (which I think I should put a wide variety of characters in) approaching questions from different directions, make sure that I am researching that person's viewpoint, people who have that viewpoint in the real world, and make sure I'm doing the job that they would want me to do with their position, their subculture, their belief structure, and things like this.

But that kind of plays into another big... pillar of what I think my duty as a writer to do, which I've expressed it in the books, I've gotten it through things I've heard other authors write. Which is "Raise questions. Don't give answers." I believe that if you are raising questions, and having multiple people who are all sympathetic disagreeing on this question, or struggling with this question in different ways, it innately makes the reader start to say, "Well, what do I think about that? And is it something that I need to think about more?" And not dodging these topics, but also not coming down with long sermons about them, I think, is the way that I want to be able to approach them.

I often share this story, so I apologize if some of you heard it before. But the book that got me into science fiction and fantasy was Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. And Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly, is criminally under-read in the science fiction/fantasy community. I have read it again as an adult, it holds up, it is a fantastic novel. What made Dragonsbane work for me? I was a fourteen-year-old boy who was handed this novel by his English teacher, and she said, "I think you are reading below your level. I think you would like something a little more challenging. Why don't you try one of these books on my shelf." And that's the one that I ended up picking up. This book should not have worked for a fourteen-year-old boy, if you read the Cliffnotes on how to get a reluctant reader to read books.

Dragonsbane, if you haven't read it, is about a middle-aged woman who is having a crisis as she tries to balance having a family and learning her magic. Her teacher has told her she can be way better at the magic if she would dedicate more time to it, but her family takes a lot of her time. And this is her main character conflict through the story. Now, it also involves going and slaying a dragon, and things like this. And it's a wild adventure with some excellent worldbuilding, and a really interesting premise. The story is about having to kill a dragon, her partner has been asked to slay a dragon, he's the only person who's ever slayed a dragon, but he killed a dragon when he was in his 20's, and now he's middle-aged, and he's like, "I can't do that like I used to anymore." And together, they go down and try to figure out how to kill a dragon when you're an old person. But this story should, on paper, not have worked for me, but it was the most amazing thing I'd ever read in my life.

Meanwhile, my mother graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in most of her accounting classes. She had been offered, as she graduated, a prestigious scholarship to go become a CPA. And she actually turned that down because of me. She was having me as a child, and she decided that she would put off her education and career for a few years. She is now the head accountant for the city of Idaho Falls power plant, so she did go back to her career, but she put that off for me. Now, as... a middle school kid, if you told me the story, I'd be like, "Of course she did. I'm awesome. I'm me. Of course she would do that. That's the right thing to do." I read this book, and I'm like, "Oh, ditch your kids, woman. You could be a wizard!" I got done with this book, and I realized: I just read a fantasy book about slaying a dragon. High fantasy, all the stuff that should have just been brain popcorn. And yet, I got done with this book, and I understood my mother better. And it hit me like a ton of bricks, that a story could teach me about my mom in some ways better than living with her for fourteen years, because I was a stupid kid who wouldn't listen, and assumed he had the answers. But when I saw through someone else's eyes, who was very different from myself, that changed the way I saw the world.

This is why stories are important. This is why it is important-- if you're writers out there, it's why your stories are important. When you ask, "Well, what can I write that's new?" You can write who you are. And that will be new. And that is valuable in and of itself. Those stories have value because you're telling them. And this is what stories do. And this is how, I think, I want to be approaching telling stories. I want people to read the stories, and I don't want them to feel lectured to. But I want them to see the world through the eyes of someone who sees it in a very different way. Maybe that'll make them, make you, make all of us think a little harder about some of the things in our lives.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#20 Copy

Questioner

First of all, did Mormonism play a role in building the Cosmere at all?

Brandon Sanderson

It certainly did... Not really a conscious one, but my faith really influences who I am. Like, one of the big tenets of my religion is this idea that we're all gods in embryo that are then growing up to be like our Father. And so you can see in the Cosmere, it's really about the power of God given to men and what they do with it and how it kinda messes things up if it's not done right. I think that's probably deeply influenced by my religion. 

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#21 Copy

Ap_Sona_Bot

I know I'm a bit late to this thread but I recently learned about you being Mormon. I find this really interesting because I grew up and live in an area with very heavy Mormon influences, and have had generally very positive interactions with them. My question is how has your religion affected your writing, and vice versa. Your portrayal of religion is mistborn particularly is completely unique, and one of my favorite parts of the book.

It's okay if you don't want to share anything about this, I understand that religion can be a bit of a personal topic.

Brandon Sanderson

I actually get this question a lot! It's also one that's hard for me to answer, as I think people looking in from outside are likely better at spotting my own unconscious influences better than I am. I know that being religious myself has made me very interested in religion, and how various people interact with it. I find myself trying to approach it from as many different directions as possible--because it's fun for me to explore belief systems and the people who do, or don't, follow them.

Warsaw signing ()
#22 Copy

Questioner

OK, so I haven’t read all of those books, but, judging by the books that I've read, one married couple is particularly important to you. Is it true?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I would say. This is in part because I think that stories ignore family a little too much. Too often, I feel that stories that I've read either ignore the family by making someone just an orphan with no family or ending the story when the heart stuff starts, such as being a couple.

Questioner

What does that have to do with Legion?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, Stephen Leeds. Stephen Leeds has a very, very large family, he just makes most of them up.

Firefight release party ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering in what books, particularly Mistborn, is the conscious decision when you put in little snippets of LDS lore in there, like plates, metal plates--

Brandon Sanderson

You know most of it is unconscious. Once in a while something intentional slips in that I’m like "Ooh that's a cool connection". A lot of it is unconscious.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#24 Copy

Questioner

So I was reading the Wheel of Time and in the first one when they get to the saidin and saidar, the pools—they're very similar to Shardpools.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, and that is something that he kind of dropped. The Eye of the World is just like pure saidin, and I would be surprised if that weren't an unconscious influence on me. I didn't think of it when I was coming up with these but that's definitely way back in my brain when I was creating these.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

I've been thinking about Idealism as a philosophy and how the concept of the... Cognitive Realm is sort of like a very realistic version of Idealism. Is there any influence there at all?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, definitely. I was a closet philosophy major in college. I didn't actually do that, but I attended a lot of philosophy classes. And I'll tell you this, philosophers don't know to write. That's the most annoying part. You read their essays, and they're full of brilliant ideas, with these enormous run-on sentences that make no sense. You have to like-- So I got really frustrated by that. But I really loved the classes and reading and things like that, and the touch of it is all over my books. If you look for it, you'll find a lot of the different philosophies, you'll find all those guys in different places on different philosophers and different religions and stuff like that.

A Memory of Light Portland signing ()
#27 Copy

Questioner

How much of your own books were you consciously looking at books like Jordan and saying, "I like that kind of world," and trying to create that kind of world in your own stuff?

Brandon Sanderson

I spent most of my early career, as I kind of implied earlier, reacting against books that I had really liked. The main purpose for this being that I felt that Robert Jordan and various other authors really covered that type of story and that type of world really well. And so I said, "Well, what other room is there to explore?" And so you see me reacting against.

For instance, Mistborn is a direct reaction to the Wheel of Time. Mistborn began as the question, "What if Rand were to fail?" That's what spun me into creating that entire book series: what if the prophesied hero were not able to accomplish what they were supposed to accomplish? And that became the foundation of that book series. So you can see where I was going and things like that. A lot of times I will read something, and if it's done very well I'll react against it, and if it’s done very poorly then I’ll say, "Oh, I want to try and do this the right way". And both of those are kind of an interesting style of reaction to storytelling. So I would say I was deeply influenced, but it's more in the realm of, "Hey what have they done? What have they covered really well, and where can I go to explore new ground?"

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
#28 Copy

DrogaKrolow

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

DrogaKrolow

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Idaho Falls signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

What happened to Rand? He's not dead?

Brandon Sanderson

So Robert Jordan wrote everything from Rand stumbling out of Shayol Ghul until the ending, with the exception of the Perrin scenes, which I added to that epilogue. Harriet says--his wife--says he sat laughing to himself as he wrote the scene with the pipe, but he did not tell her what it means.

Questioner

Pipe?

Brandon Sanderson

The pipe where he-- he lit the pipe just by thinking about it. 

Questioner

That's also something-- he's using the Tel'aran'rhiod power to light it in the real world?

Brandon Sanderson

I do not know. Now, I have my theories. I think that because Rand touched the Pattern directly, when he was doing what he was doing, that he now has influence over the Pattern. 

Questioner

So he can change and manipulate things? But he's-

Brandon Sanderson

That's what I think, but Robert Jordan didn't say, and he did write those scenes himself before he passed away. So, I wrote the actual Last Battle-

Questioner

All of it? That was so epic.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So he took over-- where he left was right when Rand stumbles out. The Last Battle chunk before that was me. He wrote Mat in the Tower of Ghenjei... He wrote most of Egwene in The Gathering Storm, and then little snippets of Egwene all the way through. Perrin was almost one hundred percent me; he didn't leave much on Perrin. With Rand, he wrote little chunks here and there...

So I do not know. Now, I can tell you that there in the notes that when the balefire streams, when they crossed, intertwined [Rand's] soul with Moridin's soul. And one thing that his assistant said is that the [soul] that wanted to live found the body that was going to live, and the [soul] that wanted to die found the body that was dying. And that's what happened.

Questioner

They swapped bodies because he had this thing-- Why didn't he go in and say "hey everybody?" ...He didn't want to be with his family and friends anymore?

Brandon Sanderson

I think he probably came back-- He just needed a break. I'm pretty sure that he eventually let them know, but he just needed a little time. So, but I don't know for sure.

Questioner

I thought it was super cool, going in, the chase between Slayer and Perrin.

Brandon Sanderson

I had a lot of fun with that scene.

Questioner

...Also, you told me last time I saw you, that Tel'aran'rhiod is basically-- Is that kind of where you got the idea of the parallel universe in the other books?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, Shadesmar. Shadesmar you can tie directly back to my love of Tel'aran'rhiod. It's kind of mixed with that in my love of some ancient Greek philosophy things that are not that important, but yeah.

MisCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

This isn't so much a question as just something I noticed... When I first read a summary of the Deadpool movie... to trigger his powers, they basically tortured him. And as soon as I read that, I was like, "They Snapped him!"

Brandon Sanderson

Now, I can't claim ownership of this. I think you will find the idea of "anguish brings powers" reaching back to the early days of the Golden Age superhero comics. And to a lot of the early 70s and 80s fantasy that I was reading and absorbing during those formative years. So, I can't take credit for that. I think it's a very common trope. And so I would not suggest that the writers of Deadpool have anything to do with it... I wouldn't think that they had read-- Just because it's part of the general understanding. I mean, I bet there's a TVTropes page for it, right? ...They'll probably have some pithy name for it or something, "Traumatic Power Inception" or something like that, they'll have some page for it. And you can go find all the places where it came from.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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Lafona

I assume there are decisions you have to make on the fly while doing the art, so I was wondering: are there any of those that have made it into the lore, and maybe actually made changes to some of the plot elements? If so, what is your favorite thing you added to the story through the illustrations?

Ben McSweeney

Actually, most everything that makes it into the book has been reviewed and discussed and approved, so even the decisions I make on the fly are subject to change.

There's a series of character illustrations that were done early on, for the initial book pitch before the first novel was fully written. When Brandon eventually wrote descriptions for those characters in the text, the illustrations I'd provided played a part in what he wrote, which was wildly gratifying.

MisCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

Warbreaker. When it talks about the God King, the way he sees the world, and he talks about even a little blemish on someone's skin is so beautiful. To me, it sounds like, if you think about the love of God for Christ, that is how they would see us. Is that kind of what you were going for?

Brandon Sanderson

Sure, absolutely. I mean, I don't think I was thinking that when I was writing it, but certainly my Christian upbringing is going to make those things pop out in my fiction, so I would say "Yes, that's a valid interpretation." But you kind of have to look at that as reader response interpretation. Rather than "This is what the author intending," it's "This is what the author was unintentionally drawing upon." Reader response is the wrong term. Whatever the correct literary-- I would have known it in college... Because reader response is that author intent does not matter. If you respond to it a certain way, that's a valid interpretation. And there's a certain thing that's like, the author's upbringing informing how they write their text. Like, it's not deconstructionalism. Historicism.

Skyward Houston signing ()
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Questioner

A question in general with your writing process. Do you learn a lot from your students that have gone on to become authors in their own right? Do you come back looking at their works and maybe saying "I can incorporate this kind of style into my writing?"

Brandon Sanderson

I would say I tend to learn more from the writers who were with me when I was breaking in who are around my age, 'cause we're all kind of going through the same things. So people like Dan Wells or Mary Robinette Kowal that are kind of my group that broke in around the same time, I try to talk to them a lot about writing. This is where my writing podcast came from, Writing Excuses. It was me just wanting to ask them how they fix thing, how they deal with this thing, how they deal with that. Certainly, some of my students have gone on to do really great stuff that is inspiring. Brian McClellan's Powder Mage books are great. Charlie Holmberg, who writes the Paper Magician, the Glass Magician books are great. Lot of really great writers. I don't know how much credit I can take from them. But I am inspired a lot by a lot of the books that I read. But I wouldn't say that group specifically. Though working with new writers is kind of inspiring in its own way. Less about the things they're writing, and more just remembering what it was like, and the passion you have when you're a brand new writer. That kind of fresh-faced innocence is handy for someone, the longer you go.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

Did you actually go through a horseback riding orientation for that scene in Words of Radiance, because that is literally how it works.

Brandon Sanderson

I have done it before in my life, and I was drawing on that. I did have to go get some horse experts, because I got some things wrong. That's kind of a little bit how my first experience riding horses went. I have a cousin who... rode show horses when she was younger.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Clippership14

I'm really curious where the inspiration for Elantris came from. I really enjoyed that book. =)

Brandon Sanderson

As with all of my books, there wasn't one single inspiration, but a number of them. A few of them here were: Chinese and its writing system, and how it relates to Japanese and Korean. The difference between teaching others of your faith in order to help them, as opposed to teaching them in order to aggrandize yourself. What it would be like to live in a leper colony. A king made into a beggar. A woman who, like a friend of mine, felt she was too tall and too smart for men to find her attractive. Magical servants that didn't look like any I'd read about before. And the thought of telling a story about someone who was basically a good, normal person—without a deep, dark past or terrible hidden flaw—who got trust into the worst situation I could imagine.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

Do you read YA speculative fiction? Which books or authors are your favorites in the young readers category?

Brandon Sanderson

I've already mentioned a bunch of my favorites, but I could go on! I'm quite fond of Westerfeld's work. I think it's quite marvelous. I've read Terry Pratchett's teen books. If you've only read his adult work, you're really missing out. He is quite good. I've also enjoyed James Dashner's and Eva Ibbotson's books.

I got into a lot of the YA classics in the late 90s, well after everyone else had been into them. Things like The Giver by Lois Lowry and Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen. Jane Yolen has long been one of my favorite writers. There's just a lot of exciting things happening in YA, and I feel inspired by a lot of the works by those authors I've mentioned

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Yalb the Sailor

This chapter is Yalb's time to shine. One of the things I love about The Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan's use of side characters who sometimes pop in, steal the show, then vanish. I love how they show up now and then in the text.

I'm not sure I can do the same thing here. Robert Jordan had worldbuilding reasons why small characters would get tied to the main characters and keep appearing in their lives again and again. I don't have those reasons.

Still, writing Yalb, I wanted him to really pop off the page even though he's only in the book for a few pages in these early scenes. I intend for him to return. In another type of story, he'd be one of the main characters.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

What you do with religions in your world, in your stories more generally. *audio obscured* Tokien, he says his books are fundamentally Catholic works, but he never mentions religion explicitly. It kind of just breathes religious air, is the way I describe it. So like you address religion in your books with the characters, sometimes positively sometimes negatively. How do you deal with that in your world and in your books, like with the air that they breathe kind of, to steal the metaphor?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah I just-- The characters are everything to the books. What they are passionate about becomes what the book is about. For me my job in writing is to explore different sides of issues through the eyes of different people. That said, who I am shapes what I am interested in and what ends up in the books. I think at the end of the day I think you could call my books fundamentally Mormon books, in the way that Tolkien's were fundamentally Catholic, because I can't separate myself from my religion. I am trying to explore the world through the eyes of people who see the world differently from the way I see it.

Questioner

So you would say you're-- Through your characters-- It comes out through how different people would approach it.

Brandon Sanderson

That's my goal.

Questioner

So how then, does Mormonism affect, like you said-- In what way would you say your books are fundamentally Mormon?

Brandon Sanderson

Well if the philosopher in me steps aside, and the writer in me just wrote what the writer is passionate about. If the trained English major says-- One of the biggest fundamental tenets of Mormonism is deification of normal people, right? Mormonism believes that we are gods in embryo and we are here to learn and have experience so we will be better in the afterlife, and growing and we'll eventually-- Joseph Smith taught "What Man is God once Was, and what God is Man may Become" maybe not "will be" but "may become" That's what he said. And so if you look at my books there's a whole bunch of deification going on, right? That's like fundamental to the cosmere is "What do people do with the power of the gods when they're given it?" And I would say that's totally my upbringing that made me fascinated about that. Does that make sense?

Questioner

Yeah, I never thought about that. Fantasy really lends itself to that.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it does. But I mean deification of a normal person is a very Christian tenet also, it's just one person did it, and it was a person who was God before, but it is still part of that whole thing which is part of why I think Christianity and Fantasy ended up kind of hand in hand.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
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Anushia Kandasivam

So, Brandon, you just introduced a really amazing female character [Spensa] to us. Your female characters throughout all your books are resourceful and independent. Some of them are leaders, some of them go through very interesting journeys of growth and self-discovery. Some of your female characters, like Vin and Sarene, they have mentors and teachers who are men, but their decisions about who to be and what to do are always their own. They always have agency. Was it a conscious choice to write these female characters and their journeys like this, and can you tell us if the process was easy or difficult?

Brandon Sanderson

So, there are a number of different responses to this. One is, I came into fantasy by way of some excellent female novelists that I highly recommend. Barbara Hambly was my first experience with fantasy, and then Anne McCaffery, Melanie Rawn, and Jane Yolen were kind of my introduction to fantasy. It's how I got pulled into it-- To the point that when I was first given a David Eddings book, I was hesitant, because I was like, "Is this a genre guys can write?" was my honest reaction to that. So, when I started writing my own books, I knew I wanted to do a good job with this, but I was really bad at it at the start. It was very embarrassing to me as a writer. And this happens to all new writers. There are things that you want do that, in your head, you imagine yourself doing very well, and then when you start out, you just do poorly. And the later in life that you start writing your stories, the more you're generally able to recognize how poorly you're doing things that you want to do well. And my very first book, that I didn't publish, particularly the female lead was very generic, and written very much to fill the role of the love interest rather than to be a character. And I recognized it, even as I was writing it, but I didn't know how to do it differently. And it took practice. It took a lot of work. It really shouldn't, on one hand, right? Write the characters as people. rather than as roles. That's what you have to learn is: everybody is the hero of their own story in their head. They're the protagonist, whoever they are. And writing the characters so that they view themselves that way, and so they have autonomy, and they aren't being shoved around by the plot or by the protagonist, or things like this, but it's just very hard to do. I had a lot of early readers who were very helpful. I often credit my friend Annie as being one of the big reasons why Sarene eventually ended up working in Elantris. And she gave me some early reads, and things like this.

But, you know, it is hard to abandon our own preconceptions that we don't even know are there without practice, effort, and somebody pointing them out to you. And it was just a matter of practice and trying to get better. And I still think that there are lots of times I get it wrong. And you mentioned Mistborn. And I was really determined that I was going to do a good female protagonist. I try to stay away from the kind of cliched term "strong female character." Because we don't talk about "strong male characters." We talk about characters who are distinctive, interesting, flawed, and real people. And I was determined to do this with Vin. And I feel like I did a pretty good job. But, of course, I had a completely different blind side in that I defaulted to making the rest of the crew that Vin interacts with all guys. This is because my story archetype for Mistborn was the heist novel, the heist story, and my favorite heist movies are Ocean's Eleven and Sneakers and The Sting, and these are great stories. I absolutely love them. But they all are almost exclusively male casts. And that's not to say that, you know, someone can't write an all-male cast if they want to. But it wasn't like I had sat down and said, "I'm intentionally going to write an all-male cast." I just defaulted to making the rest of the cast male because that was the archetype that was in my head, that I hadn't examined. And so, when I got done with those books, I looked back, and I'm like, "Wouldn't this have been a better and more interesting story if there had been more women in the cast?" And I absolutely think it would have been. But becoming a writer, becoming an artist, is a long process of learning what you do well, what you do poorly, what you've done well once and want to learn how to replicate, what you've done poorly and want to learn to get better at. It's a very long process, I think, becoming the writer that we want to be.

/r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
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Caderade24

I was wondering in which ways has the LDS religion/theology influenced your writing? I mean, aside from trying to keep your books relatively clean and accessible. For example, it seems like the oaths of the Knights Radiant have some similarity to LDS covenants.

Brandon Sanderson

I don't think being LDS can help but influence my writing, though I personally follow Tolkien's philosophy: I stay away from specific allegory. I just try to write the best story I can, staying true to what the characters believe (or don't believe.)

So while I don't doubt that people can find parallels, I leave that for readers to theorize about. Most are not intentional, but that doesn't mean they aren't real.

Jofwu

Are there any specific ways you feel like it has shaped your writing in a more general sense? An obvious example, I expect, is the general avoidance of explicit language and sexual content. (something I, for one, appreciate) Does anything else like that come to mind?

Of course I mean that in a roundabout way. It would be rather strong to say that Mormonism directly affects the writing you produce. I'm sure you don't write explicit sex scenes because you are not comfortable with it (or whatever) rather than because the church says not to. But certainly it has shaped who you are, and you shape the stories. So I assume it's possible to trace a few lines from one end to the other.

Brandon Sanderson

You're right; I think these things are possible to trace--and the example you give is a good one. I've described the lack of sex scenes in my books the same way you just did.

I'd say that certainly, the sense of hope in my books is shaped by my faith. I didn't do it intentionally, but if you look at Mistborn, you find lots of quotes about faith in the face of trials--which is a very religious way of looking at the world. Some of my more secular friends might point out a fallacy in this thinking; they'd say that while determination is an important human emotion, doubling down on something just because you want to believe is the opposite of being self-reflective.

My belief in what makes someone heroic, or a good leader, is probably also very directly influenced by my upbringing and belief.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
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Questioner

When you finished writing A Memory of Light you posted on Facebook a beautiful piece of music *inaudible* and I was wondering, do you listen to music often when you write, and how does music influence--

Brandon Sanderson

I do listen to music. I almost always am listening to music when I write, and I really like things like Pandora or the discover weekly playlist on Spotify, or things like this. Any time I can get something seeded with some unusual different disparate elements and discover some new music, that'll be good for me. A lot of soundtracks, Pink Floyd, a lot of Pink Floyd, <Tangerine Dream?>, stuff like electronica, like that works really well for me. What else, Daft Punk would be in that group as well. So, it's a mix between piano music, electronica and soundtracks, what you're going to see me writing to most of the time.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Mat_alThor

Just finished a trip to Zion and Bryce National Parks; did those parks and the surrounding area influence the Shattered Plains? Really felt like I should be looking for gemstones and watching out for chasmfiends while cayoneering.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they were a big influence. In college, one of my roommates (Micah Demoux, for whom I named Captain Demoux) was a photographer, and he took me on many nature photography trips in southern Utah. Roshar is a direct outgrowth of this.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
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Alyssum

So, Shadows for Silence... Threnody, or Hell at least, is based off of Judaism, right? And Shade sounds a lot like the Hebrew word for demon, Shedim. Is there a relation?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes... yes. But it's not an in-world reason, it's just in my brain, right?

Alyssum

Okay, so I was going to ask like... do they have chicken legs, which is how [Jewish demons are depicted]

Brandon Sanderson

No, they don't. But, you know, things like She’ol [Hebrew word, the Jewish interpetation of the afterlife in certain texts] and things like that, they're in the back of my head - mostly because of Stormlight. I would say, I hadn't thought about it before, but that's definitely an unconscious influence on me. But they do not have chicken legs.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
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Elise

I really loved the character Lightsong, he was my favorite and probably one of the most interesting characters I've ever read about. Did you have anyone in particular in mind when you came up with him? How did go about developing him as a character?

Brandon Sanderson

Rupert Everett was sitting in the back of my mind.

Actually, in order to develop Lightsong's character well, I didn't want to imitate any one voice. That's something we always stay away from. But I had been wanting to work on writing humor in a different way from what I'd previously used. I spent a lot of time watching and analyzing the movie THE THIN MAN, the old comedy/mystery/crime film with an emphasis on very witty characters making wisecracks as they investigate a murder. If you haven't seen it, it's delightful. Along with AN IDEAL HUSBAND and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, those were my three sources of inspiration. I was trying for a blend of those two styles—and then of course added my own sense of humor.