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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#2 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.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
#3 Copy

fastlindyrick

I've seen you comment on other Cosmere-based conceptual discussions and fan art around reddit. How much does fandom influence your ideas of how things should look?

Ben McSweeney

When a fan really nails it, I think it can most certainly have an influence.

That being said, I firmly believe that the text comes first and foremost... I can't illustrate something that conflicts with Brandon's descriptions and expect it to be taken as canon, and a fan can render the most beautiful art imaginable but it won't stick in my head if they contradict the text.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#4 Copy

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.

Elantris Annotations ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The scene where the children talk about art is one I nearly cut from the book on a couple of different occasions. I worry that this is one of the scenes that contributes overly-much to the "Kiin's family is out of place" feeling that people occasionally get. In addition, I worry that I made Kaise too intelligent here. Three things make me retain the scene. First, I think it's kind of amusing. The second is a spoiler, so I won't say much on it—just let it suffice that I wanted to give Kaise and Daorn some good characterization.

For you spoiler readers, those two would be the main characters of any sequel I wrote to Elantris. I'd set the book about ten years after the ending of this one.

The third reason for retaining the scene is because I put it in, in the first place, quite intentionally. Kaise, and to a lesser extent Daorn, are a small reaction against Ender's Game. When I read that book, and some of Scott's other works (which, by the way, I think are all brilliant) I got to wondering if children who were as smart as his really would act the way they do in his books. Not to disagree with one of the greatest sf minds of our time, but I wanted to take a different spin on the "clever child" idea. So, I presented these children as being extremely intelligent, but also extremely immature with that intelligence. I'm not convinced that IQ brings maturity with it, and think there's only so much "adult" you can have in a kid. So, I put in Kaise and Daorn to let me play with this idea a little bit in Elantris.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

So is this [interludes] your way of kind of introducing more world details, worldbuilding--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. This is a way of me introducing more worldbuilding. Because-- See, one of the differences between myself and the previous generation of epic fantasy writers is I tend to be very-- I tend to stick with one location, alright? The generation before me-- and I love these books, but the generation before me-- the Tad Williams, the Robert Jordan, and things like this-- tended to be quest epic fantasy. You'd go one place-- It's kind of following the grand Tolkien tradition. "We gotta get over there. We're either chasing somebody or being chased by somebody." Right? And you then travel across a varied landscape, meet lots of interesting people on your way to the place. Well I don't like to do that. I think it's partially because I grew up reading those. I'm like-- Those authors covered that really well. Or maybe it's just my natural inclinations. I write a little more Anne McCaffrey style, right? She would pick a really interesting location and spend a lot of time on it. And that's what I like to do as well. So you don't get to travel as much in my books. A lot of times in my books it's like, "We're traveling!" Chapter 1: "We're going to go on this trip!" Chapter 2: "Hey, we're there!" We cut out the, you know, the boring stuff in the middle, and we go to an interesting location. And I really like to dig into this interesting location. It let's me as an author really explore various parts of the setting. But what that does is it means you don't get as much of the breadth. Like when you have to traipse with Frodo and Sam all the way across Middle-earth, you feel how big Middle-earth is. And you don't get that in Mistborn, where it's like, "We're going to stay in the city!" and things like this. And so, in Roshar, being able to say, "Here's what's happening across the world in a different culture," is really valuable to me in the interludes. But I also know that some people just don't want to read that, and I wanted to give them a clue that this is the scene that you can skip and read later if you just want to get back to the main character.

Stuttgart signing ()
#10 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

The map of Kholinar looks like a lion's head. Is that an allusion to Caemlyn?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It was not a conscious decision to make it look like Caemlyn. The city shapes are based on cymatic patterns that have deep-rooted origins in the history of Roshar. I may make a lot of unconscious allusions, but something like the Misted Mountains are a conscious reference.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#11 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.

ICon 2019 ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

Is Hoid named after the Sephira of Hod? Like with an Ashkenazi pronunciation? The Kabbalistic thing.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, the Kabbalistic thing. Not consciously, though the Double Eye is based a little bit on the Kabbalah tree of life, consciously. That's the illustration on the front cover of the first Stormlight book. And I have read a bunch of Kabbalah, so it's totally possible that it ended up in there on accident.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#13 Copy

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.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#14 Copy

Questioner

I know you've been asked several times about other authors that have influenced your work, but are there people in other lines of work, other medias, that you deliberately learn from? And if so, who?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. So, I do really like film. I love films that, like-- one of my favorite films of all time is Gattaca. And I really like films that do interesting things with narrative, like parallel narrative between characters and stuff like that. I like films are trying, even if they fail, to do really interesting things. Like, Interstellar; I really liked Interstellar. Interstellar is a hugely flawed movie, but it's, like, so ambitious and interesting. And I like it when movies do that. So, I do study a lot of films. I like movies that have good structure. I love the original Star Wars trilogy for its structure. It teaches you so much about structure that Lucas apparently didn't learn. He learned other things; Lucas had really big dreams and great ideas and I really liked that he-- Even in the prequels, I liked that he told us a consistent narrative across three. I like doing that.

Watchmen was really influential on me, as like basically everyone who's read it. Watchmen was influential. And some other graphic novels. I loved Kingdom Come when I first read it back in the 90s or whenever it was. The roommate gave me that, and I'm like, "Wow, these do different things with the medium that I--" Yeah

I read a lot of webcomics, also. I don't know how much influence they have over me. But Dr. McNinja, until it ended, was my jam. But I would list those. Films, and the occasional really powerful graphic novel that have influenced me a lot.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#16 Copy

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.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

First and foremost, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us!

You are an established (and highly respected and loved) author of adult fantasy (we are huge fans of your Mistborn books, The Way of Kings, and Warbreaker—excuse us while we fangirl a little bit). The Rithmatist, however, is a young adult title—what made you want to get into the YA space? Do you read YA fantasy novels?

Brandon Sanderson

First off, thank you very much! I really appreciate the fangirling. I do read quite a bit of YA fiction. In fact, during the era when I was trying to break into publishing—the late 90s and early 2000s—a lot of the really exciting things in sci-fi and fantasy were happening in YA and middle grade. Garth Nix, J.K. Rowling, Dianna Wynne Jones and others created some wonderfully imaginative writing during this time.

I dipped my toes into middle grade with my Alcatraz series soon after I got published. I hadn't written a YA before, but I wanted to—for the same reason I write epic fantasy: there are awesome things I can do in in epic fantasy that I can't do in other genres. And there are awesome things I can do in teen fiction that I don't feel I can get away with in the same way in adult fiction.

Science fiction and fantasy have a very fascinating connection with YA fiction. If you look at some of the series I loved as a youth—the Wheel of Time, Shannara, and the Eddings books, for example—these have enormous teen crossover. In fact, when you get to something like the Eddings books, you've got to wonder if they would've been shelved in the teen section in a later era.

Back up even further to the juveniles that were written by Heinlein and others, and we see that teen fiction has been an integral part of science fiction and fantasy. Some of the early fantasy writings—things like Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and C.S. Lewis's works—were foundational in how the fantasy genre came to be.

So YA feels like a very natural thing for me to be writing because I enjoy it and I respect what it has done for the genres.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#18 Copy

Questioner

In terms of books that you wish you could have written yourself?

Brandon Sanderson

I read a lot of things for pleasure. I think I need to stay up on what everyone else is doing. As a teen, my favorite writers were Anne McCaffrey, Melanie Rawn, Barbara Hambly, Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, it would probably be. David Eddings too. I grew out of David Eddings, happens when you get into your twenties, but during my teens he was the bomb. Do kids still say that, the bomb? I'll have to figure out what they're saying now. Nowadays I read Pat Rothfuss, I really like Pat, I really really like Naomi Novik's Uprooted, if you guys didn't read that this summer it's a fantastic novel. I like Brent Weeks' work a lot, Brian McClellan's, Nora Jemisin, you guys read NK Jemisin? She writes very literary fantasy; if you're an English major and you like that kind of stuff, which I do, it's amazing. Her most recent one has a character who writes in the second person, and it works. It's the first time I ever read a book where the second person, which is you do this, you do that, it actually works, it works really well. The second person past tense, so you did this, you did-- it's a person telling themselves a story so it actually, it really works. The Fifth Season. So, yeah, I read a lot of stuff.

Warsaw signing ()
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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.

YouTube Livestream 14 ()
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Bayin

How much research into philosophical work do you do before each book? And what inspired to use thesein particular: Kantian deontology for the Knights Radiant, consequentialism for the Alethi and Taravangian, and secular morality for Jasnah?

Brandon Sanderson

Why did I choose the ones that I did? I really like when stories are not just a conflict of personality; they are a conflict between ideologies and ways of viewing the world which are all valid ways of viewing the world. When I put Taravangian and Dalinar into conflict with each other, it's because they are both looking at life in a different way. And I'm kind of reaching to different philosophical bases for those. And I will butcher it if I try to use the actual terminologies, because I am not a philosophy major.

Why did I take what I did? They matched the characters. And they matched what I'm trying to explore, without trying to give you the answers; trying to explore theme in stories. And I just love doing that. It's what makes me excited about writing characters.

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.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#23 Copy

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.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#24 Copy

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.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#26 Copy

Questioner

I was intrigued ever since I saw your State of the Sanderson about Death Without Pizza.

Brandon Sanderson

It's good. I'm one chapter, or no I guess it's like three chapters. I'm one day's work away from finishing my revision, to then kick it back to Peter [Orullian]. I'm really, really excited how it's turning out. He knows his metal culture really well, and one of the tricks has been integrating that without making it feel jokey and things like that. I'm very pleased with how it's going.

Questioner

What kind of metal influences were you going for?

Brandon Sanderson

...Peter really likes the lyrical metal like that, like Dreamtheater. I don't know my subgenres very well, but Apocalyptica gets a mention, that's one I knew, Dragonforce gets a mention, I knew them. But I guess Dragonforce is the same subgenre. My job is worldbuilding and plot, and his job is character voice and making sure all of that works. I'm fascinated by it all.

Questioner

So is he more in the editing process, or is he an official co-writer?

Brandon Sanderson

He's a co-writer! I came up with the plot and the worldbuilding, I sent it to him, he wrote the whole first draft. Now I'm doing the next draft and then I'm kicking it back to him to do another pass and make sure the voice still matches, and then we'll take it out to publishers.

Questioner

What's the character's name?

Brandon Sanderson

The main character's name is Jack Solomon.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#27 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.

Firefight release party ()
#28 Copy

Questioner

I know you went on mission in Korea, as did I, did anything come from that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, quite a number of things have been influenced by it. I'd say the biggest influence is Elantris, the writing system is based on the idea of Korean and Chinese mixed together. But Asian philosophy, like the kami and things like that are also common in Korea, that belief that everything has a soul. So yeah it's had a huge influence on me, just the way I worldbuild-- I mean just the fact, I don't know if you've read The Way of Kings… I don't know if you know but everyone's Asian, right? Like Szeth, the white dude, is the one that looks weird them. And that's just because-- It was partially influenced by that.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

You've been pretty open about Dalinar being somewhat based off of Genghis Khan.

Brandon Sanderson

Subutai more than Genghis Khan, but yeah.

Questioner

Is Kaladin based off of George Washington?

Brandon Sanderson

Not intentionally. But I can see the parallels as you bring them out. Kaladin was partially based on my reading about... People who have won the Medal of Honor share an interesting characteristic. A strangely statistically high number of them are older brothers. Eldest brothers. Eldest sons. Same with astronauts. And it is that protective instinct that, as an older sibling, you learn, but it can backfire on you as well for various reasons. Kaladin, I was reading a lot about that, so you've got this whole eldest brother superhero complex thing going on.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
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JHWOLFSTAR

I was wondering if you had any certain inspiration for Adonalsium, Hoid, and the Cosmere other than the concept of a Creation story itself. To clarify, I guess I'm asking if you had any other author you read as an aspiring author that did anything similar.

Brandon Sanderson

There are certainly authors who have done this sort of thing before. I generally tend to react against what inspires me instead of toward it. I've talked about this before—if I think someone does a very good job with something, I'll try to approach it from a different direction because I figure they've covered that concept. At other times, if an author does something that I thought could have been way cooler, then I will react I guess in that direction...I don't know if that's a reaction for or against.

Asimov eventually had an overarching plot/universe. Stephen King did it. Other authors have done it, but they have not planned it from the beginning. As well as Asimov did with some of the concepts, I was always disappointed in his attempts to bring all of his stories together into one world because it just wasn't meant to be that way, and it felt like that. It felt clunky—I've always preferred the early robot stories and the early Foundation books to the later ones.

So I felt that if I was going to have a supermyth, so to speak—an overarching paradigm for these books—it would have to have a number of things. One, it would have to be limited in scope, meaning I wasn't going to try to cram everything into it. That's why ALCATRAZ is not involved in any of this. Number two, I would have to plan it from the beginning, and number three, I would want it to be subtle. In other words, I don't want it to come to dominate any of the stories because I want the books, the series, to stand on their own. I want this to be something that you can find if you're searching, but that will never pull the characters of a given book away from the focus on what is important to them.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#31 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.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#33 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.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

So Kaladin, he has a lot of Christ-like qualities being the who protects those who can't protect themselves. When you were writing the character of Kaladin did you ever make a conscious decision to make him a Christ figure or--

Brandon Sanderson

The question is... Kaladin has some Christ-figure feel to him, was that intentional when I was writing the character. Actually it wasn't, there's nothing really intentional about that allusion.  But I can definitely see it. Being Christian myself a lot of what I find heroic is related to my faith. But I very rarely do conscious things like that, mostly-- This is for English majors, "I bet he got it from here" and things like that. So it was not intentional but I can totally see where you are making that connection.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#36 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Lightsong Listens to the Priests Discuss War

Is this an antiwar novel? I'm not sure, honestly. I didn't sit down to write one, certainly. I rarely try to interject messages into my books, though sometimes they worm their way in. (The Alcatraz books are particularly bad about this.)

A war here would be a bad thing. Idris and Hallandren shouldn't be involved in trying to kill one another. But am I, myself, antiwar? Again, I don't know how to answer that.

Is anyone prowar? War is a terrible, terrible thing. Sometimes it's necessary, but that doesn't make it any less terrible. I'm no great political thinker. In fact, being a novelist has made me very bad at talking about political topics. Because I spend so much time in the heads of so many different characters, I often find myself sympathizing with wildly different philosophies. I like to be able to see how a person thinks and why they believe as they do.

I didn't mean this to be a book about the Iraq war—not at all. But war is what a lot of people are talking about, and I think it's wise to be cautionary. War should never be entered into lightly. If you ask me if the Iraq war was a good idea, you'll probably find me on both sides of the argument. (Though I certainly don't like a lot of aspects about it, particularly how we entered it.)

Regardless, this isn't a book about anything specific. It's a story, a story told about characters. It's about what they feel, what they think, and how their world changes who they are.

As a very, very wise man once said, "I don't mind if my books raise questions. In fact, I like it. But I never want to give you the answers. Those are yours to decide." —Robert Jordan. (FYI, that's not quoted exactly. I can't even quote myself exactly, let alone other people.)

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
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belerax

Brotherhood (or siblinghood) seems to be an important relationship theme in Stormlight (Kaladin and Tien, Dalinar and Gavilar, Adolin and Renarin, Shallan and her many brothers, Jasnah and Elhokar - although we haven't seen much of these two together) and perhaps in other Cosmere books too (Vin and Reen, Marsh and Kelsier, Eventeo and Kiin). I was wondering where this theme came from - do you have siblings yourself? Are there other relationships in your life you've used to inspire relationships in your books?

Brandon Sanderson

I have three siblings, and my relationship with them is important to me. I also think that books sometimes ignore family, in the name of making a character feel more isolated. While I have used that on occasion, I don't want it to be the norm. I find family too interesting, and important to most real people, to do otherwise.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#39 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Pretends to Be Crazy, Approaches the Guards

This line about gods attracting the unhinged comes a little bit from personal experience. Many of you may know that in the LDS church, we often serve missions during the early part of our twenties or our late teens. I did this, moving to Korea for two years and doing service, teaching about the church, and generally having a blast living among and learning from another culture.

One thing I learned, however, is that when you're associated with anything religious in a formal way like that, you tend to attract people of . . . interesting inclinations. I got to listen to a surprising number of people who weren't all there tell me about things they'd seen or decided upon. (And note, this isn't me trying to make fun of other religions or other beliefs—I, of course, got to speak with a lot of people who believed differently from myself. No, in this case, I'm referring to the mentally challenged people who—for whatever reason—liked to search out missionaries and talk to them.)

It was a lot of fun, don't get me wrong. But it was also weird.

Anyway, I would assume these guards are accustomed to dealing with the unbalanced. Though entry into the Court of Gods is restricted, it's hardly impossible to get in. With the lottery, and with the numbers of performers and artists coming into the place every day, you can sneak in without too much difficulty. At least up until what happens this night, after which things become a lot more strict.

I imagine that Mercystar, somewhat vain though she is, intentionally hired men to be her guards who were of a kindly disposition. She's a good woman, if a bit of a drama queen. In my mind, most of the people working in the Court of Gods are generally good people. But perhaps that's my personal bias that religion—when it's not being manipulated and used for terrible purposes—does wonderful things for people.

EuroCon 2016 ()
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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.

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.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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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.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Questioner

I have a question about the epilogue in The Way of Kings. You have Wit give this interesting, kind of philosophical-- sermon-thing on novelty. I wonder, what do you think about what he's saying, do you--

Brandon Sanderson

Usually those little things that Wit will do, he does one at the end of each book, are things I've thought about. I don't always one hundred percent agree with Wit. He tends to hyperbolize in order to make a point, but I do think it's really interesting that novelty is so important to us. Even if you did something independently, but come up with it after someone else, then it's not considered as great an art, right? Which is really, really, really interesting if you think about it. And I love that idea, and I like talking about that sort of thing, so these-- All of Wit's little monologues--there's one, like I've said, at the end of each book--is something I think about, but he goes off in his own direction sometimes.

Questioner

I've used that little monologue in some philosophy class that I've in, such as philosophy of art.  

Brandon Sanderson

I did take a-- I took a lot of philosophy classes, if you can't tell, during my undergraduate years. I was quite fond of philosophy. Though the philosophers were all really needed to learn how to write. Man, those guys just, I mean, paragraphs like this that don't really even say anything. I love the ideas, but man, they could use editors. But, yeah, I enjoyed my philosophy classes, and I really liked philosophy of art in particular, it's very interesting to me. The whole Oscar Wilde's intro to Dorian Gray is my favorite speech on art, that all art is, by necessity, useless. Stuff like that really, really gets me going.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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Questioner

As an English teacher, what inspired you to be a fantasy writer?

Brandon Sanderson

I was inspired by the book Dragonsbane which was given to me by an eighth-grade English teacher at Lincoln East High School, who was convinced I was reading below my level and felt I needed to be stepping up my game a little bit. And she took me to the back of the room and had me browse on her little shelf of books that she'd read, that she'd recommend to me. And that book worked for me.  It probably shouldn't have - it's about a middle-aged woman having a midlife crisis - but I loved it.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

Do you purposefully take ideas from the Book of Mormon and turn them inside out, on their head, so no one knows where you got the ideas from? Like when you have Kelsier saying, in this moment, and he defeats the Lord Ruler, just in Ruler's capital city, and like how in the Book of Mormon when the La-āmanites, besieged Zaraellmə-ī, because no one else can see it coming?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I don't intentionally take, usually, from the Book of Mormon. There's a lot of unconscious things coming out. The only thing you can say is that I based The Way of Kings a little bit on King Benjamin's speech.

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.

YouTube Livestream 31 ()
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animalia555

There seems to be a lot of influence from Taoism/Daoism in Mistborn. Is this deliberate?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it is. I really like philosophy. I really like world philosophy. I really like religion. I really like the intersections between religion and philosophy that you get in Taoism. These sorts of things you'll see popping up all over the place. It is kind of interesting, because a lot of the cultures of Mistborn are more European-influenced, but a lot of the philosophy is a little more Taoist. But in Stormlight, a lot of the cultures are a little bit more Asian-influenced, but the philosophy that's popping up is a little bit more European, a lot of the time. And that's just because it matched the narratives and what the characters, I thought, would actually be interested in talking about. Though there is the whole Shintoism influence on the worldbuilding of Stormlight, as well. Anyway, yes there is definitely some Taosim sneaking around thorough Mistborn, and that is intentional.