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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.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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kakarotoks

I've searched this subreddit for someone mentioning Jane Elliot before, but nobody has, so I decided to share this.

I was explaining Stormlight Archives to a friend yesterday when he told me that BS must have been influenced by Jane Elliot, so I researched her and found the wikipedia article about her.

This woman was a school teacher who decided to teach her class about racism the day after Martin Luther King's death by segregating the class between light eyed and dark eyed children. It's a very interesting exercise and I love how the darkeyed vs. lighteyed issue was actually experienced for real on this earth, not just in the SA books. You can read more about the experiment on the wikipedia page or in this article.

The coolest part of this is that the 3rd time Jane Elliot did that experiment, she filmed it and it was made into a documentary in 1970 with the title : The Eye of the Storm

I think it's a pretty cool coincidence (probably influence rather than coincidence) and I thought I'd share!

Brandon Sanderson

The study sounds familiar to me, so I'm sure I've read it before--but I can't remember if it was like this (in reference to the SA, which I'd already started working on) or if I read about it before, and it lodged in my brain as something to try some day.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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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.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Arkm21ebr

Are there any MtG planes that have had an influence on you and share some characteristics with any of the planets in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

It's hard to say how much influence MTG has had on me, since I started playing in high school--right around the time when I started writing. I don't ever remember seeing the connected shared worlds thing, and connecting it to the cosmere. (I see that as more directly influenced by Asimov and Stephen King connecting their books together) but it's totally possible that MTG was an unconscious influence.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
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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.

Firefight release party ()
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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.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
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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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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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.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
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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.

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.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Argent

Keeping it on Scadrial, the ranks within the Set are obviously inspired by either mathematics, or programming, or logic, or a related field. Can you talk about this motivation (either yours or the Set's) for this?

Brandon Sanderson

My motivation ties directly to the same reasons that we see mathematics playing out in behind-the-scenes ways on Roshar. This plays into the themes of the cosmere, the rule-based magic, and the fascination I have of the ties between art and mathematics. (See the Rithmatist, which was originally a cosmere novel.)

The Set's in-world reasonings are similar to this, though less self-aware.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Jared_A

Brandon, how do you feel your identity and upbringing as a Mormon has affected your work?

Elantris, for instance, centers around a magic system that has essentially been broken because something in the world has changed—a "new revelation" if you will. And then Mistborn has at its core a set of holy writings that have been altered by an evil force.

These things seem decidely Mormon to me, or at least informed from a Mormon perspective. Do you feel that is the case?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't set out to put anything specifically Mormon into my books, but who I am definitely influences what I write and how I write it. I'm always curious at the things people dig out of my writing—neither of the two points you mention above are things that I was conscious of, though they certainly do make interesting points now that you look at them.

My goal in storytelling is first and foremost to be true to the characters—their passions, beliefs, and goals. No matter what those are. I'm not trying to make a point consciously ever in my writing—though I do think that good stories should raise questions and make readers think.

Who I am as a person heavily influences what I write, and I draw from everything I can find—whether it be LDS, Buddhist, Islamic, or Atheist. It's all jumbled up there in that head of mine, and comes out in different characters who are seeking different things.

In other words, I'm not setting out to be like C.S. Lewis and write parables of belief. I'm trying more what Tolkien did (not, of course, meaning to compare myself favorably with the master) in that I tell story and setting first, and let theme and meaning take care of itself.

Fiction doesn't really exist—certainly doesn't have power—until it is read. You create the story in your head when you read it, and so your interpretations (and your pronunciations on the names) are completely valid in your telling of the story. The things you come up with may be things I noticed and did intentionally, they may be subconscious additions on my part, or they may simply be a result of your interaction with the text. But all three are valid.

Jared_A

On a different but related note, I really love that you honestly look at religious convictions in your books and that you don't portray such convictions in a shallow way.

Brandon Sanderson

Regardless of a person's beliefs, I think they would have to admit that religion and spirituality has played a large part in our development as a people. It's a very important thing to so many of us—and I also think that for most of us, our beliefs are nowhere near as simple as they seem when viewed from the outside. I appreciate your praise here, though I think I still have a lot to learn. There's a real line to walk in expressing a character's religious views without letting them sound preachy—the goal is to make the character real, but not bore the reader.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

Did serving your mission in Korea help you in, like, worldbuilding? Kind of give you-- get you out of your own mindset?

Brandon Sanderson

Getting out of an-- into another culture is the number one thing for helping me world build. And I still-- the linguistics of things I create are often influenced by Korea.

Firefight release party ()
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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.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

A lot of the magical methods you create in your novels carry with it the birth of nobility.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

And that reminds me a lot of the magic martial arts *audio unclear* Aside from the big influence of Dragonsbane and other novels on your fantasy novels have you drawn any other inspirations--

Brandon Sanderson

Oh yeah.

Questioner

--spiritually from Asian, Korean or Chinese *audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. The question is, have I drawn any inspirations from Eastern literature. Specifically he asked for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. *speaks Korean* I lived in Korea for two years and I speak Korean. Mormon missionary, right? So I speak Korean, I actually do have a Korean minor. And even before that, Hong Kong kung-fu movies. OH YEAH. *laughter* I love Hong Kong movies particularly-- You know the modern stuff is really beautiful, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero or House of Flying Daggers and stuff like that, but even the old stuff, it's a little bit silly. Yeah, I just ate that stuff up. Jackie Chan. You can't go wrong with Jackie Chan, right? But even the stuff that's just a little ridiculous I love. It's just-- It's cool. There's something about it. So there's that. You're also going to find echoes of RPGs I've played, obviously. I mean I've worked hard because I don't want my books to feel like a video game. But I grew up playing video games, right? That's one of my major influences. Steelheart's going to feel like a comic book, right? And some of my books are going to feel like that. It's a part of who I am, it's part of my geek upbringing, right? So yeah, definitely. There's a lot of-- now that I have become a writer through my twenties there's a lot of different influences. The Alethi are based slightly on the Mongolians specifically-- But there's no horses, which let's me divorce it a little bit. People always expect Mongolians to be a nomadic horse people but you just don't have enough horses. If you guys have studied Subutai, if you know him, a Mongolian general, I based Dalinar a little bit on Subutai. But then you are mixing in Hebrew influences and Arab influences. That's kind of my mash-up that's creating the Alethi. And so yeah,you are going to find all kinds of weird things. Art of War is of course a big influence on how I approach warfare and things. So yes, yes, it's there.

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.

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.

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.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

I'm curious to know if there are any books-- any stories or scripture in the Book of Mormon that have particularly inspired your writing, that you like.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yeah, King Benjamin's speech is the thing that I can point to most specifically as influencing me on my views of leadership, specifically in The Stormlight Archive.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

What kind of metal influences were you going for?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

...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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

What's the character's name?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

The main character's name is Jack Solomon.

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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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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.

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

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

So what give books do you think helped you understand leadership the best?

Brandon Sanderson

Well Art of War is definitely part of that. I would say that The Prince is important for understanding leadership, even though I don't agree with every point he's making. By the way he is not as-- Even though it is Machiavelli writing it, he is not as machiavellian as we think he is in that book… So The Prince--  Hmmm, a lot of Plato surprisingly, is where I pull some of my ideas. King Benjamin's speech from the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah, if you haven't read that, is definitely part of it. Ummm... What else--

Questioner

Like where do you get your-- because you obviously have experience because that's how leadership works.

Brandon Sanderson

It is interviews, it is personal experience, it is talking to my friends who are in the military and asking them "Does this sound right? Does this feel right? Tell me what it feels like to obey. Tell me what it feels like to be in command." And things like that. Just lots of practice and interviews and things is where most of it is coming from.

Questioner

So it’s less like personal experience and more you're really good at researching it.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, a writer has to be able to do that because for a book like this the amount of psychology and medicine, battlefield tactics, leadership, and all these other things you need to know, you can't know them all. You can't do them all personally. You've got to be able to experience it, you've got to be able to write it as best as you can, and then go to experts. Like the medicine in this I went to a field surgeon and I said "Will you read over my Kaladin scenes and tell me where I'm going wrong." Like I was able to get myself 80% of the way there with research and then the 20% is me going to an expert and saying "Tell me what I'm doing wrong."

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.

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.

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

Do you see Robert Jordan’s characters coming out in your writing?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No. That may happen unconsciously, but my goal is not to have that happen, because I want to tell different stories. It would be like if Kelsier started coming out in Dalinar. It's just not something we want to have happen as a writer. We want everyone to be their own individual.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#32 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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#33 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Priests as Scapegoats

I do think that someone being a different religion from yourself makes them a good scapegoat. We tend to be put off by anyone who is too devout toward religion, even if their passion for it mimics our own passion for something we are dedicated to. It's easy to divide ourselves along religious lines.

Once again, I think I need to mention that I didn't write this comment (or the ones about not judging) into the book as an intentional message. It just seemed appropriate for the characters to say or consider, and I happen to agree with them. What I think is important influences the book. How can it help but do otherwise?

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.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#36 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.

Elantris Annotations ()
#37 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

You should notice the comments about unity popping up in religious scenes throughout the book. Omin spoke of it before, and Hrathen often thinks–or mentions–the concept. When designing the religions of this book, I really wanted them to feel authentic. If you look at our own world, one thing is obvious (I think) about the way major religions work. They always fragmented–different sects of the same teachings often rise up and squabble with each other. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity share obvious links. In a similar way, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other eastern religions share some common roots.

So, in designing the Korathi and Derethi churches, I decided to give them a common ancestor–Shu-Keseg. All three religions came from the teachings of a single Jindoeese man. (You might note that the word "Shu," as used in connection with Shu-Korath and Shu-Dereth, doesn't seem to fit the linguistic styles of Aonic or Fjordell. This is an intentional reference to the Jindoeese commonality of their origin.)

The central tenet of Keseg's teachings was unity, and his followers began to squabble about what he meant by "Unity." Hence we have the loving, inclusive Korathi; the aggressive, expansionist Derethi; and the contemplative, didactic Jindoeese.

Of course, Jesker and the Mysteries are a completely different religious line. We'll get more into them later. . . .

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
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Jeanne

You write such wonderful, believable female heroines, who are your role models and influences?

Brandon Sanderson

Writing believable female heroines—I should probably back up and point out that I wasn't always good at this. In fact, in the first few books I wrote before ELANTRIS I was terrible at it. That disconcerted me because it was something I wanted to make a strength in my writing. This is partially due to the fact that so many of my favorite fantasy novels growing up, when I first discovered fantasy, were from female writers with really strong female protagonists. So there was a piece of my mind that said having strong female protagonists is a big part of fantasy. I don't know how common that viewpoint is, but because those were the people whose books I read—writers like Anne McCaffrey, Melanie Rawn, and Barbara Hambly—I wanted to be able to do that in my own fiction. Even beyond that you want every character you write to be believable, and it's been a habitual problem of men writing women and women writing men that we just can't quite get it right, so I knew it was going to be something I'd have to work hard at.

I took inspiration from women I know, starting with my mother, who graduated top of her class in accounting in an era where she was the only woman in her accounting program. She has always been a strong influence on me. I also have two younger sisters who were a lot of help, but there were several friends in particular who gave me direct assistance. Annie Gorringe (who was a good friend when I was an undergraduate—and still is) and Janci Patterson were people I sat down to interview and talk to in my quest to be able to write female characters who didn't suck. I would say specifically that Sarene from ELANTRIS has a lot of Annie in her, and Vin from MISTBORN has a lot of Janci in her. In WARBREAKER, Siri and Vivenna don't really have specific influences but are the result of so much time working at writing female characters that it's something I'm now comfortable with. (Their personalities arose out of what I wanted to do with their story, which was my take on the classic tale of sisters whose roles get reversed.) It's very gratifying to hear that readers like my female characters and that the time I spent learning to write them has paid off.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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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.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
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DrogaKrolow

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

DrogaKrolow

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Words of Radiance Washington, DC signing ()
#41 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.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#42 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I'll be reading to you from one of the interludes, which are interesting things to write.

So if you haven't read Stormlight-- Epic fantasy has this sort of problem, right? I love epic fantasy. I grew up reading epic fantasy. It's my first love of genres. And I have an advantage over some of the people writing epic fantasy in that, like you know, [George R. R. Martin and Robert Jordan], in that I've read [George Martin and Robert Jordan], and they don't have that advantage... Robert Jordan couldn't read Robert Jordan and necessarily had to write the stories, and I feel like at-- when I sat down to approach Stormlight Archive, which I kind of want to be my big epic, right? Hopefully I don't do anything bigger than this... *laughter* 520,000 words long. The writers in the crowd-- Yeah, 520 is pretty long. It's a quarter longer than Words of Radiance was. I am trimming it in my fifth revision. That's where I normally trim. So maybe we'll get it down to like 470 or 450 or something. But at 540... *inaudible* wants to go up. So I looked at these epic fantasy books that had come out before it-- series-- and I said, "What can I learn from them? How can I prevent myself from following in some of the same problems?" And I noticed that a lot of these big epic fantasies have this issue, kind of mid-series, where the side characters kind of take over the story, and the story deviates from its focus on to a side character focus for a while. It seems to happen very commonly. And as a writer my instincts said what's happening is the writer is wanting to show the expansiveness of the world, which is one of the big things we try to do in epic fantasy, right? They're trying to show the breadth of it, and they do this by adding characters from lots of different walks of life and different parts of the world. Which is a good instinct, right? It's gonna give you that sense of size and scale to the epic fantasy. But what happens is you kind of promise them these side stories will have their resolutions, and as you're pushing kind of towards the ending of your series you realize, "I need to tie in all these side characters." And so you end up with these books that are really focused on side characters, wrapping up their stories, and it feels like it creates a speed bump in the series. And so I said, "Well what can I do with like the format of my books that will mitigate this? Is there something I can do?" So I was kind of-- I'm a big fan of...

My thought was, I would write the books and I would find natural breakpoints inside of each book where it wouldn't feel like as much of a speed bump to kind of go off to somewhere else. Like, one of the problems with like some of these side stories would be like you're really into one of the main characters' stories and then it's like, "And then here's viewpoint from random person that you don't care about," right? Which you do care about! Some of the side characters in Wheel of Time were some of my favorite. But it's just that momentum you've got on the main characters, and then it feels like it's a break, we don't see them forever. So I try to find natural break points, that I would then insert completely random things from around the world, but I would only give myself, like, two of those per break and then I have to be done. And you know-- this forcing myself in this format with the interludes I felt like allowed-- would allow the reader to be able to know what's coming, so that, you know, if you can anticipate-- if you're like, "Alright, we have our break now. We can go to the side characters. Really enjoy them. Get to see the breadth of the world," And then we can come back to the main story and know that it's coming back very quickly. And also know that these side characters aren't going to take over the story. That there's only going to be this space for them. And you also kind of know-- for those -- I do know some people who read an entire Stormlight Archive book and then go back and read the interludes, as if they-- They're basically a short story collection in the world of Roshar. Now, skipping them is dangerous because I usually use the interludes for one important character. And each interlude has one really relevant character for each book. So in the first one, Szeth has interludes, right? And he's a very relevant character. And in this one-- well you'll see who it is in this one.

But I also like doing readings from the interludes because reading the interludes don't spoil the book nearly as much for those who haven't read the first ones, or things like that.

Sasquan 2015 ()
#44 Copy

Questioner

The entire time I was reading through The Rithmatist I couldn't help but think it was inspired by Fullmetal Alchemist and Tor recently posted something on Facebook comparing a lot of your works to Final Fantasy, so I was just wondering how much video games and anime you *audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

Good question, I've played all of the Final Fantasies, I have never watched Fullmetal Alchemist *crowd goes woah* ...I know... *crowd laughs* Peter, he worked for TokyoPop, he was a manga editor and so he is very proficient in his anime and manga and he's told me Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is my must-watch sort of thing. I've never seen it, but it sounds like they are doing the sort of stuff I like, so I need to make sure I do that. But I have played all the Final Fantasies. I mean, I've been a gamer for forever. My fun story about this, and we might have to end here is, when I was 11 my dad sent me out on an airplane to visit my uncle for the first time I've been away from my family on my own, I was so excited. He handed me two hundred dollars, like "Pay for your food, don't let them pay for anything. This is so you can pay for your keep." And so then every time we went out for food or something my uncle insisted on paying for everything, he wouldn't take my money. I'm a little eleven-year-old I can't get him to take the money. So at the end I'm like "My dad is going to kill me. What do I do with this two hundred dollars?" He took me to the mall and said, "Alright! Find something to do with your two hundred dollars." *laughter* That's where I got my Nintendo. *more laughter* This was, what '86? Or something like that. I got my original Nintendo Entertainment System which when I-- No, I sold that and bought a Super Nintendo, my brother sold that and bought himself a Playstation. We sold each system to pay for the next one, so in my brother's PS4 there's a little bit of my original Nintendo.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

I was wondering what made you so interested in the super rules-based magic system. Because you're probably one of the best at that, and in every different universe you manage to create a complete unique set of rules-based magic and they're all completely unique.

Brandon Sanderson

So there's a panel on magic tomorrow, so I hope I don't repeat myself too much. But the whole rule-based magic thing came about mostly because I was looking for holes in the market, right? Like, things people weren't doing that I wish they were doing. I often say to new writers, "Find the books that nobody's writing, that you want to read, and try to write those." That sounds-- I mean, that's just very vague. I don't know how useful that is, but that's kind of what I was doing.

But at the same time I like-- there are lots of soft magic systems I like. Uprooted which came out a couple years ago. It's a really great book with a very soft magic system. So it's not like I feel like magic has to be done this way. But I found something I was good at, that I didn't think people were doing enough of, that I felt like people would want to read, and so that kind of became my thing even before I published. Like when I was writing my books only for my fri-- I wrote thirteen before I sold one, if you guys know about that-- And so when I was writing those books it was, "What weird setting is Brandon going to do?" Because fantasy through the 80s and 90s-- I mean, there's lots of great writers. I love them. But I felt like they were really safe with their settings, and they didn't-- they explored other directions really well. But it-- we had a lot of these kind of faux-Medieval, elemental-base magic systems, and cultures that were very "England, but not England." And I'm like, "Well, fantasy should be the most imaginative genre. Where can we push it? Where-- what different things can we do?" And so I tried that during those years. The magic systems kind of grew out of that. Like, "What are people not doing?"

I will say there are some people who have done it even in the past. Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner books. I've really liked those. Those kind of have-- it's not scientific, but it's rule-based, which is kind of-- are two different things. Being consistent is one thing, and then trying-- like I try to play off of physics and make it feel like it's playing off of physics when it's really not, because I'm a fantasy writer, right? Like.--

Questioner

In Mistborn it's pretty physics.

Brandon Sanderson

Pretty physics-- But even in Mistborn, right like if you-- the time bubbles-- speed bubbles. Like I have to fudge some things. Like I spoke with my assistants, like, "Alright, what would happen if we build these?" And we're like, "Well first thing would happen is that it would change the wavelengths of light and irradiate people." You know, like this sort of thing. We're like-- we just have to make a rule that it doesn't irradiate people. You can't just take a flashlight and melt people. Yes, you just have to come up with some-- And so for me, a lot of the big difference, I say, between a fantasy writer and a science fiction writer is, the science fiction writer is forward-- each step trying to be plausible-- and the fantasy writer a lot of times drafts it backward. "Here's a cool effect. Can I explain this in a way that makes it feel like it's real and logical?" But I'm working backward from the fact, not forward from what's happening here.

MisCon 2018 ()
#47 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#49 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

What happened to Rand? He's not dead?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

Pipe?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

All of it? That was so epic.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I had a lot of fun with that scene.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

...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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Warsaw signing ()
#50 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.