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Travis Gafford Interview ()
#1 Copy

Mark Zimmerman

One of the things I'm most excited about with this book [Rhythm of War] has been what you described as being a foundational scene that you got to write that you've been thinking of forever. In the Cosmere and in your writing, has there been anything that you've done on that level? You have huge reveals and awesome scenes all over the place, but has there been one that's been cooking for so long and then you finally got to put it on the page? Or is this the first time you got to do that?

Brandon Sanderson

No, the first one of these was Kaladin taking the Shardblade at the end of Words of Radiance. That was the first really big one that I had been planning for a long time. Even stretches back to some things in Way of Kings Prime that I never got to write, because I never wrote the second book of that series. So that is one of those moments that just have been planned forever.

Most of these are Stormlight or Dragonsteel. Because Mistborn did not have as long of a cooking phase. So while there's cool moments in it, it's not like I spent ten years planning them. I spent, like, two years planning them. And so the ones for... there's one in Words of Radiance, there's one in this book, and there's one at the end of Book Five. (And there's one in Book Ten, also, but there's a bunch of them in Stormlight, the back five.) In the first five, we've got one in this book. (You'll know when you get to it. I think you'll know when you get to it.) And there's one in the next book that I first thought of and tried playing with an outline of... boy, it was, like, '98 or '99, before I even started Prime. After Five, we'll have a lot to talk about about that moment. But you'll find one in this book.

YouTube Livestream 16 ()
#2 Copy


How much artistic license did Michael [Whelan] have when designing the cover [of Rhythm of War] and what your process is when working with him to get the cover vision that you're going for?

Brandon Sanderson

Our preference is to give artists a lot of leeway for personal interpretation. I, personally, believe any piece of fan-art or official art is that artist's vision of what they saw in their head when they were reading the book. And that's going to differ greatly from what someone else would see, and I like seeing those interpretations. I like seeing those visions. So we try to give quite a bit of leeway and flexibility to the artist.

For instance, Michael (being the consummate professional he is) sent, like, ten sketches of possibilities. And we had ones we liked the most, and fortunately they were the same ones that he liked the most. But mostly, we say, "These are all great. Which one do you enjoy? Which one are you most excited to paint?" And we move that direction most of the time. Isaac will usually have continuity comments, and we want to make sure that things are in continuity, but we give a lot of freedom to the artists. We don't really want to chain them down. We want art to inspire art.

And so, because of that, people look different in some of our official interpretations. And I think that's okay, because that's how artwork goes. We're not trying to match a really exacting style guide on the characters, usually. And that lets us have the cover art for the UK cover look very different from the covert art form the US cover, and even have different interpretations on the characters in different ways. We'll catch the big things. We'll say "put a glove on her" if there's a scandalous hand exposed. We'll say "this is what the patch looks like that should be on Kaladin's shoulder." Stuff like that, we will do, but we try to give a lot of freedom.

I really like this cover. This is my favorite of his covers since the first one.

Rhythm of War Preview Q&As ()
#3 Copy


So the whole book [Rhythm of war] is a Sanderlanche?

Brandon Sanderson

No, don't get me wrong. Imagine previous Stormlight books starting with a build-up, then ending with a mini-climax at the end of Part One. (For example, in book three, we are building toward the reveal of the Unmade at Urithiru, and the confrontation, which happens at the end of Part One.)

In this book, Part One starts with the climax--a kind of indication of what the missing months were building toward. What follows is more introspective and quiet through the second half, as we react to events and get our bearings.

You'll probably get some books in the cosmere that, like A Memory of Light, where the Sanderlanche takes up an unusually large chunk of the story--but it isn't time for that quite yet. We still have slow, building parts of the story that need to be in place for both contrast and grounding of characters. Like a symphony works better with softer and louder sections.


I really enjoy this action-packed intro (though just a little sad that Dalinar doesn't have viewpoints)

Brandon Sanderson

Dalinar does have viewpoints in the book, but they are reserved for later on, for reasons I can explain better once the novel is out.


It reminds me of those Bond/Lucasfilms blockbusters (well, and everything that came after) that would open with an in medias res action setpiece.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I'm a big fan of the cold open. (As one might be able to note from the Wax and Wayne books.) It's not the right tool for every story, but it felt appropriate here.

YouTube Livestream 17 ()
#4 Copy


Where does Dawnshard fit, time-frame wise?

Brandon Sanderson

Three months after Oathbringer, which puts it in Rosharan terms seven months-ish before Rhythm of War. (Ten-month years.)

Isaac Stewart

But we should probably mention that you don't have to read this one to read Rhythm of War.

Brandon Sanderson

You do not. I have written Rhythm of War in such a way that, if you haven't read this, you will not really be confused. There will be a few things where you're like, "Oh, that's probably what that's referencing." And if you read this after, it's not going to ruin either story.

I did something very specific with the Rysn interlude in Rhythm of War that allows us to preserve most of what happened in Dawnshard, so far, so that you will not have it spoiled when you get to that interlude. I've done something very different for that interlude, let's just say. And I did that because I hadn't written Dawnshard yet, when I wrote the Rysn interlude. In fact, it's the last thing I wrote for the book, was that interlude. And let's just say that interlude is from a different viewpoint. We'll just say that.

And references to what happened are in the story, but they're mostly kind of vague, because even most of the people in the main storyline don't know the specifics of what happened in the novella. It's kind of like what happened in Edgedancer, where what happened to Lift is not really generally understood and known by everyone else, because she was off on her own.

It is done. First draft is finished. It is The Lopen and Rysn.

YouTube Livestream 10 ()
#5 Copy


The Bulgarian cover for Rhythm of War is the result of a contest. Despite how great Michael Whelan's covers are, would you ever consider such a contest for an American Stormlight Archive edition? If not Stormlight, maybe any other series?

Brandon Sanderson

It would be very hard for me to not have a Michael Whelan cover (you guys know me and Michael Whelan stuff) for Stormlight Archive.

For anything else, I could imagine that happening. Thing about it is that, in a market as big as the United States, it seems like it would be a tougher sell, both to the marketing market. And to an extent, it's a little bit... not "insulting," but imagine being an artist who's worked their whole life, and then we're like, "Yeah, we're gonna open this to a contest to people, instead." Just doesn't work the same way. So, I would be hard-pressed to imagine that happening in the States. There are so many fantastic illustrators earning their livings doing these covers, that asking people to submit free covers?

It works in Bulgaria because they have a very small print run. They are a small country. They do a thousand copies of a lot of the things. And they engage the fan community, and I think it's wonderful, and I think it's delightful what they did. And I was fully approving it. But it just doesn't feel like the right thing to do here. Where we have a huge budget, right? Like, that's the difference. In Bulgaria, they can't pay very much for a cover. I mean, they don't pay me very much for the books. That's okay. But here, we have an actual art budget. And that's what employs professional artists, a lot of them; that's where they earn a living.

YouTube Livestream 21 ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

There are certain things that I do in Stormlight Four that I will not give as spoilers, but they're gonna make the writing of Stormlight Five particularly difficult.

Poor Karen. That's all gonna be stuff for Karen and me. It's gonna be headaches for us. Not as much for you [Isaac].

YouTube Livestream 9 ()
#9 Copy


You said earlier that Rhythm of War includes a key sequence that you have envisioned for years. How does it feel to have captured the sequence? And are you personally happy with the result?

Brandon Sanderson

Feels great to finally write that sequence. And now that the beta reads are in, I can say the sequence works. Really, really pleased. Really happy that it came together. There were other things that needed to change, but that one worked. There almost have been no edits or revisions to that whole sequence through all the drafts. I've been planning it for so long. It's one of those things that I wrote, and it was as I imagined it, and it came together. And you will be able to read it in Part Five of Rhythm of War.

YouTube Livestream 11 ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I will finish Stormlight Four this week, is the goal. At the very latest, over the weekend. The last draft, sending it on to production.

And then from there, I think my next job is to spend one week doing a revision on Songs of the Dead, is what we put in the schedule next. This is the new name of Death By Pizza. Heavy metal music influenced necromancer urban fantasy that I'm coauthoring with Peter Orullian who is a heavy metal singer. I'm gonna do a draft on that.

And then it is writing the [Stormlight] novella for about the next month. So we'll start posting updates on that as I do that. And I think I know what the title's going to be. So we might announce that in the upcoming days. You'll be very excited by the title, I suspect.

Rhythm of War Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve

This is the last we'll see of Rock in the book, I'm afraid. I really hope to be able to do the Rock novella sometime in the next few years to trace his course, but one of the things I forced myself to do in this series is keep the focus on the main storylines and characters.

Epic fantasy tends to involve ballooning casts, and this tends to derail books as the author lets their focus move away from the primary storyline toward side characters. I put some rigid requirements on myself when I started Stormlight that require me to move side stories out of the main narrative. It's odd to be talking about trying to keep books this length "lean" but I believe one of the strengths of the series is that it has (so far) kept its eye on the proverbial goal. This is more important than ever, with book five being the end of the first sequence.

That said, what we're witnessing here is kind of the end of Bridge Four as a cohesive entity, at least as it existed in the series up until now. I was sad, for all the fun of this chapter, to be moving into this sequence of the stories. There was a temptation, of course, to just let Bridge Four continue to be Bridge Four--but it wouldn't feel right. Lives change and evolve. My tight-knit friend group from college can never be the same again, not now that we all have families and jobs. Bridge Four couldn't remain the same either.

One of my problems with some forms of media like extended network television shows is the format's inability to let the status of the characters evolve, change, and grow. For a series like this, we need progression, and we need to let Bridge Four become something else. If we're sad about the changes, the early books will always be there to experience again.

As for the Kaladn/Adolin/Shallan interactions, I actively look for moments like these to put into the novels. It's important to let the characters live, and one of the reasons I enjoy epic fantasy is that it (with the space afforded me) allows for more time like this.

YouTube Livestream 12 ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I will feel bad if the [Dawnshard] ebook isn't out by the time that Stormlight Four is. You don't have to have read that before this one; it's not hugely integrated, because it's about Rysn. But there are some things that happen, that you'll get to Book Four and be like, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. They're mentioning a trip to Aimia. What happened there?" That the novella would help you with. And then, when you get to the Rysn interlude in this book (which is a little different from previous Rysn interludes), I wrote it in such a way as to not spoil the novella, in case people hadn't read it yet. And so it's a very different sort of interlude. But you would appreciate having read the novella when you get to it, I suspect.

Rhythm of War Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

So, this little sequence with Kaladin, the lurgs, and tricking Leshwi was one I was VERY close to cutting from the book. Thing is, this battle between them has been going on pretty long at this point, and my gut says I've done a little too much of "Kaladin chases and fights someone through the air" in these chapters.

I looked long and hard, therefore, at trimming this sequence for pacing reasons. In the end, I left it, and I don't know 100% if it was the right choice or not. I like how it gives a different kind of interaction for Kaladin on the battlefield here, and how it hearkens back to the flashback from book one with Tien.

I opted, instead, to trim more extensively through the whole combat--taking out words and sentences, rather than this entire scene. But it was a tough call. And even in the very last revision, I went back and forth on it. If I'd been forced to trim something here to make a film come in at the right time, this part would have gone--but one of the luxuries of writing epic fantasy in novel form is that I can be a little more self-indulgent. (So long as I don't let myself go too far.)

General Reddit 2019 ()
#15 Copy


Can you confirm whether Navani will be the prologue viewpoint? Or you want to keep that quiet/ haven't decided yet?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, she is the prologue viewpoint.


Wouldn't it be dope to have the book 5 viewpoint from Gavilar himself, and it finally revealing what exactly he was up to.. :)

Brandon Sanderson

That is what I have planned.

Rhythm of War Preview Q&As ()
#16 Copy


> I could easily have had an entire book with a major thread about toppling her [Ialai's] little empire on the Shattered Plains, but that would have been too backward looking.

I dunno. I think that could be fun. I'm somewhat imagining a John-Wick-alike character whose job is to take Ialai down and it turning into a surreal action/adventure/spy story.

Brandon Sanderson

I absolutely think this could have worked in a different narrative. But in this book, with so much of the focus moving to the greater war and the invasion, I feel that spending a lot of pages on recovering the Shattered Plains (and dealing with a group in the Sons of Honor that have been repeatedly defeated already) would just feel anticlimactic.

A different style of narrative could have pivoted to political intrigue instead of war epic after the first book or so, and then this sort of plot would have been exciting and dynamic. It's all about scope and the subgenre of your narrative.

YouTube Livestream 10 ()
#17 Copy


Will there be a greatsword (montante style) in Stormlight Four, or does the longsword still get all the love?

Brandon Sanderson

I am probably changing that. The scene I rewrote today, there was a greatsword added to. So you can look forward to it. I'm gonna try it out; it's possible that I'll trim it out. But I'm going with it for now. I thought you made some very good arguments along those lines.

And for those wondering, most of Shad's arguments are along the lines of "Wouldn't this be awesome?" And he sees things the same way I do in a lot of ways of "Let's do what's cool, and then make it work."