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I've heard you are a plotter, yet chose to write The Reckoners as a pantser. What were some of the unexpected difficulties or advantages of pantsing?
I "pantsed" the first few chapters of Steelheart, but I quickly went from there to creating an outline. The early part was exploration, the first three or four chapters. That's not uncommon, even for an outliner. However, I did then stop and produce a really solid outline for the book. (Actually one of the most solid I've ever made.)
When you're discovery writing, you often have a lot more success creating and discovering characters, in my experience. That's why I often free-write a few opening chapters to a book, so I can get a feel for who these people might be.However, a difficulty with discovery writing (pantsing) is plotting it's very difficult to create a tight narrative without an outline. (That said, many people who love to discovery write can fix this problem in revisions.)
Newcago was a HUGE surprise for me. I expected to see Chicago, but roughed up in a dystopian way. Instead you took a major city we all know, and made it completely new and interactive. The catacombs, in particular were really interesting to me. Did you base Newcago's catacombs off of a "real" place?
Newcago's catacombs were actually based more off of mid-eighties cyberpunk stories where you've often got this sort of techie underground, and I love that visual. I intentionally didn't want to take Steelheart in a dystopian direction, even though it technically is a dystopia. I just feel that the whole "wasted world" dystopia has been done so well by so many writers that I wanted to have something that felt new and different.
When I gave Steelheart this sort of Midas power to turn Chicago into metal, I thought it would be cool to have these catacombs dug underneath it because the visual was so different and cool. The catacombs I've visited in various cities are, of course, awesome, but really I'm looking back at those cyberpunk books.
How would you have changed Steelheart from Young Adult to Adult.
More viewpoints. I probably would have shown other peoples-- like, a Prof thread would have been a big part of it. The big difference for me, for the Adult and the Young Adult is the characters you're focusing on, and the number of viewpoints. That's the basic thing I change.
Not so much about violence, or anything along those lines?
No, not really. For a middle grade, I will probably hold back a bit. That's why Rithmatist, which I consider middle grade, is a little less. But Steelheart-- Generally, in the business, we consider YA to be the genre that is not edited for content, and middle grade to be the one that is. And that's just-- Based on what's going on with teens, and things like that.
Will we see any more of David and Megan in the future?
It is likely that you will. If I write another book directly following, it will be about Mizzy. So she would be the main viewpoint character, and you would see the others in relation but it would be her story.
Someone asked Brandon why the general feel of Steelheart is so similar to Final Empire.
He said that was due to his love of heist stories. A group of thieves tasking themselves to do the impossible is just one of his favorite types of stories. Knowing this, Brandon did consciously try to make Steelheart a different flavor of heist from [The Final Empire].
Do you have a special way of coming up with your bad analogies?
Do I special way of coming up with bad analogies. Which are actually similes. So here's the thing-- So Steelheart, I wrote Steelheart in like 2008 or 2009, it was pretty early on, I had the idea-- I was touring for some book, I think-- I feel like it was Warbreaker or Mistborn 3, any way I was touring for one of these books and I get cut off in traffic, I get really mad at the person, and I imagine blowing up their car. I get horrified, like "If I had superpowers is this what I would do? Would I blow up cars of people who cut me off in traffic?" and I was like "OOh that's a story". So I went and wrote the prologue, like almost immediately, I think on that tour I wrote the prologue. I remember reading it at DragonCon that year, whenever year that was.
Then I put the whole book aside and had to wait for like 5 years because I'm like "I'm working on The Wheel of Time I have no time to write this other side project." I was much better at that and not going crazy on side projects when I was doing that. When I finally got back to it I had this prologue-- The prologue was ten years before in-world time, like the character grew ten years between the prologue and chapter 1, so I was "Alright I need a voice for this character" and I started writing, doing my standard thing. I was having so much trouble coming up with a distinctive voice for David, the main character, and I accidentally wrote a bad metaphor. That happens a lot when you're writing-- you just come across something and it's a terrible analogy and you delete it, but here I said "Well what if I ran with that?" The fun thing is by coincidence that became a metaphor for his entire personality. He tries so hard, is very earnest, but sometimes he tries a little too hard, and looks beyond the mark, and stumbles a bit. And that is who he became as a character, and the bad metaphors are a great metaphor for that.
Coming up with them now is really hard. Doing it on purpose is way harder than coming up with good metaphors. They are rough. Sometimes I'll sit-- Like the most time I spend staring at the screen when working on these books is coming up with one of David's metaphors.
So, here’s my official future status, as I sometimes post.
BOOKS YOU WILL SEE SOON
- Towers of Midnight (November 2.)
- Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens (December 2010.)—A note on Alcatraz. This is the fourth and final of the Alcatraz books in my contract. I do plan there to be more in this series, but I don’t have time for them right now. And so, for now, this is going to stand as the ending of the series. I’ll do Alcatraz Five eventually, I promise.
- Scribbler (Early 2012)—A note on Scribbler. This is a shorter steampunk book I wrote in 2007, just before I got the call about The Wheel of Time. It’s quite good, and Tor has decided to purchase it. It involves chalk-based magic and a boy who is the son of the cleaning lady at a school for people who learn the chalk magic. I haven’t had time to give it a revision, but will likely use some of the time in my free months between now and January to do a draft of it. If I turn it in January or February, you won’t see it until a year after that, due to scheduling.
BOOKS YOU WILL SEE SOMEWHAT SOON
- A Memory of Light (March 2012.)
- Stormlight Archive Book Two (Late 2012 or early 2013.)
- Stormlight Archive Book Three (One year after Book Two.)
- Alcatraz Five (Indefinite hiatus.)
- Elantris Two (Planned to be written after Stormlight Three.)
- Second Mistborn trilogy (It’s coming someday, I promise.)
- Nightblood: Book two of Warbreaker (Coming someday.)—Some notes here. Elantris has three books in the series, but they are loose sequels of each other. This means that side characters in one become main characters in the next. So while you’ll see Raoden and Sarene in the second book, they won’t be main characters. (Kiin’s children will be.) Warbreaker is two books. Mistborn is a trilogy of trilogies, with the second trilogy in an urban (20th-century-level technology) setting. For Stormlight, I’m planning a pattern of two every three years, with a different epic—a standalone, or one of the sequels mentioned above—in between. Thus the Elantris sequel is next in line after Stormlight Three, which would be followed by Stormlight Four and Five.
MAYBE COMING SOMEDAY BUT ONLY PARTIALLY WRITTEN
- Dark One (YA dark fantasy.)
- Steelheart (Superhero apocalypse.)
- The King’s Necromancer
- The Silence Divine (Shardworld novel, standalone.)
- White Sand (Shardworld trilogy.)
- The Liar of Partinel (Shardworld novel, one of two.)
- Dragonsteel (Major Shardworld epic. Won’t be written until Stormlight is done.)
POSSIBLE PROJECTS FOR MY TIME OFF
- Mistborn short story (Looking likely.)
- Unnamed urban fantasy (This is what I’m working on right now. Watch Twitter/Facebook for updates on this story. It involves a necromancer pizza deliveryman as a protagonist.)
- Scribbler revisions (Will almost certainly be done.)
- Finishing one of the unfinished novels mentioned above (Not likely, but you never know.)
Who knows when/if anything written during my side-project time will get published. Sometimes, these stories are too unformed (as I like to be very free and loose when I write them) to make it. On other occasions, there isn’t time to do revisions on them. (I write initial books very quickly, but spend many months in revision.) For instance, Alcatraz books were my deviations for 2005 and 2006, and the first of those came out very quickly. Scribbler was the one for 2007, and it won’t be published for a year or so yet. I didn’t have time for much in the way of deviations in 2008 or 2009, just the unfinished projects I mentioned above.
We shall see. As always, thank you for reading and supporting me in this compulsive writing addiction of mine.
What's the next non-sequel book you're wanting to write or rewrite?
I really would like to get Steelheart done. That would probably be the next one I'd want to do; that or Dark One. But I don't know when I will have time for them.
On my reread of Reckoners, I remembered it being really kitschy and light-hearted, but the prologue of the first book is really dark. Is the rest of the book so light-hearted because it is David trying to make the best of a really crappy situation, or is it because it's Young Adult?
Yeah. It's also partially, I wrote the prologue, stepped away, came back, and wrote the rest... One of the things I regret about the books is that-- I was telling a story about assassinating superheroes. So I thought it was going to go darker than it did, once I found David's voice. And if I could go back, I might take out the baby skeleton... I couldn't cut it because it's such a great image, but I should have. My biggest regret with that series is the tonal mismatch... It's this thing where I'm like, "That would be the best book for, like, a fourteen-year-old to read of mine, except the prologue which involves dissolving babies."
I just started NaNoWriMo this year. Have you ever written something for NaNoWriMo?
I had an idea for a story that I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo, but I don't know if I'll have time. It's basically a superhero story, but where only villains get super powers, and the heroes are normal.
Steelheart makes you feel a few pretty intense emotions. Were there any scenes in particular that you found difficult to write, because of these intense moments?
One of the very first scenes I imagined for Steelheart is where the main character David is trapped and pinned down. Certain things have led him to that moment and the events that happen right after that. (I'm not giving any spoilers, but those of you who have read the book will know what I'm talking about. It happens right after the motorcycle chase.) When I'm developing a book, I often go for a walk or walk on the treadmill and listen to cool music, my eyes closed, and ask myself, "What is the emotional resonance of this book? What's it going to feel like to read it? What scenes will make that happen?" This was one of those scenes. For me, it was the most important scene of the entire novel, so getting to it was a pleasure, but it was also an emotional and powerful scene to write because I'd been planning it for so long and wanted badly for it to turn out well. That can be really difficult for a writer when you've got something in your head and you worry. Can I make it turn out on the page?