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Skyward Seattle signing ()
#1 Copy


Steris and Marasi. Did you plan the love interest to be [Steris] from the very beginning?

Brandon Sanderson

I did... Very beginning is a weird thing as an author to explain. Because the very beginning of that story, Wax didn't exist, it was only Wayne. Then I built Wax in, then I started building Wax's back history. Then I started building Marasi. Then I started building -- right? By the time that the outline for the four books was done, but even before that, when I was only writing the first one, I knew what I was doing, there.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#2 Copy



Brandon Sanderson

Oh, my pleasure. She says that she has Asperger's and when she read the book The Bands of Mourning, and the other ones that have Steris in them, she identified a lot with Steris. I appreciate that.


Brandon Sanderson

What research did I do, did I talk to autistic people. I have several people in my life who actually have Asperger's specifically, and they were a huge resource, as you might imagine. One of the things that I like to do, kind of a mandate I have in my fiction, is to try to get people who are heroic who have different types of psychology than we usually see in heroes. Because the more I've lived in life, the more I've realized that we all are really distinctive in our own way, and our psychology all works differently. And yet we see a lot of heroes that all kind of have the same brain chemistry, it seems. Which has always felt really weird to me. And so it's kind of one my mandates to do that.

What research did I do? When I was in college, one of my favorite things to do was sneak into classes I wasn't signed up for, and the psychology classes were my favorite. This friend, who coincidentally was the one who wanted to be a chef, actually got a psychology major. His parents were "You should do something useful with your life." and so he got a psychology major, which he ended up going to med school. He didn't become a chef, he went to med school. He likes that too. But I would sneak into his classes and they were so useful as a writer, just listening to the different types, and to start to see personality not as-- We like to look at a lot of things as being normal or abnormal, but that's not the way it is. Everyone's personality is on this interesting spectrum and what is normal and what is abnormal is completely a matter of perspective. Where you stand on this line as opposed to-- It's like trying to make a value judgement that shouldn't really exist. And to come to see these personalities as great swathes of interesting color is what the psychology classes taught me. And so there was that and I did do some specific research for Steris and then I interviewed people as well.

I'm glad that you picked up on it without me ever having to say what she was, and things like that. That's when I really feel like I've nailed something, when you can read something and say "Yeah that's who this person is" instead of someone outside pointing and saying "this is who this person is, who they are"

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I appreciate the comment on Steris. I kind of feel that when I did Elantris, I was really interested in this, and i maybe didn't-- I kind of approached things in, like, a pop culture sort of way without really understanding it. And then I came to know some people with autism, and I'm like, "I need to do this better. I need to do this realistically and kind of help with the presentation rather than contributing to one narrow definition that is the pop culture definition." So I'm glad that that has worked for you.

FanX 2018 ()
#5 Copy


What inspired Steris?

Brandon Sanderson

Partially, me feeling that I didn't do a fair shake by an autistic character in Elantris, and wanted to do a better job of it later on after I had read more and more about it, and I'd known some people with autism, and things like that, and I wanted to try approaching someone on the spectrum from a more realistic viewpoint. Not that Elantris is completely wrong, but it's more Hollywood interpretation, rather than the real-life way that a lot of people who have autism live with it. That was part of it.

Part of it was also, I wanted to write a character based on a friend of mine, who when I first met them, was very kind of abrasive. And as I got to know them, became one of my best friends ever. And I'm like, "I want a character like that for fans." So if you read the book, you're like, "I hate this character." But at the end, you're like, "Oh, when I can see from their eyes, suddenly they're one of my favorites."

The Alloy of Law Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four

Waxillium enters the party with Steris

Alpha and beta readers had an interesting response to Steris. It was almost always passionate, many hated her immediately, some thought she was terribly flat, and others found her to be the most interesting character in the book.

I wasn't intending her to be so divisive, honestly. I'm very fond of her myself, and so I wanted to embed some strong personality quirks to perhaps make use of some day. Now, that's not to say that I will make use of them. I like to give some depth to side characters (such as Spook and Breeze from the original trilogy) so that, if the opportunity presents itself, I'll have something to work with in new viewpoint characters. It's kind of done by instinct these days, and it being there is no promise (unfortunately) that Steris won't end up dead.

However, I very much like that as you learn more about the situation, the way Steris acts becomes more and more understandable. Perhaps not rational, as she’s really only rational in her own head. But she is who she is.

General Reddit 2021 ()
#7 Copy


Its interesting that his most popular female characters all seem to have mental health issues.

  • Steris: Autism Spectrum
  • Shallan: Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Jasnah: Also Autism Spectrum but not as much as Steris, and was treated for some kind of disorder as a child.

Peter Ahlstrom

Hmm, I’m not aware of Jasnah being on the spectrum. Her trauma is something different, though we may not find out until we get her flashbacks.

All of the Knights Radiant (basically, all of the Cosmere’s Investiture users) have some kind of trauma.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
#8 Copy


Two questions. First of all the twist where Wax shifts from-

Brandon Sanderson

One person to-


Exactly. Was that preplanned? 

Brandon Sanderson

It was preplanned. That is based off of I have a good friend that when I first met them they were very very off putting because they are on the spectrum and I didn't understand people on the spectrum, and as I got to know them I understood how great they were, and I wanted to have the reader experience that same reversal in the books.

BookCon 2018 ()
#10 Copy



Brandon Sanderson

I loved writing Steris. Part of the fun was, I wrote her in Alloy of Law knowing that a lot of people were going to have an opinion of Steris they would have to change over time, and I liked watching fans come to that realization.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#13 Copy


Are you planning on using what you learned from writing Renarin and Steris to improve the characterization of Adien when you write Elantris 2?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Adien is one of my-- regrets is probably the wrong term. But I talked earlier about coming to terms with the fact that as you grow as a writer, there are certain things that you will have done less well then you can do them now. I consider Steris and Renarin my-- Again, apology's the wrong term. I tried very hard when I wrote Elantris. I was not the writer I am today, and I did not have access to the helpful readers who could point me-- you know, by writing Adien a little pop culture-y, the pop culture version of someone with autism, I was able to be told by people, "you know, this is kind of a stereotype." What Adien is does exist, but very rarely, and if you wanna have a more complete picture of it, you should read this resource or talk to this person. That's one of those areas that, here I thought I was being all forward thinking. And I did something that perpetuated a stereotype at the same time. That's not something I think you need to be embarrassed of, as a writer, as long as you're willing to listen and do better.

Calamity release party ()
#14 Copy


It seemed like in Alloy of Law you made us like Marasi better than Steris, and then kind of switched it. Was your intention the whole time for them to end up with Steris, or...?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes.


Okay, it was.

Brandon Sanderson

In fact, I like Steris a lot in the first book. But you are seeing things through the eyes of other characters. And Steris takes a little bit of time to warm up to. Like, many people like her. And once you get to know here--which, I always knew her--then there's a level of <thoughtfulness> there.

YouTube Livestream 10 ()
#15 Copy


Can you talk about your influence for Steris?

Brandon Sanderson

I remember one of the things that really inspired me for Steris is actually Karen Ahlstrom, who is my continuity editor. Karen once was at a writing group talking about how she loves character who are like her, who always are ready. The person who saves that scrap. People call them hoarders, and in her head, she's like, "No no no. A hoarder is someone who doesn't know what they have or why they have it. I have this thing that I have saved. So I know I'm gonna need it someday." And someone's gonna say, "Man, I wish I had a cape for a seven-year-old that would go with this costume." And Karen is the person who says, "I've got one of those. Here, let me get it for you." Karen just loves being prepared to help people. And I thought, that is a brilliant and amazing character attribute to give to a character. The kind of Boy Scout "be prepared," but more in a "I'm ready to help. I do the research, I find out what people, and I am ready there with it. Maybe a little too much."

And that really melded together with seeing her personality. She is based partially on a friend of mine who, when I first met this friend, it was very off-putting at first, getting to know them. What we took for being stuck-up was really just them being a little socially awkward, like most of us in this community are. But the way a lot of us express it is through being kind of goofy. And this person expressed it through being a little bit aloof. Which, when we got to know this person, we're like, "Wow. This is one of the most amazing people we've ever know." But very hard to get to know them, because mostly of us, our own prejudices against people who are a little more quiet. So, I put that into Steris.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
#19 Copy


I want to know more about the character Steris, like what was the inspiration for her, because watching her evolve has been one of my favorite things in the Mistborn series.

Brandon Sanderson

A couple things. One was I’d never written anyone as directly on the autism spectrum as she was, or she is, and I wanted to see if I could get this right. She also, I wanted to have a contrast between her and her sister. And that’s part of what I wanted to have, these two things. And I want to kind of pull the reversal on the reader, where this assumption when you go into a book is these two main protagonists are meant to hook-up, and I wanted to kind of twist that on its head because I didn’t think they should *audio cut off*.

Dragonsteel 2022 ()
#20 Copy


If Steris, Rock, and Lift had to prepare potatoes, how would they prepare them?

Brandon Sanderson

This is actually pretty easy because Lift would get there without her potatoes, right? Now, she probably ate some of them, she probably just lost the others, she maybe gave some of them away to people who needed them. She's not going to arrive with any potatoes. If you give Lift a sack of potatoes it's on you. You can know the potatoes went to good places. She probably tried to feed one to her chicken, it probably didn't like it very much, mine doesn't, but she tried.

Rock is going to make something delicious because it's a challenge to him. He's not familiar with a potato, he's like what do I do with this thing? He's going to figure out how to make something very very very cool with it.

Steris is going to buy a recipe book. She's going to make every potato dish in there, in case you don't like the one that she made.