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Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#2 Copy

MarlonRand

Is there any information about Way of Kings that you can give us at this time?

Brandon Sanderson

I've wanted to do a long epic for a while. I guess that's what comes from reading Jordan and the others while growing up. And so, way back in the late 90's—when I was experimenting with my style—I started working on ideas for a longer form series. I knew the real trick for me would be to do it in a way that it didn't feel stale after just a few books; there needed to be enough to the world, the magic, and the plot arcs that I (and hopefully readers) would keep interested in the series for such a long time.

What it gives me (the thing that I want in doing a longer epic) is the chance to grow characters across a larger number of books. Dig into their pasts, explore what makes them think the way they do, in ways that even a trilogy cannot. In Kings, I don't want to do a longer 'saga' style series, with each book having a new set of characters. I want this to be one overarching story.

One of the things that has itched at me for long time in my fantasy reading is the sense of loss that so many fantasy series have. I'm not complaining, mind you—I love these books. But it seems like a theme in a large number of fantasy books is the disappearance of magic and wonder from the world. In Tolkien, the Elves are leaving. In Jordan, technology is growing and perhaps beginning an age where it will overshadow magic. It's very present in Brooks, where the fantasy world is becoming our world. Even Eddings seemed to have it, with a sense that sorcerers are less common, and with things like the only Dragons dying, the gods leaving.

I've wanted to do a series, then, where the magic isn't going away—it's coming back. Where the world is becoming a more wondrous place. Where new races aren't vanishing, they're being discovered.

Obviously, I'm not the first to approach a fantasy this way. Maybe I'm reading too much into the other books, seeing something that isn't there. But the return of magic is one of the main concepts that is driving me.

Well, that and enormous swords and magical power armor.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
#3 Copy

TsorovanSaidin

How awesome an anime do you think Stormlight would make?

Ben McSweeney

OH MY GOD SO AWESOME.

I am biased, as an animator, of course. But I think the world of Roshar is too fantastic and unique to be anything other than fully animated. If you do it with actors, they're gonna do it in the big green rooms, and that so rarely works out well.

I'd be content with a CG animated series (Shardplate kinda begs it), but it'd be a lot trickier to do well. That being said, I've seen some really great CG, so it could be done.

TsorovanSaidin

I'm so happy you agree. I've been a pretty huge fan of Knights of Sidonia on Netflix. That's a perfect style for Plate in my opinion.

Ben McSweeney

KoS is pretty great (awesome manga, too), but the cines for Guilty Gear Xrd are just sick.

Game cinematics offer the best examples of quality, but it's not easy to get a studio in the range of Plastic Wax or Blur to dedicate the resources required for a full feature or a 22x12/24 series. Well, mostly it's just crazy expensive. But costs are always adjusting, the field is expanding, and we've got a lot of books left to publish before anyone's adapting it for animation or film.

ari54x

I think some of the 2.5d CG animation they do could work well for Stormlight- you know, where it's mostly illustrated but some action scenes use cell-shaded 3d models as a reference for the perspective and animation so it's really spot-on? That would be really cool.

Ben McSweeney

Oh, it's entirely feasible. Just a matter of the right budget with the right people at the right time. 'Course, that's a tricky triumvirate. :)

ari54x

Definitely. I'm hoping White Sand does well as a start to prove that drawing Brandon's work is a good idea.

Ben McSweeney

I think it might. And if nothing else, it's one more branch on the tree. Reaching out to new audiences is almost always a good strategy. :)

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

There was the poem at the end of Way of Kings. How long did that take?

Brandon Sanderson

It took an embarrassingly long amount of time. I am not a poet, so mixing poetry with a really rigid form... Yes, the keteks take a long time. Both of them.

Wetlander

Are you going to do that in every book?

Brandon Sanderson

A ketek? Yes, I probably will do that.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
#5 Copy

Shovelbum26

You've written about a huge amount of cultures where women are expected to conform to what we think of as "traditional gender roles". In Stormlight, Mistborn, Elantris and Warbreaker all, the strong women are largely defined through how they buck these rigid gender roles. I never got the sense that you think of those as "natural" gender roles for women but more that you were using the Fantasy setting with its stereotypical Elizabethan ideas of gender to critique sexism. That's a great and well established way to address sexism in novels, but the other way is to actively challenge stereotypes in the setting, by showing that our idea of gender roles isn't inevitable (by showing a society with a very different idea of gender roles).

Brandon Sanderson

I'm aware of the things you say regarding sexism, and they are things I think about a lot. On one hand, you want to make stories relateable, which often requires leaning on people who struggle against the boundaries set for them. At the same time, it becomes a cliche if every young woman is forced to become a fighter for gender equality--and it lets her gender define her struggles in a way that is not heaped upon the male characters.

With Stormlight, I'm trying to take a different look at this idea in many ways. Some of which would be spoilers to talk about here.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

So, one of the things I know, you have your own universe that you've produced, and it's fantastic. what's the series you're gonna create or have created that's the cornerstone, that will have the largest impact on the universe.

Brandon Sanderson

I would say Mistborn going all the way through is probably the most impact. Stormlight is gonna have a decent one, so is the Elantris world.

Questioner

Is there gonna be a union book or series?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the final Mistborn series.

WorldCon 76 ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I will say that one thing that I did after doing a lot of this research was I just decided early on I needed some natural antibiotics. I just did. Because I'm telling a story about a bunch of people who are slaves in a warfare situation whose lives are not cared for, and there's one guy with some medical training who ends up among them, and he considers it his job to keep these guys alive. And I learned very [early] on I needed some natural antibiotics. I just needed-- And that's the thing you can do in an epic fantasy, is you can decide, "You know what? I'm going to make this call, I'm going to build into my setting this way around it," because there were certain stories I wanted to tell, and if he couldn't save anybody, then this story doesn't work. 

General Reddit 2017 ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I don't even put spren in on the first draft, that's just too much to keep in my brain. Afterward, I do a draft where I just go in and add all that stuff. It's like adding the special effects to a movie.

Peter Ahlstrom

So, Brandon actually does put a number of spren in the first draft. But part of Karen's job as continuity editor is to find more places to add the spren and mark those in the document. Then on the next draft Brandon puts spren there if he judges them to be good places for spren.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Alright we're going to read now. This is a short passage, but it is a flashback from Kaladin. Probably not what you expected. This book will mostly have Dalinar flashbacks, but Kaladin I plan to do multiple books where I sneak flashbacks in. They're short. Like I said they're only a few pages, but they fill in wholes in Kaladin's backstory. He doesn't get all of them in this book, but through the series you'll get glimpses of Kaladin's past. And this is one of them.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#13 Copy

Himenss

How do you choose flashback character for each Stormlight book? Do you rather build present day narrative around someone's flashback sequence or just choose whose flashbacks better fit with already existing main narrative? As an example, when you moved Dalinar's flashbacks from book 5 to book 3, did you re-outlined book 3 narrative to make it a better match, or you already had both Dalinar's narratives for books 3 and 5 present day and merely decided where flashbacks play the best counterpoint to what Dalinar is doing in the main timeline?

Brandon Sanderson

Moving Dalinar's flashbacks was based on the instinct I had from where book three's narrative was going to go. (After finishing the first two.) Though I have outlines for all of the books, a lot of my outlining process involves starting with a big event, then working backward from it. Sometimes, the steps toward a big event are themselves pretty big events.

People imagine, I think, an outline that is like the traditional "Heading A" "Subheading a" format. But it's not that, it's a big list of things I am pointing toward--and the most interesting steps to get there. So the process of building a novel is more about looking at that timeline, figuring out what steps make their own powerful moments, and constructing a narrative around them that makes sense. I will often be doing this with a dozen or more different sub-plots at once.

So when I "move things" from one book to another, it's often a matter of me building a book (say book two) and realizing that the break point for Kaladin's story makes way more sense if it stretches all the way to include the falling into the chasms sequence. From there, I realize I might not move as far along on Dalinar's plot as i might have thought, and I turn book three to focus more on that plot. Etc.

The flashbacks are the most flexible of these, in some ways, as they are compliments to a story--but don't need to come at any specific chronological point in the series itself. So I look for the places where they will simply fit the best and match the tone of the story the best, either by contrast or compliment

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

Bridge Four

I've spoken before on my creative process. I build books out of good ideas, often developed in isolation until I find the right place for them. (Allomancy and Feruchemy were originally developed separately, for separate books.) When a book doesn't work, the ideas get broken apart and bounce around in my head some more until I find another place to try them out.

Bridge Four—and the plateau runs—were originally part of Dragonsteel. Dalinar was too, so that's not all that surprising, I guess. However, Bridge Four is unique here in that when I decided to move them from Dragonsteel to The Way of Kings, I had already completed both books and felt pretty good about them. They are both important sequences in the Adonalsium Saga, and lifting Bridge Four from Dragonsteel meant taking away its most dynamic, powerful plot structure.

That decision was not easy to make. The problem is, both books were fundamentally flawed. Oh, they were both good, they just weren't great—and I felt I needed to be doing great in this point of my career. (Hopefully during every point of it.) The Way of Kings had an awesome setting and some great characters, but no focal plot sequence that really punched someone in the gut. Dragonsteel had wonderful ideas, but they never really came together.

In the end, I took the best part of the book that otherwise didn't work and put it into the book that needed a little extra oomph. The moment of decision came when Ben McSweeney, who was doing concept art on the book, sent me a concept he'd done that looked shockingly like the Shattered Plains. (Which, remember, were not even on that planet at that point.) I realized that they would fit the worldbuilding of The Way of Kings better than they ever did Dragonsteel, and that I could put greatshell monsters in them.

So, I ripped apart a book I love to make a (hopefully) better book. Rock came along to Roshar for the ride (he was an original member of Bridge Four in Dragonsteel). I added Teft, who had been left languishing for a decade or so after Mythwalker became Warbreaker and he didn't make the jump. Bridge Four seemed like a great home for him.

[Assistant Peter's note: Teft is mostly the same character as Hine from Mythwalker, but also has a character aspect from Voko in that book.]

Orem signing ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

So far there hasn't been a lot of the Stonewards in the books. Are they going to come forward in the next few?

Brandon Sanderson

...Yes. One of the reasons I built the structure of The Stormlight Archive the way that I did is because I knew it would be easy to overwhelm with the number of magical abilities, and to let myself get distracted by some of them and not do them justice. So I've been very careful, perhaps more careful than I need to be, and when I show like a Fused using a power, I focus more on the ones you know about and things like this, intentionally to keep the reader's attention on what they know as I expand. 

Questioner

Can they shape stone? In one of the flashbacks they kind of melt it and it becomes sand.

Brandon Sanderson

Basically, my original pitch to myself on Stonewards, one of their main powers--I mean, everybody has two--but this power you're talking about was the ability to grab matter and just kind of-- like what if the whole world were clay to you. Not just stone, not just rock, but if you could just pick something up and stretch it, whatever it was, that was my original pitch for that order.

Questioner

So architects or combat engineers fill that order?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, stuff like that, but also, just kind of like you need to get out of a room? Well, let's mash ourselves a doorway here and step through, or just all kinds of stuff. 

Questioner 2

Can they do that to living flesh?

Brandon Sanderson

No. That's the general, the more Invested something is the more it resists, and Stoneward powers are highly resisted by things... Even a small amount of extra Investiture is gonna prevent them. Like if you stuck Stormlight in [an object], say a Windrunner did, a Stoneward wouldn't be able to change that.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#18 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Stormlight Three Update #7 ()
#19 Copy

jmcgit

You don't have to worry about him becoming unproductive, but I do worry a little about Stormlight taking more out of him and needing more and more "hamburger and fries" to recharge. I also am suddenly worried about the series growing beyond 10 books, especially with Peter Ahlstrom suggesting that story could be moved from 4 to 5, but story can't be moved from 5 to 6 without delaying the planned time jump.

GRRM started with ASOIAF planned as a trilogy, and even if he were fully healthy and productive, it's hard to see how he would wrap this up in the currently planned seven. Wheel of Time was pitched as a trilogy, and the publisher knew better, and Jordan was signed to six books, we wound up with 14. Stormlight Archive originated as a 10 book series, and now I'm slightly worried as to whether this is going to grow like many fantasy series do.

I don't think it would be by much, Sanderson appears to have a much more detailed plan than some of these other authors, but even growth from 10 books to 12 books would make a huge difference considering the interesting concepts I'd like to read that are bottlenecked behind the end of Stormlight.

Peter Ahlstrom

I think that if he ends up with too much content, more novellas like Edgedancer are much more likely than expanding the number of books.

Also, Brandon has already moved plot elements forward in the name of awesome. Moash's plot for book 2 was originally planned to be in book 3.

Firefight release party ()
#21 Copy

Questioner

Where did the idea to split The Way of Kings and to make it take place in multiple places come from?

Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings taking place with the different timelines? So Way of Kings I wrote, the very first version of it--in its contemporary form, I wrote the first book about Dalinar when I was a teenager--but the very first book called The Way of Kings I wrote in 2002 and I tried to cram way too much into that book. The big failing of that book was I tried to do everyone's story at once. And so when I re-wrote it in 2009, or whenever it was, I decided I would take the characters and spread them out across the 10 book series and I would focus on a certain set of them early on and then transition into other ones. But in order to maintain some of the complexity I like in my books, particularly big epic fantasies, I added in the flashback sequence, one per character per book as a means to adding some depth and complexity but using it to build up a character you already knew, rather than doing someone completely different. And so this kind of allowed me to tell the story the way I wanted to, by doing-- That did mean I still had to have two separate timelines because I needed to do Shallan and I needed to do Kaladin, 'cause I knew they were going to be important, interacting together for the next few books. Which did put me in two different places but that was much better than the six different places the original had. And it's just because I like complexity, I like a book that everything comes together at once.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#22 Copy

Chaos2651

One other question, what is the name of the planet that Elantris is on?

Brandon Sanderson

Elantris: Sel

Warbreaker: Nalthis

Mistborn: Scadrial

Way of Kings: Roshar

White Sand: Taldain

Dragonsteel: Yolen

There are others, but I haven't talked much about those yet, so I'll leave them off for now.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#23 Copy

zuriel45

Jasnah, as I've said, grows more important in the back five.

I'd say spoilers, but I doubt you'd kill her off..

Pitchwife

This is entirely from memory so please forgive me if I get this wrong, but I believe [Brandon] has hedged on this topic in the past, e.g. who says she has to be alive (in the usual sense) to be a POV character?

Brandon Sanderson

I've said that flashback characters (which are the ones I've announced as having "books" dedicated to them) can die before their book arrives.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
#24 Copy

HellaSober

(Until the second five books, where our primary characters will shuffle. So you Renarin fans will have to be patient.)

Do you worry that assuring us that a character will likely survive the first arc of the series removes some of the tension in their scenes?

(While you've discussed the idea that a main character can have a book about them while they are dead when Dalinar was expected to be central to book 5, this seems different)

Brandon Sanderson

I have said many times before that Renarin and Lift are main characters for the next five, but--as you point out--I've also said that I have no problem having a main character who is actually dead, and their story told through flashbacks and the stories of the other characters. Renarin is not safe, but you will see a lot more from him in the future, even if he does die.

To say more would be to give too many spoilers about the nature of the back five books.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#25 Copy

Questioner

So do you know quite a bit about what the end of the <Stormlight series> is going to be?

Brandon Sanderson

I do.  I do indeed.  I've actually written the epilogue of Book 5.  

Questioner

Oh yeah?

Brandon Sanderson

Just to get into my head.  I wrote it out.  Peter, my assistant, sent an exclamation point after he saw that appear in the Wiki and stuff.  So yes.  And actually the ending of the entire series of the ten books is somewhere in those two books, just like with Mistborn it was in the first page.  It's not on the first page but it is in those two books.  

General Reddit 2017 ()
#26 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

The first three [Stormlight] books are a continuous narrative, but it's now looking like there will be an in-world gap between books 3 and 4, similar to the year that was skipped between each book in the Mistborn trilogy.

Drathus

Even with that, isn't the plan for SA for it to be two related five-book arcs with more of a major gap in between?

Peter Ahlstrom

Yep. Previously I thought that would be the only timeline gap, but Brandon has leaned more toward this new gap while writing Oathbringer.

A Memory of Light Portland signing ()
#27 Copy

Brent Weeks

So I hear the Stormlight Archive is supposed to be ten books. So does that mean 15 or 20? *audience laughs*

Brandon Sanderson

Stormlight Archive is supposed to be ten books. I'm hoping it will be ten books. It is two sequences of five, so you can ask me after the first five-book sequence where I am in my original outline. It should stay pretty close to that, I hope. I don't know. I used to be able to say everything stayed the same length I wanted it to be, but then my Wheel of Time book got split into three, so I can't say that any more.

Brent Weeks

Two years between books?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, two years between books. They're very thick and involved, and I want to be doing other things as well. I like to jump projects--it's what keeps me fresh. It's what allows me to keep on doing this productively, and if I get stuck in one thing, no matter how much I love it, I find that I get less and less excited about it as time passes. But if I finish one book and skip to something else--like an Alcatraz book--for a little while and then jump back, I find my enthusiasm has come back to the beginning, where it was. And so I do a lot of jumping between projects.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

Stormlight feels very different to me on so many levels. You've got the interludes where we get to get a lot of worldbuilding, we get to see more of the planet than just one place. But there is also this sense that a lot of your books we're experiencing the aftermath of something. And in Stormlight that something is coming. How is this affecting the way that you are building your world for us?

Brandon Sanderson

So, this one's going get you a story, okay? So here's the story... So, alright, darkest time in my writing career, okay? Was when I was writing books 11 and 12 unpublished. I was getting rejection letters, and they were rejection letters for things like Elantris and Dragonsteel, which I was really confident in. Elantris, Dragonsteel, and White Sand were the good books during the era of unpublished Brandon.

White Sand by the way, is out as a graphic novel now. You can also read the prose version by emailing me through my website form, we just send it out for free, so you can compare it to the graphic novel. And by the way, Dragonsteel, you're like "Oh, Hoid's origin story", we'll do that eventually. The Shattered Plains started in Dragonsteel, and I pulled them out, and I pulled Dalinar out, and a bunch of stuff, when I built Stormlight. And so it's really a schizophrenic book now-- Schizeophrenic is the wrong term, but half of it was what became Stormlight, and half of it is Hoid's origin story. So, the half that is Hoid's origin story will eventually get a book.

Anyway, darkest point-- I'm not selling anything, everybody is telling me like "Your books are too long". This is the number one thing I'm getting from rejections, "Your books are too long, and your books are not market friendly, in that the worlds are too weird". I'm getting this-- You gotta remember this is-- I love George but  this is right after George got huge, and George introduced gritty, low magic, earth-like fantasy as kind of "the thing" that was big. And his books were large too, I don't know why people kept telling me mine were too big, but they wanted gritty and they wanted low magic and they wanted earth-like. So I was getting rejection after rejection on these things. What people were buying were things like Joe Abercrombie's stuff, which is great, Joe's a great writer. But you know, short things that gave people a similar feel to George RR Martin, but you know, but were low magic, kind of earth-like medieval societies. Basically shorter versions of George is basically what they wanted. So I actually would go to cons and they would be like "Have you read the beginning of Game of Thrones? Write something like that" and so finally against better advice, I sat down and said "alright I'll try something like that". And you guys do not want to read Brandon Sanderson trying to be George RR Martin. *laughter* It was embarrassing, and so I wrote these books, each something different.

And I like trying to do something different, I'm not sad I tried to do something different, but at the end I was like "I can't do this, these books are crap". The worst books I wrote were the two that were like books 11 and 12. Like I shouldn't be getting worse as a writer, the more books I write. And so I was in a funk and I finally just said, "You know what? Screw it, I'm gonna write the biggest, baddest, most awesome book that I can!" They say they're too [long], this is gonna be twice as long! They say that worlds are too weird, I'm gonna do the weirdest world that I've always wanted to do. I'm gonna write the type of fantasy book that nobody's writing that I wish they would write. And I'm gonna break all these rules that say 'Oh don't do flashbacks'. Screw you, I'm gonna put flashbacks in every book! They say 'Don't do prologues', screw you, I'm doing three prologues!" *laughter* It really does, because Way of Kings starts with the Heralds. Prologue. Then it goes to Szeth. Prologue. And then it goes to the viewpoint of the guy in Kaladin's squad. Also a prologue. And then it jumps like eight months and then we start the story. I did all the stuff they told me not to do because I just wanted to make the biggest, most coolest and baddest epic I could-- bad in a good term.

And I finished this book, which was basically flipping the bird to the entire publishing industry, right? And that-- Within a month of finishing that is when Moshe, who I told you is bipolar, got manic and read through his backlist of books that people had sent him, including one I'd sent him two years earlier, which was Elantris. He'd never looked at it, he read it in a night, he called me manic, and said "I wanna buy your book!". And actually what happened is, he called me and I'd moved since then, and gotten a new phone number. We used to have landlines back then, I know. I had a cellphone by the time he called me but before I had my landline number on it, and I'd actually--this is gonna date me--my first email address was AOL. I was like "Free email." And then I realized AOL-- I wont speak ill of-- Yes I will. AOL sucked. *laughter* And so I'm like "Well I need to get my own email address", so I went and got one, but that meant the email had changed. And I sent to anyone who actively had one of my books on submission like "This is my new contact info", but he'd had it for two years. I figured I was never seeing it-- If you were on the last panel, I mentioned that I sent things into Tor and they vanished, and I never got rejections-- I never got rejected from Tor, I sent them four books, they're still just sitting there somewhere I'm sure. But, so I finished this big beast of a book, right, and then I sell Elantris, and I'm like "Great, now I don't know what to do". So my editor is like "Oh what are you working on now, I want to see that too", so I sent him Way of Kings, and I still remember when he called me, he was like "Uhh... Well this isn't the sort of thing that new authors usually publish. Can we split it?" and I said "No, you split the book and it's a really bad book, 'cause you have all the buildup but none of the payoff". And he's like "Ughhh", and I said "That's alright, I've got this idea for Mistborn", I pitched him Mistborn. "I'll do Way of Kings later", there were some things I wanted to fix about it, it actually needed something, and I didn't know what that something was yet, and I didn't learn it until working on The Wheel of Time, but that's a different story.

But you're asking why is Stormlight so different. Well Stormlight is a series like of my heart. This is the book that I wrote when nothing else mattered, and I thought I might never get published and I just wanted to do what I felt that the genre needed that nobody was doing, right? And so I felt like fantasy needed to be pushed a little further in its worldbuilding, and so I did that. I felt like-- There just a lot going on. The interludes were kind of my solution to the problem Robert Jordan and George RR Martin were having, which, they're fantastic writers, I was able to learn from them. And Robert Jordan, I think one of the problems he had was that he fell in love with the side characters, and then these side characters took over the story to an extent that then it was hard to manage. I'm not bashing on Robert Jordan, he talked about this, he talked about book 10 and how being a parallel novel was a mistake. I could learn from his mistakes, it doesn't make me a better writer, what it means is I can learn from what they did. And I said "Okay, I'm going to put pressure valves in my book, I'm gonna put a short story collection in each novel where I get to write about side characters, and those who wan to skip them can skip them, and those who don't can read them", and I'll just make sure that I contain them in these short stories, these interludes, and that lets me do what I want but also lets the book keep its focus. So I'm doing a lot of things with these books that were like my love letter to the epic fantasy genre, and so I'm enthusiastic that you actually all like it and are willing to read them. *applause*

Shadows of Self release party ()
#30 Copy

Questioner

Do you already know how The Stormlight Archive is going to end?

Brandon Sanderson

Do I know how The Stormlight Archive is going to end. Yes I do! *crowd cheers* I'm an outliner, so I have lots of plans. I have not yet written the last scene. I wrote the last scene of Book 5 just so I had it in hand, 'cause there's two five book arcs. But I've known for many years and what's going to happen is hidden in the books already. So! *crowd woos* When it happens you'll be able to go "OH!!" When it happens in twenty years-- *laughter*

Manchester signing ()
#31 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This Jasnah sequence I might release in-between books as just a short little thing, like we did with Mitosis and Emperor's Soul, just to tide people over. It is something that I felt I needed to write so that I knew what Jasnah was doing, because these kinds of events are important to character development and things like this. It didn't belong in Book Two, for obvious reasons. There had to be that question. So I have this, and it's not 100% complete, in fact it's a pretty rough draft. But I feel I can't write Book Three until I know exactly what Jasnah went through.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

Were you intending to kill Eshonai off from the beginning of the series, or is that a decision you made later on?

Brandon Sanderson

That was a decision I made later in the outlining process. It was not begun that way, but it became obvious I needed to do it fairly early on. Why?

Questioner

I was just wondering, because as I was reading Way of Kings, a lot of people thought she was going to be a continuing character, maybe even be one of the good guys later on.

Brandon Sanderson

Right. The decision I came to, and it was probably-- Trying to remember exactly when it was. When I came to the decision that Venli was more interesting as a perspective, viewpoint character than her sister was, because we already had characters in the series whose attribute was paragon of their-- This kind of paragon soldier who's trying to do the right thing is well covered in The Stormlight Archive. She was intended originally, but pretty early in the revision process, I decided it needed to go the other direction, 'cause Venli just worked way better as a viewpoint character.

Questioner

Is Eshonai still getting a flashback book?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, she's still getting a flashback book. I didn't change any of that. In fact, before I even began the series, I knew there were some characters who would not make it to their flashback book, and I wanted to make sure that I made clear that that could happen.

Questioner

You said that before, I was like, I want to hear it.

Brandon Sanderson

Eshonai was intended to continue through, but I changed that pretty quickly, when I realized-- like I said.

General Reddit 2012 ()
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BigRedDSP

I just finished The Way of Kings and have been told it will be a 10 book series which makes me worry when it's done I'll feel like I do about AMoL right now.

Brandon Sanderson

If it helps, it's two five book arcs. The first five will draw to a natural conclusion. (Kind of how Mistborn one comes to its own conclusion, then two and three are in another arc.)

Starsight Release Party ()
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Questioner

Will we see more of Rysn in the Stormlight Archive books?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. I plan to... She never becomes a main character. I plan to have an interlude with Rysn every time.

Questioner

She won't be out of the interludes?

Brandon Sanderson

No, she won't be, but I might write a novella with her. Like I did with Lift.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Nadine

Will The Way of Kings series be based on one of the worlds and magic systems you have already created or are you inventing a totally new one for this series?

Brandon Sanderson

It will be new. There are going to be a lot of different types of magic in the world (I see there's a question below asking about that, so I'll answer more there.) But there will be two main magic systems for the first book. The first will deal with the manipulation of fundamental forces. (Gravity, Strong/weak atomic forces, Electromagnetic force, that sort of thing.) The second will be a transformation based magic system, whereby people can transform objects into one of the world's ten elements.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Can I ask you real quick: Where Warbreaker falls in Stormlight Achive?

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker is before Stormlight Archive. Vasher, before Warbreaker, had been to Roshar.

Questioner

Okay, that's what I needed to know. Nightblood.

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood was patterned off of things that Vasher and the others saw on Roshar.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

You mentioned you like the interludes-- that the assigned characters don't take over the story. Is that to say that we will never really see those characters again or do--

Brandon Sanderson

You will see them on occasion. For instance, in the first book there's a guy named Axies the Collector, right? And in the second book in one of the interludes somebody walks by him, right? But the idea is that the interlude characters, for the most part are-- I'm not promising you an entire story about them. They-- you're getting a glimpse of the world and most of them will not return. A few of them will, on occasion. You'll see references to them and things like that. Their main point-- the main point of them is so that we can-- I can just have a pressure valve to just tell stories about Roshar that don't have to necessarily be in the main plot. Though I always choose one-- I choose them very specifically, right? I do them knowing that there's something-- some part of the world that you need as a clue for later on. If you like foreshadowing and stuff, a lot of these have foreshadowing.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

As the Cosmere gets a lot bigger, what is your biggest worry going forward writing the books?

Brandon Sanderson

Going forward, my biggest worry is making sure that I do things like get The Stormlight Archive done as a solid, complete whole, rather than letting it become... like, too distracted about the Cosmere. Like, I'm not worried about that for Mistborn, but I'm worried about that for Stormlight. Stormlight needs to be a self-contained whole, it needs to be a self-contained epic, and I have to be really careful not to-- in the later books in particular-- let it turn into the Avengers, something like that. So that's my biggest worry right now, is that I will let too much of that seep in. I'm being very careful about it.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Goron

You've mentioned before that all your books so far are in chronological order (Elantris, the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, Stormlight Archive). Alloy of Law takes place about 200 years after The Hero of Ages. (Right?) Does this put it chronologically before or after Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

The Alloy of Law takes place around 300 years after The Hero of Ages and several hundred years before the events in The Way of Kings. That does put it around the same time as Warbreaker.

Brandon's Blog 2015 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

As I was developing the Cosmere, I knew I wanted a few threads to span the entire mega-sequence, which was going to cover thousands of years. For this reason, I built into the outline a couple of "core" series.

One of these is the Stormlight Archive, where we have the Heralds who span ages, and which I eventually decided to break into two distinct arcs. Other series touch on the idea of long-standing characters. Dragonsteel, for example, will be kind of a bookend series. We'll get novels on Hoid's origins, then jump all the way to the end and get novels from his viewpoint late in the entire Cosmere sequence.

With Mistborn, I wanted to do something different. For aesthetic reasons, I wanted a fantasy world that changed, that grew updated and modernized. One of my personal mandates as a lover of the epic fantasy genre is to try to take what has been done before and push the stories in directions I think the genre hasn't looked at often enough.

I pitched Mistorn as a series of trilogies, which many of you probably already know. Each series was to cover a different era in the world (Scadrial), and each was to be about different characters—starting with an epic fantasy trilogy, expanding eventually into a space opera science fiction series. The magic would be the common thread here, rather than specific characters.

There was a greater purpose to this, more than just wanting a fantasy world that modernized. The point was to actually show the passage of time in the universe, and to make you, the reader, feel the weight of that passage.

Some of the Cosmere characters, like Hoid, are functionally immortal—in that, at least, they don't age and are rather difficult to kill. I felt that when readers approached a grand epic where none of the characters changed, the experience would be lacking something. I could tell you things were changing, but if there were always the same characters, it wouldn't feel like the universe was aging.

I think you get this problem already in some big epic series. (More on that below.) Here, I wanted the Cosmere to evoke a sense of moving through eras. There will be some continuing threads. (A few characters from Mistborn will be weaved through the entire thing.) However, to make this all work, I decided I needed to do something daring—I needed to reboot the Mistborn world periodically with new characters and new settings.

So how does Shadows of Self fit into this entire framework? Well, The Alloy of Law was (kind of) an accident. It wasn't planned to be part of the original sequence of Mistborn sub-series, but it's also an excellent example of why you shouldn't feel too married to an outline.

As I was working on Stormlight, I realized that it was going to be a long time (perhaps ten years) between The Hero of Ages and my ability to get back to the Mistborn world to do the first of the "second" series. I sat down to write a short story as a means of offering a stop-gap, but was disappointed with it.

That's when I took a step back and asked myself how I really wanted to approach all of this. What I decided upon was that I wanted a new Mistborn series that acted as a counterpoint to Stormlight. Something for Mistborn fans that pulled out some of the core concepts of the series (Allomantic action, heist stories) and mashed them with another genre—as opposed to epic fantasy—to produce something that would be faster-paced than Stormlight, and also tighter in focus.

That way, I could alternate big epics and tight, action character stories. I could keep Mistborn alive in people's minds while I labored on Stormlight.

The Alloy of Law was the result, an experiment in a second-era Mistborn series between the first two planned trilogies. The first book wasn't truly accidental, then, nor did it come from a short story. (I've seen both reported, and have tacitly perpetuated the idea, as it's easier than explaining the entire process.) I chose early 20th century because it's a time period I find fascinating, and was intrigued by the idea of the little-city lawman pulled into big-city politics.

Alloy wasn't an accident, but it was an experiment. I wasn't certain how readers would respond to not only a soft reboot like this, but also one that changed tone (from epic to focused). Was it too much?

The results have been fantastic, I'm happy to report. The Alloy of Law is consistently the bestselling book in my backlists, barring the original trilogy or Stormlight books. Fan reaction in person was enthusiastic.

So I sat down and plotted a proper trilogy with Wax and Wayne. That trilogy starts with Shadows of Self. It connects to The Alloy of Law directly, but is more intentional in where it is taking the characters, pointed toward a three-book arc.

You can see why this is sometimes hard to explain. What is Shadows of Self? It's the start of a trilogy within a series that comes after a one-off with the same characters that was in turn a sequel to an original trilogy with different characters.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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Lafona

I assume there are decisions you have to make on the fly while doing the art, so I was wondering: are there any of those that have made it into the lore, and maybe actually made changes to some of the plot elements? If so, what is your favorite thing you added to the story through the illustrations?

Ben McSweeney

Actually, most everything that makes it into the book has been reviewed and discussed and approved, so even the decisions I make on the fly are subject to change.

There's a series of character illustrations that were done early on, for the initial book pitch before the first novel was fully written. When Brandon eventually wrote descriptions for those characters in the text, the illustrations I'd provided played a part in what he wrote, which was wildly gratifying.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Duiker8

Is the fact that The Way of Kings and rest of the books in the series are going to focus each one on a different character connected in any way to the fact that both The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight focused each one on a pair of characters?

Brandon Sanderson

No, not really. Most of my plans for The Stormlight Archive go back years and years to before I was working on The Wheel of Time. I would say that the The Gathering Storm/Towers of Midnight character split happened because of the book split, less than any real planning on my part. I had the character arcs and decided which ones would fit well together if I was only going to be releasing one batch of them at a time.

So the answer is no, but with the caveat that with the way my mind works, it may have been working in the same way in both cases.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
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Questioner

In The Stormlight Archive, you have your interludes. As you said they are short stories. Are some of those characters going to be making reappearances?

Brandon Sanderson

Will some of the characters from the interludes in The Stormlight Archive make recurring appearances. Yes some of them will, I am seeding characters who are main characters for later in the series by what I'm doing in that book, in those interludes. Not all of them will be. I have ten characters that are forming the spine for this series-- and some of them-- Lift is one of the ones who is going to be in the back five books which will take place-- After Book 5 of Stormlight we will have a break, in-world, for about fifteen years. Not out of the world, not in our world, but we will have a break and when we come back fifteen years or so will have passed and we will start on the back five characters.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

Do you already know how The Stormlight Archive is going to end?

Brandon Sanderson

I do!

Questioner

Do you have all the details in mind, or do you just kind of have a general idea and you figure it out as you go?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I'm a planner. I tend to like having a pretty detailed plan. For something like The Stormlight Archive, that generally kind of boils down to: the next book has a five page plan, the book after that has a three page plan, the book after that a two page plan, one page, one page, and the last book we go back to a five page plan. So there is lots of wiggle room in one of these outlines, but at the same time, I've got touchstones and things I know I'm writing toward.