Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)
There will be a _____ Twinborn somewhere in the novel, a Twinborn with matching metals a la how the Lord Ruler used atium.
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There will be a _____ Twinborn somewhere in the novel, a Twinborn with matching metals a la how the Lord Ruler used atium.
The light-hearted banter in your recent standalone Mistborn book, The Alloy of Law, is an unexpected yet delightful change from the more serious tone of the original trilogy. Why did you decide to make such an abrupt shift? Will we get to read more about Waxillium and Wayne?
This was quite conscious on my part. One of the reasons I ended up writing The Alloy of Law as I did is because I personally wanted something to balance The Stormlight Archive, which is going to be more serious and have a tone more like the original Mistborn trilogy. I'm planning a five-book sequence to start off The Stormlight Archive, so I wanted something to go between those books that was faster paced, a little more lighthearted, and more focused.
I love The Stormlight Archive—it's what I think will be the defining work of my career, but that said, sometimes you want a bag of potato chips instead of a steak. Sometimes you want to write that, and sometimes you want to read that. I knew not all readers would want to go along with me at the start on such a big, long series; they may want to wait until it's finished. So I wanted to be releasing smaller, more focused and more simply fun books in between, both for my own interest and for my readers. And I will keep doing this; there will be more Wax and Wayne books in the future, spaced among my bigger epics.
Waxillium gets pushed to the brink, watching the robbery
I realize it's amusing for people to think of the process of this book, which began as a "short" story. Perhaps I'll post my original attempts at writing the book. As a matter of note, Wayne was the first person I imagined for this series. In very early notes I scribbled down, he was actually going to be a hatmaker. (If you can believe that.) He developed a long way from there.
Many of you may know that I wrote this book during my "time off" between finishing Towers of Midnight and starting A Memory of Light. However, the ideas for this story had been around for some time longer, perhaps a year or two. I decided I wanted to do some shorter stories between the first two larger-scale Mistborn trilogies, and . . . well, this is what "short" means to me, I guess.
Anyway, the first scene with Wayne I dabbled in (this was before the break) was him out in the Roughs riding into town on a kandra that had the body of a horse. It was a nice spin on a typical Western motif—instead of being the quiet gunman of Western cliché, he was a screwball hatmaker. And his horse was sentient and grumbling about having to carry him around; she wanted to get back into a human body as soon as possible.
The scene didn't work, though. I didn't get far into it. Wayne wasn't working for me as a main viewpoint character at that time, and I hadn't gotten around to filling out his character with the things he eventually became. (His "borrowing," his love of accents, his good nature despite a dark past. Things like this grew as his character became more deep.)
The other thing that didn't work in those original scenes was the fact that there was no Wax. Wayne needed someone to play off, someone to be dry and more solemn—but still make for good banter. And Wayne just wasn't a leading man. The story was wrong when it was just about him. I needed to tell a story about someone else and fit him into it.
That brings us to this sequence. When I planned the original short story, this sequence at the party was going to be the end of it. The Vanishers weren't in the book—it was just a simple gang of thieves taking a hostage. The prologue didn't exist, as I've spoken of earlier. It was a more simple story of a man coming into his own and deciding to fight again after losing someone dear to him.
For that reason, this sequence here—this chapter with the next—may feel like a climactic sequence to you, of the sort you often find at the end of my books. Originally, this was going to be the ending. (Though by the time I reached this chapter in the writing, I'd already decided I was going to make the story much longer, and had greatly expanded my outline. Hints of the story's origins can still be found, however. Note that we don't get a Wayne or a Marasi viewpoint until after this sequence when we hit the expanded outline material.)
A few months ago, I discovered listening to classic jazz just really got me into the mindset for my current novel, and I think it might be because the story is set in a time similar to the America in the 1920's; do you ever try to match the music with the setting of a specific book or scene? Is there any one artist or style of music that works no matter what?
Yes, indeed I do. I actually listened to era-appropriate music when working on Alloy of Law. In general, a good soundtrack can work no matter what, but for some scenes I need something more powerful. (Szeth's scenes in [The Way of Kings] were usually to Daft Punk.)
How much did you focus on writing The Alloy of Law as a starting point for readers who were new to Mistborn? Was it hard to balance writing for new readers versus wanting to give your existing readers a "welcome home"?
It takes place hundreds of years after the trilogy, so there was enough that I had to bring longtime readers up to speed on that it felt very natural to write the book as a potential new starting point, just because the world had been updated so much.
That said, I did make sure to slip in lots of fun things for those who had read the original trilogy, that are callbacks or that show how the world got updated and how it grew. I was conscious of the book possibly being a new starting point, but it's more that it felt natural for what the story required, as opposed to me sitting down and trying to force the book to be a new starting point.
The Book's Title
It's from this chapter that we get the title of the book. The Alloy of Law. I realize it's an odd title. However, something about it strikes me. I don't think everyone is going to like it; it's certainly not as immediately powerful as something like The Way of Kings. But then, it's also a little more unique. It does, in my mind, encapsulate the theme of the novel. The idea is that these two men—Wax and Miles—are both taking their own interpretations of what it means to follow the law, and mixing it up and making something new of it. This book is a confrontation between their two different ideals.
The working book title was simply Wax and Wayne. (As I was writing the early chapters, that was how they were titled.) I knew this title wouldn't stick, however, as it's a pretty lame pun. Now, I happen to be fond of lame puns. But they don't belong in book titles unless you happen to be writing Xanth or Bob Asprin-type novels.
I can't honestly remember which name—Wax or Wayne—I came up with first. I had Wayne as a character first, but he had a different name. Wax's name came from the Mistborn ideal, where the characters frequently had strange fantasy names that abbreviated to fun terms. (Like Hammond becoming Ham or Dockson becoming Dox.) Wax just fit well with those. Wayne, on the other hand, is a name that feels Western to me, for obvious reasons. As soon as I began thinking of the character by that name, he started to become complete to me—and so I had to keep it, even though the "Wax and Wayne" pun will probably make people groan.
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.
Alloy of Law leatherbounds? Have you made any decisions?
Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self will come together. They will be separate leatherbound books, but they will be packaged together, not in a slip case. They will probably be, together, around $150 as a package.
We're gonna try to keep elements of the design from the Mistborn books, so that they look good in a line, but have something that is a little bit different about them.
Because of our contracts, we will not sell them separately.
Any more Mistborn stories in the works?
Yes. For those who aren't aware, when I pitched the Mistborn series to my editor originally, way back when, I pitched it as a trilogy of trilogies—a past-present-future—where I would do an epic fantasy trilogy and then I would jump forward hundreds of years and explore what happens with the magic in a modern-day technology level setting, and then I would jump forward hundreds more years and allow the magic to then become the primary means by which FTL—faster-than-light space travel—is able to happen. And so, the three metallurgic magic systems actually have FTL built into them. And so there will be a space-opera series set in the future, because I was able to plan all this stuff out finally knowing what I would be publishing. One thing that I ran into doing that was, when I delved into The Way of Kings and The Stormlight Archive, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to get to that second Mistborn trilogy any time soon, so I didn't want to have two big epics going on at the same time—I wanted, you know, one epic, and then other things—and so what I did is I said, well I'm going to try writing a short story in the Mistborn world, and this will be something exciting for people that, you know-- I kind of sort of do some of these things to keep Mistborn going.
And, I tried writing a short story and it flopped horribly. It was a terrible story. Wayne was in it, but otherwise it was awful. It just didn't work...
Okay. Anyway, so back to your story. I tried to write this short story, and it was awful. And I said, well, it's just not working, but there's some ideas here that I want to expand on. Maybe I'll write something bigger. And I started working on it, and I got about three chapters in, and said, okay, this is a novel.
Fortunately, I'd built into—this was a time where I'd built in myself a couple of months between Wheel of Time books to just do whatever I wanted. You can go back to my blogs at the time, and I said, people, I need a couple months to do something else to refresh myself. And so, I went in my outline to a full short novel that became Alloy of Law, and this is an interim book meant to be kind of more fast-paced, only focused on a couple characters, to deal with, you know-- I describe it as, sometimes you want to go have a big steak dinner, but sometimes you really just want to have a hamburger, and Alloy of Law is a hamburger. *laughter* It's faster. It's fun. It's meant to be a cool character interaction story, and with a mystery, as opposed to something that big.
And so I plan to do some more of those; I actually got about halfway through a sequel during moments of free time that unfortunately I can't continue because the Wheel of Time project went-- I would do it when I'd like send a revision to Harriet, and it would be, she'd be like, "I'll get back to you in three days," and I'm like, alright, I'll work on this. And then when the revision comes back, I don't keep going on this; I have to work on The Wheel of Time. It's not something I can put off. And right now with Stormlight 2—I have to do Stormlight 2; deadlines are so tight—but I will eventually get back to Shadows of Self, the second Wax and Wayne book, and you will get some more of those, to have some things going on in the Mistborn world until I get to the second epic trilogy, which will happen eventually.
There is a cameo of Josh & Mi'chele in Alloy of Law! There's a gunfight at their wedding reception
Last time we spoke, we were talking about the 45-hour audiobook for The Way of Kings. Each of the Mistborn books came in at 25-30 hours, but The Alloy of Law comes in at a tidy 9 discs. Did you set out to write a shorter book?
I knew I wanted to do more in the Mistborn world, and for a long time I played with writing a short story. The short story that I tried to write didn't work; I tossed it aside after maybe a thousand words, and began working on a different story. I can usually judge what the length of a story will be, and I knew this one would be longer, but I wasn't sure how long I would want it to be, or whether I should make it a full-blown novel. So I wrote what turned out to be three or four chapters' worth, and at that point I decided, it was a big enough story to can make a novel of it. I knew it wasn't going to be the same length as the original Mistborn books, but I felt okay with that, because for a long time I've been wanting to start writing some—I don't want to say shorter, but quicker, faster-paced stories; thrilleresque, maybe a little more pulpish. I just think of it as a fun book, that doesn't require quite as much of an investment of time and energy for the reader as something like The Way of Kings—which I love, but I want to be doing a variety of things. So writing a shorter book was intentional, but I kind of slipped into it.
Marasi finds Waxillium experimenting with metals
I was very amused to find that the cover of this book had been steampunkified a little bit, with Waxillium having a pair of extraneous goggles on his head. But, to be fair, I did put some goggles in the book, so I guess I can't complain too much.
One thing I was aware of when writing this book was that I didn't want it to feel too much like Sherlock Holmes. There are a lot of parallels, as I mentioned in an earlier annotation. It was important to me to acknowledge the obvious influence to myself, but try to keep myself from falling too much into the same mold.
That's kind of hard when the story is set up, basically, to be a mystery with an investigator set in a similar time period to the Holmes stories. In my head, however, I decided this book would be more police procedural and less quirky-genius-does-deduction. I wanted Waxillium to be a cop, through and through, not an eccentric who solves cases out of curiosity. In that regard, Sam Vimes—from Terry Pratchett's books—was almost as much of an inspiration as Holmes was.
Anyway, that's all a side note to what is happening in this chapter. Waxillium is being methodical in the way he tracks down what is happening. He's very much a step-by-step kind of guy in these matters. And now that he's let himself loose and decided to be involved, he's gone a little overboard.
Is the Allow of Law actually a part of the next trilogy?
It is not. It is a book I wrote because I didn't want to be leaving Mistborn for too long untouched.
A lot happens before this book opens—how did you pick an opening for Wax's story, leaving so much of the backstory with Wayne (and others) to be picked up and absorbed on the fly?
I usually like to start my books in medias res to an extent. It brings across the sense that I want to portray, which is that the characters all existed before the book started, and the characters continue—those who survive—to exist after the book ends. That helps with the sense of immersion. Granted, each book tells about a very important chapter of the characters' lives, and there's a distinct beginning, middle, and end to that chapter, but if the beginning or end are too hard and fast, it feels contrived to me. So I do this with all of my books.
It's usually harder to figure out a starting point than you might think. I often have to revise my beginnings very heavily. This is no different from my other works; in the Mistborn books I've had to do this often. The prologue for [The Alloy of Law] was actually written to be the prologue to a sequel, and after I wrote it, I thought, "No, that needs to go in this book." We did a lot of shuffling around at the beginning of this book to find the right starting point.
Where did Wayne come from? ...Who is he modeled after?
He is not modeled after anyone specific. He came from me wanting to write a character who changed his personality based on the hat he wore. Like, literal, a person who wears lots of hats... I started a short story with him as the main character, and I found he needed someone to play off of, and that's where Alloy of Law came from.
So the number 16 is important on Scadrial, on pg 245, Wax is trying to find out where Miles is going to be next and he writes down the number "35.17" I couldn't help but notice that the 3+5+1+7=16, was that intentional or am I seeing things that aren't really there?
I slip it in here and there for fun, but it isn't actually important. It is fun when people notice it, though.
Yes, the butler is a traitor. It's a cliche, but it fit the narrative very well, so I went ahead and used it. I don't think a lot of people will see it coming, though there are several clues. One of them is the fact that he makes only one cup of tea here and brings it for Wax; Tillaume is not accustomed to killing people, and he's extremely nervous in this scene. That's why he made the mistake of not making three cups and bringing them all over. (My writing group caught this, which amused me. They thought it was a mistake in the writing, though.)
One of the things that made me want to write this story, and keep going on it after I'd started, was the chance for good banter between Wax and Wayne. They play off one another well, and I haven't had a chance to do a book in a while (ever since the first Mistborn book, really) that had a good, long-established relationship between main characters who I could play off each other in this way. There is something deeply satisfying for me about this kind of writing, even though it's really just silly banter. I feel as proud of moments like Wayne toppling over because of the tea, then the conversation in the speed bubble, as I do of a deep character complexly coming to a character climax at the height of a story. That's because, at least as I see it, this is as technically difficult to pull off—the right feel of two characters with a very long relationship, talking in a way that conveys their years of experience with one another. And, at the same time, hopefully being amusing and interesting.
It's very dense writing, for all the fact that it doesn't read that way. (Unlike, for example, a really good section of dense description, laden with meaning.) Part of the reason it works is because it feels so easy to the reader.
The second thing I tried writing was a short story set in the Mistborn world a few hundred years after The Hero of Ages. This one just didn’t work; the characters weren’t gripping for me. More importantly, it just didn’t FEEL like a Mistborn book. I got about one scene into it.
As I was working on it, however, I did some worldbuilding on this time period in Scadrial’s history. I got to thinking about what was wrong with the short story, and why it didn’t feel right. This grew into an outline regarding a completely different story—with no overlap of characters—set in the same time period. I nurtured this and started writing, and it felt right from the get-go. I had the right tone, so I kept writing, expanding my outline, letting the story grow as big as it wanted to be.
In the end, I had an 85,000-word novel that I named Mistborn: The Alloy of Law.
A little safer question- Why did you not have Waxillium fall for Marasi? Why stick with the contract with Steris?
Marasi, as she was in Alloy of Law, was just plain wrong for Wax. As I write books, I allow my characters to grow more free-form (while my setting and plot are outlined in detail.) In writing the book, I felt that a Marasi hook-up at the end would not only be wrong for the character, but wrong for the story. If I do direct sequels (which I probably will) perhaps things will change.
So on the cover for Alloy of Law, is it Wayne standing next to Wax?
Yes and Wayne has a gun. So, we saw that. We didn't think it was worth changing. We recognize that that's the way it is but it's mostly just because the covers aren't meant to be an illustration of the book; they're meant to be evoking the feeling of the book and we liked the feeling of the book. We didn't want to have to go back to do reshoots because that's an actually photography shoot. All of those books, he has actors dress up and do the shoots and then Photoshops it.
It wasn't bad enough to make us say, "Ooh you have to go reshoot this whole thing." But Wayne has just not realized he's holding a gun yet and dropped it. Someone handed it to him and he's like, "What? Oh!" but they got the shot right before.
Where'd you come up with Wayne's kleptomania where he steals things and replaces things he finds of value. I think that's the funniest part of his character, that he determines that "oh, this is worth more than this" and "that is a good trade".
I have no idea where that came from, I can take no responsibility for that man. He just kinda popped out fully formed. I started writing a short story about him, which was where I started, I was gonna do a little Mistborn novella in the wild west era with Wayne as the main character. He was a riot but he couldn't be a main character, he couldn't be the main character. He needed somebody to play off of, and so the Wayne and MeLaan story got shelved--eventually I'll show people, I only got about a thousand words into it--and instead we got Alloy of Law.