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Brandon's Blog 2016 ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Any of you who haven't read the Evil Librarians series might want to duck out here, because I'm going to talk about the big reveal at the end of the fifth novel. This is a post that's been brewing since 2006, so I'm eager to talk about it—but anyone who has read stories like Secret History will know that I like to brew surprises over the long haul. I'd rather you discover this on your own, by reading the series. I've posted before my pitch on what the books are about, and why you might like them.

For those of you who have read up to the fifth book, it's time to give a behind-the-scenes look at what happened with this series.

If we look back to 2006, we can find the seed of the first [Alcatraz] book in a writing prompt I wrote out for myself: “So there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to be sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil librarians.”

Great first line to a story. I typed it into my phone while at a meeting one day, and quickly became enthralled by it. I'd been reading a lot of middle grade, and wanted to try my hand at something in the genre. I discovery-wrote the story, mostly as a writing exercise—and as a break from the Mistborn series, which I felt needed some breathing room before I could work on the next book.

The story turned out great. Quirky, sarcastic, and fun. So I sent it to my agent, and he liked it too. It took us only a few months to get four offers. Each of the editors we were talking to wanted to know, what was my vision for the series?

And this was tricky because the first book had left me in a bit of a conundrum. You see, a big theme of that first book was a character telling their life's story and warning everyone that he wasn't a hero, that things ended poorly for him. And yet the series was lighthearted and fun, full of humor and wackiness. It didn't have the dark tone of Lemony Snicket, despite the main character's insistence that he was no hero.

I felt I'd promised the audience a fun reversal—that Alcatraz would end up being a hero, even if he didn't think he was one. This was tricky though, because I had the feeling that if I ended it that way, it would be too obvious. Somehow I had to have an ending that justified Alcatraz thinking he was a huge failure in life, but at the same time indicating to the reader that he was actually heroic.

And that's when I hit on a structure that would let me do this. I pitched the following to the various editors interested in the books: I'll write a six-book series that I tell everyone is five books long. The main character will write five, and the fifth will end with the disasters he predicted. This will show exactly why he thinks of himself the way he does.

But then the sixth book will be from the viewpoint of his bodyguard, continuing the story and giving the real ending.

I felt this would work because it played into the themes of Alcatraz being honest about his past, mixed with his feelings of failure. But it would at the same time let us have an ending that wasn't quite so much of a downer. All it required was that we remain quiet for six years or so (it ended up being ten) about the secret sixth book. (In the intervening years, if people asked me if book five was the end, I tried to always answer, "The fifth book is the last one Alcatraz will write.")

Some of the editors loved this idea, and others didn't like it at all. One who loved it was Susan at Tor, who is now publishing the books—so yay!

My initial pitch for the release of book five this year was to have a little envelope inside the back cover that you opened and found a note from Bastille, saying she was going to write the last book. However, that proved to be a problem. First, it's easy to lose a card from an envelope, which meant that library books and secondhand books risked having the true ending get lost. Second, it seemed like it would just be too much for people to resist opening early. We ended up going with a folded-over page at the ending, which at least can't get lost. (And in the ebook, Bastille's note is at the very, very end, past all the footnotes, like a post-credits scene.)

So what does this mean for the future of the series? Well, two years ago I posted a screenshot of my folder showing all of my books in order. It hid a secret project, scribbled out. People assumed this was Secret History, and I didn't disabuse them (as I was working on it at the time). But it's actually Evil Librarians Six, which I've done a bunch of work on. I'm not sure when I'll have it out, but it won't be too long. (I will probably finish it sometime next year.) I'm tentatively calling it Alcatraz Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians: The Worldspire. (Yes, Alcatraz's name will likely be crossed out on the cover, with hers written over it.) Originally I'd named it Alcatraz vs. His Own Dumb Self, but I think that might be going too far.

Thank you to all the fans who have kept with this series over the years. It's because of you that I went through all the trouble of buying the series back from the old publisher, when they decided to end it at four books. And it's because of you that we have the gorgeous new Tor editions, finally with cover art that fits the books. (Not to mention the awesome interior art.)

But book six WILL be the last. You can trust this, because it's me saying it, not Alcatraz. 

Firefight Houston signing ()
#2 Copy


What's the name of the fifth book of the Alcatraz Smedry series?

Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Smedry Book Five is called Alcatraz Versus His Own Stupid Self. I think. *chuckles* That might be the subtitle. It might be Alcatraz Versus the Dark Talent. I haven't settled on between those two. If you know Acatraz books, that title should make, be very fun to you.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Okay, maybe also Alcatraz one since I just finished Dark Talent few hours ago (it's excellent, by the way): Why did they need Dif in the first place? I mean, Alcatraz still knows more about Hushlands than any person from Free Kingdoms would, even a person who went deep undercover for a long time. What did they need a specialist in Hushlands for? That part didn't make sense for me.

Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz knows what it is like to live in a small town in the US. Would you pick him as a guide to show you around DC or NYC, a place he'd never been? He's a thirteen year old kid. But I'll say, at the same time, Dif was working hard behind the scenes to get himself involved.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Did you know from the beginning how you were planning to end [Alcatraz]? Because the whole time, I was going, "He'd better fulfill all of these promises."

Brandon Sanderson

I was. I'll tell you this, when I pitched that to the editor, they did not like it at all. They didn't like the idea of me ending on such a downer note. But I knew that the right way to do it was to have him give up on the series after that dark moment. A lot of the Alcatraz stuff I discovery wrote, but that ending I had from the beginning.

A Memory of Light Portland signing ()
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Are you planning on continuing to the fifth book of the Alcatraz series?

Brandon Sanderson

Am I planning to continue to the fifth book of the Alcatraz series, which are my middle grade and young adult wacky fantasy books? The answer is yes. I did not like what the publisher [Scholastic] was doing with the Alcatraz series, so I actually bought the rights back as part of agreement last year, which gave them until January to continue selling the books, and then I got the rights back in January. But they didn't want to do the fifth book for various reasons, and so I bought them all back and am now planning on how to get them back out there. I've given my UK publisher the right to distribute in the US, so they should have distribution again. And so I'll do the fifth book sometime this year. I will initially probably just put it on my website to read because you've been waiting for so long, and then we'll worry about getting it printed somehow. Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Tyran Amiros

Also, when is Book 5 coming out?? I want to know how Bastille comes back to life.

Brandon Sanderson

Book 5, I'm going to wait and see what happens with the movie deal. By the way, DreamWorks did not renew their option, so it's back on the market. We'll see what happens. I also want to see what happens with Scholastic. They so far have not asked for a fifth book. If there is no activity by about this time next year, I will look into writing the fifth book and either just releasing an ebook or selling it to Tor or something like that. The fifth book will come.

And by the way, this is from me, Brandon, and not from Alcatraz: The fifth book is the one that includes the altar scene. I'm more trustworthy than Alcatraz is. That scene is in the fifth book.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Are we going to see Book 5 of Alcatraz?

Brandon Sanderson

Are you going to see Book 5 of Alcatraz, that counts as awesome. So I have written Book 5 of Alcatraz... I have written it, Tor is re-releasing them, because we bought them back from Scholastic and are then, I bought the rights back, I didn't think they were treating the books very well, and we sold them again to Tor, and Tor just got the cover art for the first four and it looks really cool. It's the best cover art I've had on an Alcatraz book, which is good because Alcatraz, in the books, makes fun of the cover art on the books because it is so bad. I don't think our publisher liked that. *laughter* So I'm going to have to change the line or something. Anyway the plan is to re-release those starting in January next year and release them every one to two months until we get to the fifth book in the summer and release it then. So it's still a little ways off, I've been saying that for a long time but there is at least cover art now and the book is actually written.

State of the Sanderson 2014 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

What I spent 2014 doing

January–March 2014: Firefight

Though I had hoped to have Firefight (The Reckoners 2) done long before January, the touring last year made that impossible. It snuck over into 2014, which is why you’re getting the book in January 2015 instead of the originally scheduled fall of this year. In March, I also did the Words of Radiance tour, which really cut into my writing time.

April 2014: Legion: Skin Deep

In April, once all the chaos was done, I took the time to finish up Legion: Skin Deep (sequel to Legion from a few years back), which I’d been working on during plane flights the year before. If you haven’t checked these two novellas out, you might want to consider it! They’re very fun, though the second book is not yet out in the UK and associated territories such as Australia and New Zealand. (Note that in those territories, Legion 1 and The Emperor’s Soul were released together in a very handsome paperback.)

We will eventually have regular hardcover copies of Legion 2 available. That will probably come sometime in the first half of next year. Our contract with Subterranean Press, who produced the very attractive limited edition hardcovers of Legion 2, says that we’ll wait until their edition sells out before we release a competing one.

May 2014: The Aztlanian (Rithmatist 2)

Next, I dove into research for a sequel to The Rithmatist. This is going to be a tough book to write, as it takes place in a fantastical version of Central and South America, and deals with things from Aztec (Mexica) mythology. (In The Rithmatist, a lot of the geography is shifted around in bizarre ways.)

Dealing with another group’s culture in this way is rife with opportunities for stuffing my foot in my mouth, and so I wanted to be very careful and respectful. This meant spending time devoted exclusively to doing extensive research. I didn’t actually get any writing on the book done, though I read some very excellent history books.

(As an aside, if anyone out there is an expert in the Aztec/Mexica culture—particularly if you yourself are a Native American—I’d love to have your help on this book.)

At the end of the month, I decided I needed to do way more research than a month afforded, so I put the book off for now. I still intend to write it, but I need more time to do it right.

June 2014: Alcatraz

Having spent a month with no writing, I wanted to jump into something fun and quick to refresh me before moving on to my next book. So, I dug out my outline for the Alcatraz series and at long last did a rough draft of the fifth book. These are fast, fast books to write—as I improvise them—but they are very slow to edit.

I finished the book, and am pleased with it, but I have no firm date yet for when I’ll be publishing it. Tor is rereleasing the series starting next year with new covers and extensive interior art. I believe these launch starting about a year from now. (If you want them before then, your best bet for getting them is the UK omnibus of the first four.)

I’ll want to release the fifth one once the series has been rereleased, so maybe summer 2016. If you’ve never read these, they are very different from my other work. They’re bizarre and sarcastic comedies that are self-referential and offer commentary on fantasy as a genre along the way. Those who love them absolutely love them. Those who don’t tend to find them insulting. That dichotomy alone is part of what endears them to me.

July–December 2014: Mistborn

The last half of the year was dedicated to Shadows of Self, the new Mistborn novel. And I have a confession to make.

I also wrote the sequel.

Now, before you start wagging your finger at me for being a robot, there was a really good reason I did what I did. You see, I was having real trouble getting back into Shadows of Self. I had written the first third of it in 2012 between revisions of A Memory of Light. (I was feeling Wheel of Time overload.) However, it can be very hard for me to get back into a book or series after a long time away from it. (This is another issue with the Rithmatist sequel.)

So, jumping into Shadows of Self was slow going, and I found it much easier to go write the sequel to refresh myself on the world and characters. That done, I was able to move back to Shadows of Self and finish it up.

So a week or two back, I turned in two new Wax and Wayne Mistborn novels. They’re titled Shadows of Self and Bands of Mourning, and Tor decided to publish them in quick succession: the first in October 2015, the second in January 2016. So, if you have read the original trilogy but haven’t tried The Alloy of Law yet, you might want to give it a look! From the beginning, I’ve planned Mistborn to be a continuum series, showing off Allomancy in different time periods. I think you’ll find the Wax and Wayne books to be fun, quick reads—and they introduce some very, very big things coming in the Mistborn world.

There will be one more Wax and Wayne (early 1900s-era) Mistborn book. Back after I finished The Alloy of Law, I sat down and plotted out a trilogy with the same characters. The Alloy of Law was more of a happy, improvised accident. The follow-up trilogy is meant to be more intentional. So in the end, we’ll have four total. (The final one is tentatively called The Lost Metal.) From there, I might jump to the second “big” trilogy, which is 1980s tech. Or I might dally a little more in something 1940s-era instead. We’ll see.

Amusingly, doing these two Mistborn books together totaled only about half as much writing as a Stormlight book. Perhaps you can see why it takes even me quite a long time to finish Stormlight novels. (And it’s why you might want to lay off Pat Rothfuss a little. I believe The Wise Man’s Fear was even longer than Words of Radiance.)

Tor did their announcement about these books earlier today. You may now commence wisecracks about me secretly writing extra novels when nobody is looking.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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What happened to Alcatraz?

Brandon Sanderson

What happened to Alcatraz. Well he almost got sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of Evil Librarians but he survived to write his autobiography-- No, you mean the books. I wrote the fifth book this summer after researching for The Aztlanian long enough that I realized I have to do more research before I can finish it. So I stopped, knew that I wanted to write another middle-grade, so I stopped and wrote Alcatraz 5 and gave it to Tor. They're planning to publish it next year. They're going to start with Alcatraz 1 in January with new art and things like that, publish those first five and do the sixth book sometime in June-- Or fifth book in June is what I think. So republish the first four and then publish the fifth.

State of the Sanderson 2015 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Secondary Book Projects

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

Here's another one we've been able to clear off my list. With Tor republishing the first four books of this series throughout the spring next year (starting in February), I am at last able to get the fifth book (and the final one Alcatraz will write) out to you fans.

The new art for these editions has me very excited. For once I think we have covers that indicate to readers the tone of the books. Book Five should be out in the summer, though I believe Tor is scheduling it for August instead of June. It is written, and I'm doing final edits on it right now. (In the evenings after I feel I've hit my wordcount goal for Stormlight.)

If you haven't read these books, give them a browse once they come out again in the spring. They're very fun, but very different from my other books. They're insane, fourth-wall-breaking comedies, so they're certainly not for everyone. They have been an excellent way for me to blow off steam and refresh myself between longer, more ponderous books.

Status: Book Five Completed!

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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What are the chances that you will eventually write a fifth Alcatraz book?

Does Alcatraz ever actually end up tied to a stack of encyclopedias, about to be sacrificed by evil librarians?

Brandon Sanderson

I bought the rights to the Alcatraz series back from Scholastic earlier this year, and they were given a 'sell-off' period to sell the rest of their stock. I now own the rights again free and clear, and will probably be putting out an omnibus ebook. (Perhaps a print one with Tor as well.)

I can now write the fifth book (which Scholastic did not want.) It was always planned as the book where he ends up on that stack of encyclopedias. I'll do this sometime next year, hopefully.

Idaho Falls signing 2014 ()
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ProfessionalLurker (paraphrased)

Any news on Alcatraz 5?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

He said he wrote the book last summer, and is waiting for the greenlight from Tor to hand it off, basically. They want to publish books 1-4 first, followed by this one. But the only thing needed is a schedule and edits! Still sounds like an early/mid 2016 thing to me.