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Ben McSweeney AMA ()
#1 Copy

TransFattyAcid

One of the drawings in The Rithmatist contains a spoiler for the chapter that follows. How do you all normally ensure that doesn't happen? Do you read the whole book or is it more of relying on the art request telling you what to avoid?

Ben McSweeney

That's something that falls at the feet of editing and layout, at the publisher. I produce illustrations to spec, but I don't get a lot of input on where they're ultimately placed on the page or in the book.

That being said, someone really should have caught that. [Peter], do you know if this is something that was fixed in later editions.

Peter Ahlstorm

The illustrations are all the way Brandon designed them. Some of them contain information that comes up in the text of that chapter.

Ben McSweeney

That's about as definitive an answer as an answer can be. :)

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

little_wilson

What's the earliest that we'll be seeing more of Scribbler (I'd heard a bunch about it at TWG, and so I found the sample chapters on your site and now I'm REALLY wanting more of it, so I'd like to know when I should start looking again...)?

Brandon Sanderson

Sigh. I really want to do something with Scribbler, but I can't justify it right now. I'm doing the fourth Alcatraz because I can't put it off any longer because of contracts, and Kings because Tor really wants a solo Brandon book next year. But I can't justify working too much on a project that hasn't been sold and which—if published—would end up pulling me into another side trilogy. I have to leave the WoT with the space it needs and deserves. Until it is completed, I have to shelve side projects. That, unfortunately, includes Scribbler. For now.

There are some things in the works with it, and I'm very excited about the possibilities. But there's nothing tangible I can give you now. It's coming. Maybe sooner than I've made it sound, but best to be careful as nothing is set yet.

Steelheart San Francisco signing ()
#3 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

He was asked how many contracts he's had and has.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

He started to talk about the story where he had a contract for Dragonsteel and another book, which became Rithmatist. He said the first book of Dragonsteel didn't turn out well, and that he wasn't ready to write that series, which ties in all of his universes as a prequel. And said he'd be avoiding more series where you have to really have read everything to get it until further down the line. Confirmed that the next several books are going to be Stormlight related, along with the in between Wax and Wayne books, Steelheart books and Rithmatist.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Secondary Projects

The Rithmatist

This continues to be the single most-requested sequel among people who email me or contact me on social media. It is something I want to do, and still intend to, but it has a couple of weird aspects to it—completely unrelated to its popularity—that continue to work as roadblocks.

The first problem is that it's an odd relic in my writing career. I wrote it as a diversion from a book that wasn't working (Liar of Partinel, my second attempt at doing a novel on Yolen, after the unpublished novel Dragonsteel). It went really well—but it also was something I had to set aside when the Wheel of Time came along.

I eventually published it years later, but my life and my writing has moved in a very different direction from the point when I wrote this. These days, I try very hard to make stories like this work as novellas or standalone stories, rather than promising sequels. I feel I did promise a sequel for this one, and I have grand plans for it, but the time just never seems to be right.

The other issue is that writing about that era in America—even in an alternate universe—involves touching on some very sensitive topics. Ones that, despite my best efforts, I feel that I didn't handle as sensitively as I could have. I do want to come back to the world and do a good job of it, but doing an Aztec viewpoint character—as I'd like to do as one of the viewpoints in book two—in an alternate Earth…well, it's a challenge that takes a lot of investment in research time.

And for one reason or another, I keep ending up in crisis mode—first with Stormlight 3 taking longer than I wanted, and now with The Apocalypse Guard not turning out like I wanted. So someday I will get to this, but it's going to require some alignment of several factors.

Status: Not yet. We'll see.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Argent

Keeping it on Scadrial, the ranks within the Set are obviously inspired by either mathematics, or programming, or logic, or a related field. Can you talk about this motivation (either yours or the Set's) for this?

Brandon Sanderson

My motivation ties directly to the same reasons that we see mathematics playing out in behind-the-scenes ways on Roshar. This plays into the themes of the cosmere, the rule-based magic, and the fascination I have of the ties between art and mathematics. (See the Rithmatist, which was originally a cosmere novel.)

The Set's in-world reasonings are similar to this, though less self-aware.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

You create some of the most elaborate magic systems in fantasy today; these systems function as intrinsic parts of your worlds and characters. Typically, how do you address the different types of magic systems in your different books? Do you define these systems before you start writing the books, or do they evolve and develop as you go along?

Brandon Sanderson

The answer to that is yes! It's different for every book. With my Cosmere books—which are the shared universe of my epic fantasies—I need to be a little more rigorous. There are fundamental underlying principles that guide the magic systems, and so there's a larger developmental phase before I start writing the book. Then I stick more strictly to the rules I've given myself.

All the way back in 2007, I was writing one of my epic fantasies, and it just wasn't working. I needed a break to something creative, different, and distinctive. So I jumped ship, abandoning that epic fantasy, and wrote The Rithmatist instead, which had a lot less planning than one of my epic fantasies.

With something like The Rithmatist—which is outside the cosmere—I'm allowed a little more freedom, which is one of the reasons I like writing books like this, where I allow myself to develop it as I write. The magic was the first thing that got me excited about The Rithmatist, so I based the book around it.

The first thing I wrote was the scene—now late in chapter one—where Joel watches Fitch get defeated by Nalizar in the classroom. It started out on a chalkboard, but I eventually moved it to the floor because that made more sense. As I was writing these chapters, I developed the Rithmatic lines and let the story feed the magic and the magic feed the story in a way that some writers call "discovery written."

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

Are you ever gonna make a book that's based on Earth, but in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

No. The Rithmatist started that way, and I pulled it out of the cosmere, because I didn't want Earth in the cosmere. So, that happening tells me pretty surely I'll never do it.

Questioner

Out of curiosity, what Shard would have been on Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

I will RAFO that for now, because it didn't get far enough that I had even really settled. Like, it was when I was designing magic, and doing the worldbuilding. When I started asking questions like this is when I kicked it out. I didn't even write any chapters of it before I kicked it out.

Brandon's Blog 2013 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The origin of The Rithmatist

Six years ago, I was writing a book that I hated.

Now, that's both rare and common for me at the same time. I tire of pretty much every book I work on at some point, usually during the revision process. I push through and get over it. That's what you do as a writer. By the time I'm done with the process, I'm tired of the book—but it's the good kind of tired. The "I worked hard, and now have something awesome to show for it" tired.

Unfortunately, that wasn't happening for this book. Called The Liar of Partinel, every chapter was a chore to write. Though it had started very well, it continued to spiral farther and farther down the drain. I was familiar enough with my own writing by this point to realize the problems with Liar wouldn't work themselves out. The characters were boring, the plot forced. The worldbuilding elements never quite clicked together.

It had been years since I'd had such a bad feeling about a novel. (The last time, in fact, was Mythwalker—my sixth unpublished book—which I abandoned halfway through.) Part of the problem, I suspect, had to do with my expectations. Liar, set in the same world as Dragonsteel, was to be the origin story of Hoid, the character who has appeared in all of my Cosmere novels. (Information here—warning, big spoilers.)

I needed Hoid's story to be epic and awesome. It just wasn't. And so, I ended up "hiding" from that novel and working on something else instead.

The Rithmatist. It started with some drawings and a purely creative week sketching out a world, characters, and magic. That week is the exact sort that turned me into a writer in the first place, and was a distinct contrast to the grind that had been Liar. I abandoned the book and dove into The Rithmatist (then called Scribbler), and wrote a book where everything just came together. It happens sometimes. It just works, and I can't always explain—even to myself—why.

I finished the first draft of the book in the summer of 2007. In the fall, I got the call regarding the Wheel of Time, and my world transformed forever. The Rithmatist, though an awesome book, languished for years because I didn't have the time to devote to it. Doing a tour or contract for another teen book was impossible at that time, and beyond that I couldn't commit to writing any sequels or even doing any revision for the novel.

I did tell Tor about it, though, and they started to get excited. The publisher tried at several times to get me to release it, but I didn't feel the time was right. I couldn't let my attention be divided that far. I was already stretched too thin, and I wanted my attention (and that of my readers) to be on the Wheel of Time.

The month A Memory of Light was done and turned in, however, I called Tor and told them it was time to move forward. I'm pleased to be releasing the book now, when I can give it the attention it deserves.

And hopefully someday I'll be able to fix The Liar of Partinel. (At this point, I'm feeling I need to rewrite it as a first-person narrative, though making that switch is going to cause an entire host of problems.)

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

What gave you the idea to use chalk in Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

I cant even remember. I was just wanting to play magical Starcraft on the ground and chalk made the most sense.

Questioner

With the chalk *inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

They do not believe right now, but the study of actual chalk composition is a relatively new science that they have not paid enough attention to.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#13 Copy

Questioner

Steelheart and the Rithmatist, are they a part of the Cosmere as well?

Brandon Sanderson

They are not, yup.

Questioner

Just someone in line said that Steelheart was Hoid's planet, but I thought that they were not part of it.

Brandon Sanderson

They are not part of it. Anything that mentions Earth is something that I didn't want to be in the Cosmere.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

In all of your other books, you write strong, layered female characters—what can we expect from The Rithmatist in the protagonist/heroine department?

Brandon Sanderson

I often worry about falling into the trap of making female characters strong by not making them feminine. In Mistborn, Vin is strong in part because of how good of a warrior she is, and that's fine. There are plenty of women like that, who can hold their own in a fight. But in The Rithmatist, one of the things I wanted to do was write a female character who is more girly, so to speak. I wanted to make her a strong protagonist in a way that does not undermine her femininity. I hope that I've managed to approach that with Melody in The Rithmatist.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

What can your fans expect from The Rithmatist, as compared to your other adult novels? Was it easier or harder to write for a YA audience (or was there anything different about the writing process for this particular book)?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question! I wouldn't say it's either easier or harder. For me, a story grows in my mind till I just can't ignore it anymore, and I have to write it. That certainly happened with The Rithmatist.

As for what I did differently, there are a couple things. When I work on a teen book, I usually try to focus the viewpoints. That's one of the big distinctions for me between an epic fantasy that has teen characters—like the Mistborn books—and a book that I've specifically written for a teen audience. I usually focus on a single character—maybe two—so the narrative is a bit more streamlined.

The other big difference here is that I really wanted to write something with a sense of fantasy whimsy to it. I say whimsical, and it might be the right term, and yet it's not. For example, the magic system is one of the most rigorous and specific that I've written. I hope readers will find it as interesting as I do—with the defensive circles and the different types of lines.

With my epic fantasy books like The Way of Kings, for example, I looked at the size of the planet, its gravitation, its oxygen content—all the sorts of things that allow me to worldbuild with some scientific rigor. I consciously didn't want to do that with The Rithmatist. I replaced the United States with the United Isles, turning the country into an archipelago. I shrank the planet, and I did really weird things to the history of the world because I thought it would be fun. For example, I let Korea conquer the world, because I'm a fan of Korean history.

It's not like I'm sitting down and saying, "What is plausible?" I'm sitting down and saying, "What is awesome?" Then I write a story in which that awesomeness can shine. I let myself do that in my YA works more than in my adult works to give them a different feel. Writing this way allows me to exercise different muscles.

I believe that children and teens are better able to mode shift. When they pick up a book, they don't necessarily feel that it has to fit in one of the genre boxes. As an author, that allows you to do some interesting things in teen that are harder to do within an adult genre. 

Legion Release Party ()
#19 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

You mentioned that you thought Rithmatist was gonna in the Cosmere. Did you have a Shard in mind?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Very early on, I did. But I won't tell you who it was. It it not a Shard we've seen. If I ever do write Rithmatist 2, you might be able to piece it together. Though I'm, in revisions of the outline, really trying to push it away from where it was originally, so it will have a distinctive feel of its own. So I'm trying to write out some of the cosmere elements. But this is one of those things that, if I write it out too much, it just won't match with the first book. So I have to be okay with some of the sort of cosmere relationships.

Firefight release party ()
#20 Copy

Questioner

Where did the idea to use chalk come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Y'know, I have trouble pinpointing that one. I remember the idea of chalk circles, and things like that, and just seeing those in the lore of our world's sort of magical mythology and thinking about chalk circles. I remember thinking about how I want to do a book some day about people who play a game with magic, and things like that. At the end it is just one of things that I'm like "Hey, magical Starcraft with chalk. Go!" and I just started working on it, and it happened.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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KalynaAnne

Near the end of The Rithmatist, you mention that one of Melody's brothers, who isn't a professor, also has a coat. Do the colors of Rithmatist coats have meaning outside of academia?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they do! Those at Nebrask also pay attention to coat colors.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

I was just wondering, is Joel going to become a Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

Is Joel going to become a Rithmatist. You get a card too! *laughter* For those who don't know The Rithmatist, my Young Adult book, the pitch for it, to myself, was "A Muggle at Hogwarts". It is the story of the son of the cleaning lady, who gets free tuition to the magic school, but doesn't-- has no talent-- He just doesn't have the ability himself. So he gets to go to this school, but can't use the magic. So you will have to see what happens in future books, and how it plays out.