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State of the Sanderson 2016 ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Secondary Projects

Alcatraz

My big reveal for Alcatraz promised one more book in this series, though you shouldn't read that blog post until you read the first five books.

I will probably do Rithmatist 2 before Alcatraz Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians. But I can't say for certain. This is where that part about books being art, and not science, comes into play. I can't say exactly what my inclinations will be on these books, as I need some freedom built into my schedule. We'll see what happens.

Status: Soooon also, but a little less soooon.

Brandon's Blog 2016 ()
#4 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of the first [Alcatraz] book in a writing prompt I wrote out for myself: “So there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to be sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil librarians.”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. 

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

About when will the sixth book of Alcatraz--

Brandon Sanderson

Sixth book of Alactraz draft? My goal is to write it this year. For those who don't know of Alcatraz, I did something really mean. And I actually did this-- I pitched this to my editor when I first sold the series. I planned a six book series, but I told everyone it was five books. And we played along the whole time, and then ended the fifth book on a major downer cliffhanger. And the only way you know is at the end there-- you like fold over like an extra page in the back with a note from one of the other characters. *audio skips* "...and he refuses to continue writing the series, I will have to finish it myself." So told from her viewpoint in the last book, because he refuses to write the last book. So yeah, we're working on that. One of the-- I'm working on the outline and writing the little blurbs at the beginning of each chapter. One of the things I'm trying to decide is, do I-- so that it has a completely different feel-- do I want to go to one of my friends and, like you know, swap with them and have them write my book for me and I write their book for them, or something like that. So that this book has a completely different tone, or something like that. That's the big question I'm asking myself right now.

Oathbringer release party ()
#6 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Why do you decide to do more series like Apocalypse Guard or the Secret Project [Skyward] when you still have so many more unfinished sequels?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

That's a good question. No, it is totally legit. *laughter* So, I did finish Legion. I did that. So, those who are looking for that, that will come out next year. Why do I do it this way? Well, most of the time, it's because I try a book, and it doesn't work. Rithmatist fans probably know, I tried to write Rithmatist 2, I built an outline, I started writing it, and the book didn't work. I wasn't-- the outline was wrong on that one. I got, like, three chapters in, and I'm like, "Nope. This book is broken." And it was mostly due to my lack of research into the proper things to do the book the right way. And because Rithmatist and Alcatraz, which you'll get Alcatraz 6 eventually, those are the two that are looming most; those are side projects. Those are things that I do for fun. They have to slot in between my main projects, if that makes any sense. Like, I have to do them when there's time from other projects. So, for instance, I couldn't go to Random House and say, "I'm gonna do Rithmatist 2 sequel," because Rithmatist is not their series. It belongs to Tor. So, if I wanna do more with Random House, I have to do something that works for them. And that's kind of the long and short of it.

I mean, I will get around to things like Warbreaker and Elantris sequels. *cheers* But the thing about those is, those are sequels to the worlds, not necessarily sequels to the characters. I won't promise you that the same characters will appear in them. Some of them will. But it's the idea that those are standalone books that I plan to do more in the world, and the time isn't right in the cosmere to do those. For something like Rithmatist, that's more pressing, because I'm like "that promises a sequel with the same characters". But I have to find out how to write it first. And, for various reasons, a Rithmatist sequel is really tricky to pull off. So, that's kinda the answer to it. Sometimes, I also just need a break to do whatever my mind wants to do. It's not a very satisfying answer, but it is the way my brain works. But you can know that if it's, like, one of the main line things that I've got contracts for, that I won't be doing that to you on. So, Stormlight will be pretty regular, Mistborn will be pretty regular. But some of the side projects, it's just when it's right it's right.

Oathbringer Newcastle signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

[My son] would like to know when you're planning to write Bastille?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

..We're close. The fact that I ditched Apocalypse Guard has slow me down a bit. I was planning to write Bastille very soon. But it's gonna depend on how soon I finish [Skyward], when I need to go into Wax & Wayne. I need to go into Wax & Wayne, like, July at the latest. So, it's gonna depend on how long Skyward takes. But I'm gonna try to slip it in there.

State of the Sanderson 2017 ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Secondary Projects

Alcatraz

Contrary to last year's State of the Sanderson (where I didn't expect movement on this series this year) there have been developments. I have tried working on the sixth and final book (which will be from Bastille's viewpoint) and have found that I didn't like the test chapters I did.

The story went the wrong direction, and beyond that, I didn't feel like I had Bastille's voice down. In some attempts, the book just sounded too much like the previous ones—but when I exaggerated her voice, she felt a bit Flanderized. I've been toying with how to make it work, and I've come up with a somewhat outside-the-box solution. My long-standing friend and former student, Janci Patterson, is also a big fan of the series. She's been offering feedback since I wrote the first book back in…2006, was it? I've gone to her and asked if she'd be willing to collaborate on it.

The goal is that by bringing in another author to write it with me, I'll be able to get the book to work—to have it feel different enough from the others, yet still be in the same theme and spirit. The goal is to do an outline in early February once I have book one of Skyward done, then hand that off to Janci and let her toy with it a while before sending it back to me.

So you can watch for that, and I'll post updates.

Status: Outline to be written in 2018.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#9 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

You said the The Rithmatist is a little ways out, the sequel.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I do mean to keep meaning to get to it sooner than I have. It's one of the-- It's the one that's been the most difficult to figure out how to do the sequel. I'm confident-- Let me get Alcatraz [6: The Worldspire], which-- it should be done pretty soon here, cleared off my plate. The last book of that one is-- had significant progress on it lately. Once that's done I'll look at Rithmatist, which is the other thing that's been dangling over my head.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#11 Copy

Questioner 1

What's the title of the sixth book gonna be?

Brandon Sanderson

Right now it is named-- it says "Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians" with the "Alcatraz" crossed out, and says "Bastille". And it says, underneath, "Versus His Own Dumb Self"-- is the title I'm going with right now, but it might change. But it's called Alcatraz Versus His Own Dumb Self.

Questioner 2

...How long does it take to do the first run?

Brandon Sanderson

How long does it take to do what?

Questioner 2

The first run.

Brandon Sanderson

The first draft, of an Alcatraz book, usually takes about two months. They can be a lot faster than my other books, but yeah.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

Do you know when the next Alcatraz book will come out?

Brandon Sanderson

Working on it slowly, but it's happening. This one, Oathbringer, took longer than I expected, so it slowed me down a little bit. But it shouldn't be too much longer.

Questioner

Rithmatist?

Brandon Sanderson

Rithmatist, that's the other one. No promises of when; working on it slowly.