When is the next book coming out?
The Rithmatist is the number one most requested sequel I get. This is probably because people know that I’m working on Stormlight, otherwise that would be the number one most requested. To understand, I have to tell you a story about where The Rithmatist came from. So after I finished Warbreaker, I very deliberately said, I want to write something else in the Cosmere, and maybe this is the time to write the backstory of a character named Hoid. So I sat down and tried to [...] write this book, which I called The Liar of Partinel. The book was a disaster. Sometimes even as a pro, books just don’t go well. I had a contract for it and everything. I was supposed to be writing this book, and then its sequel, and... big disaster. I finished the first book, I forced myself to finish it, but I had no desire to revise. It was just not what it needed to be. When I eventually write that story, people are going to be expecting a lot from it and it can’t be a half-hearted book, and it felt half-hearted.
So instead of [...] I told my editor, “oh yeah, I’ll be getting to that” and I wrote a [...] book, which was called Scribbler back then. Originally named Scribbler, and the origins for it were, the magic system is the start of this one, as you might be able to guess. I started doing these little drawings, which Ben McSweeney eventually re-drew to be a little bit better, but they started as my own drawing that we put between the chapters. But we started with those because I wanted to do something new with magic that I hadn’t done before. What I realized is that I never made a book where the magic was used to play games. We as human beings, we play games with everything. We turn anything into a game. This is a hallmark of humankind, we play with stuff. When we’re no longer killing each other, we come up with jousting, so we can make that a game. The idea of basically playing magical Starcraft on the ground around you was really interesting to me.
So I started doing all these drawings and writing this book without telling my editor or anybody I was writing this book. Wonderful experience. The book came out very very well, it just came together. It’s one of those books, you don’t expect it, I didn’t have long term plans, I hadn’t worked on an outline for years and years, I discovery wrote most of the book. About the time I had to go to my editor and tell him, “I’ve written a book on accident”, I think I sent you The Rithmatist, right Joshua?
I said I wrote this book on accident, right around that time, I got a phone call from Harriet McDougal, who’s Robert Jordan’s widow. She said, it’s a long story but it ended with me on the phone with her, because she’d left me a voicemail and I’d missed it, but I eventually got a hold of her, and she said, “Well I was just wondering if you would be willing to finish my husband’s series, the Wheel of Time”. To which I responded, “dakjs;dlfj;alkna;sdf” [verbal keyboard smash basically]. I really did. I wrote her an email the next saying, “Dear Harriet, I promise I’m not an idiot.” But the book that got left hanging was The Rithmatist. Liar of Partinel I was happy to shelve and do nothing with. It wasn’t a good book. Rithmatist was. But I knew that if I were stopping to do the Wheel of Time that I would not have the time to do a Rithmatist sequel for a while. Because my career so far had gone standalone, series, standalone, and then I was looking to do another series, which is why I tried Liar of Partinel.
Once I did Wheel of Time, I said now is the time to do Way of Kings, which I had been putting off for a while cause my skills weren’t capable. I tried it and it hadn’t worked and I was like, I need to get better as a writer. But I was pretty sure I could do it, so I sandwiched Way of Kings in between two Wheel of Time books. But then I had The Way of Kings going and people expecting those, which is a good thing I got started on it because it’s a long series. If I were still putting it off, we might have troubles when it actually came out. So eventually, Rithmatist, I need to release this book, it’s really good, people are going to like this. So I gave it to Tor and had them release it. But the problem is, when am I going to do a sequel? It had been a little side project in the first place that I’d done instead of writing something else.
I found time about 3 years ago. I took out my outline. My process often is, I will write a first book, then I will outline a series for it, then I will revise the first book to match the outline. I did this with Mistborn, I did it with the Reckoners, and I had gotten as far as outlining for the second book of The Rithmatist. I sat down to write it and I didn’t like the outline anymore. There were some things wrong with it. One, I had grown a lot as a writer. One, I don’t know if you guys discussed this, but the Rithmatist as a whole, it’s a great book but there’s a big danger zone in it. And that is, how do you treat indigenous people during the area of colonialism? There’s a big big minefield there, and the second book’s goal was to start dealing with that minefield, and I felt my outline for the second book did not do that respectfully. As I had grown as a writer, when I looked at the outline, and I was like, I cannot write this book because I’m not treating the original inhabitants of America’s cultures well enough. So I stopped and I read three books on Aztec culture. The second book is called The Aztlanian. Aztlan is the mythical origin of the Aztecs, it’s where their legends say they came from. If I’m dealing with real world mythology, that minefield grows so much bigger. You gotta do it right. This is something I wanted to do right. So I read a bunch of books. I rebuilt my outline, I felt really good about it, but there was no more time to write. I had a month or two left, so I wrote the fifth Alcatraz book instead. I can do those in a month or so, but this I knew was going to take three to four months, so I put it off again.
I’m still looking for a hole in my schedule. The new outline for The Aztlanian is very good, it’s solid, I feel like I’ve got a handle on how to write it in a sensitive way, because we don’t want to avoid difficult topics in science fiction and fantasy. If we do that, it’s just the same as it’s always been. But if you are going to touch on sensitive topics, you need to do it really well. I really like where it is now, but when am I going to write The Aztlanian? I don’t know yet. The answer to you is, when am I going to do this? I have to find a time between my mainline projects, which right now are Stormlight Archive for Tor, alternating with Mistborn novels, and for Random house it’s the Reckoners books and that sequence. In between one of those times, I will find some time to The Aztlanian, and I will do it, and I hope it will be awesome, but I don’t know when that is.
This is the book I’ve left hanging the most. Most everything else is a side project or it’s the Alcatraz books, which I’m making fun of people by taking a long long time, it’s intentional. If you haven’t read those books, they’re very different from everything else that I’ve done. The whole point is to make fun of the reader while the reader reads them. Every book plays some sort of dirty trick on the reader. The fifth book ends on a huge huge huge down note with the author, who’s Alcatraz, of the book saying “I’m not going to write any more, sorry guys”. But then there’s a little footnote at the end, one of the other characters like, “I’ll write the story so you get an actual ending.” Jokes like that on the reader, and the fact that it’s taking forever is part of the joke. Rithmatist is the one I actually feel bad about.