Very Nice Name 16
You write a lot of immortals in your books. How do you think about people living on large time frames like that and how that affects the way they think and act compared to ordinary people? And also, say, 10,000-year-old compared to a 2000-year-old to a 300-year-old?
This is actually something I've dedicated a lot of thought to. I think fantasy and science fiction, one of the things it does well is explore human experiences that aren't possible in contemporary or realistic fiction. And so there are a lot of people out there searching for the key to human immortality. And what would it be like? How would we deal with it? These are questions that are interesting to me, and doing a story on a 10,000-year timescale lets me play around with that. I will say that various people you've met are immortal; some are not. Some, it's more time dilation shenanigans than it is extended lifespan.
But regardless, how do I approach this? By gut and instinct, just trying different things out. No human being's experience is identical to another human being's experience, so I figure no immortal's experience will be identical to other immortals' experiences, and so I can have lots of different responses. I can base it partially on the magic system and how they were made immortal. And then that lets me play with different experiences. Like, the things the Heralds are going through, Hoid hasn't gone through. Some of the sort of degradation of what's happening with their souls is unique... not wholly unique, but individual to the experiences they're having. And I play with those differently than I play with someone who's been elevated to holding near-infinite power in one of the Shards and how their experience goes. And then you've got, just, random people who have run across things that have changed their experiences in different ways, and I will approach them in a different way. And I can't really say how exactly I'm gonna do this with everybody. It's just gonna be different for each character in each situation.
That's a very long non-answer. I've thought about it a lot; I don't have answers yet. You'll see them in the books when I write them.
Abandon the King
Is the current state of the Cosmere still true to your original vision? Or has it deviated much from those early development days?
Depends on what you mean. For instance, I would have guessed that I would have been back to Elantris sooner than I'm getting back to Elantris, if you would have asked me in 2006, when I was really building the Cosmere out, 2004 and 2005, I would have said, "Oh yeah, I'll be back to Elantris. And I don't know when I'll be back to Stormlight." And back then, I thought I would be getting to Dragonsteel pretty soon, actually, I would have imagined Dragonsteel was going to happen, and then Elantris was going to happen, and then Stormlight was going to happen. This was pre-Wheel of Time, pre-me figuring out how to fix Stormlight, and all of that. And Stormlight coming together and working in 2009 (from the version that I wrote in 2002 that didn't work) is a big upheaval for doing the Cosmere, because that's when Bridge Four moved out of Dragonsteel and into Stormlight, and Dalinar had already jumped ship, and Stormlight then became the flagship Cosmere epic, replacing Dragonsteel, which does change how I view things quite a bit. Dragonsteel is still going to be there, but it has become much more Hoid's story than anyone else's, and some of the characters in Dragonsteel probably may not even show up in it anymore, because other incarnations of them have made it into other books. So there is that.
The general scope and idea, though, that hasn't changed. The general idea of telling this interconnected web of epic fantasy stories that started moving together and coming together, that's all still working; the general plan for what the backstory of the cosmere is has remained the same, and it is working. So that's the big change, I would say. And the Elantris fans are probably in the chat going "Aww." I will get to you, I will, but Stormlight working has changed some things around.
Where was Ivory the night Shallan stole the Soulcaster?
What kind of attractions would be in an in-universe cosmere amusement park?
I don't know. If I were going to come up with an in-universe one, I would try to build it in a modern or future era where you could use the powers in interesting ways. Like a roller coaster that goes in and out of speed bubbles could be interesting in that it is a dimension of experience that we can't have in our world, and so I would write those kind of things in so that reading about it would be more interesting. That's how I approach these things; the magic system and the worldbuilding would be relevant to how the theme park runs.
I really enjoyed Arcanum Unbounded. Do you see yourself releasing a collection of short stories like that again? And have other authors approached you about writing a short story in the Cosmere? What other author would you enjoy seeing tackle a story in the Cosmere, and why?
I think an Arcanum Unbounded 2 is someday inevitable, but it depends on how many novellas I get around to writing, or short pieces. I think it is inevitable; we already have one in Dawnshard that would go in it, and we will have Horneater in a year or two, and maybe someday we will have the Lopen short story that could then fit in there. But for me to really want to do Arcanum Unbounded, I have to write some stories on other plants, like finish up the Sixth of the Dusk sequel, and stuff like that.
On the second question, there are people who are interested. Right now, the only person that is authorized to write in the Cosmere except me is Isaac. And he is working away on his first stab at a Cosmere story. I don't know what the length; we had talked about a novella. It seems like it's longer? It is. So he is working away at that. I haven't read any of it yet, I've just helped him outline, and things like that. So if that works, potentially there is a chance for more. The Skyward novellas have been very well received, and that makes me excited for the potential. I could see a short fiction collection that is just lots of different Cosmere things that different friends of mine have written.
But we'll see. I have no immediate plans; the only immediate plan for this is Isaac working on his story and me working on Horneater.
Will Stormlight Five feel like the end of a series, or will it be more open-ended so that the next five books finish the story?
It's going to be somewhere in between those two. It will be a climactic book and should be paced differently than any other Stormlight book. I'm not sure how much I wanna to spoil, but just the pacing is going to be different. I'm going to be treating it different in how I write and build it just from a structural level. But it should feel like a climactic book. But it's not the end. It's not as much an ending as Mistborn Era One was, and even Mistborn Era One left a big door open for future eras; and it's not that decisive. When I release Book Six, it will be Book Six of The Stormlight Archive. And yes, there will be a change in focus, but if you hadn't known that, it would feel like a time jump and a little bit of a changeover, but you wouldn't go into it going, like, "Oh, this reads like a completely different series." Yes, Lift is going to be a bigger character and the Heralds are going to be bigger characters, and Renarin and Jasnah will be bigger characters. But Renarin and Jasnah are alraedy fairly decently prominent characters in The Stormlight Archive, so it's not gonna be out of nowhere.
I'll just have to let you guys see what you think, but that's what my impression of it is.
How long do you think Stormlight Five will be?
Similar length to the others. I've said that every time. We'll see. But that's my expectation, similar length to the other ones.
Every time, I've said "I think this one'll be shorter" and then it isn't, so I'm not gonna say that this time so you guys can't "gotcha" me. But it's possible it'll be shorter; who knows?
Is there a character in either the Stormlight or Mistborn series that you feel you underdeveloped and wished you had spent more time on?
Usually, when I run into situations like this, I just write a story about them. Are there characters I wish I had time to write more stories about? Yes. I wish, for instance, I had time to write more stories about all of Bridge Four. There are plenty of characters in Bridge Four that you just barely even get their names, because there's so many people to track. And there's, of course, Kaladin and the core team, but I would have liked to have been able to spend more time (and maybe someday I will) fleshing out more of those characters. There's that.
I think Dockson could have used a little more time in Mistborn, maybe, but that's something I would do with a short story. Though, there are things I might change going back, I don't think expanding anyone's story is something that I would do if I were to rewrite the books. That's my instinct.
So far in the Cosmere we have seen different kinds of stories that fit a wide variety of genres across many different worlds. Was the Cosmere intentionally built specifically to be this open-ended sandbox that you can play in? Or is that something that happened more over time as you came up with more and more stories that you might be able to tell in there?
It's a little of both. You have to go back to the fact that, before I published, I write these thirteen novels and got very experienced at the idea of telling new worlds and new stories, and that's part of what excites me. And I built the Cosmere specifically to be able to tell different kinds of stories. Now, as I've matured as an author, there are stories that have occurred to me to tell that may not have occurred to me when I was younger, and I wouldn't have realized that I would want the space to tell. But I always was aware that this is something that I like to do and that the structure that I built should allow me that flexibility and freedom.
And I also am very aware, and have been from the beginning, that I didn't want to tell the same story over and over. In fact, once I wrote Dragonsteel (which, we'll release Dragonsteel Prime for the Words of Radiance Kickstarter; you guys'll be able to read it), it has more of a classic fantasy farmboy goes on an adventure story than I've generally done in my other books. And I wrote that, and the cosmerenauts or the lore keepers or the Arcanists who watch the things I've said know that the only book I abandoned out of those thirteen was book number nine, which was the book I started right after I wrote Dragonsteel. And I found myself writing kind of the same story again, another similar feel, similar vibe, of this kind of more classic fantasy tropes. And I actually abandoned it, and the main reason I did is I was like "I've done this story. I'm not going to do this story again. I don't want to be telling the same archetype over and over again." I do like taking a stab at an archetype, a lot of times, even if it's a well-worn one; I think that that's fun. But I don't want to be doing it over and over. I want to do it once really well and then move on. So that is why I think I could have even said early on that I would have known that sub-genre hopping was a thing taht I was going to be doing a lot of.
Leatherbounds. Will Skyward be part of that?
There are plans to eventually do Skyward. Here's the thing: we have the rights. Reckoners, we don't have the rights on. So we would like to maybe do a Reckoners one, but we would have to go to the publisher and work out the rights. By the time we signed for Skyward, we knew this was a thing we loved to do, so we just included it in the contract. So Skyward is actually more likely than Steelheart, even though Steelheart came out first. Though I would like to do both of them eventually.
The primary Cosmere stories are our focus, and so it remains to be seen whether we will have the resources in-house to put together other books. We would like to. We are not promising them.
When Raboniel said "For Ado's sake," was she referring to Ba-Ado-Mishram or Adonalsium?
What Radiant Order would Khriss be in?
Khriss could fit into several different Radiant Orders. She's most obviously Elsecaller, but I don't want Elsecallers to be the only scholar Order. That's the thing to keep in mind; in fact, there could be a scholar in basically any Order.
The thing about the Orders is, I don't necessarily want the Knights Radiant Orders to be too restrictive. I don't want them to be Harry Potter houses, in other words. What do I mean by that? I don't want them to be too exclusive to anyone who would want to be in them. The number one thing that's going to determine what Order you would be in is what Order you would want to be in and whether you jive with the spren of that Order in the right way. And it's possible that you won't be able to just jive with the spren, and it wouldn't work out, but it's not like "All the brave ones go into this Order, and all the nerdy ones go into this Order." That's not how I want to run it. I want to kind of run these based on the Truths that you're speaking, the Oaths that you're speaking, what those mean to you, what you're trying to do. And some of those aren't going to be archetypal: the whole idea of protecting, or things like that.
I could make a pretty good argument for Khriss in Lightweaver. I could make a pretty good argument for Khriss in Truthwatcher. You could make good arguments for a good half the Orders for any given character, and that's how I want it to be.
A lot of things changed for certain characters between Warbreaker and Stormlight. Will we get any of that story in future Stormlight books, or do we have to wait until Nightblood?
You probably are gonna have to wait until Nightblood. There is a chance I'll do some Vasher stuff in Stormlight to catch you up. It's gonna depend on how long it takes to get to Nightblood, and various things like that. I have plans to find a place for some of this if I can't get to Nightblood in time. But most of it, I'm hoping, will be able to be in the Warbreaker sequel.
How many times have humans been created and/or evolved in the cosmere? We know it's at least two, but could it be more?
It could be more. And I won't put a definite number on it, because that would lock me into not being able to change my mind if I come up with a world where it makes sense.
Who will be the main interlude character in Stormlight Five?
Stormlight Five is Szeth as the main interlude character. Flashbacks of Szeth's childhood intermixed with Szeth in the modern day.
Do you regret setting the precedent that Stormlight books are as big as they are?
Nope. They are the length I want them to be, and I have always said to people these will be at the length that I want them to be. I view them as thousand-page epics: that's how I plot them, that's how I pace them, that's how I want them to be. If I changed my mind, I would let you all know, but I have never felt constrained by that. I have more felt constrained by the realities of publishing and how long I can get before the presses break.
And I'm much more comfortable with that now that I know I can do hundred-thousand word novels that are tight and things like Skyward or Bands of Mourning (instead of the new one, because the new one's 150), but the fact that I can do that and I can do novellas that are tight means that I can with confidence say that I'm writing the Stormlight books at the length they deserve to be, not at an artificially inflated length, if that makes sense.
Correct me if I'm wrong; I might be conflating stories. At one point, you had considered making each of the books three different books, right? Or breaking them up?
No. I plot them, in order to be able to put this all together, I plot them as three. Not as three different books, but as a trilogy intended to be read together without breaks between it. But that helps me conceptualize how to build it. The fifth one will not be built that way, though, as I was alluding to earlier. It will be built someway else, and I will tell you about that when we get closer to it and after I make sure that this structure is working.
How many future Cosmere books have you already decided the title for? Are you planning on having another title for Era Three and Four like Wax and Wayne?
This is a great question. I've decided a bunch of titles, but I don't really decide titles. Like, Dragonsteel will be called Dragonsteel, the series. I don't know if the first book is still going to be called Liar of Partinel or not; I have to write the book and figure it out. I'm less pleased with that title the more time I get from it. And what are various series gonna be called, and things like that. With Mistborn, it's really interesting because the publisher would like to just kind of do, not a full rebranding, but they don't want to go out big with Mistborn Eight and be like "The Eighth Book in a Series!" because they don't want to be intimidating to new readers. And they still worry that Wax and Wayne was a little too intimidating to readers of the original series. They want to find some way to market it in which it says, "This is just a cool new series from Brandon. By the way, it is in the Mistborn world." That's how they would like it to be marketed. So I don't know what we'll end up calling the series of it, if it'll have Mistborn in the series title, if it's not gonna have... No idea yet. That's all marketing stuff. If you're on this stream, it won't really matter to you, because you know what it is. But it's to the people that may not know what it is. If all things go well and we have a Mistborn film coming out in three years or whatever, and Tor has a brand-new Mistborn series in hand, what do they want to do with marketing that?
You once said that you want to explore in your books how humans change in their behavior and personality when living several hundred or a thousand years. Many of these characters in your books go mad: for example, the Heralds or the Lord Ruler. But still, Hoid seems as "normal" as someone can be after such a long time. Is there any reason why he didn't become "mad"?
It's more that what happened to the others, something is wrong, if that makes sense. What's going with the Heralds, the supernatural madness of the Heralds is related to their specific situation. With the Lord Ruler, I don't think what happened to the Lord Ruler... His is a really interesting situation. I would say that it is not supernatural; it is his isolationist attitude, the pressures placed upon him, and things like that. It's a very normal type of mental... I don't want to call it mental illness, but you know what I mean. A conventional mental illness, if you will, exacerbated by extreme periods spent alone and isolating self. And that's where you get what happened to him.
Been getting back into my book, writing Nicki Savage. I started reading it to Kara, and it got me out of a slump, 'cause it got me excited again.
Boatload of Mummies. That won't be on the front of the book, just the back of the book. It's basically Death on the Nile mixed with The Mummy mixed with King Kong with no King Kong set in the Mistborn universe with a side character that's mentioned in a newspaper.
That's sort of the working title. I'm still kind of in the back of my head thinking if we can find something that's White Sand and still has that same cadence so it feels like it... I mean, calling it The Arcanist is good because it will be Khriss's story. We follow Kenton in this one, I think the back half to this story would need to be Khriss going back to Darkside and figuring out what to do with the Emperor there and saving her town.
The status? I have a lot of notes for that.
He's writing Boatload of Mummies right now. So the status is: finish Boatload of Mummies, release Boatload of Mummies, decide what he wants to do next in the Cosmere. 'Cause Isaac's got the do-what-he-would-like-in-the-Cosmere ticket.
The one that I'm really excited and might wind up doing after this, and I'm not gonna give too much on it, but I love the title of it. But it would be set on Scadrial and be called Son of Bones. That's the one that I would really like to write after Boatload of Mummies if it turns out okay.
Lost in Discovery
Are the maps you depict in the books drawn by in-world characters?
Yes, they are. A lot of them come from unnamed cartographers, and then Nazh goes to the world (usually at Khriss's behest) and goes and finds these things. I think occasionally Nazh has done his own maps, or he's drawn them based on maps that he's seen, but he's not principally a cartographer. He goes and finds things.
He's a grumpy secret agent, as how Isaac has described him.
He's an old grump.
Usually I'm think about who would be drawing this map, and for whom. In the new maps that we did for the Elantris tenth anniversary edition, the ones that are done for the Fjordell Empire, they were done by cartographers who are worried that if they don't do this right, they might lose their head or be thrown in prison or something like that, and so they artificially inflate, maybe, the landmass of the Empire, those sorts of things.
So I'm thinking about that, and then you can do fun things. 'Cause throughout history... I mean, maps have started wars. You draw a line on a map and you say "this is where one thing starts and another thing begins" and people dispute it. There was a whole thing about when Pakistan was separated from India, and somebody drew a line on a map and set a date and said "this is the time when Pakistan will be Pakistan and India will be India" and then, like, a million people died in the war that came after that. So I'm thinking about these things when I make the maps, because it's a relic of history on the worlds. It's a way to really flesh out more of the worldbuilding.
And you can find all kinds of little easter eggs in that regard in a lot of the maps that Isaac does and commissions.