DragonCon 2016

Event details
Name
Name DragonCon 2016
Date
Date Sept. 2, 2016
Location
Location Atlanta, GA
Entries
Entries 20
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#1 Copy

Jennifer Liang

Alright, so you guys all know who he is but I need to explain why I'm sitting next to him, for the majority of you who have never seen me before. I'm Jennifer Liang, and many years ago I was the Track Director for the Wheel of Time track here [at DragonCon]. *cheers* Awww... I've moved on to other things, I chair my own Wheel of Time convention [JordanCon] now, so if you are interested in that go look that up somewhere. But the reason that Brandon was first at DragonCon, eight years ago, was because I told him to be here.

Brandon Sanderson

I was really scared. *laughter* See I knew Wheel of Time fandom, as a fan, and I knew how crazy they were. And so when, basically, the queen of Wheel of Time fandom wrote to me and said "You're going to come to DragonCon and talk to us." I was super nervous. I still remember it, I was talking to Jenn about it. I walk in and it was a room, pretty big, not as big , but packed with people. And I walked in and I'm like "I've never been in a panel this size before." right? "I'm used to going--" It was only that same year, I think it was, that I went to WorldCon and did a reading and there was only one person at my reading. *laughter* And it was Eric James Stone, my good friend. *laughter* They did schedule it opposite Lois Bujold's main address, which was part of the problem. But still, I went from one person in my reading to walking into a room like this. Full of a whole bunch of people who are like "You're not my real dad." *laughter*

Jennifer Liang

It was very weird hearing somebody who was not Robert Jordan talk about writing The Wheel of Time. Like it was really flipping us out at the time. But he-- you were good.

Brandon Sanderson

You were all very nice. Except for the-- The did this thing called... Darkfriend games, right? Are you a Darkfriend. Which is basically like Assassin, one of those party games where you sit around-- Except it's Wheel of Time themed. And they always murdered me, like first. *laughter* Right? Like that's how I knew there was a little bit of subconcious agression going on. We'd look up and they'd say "Who did the Villagers want to kill? Brandon." Every time. I was never the Darkfriend, but they killed me every time.

Jennifer Liang

It was funny. *laughter*

Brandon Sanderson

There's a group of three of them in particular, that I remember, who kind of ganged up and got me. So I actually put them in, I think as Dreadlords, in the books and got them murdered. *laughter*

Jennifer Liang

They're extremely proud of themselves.

Brandon Sanderson

They're very proud. They got in and murdered. So if you look for a conspicuous group of Dreadlords that get killed in a very terrible way, that's them.

#2 Copy

Jennifer Liang

Okay, so I think the question everybody wants to ask you all the time is, what are you working on right now?

Brandon Sanderson

What am I working on right now. Well--

Crowd

*assorted cheers of Stormlight and other title*

Jennifer Liang

This isn't a vote. *laughter*

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I think they say that because they all know-- they watch the progress bars on the website. Which I actually put there early in my career, before I was-- As Dan, my friend Dan, Dan Wells-- he says "You used to be Brandon Sanderson. Now you're BRANDON SANDERSON." So before I was BRANDON SANDERSON I put those bars on the website because I was a Wheel of Time fan. And it helps so much to know how far along a book is, if you're waiting for it. I know not all authors work that way, so don't go harass other authors who do that. Some-- I have some friends who, y'know, if they-- The more they talk about the book to people, the harder it is for them to write. And so they get very closemouthed and quiet. And I am not that way, I am a very open person, so posting that up there gives me some kind of accountability in some ways. Like, alright the fans get to know what's going on--

So I'm working on the third Stormlight book. *cheers and applause* That is currently 330 thousand words long. *cheers* Which, for comparison, the original Way of Kings was around 300 thousand and Words of Radiance was around 400. And so-- And it's only three-quarters the way done... *laughter* So I've prepared the publisher that they have to go through this again. Maybe I'll be able to get the future books in the series a little shorter. But this one is going to be a big one. Which I know you guys are so sad about. *laughter* I anticipate it being published about one year after I hit 100% on the first draft. So if you watch that progress bar, right when that ticks to 100, you're looking at about a one year period. I've been doing really well, momentum's being really good lately. And so I'm expecting that to be October, but just watch as that goes. It will slowly tick up. It's not ticking up right now because I'm actually doing revisions for Part 3 of the book. Which I'm doing the revisions as I write the book this time to get my editior-- Who's bipolar-- I give him the cha- parts when he's manic, so he revises them, and that let's us get through the periods where he's not manic. And he's manic right now, so I'm going to send him a part and be like "Okay Moshe, time to work on this." You just have to learn how to work the business this way when you've got an editor like Moshe. Book's going really well. This will have, most likely, Dalinar's flashback sequence in it, and I will be reading one of those at my reading tomorrow. *cheers*

Which I like to read from those, because they take place before the first book so it's not a huge spoiler for people who haven't finished, like, Words of Radiance, or anything like that yet. Because it takes place before the series, but they're also very self-contained sequences. They read very well.

#3 Copy

Jennifer Liang

How much of your-- the way you work-- interact with your fans and your process with us is a reaction to being a Wheel of Time fan, and the things that you wanted to happen from--

Brandon Sanderson

Right. I think a lot of it is, but it's a mix of being a Wheel of Time fan and just a fantasy fan in general. Wanting to know more about business, being an author, and just wanting this transparency and-- I don't think that the authors before can really be blamed, they didn't have the Internet, right? I mean, you couldn't really have a thing like I have now on my website-- Or that most authors have on websites. I mean, some authors tried newsletters, but those were huge productions, requiring, you know, actual paper, you know, that stuff they used to use, then sent through the actual mail, not email. The email's named after it, kids. *laughter* These were huge productions, and so they were-- It's not like I sat one day and said "oh, those authors!", but then you see my generation, when we broke in and were--the Internet was becoming the thing that it is--we're like "Ah, let's use this!" I remember when Kevin J. Anderson said to me "but so here's Twitter", and I'm like like, "Twitter. Why would-- They're so short", he said "No, but it's like you can create your own newsfeed from all the people you're following, and it's like a little kind of news ticker about what's going on in everyone's lives." I'm like "Oh, that's a really useful thing as an author", so I hopped on Twitter very early, I hopped on Reddit very early, I hopped on-- Ehhh, some of the other defunct places, but yeah, the idea was that--

I'm gonna go off a tangent, you'll get a lot of this. I have this view, as-- of a writer---and again, don't go say to other writers, you should feel this way--the way I feel is that I'm an artist and you are my patron. In the old days, you used to-- to be an artist, you used to have a wealthy patron, right? That's how you made art, that some rich person came and said "Here's a bunch of money to live on, now go make this art and then, you know, mention that I'm your patron". And a lot of the great art we have, in fact almost all of it came from somebody paying so the artist can actually have food and a life while they're creating this art. In the modern society that's changed to kind of the crowdsourcing, "You are my patron". The crowd in general says "Okay, we're all going to be insurance actuators so that you don't have to be one". Thank you. "You write these stories and then we'll support you". And so my philosophy is: in a lot of way, you are my boss, in more of a patronage sort of thing, you're my patron, and so I should be accountable with what I'm doing. It doesn't mean that I'm going to necessarily change what I'm doing, and it doesn't mean that I'm always going to be writing on the thing you want me to, but I will be clear about what I'm doing and when, just for that transparency, 'cause we can do it now, when we're not-- we couldn't before.

Jennifer Liang

Yeah the patronage thing is really interesting, the way that it works. I know you're past this now, you don't need to do this, but would you ever consider something like Patreon?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh Patreon. So--

Jennifer Liang

Is that something you would have done ten years ago if...

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I might have-- Patreon is kind of a hard thing, because I think Patreon is much better for people who are doing something that may be not as market-friendly, but which a group thinks is very important and should be rewarded. There are certain authors I know whose work is very important to the field, like Nora Jemisin. Nora's work is really important, and it's really good, but-- And it's sold pretty well, but I think that the idea of trying to have to be market-friendly is really terrifying to Nora-- Maybe not terrifying, I don't think anything terrifies Nora. But you know, it's that she doesn't want to be beholden to that, and so her setting up a Patreon said, "Look, I'm just gonna write this stuff, I don't even then have to worry about the market", is a really good use of Patreon. We set one up for Writing Excuses, and then we use the money to pay our guests, and to fly people in and stuff like that. I don't need one because what I write naturally does very well in the market and so there's no need or worry for me to do that. If all writing shifted that direction I'd be fine with it, but for right now what's working here with me is working just fine.

Jennifer Liang

Yeah, the traditional model for publishing really serves your style...

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. The traditional model works very well when you're someone like me. My plots and my stories and things just connect very well with a large segment of the population.

That's also why I don't do a lot on Kickstarter. Like I think Kickstarters-- Like we did-- We let the people making the Mistborn board game-- Which, by the way, Mistborn board game, yay, you guys kickstarted that very well.  I let them Kickstart that. They're like a small company, that makes the board game. And I said, "You can make the board game, but you have to get a really good designer, because I can't micromanage your making a board game", and so they did, and that's somebody very expensive, and then they Kickstarted, you guys supported that. I think that's a good use for Kickstarter for someone like me, but Kickstarter ain't just something of my own, I'd rather that bandwidth at Kickstarter be used for people who maybe need it a bit more, so I've stayed away from doing this thing for now.

#4 Copy

Questioner

So, when you were starting to write your books, did you have the idea for-- Like [???] magics tied together or did you have that from the beginning?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, excellent question. So, he's asking about the Cosmere, where all my epic fantasies are tied together. Where did that come from. I can trace a few paths back in my brain where that came from. What I can say is that it was built in from the beginning of the books you have been reading. But you remember, those weren't my first written books. I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. Elantris was number six. Way of Kings was number thirteen. And so-- I love this idea of a big, connected universe. The first person I can remember doing it, that blew my mind, was when Asimov connected the Robots and the Foundation books, which I thought was so cool when I was a teenager.

Another path that I trace this [concept?] also, though-- I don't know how many of you guys did this, but when I'd read a book--I still do this, actually--I would insert behind the scenes a kind of character that was my own, who was doing stuff behind the scenes. Like I would insert my own story into the story, just kind of take ownership of it in a strange sort of way. I remember doing this with the Pern books. I'm like "Oh, no, they think that person is who they think they are, but nooo! This is this other person!" And so I had this kind of proto-Hoid in my head jumping between other people's books.

So when I sat down to write Elantris, I said "Well, I want to do something like this". All the people I've seen doing this before-- and they've done it very well. Michael Moorcock did it, and Stephen King did it, and things like this, I'm not the first one to connect their books together, not by a long shot. I felt like a lot of them, they kinda fell into it, and as a writer, having seen what they did, I could then do it intentionally, if that makes sense. And so I started out with this idea that I was just gonna have this character in-between who is furthering his own goals, and built out a story for him, and then I went-- After I did Elantris, I wrote a book called Dragonsteel, which isn't published, and it was his origin story, for this character. And then I wrote some more books, and so, of course-- and things like this. Eventually Elantris got published and the other ones didn't, and they weren't as good as Elantris was. And so I took them all as kind of "backstory canon", and moved forward as if they had all-- they were all there and they had happened, but nobody else knew but me. Which allowed this cool foundation for you like "wow, that stuff has happened", because I had books and books of material that I could treat as canon in this way, to let me know where thing were going. So it wasn't planned-- It was planned from the beginning, but not the beginning of my writing care. From about book six was where it started.

#5 Copy

Questioner

Going back to The Wheel of Time for a second... One of my favorite things about A Memory of Light is you had so much-- I guess free rein with parts of it... Can you give me an example, or a couple of examples, of something that you got [???] I could be totally wrong about this situation but say like, when [???] was first creating a weave to see a whole battlefield. Was that something you did, or was that actually Robert Jordan's.

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question, I'll go through a few of these things for you, that one was me. One of the things that was awesome, but also a little bit difficult is the wrong term-- Anyway, it was awesome to be able to come into The Wheel of Time as a fan, and have read the books for twenty years and be thinking about "Wow, I wish this would happen", and then say "Wow, I'm gonna make that happen" ...But as I was doing it, I was also realizing it was dangerous, because there was a real danger for putting in fanservice type stuff, not in the traditional meaning of fanservice, but like the fanservice of "Narg showed up in the Last Battle again" or things like this. Like little fan jokes. I found that I had a lot of temptation to put those in, and so I had to ride this really careful line where I was saying "What do I as a fan want, to make the book more fulfilling not just as a joke".

One of the things that as a writer I've always wanted to see was gateways used for more than they were used in the books leading up to that point, you know, teleportation, instant travel has a lot of ramifications. One of the things I kind of put on myself was that I didn't want to create a lot of new weaves, because I knew if I did, I'd really risk taking it to far away from Robert Jordan's vision. So I said "Let's stick mostly to the weaves he's used, and see if I can use them in more innovative ways". This whole idea of taking the magic and digging deeper into it rather than going wider with it. And so a lot of the stuff with gateways is me. A lot of--

So for instance, I also went in and said to Harriet coming in, "Every book that Robert Jordan's done, almost all of them, has added a new character who's become a main character who used to be a side character. If we don't do that for these last books it's gonna feel weird to people. So I would like to take one of the Asha'man and bring them to prominence, and make them a viewpoint character and do what Robert Jordan's done" and so that's where Androl came from. And they're like "Well there's nothing in Robert Jordan's notes other than this little bit about his profession, take him and play with him, and do whatever you want." And that was almost a little pressure valve for me, to put the more "Brandon-y" sort of things, goofy magic system stuff with that, and that pressure valve allowed me to not really-- knowing my writing style, I was able to make the rest of it be a little more Robert Jordan-esque, if that makes sense.

You see that pressure valve there, you see it with Perrin in the Wolf Dream, in the world of dreams, because-- I've said before, Robert Jordan didn't leave very much on Perrin. Perrin is a big, empty-- big blank slate for these books. We knew where he ended up at the end and that was it. So Perrin was the other sort of "Do whatever you want, Brandon" sort of thing. He left a lot more on the other characters. So if you're reading a Perrin scene or if you're seeing them play with gateways, you're seeing me kinda let Brandon leak out a bit more. And this was done intentionally, I'd say part was a pressure valve, but also when I was given this, Harriet sat me down and said "You are the author now. I didn't hire a ghostwriter on purpose. I didn't want somebody who was just going to be Robert Jordan, because that would make a bad book", in her opinion. "What Jim-- Robert Jordan can't finish this, so you need to do it and yes, we want to stay true to his vision, but you are the writer now." And she was very clear on that, and I've always remembered that and how much that meant to me, being-- You know, she was the ultimate authority, but I had creative control to do whatever I felt the books needed, and the she-- her job was to rein be back if she though I went too far, and make sure the voice was consistent and things like that. So I got to do a lot with these books that I don't think a ghostwriter would have been able to do.

#6 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering, when you started out with book six you didn't really have much of a fan base. How has it been transitioning from lack of a fanbase to this.

Brandon Sanderson

This. Um... Wow, yeah. So it's been crazy, definitely been crazy. It's weird because as a writer-- You become a writer to tell your stories, not to become famous, right? But becoming famous-- Nobody becomes famous as a writer, right? That's what you figure and you just want to tell your stories. If you would've gone to me, when, let's say, '99, 2000, when I was in the thick of writing all these books, and come to me and said, "We're gonna give you", um, just pick a normal salary, something like forty grand, "forty grand for the rest of your life and  you can write books", I'd have taken that in a heartbeat. That guarantee-- I'm there. I can publish a book a year, I will have readers to make a living on it, that is all I ever wanted. In fact, I'd told people, if I could just get there. Well-- *laughs* Now, with over ten million books out there, it's different. But at the same time, being a writer is awesome in that-- I sat next to somebody on the plane over here and they're like "Oh, what do you do", and I'm like "Well I'm a writer" and like "Oh, should I know who you are?" My response was "No actually, because I'm really, really famous with a really small and weird group of people." *laughter*

And that's probably the best kind of famous. I can-- Like if I go out, right, I'll sign maybe one or two autographs and it feels cool, right? One or two people will recognize me and they'll be like *gasps*, then I'll sign the autograph and it's great, but then I just go on with my life! And it means a ton to the people that it means something to, but to the average people it means Do you want fries with that?" Whatever, who cares. And so I basically live a normal life, right? As normal a life as one can be when, you know, you're traveling to Europe and things like that on tour. But when I'm at home it's very normal, it's just me and my kids and my wife. I write at home. It's a blast, it's a normal life. I play Minecraft with my kids. I hang out and things like that, and then I go on tour and I'm a superstar for a short time with some really cool people, and then I go home and it's just normal again. And so-- Yeah, if you're gonna be famous, be writer-famous. Don't be-- Like even movie stars very few people know, you recognize their face and they can't go anywhere, and I don't think I would want that. So this has been awesome.

And the other thing is, you always want to be able to just write whatever you love, and we talk about that, I mean I, at the end of The Wheel of Time, we paid off my house, we put enough in savings for the kids and for whatever we'd need to pay for for the rest of our lives, and then I retired. I retired like four years ago, retired for me means "I get to write extra books!", so thank you guys for that!

#7 Copy

Questioner

One of the things that I really like about your writing is that, unlike a lot of fantasy writers, you know when to stop. There are a lot of writers who just keep going and going and going and don't seem to know when to stop. How much of pre-planning do you do for your writing, and when do you know when to kind of put the breaks on it? Like "You know I've got to finish this up, 'cause I don't want this to drag out", like so many authors have done in the past.

Brandon Sanderson

Um, so one advantage that I have-- And I've found that I'm more rare in this, I though I would be the normal but-- I am a heavy outliner, and usually what you find with outliners, as writers, is that they write good endings, but they have trouble with character. Usually what we call a discovery writers who just kinda find their way through the book as they go  have these really lively characters and then their endings just kind of whatever. And there are great discovery writers who have great endings, and there are plenty of outline writers who have great characters, you just have to learn to shore up what-- your weakness, learn your writing style.

And for me that is-- My early books, the ones that weren't published, where the weakness was those characters. And I was really worried about it, and so I spent five years being like "How do I make the characters work", and I can only do this kind of hybrid method where I took my friends that I knew write really great characters and I tried the methods they used, and so I kind of discovery-write characters and outline my plot and then if the characters grow into someone the plot wouldn't work for, I either take that character out and put a new one in and grow someone else in that place or I re-build the plot to match them. So right now I have this floating outline that changes as I'm going.

But I like good endings. And I feel like good endings are something that a lot of-- Hollywood skimps on them, and a lot of books just don't quite bring it together. And so it's something very important to me, that I don't start my book until I know what the ending I'm pointing toward is. And that also gives when I'm done, when I've got that ending and I'm pointed at it, when I finish it, I can then be done. I always feel that a piece of art that's continuous, like writing your getting a serialized work, it needs to finish at some point to actually be a piece of art. And that's why, you know, Mistborn trilogy, the publisher hates that I ended the Mistborn trilogy and said "I'm done". He said "Yes, but you've just hit the bestseller list, like hop on the bestsellers", and like "Yep. I'm done, though. That is a piece of art. It's finished." *applause* And it's not, you know--

One of the things I knew I was going to do this in my life and I think the publishers were okay with it because one of the things I did very early on in my career was, you know, start with convincing--Hopefully I've convinced you all--readers that what they're following is kind of Brandon Sanderson Book Brand rather than latching on to a series. A lot of authors have this trouble with people kind of latching on to the series and not the author, and then they feel tied to the series. And I never wanted to do that, cause like you said, I think there are plenty of series that have gone for a very long time and their authors always loved it. But I've also read series where it feels like the author feels chained to the series, and he only writes one of these when they actually need a paycheck or something like that, and I never wanted to be there. And so very early I'm like "I'm not writing the sequel to Elantris immediately, I may never--" I probably will, but I told people that it's a standalone book, it's just there, and if I write a sequel, it will be about different characters, cause that story's done. Mistborn trilogy, yes, I might come back to the world, but the story of these characters is done. And training people to, like, "Alright, I like what Brandon does, I'll trust him that the next thing will be good too" And hopefully that works, but even if it doesn't, I'm still gonna do what I do. I would rather be the person who writes a lot of different things even if that means I have a smaller audience, because I really like jumping projects, it keeps me fresh.

#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

People ask me how am I so productive. It's really a mix of two things. And I'm going on tangent, like I said. But people ask this all the time, and I'm like, "I don't know how to answer that, I just do my job, right?" I write every day, consistently. I don't write very quickly, I'm not a fast writer, but I write very consistently. I think I am lucky in that I didn't get published early and so I had to have a job and all of this stuff and go through school all while finding time to write two thousand words a day and I did that for ten years before I got published, and so I had momentum. I knew I could just do these two thousand words a day and I would always have a book that I was working on that was getting ready, and I also learned to jump projects a lot to keep myself fresh.

And so when I finished something, I immediately looked for something very different to do, which will refresh my mind, let me hit the ground running. A lot of writers have downtime between books, and that downtime is because-- I don't know if you guys get this kind of, this, like, funk after you finish a great book you've read. When you're like "Oh man." It's almost like coming down from a high. Writers get that too, when you finish a book and you're like *groans*. But if I can get excited about the next thing very quickly, and start on that immediately, then I just keep my momentum and keep going.

So it's kind of a mixture of those two things, good habits and switching projects, so that means you shouldn't be frustrated when I do a book that's not your favorite series, whatever it is, because your favorite series would not be coming any faster, most likely. In fact, what you can look at-- If you look at the time the Stormlight books have taken, and compare them to time that other big epic fantasy series have taken, I do a Stormlight book at about the same rate actually, I'm not that much faster than Pat or George or something like that, it's just that I know to fill that time between those big books with something else to keep my momentum going-- Or at least my psychology lets me do this. And I don't think the books would be any faster without that.

#9 Copy

Questioner

One of my favorite things about your books is your characters. And I was wondering... What advice would you give to an aspiring author about developing characters? 

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh. This is the hardest one for me to talk about, because for me, it was a matter of taking what I was doing wrong and learning to do it right, which-- How do you do that? That's the story of becoming better at anything. For me with characters, the big "click" that happened in my brain was when I realized every character is the hero of their own story. Every character sees the world through the eyes-- That's the only experience they've had, and they don't exist to fill a role. We don't exist to fill roles. We fill roles! We fill lots of them. But that's not why we exist, right? We aren't "sidekick", or we aren't "spouse", we aren't-- We fill those roles, and we identify in those roles, but we are not those roles. And when I started to treat my characters each like-- I ask, what is this person's passion in life? How do they see themselves? They're okay not being at the forefront of the story, but what in their minds do they see as their life meaning? What do they want, who are they, all of these things. And when I stopped sticking people into roles-- Which is really dangerous for an outline writer, sticking people in roles. When I stopped doing that. My characters really came alive a lot more. So that's-- I don't know if that helps, but the biggest piece of advice I can give you is try to figure out a way where you can let your characters-- Pretend like, well, if this person where the hero of the story, not just the sidekick, what would they do? How would they approach it? What would they be doing if they weren't saving the world? If this plot hadn't hit them like a freight train, what would they be doing in life. They would care about things! What would they care about, what would they be doing.

#10 Copy

Questioner

On the planet of Nalthis, the Warbreaker planet, is the method with which people are chosen as Returned an autonomous system that is not governed by intelligent entity?

Brandon Sanderson

No, good question. *laughter* I was hoping for one of those.

#11 Copy

Questioner

I wanted to ask-- So you--I think more than almost any other fantasy author--you create universes and then you leave them behind. Entire uni-- I almost feel like you could sit down-- you could have like pages of a physics lecture in each of your universes and you would have equations for how it works. Do you have-- Have you always had these ideas for these various universes with gods and magic systems and things like that, or are you always creating them, sort of as you go? 

Brandon Sanderson

It's yes and no. A lot of the ones you're seeing in the cosmere are things I created at the beginning to be kind of what the cosmere was. But I left some holes intentionally cause I knew I would come up with cool things that I wanted to add, and so I built in that wiggle room, and I'm always coming up with new ones. And there are way more that I want to do than I can write, like the one I keep wanting to find a chance for is--

Do you guys know how Nikola Tesla tried to create wireless energy? I think I've talked about this one. Like, he tried to create wireless energy, and I'm like "What if there were a world where that happened naturally?" Where you had a natural current going, and you could like set your lantern on the ground and it would create a current from the sky to the ground and your light bulb would just turn on. You don't need electricity. And how would-- What if we have giant toads that could shoot out their tongues that would create a current,  and they're like taser tongues? *makes zapping noises* Stuff like this. And so, I started jumping in to looking at electricity and things like this, and current and whatnot, and that's just all back there and I'm like "Aww, someday I need to be able to write this." But there are so many things that I want to write that I just don't have the time for, so it's a yes and no.

Questioner

So do you have, like, "what if" questions and then you build a universe from there?

Brandon Sanderson

Usually they're "what if" questions, but Sanderson's Zeroth Law--I've got these laws on magic you can look up,  they're named humbly after myself--so Sanderson's Zeroth Law is "Always err on the side of what's awesome". And usually it's less even a "what if?" and it's a "That's so cool, taser toads!" Like if you really want to know the truth of where The Stormlight Archive started, there's all this cool stuff, like part of it was like "What if there was a storm like the storm on Jupiter". And then I eventually changed it to a storm that goes around the planet, something like that, but the real truth was "Magical power armor. YEAH! Magical power armor is cool! Plate mail power armor! Why would you need plate mail power armor?" Y'know, and it starts with the really cool idea. Mistborn started by me drifting in a fog bank at eighty miles per hour in my car and loving how it looked as it drove past and saying "Is there a world where I can imitate this feel, where you look out and it streams by." It's those early visuals or concepts that make me say "Oh yeah, I wanna do that!". That is where my books really come from, and then I layer on top of them the "what ifs?" and trying to build a realistic ecology based around these ideas.

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Questioner

Stormlight feels very different to me on so many levels. You've got the interludes where we get to get a lot of worldbuilding, we get to see more of the planet than just one place. But there is also this sense that a lot of your books we're experiencing the aftermath of something. And in Stormlight that something is coming. How is this affecting the way that you are building your world for us?

Brandon Sanderson

So, this one's going get you a story, okay? So here's the story... So, alright, darkest time in my writing career, okay? Was when I was writing books 11 and 12 unpublished. I was getting rejection letters, and they were rejection letters for things like Elantris and Dragonsteel, which I was really confident in. Elantris, Dragonsteel, and White Sand were the good books during the era of unpublished Brandon.

White Sand by the way, is out as a graphic novel now. You can also read the prose version by emailing me through my website form, we just send it out for free, so you can compare it to the graphic novel. And by the way, Dragonsteel, you're like "Oh, Hoid's origin story", we'll do that eventually. The Shattered Plains started in Dragonsteel, and I pulled them out, and I pulled Dalinar out, and a bunch of stuff, when I built Stormlight. And so it's really a schizophrenic book now-- Schizeophrenic is the wrong term, but half of it was what became Stormlight, and half of it is Hoid's origin story. So, the half that is Hoid's origin story will eventually get a book.

Anyway, darkest point-- I'm not selling anything, everybody is telling me like "Your books are too long". This is the number one thing I'm getting from rejections, "Your books are too long, and your books are not market friendly, in that the worlds are too weird". I'm getting this-- You gotta remember this is-- I love George but  this is right after George got huge, and George introduced gritty, low magic, earth-like fantasy as kind of "the thing" that was big. And his books were large too, I don't know why people kept telling me mine were too big, but they wanted gritty and they wanted low magic and they wanted earth-like. So I was getting rejection after rejection on these things. What people were buying were things like Joe Abercrombie's stuff, which is great, Joe's a great writer. But you know, short things that gave people a similar feel to George RR Martin, but you know, but were low magic, kind of earth-like medieval societies. Basically shorter versions of George is basically what they wanted. So I actually would go to cons and they would be like "Have you read the beginning of Game of Thrones? Write something like that" and so finally against better advice, I sat down and said "alright I'll try something like that". And you guys do not want to read Brandon Sanderson trying to be George RR Martin. *laughter* It was embarrassing, and so I wrote these books, each something different.

And I like trying to do something different, I'm not sad I tried to do something different, but at the end I was like "I can't do this, these books are crap". The worst books I wrote were the two that were like books 11 and 12. Like I shouldn't be getting worse as a writer, the more books I write. And so I was in a funk and I finally just said, "You know what? Screw it, I'm gonna write the biggest, baddest, most awesome book that I can!" They say they're too [long], this is gonna be twice as long! They say that worlds are too weird, I'm gonna do the weirdest world that I've always wanted to do. I'm gonna write the type of fantasy book that nobody's writing that I wish they would write. And I'm gonna break all these rules that say 'Oh don't do flashbacks'. Screw you, I'm gonna put flashbacks in every book! They say 'Don't do prologues', screw you, I'm doing three prologues!" *laughter* It really does, because Way of Kings starts with the Heralds. Prologue. Then it goes to Szeth. Prologue. And then it goes to the viewpoint of the guy in Kaladin's squad. Also a prologue. And then it jumps like eight months and then we start the story. I did all the stuff they told me not to do because I just wanted to make the biggest, most coolest and baddest epic I could-- bad in a good term.

And I finished this book, which was basically flipping the bird to the entire publishing industry, right? And that-- Within a month of finishing that is when Moshe, who I told you is bipolar, got manic and read through his backlist of books that people had sent him, including one I'd sent him two years earlier, which was Elantris. He'd never looked at it, he read it in a night, he called me manic, and said "I wanna buy your book!". And actually what happened is, he called me and I'd moved since then, and gotten a new phone number. We used to have landlines back then, I know. I had a cellphone by the time he called me but before I had my landline number on it, and I'd actually--this is gonna date me--my first email address was AOL. I was like "Free email." And then I realized AOL-- I wont speak ill of-- Yes I will. AOL sucked. *laughter* And so I'm like "Well I need to get my own email address", so I went and got one, but that meant the email had changed. And I sent to anyone who actively had one of my books on submission like "This is my new contact info", but he'd had it for two years. I figured I was never seeing it-- If you were on the last panel, I mentioned that I sent things into Tor and they vanished, and I never got rejections-- I never got rejected from Tor, I sent them four books, they're still just sitting there somewhere I'm sure. But, so I finished this big beast of a book, right, and then I sell Elantris, and I'm like "Great, now I don't know what to do". So my editor is like "Oh what are you working on now, I want to see that too", so I sent him Way of Kings, and I still remember when he called me, he was like "Uhh... Well this isn't the sort of thing that new authors usually publish. Can we split it?" and I said "No, you split the book and it's a really bad book, 'cause you have all the buildup but none of the payoff". And he's like "Ughhh", and I said "That's alright, I've got this idea for Mistborn", I pitched him Mistborn. "I'll do Way of Kings later", there were some things I wanted to fix about it, it actually needed something, and I didn't know what that something was yet, and I didn't learn it until working on The Wheel of Time, but that's a different story.

But you're asking why is Stormlight so different. Well Stormlight is a series like of my heart. This is the book that I wrote when nothing else mattered, and I thought I might never get published and I just wanted to do what I felt that the genre needed that nobody was doing, right? And so I felt like fantasy needed to be pushed a little further in its worldbuilding, and so I did that. I felt like-- There just a lot going on. The interludes were kind of my solution to the problem Robert Jordan and George RR Martin were having, which, they're fantastic writers, I was able to learn from them. And Robert Jordan, I think one of the problems he had was that he fell in love with the side characters, and then these side characters took over the story to an extent that then it was hard to manage. I'm not bashing on Robert Jordan, he talked about this, he talked about book 10 and how being a parallel novel was a mistake. I could learn from his mistakes, it doesn't make me a better writer, what it means is I can learn from what they did. And I said "Okay, I'm going to put pressure valves in my book, I'm gonna put a short story collection in each novel where I get to write about side characters, and those who wan to skip them can skip them, and those who don't can read them", and I'll just make sure that I contain them in these short stories, these interludes, and that lets me do what I want but also lets the book keep its focus. So I'm doing a lot of things with these books that were like my love letter to the epic fantasy genre, and so I'm enthusiastic that you actually all like it and are willing to read them. *applause*

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Questioner

I don't really read much, but-- *laughter* I listen to all of the audio books of all your books... And one thing I really respect that you do is you're very punk rock about how you approach things. Like "Three [prologues], yeah why not?" It actually reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy, like when that came onto the scene it was just "Dang, these guys are doing everything. The best, the newest, the freshest thing." And I was actually curious, have you ever actually played Final Fantasy, where you inspired by it? Especially because the swords are HUGE like in Final Fantasy.

Brandon Sanderson

I will admit, there's a bit of me saying "Man, what would it take to make giant swords realistic?" *laughter*  Like I actually-- No, this is real. Like fantasy art, and particularly Japanese fantasy art, has these oversized weapons that's completely unrealistic. But that's a challenge to me.

I actually played-- Like I have Final Fantasy cred. *laughter* I played One, on the original Nintendo, right? When it was released. And I have actually played them all. Ten is my favorite. As an aside, what I loved about Ten was-- The voice acting really helped, but I loved that-- Like Ten is what taught me that you don't have to have an angsty, depressed character. Angsty, depressed characters are awesome but sometimes you can have a hero who's not angsty and depressed and it works out alright. But I would call myself deeply influenced by that, certaintly.

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Questioner

So with your Cosmere books. I started reading with Mistborn, and I got through the trilogy, all three books-- I read really fast, so I was done with all three of them in under a week. And so I went looking for some of your other books, and I think I came on The Way of Kings and I started noticing there were little bits of connections because it's not really apparent--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

--that they're connected until you start looking into it. And of course then I go online and figure out there's this whole wikipedia--

Brandon Sanderson

Then you went down the rabbit hole. *laughter*

Questioner

Then I went down the rabbit hole and then I go "Oh look, all of these worlds are interconnected. And there are these characters who are supposed to be Worldhoppers or something." I could not figure out where the origin of where you learn these people are actually from the other series.

Brandon Sanderson

So where did people learn this. So first I'm going to give the caveat, if this daunts you, don't worry it's all cameos right now. You don't have to read the books in a certain order-- Well you should read the series in order, but you don't have to read the series in a certain order. You're not missing out on something, you can read the books and if you don't see it, it's okay. It's meant to be cameos... It's supposed to be very subtle.

However, where they're getting it is Hoid is almost always mentioned by name. That was the first clue to people. Once in a while he doesn't use his name, in each series at least he's mentioned his name. And people started connecting that name. And I will usually give little tells where they Galladon in The Way of Kings because he spoke in Dula, and so they caught the same words that he used, even though he spoke another language. Some of the words were words he used in Elantris. They were like "Oh." So there's always going to be some connection there.

Watch for people who use the wrong words. For instance if someone says in The Stormlight Archive, if someone uses the word "coin", they're probably using magical means to translate and they're thinking "coin" when they mean "money" or "sphere" and they don't use coins on Roshar. And so you'll have people make mistakes like that in-world, and they'll talk about things the wrong way. And that'll be part of the way you can connect who doesn't belong there. I intend it to be very subtle however. I think in The Way of Kings Hoid is the only one who uses "coin" and things like that. If you watch out for stuff like that--

But here's the thing about it, at the same time I learned from Robert Jordan fandom that fans will theorize about everything. *laughter* And I realized-- I had to make a decision pretty early on. And this decision-- Some authors do it one way, others do it another, I decided I had to be okay if the fans guessed what I was doing. Because if I put the foreshadowing in then it's going to be a mark of respect if people figure it out. And so if you're one of these people who dig in deeply, you will figure out some of things that are going on and they won't be surprises when the book comes along. And I think that's okay for the fans that are doing that. I will warn you, I'm not going to change what's happening, just 'cause you figure it out. So if you don't want massive spoilers you shouldn't necessarily hang out to much, because they are going to get it right. I will put in the foreshadowing so that it is possible to guess what's going to be happening and things like that. Because if I don't it won't feel like the book is fulfilling, if that makes any sense.

That's just a little warning to you guys. But so far there are some things they haven't figured out yet that I think they're going to soon, but they haven't quite yet.

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Questioner

He's asking if a larkin is capable of pushing Stormlight into someone as well as drawing it out.

Brandon Sanderson

Ahhh, that's an excellent question. They actually feed on Investiture. Like some other people and things that you've seen. *laughter*

Questioner

So is that a yes or no?

Brandon Sanderson

That is more of a no than a yes. *laughter*

Questioner

So that's highly unlikely that that's how Szeth was resurrected.

Brandon Sanderson

That is correct... You did see how Szeth came back foreshadowed earlier in the books. So if you watch for it, the means by which that happens is in there.

Questioner

How early? *laughter*

Footnote: Szeth is resurrected by of a fabrial manipulating Progression, which can be seen in one of Dalinar's visions in The Way of Kings.
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Questioner

As an Asha'man Warder, I have to ask, would you consider going back to The Wheel of Time and writing a book about the Trolloc Wars?

Brandon Sanderson

So, remember that part about a piece of art being done? Sometimes that is painful. In fact it-- it hurts that there are certain characters I've said "Their story's done. I don't think I should touch this again." We put on top of that, I don't believe Robert Jordan would want me to do more. Now I have to say that very timidly because it's entirely possible that Harriet or one of her heirs and descendants will decide that there should be more Wheel of Time books. And I'm not going to be one who gets up and "No you shouldn't be doing that!" Right? That's not my choice. And I want more Wheel of Time like anyone else wants more Wheel of Time but my personal decision has been that I think Robert Jordan was uncomfortable with the idea of my writing in his world, even though he asked it do be done. And if I--particularly with the prominence I have--spent more time in The Wheel of Time I risk The Wheel of Time becoming more associated with me than Robert Jordan. And I think that would be a very bad thing. And so the current answer is "No, I--" Well, yes I would consider it. I'd consider it a lot, and the answer is no. I don't think it would be appropriate for me to do more Wheel of Time for a multitude of reasons.

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Questioner

You've mentioned in the last couple of afterwords that you get interesting results when you mix types of Investiture.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Twinborn and Surgebinders on Roshar. Can you mix a form of magic with a source of Investiture? Can say Vasher use Stormlight in place of Breaths or would that require tampering via Hemalurgy or something like that?

Brandon Sanderson

Most of them require tampering. Some of them are a little bit easier than others. It depends on really what you mean. For instance, white sand can be charged in the presence of any Investiture right? It's just-- But that's not really using the magic, it's just charging it with other Investiture. But, you know, it would be very easy, for instance, if you can get yourself Invested-- Like, for instance, it'd be very easy to use Breaths to fuel Windrunning right? Because the oath and the bond and things like that are going to make it pretty easy. However fueling Allomancy with something else is going to be a lot harder. So it really depends on the magic. It's the sort of thing that there will be lots of science in the books dedicated to making happen in the future and you will find some of the processes these work easier than other ones.

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Questioner

I'm a creative myself but not really so much an authorial type but a systems designer type. And that's actually what attracted me to your books first, is that their systems are so... meticulous is not the right word. They're so hard.

Brandon Sanderson

Right, hard magic.

Questioner

And I'm not going to ask you to go over Sanderson's Laws but they add up to this magical materialism almost, which I think works really well with your storytelling. Do you have any particular method for meshing together the rules that you create for a system and creating a balance that allows you to tell a compelling story with it?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question because this is a really interesting give and take. Everything needs to be done in service to the story and the danger of these systems is doing the same sort of thing that an outline does to a story. Too rigid of an outline means you just don't have a good story in a lot of cases. Too rigid of a magic system can actually make certain stories just not work. And I don't think this is the only way you have to do it. For me, this is a lot of the fun but I have to let myself bend.

A good example of this, alright? I wanted to do speed bubbles... But one of the powers is these speed bubbles, right? You can slow down or speed up time around you in a bubble, right? So what I do is I say "Okay if we can do this, science-y people--" I go to my science-y people, that's the official term, I said "What's this going to do?" And they're like "Yeah, red shift. You're going to irradiate everybody." I'm like "Oh, right." *laughter* "Right, irradiating the room. A flashlight becomes a laser beam." Like stuff like this, I have-- What I do-- The difference between me and a science fiction writer is I say "I still want speed bubbles, so we will build into the magic system why the red shift doesn't happen and I will go with that. I will make a rule for it and I'll be consistent but I can make up a rule." And that is something I will recommend to fantasists versus science fiction writers is this thing. Remember the story is king. Be consistent once you've done something but go ahead and give yourself the wiggle room to build something that's going to become-- be for great storytelling. And that balance between being consistent and telling a great story is where you want to be.

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Questioner

I have a question about progression of powers for the Knights Radiant. So we see with Kaladin that it seems that there's a definitive border to the Ideals and how you gain them, I guess? It would be hard to touch on the third without having learned the second. Would that-- Is that the same for all of the Orders? Like the Willshapers are much more varied and individualistic, could they go through a different order and if so would that affect how they express their Surgebinding?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, the Oaths are very individualized. In fact you'll get a lot more of this as you see different people, even within the same Order, swearing Oaths. And you'll see how it works, even with a given Order there is individuality to them. So I'm going to give you a RAFO, you can have a card.

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Date Sept. 2, 2016
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