What is the name or intention of Bavadin's Shard?
I have not revealed that yet. I don't think I want to get into that quite yet.
What is the name or intention of Bavadin's Shard?
I have not revealed that yet. I don't think I want to get into that quite yet.
Any good reads you recommend for the book fans?
I have recently read Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. I guess it's been a few months now. I really like that. The other most recent book I read is an unpublished novel that I'm hoping will be published because I thought it was fantastic, by a friend of mine. It's called A Thousand Faces—I don't know if she'll end up changing that title. But, Promise of Blood, very good, highly recommended. And if you're looking for something great, and you haven't tried Terry Pratchett, he's one of my go-to recommendations. I love Pratchett's work. Don't start with the first one. Start with Guards! Guards!, or The Truth.
Talk about your writing routine—you're very prolific!
I, like I said, need to be jumping projects. It's just something about me. When I finish something, I feel the need to do something else very different from what I just finished. And given the chance to do so, I will jump and do something bizarre, for me. Bizarre, in a different line. And so, I'm often doing this. How do I juggle them? Well, it's more a matter of I would have more trouble not juggling them because then I would be locked into one thing, and I think it would be a lot harder for me to do my writing the way I do it. It's just my natural inclination.
You're known as an epic fantasy guy. Why the change-up?
I like to do different things. It's what keeps me productive—switching projects. And usually after I've finished something big, I want to do something very different. And so I like to try different genres. Granted, the speculative aspect, the science fiction/fantasy aspect of things, is what really interests me. I basically have never written a book without some at least hint of the science fiction or fantasy element because that's what I love, so that'll show up in everything. But I also do like thrillers. And writing this book—it's been called dystopian now—I viewed it as action-adventure. Dystopian in the same way that some of the darker superhero films are dystopian.
Is it my first YA? I have another YA called The Rithmatist. This I wrote as an older middle grade novel, which is a very fine distinction that really only matters to literacy professionals, and to authors, and things like that. Middle grade ended up getting published as a young YA novel instead—the line there blurs very much. So, yes and no. I mean, Mistborn, which I'm best known for, stars a sixteen-year-old girl. That's shelved in 'adult' because there are adult characters as well, but the story's about her. So is it my first YA, is it not? I'm really honestly not sure. That's sort of a distinction I'll let the librarians and the booksellers argue over.
[Tell us about] coming up with the names for the Epics.
It was really all right. I wouldn't say "proud" with regard to 'Steelheart', more "ecstatic" because I came up with the name very early on. And I'm like, "Oh, I hope no one has used this. I hope no one has used this." And then I went and looked and there were no major superheroes with that name listed on the various lists that I found. So I figure I'm pretty safe. But from going on there, finding names was really difficult. I wanted to do things that hadn't been used by any major Marvel or DC characters. And they have lots and lots and lots of characters—lots of them! And so, my instinct was if there's a Wikipedia article dedicated to this character, they're probably too big a character for me to use that name. And so, I spent most of the time either there, or there are resources on various fan sites that just list all the characters that I could search, just by names. And I would have a list of twelve names for a superhero or supervillain, and spend all this time trying to figure in, and all twelve would have been used, and I would have to go back to the drawing board and come up with twelve more, or something like that.
Why are the Epics, the people with the power, all evil?
So the idea for this story came when I was driving along on the freeway and someone cut me off in traffic, and my immediate instinct was, "You're lucky I don't have any superpowers because I'd blow your car up right now." This is what happens when you're a fantasy writer, right? You have weird instinctual reactions like that. I was very frightened, though, because I'm like, "Wow, I can't believe that's inside of me." It's probably a good thing that I don't have superpowers because I don't know that I could be trusted not to blow people off of the road when they cut in front of me. And that led me down the natural progression to, "What would happen if people really have superpowers?" Would people be good with them, or would they not? And if my first instinct is to use them in this sort of awful way, what happens if everyone starts abusing these powers?
And that led me down the road to the story of, the idea of, there being no heroes—there being a story about a common man with no powers, trying to assassinate a very powerful superpowered individual. It's weird talking about this in the terms of superheroes, though, because as I was writing the book, my focus was on sort of an action-adventure feel—definitely using some of the superhero tropes, and the comic book tropes. But I have found that in the fiction I've read, it's better to do kind of a strong adaptation–kind of like movies do. I like how movies have adapted comic books and kind of made them their own, and turned them into their own action-adventure genre. And that was what I was kind of using as a model for this. And so yeah, I wanted to tell the story of this kid—I say kid, he's eighteen—this young man, who wants to bring down the emperor of Chicago, and doesn't have any powers himself, but thinks he might know what Steelheart—that character's—the emperor's weakness is.
Is burning atium related to Scadrian worldhopping?
Hehehe. That's a good question, the answer is no.
Does mechanical Feruchemy draw from the user or the machine?
Let's see if I can phrase this correctly. Feruchemy-- I don't want you to guess everything I'm going to do, then the books won't be interesting for you in the future. When I'm approaching using them mechanically I'm trying to keep to the core principles of the magic as much as possible.
Going back to The Way of Kings, as you said you wrote that in 2002 then you shelved it. So that's, like, even in your introduction you say it's over ten years of planning and through that, a lot of the planning on a series like that is also worldbuilding and so on, but the next book you said you want to get through as quick as possible, do you think it'll have an impact on the, not on the quality of the book, but on the type of book? In the sense, The Way of Kings took ten years and the new one, less. What do you think?
I'm hoping it won't. I will have to see when I write it. I'm certainly hoping that I don't have to write it and then shelve it for ten years. I think people would be very angry with me. If it's the right move to do, I'll do it, but I think I would have major outcries. My instincts... you know, over the years I've developed pretty good instincts for when a book is going to work and when it is going to be a rougher write, and I'll know very quickly once I start it if it's working or not. I'll be upfront with people as I write it about that. My instincts right now are very good for it, I'm kind of chomping at the bit. The original Way of Kings from 2002, there are many parts of that that I didn't end up getting to in the new one, because it wasn't time for them yet. So there's still stuff floating from that book that is still going to be part of the future books.
Who would win in a fight? Vin, or Vasher, or the Nightblood?
And who would win in a fight between Vin and Vasher? It would probably depend on who got the jump on who. Vin's a bit more sneaky, so I have the feeling that Vasher would be in trouble if it involved sneaking, but Vasher is... he only has to get one little cut on you and you're gone so it, it would probably... my money would be on Vin.
You're planning the Stormlight Archive as this big long ten book series and I imagine that obviously look at your work with the Wheel of Time the other big long epic series, one of the issues that at least some fans perceive is that these series are at least perceived to sag or at least slow down at some point in the middle. People start to get very bogged down and it takes years for the next one's out, is that something you're considering for your structuring of the Stormlight Archive and what are you trying to do to address that?
Excellent question, it is actually something that I've very consciously thought about when designing this story. One of the reasons that I didn't release The Way of Kings when I wrote it back in 2002 is that I hadn't figured out this problem yet. And it's one of the reasons that I shelved the book and re-wrote it from scratch back a couple of years ago.
I really was conscious of it because I have an advantage over authors like George Martin and Robert Jordan, who have had these kinds of accusations levelled at them, in that I've read them! I've read Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan didn't get to read Robert Jordan in the same way, and I can see he's kind of pushed his way through the snow for some of us to fall behind and see some of the things that he did, even after he said "Boy, I think I might have done that differently." We can learn from that.
What I'm trying to do is... first off The Stormlight Archive is divided in my head into two five book series, it is a ten booker but it is two big five book sequences, which I do think that will give me more of a vision of a beginning, middle, and end for each of the sequences.
The other thing I'm doing is I consciously did some little thing in the books. For instance, one of the reasons we end up with sprawl in epic fantasy series is I think writers start writing side characters and getting really interested in them. The side characters are awesome, they let you see the breadth of the world and dabble in different places. What I did is I let myself have the interludes in The Way of Kings, and I will continue to do those in the future books, and I told myself I can write these interludes but those characters can't become main characters. Those characters have to be just glimpses.
The other main thing that I'm doing is that each book in The Stormlight Archive is focused on a character. That character gets flashbacks and we get into the backstory and that gives me a beginning, middle, and end and a thematic way to tie that book together, specifically to that character, which I hope will make each character, each book feel more individual.
Which is part of also the problem I feel with the big long series, that they start to blend. And then, if the author starts to view some of them as blending then you stop having big climaxes at the ends of some of them and view them too blended together. This isn't a problem when the series is finished. I think that when the Wheel of Time can be read beginning to end straight-through, a lot of this worry about middle-meandering is going to go away, because you can see it as a whole. But certainly while you're releasing it, you get just these little glimpses that feel so short to us.
I feel that if I can take each book and apply it to one character, give a deep flashback for each one and thematically tie it to them, each book will have its own identity and hopefully will avoid some of that. That's my goal, who knows if I'll be able to pull it off but it is my intention.
You seem to be pulling it off so far Brandon.
Well I only have one book yet! I mean none of these, none of these series... they all started with great first books, in fact I feel that a lot of them are great all the way through, but the sprawl issue doesn't usually start to hit til around book four is really where the, where the problems show up.
1. Are there any other sentient spren like Syl, if not are there any spren capable of becoming sentient, or is she purposefully unique?
2. If so, what are the conditions that must be met for a spren to become sentient?
1. There are other sentient spren.
2. There are many more who could become sentient. There were choices that were made that we will get into that were made by some spren that, that involved... what is happening. There were certain choices that were made that influenced this, so yes, that was a very detailed and specific question, you did a good job and so I will give you your answer that there are others like Syl that could become, and there are some that are sentient already
Would that also mean that certain spren would have an alignment, or would some spren be tailored toward good and evil or not?
They're creatures of nature and so good and evil aren't as, as big a deal to them. Though there are some that may be put in that sort of alignment. Certainly honorspren are going to be of a certain type, but there are many spren of many different temperaments and they are kind of aligned to their temperament, having to do with who they are and what they are.
I was wondering if you could only write in one universe from now on, assuming it was any one you wanted, what would you pick?
Well you gave me an out, since so many of my books are in the same universe.
You know, I thought you might say that.
So that, I could cheat and just say the cosmere, but I think the soul of the question is which series would I write on.
And I would probably have to... boy it would probably be a toss up between Mistborn and the Stormlight Archive, Mistborn because I've invested so much into it already. If I can only pick one, I would probably pick Stormlight because there is so much left to tell there and I've got a lot of places to explore, but I would cheat and say they're all in the same universe.
I was wondering, when you're recording Writing Excuses, how often do you ahve to stop and take a break because of how hard you're laughing when Mary pulls out her puppet voices?
Usually, we don't ever want to stop. There have been a few times where we descend to laughter to the point that we end up having to cut things. But usually if we're descending into laughter, we feel that's a good thing because part of what makes Writing Excuses work is we try to be really genuine, we try to be ourselves. Hopefully an entertaining and snappy version of ourselves, but really just us.
And you know we try to make it quick and fast but also genuine and so we're laughing like that, those moments are ones we love and as long as it's genuine laughter, we can't replicate it. There's some times where something goes wrong technically and we don't end up catching on the audio something that was just awesome and we can never replicate it if it happens, if we try to, so we like to trying capture those moments live. We don't usually stop to do that. What we'll usually get together to record three or four episodes and then we we'll take a break and we'll try to do something to help with the creativity. Meaning, maybe sometimes we'll go out to write, often times we'll go out to lunch and just start chatting and throwing things back at each other, helping each other with stories and then we'll come back and do four more and then do that again and we find that helps us keep the rhythm and the energy for the podcast.
Although like stories and you know, plot characters, twists are all very important, for me a great story is made up of great moments and the question I wrote in the post there was about when Dalinar swaps his sword for the bridgemen and asks the question, "how much is a life worth?" and for me that was a moment where I had to put the book down because it was just so great, it brought the characters together and all these reasonings and all these visions, it all came to a head and I was thinking how many moments like these do you think a great book needs for example I mean other things I'd seen in that book was when Kaladin, he tells his men to come out after the storm and see him alive again or in The Gathering Storm when Rand is on Dragonmount and everything you know, he destroys the Choedan Kal. So how many moments like that do you think they need and can you give me an example of a great book that you love from another author's book where you think there is a great moment like those ones?
Okay, excellent, I'll start with the last one, one of my favorite books of all time is Les Miserables and it's full of moments like that and I'm going to have to pick the moment where Jean Valjean goes for Marius and brings him back through the sewers and things like that, moments like that are what makes books work for me.
What you're noticing is part of the way I design my plots. When I'm going to write a story I feel like I have to have moments like that prepared and planned that I can write towards. I will often go and turn on epic music of the right type--whatever I'm feeling is epic at the time--and go and walk or go on the treadmill, or do something active. And while doing that I will try to imagine what moments like that will be for this given book. What will be the really powerful character or plot moment that just make you want to put the book down and sit back for a minute and say "Whoa!"
I have to be able to imagine some of those for every book I write, otherwise I can't start the book. I write my books kind of... the points on the map philosophy, meaning I have to have something to write toward for me to get there. It's like having a map where you say, okay, I'm going to drive from one place to another and here are the places along the way I'm going to stop. I need to know where those places are and these places are usually these powerful moments and it's how I build stories.
A lot of your characters seem to go through crises of faith, particularly Sazed in The Hero of Ages where he essentially questions all his... everything he's come to believe. Have you ever experienced any conflicts with your own religious faith about including such characters in your books?
That's also a good question. Conflicts is perhaps the wrong way to put it. I believe strongly in the precepts of people like Socrates, that the unexamined life is not worth living and I find that if I'm interested in something I should question it, I should examine it from as many directions as I can.
I tend to do that in my fiction. It's the way I express myself. Rather than actually writing a journal, I don't actually do that. I write stories that explore what I'm working on, myself, what I'm interested in and I find it vital that I attack them from lots of different directions, not just the way I am, but the way I see other people exploring the same problems, the same questions.
It's just--it's valuable to me as a writer and as a person to explore these things in depth, so I've never seen conflict but I certainly have expressed my own questions and examinations through characters as they have reached similar moments in their lives.
Specifically, which mistakes you made as a beginning novelist that stand out the most as ones you've corrected as you've learned the craft better.
That's an excellent question, I would say that my biggest mistake as a new writer was not being willing to revise. I'm a classic, what we call a one-drafter this is a type of author who likes to just imagine it, get it ready, plan a lot and then get in on the page and be done with it and that was a mistake, I've become a big believer in learning to take a book that's a good book and make it an excellent book and doing a lot of strong revisions and early on I wasn't willing to do that and I think it held me back quite a bit.
Do you think that maybe not having a writing group to back you up contributed to your lack of revisions?
Maybe... I actually did have a writing group, and what I would do is I would get the feedback from my writing group and my opinion was, "Oh, I did all these mistakes. I made all these mistakes." Instead of fixing them, early on I would say, "Well, I won't make those mistakes again for my next book," cause I was always so excited an eager to write the next book and I didn't slow down enough and really focus in on making books great.
And that was a mistake that was very particular to me, I don't think... as a writer there are so many different ways to do this and so many different types of writers. Part of learning to be a writer is about learning what things hold you back and what mistakes you make and they can be very different. Depending on who you are and what type of problem you have.
With the maps. How much influence do you get in the creative process of building those worlds?
So, Brandon's actually really good about being collaborative on the maps. There are definitely things that he wants in there. There are definitely things in the maps that he has said, "These need to be there," and there are places where he gives a lot of creative freedom. There are some places on the maps that are named, that I got to name. Which is kind of cool.
And it depends on the map, too. Like, he can tell you what he got for Mistborn. What did you get for Mistborn?
Brandon gave me a picture that was drawn in MSPaint in, like, three colors. And just, like, "Stuff is here." Couple of names, but the basic directions are right. There was no map for Luthadel. I came up with that one, and then he used that to make sure everything was right in the book. So, it kinda goes both ways.
But then, Way of Kings, I actually handed him a picture and said, "Here is the shape. And here are [where] all the kingdoms. Now you can work on actually making it look like a map." But I gave him the exact shape. So it does vary, but a lot of times it'll be, I'll say, "Hey Isaac, look at this cool map I found online. Let's do something like this." Or a few months ago, he was in Europe. You were in Rome, right? You'd seen some maps that hang in the Vatican. And he said, "I wanna do one like this." And that became your back endpage for this book. Was he wanting to do a map like he had seen hanging in the Vatican for our world. And it's actually a painting on a roof that he did. So if you open up and look at the back endpage [of Words of Radiance], it is a roof that he has painted as if it is a roof in something like the Vatican.
At one point, you said something about how the way that the humans on Roshar perceive spren, or how that's important in their <rough position> in the Physical Realm. So, going to the interlude where we have the two ardents, they do two tests. But it seems like there's a third test that they kinda, maybe should have done. And I want to know how that would have played out.
So, the two tests that they did were; he's measuring for real and telling her, and she's writing down what the actual measurements are, and it sticks. The second one is, write down something that's possible, and she knows this isn't right, so she writes it down and nothing happens. What would have happened in the case where she thinks she's writing down the right thing, but he's actually lying to her?
If she thinks she's writing down the right thing and he's lying to her, the first would happen. It would stick.
I have a question about the Mistborn video game. I wanna know how much involvement, how much of the writing do you do?
I wrote the story and will be writing all the dialogue for the game. So, the first thing I did for them once we sold it, we had to write in the contract that I write the story. And I wrote the story and sent it to them. They are building a game frame around that story, for the setpieces and things, and then I will go in and write the dialogue. Now, I have this feeling when I play video games, my favorite games, the way that they do stories... For those who like video games, I like it when you don't stop the action for the story. For instance, I much prefer... Have you played the game Infamous? I really prefer the way Infamous did it, where you're going somewhere, and people are talking to you, and you're getting story as you're going; as opposed to action games, in particular, where you stop, and then you have a cutscene. I don't like that as much. So, what we're gonna try to do is integrate it like that. Where I have written side characters who will be saying things to you, hopefully amusingly, as you're charging through, trying to get to where you're going next, and stuff like that.
How do you suggest dealing with worldbuilding disease?
So, worldbuilder's disease is what we call it when you spend all of your time worldbuilding, and none of it writing. And this is a big deal for those of us like myself who like to worldbuild. You have to learn. And my biggest piece of advice for worldbuilder's disease is to set goals. Say "I am going to be done worldbuilding on this day." Or "On this day, I at least have to write Chapter One." And just give yourself limits, and say, "I have to do this." You can always add more in later. If you write your book and find holes, you can fill those in later. You can write down, "I need to know more about this." So set a goal, and say, "I need to start writing on this date." And then keep that date. That's the number one thing I'd suggest, you've just got to practice writing.
The other big thing, you can also practice writing something that you're not worldbuilding, to practice your writing. You say, "I'm gonna write this other story that's in the history of this world that's just gonna be for me. That's part of my worldbuilding. It's not my main story. So I don't have to stress about it, if everything's right, because it's just gonna be the background for my story eventually."
I'm interested in the background that takes place before the events of the first Mistborn book. Are you interested at all in looking at the histories of some of your past books?
Yes. But I probably won't be writing a lot of books back there. Just because every time I've read or seen a prequel, I find myself disappointed in it. With some famous examples. And I think that's partially because you, as the writer, feel like you've already finished the story. And the reader feels, "I've already finished the story." Now, there are some really great ones out there. Ender's Shadow is kind of a prequel, that is a fantastic book. So there are people capable of doing this. You just have to find the exact right thing. I think it's better to explore in something like a video game, where there's enough new going on with the style of the storytelling that I get excited about it.
I'm a writer, and I'm trying to further my writing. As I've been reading The Way of Kings, I've noticed that there's a bunch of different details, stuff that I would never even think of. How do you juggle everything and make sure everything fits together?
The number one thing you want to know is: just practice. Practice is gonna solve so many of these things. When I was your age, and I would read books... how old are you, by the way? Twelve? When I was twelve, I was not reading books like this. So, kudos to you. When I was older than you, and reading fantasy books; when I was fourteen and I was reading them, I had the same sort of thing. I wanted to do this. I loved this. I'd found myself in these books; and I had no idea how to. My first things that I tried, they were not coming together. It's just a matter of practicing. Do you play an instrument? You play the piano? When you first start, you aren't playing these beautiful music by the old masters. You're playing scales. And that's okay. And when you write right now, you get to skip the scales part, because you already know how to write the words. You learned all that in grade school. Now, you're moving onto the next step, which is creating these stories, but you've still gotta practice that. But don't stress it. Don't worry about it. The thing I would do is, I would keep open a notebook beside you as you type, as you write. Or another file on the screen. And every time you run across something that you're like, "Oh, maybe I should expand this," write that down in your thing. And then later on, when you're sitting somewhere that you don't have your laptop with you, you can open up that book and be like, "Oh, I need more about this." And you can just start writing down brainstorming ideas about that. Later on, when you revise your book, you can put that all in.
Wow did working on the Wheel of Time series change the way that you made Way of Kings?
The biggest thing it did was it helped me juggle a large cast. When I wrote Way of Kings the first time (This was in 2002, this was the version I sent to my editor), the story really got away from me. To the point that, when he was saying "I don't want to publish it," he said, "Do you mind if we break it," I said, "Why don't I pitch you my new thing, because I want to do a new draft of Way of Kings." And it was because the characters, there were too many of them for me to juggle at that time. And working on the Wheel of Time, I had to learn how to juggle a lot of different characters very quickly. And by the end of writing the first one... I actually, after writing Gathering Storm, called my editor and said, "I think I can do Way of Kings now." Which is why Way of Kings came in such a weird place. It probably would have been better to write all three Wheel of Time books and then done the Stormlight Archive. Then you wouldn't have had a four-year wait because I had to finish four Wheel of Time books in between. But I was really excited at that point, and I had learned so much, and I'm like, "I have to write this book right now. It's in there; it's gotta come out." And so I took six months. And that draft was six months to write it, which is the fastest I've written in... basically, ever, for something that long. But I had already written a draft of the book. I did start on page one again, and write all the way through, and I changed a fundamental decision made in the first chapter. If you have read the first book, when you come the line you can ask about that if you're curious. But it's a spoiler for Way of Kings for me to tell you what I changed between what I call now Way of Kings Prime, the 2002 version, and the 2010 version that you guys read.
Obviously, you've written different styles of books, with Rithmatist and Alcatraz and the Librarians versus huge epic fantasies and how big the Stormlight Archive looks to be. I want to know, how did your approach differ between those two books?
I approach each book a little bit differently. There are a few things I'm trying to do with each book. With each book, I will pick something I generally want to work on to get better at as a writer, to practice. And, of course, I want to get better in all areas, but each book has a theme. If you read Warbreaker, I wanted to practice humor, and different styles of humor. That was a big part of Warbreaker. Specifically humor in a non-humorous book, character humor. Whereas, Way of Kings, it's obviously worldbuilding. I wanted to bring the worldbuilding up a notch. And so, each book, that's a big difference. When you see me writing things like Legion, which is contemporary, often it's saying, "Can I do this genre? What is this genre like? Can I practice this genre?" One big difference between the Alcatraz books and other book is that I freewrite, I discovery write the Alcatraz books. I don't plan a big outline. I have, like, a sentence for each book. And then I brainstorm all the goofiest things I can think of that make me laugh, and I write them all down and say "I've gotta use all them in the book somehow." So, if you've seen Whose Line Is It Anyway, where they're like, "You must take these things and use these props and design a story," that's what I do with Alcatraz, is I brainstorm all these props, and say, "I've gotta have talking dinosaurs, and I've gotta have this and this and this, and at some point people have to ride on a giant pig." I've just gotta make all these things work in a story, it's a creative exercise on my part, and I think discovery-write them. I don't outline, I just go. Which is why they feel so different in tone. It's my goal to make them feel different in tone. I stay productive as a writer by doing very different projects sequentially. What I'm doing, after I finish a book, is I've gotta usually do something very different from that book in order to refresh myself, stay creative, and be doing new things. Which is why you see stuff like Legion and Alcatraz and what-not. And I'm never gonna be one of these authors that's only in one world, because I would get burned out too quickly on that.
We know Elantris and all the other worlds have their own calendars. What does Scadrial's calendar look like, especially relative to Earth?
For those who don't know, the Mistborn world was designed as my earth analogue. Meaning, if you go look at Scadrial and say, "Does this creature exist on Scadrial?" It probably doesn't exist on Roshar, and it's a toss-up if it exists on Sel, the Elantris world. But on Scadrial, if I haven't said otherwise, you can guess that it does exist. And that's why the cultures and the languages and the linguistics, I just built that one to kind of be the familiar place. And that's because... so, you would say, like, seven-day week. Basically seven-day week, like our calendar-ish.
Roshar's, by the way, is pretty bizarre. Roshar is five-day week, set into fifty-day months, which there are ten months in the year, with a double-year cycle of highstorms. So, it's a thousand-day cycle with two years in between those. It's this really bizarre thing we came up with, but Roshar's supposed to have bizarre stuff.
I was wonder when all the continuity will come together?
You'll see it coming together all through the series. But the series that's really important for that is the third Mistborn trilogy.
So when I pitched Mistborn to my editor. This was years ago, almost ten years ago now. I sent him Elantris. It sat on his desk for eighteen months. He finally read it, called me the next day, and is like, "I need to buy this!" I'm like, "Great, finally." This was the early days, when I was trying to break in. He said, "What else do you have?" And I sent him The Way of Kings. And then he called me terrified. Because, if you don't know the story, The Way of Kings was the book that I wrote after I just assumed no one was ever going to publish me. I was sending out books and getting rejected. My thirteenth novel (I had written thirteen unpublished books), and I'm like, "No one's gonna publish me. They're telling me my books are too long. I'm gonna write one that's even longer. That has all this screwy stuff. And it's gonna be, like, my opus. And it's gonna be my 'Too bad for you guys you'll never publish this.'" And then someone wanted to buy my books. And I'm like, "Oh, great." And so I sent them Way of Kings, and he was just like, "What do we do with it? This is awesome, but I can't publish this by a new author." Because, if you look at The Way of Kings, the endpages, those cost a lot of money per copy to print. The nice paper we use so you can see the artwork costs a lot of money as well. Every copy costs a little bit extra. And that really cuts into the publisher's profit. And so they need to be printing a lot of copies for it to justify itself. That's basic economics, right? So, for a new author, either I had to decide to cut it and not include all this artwork, or I had to do something else.
So I said, "I've got this idea," and I pitched him Mistborn. And my idea on Mistborn was that it was going to be a set of three trilogies. An epic fantasy trilogy, a contemporary modern-day trilogy, and a science fiction trilogy set in the same world where the magic had become the means by which space travel happened. And so, I built into the magic systems space travel. Which is another discussion. I won't talk about that one. So, I pitched him this grand epic of nine books. Which the Wax and Wayne books are not part of, by the way. They are just me having fun with the world. So, you will eventually get to the official third Mistborn trilogy, which is a space opera. Science fiction. And then you will start to see a lot of things coming together that have been seeded for a long, long time.
Would you consider doing a Kickstarter for the Mistborn movie?
I would not consider that right now. The reason being that I think that Kickstartering movies can happen, but it would need to be done by somebody who knows how to make movies. Or at least who has produced movies. It doesn't have to be done by the director, but it needs to be somebody who knows you can guarantee put it together. If I did a Kickstarter... I don't know. I can't promise you that I know how to use all this correctly and make the film the right way. I think you will see this happening more in the future, and if it starts becoming a thing, maybe I can approach the right people who would be interested and we can make it happen. But currently, it is not something that I would consider doing.
If an Elantrian brought a seon with him to another planet, could he use that seon's Aons to change their Aons to use the magic better?
It would be very hard to do.
But not impossible?
Tarah. She shows up late in The Way of Kings. Kaladin's fighting his inner wretch, as you call him. And he goes through the list a few times, and then near the end of the book a new name comes up. I'm wondering if she's important or is left out of the first book, or if we're gonna hear more about her in the second.
This is a person that is important to Kaladin. Definitely. From his past, and it is... Yes, a woman who is important to Kaladin. So, it's from his past. You will find out more eventually. Light RAFO.
If one mark is worth five chips, does it hold five times as much Stormlight?
Where's Peter? Peter! Five chips does not hold the exact same amount of light as a mark, correct? Correct. So, they do not hold... I just have to check with my continuity guy. They do not hold exactly five times as much.
So a mark holds more or less?
I believe a mark holds more. Peter, am I correct? Less. Mark holds less. He keeps the money. Actually, because it is such a deal to keep the money straight, it's so important. I just put in "Worth about this much." And then he actually puts in a value. I'll say, "Oh, about the same amount as three meals." And he's like, "Eh, that's this much." Which is something that I can go do, because I can go find that. It's in the wiki. But it would take five or six minutes of searching, which is five or six minutes of breaking my momentum and doing the plot and characters. So now one of the reasons why I hired Peter was so that I could do things like that, and he could keep track of it all. I don't work like... For instance, Robert Jordan was famous for keeping almost all of it in his head all the time. It was all up there. I put it all in wikis so I don't have to remember it. And this was really actually kind of awkward with the Wheel of Time fans, who would come ask me this questions, and I would say "I can look that in Robert Jordan's notes." And they'd be like, "But you don't know the answer?" And I'm like, "No. When I want the answer, I will go look it up in his notes, and then I'll use that and write the scene."
So, while there's a lot I know, I keep the plots and a lot of the characters and things like that going. When I want to find out how much something's worth, I just go to my own wiki. And I'm like, "Oh, this." By the way, this is a wiki you can't get to; it's an internal wiki. You're wondering. But there's a very nice wiki kept by the 17th Shard. Theirs is pretty good.
Does Syl hate Dalinar's Shardblade specifically, or is it Shardblades in general? Or only specific ones?
Uhh... yeah, okay. There's no way for me to answer that in full without RAFOing, so I'll just RAFO. There are lots of answers in [Words of Radiance].
Where on the timeline is the next Mistborn book, and will it continue the story arc of Wax and Wayne, that started in The Alloy of Law?
I signed for two more books with Tor, direct sequels to Alloy of Law. So, Wax and Wayne books. I was planning to write that one in the fall. Tom Doherty, the president, called me and said, "We really would rather you do the next Stormlight first, just because people waited so long for the second one, we don't want to get in a pattern of waiting so long." So, it will probably be my next book for older people after the next Stormlight book. Shadows of Self is what it's called.
What are your plans for Alcatraz 5?
I am working on it. I really want to do it. The books are getting rereleased by Tor next year, so that's kind of my deadline. I'd like, once they get all the rereleases out, to have the next book. But I'm planning to do that one, too. That one's looming over me a bunch more than Warbreaker 2 is. I wanna do Warbreaker 2, but it's not like it's immediate. I kinda ended Alcatraz 4 with a cliffhanger. Which was this great idea, I'm like, "Surely the publisher will want a fifth one if I end on a cliffhanger." And then they didn't! And they wrote at the end, "And that ends the Alcatraz series." They added a line about that at the end, or something. I'm like, "What!" So, I bought the books back from the publisher, which is why Tor is now going to be publishing them. So, yeah, you will get the fifth book eventually. It involves all sorts of lunacy, I promise. And I'm telling you, the scene that Alcatraz mentions in the first book, in the first paragraph, actually happens in the fifth book. That's me telling you, not him. So you can actually believe it.
I've seen online, but I haven't been able to find an actual confirmation. In Way of Kings, it describes Shin Warriors as being bought and sold by means of small stones. Are those Oathstones?
Those are very similar to Oathstones indeed. You will find out a lot more. But yes, you're on the right track.
I want to know when we're gonna hear of Denth and his further adventures?
Further adventures. Denth? You probably mean Vasher. Oh, that's... you will get more. It's not in the immediate future, because I feel like spending four years to get the second Stormlight book out was too long. I will write more Warbreaker in the coming years. More is coming. There's very important stories to be told, but I have to... It's not in line until at least I finish Stormlight Three. Which will be my next adult book that I'm gonna write. I'm writing Rithmatist 2 next, during the summer, and then I'm doing Stormlight next. It will be a couple years. But when I do write the sequel, which is called Nightblood, I will post the chapters online as I write them, just like I did with the first book.
Is there any chance that we could get a lexicon or grammar book high Imperial?
I can give you a few basic rules. Put everything in the present progressive, number one. Then, you're usually gonna go verb first, and you're gonna throw lots of "to be" in, and you're gonna add extraneous words in order to confuse the people who don't speak it. They actually do this. If you look in the books, it mentions they put in extraneous words. There's one other rule I'm forgetting. But you kinda go through that, and then you say whatever feels right to you as you're speaking it. The thing about High Imperial is it's supposed to evolve, and each little group that was speaking it was kinda making up their own slang of it as they went. And so, even if you met someone from another city who spoke it, you would have a lot of trouble. Now, now it's all been nailed down. But you can get pretty close by doing those things I said to you. There's one other one, I can't remember what it is.
So, you spend a lot of time comparing lifespren and rotspren. They're complementary colors, *inaudible*. The rotspren can appear around animals, as well, whereas lifespren only appear around plants. Is that a misnomer? Is there something that we're missing?
No, there's nothing you're missing. It just takes a large number of organisms in the same place. So, in a herd of animals, you could find lifespren. They don't come to people as often. But, the thing you have to remember about spren is: spren are attracted by something. And they have to be nearby, and they have to make their way there. So, sometimes, you will have an emotion, and no spren will appear. Because there's not one nearby enough. Or they just didn't feel like this. I worked this in because I didn't want the spren popping up too much. They're a big symbol of Roshar, they're a way, in very early chapters, for you to realize this is a different place and a different world. But if every other sentence were, "And a spren appeared," it would go crazy way too fast.
So, ideas bounced off of my editor? I needed epigraphs for Part One that increased the tension for the book. Because I was really worried that Part One was very establishing, and I wanted to ramp up the tension. And so, a lot of ideas we bounced off of him. I eventually came up with what to do, but I did a lot of talking on that.
Failing continuity? Keeping track of how many Shardblades the Alethi has, and how many Adolin had won? I just fail continuity at that completely. That's, like, math, or something! So I just let Peter tell me. I'll write, "How many do they have now?" Or, "Does this guy have one yet?" And then, once I write the book, it all goes in the wiki, and I can just look it up. But until then, I kind of need Peter. And, you know, eye color. I don't remember what people's eye color is. But it's really important to the books what color someone's eyes are! So, I fail continuity at those sorts of things. I'm really good with plot arcs and stories, but remembering what someone's eye color is, I just have to look it up. I did the same thing in the Wheel of Time. It gave them so many headaches. Where they're like, "How can you not know what somebody's uncle is?" I'm like, "I don't care what their uncle is! What's their emotional resonance?"
Were you ever influenced by the Silmarillion?
Excellent question. I didn't read Tolkien until late. I tried Tolkien when I was young, and I bounced off of it because I was not a really good reader at the time. And I didn't read Tolkien 'til college. I didn't read the Silmarillion 'til grad school. So, while I would say "Yes," I am not as Tolkien-influenced as a lot of writers are. I'm more influenced by the writers who were influenced by Tolkien. Like Robert Jordan, and people like this, who were very Tolkien-influenced. And I read them growing up. And Tolkien, I was finally able to read and really get an appreciation for, but it was later in my life.
I love your books, and I'd like to know (not big authors), but what smaller authors do you like?
I really like Daniel Abraham's work in all its various forms. Tor has a series by Daniel that's been very good. Recently, I've liked Brian McLellan's book that came out. That was very good. I liked N.K. Jemisin a lot, though I'd put a content warning on her books just in case. There is some more explicit content. She's really good. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay should be something that everyone knows, but a lot of people don't know of it. It is the single best single-volume epic fantasy ever written. Guy Gavriel Kay is Christopher Tolkien's friend in college, who help him put together the Silmarillion. A lot of people think he ghostwrote parts of it, but he's not allowed to say, so we're not sure. He's a fantasy writer into his own right; all of his stuff is amazing. He is lesser-known, and should be better-known than he is. I think there's a Tor book I just covered for, but I can't remember what it is.
Was it The Emperor's Blades, by Brian Staveley?
Yeah, I think it was that. Yeah.
In all of your books, except for, like, Warbreaker, there's always a very big symbology to your types of magic systems. Like, with the AonDor, with Allomancy. Is that intentional, is that something you have in your head before you get started on your books?
Is the symbolism, the symbology, the actual symbols in the books important? The magic systems, a lot of them have these... Is this something that I did intentionally? Yes, it is. When I built the cosmere, I built some underlying rules of magic that I would use in all of the books to give a cohesion. And not every one of these books is going to be very obvious. There will be different takes on them. But for a lot of them, they are sharing these attributes. And you can notice similarities between them. Because when I eventually do cosmere-centric books, I want Allomancy and AonDor to share things in common, so it doesn't feel like everything and the kitchen sink just thrown into a book. But there are underlying reasons and rules and things like that.
Do you ever take inspiration for your characters from people you know in real life?
Yes, I do. Usually, it's one small thing about a person that I know. Sarene from Elantris is based on a friend of mine named Annie. And many of my characters have some little attribute... I was just talking online with <?>, who is a guy that I know from Mongolia. I'm LDS, and I served a mission, and he was one of the other missionaries. And he threw shoes at people. This was his deal. Like, when he got mad at you, off came the big old Doc Marten and he threw it at you! So, in Dragonsteel, one of my books that's unpublished but we'll publish someday, there is an entire race that that's what they do when they're offended. The shoes come off. And Hoid once described it as, "When a bunch of them when they get angry, it's like a tornado hitting a cobbler shop." And shoes go everywhere.
So, definitely, they do.
I did start writing on a new novella, just right after I finished Firefight. (Which is the sequel to Steelheart, which is done.) After I finished that, I started writing a little novella. I didn't finish it, but I got a few pages in. Just to try out something I've been thinking about doing for a while.
So, this is based off of one of the very cool ideas I've had for a magic system for a long time, in which magic is granted by bacteria and viruses. You catch a disease, and the disease has evolved to give you a magical talent for a short time while you have the disease. In order to keep you alive and encourage you to spread the disease. And then when you get over the cold or whatever you've gotten, you lose that power. Which is a really cool idea to me, and the idea of what you would do with that and what culture and society would do with that.
Does it mean anything different for you now that this is your own stuff, rather than the Wheel of Time?
Here's the weird thing. The Wheel of Time feels as much my own, even though probably, it shouldn't. The Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan's, let's be very frank on that. But the characters feel as much my own as Dalinar does. And the truth is, I knew Rand and Mat before I knew Dalinar, because I picked up the Wheel of Time in 1990, and I started writing Dragonsteel in '91. And so, I've known those characters longer than I've known any of my own characters. Even Hoid, who was there in that first one. He came after the Wheel of Time. And so, when I said yes to Harriet on the Wheel of Time, I did it... I mean, it was a fantastic opportunity. But I did it because this is something I would legitimately want to be part of. And I've talked before about some of the exciting things. Like, for years I'd been playing with a teleportation-based magic system, like gateways, because I had been reading Wheel of Time books and I'm like, "This is where that magic could go!" And I had it all sketched out in my notes. And then I had written, "I can't ever do this. It is too similar to the Wheel of Time."
And then the Wheel of Time... I was writing it. And I'd be like, "Well, here are my notes on how to manipulate this magic system," because I'd spent years wanting to do this. And Perrin is, like, my high school friend. I was one of these nerdy, bookish people, who my friends were my characters in the books. (And, yes, I wasn't that lonely. I did have real friends.)
So, does it feel different to me? No, it really doesn't. I mean, I'm really proud of this. I've been planning forever for this. So, this is my baby. But... When I was offered the Wheel of Time, one thing about it was, when Harriet gave it to me... Finding somebody to finish the Wheel of Time had been a dying request from Robert Jordan for her. She didn't grieve until she found someone to do it, and then she went and grieved for a year, and left me basically on my own. Now, when it came to editing, she then came in as an editor and had a very strong hand and was very important that she do that. But in the process of outlining the three books, writing the first one, and deciding on the plot archetypes and all these things, I did that basically just me and Robert Jordan's notes. And there was a large amount of ownership that Harriet allowed me to take, even though it's made very clear, "The Wheel of Time is not mine." But the characters kind of are mine, in the same way they're all of yours, if that makes any sense.
So, no. It's a long answer, isn't it? One question I get a lot, people ask me, "Does it hurt to kill off characters? Does it hurt to have characters that you don't get to write about anymore?" And usually, my answer is "No." Because I have built a plot arc for years when I'm writing a book, where I know what risks that character's going to take, and I build into it then the consequences of those actions. And it's like, they demand to be allowed to do this, and then there is a ramification. And when I actually write it, yes, there's a sorrow to it, but at the same time, it's fulfilling what that character wanted to do for years and who they are, if that makes any sense. So, they are then done, and I don't feel a need to write any more about them. I'm not gonna mention any names, not give spoilers, but for a lot of these characters, I'm like, "No, I don't feel a need to write any more stories, because I told the story that they needed to have told, and that feels awesome."
The exception is the Wheel of Time. Because, in some ways, the Wheel of Time is the only one... Now, I made the decision that no more Wheel of Time books should be written. It really belongs to Harriet, but when Harriet... She actually asked me what I thought we should do, and I was very up front with "No more Wheel of Time should be done." Because Robert Jordan didn't want it to be done. But the only ones that hurt are not being able to write more stories about some of those characters, because I don't feel their stories are completely told, and I don't feel that I can. So, that is painful. I feel it's good. It's the pain of having lost Robert Jordan. So, it's not a good pain, but it's a necessary pain. And it's a pain that I shouldn't relinquish by simply going and writing all these books, but that is a pain. Not being able to tell the stories of these characters that I really feel didn't quite get told. So you'll have to tell them all in your own head.
Will Lift become a recurring character in future novels?
Lift is one of the characters which I have seeded to be a main character in future novels. For those who don't know, the Stormlight Archive is two arcs of five. The first five book arc is basically about the characters we're dealing [with] now, and it's almost like its own series. But I really like the idea of the form of the novel. (Sorry if this gets boring to you... I'm a professor.) But I love the form of the novel, and I llike ove doing things with it, which is why I've got that big essay on tor.com, if your read that one, the idea that I plotted Words of Radiance as a series of three books, that I put together in one volume, to force you to read a trilogy bound together. I plotted exactly the same way as I would plot a trilogy. So when you read this book, you're getting a trilogy. But it goes beyond that, 'cause as you're a writer, what you're doing is, you take this... first, you start with a sentence. And you want the sentence to have some sort of contrast in the sentence. You want it to be doing multiple things and have a contrast with itself. And then you build a paragraph. And a really good paragraph has a bit of a rise and fall to itself. You begin with something, and then you go, you dig into an idea, and then you come out of that idea. And you combine those paragraphs into scenes, and the scenes have a beginning, middle, and end of their own arc. And then you combine those scenes into chapters. And each chapter, when it works really well, has its own sculpted feel. And then the chapters come together for character arcs. And the character arcs come together for books. And then those books came together to be bound into what we call Words of Radiance, which is really three books bound as one. And then these become part of a five-book arc, and then those two five-book arcs become a mega arc for what I'm trying to do. This is just me playing with this idea of, "How many brackets can I put in here? How can I make this scope work the way I want it to?"
And so, what you end up with is, hopefully, something that feels very cool, even though you have to wait a long time between them because of this. It takes a long time to write a trilogy. I really mean that... I don't know if you know how long this book is. But each of those pieces in there is longer than most novels, each of the three. And then there's a short story collection stapled in there, as well. In the interludes.
The back five will have different characters, though some of the characters from the first five will still show up. And I'm seeding characters who will be important in the back five, in the front five. And Lift is important. Lift is... In my outline, she's one of those things, I had her in my wiki. (I have an internal wiki. You can't find it. It's on my computers only.) There's entries for characters that my assistants get to, and they're like "Who is this? You have this character being a main character, and they haven't even shown up yet." And I'm like, "Oh, let me tell you about them!"
And [The Silence Divine] is a short story that I started working on right after I finished Words of Radiance. And I was going to finish this, but then Firefight really needed to be done, so I've only written about ten pages of this story. But it's partially inspired by my trip to Costa Rica. I usually write short stories based on places I've traveled.
In Alloy of Law, were you influenced by steampunk stuff?
Yes, I did. I love steampunk. I would say Rithmatist is a little bit more directly influenced. Alloy of Law is more influenced by... When I pitched Mistborn to my editor, I pitched it as a continuum. The idea being that I would take a fantasy world and grow it all the way up straight from epic fantasy, classic times, up straight through science fiction, where the magic is running through all of it. And I'd never seen that done before. So, I pitched it as nine books, it's probably gonna be more than that. But that was definitely an influence on me. A bigger influence are the Edgar Allen Poe detective stories, which are some of my favorites. I would say those were a big influence on me in developing this. So, yes.
You wrote a short story called [Defending] Elysium? The Phone Company? Are you ever gonna revisit that?
It's possible, but I have no specific plans in the near future.
When you have written, did you ever write with other people in pairs? Or do you focus on writing solely as a...
Do I ever write with other people in pairs? I've tried it once, and it didn't work so well. So it's not something I'll probably do again. It works very well for some people, and it just didn't end up being something that worked really well for me.
Was there something that caused it to fail?
No, there wasn't something specific that caused it to fail, other than the fact that I kind of like to be in control of my stories. And not being in control of my stories just didn't end up working out for me. It didn't save me any time, and it didn't save the other writer any time. It made both of us have to do more work.