There's... a foreman named Trell. Is it cosmere significant or is it just someone--
There's... a foreman named Trell. Is it cosmere significant or is it just someone--
Shardplate, I know that you need to put Stormlight into it to regenerate it from a piece. Why can enemies not do that? Is it a thing that only the owner can do?
We haven't dug into this in the books, but if you've got a piece... If you've got pieces you can regenerate it, and if multiple people are trying to regenerate different pieces there is kind of a sort of tug-of-war that goes on there. And certain things are involved in whoever ends up regenerating it. One thing is how much of it you have, but another is how much Stormlight, and things like this. It is possible to steal a piece of someone's Shardplate and start a little war over it that way.
Kaladin comes to make a Shardspear and everything, but why were all the Blades left behind by the Radiants, Blades?
RAFO. That's a good question.
Was the painting the same painting in Warbreaker?
Because apparently it matters that it is or isn't
When you say Ire, what do you mean?
I mean the word for "ancient" in Aonic.
Okay, because we've only ever heard it referred to in the one little thing in Secret History so hearing you refer to the lighthouse as the Ire was...
I don't know if he actually be-- Yeah.
Who here was in the beta for [Oathbringer]? ...They had a lot of affect on part four in particular
Part four, so I had this weird thing... So I had this thing in Oathbringer where the plot archetype was Kaladin feeling like he needed to get to Dalinar, followed by him failing to do so. Which was a really important thing for Kaladin, but the original time where he discovered he needed to get to Dalinar was when he met the Ire and it was in the city--Celebrant. And in the beta that's where it was.
And so what it felt like is, everybody on the ship is like, "Oh we need to get to the perpendicularity in the Horneater Peaks." And then, I just took them down south instead. So I'm like, "Oh I need to get them there." And all the readers were like, "This feels like a digression, it feels boring. Why are we not going-- why are we going the wrong direction?"
It was just one of these promises thing where I had promised--set the expectation. So moving the Ire to the lighthouse meant that Kaladin was a contrast to the other people. And you were like, "Oh yes, Kaladin" When a character in the fantasy novel has a strange vision of the future, that means something! So we will be okay with following Kaladin down south.
The Fused that wield, like--their Lashings can be a lot faster than Kaladin's are. Is it because it's based on a different planet than the Radiants?
Kaladin can go faster, but they are more-- they are faster over a large span. What's going on with the Fused is they have-- The way their Investiture works, it doesn't leak and they are able to use it for much longer periods of time. But they don't have access to the number of times that Kaladin can Lash himself directions and things like this, and the speed with which he can pick up speed. So in the short Kaladin is favored, in the long they're favored.
In the first book, Kenton, after all his friends and family and everybody is wiped out and he becomes the new ruler... suddenly he becomes more powerful. Something happens, and I missed what the change was. Somehow, something changed in him and he suddenly is more proficient?
He has more skill. His whole character arc is "do more with less," right? He is about taking what he has and doing the best he possibly can with it. I would not say that he--
Suddenly gains more skill?
Yeah, I wouldn't say that. I would say that he is progressing, he is learning, and by being forced to do heavy lifting-- Like, I would say the biggest two places I grew in writing skill was writing my first book, and then when I had to take over the Wheel of Time, because suddenly everything was beyond my skill and I had to rise to the occasion.
Warbreaker, you were talking about a sequel. Is that for sure?
It is a for sure thing. It's not a direct sequel, meaning some of the characters will be in it, other ones won't. I need to get Nightblood into a certain place.
I wondered how involved you are with the board games.
The board games I usually leave more to my assistants because I don't play board games. The RPG I was, like, all over, right? Reading all the drafts and things like that. But I play Magic, I don't play board games. But my agent loves them and Kara loves them, and so basically when board game stuff happens I say to them, "You guys need to determine if this are any good, because I have no idea."
Do Honorblades bestow their abilities similar to an Identity-free nicrosilmind with other Metalborn abilities?
Yeah, these are working on similar principles. Same principle, divergent applications by the magic system, but yeah, I would say, they come back to the same principles.
If a Knight Radiant were to store Connection and Identity into the appropriate metalminds on a heavy basis, would it affect their spren bond, and how?
Oh, right. Yes, but I won't answer the how, but it definitely has an effect.
Could we hear the name of Cultivation's holder.
The Vessel of Cultivation? No, I'm going to RAFO that for now.
I think there's a flaw in my understanding of Cognitive Shadows. I assume that... they would have more visibility into the Cognitive Realm, like a Herald would be able to see spren more easily, that kind of thing. Is that incorrect?
That is incorrect. A Cognitive Shadow simply means a copy of the Cognitive side made by a deep amount of Investiture. And everybody has a Cognitive side. Basically it's a fake soul. Or, fake is the wrong term. Fake is the wrong term. Even in-world they don't know if it's really them or not. It is Investiture has replaced the Investiture that is fleeing from them as they die, or enhancing it in some way to keep it around. So some Cognitive Shadows trapped on the Cognitive Realm are going to be-- have a lot of Cognitive-- I mean, they're there, right? But some Cognitive Shadows inhabiting a body in the same way that your mind inhabits your body, the way the cosmere works... So a Herald is going to feel like they are alive just like-- but their soul has been somehow transformed. It's not really transformed, it's been reproduced or copied by an injection of Investiture...
And I'll say for the purpose of the recordings, I haven't canonized any of that terminology that I just used about Cognitive Shadows. I'm just talking about it, I'm not necessarily saying that this is how you are supposed to refer to it. You can refer to it however you want. I've often used the metaphor of how fossils get made. When a fossil is made there is a pattern and it is slowly replaced with another substance that is stronger and more endurant, and has the shape of it, but is it still the bone? When you have a fossil bone is it the dinosaur bone? In most cases no, but yes. It's the ship of Theseus sort of thing again. Is this the bone or is it not? Is this the soul? Is this the person or is it not? That's the same sort of thing is happening with Cognitive Shadows. And it's happening on all three Realms to an extent, though of course the body is not. The body stays. It's happening on two Realms. It's happening Spiritually, mostly Cognitively.
All of these steel plates in the caverns, before chromium was well known, how did they not get rusted?
I actually thought about this. I kind of imagine some of them rusted, but at the same time I've read about-- What was my answer to this? I have an answer. I can't remember what my answer is, so I'm going to RAFO that. Send it to me and I'll try to look it up. I had an answer to this. They were... using some sort of thing to keep it from rusting.
So there were people in the Steel Ministry keeping it clean?
I don't think that was my answer. I thought that I had them plating it somehow, but I'm not sure. I mean we're talking ten years ago now when I wrote this. I think I had them plating it somehow, because I needed them to last longer. You can just write that one as a RAFO, but it's a RAFO that Brandon can't remember. It happens sometimes. It's one of those things Peter asked me when we were working on the books and I'm like, "Oh, we'd better have an answer for this," but now I don't remember what it is.
It seems that taking something metal that is Invested and melting it down, and reforging it, does not destroy the Investiture in it. For example the spike that got turned into a bullet.
Well, and the-- yeah. There are other examples as well.
If that doesn't ruin its Invested nature, what would happen if Wax were to take one of his ironminds, have that melted and alloyed into steel, and then tried to burn it?
So you are saying mixing in-- right. Um, this would probably not work. But I'd have to go to the document on this one, because I've theorized in it. So I'm going to say probably won't work, but I have to go to my document, so Notes And Find Out. As soon as we get into the really detailed-- One of the things I want, even when I was building the Mistborn magics, is I wanted it to get really complicated. Because, my philosophy was making a wheel is easy to understand what's going on. Making a car uses all the same physics and simple tools, but is infinitely--well, you know, not infinitely--hugely more complex. Making a spaceship goes beyond that. And I wanted when we dug into all the actual mechanics it all works, but it's like the difference between making an abacus and making a computer. And we're starting to stray-- not into computer-making realms, but starting tjo stray into combustion-making realms, and so these are the sort of things that I just can't talk about off the cuff as easily. Because I have this document and I'm like "this, this, this, this." Does that makes sense?
So I'm going to say that probably wouldn't work. I believe what is going to happen there is you're probably going to end up with one of these things where you see a reservoir there but you can't access it that happens quite a bit when things get muddled once you mix in other metals and things like that. But I can't give you 100% on that without the notes to double check myself.
If Harmony could make it so that koloss can reproduce, why is it he did not do the same thing for the kandra?
*long pause* I'm not sure how to answer this without straying in directions I don't want to go. It was a conscious choice, I'll tell you that.
After another thousand years will the Well of Ascension to fill up again, or did Harmony do away with that?
One would not expect the Well of Ascension to fill again. People in-world assume it will not, and they have legitimate reasons to think that.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I'll have to pick it by book, right. Like actual, actual hardest. Have you finished Oathbringer? Hardest scene in Oathbringer to get right was actually the scene where Kaladin met with the guy in the lighthouse, that involves the foreshadowing of where he needs to go and stuff like that. No, actually that's not it. The first chapter. The Dalinar scene where he is in the vision and he jumps off and he goes and inspects the rubble and things, I did four versions of that chapter that were completely different, that weren't in the vision. That one was actually really hard. Finding out where to start this book so that it felt like it had it's own soul, but it wasn't, you know--
I know there is nothing set in stone and there is a long path of compromises before the game becomes available. Is there any "teaser" you could share with our readers?
This is something really small—not a big deal—but I am planning to work into this game the origin of Mistcloaks.
Will this game explore only the nobility of the Mistborn world or will it include some of the lower class elements? Are you going to bring in any aspects of the empire or the long planned revolution?
This story is taking place several hundred years after the Ascension of the Lord Ruler; 700 or 800 years before the events of the trilogy. I don't want to give any more spoilers than that, but there will be lots of things in the game dealing with lots of different aspects of the Mistborn world.
Do you intend to create a novel (or series) to go along with or to follow this game?
I'm not intending that right now. There's a chance we'll do a graphic novel, but I feel like this story that I'm building matches the game, and I want it to be for the game.
It is early in the development process, but I am sure you have some intentions as to what you want this game to be. If you could get everything you desire in this project, what type of game would it be? I assume you have played a few games yourself, would it be an RPG like Dragon Age or Two Worlds II, a graphical adventure like Monkey Island or Myst, or will it be more of an FPS like Bioshock?
We're definitely shooting for, on this game, Action RPG. A little less like Dragon Age in that it's a solo adventure with one person—certainly there are NPCs and things, but we're not talking about a party; we're talking about a Mistborn doing awesome stuff. That's what I wanted this game to be. There are so many different ways you could take a game like this; I would like to try different aspects.
One of my favorite games recently was Demon Souls, and its sequel Dark Souls. I like gameplay mechanics like that, for a game like this. But we have to mix it with something more like Infamous in its combat system; powers and things like that. A blend of those types of games is what I would be shooting for. Certainly with a stronger RPG element to it.
As an author, you can completely control all aspects of a story, the environment, and the characters in the story. When you move to a game realm, there will be many limitations and aspects you can't or won't control. How important is it to get "right" the following aspects of your fantasy realm? What do you plan to do to ensure they work?
a. The look and feel of the environment, which includes environmental sounds, and musicb. Character dialog and interactions, as well as NPC dialog and interactionsc. The storyline and sequences of eventsd. Other aspects very important to you
This is quite an in-depth question. Certainly the things you mentioned, that you can't control all aspects of the story, are a consideration. The bigger thing for me with a video game, that is different from my own work, is that a video game is a collaboration. A novel in most cases is a solo work, certainly with the help of talented editing staff and art direction and things like that—but at the end of the day, I can do the bulk of the work on the book myself. On a video game, I can't. Nor would I want to.
On a video game, you take a step toward films where you need to have people who you trust working on aspects of the game that you yourself can't do. Certainly the look and feel and all these things you're talking about—I can oversee them, and Little Orbit has been great; they're showing me concept art and things and saying, do you like this or do you like this? What feels more like Mistborn to you? But at the end of the day, I have to let them do their job, which is program a great game, and come up with an engaging and fun system.
I can have some input in it myself, such as the dialogue and story—I can step in and say hey, I know how to do this; let me do it. So I have done that for this game—I've stepped in and I'm writing the dialogue and the story myself, and I'm going to try to make it the best it can be to match Mistborn. From there I'm working with and trusting people whose job it is to make great games be great.
Why did you decide to try to create a game? Was it to satisfy a need of your own, that of your fans, or perhaps some other reason?
I'm a gamer, and I've been playing games since I spent my vacation money on a Nintendo instead of what I was supposed to spend it on.
Doing the job that I do now gives me some opportunities that I just didn't want to pass on; making a video game is one of them. I tried a couple of times earlier in my career to launch a Mistborn video game, to get a developer interested, and it just didn't go anywhere. I wasn't a big enough name yet. I eventually had to wait until the trilogy was done and had a good reputation, and then people started approaching us about making a video game out of it.
The reason to do it is just because I love video games. It's a bit of a self-indulgent reason, but let's just say that it's one of the perks of being an author with some success.
Author’s note: I have no issues with his “self indulgence”. Anyone who has read and enjoyed a great fantasy novel would most likely enjoy the chance to play in that world. As a successful author, Mr. Sanderson can bring fans into his world via a game. That is a terrific thing, especially if it is done right.
Have any Chasmfiends managed to mature? Or have they all been caught before they could finish?
You've already seen one. The enormous Chasmfiend that Dalinar fought was one that had successfully matured. You haven't seen what they start out as...
Is the fact that Shadesmar is more dangerous to travel to through Sel related to the battle between Odium and its Shards there?
It is indirectly related.
The fact that Odium has bested other Shards implies he is more powerful. Is Odium inherently a more powerful Shard or is it a matter of his nature?
Both factors play a role.
Have we met the recipient of "the letter"?
Some people have, you probably have not.
So Beta readers?
Is Harmony more powerful than other Shards?
More powerful or more potent?
Harmony is two shards in one.
Could he take Odium?
His two shards are at odds with one another.
(This was interesting to me, from his name being Harmony I had assumed Ruin and Preservation merged seamlessly. Brandon seems to be implying that while Sazed can utilize the power of both shards, he can't simply add them together)
Why did TLR have to spend time old?
He didn't have to. He allowed it to happen, it was a sign of his weariness.
So, I'm having a discussion with some people on discord and we were wondering, what color is a koloss's genitals?
I know Sazed gave them the ability to breed, and the discussion stemmed from Koloss-blooded people. If you can give me an answer, I'd be incredible grateful! If not, thanks for your time anyway. I know you're busy and silly questions don't exactly endear me to you.
I imagine they'd pull a Dr. Manhattan, and the genitalia would be blue. I'll admit, I haven't given it much thought, though.
Was Scadrial visited by any other Shard before the events of Mistborn? If so, which one?
In 2014, Brandon said First of the Sun - the planet in Sixth of the Dusk - is a minor Shardworld, in that it does not have a Shard present (https://wob.coppermind.net/events/103-salt-lake-city-comic-con-2014/#e1010). However, we've now gotten a WoB saying that Patji - the Father island - IS a Shard (https://wob.coppermind.net/events/256-oathbringer-london-signing/#e8606). Patji was a Shard, but isn't during SotD? Or did we finally get confirmation on that elusive "Survival Shard"? What do you guys think?
I stand by them. Though, as always, quotes and WoBs at signings aren't always as deliberately thought out as I'd like them to be. Answering questions on the fly can be challenging, and my phrasing can be bad in retrospect.
But no Shard was in residence on First of the Sun during the events of that story. The Investiture on that planet is residue, normal Investiture from Adonalsium. Everything happening there could happen with or without a Shard present. Indeed, I would say that no Shard was ever "in residence" on First of the Sun.
The being called Patji still exists, and is a Shard of Adonalsium. Shards in the past have been interested in First of the Sun, and have meddled in small ways there. (Like they have on a lot of Shardworlds.)
Note that I might have been a little misleading in the first quote by bringing up Threnody, which is a real corner case in the cosmere because of uncommon events there.
That said, I'm sure that every story I write about a planet will bring up the quirks and unusual interactions of the magic there, because that's kind of what I do. (First of the Sun has its own oddities, as mentioned in Arcanum Unbounded.) Every planet is likely to end up as a corner case in some way, just like every person is distinctive in their own way, and never fully fits expectations.
I still consider one of the major dividing lines between "major" and "minor" Shardworlds (other than Shard residence) to be in strength of access to the magic, and control over it. I intend the minor Shardworlds to involve interactions with the magic as setting--coming back to spren, you could have a minor Shardworld with people who use, befriend, even bond spren. (Or the local equivalent--Seon, Aviar, etc.) But you'd never see power on the level of the city of Elantris, the actions of a Bondsmith, or even the broad power suite of a Mistborn.
But, as ever, the cosmere is a work in progress. The needs of telling a great story trump things I've said about what I'm planning. (I do try as much as I can to avoid having two texts contradict one another. And when they do, that's often a lapse on my part.)
So the Investiture on First of the Sun is associated with a Shard or is it residue, normal Investiture from Adonalsium?
Cause the question was a follow up (on this) where you revealed that all Investiture in Cosmere got assigned to a Shard even if it wasn't part of a Shard.
And then you said that the one on First of the Sun is directly associated with one of the Shards (and since later you revealed Patji to be an avatar of Autonomy (also, what are avatars and how do they work?)) we took it to mean that at one point Autonomy Invested in First of the Sun.
But now you're saying it didn't?
If there was no Shard ever on First of the Sun but Patji is a Shard/avatar of a Shard then where is Patji, actually?
Could you please clarify all that?
So the Investiture on First of the Sun is associated with a Shard or is it residue, normal Investiture from Adonalsium?"
The reason I have so much trouble answering these questions (and you'll see me struggling to get an answer in the 10-15 seconds I have when someone asks me in a signing line) is because this isn't an either or. Is this computer I'm using matter associated with Earth, the Big Bang, or such-and-such star that went supernova long ago? Well, it's probably all three.
When people ask, "What Shard is this Investiture associated with" it gets very complicated. Shards influence and tweak certain Investiture, giving it a kind of spin or magnetism, but all Investiture ever predates the Shattering--and in the cosmere matter, energy, and Investiture are one thing.
I always imagine Investiture having certain states, certain magnetisms if you will, associated with certain aspects of Adonalsium. So it's all "assigned" to a Shard--because it's always been associated with that Shard. To Investiture, Adonalsium's Shattering meant everything and nothing at the same time.
We generally mean the term "Invested" to mean a Shard has taken permanent residence in a location, a kind of base of operations--but at the same time, this is meaningless, since distance has no meaning on the Spiritual Realm, where most Shards are. So imprisonment of a Shard like Ruin or Odium is a crude expression--but the best we have.
Autonomy never "Invested" on First of the Sun. But even answering (as someone else asked) if they created an avatar without visiting is a difficult thing to explain--because even explaining how a Shard travels (when motion is irrelevant) is difficult to manage. It's a subject that I intend to be up for debate, discussion, and argument by in-world philosophers and arcanists.
You can see why I have such troubles explaining these things at signings--and why I fail when I try to, considering the time limitations and (often) fatigue limitations placed upon me. These are concepts I intend to spend entire, lengthy epic volumes explaining and exploring.
Let's say you were Autonomy, and you have--through expanding and exploring your understanding--found a gathering of Investiture that has always been there, you always knew about, but still didn't actually recognize until the moment you considered and explored it. (Because even though your power is infinite, accessing and using that infinity is beyond your reach.) Were you "Invested" there? No, no more than you're Invested on Roshar, where parts of what were Adonalsium still exist that are associated with you (in the very fabric of matter and existence.) But suddenly, you have a chance to tweak, influence, and do things that were always possible, but which you never could do because you knew, but didn't know, at the same time.
And...I'm already into WAY more than I want to be typing this out right now. If it's confusing, it's because it's practically impossible for me to explain these things in a short span of time.
I'm going to leave it here, understanding that no, I haven't fully explained your question. (I didn't even get into what avatars are, what Patji was, and what happened to Patji the being--and how that relates to Patji the island.) But hopefully this kind of starts to point the right direction, though I probably should have just left this question alone because I bet this post is going to raise more questions than it answers...
You've confused things so much now. We thought we had a pretty good grasp of this whole Patji situation (Autonomy visited the planet at some point, got themselves all Invested and created an avatar which is called Patji by the locals).
Now you're saying no Shard has ever visited there? And that the pool would have existed if no Shard had ever interfered? But that Patji still exists and is a Shard?
Does that mean Autonomy edited First of the Sun from afar without actually going there? And that the pool would have already existed without any intervention? Does this mean it was associated with Autonomy from the beginning? I'm really confused now.
I don't believe I said no Shard had visited. I said no Shard was there during the events of the story.
Investiture on First of the Sun predates any Shards fiddling with it.
Shards have fiddled with it by the time of the story.
I think fandom might be going down too far a rabbit hole on this one.
Are you saying here that Patji is an avatar of Autonomy, or is it a separate Shard and not an avatar of Autonomy?
When I said Patji was a Shard, I was meaning Automony--but it is not quite that simple.
Take this post to mean "no, you should not be looking toward another Shard for Patji's origins. Autonomy is the one relevant." But Autonomy's relationships with entities like this (not sure entity is the right word, even) is complex. I'm not trying to confuse the issue, though.
What other projects do you have planned or in the works?
My novella Legion just came out from Subterranean Press and I'll do a signing for it at the Missing Volume booth at noon on Saturday; it's a modern-day story about a guy who has something like schizophrenia, but he's a genius. He himself can't do anything special, but all of his hallucinations are experts in their respective fields. People come to him with problems they need solved, and he brings a few of his hallucinations along with him to help solve them.
In November I have another novella, The Emperor's Soul, coming from Tachyon Publications—it's more like my fantasy books, in a world where trained Forgers can change reality, and the main character has to Forge a new soul for the Emperor, who was left brain-dead in an attack.
Next summer I have two YA books coming out: The Rithmatist, which is about fighting with magical chalk drawings, and Steelheart, which takes place in a world where all the superheroes are evil; the main character is a boy who knows the weakness of the Emperor of Chicago and wants to hook up with a team of assassins to hunt him down.
Then my next book that will come out after those is the sequel to The Way of Kings, which I'm working on the outline of right now.
According to your blog, an RPG video game called Mistborn: Birthright, based on your Mistborn series, will be coming out in 2013. Can you give us a teaser?
It's set hundreds of years before the first trilogy. I'm writing the story, and it's about a young nobleman who gets entangled in events he did not expect at all. It should be a whole bunch of fun, and I'm trying to work into it things like the origins of the mistcloak and fun stuff like that, [so] we can dig into the past of the world and see the origins of a lot of things that we see later on in the series
With all the focus on social media these days, what impact do you think fans might have on story development in the future?
Boy, I think that they will have some impact. What, I'm not sure. With Warbreaker I was able to read perspectives on the book online as I was working on it, and that certainly did inform how I did my revisions. Maybe you'll see more crowdsourcing on editing and that sort of thing. I do think that the ability to directly connect with fans helps me understand the way a reader's mind works. Usually that doesn't translate one-to-one to changes in a novel, because there are a few steps in between in deciding what the reader really actually wants and what they say they want—working on The Wheel of Time as both a fan and a writer has helped me figure that out, because there are things that as a fan I would have said I wanted, but looking at it as a writer I can say, "Oh, if I gave that to the fans, it would actually in the long run make the story less satisfying." So there is some work to be done there, but I think social media is a great resource.
You posted the chapters of Warbreaker on your website at BrandonSanderson.com as you wrote them. The first and some subsequent drafts of the novel are still available for download to help aspiring writers study your revision process. What are some of the positive and negative consequences of posting your work in progress?
For one thing it lets people see all of the pops and bells and whistles that go into a book, meandering, sometimes, toward becoming a better novel. My agent and editor's big worry is that readers would read an unfinished work and therefore have a wrong taste in their mouth for how my books are. So I'd say that's the biggest disadvantage. I don't think personally that there has been any sort of sales repercussion. I can't say for certain.
I would like to say that it has been better for my books, particularly releasing it when I did, when a lot of Wheel of Time fans were discovering that I was taking over their series and wanting to know what kind of writer I would be. They were able to download the book for free and know a little about me and my writing. I think it was helpful. I think the big advantage is that I was able to give something back to my readers. I'm always looking for something I can give back. They support me; I get to do this job because of them, so I like to add as much value as I can to the books for them.
If you could have one Allomantic ability, which would you choose and why? (I still have my suspicions about you and speed bubbles.)
I would pick Steelpushing, because who doesn't want to fly, right? That's as close to flying as any of the powers get. As I'm walking or driving around I'm often noticing where the sources of metal are and considering where I could push off them to go where I want to go, and that's always exciting to think about.
The light-hearted banter in your recent standalone Mistborn book, The Alloy of Law, is an unexpected yet delightful change from the more serious tone of the original trilogy. Why did you decide to make such an abrupt shift? Will we get to read more about Waxillium and Wayne?
This was quite conscious on my part. One of the reasons I ended up writing The Alloy of Law as I did is because I personally wanted something to balance The Stormlight Archive, which is going to be more serious and have a tone more like the original Mistborn trilogy. I'm planning a five-book sequence to start off The Stormlight Archive, so I wanted something to go between those books that was faster paced, a little more lighthearted, and more focused.
I love The Stormlight Archive—it's what I think will be the defining work of my career, but that said, sometimes you want a bag of potato chips instead of a steak. Sometimes you want to write that, and sometimes you want to read that. I knew not all readers would want to go along with me at the start on such a big, long series; they may want to wait until it's finished. So I wanted to be releasing smaller, more focused and more simply fun books in between, both for my own interest and for my readers. And I will keep doing this; there will be more Wax and Wayne books in the future, spaced among my bigger epics.
Your work is often praised for unique magic systems with interesting limitations, like the application of the laws of physics to the abilities of a Coinshot in the Mistborn series. What kinds of limitations do you think have the most potential?
There are lots of ways to go with this answer. It depends on how creative you are with your storytelling. I like to found my magics with certain rules so that I can force myself and my characters to be more creative in their application. I think that a good magic system is going to have some of this. Granted that my way is not the only way; there are a lot of great stories that don't do magic the way I do it. But if you're trying to tell a story where the way the magic works is a very big part of the story, then limitations are vital. I would say the best limitations are ones where creativity is forced on the part of the characters.
I don't like limitations such as kryptonite—this one thing negates the magic, which focuses the story around having it or not having it. I like limitations that are intrinsic to the magic and have a logical sense. When I can, I like the limitations to be bounded by the laws of physics—what requirements will physics put upon this magic that will make the characters have to use it in a more natural way.
The other big thing is that I split out costs and limitations in my head. A limitation is just what the magic can or cannot do, just like we have limits in our own world to what a physical body can achieve. Costs are what you pay for the magic, and these can add an economic component to a book and a magic system; they can add a lot of ties into the setting, and a great magic, I think, has a lot of ties into the setting.
Shallan's sketches in The Way of Kings are terrific additions that enhance the epic feel of the novel. What inspired you to push for these illustrations?
I wanted to use the form of this novel to try and enhance what epic fantasy can do, and downplay the things that are tough about it. One of the tough things about epic fantasy is the learning curve—how much you have to learn and pay attention to, how many things there are to just know. I felt that occasional illustrations could really help with that. For instance, how Shallan's sketchbook, or uses of multiple maps, could give us a visual component to the book. Pictures really are worth a thousand words. You can have on that page something that shows a creature much better than I can describe it. And so I felt that that would help deemphasize the problem of the learning curve, while at the same time helping to make this world real. Epic fantasy is about immersion, and I wanted to make this world real since that's one of the great things we can do with epic fantasy. We've got the space and the room to just build a completely real world, and I felt that the art would allow me to do that, which is why I decided to do "in world" art.
I didn't want to take this toward a graphic novel. I like graphic novels, but it wasn't appropriate here to do illustrations of the scenes and characters from the books because I don't want to tell you what they look like. I want that to be up to your own imagination. And so we wanted that in-world ephemera feel to it, as though it were some piece of art that you found in the world and included.
I think it goes back to Tolkien. There's a map in The Hobbit, and that map isn't just a random map, which has become almost a cliché of fantasy books and of epic fantasy. "Oh, of course there's a random map in the front!" Well, Tolkien wanted you to think this map was the actual map the characters carried around, and that's why he included it. He wrote his books as if he were the archivist putting them together and translating them and bringing them to you, this wonderful story from another world, and he included the map because the map was there with the notes. That's what I wanted the feel for this ephemera to be. As though whoever has put this book together—done the translation and included pieces of art and maps and things that they found in the world that had been collected during these events—that's what you're getting.
How did you find the time and energy to work on The Way of Kings while you were immersed in Jordan’s Wheel of Time? Are you a hidden Allomancer, a slider like Wayne in The Alloy of Law, with the ability to set up a mind-boggling speed bubble?
I wish I could magically create bubbles of time to give myself more space to do these things. After working on The Gathering Storm, I felt more and more that I needed to do The Way of Kings—I had done it and failed once, and I began to see all of the places where it went wrong and how I could fix it. When you get excited about a book that way, you kind of have to write it—strike while the iron is hot. It's something I never want to do again—working on that and Towers of Midnight at the same time just about killed my entire family. The hours were very long, and I'm still kind of recovering from that. How did I find the time? I didn't do much else during that year when I was getting those both ready. I think it was really good for me to do, and I don't think I'll ever do something like that again.
Your new epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive, has been in the works forquite some time. In an interview earlier this year with Fantasy-Faction.com, you said that you set the project aside in 2003 because you needed to "get better as a writer." During the interim, as you worked on other projects such as the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and your middle-grade Alcatraz series, which skills did you improve the most?
I would say that I learned to juggle multiple characters a lot better. That's one of the places where I needed to grow, and it's one of the aspects where the original Way of Kings that I wrote in 2002 flopped. I wasn't good at juggling all these viewpoints. Working on The Wheel of Time really forced me to learn that, and I think I've gotten much better at it. I've also learned to be more subtle with my writing; Robert Jordan was incredibly subtle in his foreshadowing. Going through his notes and rereading the books and seeing how he set up things for many books later, it impressed me quite a bit that he was able to do that. I think I've been able to learn from that.
We'll have the Skyward beta coming up soon.
Oh cool. Yeah, I'll bug Kara and Peter. See if they need some help with that.
Mmhmm, yep. We need teenagers for that one. We're going to have a separate teenager one, because it's a YA, and an adult one. And the adult one is to find all the nitpicky stuff, and the teenager one is just "respond to each chapter, what did you think of it?"
Is the perpendicularity that Dalinar made--is that one going to become permanent...
That one is not permanent, but I haven't said whether or not it can be done again.
We will have-- we will be involving Shadesmar a lot in the... I had a lot of fun with Shadesmar and planned it for a while.
Who is the fans favorite character, from your perspective, everybody that says it to you?
I would say that Kaladin tends to be the fan favorite viewpoint character in that he is the least controversial. Meaning most people just like Kaladin even when they are annoyed with him, it's just like "I get Kaladin." Shallan is the most divisive. The people who like Shallan scenes love Shallan scenes. The people who don't like Shallan scenes, she is their least favorite character. And that's a sign that I'm doing a character right. I really like-- I ran into this too, like, in any book where you have a wide cast you are going to have this sort of thing. But yeah, I would say, if you're just going ask, "Who's your favorite character?" it's probably The Lopen. Everybody should say that. But if it's not The Lopen then it's probably usually Kaladin.
I wanted to ask you question about your worlds in general. I've read Mistborn and Elantris, and now I'm reading The Way of Kings, and you seem to always associate such important parts of your magic system or your personality system or your dating system with the land, with the geography of wherever they live. Do you have a secret geography degree or...
No. The reason I do this comes down to a fundamental philosophy I have about epic fantasy. Epic fantasy is the genre of discovery and immersion. Grandpa Tolkien did this by taking a map and putting it in the book. And it wasn't just a map, it was the map they had. So the map becomes an artifact of the world. And I love that. I love the idea that you can have a map that's wrong, that it's not an exact map. I love that you can have a scientific table in the back of the book that represents their understanding and human beings' attempt to organize the world, but is actually flawed because it just represents their attempt at organizing things. And I love these ideas. I love the idea of the land and the artifact and the story all being one. I really--
One of the books that I love, even though the maps aren't the thing, is Dune. Dune is about how your environment shapes your culture, and how your culture in turn interprets your environment. And I love how that works. I think it really influences how great epic fantasy creates its sense of immersion. I love how Watchmen did this with including ephemera in its books. By saying, and creating a form where one issue does this certain thing to enhance the feel of the issue. I love when the form and the shape of the book does the same thing, so this is all kind of my nerdy writer loving-the-shape-of-things-ism that I have, whatever that is.
Do you ever take inspiration for some of your characters from people you know, in your life?
Yes and no, meaning generally I don't base characters exactly on people I know. There are a few exceptions. Skar from Bridge Four is Skar my friend, Ethan Skarstedt, who is a person in my writing group, he's in the military, and he's the only person I knew who actually would do a good job in that situation I put him in. But most of the time what I'm doing is I'm taking some interesting aspect about a character. When I was writing Elantris I knew a woman who was 6'1" and she complained about her height a lot. And had never heard that, I'm like, "Wow, that's really interesting." I'd never considered that being 6'1" in our society as a woman would have all these extra associated problems, and I took that and used it in a character and then had her read it and said, "Does this feel right?" But it's not as if that character represents Annie. It means that one aspect of Annie sent me into an interesting character conflict or interesting trait a character could have that I found fascinating. That happens a lot.
Why do you have to make so many of your terms and names in your books so confusing? I'm going to be using Mistborn as an example: Feruchemy, Hemalurgy--
I think they're cool. Part of the answer is I look for the way languages are built. I try to do things in the way that it's going to feel natural but also foreign, and that is really tough. Like, it's going to feel alien, it comes from a different world, but it's natural to do and remember, and it is also based on the world.
If you think Mistborn is hard, read Elantris. All of those names are based on some linguistics that, I realized as I wrote the book, this is one is even tougher. So sometimes I'm looking for things that are more familiar and less strange, sometimes I'm looking for things that are more strange. At the end of the day it's just whatever I think sounds cool.