Do dead parshmen turn into Chasmfieds?
Do dead parshmen turn into Chasmfieds?
Was the letter posted on the top of chapters to Sazed?
It is written to a character who exists outside of Roshar. I won't yet say who.
Is Hoid a Herald, or a Shareholder, or something else entirely?
Hoid is something else entirely.
Do Geranid and Ashir have anything to do with the creation of new Shardplate?
Do you spend a lot of time on Google when you don’t know, like, distances?
Yes, I do. Or at least, I used to. Nowadays, I'll write into my manuscript, "Peter, find the answer to this", and then I’ll just let it go. He’s my assistant, and when he does his read-through afterward he’ll be like, "Oh great", and he’ll go do all the research for me. It's wonderful. For little things like that, I can get him to do it.
How much influence do you have on the story of the Infinity Blade games?
They tell you what to write and you flesh it out?
No, when I came on they said, "We don't have a story. Can you come up with one?". That was part of the reason I was interested in doing it. Basically, the whole story of games two and three, and the in between, have been my stories. I didn't write the games. I went over the dialogue and told them where it was really bad. I was focused on the novellas. The dialogue in the games, not quite as awesome as I would want it to be. But the basic story, it was me and the creators of the game brainstorming, talking about it. All the characters are ones I came up with.
Because, really, in the first one there weren't exactly characters.
Though it had it's own little fun narrative, which I liked the idea of. But when I sat down with them I'm like, "If you're going to have a series, you can't have a series with no characters ever. You have fifty protagonists that die each time. You've gotta build the mechanism for this. So let's go this direction." They loved it.
And that was why Siris wound up being a Deathless?
Will [Hoid] be making a reappearance in Words of Radiance?
I also heard he was part of your unpublished Dragonsteel series.
Is that a series that you're going to be publishing?
I will eventually rewrite it; it's not up to my current standards. I consider the events that happened in it basically to be canon, with some exceptions. For instance, when I originally wrote Dragonsteel, the Shattered Plains were there and Dalinar was there, and when I split off Way of Kings into its own book, I took half of what had been Dragonsteel and made it The Stormlight Archive and I split half of it off into a separate planet. If you were to read it, half of it will be a less good version of the Shattered Plains sequence, the bridge crews and things, from Way of Kings and the other half is Hoid’s story. And Hoid’s story stuff is still kind of canon, but the rest of it got moved.
Were you already familiar with the Robert Jordan books before you were...
I was. I started reading them when I was fifteen, and I had read them all the way along. I was one of those long-time Jordan fans.
At the end of the trilogy, Sazed communicates with Kelsier, so they exist in the afterlife, of some sort. You've got some concept of an afterlife. Is it uniform across the cosmere?
What is happening there is not actually technically an afterlife, though it kind of is. It's what we call a cognitive shadow. It's when your spirit is not moving on yet. So there is a Beyond, but there is a -- basically that's what we would call in our world a ghost, and there are actually magic systems based around that. In fact, the story I have coming out in George R.R. Martin’s next anthology is a ghost story involving this same -- it is cosmere based. Yes, that would be consistent. They don’t all have the same mythology regarding it, but it would be consistent. What happened to Kelsier could have happened on any of the planets.
Why is The Rithmatist in our world but not in our world?
I wanted to do something a little more whimsical when I wrote it. I just wanted something purely imaginative. And I said, if I weren’t bound by anything, where would I go? I designed this really strange alternate version of our world, without forcing myself to have explanations and rationale. That’s just a different process sometimes than other books I write.
Are you an Eagle Scout?
The last book, which turned into three books for The Wheel of Time, how much of that was yours and how much was notes from Jordan?
He left about a hundred written pages and about a hundred pages more of notes specifically for the last book. It really depends on the given scene. In Gathering Storm, if it was Egwene, it was either written by him or from his notes, and if it was Rand, it was mostly me. In Towers of Midnight, if it was Mat it was probably from his notes or written by him. He wrote the whole Tower of Ghenjei sequence, for instance. But if it was Perrin, it was me. He had nothing for Perrin, other than leaving Malden and then the Last Battle, so I had to fill in everything in between. In the final book, the meeting at the Fields of Merrilor was him and the very last chapter, which became the epilogue, was him, and a lot of the rest was me.
My husband wants to know if you are having any gunsmiths make a Vindicator.
Not yet, are you a gunsmith?
Just a gun enthusiast.
At the end of The Way of Kings, was Wit the actual Herald or was it somebody else *inaudible*
The Herald's the guy who collapsed to the ground all shaggy-haired holding a Shardblade. He claimed to be Talenel, who is the one they talked about in the Prelude. Whether or not he actually is is yet to be seen.
Did he just collapse or did he form out of the air?
No, he walked up and fell down.
When we get to the [interlude] in The Way of Kings, where we see the Shinovar merchant, he talks about his guards being different from Truthless. What makes the distinction?
You will find that out in Book 3 which has Szeth’s flashback sequences and show him becoming Truthless.
Which hand is the safe hand?
It is the left hand.
In [Rithmatics], how can you tell that a circle is two-starred, four-starred, or nine-starred?
It’s by where you start crossing the lines. Where you cross the circle will determine what points it is. For example, if you draw a line here, there are only a certain number of places where you can draw another line that'll fit. It’s just by where you start your first line intersecting it, the first line intersecting it determines where you can draw other lines and keep its stability.
What's your favorite Doctor?
Big scarf Doctor.
A Shardblade, what it does is it cuts off all the healing and control of an arm or whatever.
So like if an arm got badly wounded and was bleeding out and had to be amputated. If you went through it with a Shardblade first, would that damage you in other ways?
No, it wouldn’t. What it does is it severs the soul of the arm.
But I know like with Mistborn, if you take bits of soul out of people it messes them up.
Does it with Shardblades?
It leaves a wound.
Going back to when you first started writing books, how did you go about figuring out how to revise them?
...Through lots of pain. *laughter* I am not a natural reviser. I still don't like it. I spent six months of this year in revisions on Oathbringer, and every minute of it was pain! No, I'm joking. I mean, I still have the best job in the world, right? I get to sit in my chair and tell stories. And then, for some reason, people throw money at me. Revision was hard, and for me, part of the breakthrough was to treat a revision like I treat a first draft, in that I create an outline for the revision. I create a bunch of goals, I create a bunch of bullet points and things I want to work on. And I come up with a strategy, because I am naturally an outliner, for making the revision work. And when I started doing that, revision got a lot better for me, but it was also just a lot of practice.
...There are sometimes that you'll have a line of dialogue or a description, and I'm just in awe of how either hilarious or amazing it is. Have you ever written a line of dialogue or a description where you're like, "Wow, I am hilarious"? *laughter*
...All the time! No, I mean, this gets to a larger question of, when the creative process is working... you get surprised by how well the connections start working, and how things start coming together. Sometimes they don't, and you bash your head against the wall. But I think in every writing situation, at some point, you're gonna say "Wow, did that come out of my brain?" Because I got into it so much, I didn't realize all these connections were coming together in the back of my brain, and boom, it happens. And, again, sometimes it doesn't. In fact, I'll get into that in a moment, as we go to the reading. Because I... pulled a book from the publisher and decided not to publish it just recently, like last month.
Is there any magic system you consider softer? And any magic system you consider harder than most of the general audience would think they are?
...So, this is gonna dig into definitions of what you consider a soft and a hard magic system. And I don't know that we can come to an agreement on this in such a large crowd. I do think that sometimes Harry Potter gets a bad reputation for being a soft magic system where I feel like Harry Potter's a really good study in how you can have a very rule-based magic system for one book. Though she tends to ignore her own rules book-to-book, but that's okay, because that's what the story is. It's a hybrid, where it's really hard for one book, and the rules set up in that book are then used to great effect, and in the next book we get a new set of rules. Which is, you know, the same way that James Bond does it and things like this. Kind of resetting her magic a little bit between books. Not completely, Harry-Potter-philes, I'm not trying to trash on it. I think it's interesting to look at, because I think people don't understand what she's doing, some of the times, with that magic. But whether something is hard or soft doesn't really matter to me in general. It's the sort of thing I think people expect me to think about a lot. I just want the story to work, right? I don't care if it's a hard magic or a soft magic, if it's low magic, if it's high magic. If the story works, and the magic is in service of the story, I'm gonna like it, regardless of what it is. Even if it's-- like, people will be like, "I bet you hate those elemental magic system, where it's just the same old magic system." I'm like, no! My favorite magic system is probably The Wheel of Time, which is an elemental magic system. Even a step away from that, Jim Butcher's Codex Alera did an elemental magic system really well. It doesn't-- There's nothing that's just, like, "You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that." Tell a good story.
If there is universal truth and it changes, does it make it not true anymore?
That depends on your personal philosophy. My personal philosophy is that there are capital-T Truths, and those don't change, though a lot of the things around them do change. And it is through discussion, conflict, and approaching the spiritual that we step closer and closer to. It's a very Platonic sort of concept, that we are approaching perfection through our imperfections mashing together. And so, Truth hasn't changed, but our understanding and our capacity to get closer to it does change. And that's a personal philosophy of mine. I bet I can talk to people who have a different personal philosophy, that I would find very interesting. But for me, I think that's an excellent question to ask. If it's capital-T Truth, it shouldn't change over time. But we do, and we're not always the best at determining what it is.
You were talking about change. Do you-- A lot of fantasy has this cyclic nature to it, as to the linear nature that a lot of times we think about. How do you think that plays with the idea of change, if you're just doing the same thing over again?
No, that's a great question... What I love about fantasy is the ability to play with theme. Obviously, with The Wheel of Time, this was one of the themes, that history repeats itself, which is a theme of our world as well, and things like this. I like how they're able to play with that. One of the things we do in fantasy is, we take a few concepts, and we'll often just kind of throw realism out the window, in order to try and do something. And that's the whole point of fantasy, right? Realism's out the window. We'll make you feel like it's plausible, but realism's out the window. We're gonna have a society that doesn't change very much across 2000 years of time, and then we're gonna have them change dramatically in a year and a half. And this concept allows you to exaggerate the things that we've all kind of felt in our life, that change is outpacing our ability to keep track of it, and play with that concept of nostalgia vs keeping up with change, and I think Robert Jordan did a really good job with that. And I wouldn't look at the genre and say "The genre is backward-thinking" because of that-- And some people do. Because I feel that fantasy, like science fiction, is fundamentally about the now, that's what we write about. Science fiction and fantasy approach it differently, but Stormlight Archive is not about what it's like to live a long time ago. I don't know what that's like. I'm not a historian. I'm writing about the now through the lens of everything I'm kind of interested and passionate about... The idea of what I'm interested and passionate about ends up in the books, even if I don't think about putting it in directly. This is how I explore the world.
How many countries have you visited in the last year to sign, and which was your favorite? And why?
I'm not going to pick favorites, because I'm being recorded. *laughter* But, let's see, in the last year-- In the last year, I've been to Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Australia, England on tour. And they're all awesome. They all treat me really, really well. I will highlight just in this-- I'm not gonna pick a favorite, but I'll highlight my Bulgarian publisher, because in Bulgaria, it's like, this one gregarious guy who's publishing science fiction. It's kind of like how in the olden days in the States you had *inaudible* and people like this, this guy is just like-- there aren't as many readers of science fiction and fantasy there, but if you're reading stuff, you're reading what he has decided you're reading. It's like, this is cool! And he prints them in his house. He has a big press, and he prints every copy in his house, and he has a store that he sells them out of, it's his store, and he distributes them to other bookstores, too, but mostly you go to the Bulgarian Mysterious Galaxy. And buy the books from him, that he has decided, and it's a really eclectic bunch, 'cause he also does the Smurfs, and me. Whatever he likes, he does some Bulgarian fiction, whatever he likes he publishes. And he picked me up in his sports car blasting techno music. And then at my signing that night, played DJ, with the entire crowd who came to see me, playing music, and it was just the most surreal and awesome experience. Contrast that to Germany, which I love, but I went to, and they were all on-time and by the book, and it sounds like a cliche, but it was, like, they had everything planned out. There was no loud techno music during my signing. Lots of wonderful people came. It was a very interesting contrast.
What do you think a world without non-consensual death would look like?
You know, a lot of science fiction writers have done some really good jobs with this. And I don't know what it would actually look like, it's a good question... So, you can choose. It's gonna look something like...
Have you read (this thing was really brilliant) Football in the Future? Oh my goodness, you guys probably haven't read it because (it's brilliant, it's super brilliant) but it's a new media story, and it's written-- Look up Football in the Future, it's not actually about football. And telling you anything more than that is, like, a super-big spoiler. But I read it last summer, and it blew my mind. New media meaning it's, like, hypertext and videos and music and things like this, and, I don't want to spoil it for you, really, but go read Football in the Future. You will love it. That was a really cool take out, but it's obviously exaggerated, like, that one's done for sarcastic effect. Maybe something more along the lines of a post-scarcity society, like the culture. I think the culture really has a lot of good science fiction.
The thing for me, the difference between science fiction and fantasy for me is, really good science fiction makes me say "I can see how you take something we have now, and you extrapolate to the plausible, even though it can be very far from what we are." And fantasy, I believe, takes what's impossible, and then tries to make it plausible, and we kinda meet in the middle.
So, yeah. I'm not sure, but there's an answer.
Which character in The Stormlight Archive do you most relate to?
...This is a good question, but it's a hard question. Because all of my characters are partially me, and partially not me. Every character... So, in some ways, Jasnah is the most "me" you're gonna get in one of these books, because you've got the very analytical, somewhat ambitious, gregarious person who ignores what everyone tells them is the smart thing to do and does their own thing, and then proves everyone wrong. On the other hand, a fundamental pillar of Jasnah is her atheism, where I am a theist. And so it's like, every character, I can probably go on like that about. Every character's got a chunk of me and a chunk that's deliberately not me.
How much did the alpha, beta, and gamma readers in your opinion influence the end product [of Oathbringer] here today?
...I find them invaluable. Let me define them for you first.
Alpha readers are a very select group. My editor, my agent, my wife, and, like, my assistant-- like Peter. These are alpha readers, people who are reading it in a very raw form.
Beta readers are more like a test audience. The difference between alpha reader and beta reader is that the alpha is somebody who's an industry professional, for me, who can say-- can look at the structure and say "here's some advice on structure" and things like this. A beta reader is just a person who likes books, whose job is just to say "I like this, I don't like this, this is why." Right?
Gamma readers are proofreaders. So, usually, Peter handles all the gamma readers. I don't even see what they say, because that's all to fix proofreading.
I am a very big believer in test audience. I know some writers don't use them at all, but I find it really, really helpful to see how people are responding to the text and the fiction, and then looking and saying, "What is it that is making them feel this way? Do I want that? Do I not want that?" It is just a huge piece of the toolbox for me, a huge tool in the toolbox. (That metaphor doesn't work, because a larger tool in your toolbox is not necessarily more useful, but go with me on it.) I would say, they had all kinds of effects. And we might have Peter do some blog posts on things that I changed because of the beta readers while I'm online. And once you've read the book, you can ask me, we'll try to post about some of this stuff. Usually, they're not making suggestions, they're just giving their feelings, and I'm looking for the places where I've misfired. Where I'm like, "I thought this scene would be super dramatic," but everyone is confused. That's the sort of scene you want to find, and then ask yourself, "How can I make it work instead."
You had 70, right?
Yeah, I had 70 beta readers on this. They wrote around 600,000 or 700,000 words. So, more than was in the book, about the book. Yeah. It's crazy.
I talked a bit about it, in the Write About Dragons lectures at BYU, I just had the idea. I realized that a lot of my favorite stories were kind of like these boy-with-a-dragon-egg stories, right? One of my favorite stories of all time is Dragon's Blood, by Jane Yolen. Just, absolutely amazing book. And I thought, that's the kind of story I like, but it's been done to death. But then I thought, hey, I can do a different version of that. So, this story, basic premise is How To Train Your Dragon, but instead it's a girl who finds a spaceship, and goes to Top Gun school. So, it's like a mashup between Top Gun and Ender's Game and How To Train Your Dragon with an old broken down spaceship with a really weird personality. And I'm going to read you the prologue of this, which happens when the main character is rather young.
Is the liquid in the Well of Ascension Invested mercury? What is the chemical composition of lerasium + atium?
As the Cognitive and Spiritual Realms aren't something that exists in real life, is it safe to say that everything within those Realms are comprised of Investiture?
Did any Shards remain on Yolen post-Shattering? If so, how many?
Are left handed hand jobs the anal of Vorinism?
This would certainly be a thing, yes. But if you'd rather go more wholesome, holding hands in an Alethi culture is kind of a big deal, depending on the hand.
What are you reading?
Right now, I actually just started reading [Under] the Pendulum Sun... I read two chapters of it, it was very good. It's by an author [Jeannette Ng] who is British, who came to one of my signings earlier, so I looked it up... She came in costume, she came as Jasnah, and she's a professional writer herself, so I'm like, "I've got to read her book." ...The first two chapters were delightful. Missionaries going to fairyland, the land of the fae.
What was the order of the Shards coming to Roshar and changing allegiances? Did humans come with Odium?
So... you're talking about on Roshar specifically? So, Odium had visited Roshar. The humans gave him more of an ear... The Dawnsingers would have considered him the god of the people who had come, but-- I mean, it wasn't like they necessarily brought him. He was capable of getting around before that. I mean, he did kinda come along with them, he was instrumental in what happened there.
Okay, but he was separate, and after Honor and Cultivation had really settled there?
Yes, he was after Honor and Cultivation had settled.
Is Mraize's strange chicken Invested? Like the birds of Sixth of the Dusk?
It is an Aviar.
Was Hoid's Cryptic the same one that was meant for Elhokar?
Is there anything more to the Cryptic than Pattern? Like Shallan's Pattern?
There's more to every individual! But it is not a more powerful Cryptic or anything like that.
I hated sending Syl away from Kaladin here, but it had to happen—in part because of how much it hurt to send her away. She's basically the only light left in these scenes with Kaladin in Bridge Four.
Syl wasn't in the original draft of Kings. I developed her over the years between 2003 and 2009; there was a time when the four winds from mythology would be active and alive on Roshar, and she was one of those. Eventually, the spren developed as a concept. They grew out of the greater worldbuilding and magic system rules for the cosmere. (The connected universe of my epic books.)
At that point, she became a sentient spren—one of many that would be in the books. Still, she was very special. I do worry about the Tinkerbell vibe that she gives off to some people. I tried hard to distance her from that. No wings, the constant shape changing, that sort of thing.
Her innocence and childlike nature is an important foil and balance to the darkness in Kaladin's life. Then she leaves, and all innocence is gone from him.
Kaladin in Bridge Four
This chapter is probably the most depressing thing I've ever written.
Writing a depressed character, someone in this bad a situation, is risky. It goes against almost every writing rule out there. A character like this can't be active, and there is basically no progress to the story. (I talked a little about this in the chapter 4 annotations for both The Way of Kings and The Hero of Ages.)
Sometimes I'll read the writing of new authors in my class who will try to use depression as a character flaw. They've heard instructors—perhaps myself—talk about how internal conflicts can create a really strong character. They also know that depression is something real and difficult to deal with in life, so they figure it will make a good demon for the main character to overcome.
The trap is that if the author is truly good at writing depression, then nothing actually happens in the story. It can be wonderfully authentic and at the same time wonderfully boring to read.
This chapter is kind of the culmination of me breaking rules in the beginning of The Way of Kings. I think this chapter makes the story incredibly more powerful—but the chapter itself is like a kick to the face to read. Slow, depressing. I assume this is probably the biggest place where—if people are going to stop reading—they put down the book and never pick it back up.
As I've said before, The Way of Kings is the book where I decided to break many rules to create something I felt was awesome. Great risk, and hopefully great reward.
In that one long rejection of Odium, how many Oaths did Dalinar swear before merging the Realms? And is "I am Unity" the fifth.
No, that is not an Oath. He swore one ideal in that experience.
Okay. How many Oaths is he on?
The number you think. So, he should have just finished three, right? Or maybe four. I'll have to go look. It's the number that you think it is. I'm not being sneaky on you. There's nothing sneaky there. He doesn't get armor, so I can't remember where he is... He should be at three. "Life before death." "I will unite instead of divide." "I will stand up each time I fall." Yeah, so he's done three.
Yalb the Sailor
This chapter is Yalb's time to shine. One of the things I love about The Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan's use of side characters who sometimes pop in, steal the show, then vanish. I love how they show up now and then in the text.
I'm not sure I can do the same thing here. Robert Jordan had worldbuilding reasons why small characters would get tied to the main characters and keep appearing in their lives again and again. I don't have those reasons.
Still, writing Yalb, I wanted him to really pop off the page even though he's only in the book for a few pages in these early scenes. I intend for him to return. In another type of story, he'd be one of the main characters.
Shallan berates the book merchant
The timid nature is a result of the problems in her past (see book two's flashbacks). I see the moments of flaring passion as being far more “her.”
Shallan's father has an infamous temper; it's buried deep within her as well. If she'd been allowed to grow up more naturally, without the oppressive darkness that her family suffered, she would have turned out as a very different person. Still, the person she could become is buried inside her. In my mind, this is one of the big connections between her as a character and Kaladin. It is also part of why both attract a certain type of spren…
Shallan Rejected Again
I do wonder at reader reaction to these Shallan sequences. Some in the writing group found these scenes too long. They figured it was inevitable that Shallan would end up as Jasnah's ward, and so spending several chapters with Shallan working overtime to secure the position wasn't interesting to them.
I admit this is a potential problem with the sequence. However, I felt it important to show both Shallan's determination and Jasnah's character with these sequences. I needed to show Shallan working very hard for what she wanted. It also gave me several opportunities to show the contrasting timidity/insolence that makes up how I view Shallan as a character.
Is the sapphire in the white-gold blade specifically for Jezrien?
Do the gems swap out, or are there different weapons?
I'll RAFO that one.
Are they Dawnshards? Or blades of Odium, like Honorblades?
Those are not Dawnshards. Good question.
I've taken some visual art classes. I'm terrible at drawing—as you would expect from someone without a lot of experience—but I felt it would be important to know how visual art works and how artists think. Listening to the professors talk was in many ways more useful than the practice itself, though I did enjoy the drawing as well.
(As a side note, my final project for an art class in 2002—a basic drawing class—was a landscape of Roshar with rockbuds and the like. I took a stab at doing my own concept art, and bad though it was, it did help me start to visualize the world.)
How Shallan thinks here is really a blend of how I think as a writer and how I've heard visual artists think of their process. I'm drawing heavily on my own experience, and because of that blend, I suspect that to many artists her process will sound odd.
So, there's a whole lot of things that happen in a very short period of time when Dalinar brings the worlds together. "We killed you" from Odium. Who is "we" and who is "you"?
Are you involved with translators?
I usually am. Peter does a lot more of it than I do. But we like to be very in touch. We try to be very involved...
Skyward. Is that gonna be a Cosmere story?
Not right now... I've decided mostly. It's possible I'll pull it out, but I feel like I need to reference Earth for some of the things I'm doing. That's kind of my baseline.
For a hardcore fan, one clue you'd give out... [About] Hoid, or Dragonsteel, or Restares.
...The problem is, so little of Dragonsteel is still canon. I've pulled so much out of it.
The Sho Del are still canon, and Hoid has an interesting relationship with several of them.
When Odium says "We killed you." Is that RAFO, or?
RAFO... I'm just not confirming it or denying it, what it means.