Recent entries

    Words of Radiance Houston signing ()
    #7708 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    If a non-Windrunner picked up Jezrien's Honorblade would they gain Windrunner powers as well?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Yes.

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    If a Windrunner picked up that blade, would their abilities be enhanced?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    There would be some compounding but strength is not as much an issue with Surgebinding as is the strength of the spren bond and how much Stormlight you are using.

    Words of Radiance Houston signing ()
    #7709 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    How much more powerful is Nightblood than a regular Shardblade?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    I haven't actually quantified that in my own mind so can't give an accurate comparison at this point. I will say that when he is fully consuming Investiture he can do some really freaky things.

    Words of Radiance release party ()
    #7718 Copy

    Pinpoint (paraphrased)

    Belief has had a lot to do with the cosmere. (for example in Warbreaker. The appearances of the Returned had a lot to do with belief) Will belief have a big part to play in The Stormlight Archive?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    It already has. The two scholars measuring the spren.

    Words of Radiance release party ()
    #7722 Copy

    scm288 (paraphrased)

    So, I don't actually own a hardcover copy of The Way of Kings, but I did notice when looking at one that there's a map of Shadesmar... And that the map shows that Shadesmar geography is precisely aligned with Roshar's geography... So I'm just going to assume that other planets we've visited so far also have realms of Shadesmar that are aligned geographically.

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    That's very clever of you! *smiles* Very clever...

    Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide ()
    #7725 Copy

    Dalenthas

    Was Kelsier under Ruin's influence as well? It seems to me that destroying the Pits of Hathsin (and thus preventing Ruin's power from leaking) is something that Ruin would want to happen...

    Brandon Sanderson

    There is a short story forthcoming which will deal with Kelsier, the days after he Snapped, his training, and what influence (if any) Ruin had on him. Most likely, this will appear in the Mistborn RPG coming out next year. So I'm afraid that's a RAFO.

    Footnote: The short story Brandon mentions was released with the Mistborn RPG and titled "The Eleventh Metal." many of the points addressed in the question were much more thoroughly explored much later in in "Mistborn: Secret History"
    Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide ()
    #7727 Copy

    Dalenthas

    With all the talk about action and reaction and whatnot, will some force form to counter Sazed's new Ruin/Preservation mix? It seems to me like the whole nature of the world can't stand to have one person unopposed.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ruin and Preservation were not the only Shards of Adonalsium, though they are the only ones on Scadrial at the moment. Sazed's ability to be both at once is actually something I drew from Eastern mythology, where it is believed that the ability to contain two opposing forces at the same time represents ultimate harmony. The Buddha, for instance, was said to have performed the miracle of producing both fire and ice from his hands at the same time.

    Chaos

    Is "Scadrial" the proper name to refer to the Mistborn world?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Scadrial is indeed the name of the planet

    Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide ()
    #7728 Copy

    Dalenthas

    Did Sazed leave information about how his new religion should be run for Spook and the others to find? His note to Spook implies that there is an afterlife...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Sazed didn't immediately leave this, as he was too focused on other things. The next period of time will be difficult for Sazed, as he essentially sees himself as an avatar of deity—the force of Preservation—and not God with an upper case letter. He's still not sure what Truth is 100%. And there is an afterlife, but it's probably not what you're thinking. In other words, Sazed has not touched Heaven or Hell, and actually doesn't yet know what the final beyond contains. He has, however, run into some people who have been sticking around something of a middle place. It's related to the larger cosmology, and I'm afraid that I'll need to RAFO anything further.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7730 Copy

    WeiryWriter

    Brandon is pretty good at including people as cameos (such as much of Bridge Four being his friends). Has he given you a cameo in the cosmere, or one of his other books, or do you know if he has any plans for one (because you totally should have one).

    Ben McSweeney

    You know, I don't think he has... if he did, nobody's told me and I haven't caught it. Of course, I already get name-checked in every book both in the acknowledgements and in the credits. And in a certain sense, I suppose I'm there every time my work is on the page.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7731 Copy

    WeiryWriter

    You've mentioned in the past that you'd really like to do an art book of all the unused and supplementary art done for the Stormlight Archive that doesn't make it into the books. Are there any other projects that you'd love to do, if not now than at some point in the future?

    Ben McSweeney

    Well, as an animator/storyboard artist by day, it's no surprise that if Stormlight were to be optioned for animation I'd want to be all over that in as great a capacity as allowed. But that's kind of a cheat answer... I'd like to do more comics work, if I could find a way to make it balance. I've been enjoying the hell out of Gary Gianni's work in George R.R. Martin's new collection of the Dunk & Egg novels, a project like that could be fun. Honestly, right now I'm in a nice place with a lot of fun stuff on my lap, so as long as I can keep that rolling I'm feeling good.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7732 Copy

    mooglefrooglian

    I loved the illustrations in WoR, and the broadsheet in Shadows of Self.

    I'm wondering if it's possible to put more art in the books in the future. Are there limits in terms of printing costs to putting more art in things like the Stormlight books? Do you guys think the amount of art you have in the books now is perfect?

    Something like an image for every chapter seems like it would be wonderful in my opinion. For example, a picture of how the bridges were held/carried during the first scene involving them in WoK (because I found that confusing).

    Ben McSweeney

    We actually did bump up the number of illustrations between book I and book II, but as you may know we also ran right up against the actual page-count maximum in Words of Radiance. The printer literally could not manufacture a book with more pages, we maxed 'em out.

    We're never going to cut Brandon's text in favor of the art, 'cause we're not crazy, but we want to put as much in there as we can. We're probably not going to reach the point of an illustration for every chapter, but I don't think we'll be cutting back soon either.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7733 Copy

    fastlindyrick

    I've seen you comment on other Cosmere-based conceptual discussions and fan art around reddit. How much does fandom influence your ideas of how things should look?

    Ben McSweeney

    When a fan really nails it, I think it can most certainly have an influence.

    That being said, I firmly believe that the text comes first and foremost... I can't illustrate something that conflicts with Brandon's descriptions and expect it to be taken as canon, and a fan can render the most beautiful art imaginable but it won't stick in my head if they contradict the text.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7734 Copy

    tritlo

    What is your favourite drawing so far? What is your next project?

    Ben McSweeney

    I think Shardplate is my favorite page. My favorite drawing... I think I'll have to think on that.

    My next Brandon project is, unless something breaks, Stormlight III. Of course, Shadows of Self just came out, and Bands of Mourning will hit the shelves early next year, so those are the next things to see print.

    tritlo

    Nice! Are there any other artists that inspire you in particular?

    Ben McSweeney

    Oh gosh, lots and far too many to list!

    If I was hoping to emulate anyone in my Stormlight work, it'd be artists like Alan Lee and John Howe for Peter Jackson, or Ralph McQuarrie and Johnston for George Lucas, or Ron Cobb and Chris Foss or Syd Meade for Ridley Scott.

    I think Brandon's got the legs. But we've got a long way to go. :)

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7735 Copy

    Rutsahl

    How does the process work?

    Does he give you his ideas, have you draw something up and get back to him when you're finished, or do you both work on it together (like in the same room, with him watching you draw.)

    How many rough drafts and back and forths do you usually go through with a particular piece of work before it's called complete.

    Ben McSweeney

    Usually I get a rough draft of the novel, which lets me start looking for seeds (here is a neat thing) and direct subjects (here is a neat thing that Shallan is specifically described as drawing), and from that we build a list for what we'll actually produce.

    Unfortunately, geography prevents me from working in the same room with Brandon very often, but we live in the age of email and Skype so it's mostly just an inconvenience that we work around. Generally what I'll do is start drafting rough sketches, submit them for feedback, and begin a cycle where we spitball ideas and work back and forth until the subject's design is settled. Then I lay out the actual Shallan page itself, putting the subject into place and deciding what else we can include. Once the page layout is approved, I'll render the final illustration.

    During the entire process I'm in a regular email loop with Brandon, Peter and Isaac. We make loooong email threads. Some designs take many iterations before we get it right (the axehound was particularly difficult), some designs are nailed down almost instantly (Brandon and I got on the same page with Shardplate pretty early). There's no way to predict how it will go until it gets going.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7736 Copy

    _0_-o--__-0O_--oO0__

    Do you think it ruins some of the mystique to include Shallan's sketches in the novels since her skill level is not left up to the imagination? It's kind of like the recently announced Kingkiller television show that's being developed. No matter how good of a musician they get to represent Kvothe, they will never match the skill level that I imagine him having from reading the books. Do you get what I'm trying to say?

    Ben McSweeney

    I totally get what you're saying.

    The meta-function of Shallan's pages are to help illustrate the more alien aspects of the world around her... we focus largely on the wildlife and fauna of Roshar, with the occasional diversion into something like Shardplate. The idea is to supplement the descriptions, not to supplant them. We try to avoid illustrating characters (even though Shallan often draws portraits) in order to leave them to reader's imagination as much as possible... it's the only perfect tool for interpretation.

    Unfortunately, the more popular something becomes, the greater the demand rises for visual interpretations. As such, I think it's much better to have a dedicated team directly working with the author on the subject. Because the alternative is the standard, in which artists will interpret the work at the direction of a third party (usually an Editor or Art Director), without direct, unfiltered authorial input... and possibly without even reading the book itself. I may not match Shallan's skills, but I know that I'm matching what Brandon wants to see, to the best of my ability.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7737 Copy

    TsorovanSaidin

    How awesome an anime do you think Stormlight would make?

    Ben McSweeney

    OH MY GOD SO AWESOME.

    I am biased, as an animator, of course. But I think the world of Roshar is too fantastic and unique to be anything other than fully animated. If you do it with actors, they're gonna do it in the big green rooms, and that so rarely works out well.

    I'd be content with a CG animated series (Shardplate kinda begs it), but it'd be a lot trickier to do well. That being said, I've seen some really great CG, so it could be done.

    TsorovanSaidin

    I'm so happy you agree. I've been a pretty huge fan of Knights of Sidonia on Netflix. That's a perfect style for Plate in my opinion.

    Ben McSweeney

    KoS is pretty great (awesome manga, too), but the cines for Guilty Gear Xrd are just sick.

    Game cinematics offer the best examples of quality, but it's not easy to get a studio in the range of Plastic Wax or Blur to dedicate the resources required for a full feature or a 22x12/24 series. Well, mostly it's just crazy expensive. But costs are always adjusting, the field is expanding, and we've got a lot of books left to publish before anyone's adapting it for animation or film.

    ari54x

    I think some of the 2.5d CG animation they do could work well for Stormlight- you know, where it's mostly illustrated but some action scenes use cell-shaded 3d models as a reference for the perspective and animation so it's really spot-on? That would be really cool.

    Ben McSweeney

    Oh, it's entirely feasible. Just a matter of the right budget with the right people at the right time. 'Course, that's a tricky triumvirate. :)

    ari54x

    Definitely. I'm hoping White Sand does well as a start to prove that drawing Brandon's work is a good idea.

    Ben McSweeney

    I think it might. And if nothing else, it's one more branch on the tree. Reaching out to new audiences is almost always a good strategy. :)

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7738 Copy

    sproon

    What medium do you usually favor and about what dimensions do you use for a standard book cover piece? Are they the actual book size or scaled down?

    Also, do you have any clever signatures or symbols you like to hide in your work that you wouldn't mind sharing?

    Ben McSweeney

    I work almost exclusively in digital media these days, usually Photoshop or Manga Studio. Before I made the switch, I was primarily a pencil and ink artist. Hence the "Inkthinker" name, which I've been using for... well as long as I can remember being active on the internet. It was my first email!

    Interesting you should ask about clever logos, are you already familiar with my other work? I do have a signature symbol, variations of which I will often use in illustrations. It's an icon of a lightbulb over a pen-nib, and you can find it all over my stuff on DeviantArt. Here's a good example of the logo game..

    I don't think I've ever used it in Stormlight, because it would seem... inappropriate, I guess? Shallan's pages represent in-world artifacts, the lightbulb-logo meta-game has no place hiding there. I have used it a couple times for Mistborn illustrations in the MAG, and I did sneak it into an ad in the first broadsheet, but only because it seemed thematically appropriate at the time (it was an ad for lightbulbs).

    Of course, the problem with a "hide the logo in places" game is that I often forget when and where I've done it at all.

    sproon

    I won't lie, I'm not overly familiar with your work but what I've seen, I'm a fan of for sure.

    Do you enjoy the digital medium or do you miss the old days?

    Ben McSweeney

    I miss the secondary revenue stream that original art represents once your profile reaches a certain state. I still work with physical media from time to time, but I'm completely consumed by the variability of digital drawing. It's given me the freedom to do a lot of things I could never do before, but that option for secondary sales is greatly reduced.

    If you like playing hunt-the-logo, I recommend my older work from 2007-2012, especially the game stuff. I was playing it all through my work with Fantasy Craft. Those guys give me lots of freedom to play around, and the meta-game seemed most suited to a game book. :)

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7739 Copy

    _0_-o--__-0O_--oO0__

    What is the best and worst part about working with Sanderson?

    Ben McSweeney

    Hmmm... best part is working with someone who genuinely loves what they do, and they're really, really good at it, and even better he's got a plan to keep doing it. It makes him a very inspirational partner.

    Worst part... well, with the touring and so forth, sometimes it's really hard to get time where we can actually talk, even by phone. Unlike the rest of the team I don't live in the same city as Brandon, so aside from those few occasions when we're attending a con or his tour comes nearby, almost all our communication is by email. And that's a little frustrating, 'cause I genuinely like the guy on a personal level.

    Brandon and I talk pretty steadily during production, but that's business and only takes place for a few months of the year. Most of the time I talk to Isaac, he has the patience of a saint.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7740 Copy

    inkfinger

    Love your work, it must be so amazing to work alongside Brandon Sanderson and the rest of the team :)

    As someone who wants nothing more from life than to be a full-time illustrator, I'd love to know what you think one should focus on to get into this type of work. Basically, what would your advice be to a young illustrator?

    Ben McSweeney

    Hm. To keep it short, I think you want to get a solid foundation in classical technique... the really boring stuff like perspective, anatomy, composition, life-drawing and portraiture. I know it might not seem like it relates to the sort of work you want to do, like you're being forced to conform to these rigid schools of thought that aren't relevant, and your teachers might mock your ambitions (if you have bad teachers), but please believe me... if you can master that cranky old-guy stuff, the possibilities are endless.

    You're probably going to need to master digital tools, but most of the software we use to paint and draw in the computer is based on real-world toosl and techniques, so the more you know about the real stuff the easier you'll find it to manipulate and master the virtual. That being said, it's hard to survive as a commercial artist in the modern industry if you're not willing to work on a tablet.

    It's a really competitive world out there. I worked for over ten years before I was able to make drawing-for-money into my sole source of income, and even then it was another five before I started to feel like maybe I wasn't going to grow old in the same world I grew up in. Lots of people make it happen faster. Even more people never make it happen at all. It's a great career, but you gotta be strong and well-suited and maybe just a little lucky.

    The sooner you start, the longer you'll have to travel as far as you can go. :)

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7741 Copy

    Argent

    Are there any plans to create and release a collection of drawings as a separate book? While some of your gorgeous gorgeous arts makes its way into Brandon's novels, the focus is naturally not on them - but I am sure some of us would like to get our grubby grabby hands on a book that's only, for example, Shallan's drawings. One of her in-world sketchbooks, in a way.

    If there are no such plans, is this something you would consider?

    Ben McSweeney

    There's plans, but they are waaay down the road. With Stormlight we're looking at a ten-book series, and we're only now on book 3.

    That being said, we create and collect a lot of ancillary material during production. Failed ideas, wrong turns, and even just construction material. I don't see us leaving all that in a drawer forever. :)

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7742 Copy

    Darkenmal

    What's your average schedule while you are working on a novel?

    Ben McSweeney

    I usually get an early draft right alongside Isaac and Peter, which allows me to start thinking and thumbnailing and asking all Brandon all sorts of annoying detail-questions as much as a year before publishing. But the real, down-n-dirty work-work of producing the final art usually takes place in the last 3-6 months before delivery.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7743 Copy

    Kopaka99559

    Which of your illustrations would you say was the most enjoyable to create?

    Ben McSweeney

    Shardplate and Blades, hands down. It was also kinda the easiest, because I'd been doodling different types of Plate since the first pitch to Tor back in 2008. Brandon basically gave me a big ol' present with that one. :)

    Discounting that, probably the Chasmfiend, just because it was one of those designs that was awful and failing and then suddenly I figured out a solution, and ultimately I loved the results. That nosedive is the worst on the way down, but man it feels good when you pull out of it.

    platysaur

    Chasmfiends are some of the most badass and terrifying creatures in fantasy, I think. So in that regard, you did an amazing job! Whitespines are pretty awesome too.

    Ben McSweeney

    Thank you! The whitespine design was particularly challenging, we almost went with a different creature up until just a few weeks before the deadline, when I scrapped it and redrew it all again. It really was a bad design, anatomically, and while I could have let it pass I would have hated it forever. The end result isn't perfect, but it's much better.

    I think there's a blog post about it on Brandon's website, somewhere. Isaac did a whole interview with me, including pictures of the previous designs.

    platysaur

    Interesting story! Thanks for replying. I can't wait to see what you have next for Stormlight Archive! And great job on Shadows of Self too, I just finished it yesterday. I love the dude's super long and pointy mustache.

    Ben McSweeney

    Haha, I think Isaac came up with the description of the moustache, so he deserves much of the credit. They are dangerous-looking, aren't they?

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7744 Copy

    MikeOfThePalace

    Is there a book out that there that you're just dying to illustrate? Something that caught your imagination and you would die of excitement if offered the chance to bring your drawings to print?

    Ben McSweeney

    Ohhh... gosh, if I wasn't drawing it already, I'd probably be all over Stormlight, but that's a crap answer. Let's see...

    I reserve the right to come back to this later, but right now I've been enjoying the hell out of the Malazan series, and I wish I had solid illustrations of the various races... still, I'm only up to book 4.

    I just started Jim Butcher's super-steampunky The Aeronaut's Windlass, and I'm kinda wishing for a guide to ship types and some of the House heraldry. I really loved what Keith Thompson did for similar content in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan novels, though that was much more traditional illustration rather than visual development.

    Not every novel really needs an illustrator... for instance, I don't think it's needed for Glen Cook's novels, even though I love the Black Company, The Instrumentalities of the Night and the Garrett P.I. series (I do wish the cover artists would stop illustrating Garrett as if he were Sam Spade, it's worse than putting a hat on Harry Dresden).

    I'll think about this some more.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7745 Copy

    Oudeis16

    I know a lot of people get tattoos with work from Mr. Sanderson's books. How do you feel knowing people have your work etched painfully into their flesh?

    Ben McSweeney

    It's a little weird, only in the sense that it's so intensely, overwhelmingly flattering that it's difficult to figure out the right response. What do you say to someone who appreciates your work that much, other than a wholly inadequate "thank you"? Though I guess as it goes on, I'm getting used to it.

    I'm quite certain Isaac has me way beat in the tattoo-inspiration department, as he does most all of the icons and symbols associated with Brandon's novels. But every Pattern tattoo is another tally for me. :)

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7746 Copy

    NoNoNota1

    Since you do this as a career, do you still draw and illustrate for fun as a hobby, or does it begin to just feel like working overtime, no matter how much you love it?

    Ben McSweeney

    I do, but not nearly as much as I would if I wasn't doing it all day, every day. I'm not sure what my hobby is, these days... reading, I suppose? Games sometimes. Redditing too often. :)

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7747 Copy

    ChannelSaidin

    First off, I want to say thank you for the great illustrations.

    I was wondering, what is your favorite scene that you have, or wish, to draw?

    Ben McSweeney

    Thank you for the compliment! We do 'em 'cause we love 'em, and we love when you love 'em too. :)

    All my favorite scenes are so spoileriffic. The Second Ideal, the chasmfiend appearances, the final battles of WoR, "Stretch forth thy hand!"

    If I draw my favorite scenes and they're seen by people who haven't read the books, it'd be like seeing all the best parts of the movie in the trailer.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7748 Copy

    lurkotato

    Are there any creature sketches of Shallan that didn't get included in the Stormlight Archive books?

    ... because I would pay for a copy Shallan's sketchbook, especially the wildlife detail. take note Brandon

    Ben McSweeney

    There's a few. We hope to collect all the ancillary material into it's own book at some point, but not for a while... the novels are the main focus for the immediate future. The more novels Brandon writes, the more ancillary material we can create and collect. It'll pay off in the long run.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7749 Copy

    ballthyrm

    Would you like to continue your collaboration with Brandon Sanderson on a comic Book for example ?

    Ben McSweeney

    Brandon and I have discussed working on a comic together on multiple occasions. We both love the form, it's something I've done in the past, and I think together we'd make some amazing pages. But it also requires a lot of resources up front to cover overhead costs, and finding a way to make that happen has been tricky. I'm thinking we'll figure something out, but it's going to take a while. Crowdsourcing has opened up some very viable options, but it still requires a seed of core content that has yet to be created.

    Ben McSweeney AMA ()
    #7750 Copy

    Happilymarriedman

    I'm currently working on a novel myself. I'm having some issues visualizing the characters I can write descriptions all day long. How often does an author come to you and give you a relatively vague description of what they are seeking, is there an extra cost for dreaming that stuff up?

    Ben McSweeney

    Well, generally speaking there's always going to be a cost if you're commissioning someone to illustrate your descriptions. Before you go to the expense, one suggestion I might put forward is to cast a few actors in the roles. Don't tell anyone who you choose, but if there's someone out there who would perfectly fit the role, cast them in your notes and then use Google Image and IMDB to collect reference and let that lead you. Also, don't overdo the descriptions when you do get down to the actual words-on-the-page... Pick a few notable features, be consistent, and allow the rest to be inferred.

    Brandon is actually not very interested in portraiture for the published art in the novels... you may notice that we very rarely show anyone's full face in our illustrations. Part of this is because Brandon doesn't want to force the reader into imagining the characters looking just one way... the image you create in your mind when you read a description is yours, it's the part of your reading experience that you create and it should be as valid as anyone's.

    That being said, I got to help Michael with Shallan's portrait in the Words endpages, and that was great fun for me as well as leading to a better, more accurate Shallan.