Is there going to be a sequel to Elantris?
Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)
Yes, a true sequel is coming. It's actually going to be about Sarene's uncle, and his family.
Is there going to be a sequel to Elantris?
Yes, a true sequel is coming. It's actually going to be about Sarene's uncle, and his family.
In at least two of the books that I know of, a god is either dead or attacked in some form or fashion. Is there any reason for that?
Yes, there is an ongoing theme there, and it's primarily because there is an overarching story behind the story. The books are all in the same universe. And there is a character that's the same in all of the books. In Way of Kings it's Wit. He's actually in all of them.
Dalinar and Lan, who wins in a swordfight? Both full Shardbearers.
Both full Shardbearers. Lan probably wins, I would guess. Lan is more pure swordsman than Dalinar. Dalinar spent a lot of time on things like battlefield tactics.
Are you thinking about anything else in the Elantris world? Or Warbreaker?
Yes, Elantris will be sooner than Warbreaker. Warbreaker will be a ways off. You may want to find Emperor's Soul; it's in the Elantris world.
Will you be finishing the Alcatraz series?
I will soon be finishing the series. I had to buy the rights back. I didn't like how the publisher was treating the series. I got the rights back on January 1st. It's been a bit of a break, but I will finish it.
If you were to choose (to be) a Feruchemist or an Allomancer, which would you choose?
I would choose Allomancy, because I would want to have Steelpushing; that's my favorite of the powers.
Is that why you gave Waxillium Steelpushing?
When is the next Mistborn book coming out?
Why did you have to kill Vin and Elend?
They demanded that they be allowed to take the chance they did. And I just let them take the chance. I didn't kill them, I just let them take the chance that they demanded that I let them take. That's kind of a cop-out answer, I'm sorry, but that's what it feels like to me. And if I always make it so that there are no consequences, then the books have no heart.
When is the next Way of Kings book coming out?
Tor has it scheduled for November, we'll see if I manage that or not. But November until told otherwise.
What about the Mistborn video game?
We put it off until 2014, because of the new console generation. We had planned for it to come out right when the buzz was saying the new consoles were going to launch. And that felt like a bad idea to us. The Mistborn film is also in the works, but it is very early and it is not nearly as far along as the Wheel of Time film is. So if anyone's father is J. J. Abrams, have him call me.
Someone else asked if Adonalsium had been self-aware.
Brandon said he couldn't answer that yet.
I love *inaudible* this series. How did you come up with Elend?
So, I wanted an idealist *inaudible* revolutionary stuck in a world that wasn't ready for one yet, and that was my pitch to myself, right? Like if you took, you know, someone like... one of the great *inaudible* like Hamilton or somebody and just stuck them in a world that just was not ready for their ideas. How would that go?
That sounds like the *inaudible*. Don't you have that in mind, like...
Yeah, but he-- he that was-- yeah, yeah. His plan was-- be an idealist. The second book is where he realizes he can't make the same path he wants to, and third book is kind of reconciliation of how he can create this step that will eventually lead to Democracy and things like this, which you eventually then get to see in later books.
Are we gonna hear what happened after the Heralds gave up their oath and *inaudible*
You will-- you will see more of that.
Is there uh-- is there gonna be more side characters like Taln? Where they kind of like *inaudible*
Um, Taln and Ash--two of the Heralds--are main characters in the second five books, so that's where you're going to see *inaudible*.
Will The Way of Kings series be based on one of the worlds and magic systems you have already created or are you inventing a totally new one for this series?
It will be new. There are going to be a lot of different types of magic in the world (I see there's a question below asking about that, so I'll answer more there.) But there will be two main magic systems for the first book. The first will deal with the manipulation of fundamental forces. (Gravity, Strong/weak atomic forces, Electromagnetic force, that sort of thing.) The second will be a transformation based magic system, whereby people can transform objects into one of the world's ten elements.
Brandon, how do you feel your identity and upbringing as a Mormon has affected your work?
Elantris, for instance, centers around a magic system that has essentially been broken because something in the world has changed—a "new revelation" if you will. And then Mistborn has at its core a set of holy writings that have been altered by an evil force.
These things seem decidely Mormon to me, or at least informed from a Mormon perspective. Do you feel that is the case?
I don't set out to put anything specifically Mormon into my books, but who I am definitely influences what I write and how I write it. I'm always curious at the things people dig out of my writing—neither of the two points you mention above are things that I was conscious of, though they certainly do make interesting points now that you look at them.
My goal in storytelling is first and foremost to be true to the characters—their passions, beliefs, and goals. No matter what those are. I'm not trying to make a point consciously ever in my writing—though I do think that good stories should raise questions and make readers think.
Who I am as a person heavily influences what I write, and I draw from everything I can find—whether it be LDS, Buddhist, Islamic, or Atheist. It's all jumbled up there in that head of mine, and comes out in different characters who are seeking different things.
In other words, I'm not setting out to be like C.S. Lewis and write parables of belief. I'm trying more what Tolkien did (not, of course, meaning to compare myself favorably with the master) in that I tell story and setting first, and let theme and meaning take care of itself.
Fiction doesn't really exist—certainly doesn't have power—until it is read. You create the story in your head when you read it, and so your interpretations (and your pronunciations on the names) are completely valid in your telling of the story. The things you come up with may be things I noticed and did intentionally, they may be subconscious additions on my part, or they may simply be a result of your interaction with the text. But all three are valid.
On a different but related note, I really love that you honestly look at religious convictions in your books and that you don't portray such convictions in a shallow way.
Regardless of a person's beliefs, I think they would have to admit that religion and spirituality has played a large part in our development as a people. It's a very important thing to so many of us—and I also think that for most of us, our beliefs are nowhere near as simple as they seem when viewed from the outside. I appreciate your praise here, though I think I still have a lot to learn. There's a real line to walk in expressing a character's religious views without letting them sound preachy—the goal is to make the character real, but not bore the reader.
Next, I've been hearing about The Way of Kings series you are starting. Are you planning to have that as a single book or going to try and make it a trilogy like Mistborn or a large ten or more book series?
It's going to be a big series. No promises on length right now, but I feel that it is going to be long. I have 10 books plotted right now, though some of those might get combined—essentially, there are 10 plot arcs I want to cover. But expect it to be big. The first book is done, and came in at 380,000 words before editing.
So first and foremost, is there going to be a second Warbreaker?
Yes, but I can't promise when. I want to do a book that deals more with the Lifeless and Nightblood, following Vasher and Vivenna a little further. But the WoT made me shelf this project for now. We'll see. It should happen eventually.
Are you annoyed that people call you BS? After all your initials aren't the most flattering acronym.
Honestly, I've lived with it all of my life. I've been called that since grade school. Heck, I sign my books with my initials. So no, it doesn't bother me.
As The Gathering Storm draws near release, there are many WOT fans that have a large worry that you will not do RJ justice and ruin his series (especially after 4 years of waiting). How big of a worry is this for you, having to fill his shoes, and what are you doing to prepare yourself?
They are right to worry, and I don't blame them at all. They have no assurance whatsoever that I won't ruin their book—the past has proven, I think, that series get ruined more than they get saved when a new author steps in.
I hope, very sincerely, to be in the second category, the one who saves a series rather than kills it. But only November will offer any proof other than my word, and I fully expect people to worry right up until they've read the novel.
The only preparation a person could really have for something like this was to be a lifelong fan. I think this book is good. I think it is VERY good. I'm not worried any more myself, though I was quite worried when I began.
What can I offer fans right now? Only the promise that the book has had Harriet and Mr. Jordan's assistants working from the beginning to make certain I didn't screw it up. Beyond that, I've made it my first priority to stay true to his wishes and notes, and not deviate unless there is a very, very good reason.
(The only times I've 'deviated' was in to offer more explanation or depth to a scene. I haven't cut anything he wanted to be in the book, save for a few places where he contradicted himself. I.E. There were some scenes where he said "I'm thinking of doing this or this" or "I'm thinking of doing this, but I don't know." In those places, I've made the final call.)
All I can ask is this. Give me a chance. Read the book. After that, we'll talk.
(The most stressful part is probably the realization that no matter what I do, I won't be able to please everyone. Robert Jordan couldn't do that himself. So I will fail some of you. But I hope to please the vast majority of you.)
How do you come up with and create the maps for your novels? Is it a process of thought while creating the story itself or does it come later once you've written the story as a means to depict the places you've written about? Also do you scetch [sic] them yourself before having them drawn or is the process usually entirely done by a separate artist?
I usually sketch myself out something vague to use as reference, then make it more and more detailed as I work through the book. At that point, I approach and artist and have them help me come up with a good visual style for the book and the map. If it's an artist I know well, I can sometimes let them do more of the work—the Mistborn maps, for instance, were developed by Isaac with very little input from me beyond the text and some basic instructions.
Do you have a "drawer-full" of ideas waiting to be put to paper?
More like a brain-full, but yes. It's particularly bad now as I had to shelve a number of projects I was working on in order to do the WoT. I don't regret it at all, but those stories keep pounding on the inside of my skull, yelling and begging for me to let them out.
As a writer, what's your favorite part of the process?
The first few chapters of a new book. When the world is exciting and new, and I get to do something different and challenging.
What is the best part about promoting your books? (in your opinion)
Easy. Meeting my readers and having the chance to thank them, in person, for supporting me in my writing addiction.
Are you comfortable working with editors and marketing people by now?
Yes, actually. I've always been very comfortable with that part of the job. I think that after working so long on my own, being ignored, I was just finally happy to HAVE editors and marketing people.
What was the journey like when you first sought publication?
Long, frustrating, and difficult. I wrote 13 novels before I sold Elantris, which was my sixth. The big change for me happened when I managed to figure out how to revise. I always had good ideas and got better and better at storytelling. But it was the power of revision that finally got me published.
How long did it take?
About eight years of dedicated writing and being rejected.
I'd wager not long, considering how well written Elantris is. =)
You're too kind. But remember that it was my sixth book. The first ones were dreadful.
Also just some technical questions—did you get noticed from JABberwocky from a cold-query or did you have connections?
Originally, I queried. I got turned down. I then met Joshua at the Nebula awards and he told me to query again. That time, he liked the query and read sample chapters—then rejected those, but told me to submit to him what I wrote next. That happened a number of times, each book getting a rejection—but stronger encouragement that I was getting closer.
The question I have for you is will we ever get to know what Hoid's purpose is? He shows up in each of the books, presumably looking for something or on some kind of mission. (Lerasium bead?)
Will Hoid have a short story, novel or will we have to try and piece it together?
There will someday be Hoid short stories. I've actually written half of one and then haven't been able to have time to finish it. He will also have short viewpoints throughout the Stormlight Archive series, assuming he survives.
Mostly this is for you to piece together. As I said before, this is a story I'm telling, and if I have to explain the story outside the story, then in some ways I've done something wrong. So let the story speak for itself, and you will see. I guess that's a RAFO.
It was said throughout the book that you cannot just give some of your breath, but must give all of it. Perhaps I'm simply forgetting part of the book where this changes, but wouldn't Vasher have to give his Returned breath along with his others?
The "You must give up all of your Breath, not some" line was mostly perpetuated by Denth, who is saying it to Vivenna to stop her from giving away her Breath to all the people she passes. It is a lie. Now, it's a lie that's commonly accepted by a lot of people. But it's still a lie—as we find out midway through the book, you can stick some of your Breath in an object and bring it to life, and then recover that Breath. So it's very easy to give some of your Breath to someone if you know the logical steps to take. Invest most of it into an object, give what you have to someone else, then pull back what you Invested. So it's flat-out proven in the novel that what Denth is telling her is wrong. Now, he could dance around that lie by pretending to be the ignorant mercenary—he's just perpetuating a falsehood that many people believe. But it is a lie. In fact, a lot of the things people believe about BioChromatic Breath isn't true.
One of the things I was trying with this book was to take a few steps back from MISTBORN, where so much was understood. I feel that the approach I took in MISTBORN is right for that book, and yet people have so much superstition regarding all sorts of science. I worry sometimes that there isn't enough superstition in my books, regarding magic as science. What people believed and what people knew and what people understood was so varied and confused throughout most of history, that I worry that I lack realism in that. Vasher brings up at several points in the book that they don't know a whole lot and that people perpetuate a lot of myths and stories and lies.
Vasher has learned to suppress his Returned Breath. When it's suppressed, it's as if it doesn't exist to him. He's Invested it into a place within himself, much like you can Invest your Breaths into a shirt, and when he gives away the rest of his Breaths, he doesn't give that one away. He could split off others of his Breaths if he wanted to—he's learned to do that, so that he could give a few Breaths and not all. It's just a matter of practicing as long as he has. But even people who aren't as practiced as him do it all the time when they Invest an object with not all of their Breath but just enough to bring it to life
I was wondering how the animation of the lifeless statues worked, in regard to the use of Susebron's Breath. If they were lifeless, then vasher wouldn't have been able to take his Breath back out of them, nor would susebron have needed such a great deal of breath to revive them—he just would have needed a password. But if they were simply Awakened, no password would have been necessary to animate the statues, just Breath and Command.
It seems like the statues could be neither lifeless nor awakened. Are they unique, because of the use of bone, or am I missing something? The only other explanation I could think of was that they were lifeless, but Susebron's breath wasn't used to activate the statues, he simply had it passed down from vasher, in addition to the statues. If that's the case(and then I've simply been confusing myself with unnecessary, convoluted logic), why was it necessary to keep the breath safe for all these years?
Wow, there are a lot of questions in there. If you follow the drafts, I think you can see the evolution of what became of the Lifeless army. Originally I had planned for the statues to simply have been placed there so that you could Awaken them—just in my original concepts, before I started the writing—and then that became the army.
I eventually decided that didn't work for various reasons. Number one, as I developed the magic system, Awakening stone doesn't work very well. You've got to have limberness, you've got to have motion to something for it to actually be stronger. So a soldier made out of cloth would be more useful to you than a soldier made out of stone, if you were just Awakening something. At that point, as I was developing this, I went back to the drawing board and said okay, I need to leave him a whole group of really cool Lifeless as the army. But that had problems in that the ichor would not have stayed good long enough. Plus they already had a pretty big Lifeless army, so what was special about this one? Remember, I'm revising concepts like this as the book is going along. You can see where in the story I could see what needed to be there. So I went back to the drawing board again.
I think the original draft of WARBREAKER you can download off my website has them just as statues, though at the time when I was writing that I already knew it would need to change. I was just sticking to my outline because I needed to have the whole thing complete on the page before I could work with it. A lot of times that's how I do things as a writer—I get the rough draft down, and then I begin to sculpt.
I eventually developed essentially what you've just outlined in the first part, before you started worrying if you were too convoluted. I said, well, what if there's a hybrid? What happens if you Awaken bones? Can you create something? The reason that you can't draw the Breath back from a Lifeless is because the Breath clings to it. If the Lifeless were sentient enough, it could give up its own Breath, but you can't take it, just like you can't take a Breath from a person by force. You have to get them to give it up willingly. So it sticks to the Lifeless. A Lifeless is, let's say, 90% of a sentient being. The Breath doesn't manifest in them, because they aren't alive, yet they're almost there. A stone statue brought to life would be way down on the bottom rung.
Is there something in between? That's the advancement I had Vasher discover—what if we build something out of bone, but then encase it in stone to make it strong, and build it in ways that the bone is held together by the force of the Breaths? That's really what you're getting at there, that you need a lot of Breath, a lot of power, to hold all that stone together. There are seams at the joints. What the Breath is doing is clinging there like magical sinew, and it's holding all of that together.
Vasher left the Phantoms Invested with enough Breath to hold them together but not to move. You needed another big, substantial influx of Breath in order to actually make them have motion, to bring them enough strength to move and that sort of thing. So it's kind of a hybrid.
Also, would the Elantrians and the Lerasium-mistings be considered Slivers? Or is just the Lord Ruler and Vin Slivers (Via the Well)? Or do you need more power to be considered a Sliver?
Elantrians are not slivers. Mistborn trilogy spoiler warnings follow! The Lord Ruler was indeed a Sliver. So was Vin. For the rest, I would say probably not.
What defines an actual Sliver of Adonalsium is not as clear-cut as you might think. It's a term that in-universe people who study this have applied to various existences and states. Every single person on the world of Scadrial has a bit of Leras in them—a bit of the power of Preservation. Every single person has a bit of Ati in them. There's a certain threshold where these scholars would call you a Sliver of Adonalsium. But I would say that any regular Misting is probably not a Sliver. A full Lerasium Mistborn is getting closer, but people who have held one of the powers are what would probably be termed a Sliver by the definitions. If you hold all the power that makes you a Shard, but the Lord Ruler held a little bit of it and then let it go. From then on they referred to that change in him—the residue, what was left—as a Sliver. When he held it he became the Shard for a short time, and Vin was a Shard for a short time. After Vin gave up the power, what Kelsier is at the end of the trilogy—that's a Sliver of Adonalsium.
What do the Pahn Kahl believe in? All we seem to know is that they are similar to the Iridescent Tones. Any more info?
I was going to get into this more in the sequel, because we would have some more Pahn Kahl people. Anytime I'm saving something for a sequel, I feel like I shouldn't say too much because I don't want to lock myself in. Let's say that it's like the Iridescent Tones, but without the god-worship of the Returned. More worship in the concepts, and more of a focus on the voice itself.
One thing to remember about the Pahn Kahl is that they've kind of lost a lot of it. By letting themselves get so focused on the enemy that conquered them, they've actually ended up losing much of who they were. Not everything, of course, but substantial portions of who they were have gotten swept under the rug and consumed in their desire to get their freedom. Which is an important thing, but they've let it consume them to pretty extreme levels.
I was talking with a couple of others in another chat room about Vivenna and Siri's personal journeys in the book, especially at the end when Vivenna decides that she isn't going to write to her father in Idris. There was much debate over whether Vivenna was being childish and running away from responsibility, or if she realized that she was so drastically different from who she was before that she knew she was going to disappoint her father and family. As the author, what is your take on this scene regarding Vivenna's growth as a person?
I would say yes to both. Vivenna ends the book having experienced a great deal of personal growth. However, unlike some of the other characters, she is only a few rungs up the ladder. She's got a long way to go. That's why as I was plotting the book, before I even started, I decided I'd probably want to do this as a two-book cycle. Overlapping and forcing upon Vivenna the level of personal growth that it would take to get her character to completely reach an end point just couldn't happen in the book. Particularly with me doing what I did with Lightsong and the personal arc he has, and with Siri. So Vivenna certainly had a lot of growth, but I planned a separate book where I could really delve into and dig into her psychoses and her psychology.
Vasher still has a long way to go too. His personal growth is more like a zigzag pattern—a line graph with lots of peaks and valleys. He's been around and still hasn't really found himself, though he's thought he's found himself a number of times. Anyway, those two characters led me to think that there was a lot more to explore there. I didn't want to ram them through the paces it would take in this one book. I thought it would ruin the book. So I let them grow at the rate they needed to grow at, or decline at the rate they needed to decline at, and saved a second book in the series to deal more with who they are and who they become.
This has probably been asked before, I was wondering since Mistborn, Warbreaker and Elantris share the same Cosmere, is it possible we will see people with certain abilities cross over into other worlds from other series?
I think I've said enough about that here. More than that is a RAFO.
I'd like to ask what led to this decadence in the Iridescent Tones, what were the social causes? It started out as the Cult of the Returned, and a simple faith in caring for the Returned so they'd live long enough to fulfill their purpose. And I assume the Voice even sends them back without memories exactly to foster this faith and hope in people, so that mortals can be part of their salvation instead of just getting divine hand-outs. That sounds really nice. But by the time we reach the events in Warbreaker, a lot of corruption and cynicism has found its way in, no?
Yes, it has. Part of it is something that Lightsong points out. Their religion encourages the best of the Returned to give up their lives for their people, and they hit a patch where a lot of the best of them have already given up their lives. The rest have their needs and wants seen to. Beyond that, remember this is a society in which they're living in a very temperate climate where there isn't very much harsh weather at all; they're very sheltered, they have an extremely rich resource, and they have a lot of leisure time. So we're mixing leisure time with a somewhat selfish batch of Returned in control, and we're mixing that with a religion that focuses on art and beauty and that sort of thing.
I think one of the dangers this society would have to be worried about would be for this decadence to creep in as has happened at various points in various cultures around the world. The society certainly isn't irredeemable at all, but it is going through a patch of these three concepts aligning in some of the worst sorts of ways. But there are some better Returned than we focus on in the book, and there have been much better Returned in the past.
My question: What exactly does the Mistborn sequel series entail?
Several hundred years after the original trilogy—Spoiler alert!—Wait, aren't these questions supposed to be about WARBREAKER?
Anyway, the Mistborn sequel trilogy, as I've said before, takes place in a more technologically advanced version of the world, several hundred years later. They've progressed beyond steam technology to combustion engine technology, are building skyscrapers—that level of technology. It will follow the exploits of a team of Allomancers who are kind of like an Allomantic SWAT team, a group of hybrid mercenary/deputized individuals who are brought in by the police to take out Allomancer criminals. The first book will deal with when they are called in to deal with a Mistborn serial killer. That's how it starts. It will go bizarre from there, of course, but think guns, cars, skyscrapers, and Allomancers.
I have read Elantris, the Mistborn Trilogy and Warbreaker and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. But I have to say, The portion of Chapter 33 with Hoid (or Dust) the storyteller was a painful experience and I was glad you never brought him back. What was the idea or point of him pulling things from his pocket and dropping it on the ground? I feel like I missed some theme or clues here.
That was simply a way that he tells stories—there was no particular theme other than that. He throws puffs of different-colored dust into the air as he's speaking to try and evoke the feelings of the story that he's telling. Sorry it didn't work for you; not everything is going to work for everyone, but this is how he does it.
Do you plan to annotate Warbreaker?
I've written annotations for WARBREAKER already. There is supposed to be a special edition WARBREAKER e-book from Tor.com coming that will include all the annotations right there with the text, but I'm not sure when it will appear. The annotations will still go up chapter-by-chapter on my website, but if you get the special edition e-book you can have them all at once. We'll see when that happens
This question delves into religion greatly since I spent a good portion of my free time studying theology. Besides that, being a Christian, I sighted many interesting pieces in "Warbreaker," about the pitfalls of blind faith.
I'm wondering if you are criticizing some religious sects who elevate themselves as God though use God or some other deity as a method of control. With more relevance to the Christian faith, are we seeing the consequences of humans who rely on human reasoning for their understanding of God, an often superficial explanation?
Religious themes are interesting to me. I rarely go into a book saying, "I am going to expose this foible of religion" or "I am going to highlight this wonderful part of religion." I go into a book telling stories about characters, and the ways that they believe and the things that they believe have an effect on them. I try to present those as realistically as possible.
I do think that there is a dangerous line between faith and what goes beyond that. You call it blind faith, yet at the same time there is something to be said for trusting those who have gone before and for not having to fall in a pit yourself because other people already fell in that pit. Where that line comes is a subject of great debate between religious people and non-religious people. I do think that questions should always be allowed and should always be asked. It is important to be asking questions.
I don't really mind how people believe, or what faiths people have. I think it's a fascinating part of us, that we all have different faiths. Where we stray into danger is in how we treat people who don't agree with our faiths. That, I think, is a very dangerous and frightening thing—the ways that various people treat others who disagree with them. No matter what side you're on, whether they belittle them, discard them, or destroy them, these various things are one of the great pitfalls of any type of belief or faith. So I deal with that. But again it's not because I sit down and say, "I am now going to write a book about this, or tell a story about this." It's because that's what's important to the characters I'm writing.
That said, when I was approaching WARBREAKER, I did think distinctly to myself, "You know, religion's been the bad guy in the past two stories you've told. You probably ought to do something different." That's why the—Spoiler alert!—the religion in WARBREAKER is vindicated in the end. I think there are some very good things about their religion, and though Siri is convinced that they are the bad guys, it turns out that indeed they are not. In fact, they are quite good...though there are certain things they're doing that I wouldn't necessarily agree with.
I was wondering if you had any certain inspiration for Adonalsium, Hoid, and the Cosmere other than the concept of a Creation story itself. To clarify, I guess I'm asking if you had any other author you read as an aspiring author that did anything similar.
There are certainly authors who have done this sort of thing before. I generally tend to react against what inspires me instead of toward it. I've talked about this before—if I think someone does a very good job with something, I'll try to approach it from a different direction because I figure they've covered that concept. At other times, if an author does something that I thought could have been way cooler, then I will react I guess in that direction...I don't know if that's a reaction for or against.
Asimov eventually had an overarching plot/universe. Stephen King did it. Other authors have done it, but they have not planned it from the beginning. As well as Asimov did with some of the concepts, I was always disappointed in his attempts to bring all of his stories together into one world because it just wasn't meant to be that way, and it felt like that. It felt clunky—I've always preferred the early robot stories and the early Foundation books to the later ones.
So I felt that if I was going to have a supermyth, so to speak—an overarching paradigm for these books—it would have to have a number of things. One, it would have to be limited in scope, meaning I wasn't going to try to cram everything into it. That's why ALCATRAZ is not involved in any of this. Number two, I would have to plan it from the beginning, and number three, I would want it to be subtle. In other words, I don't want it to come to dominate any of the stories because I want the books, the series, to stand on their own. I want this to be something that you can find if you're searching, but that will never pull the characters of a given book away from the focus on what is important to them.
Can you explain the process that you go through to come up with your magic systems. So many fantasy books today have a "black box" type of magic system — in that you don't know how things happen but the caster just suddenly shoots a fireball out of his arse. Yours are in—depth and set out a very distinct give and take that the reader can understand.
All of your systems are unique, so again, how do you get to the point where you have a complete magic system that you feel is ready to put into a book. Since this is a discussion about Warbreaker, how specifically did you come up with biochroma?
I don't know if I can answer that question in the short space afforded by a discussion forum. But in general with my magic systems I'm looking for a variety of components. Most of them start with just an "Aha, there's something there!" moment in my head—either it's a plot hook or a conflict hook or a visual hook or something like that. I'm usually looking for something that does what I find exciting about magic, which is straddling the line between mysticism and science. And I'm looking for new ways to explore that. So when an interesting scientific concept occurs to me, and I can take it in the direction of "what if," that's something that I find fascinating.
For MISTBORN, for instance, telekinesis mixed with vector science was interesting to me. In WARBREAKER it was the concept of sympathetic magic—the idea that you can create something that's like something else and it will have power over that. I wanted to try and take it in a direction I hadn't seen before and blend that with the concept of animation, bringing inanimate objects to life. Those were interesting concepts because at one point people believed in both of these things as real forms of magic. They believed they could make it work. The myth of the golem goes way back, and the idea of sympathetic magic was around not too long ago—in fact there are still plenty who believe in it, in various forms of superstition.
So I look for a blend of concepts. I usually look for an interesting visual paradigm—something that will work in a way that helps the reader visualize the magic. I don't want it to all happen nebulously in the back of someone's head. (And speaking of rear-end fireballs, I do believe I read a webcomic where someone did that. It was Thog Infinitron...I guess it wasn't a fireball.) But anyway, I'm looking for something that you can see and follow the process of what the character's doing in a way that makes sense.
I find that if there's one thing to take away from this, limitations on magic are more interesting than the powers themselves. And so I'm always looking for interesting limitations, because that forces me to be creative and forces my characters to be creative with what they have.
While I loved Mistborn and am excited to see you optioned the film rights already, I think that Warbreaker would translate to film even more easily/successfully
So I guess my question is, do you agree that Warbreaker will translate to film better? Did you discuss this with the Paloppa Guys? Which of your works do you think is most "marketable" as a medium—to—big—budget film?
I think the magic system of WARBREAKER is certainly better suited to film than a lot of the MISTBORN magic system. However, I think the plot and storytelling of MISTBORN—because of the action/adventure style of it—would translate better to film. Story structure-wise, MISTBORN, particularly the first book, is probably the best book-to-film translation I think I've got. I think WARBREAKER would make a wonderful graphic novel, and someday I would love to sell rights to it in that medium. And certainly if we make a MISTBORN film, the metals would have to work in a very different way. They would probably be understated in the film itself.
I don't know if I'm remembering this right but I thought I saw somewhere that you said that all your books (yours not WOT) are connected somehow. Is that right or am I going insane already?
All of my books share a single creation myth, a single cosmology. The connection of them—the greater world, the greater universe—they call the Cosmere. There is a character who has shown up in each of my epic fantasies, and it is the same person, not just a repeated name. Currently WARBREAKER, ELANTRIS, and the Mistborn trilogy do all share a common cosmology. My children's books are not part of the Cosmere.
If a Returned gives away his/her Breath they die right? So why doesn't Vasher die after he gives his to Denth?
They will die the moment they run out of Breath to harvest. Once a week their body needs a Breath in order to survive. Each Returned has one single superpowered Breath. Imagine it as one breath that propels them up through the Heightenings, but it is only a single Breath. It's what we speak of in Shard world terminology as a Splinter. And when the seventh day comes, if a Returned does not have another breath for his body to consume to keep him alive, his body will actually eat his divine Breath and kill him. So they don't die immediately after they get rid of the Breath, they're sort of put into a state of limbo where if they don't find more Breath by the time that their feast day comes, then they will die. (Vasher did not give his Returned Breath to Denth, just a number of normal Breaths.)
All your novels are tied together by an overarching magic system, and we usualy see evidence of this in the form of the too-still pools of water. However we did not see any such bodies of water directly in Warbreaker. Is there such a pool in Warbreaker? Is that where the Tears of Edgli grow?
Wow. I've got some very perceptive readers.
This is speculation that I will neither confirm nor deny.
Does Endowment have some physical presence in the book similar to Ruin=Atium, etc?
Endowment does have such a thing, but it does not appear onscreen in the novel WARBREAKER.
The paintings (I think there were at least two, right?) that remind Lightsong of his dreams and the Manywar etc. Is the Artist someone we know? If not, will we eventually meet him/her in a later book? Does the artist hope to affect Lightsong this way, or is it just some guy giving abstract art to his God?
Is the artist that painted those paintings Hoid?
Hoid did not make the paintings. The goal of those paintings—and this is spoilery, by the way—the paintings are actually what the text implies that they are. They are abstract paintings which Lightsong, having a touch of the divine, is able to see and read into things that aren't necessarily there.
Beyond that, art is a magical thing in the world of WARBREAKER. When an artist creates a work of art, part of the artist's soul ends up in the artwork. Someone who has many breaths and who's Returned like Lightsong has the inherent ability to see into the art and perceive that. So Lightsong can interpret correctly an abstract piece, based on what the artist is trying to convey, in a way that a normal person couldn't.
I was not trying to make the artists anyone specifically important. In the case of those paintings, they are wonderful artists—I think they are two separate artists, if I'm thinking of the two paintings that you're indicating. As Lightsong has a splinter of divine nature inside him, he is able to interpret the paintings—to foresee, using them, and to see into the soul of the person who made them.
I've seen in reviews of Mistborn that a criticsm that pops up from time to time is that you tend to repeat the basic principles of the magic system. I've seen that some feel hit over the head with it. Personally, I liked that fact since the magic system was new and it helped me to remember and understand.
I'm also seeing criticsm now with Warbreaker that the magic system isn't explained enough to thoroughly understand it. I've pointed out in discussions that not even Vasher understands it all.
But here's my question: Did criticsm of the magic system's explanations in Mistborn have anything to do with Warbreaker having considerably less explanation in its magic system?"
Wow, that's a very detailed and interesting question. The answer is no.
...Okay, there's more to that answer. I accepted the criticisms of the Mistborn books with the knowledge that there was really no other way around it—the way I was writing those books and the complexity of the magic system made me feel like I needed to give those hints. It's not like I'm trying to write down to the lowest denominator, but at the same time I want to make sure that the complicated magic system is a force driving the book—and is something interesting rather than something confusing. Across a three-book epic like that I wanted to make sure that I was not leaving people behind. That's always a balance in a book series. And I don't know where to set that balance. In fact, I think the balance is going to be different for every person. Any given book that you read, some people are going to find it overexplained and some people are going to find it underexplained. I'm always trying to strike the right balance, particularly for the tone of a given book, to make that work for the novel.
With Warbreaker, as you've pointed out, the magic system is much less understood by the poeple taking part in it. In the Mistborn books the magic system is very well understood. Even though there are little pieces of it that people don't know yet, those peices are easy to grasp and understand and use once people figure out what they are. In the Mistborn books the world is in a state where people have spend 1000 years using this magic system and perfecting it and understanding it. In Warbreaker, they haven't. They still don't know much about what's going on. It's very mysticized. People haven't sat down and spent enough time pursuing scholarly research about it, figuring it out. Beyond that there's no immortal Lord Ruler figure explaining it all to them—or if there is, it's Vasher and he's not telling anyone. And so the magic in Warbreaker has a very different feel to it. I wanted it to be a little confusing, because it is confusing for the main characters.
I wouldn't say that the criticism of the Mistborn books is what drove me; the needs of the various plots is what drove me.
A common thread in both Warbreaker and the Mistborn Trilogy is religion. I really liked how you handled religion in both these books. Mistborn deals with religious searching and Warbreaker is more about religious tolerance. I've heard that you are a Mormon. How much does your faith influence your writing?
This is a surprisingly common question for people to ask me, and I'm always happy to answer it because my religion makes up a big part of who I am. Because I am religious myself, I am fascinated by religion. And so I think that the misuse of religion is a great evil, and the use of religion for good reasons is a great good. In fact, being a religious person, I think that the misuse of religion becomes a much more frightening thing than it might otherwise be, which is why you sometimes see religions as villains in my books. My religion shapes who I am, and it makes me interested in certain things; it makes me fascinated by certain things; it shapes my sense of right and wrong.
But I don't actually sit down and write books wanting to advocate any particular concept. I feel that when I write books I need to advocate whatever the character believes at the time. Now, what I feel is heroic may shape the characters I create as protagonists, but I don't think that the purpose of the fiction that I write is to preach directly to the reader. I think that the purpose of the fiction I write is to explore different concepts and different types of characters and see how they react to the world around them. And that's a very different thing than sitting down and saying I'm going to preach to people. So I don't think my religion causes me to do that, but I do think it causes me to be interested in these kinds of concepts.
I'm not even sure how to define myself. In some circles I come across as very conservative; in other circles I come across as very liberal. One of my core beliefs religiously is that I honestly don't mind you believing whatever you want to believe. What I mind is how you treat people who don't believe as you believe. That's what will get me going. So I don't judge someone based on their belief; I do judge them based on how they treat people who believe differently than they do. (That's a concept, by the way, that you may see pop up in a book later on, because I'm actually quoting one of my characters in this case.)
I really enjoyed Warbreaker, especially the history of the Scholars and their relationships. Have you considered writing a prequel novel that would take place when Vasher, et al were much younger?
People ask me for prequels all the time. They've asked for MISTBORN prequels, ELANTRIS prequels, and now WARBREAKER prequels. My general answer to this is probably not—just because I as a reader don't like prequels. I'm one of those readers that if the ending is spoiled for me, in many ways that can ruin the book. Because of that it's hard for me to decide to write a prequel.
When I plan my books I design them to have a beginning, a middle, an end, and a past and a future. I know what happened in the past. I know what will happen in the future. I could always write that, and I won't rule it out 100% completely. But telling the story of the Five Scholars is not something I sat down to do with WARBREAKER. I had that all worked out; I knew what they did. The exciting story I wanted to tell is the one that happened in the book. There is a good chance of a sequel, but a prequel is unlikely. If I did do a prequel it would probably be in short story form posted for free on my website.
Do you ever plan to use bio‐chroma again? It'd be a shame to see such an interesting and original idea left with a single book.
It is unlikely that I will use this magic system in a different book because it is distinctly tied to that particular Shard. The sequel likelihood is good. There is more to tell in this world, so there is a decent chance I will return and do a second WARBREAKER book (I've been calling it NIGHTBLOOD when I've mentioned it before). That isn't to say that there will never be magic systems that will repeat across series—in fact there's a decent chance that will happen—but I'm not going to say any more on that right now.