What is the single most interesting thing in the debris field around Detritus? Either in the ground or in the shells.
In the shells? Probably the slugs.
What is the single most interesting thing in the debris field around Detritus? Either in the ground or in the shells.
In the shells? Probably the slugs.
What's the inspiration for Lift? Because she's super crazy and unique.
The absolute first was when I was designing the Knights Radiant, I said: I need to have a variety - I need to have older Knights Radiant and I need to have younger Knights Radiant. She grew - like a lot of my characters - out of me naturally trying some viewpoints, practicing different characters, and seeing where it goes, eventually landing on what I thought worked. And I really wanted her to be different, so.
So, you wanted her to be a gremlin?
You have mentioned that the Shards... they did not make an oath to have only one per planet, although the suggestion was made. Have any of the Shards made an oath that has bound themselves, expecting the others to follow suit?
Yes. Oaths have been made, that have been unwise oaths. You have even seen one of those - the oath between Ruin and Preservation. But that's not the only example of oaths being used in ways that bind the Shards in ways they weren't expecting.
So, Sel: Investiture has been pushed into the Cognitive Realm. Threnody: Has it seen something similar?
It has not seen... Okay. Yes, something similar. It would count. Something similar, yes.
If that's the case, what would happen if you were to push Investiture into the Physical Realm?
It generally manifests either as a solid, liquid, or gas
I thought about that. I was like, "We've seen that," but it seemed like a concentrated form. What if you did for like a whole Shard?
That would probably have disastrous effects.
That's why I was thinking for Threnody, but if it hasn't been that, then something else happened.
It hasn't been that. Something else happened.
In the Stormlight Archive series, we have not yet seen Vasher or Vivenna Awakening.
You have seen Vivenna Awaken stuff, technically. She is Awakening part of her... what's she doing, she's got her cloak out and stuff. You see <very> glimpses of it in the [third] book, so you technically have seen her. You've also seen Hoid Awakening in the epilogue. So yes, you can Awaken on Roshar, it's just been really subtle so far.
So, does the Investiture just feed off of the...
You can make a Returned feed off of Stormlight very easily. You can't use Stormlight to power Awakening very easily, but if you still have those Breaths, you can use them and reclaim them.
I was wondering if there were any more Doomslugs or if it's the last of its kind.
There are more Doomslugs. Read more and you'll find out about them.
In Vol. 2 of White Sand, there is a character named Trell. Is that intentional?
Yes, that is intentional, but the connections are a little more obtuse than you may be expecting.
So Bavadin's avatars, right; Autonomy's avatars.
One of Bavadin's avatars.
Of those avatars, are some or all of them actual Splinters of Autonomy?
The terminology gets kind of sticky here. In Cosmere terms, some would say that counts as Splinters, some would say not. The avatars aren't necessarily aware but Bavadin always is. A lot of people in Cosmere would call that a Splinter.
My follow up to that would be, is it possible for a person to Ascend and become a Vessel of one of those Splinters?
That is plausible. Yes. It could happen. It would be tough because they will have personalities of their own and so something would need to happen... but yeah.
Does Hoid pay taxes?
Hoid does not pay many taxes at all. If he pays taxes, it comes in the form of something you wouldn't want to get from him. He pays taxes like cats pay taxes.
I'm an aspiring writer and I really relate to one of your characters that has really smart days and really stupid days. I feel like I've had maybe a handful of really smart days and every other day, I just feel like an idiot and I don't know what I'm doing. I wonder if that's you maybe writing some of yourself into the story or into that character...
Yeah. Yeah. Totally.
...and how have you gotten over those stupid days.
I actually got it… Howard Taylor, who's a cartoonist friend of mine, one time was talking about, on our podcast, how some days he just feels dumb. And I'm like, I feel like that sometimes too. Sometimes, it's not working. It's not flowing. What I've found with writing is—now your mileage may vary—readers can't generally tell which of the two it was. It's more in your mind and more about your mood than it is about the actual quality of what you're writing. What's happening is on some days, you're just upbeat and you see what you're doing is working. And on other days, you're doing basically the same thing but you're a little bit down and your minds like "Oh, this is terrible. You are crap. No one's ever going to want to read this" and the truth is that it's actually still pretty good. The other thing that causes that a lot is… particularly if I'm reading something really good, like I go read a Terry Pratchett novel… and then I go to write and I'm like, "What am I even doing?" What you're doing there is you're comparing your first draft to published, final drafts by authors who've been doing this for 40 years and that's just not a fair comparison to you. If you want to go read my terrible first story that I wrote, the one that won the award, you can read that be like, "This is what Sanderson was writing? I'm better than this!", and you probably are. In fact, I hope you are. I would recommend trying to silence that voice as opposed to trying to reach for the smart days or not because the truth is, you're probably just as smart on both days; you're just feeling down. And instead, try to look for some of the things I talked earlier. The idea of creating good habits. Knowing the things that you can do that put you in the mood to actually do what you want to do. Listening to music will do it for me. Going on a walk, if I'm having trouble while listening to that music and if it's the right epic music. My playlists are on Spotify by the way, the stuff that I do this with. Just look for "Stormlight 3 writing soundtrack" and I have on for Skyward, too, that I think I posted. Just listen to whatever works for you. But you have to find out what tricks yourself like I talked about earlier. Every writer feels this, you are not alone, and that part of your brain is probably wrong.
What criticism of your work do you feel is the most apt?
There's a bunch of them. I would say that the criticisms of my handling of Mat in the Gathering Storm are pretty on point. I actually had an inkling before I released the book that they were because some of the beta readers had told me. But, I didn't know how to do it better yet. Generally, my weakest part of my books is probably going to be the prose. I strive for what we call Orwellian prose which is Windowpane prose where the prose is transparent and you can see the story happening on the other side. But, a lot of times, if you come to some of my prose, I repeat too many words, too often. We try to watch for those and things. But you're not going to go to a Brandon Sanderson novel and very often get the really beautiful prose that you're going to get like from a Pat Rothfuss book or something like that. It's partially a stylistic choice on my part but it's a stylistic choice because I know where my strengths lie, if that makes sense. So, I think that's a pretty valid criticism. The other thing would probably be that Stormlight is really hard to get into. That's by—not by design, in that I don't want a book that's hard to get into. But the story I wanted to tell was one that was hard to get into. If that make sense. It's kind of like a drawback of the story that I didn't want to change because it would make it a different story. But it's totally a legit drawback to getting into Stormlight. There's a lot of stuff to track. I wanted to be upfront with it because the whole series was going to involve a lot to track but there are people for whom Stormlight is just not the book for them.
It's known you're a big fan of Magic the Gathering and that you like house Dimir and you wrote Davriel Cane's planeswalker. Are you ever going to work with Wizards of the Coast again? And then things about Magic. It's known you play some, where would we find information on that?
Will I every work with Magic again? I probably will. I usually can't leave well enough alone. But the thing is, I wrote that story (which you guys can read, it's called Children of the Nameless, it's free online), I wrote that instead of doing other stuff I was kind of supposed to be doing. It is what has put me behind like on Wax and Wayne, which I wanted to have done before the next Stormlight. So, it's not likely that I will do it anytime soon. I need to catch up on things. What I would really like to do is, sometime, kind of go in at the planning stage for a plane. Like, right at the beginning, and maybe even write a book and be like, "This is set on a plane, let's use this to build the mythology of a plane," or something like that, and kind of be in from the ground up on it. But I would probably have to move to Seattle for, like, 6 months for that. So that's far off in the future.
If you want to play Magic with me, once in a while, I play at local game stores. I go to Game Grid now and then. Mostly I like to draft or to cube draft. You can watch me cube drafting online. The latest newsletter has a link to a place, some people I went and drafted with. It has been harder and harder. Early in my career, when nobody knew who I was, it was great because the signings, I would get there at 7, and they'd get done at like 8:30. And then I'd be like, "Hey! Who wants to play Magic?" and there would usually be some people who went like, "Yeah! Let's go play Magic!" We'd go to like the hotel and sit in the lobby and play Magic and stuff. Nowadays, my signings get done at like 4am. So yeah, that just doesn't happen as much anymore. Sorry about that.
Is it true that there's a mural of the cosmere in your basement?
There is not a mural of the cosmere in my basement. Isaac is painting a mural of the Stormlight Archive Roshar map, but that's not in my basement. There will probably be a mural in my basement as we're finishing the office but it's probably going to be a Van Gogh.
Is M-Bot your ideal own pet dragon, essentially?
Yeah, M-Bot's pretty close. I've mentioned before that M-Bot came from me basically writing a dragon story but with a spaceship instead.
If a Mistborn were to burn a piece of a Shardblade, what would happen?
This would be hard to make happen, but it would be possible. A Shardblade is going to act as, basically, an alloy of the god metal of Honor and so what would it do? RAFO, but it is possible and it would do something. It would not be inert. It would be Allomanticaly viable.
How does a Rithmatist draw a Mark's Cross structure if they can't cross their own Lines of Forbiddance?
You can get it right up close, and I kind of made it my mind that if you get right up close it kind of snaps together. That was my work around for it, that you can get up and make it. It's also like a magnetism thing where you can kind of push into it a little bit. The harder you push, the more force it pushes back on them.
So those were my workarounds in my head. That one actually didn't strike me until I was halfway through the book and I was like "Hey wait a minute, how do you actually make this line work?" So I kind of put those two things on it. That's the in-world in but I didn't talk about it a ton in the books.
What's your favorite idea that you're never actually going to get around to writing?
That I'm never, or that I am eventually?
I always talk about my favorite idea that I haven't written yet which is the idea about the magic system that's based on diseases. Like, when you catch the common cold, you can fly but when you get over it, you lose the power. Which I just think would be kind of cool and kind of chaotic. I had another idea the other day that was really cool but it was for a video game. If I tell you, it would spoil it, so I'm not going to tell you that one. But, I don't know if I'll ever make this one, because I don't know if I will ever be able to make video games. I have tried and it has not worked, so we'll see.
On Earth, we have like snakes that have heat pits that can sense heat and bugs that see into ultraviolet. On Roshar, are there varieties of cremlings that can see Investiture.
Yes. <smug mhm-ing>
Do you know what Spensa's favorite color is?
Yes, blood red. <laughter and applause>. Yep, that one's pretty easy.
When will the second Rithmatist book come out?
So here's the deal with the Rithmatist. Rithmatist was the book I wrote right before the Wheel of Time hit me like a train going very fast. I was not expecting this in my life. The books I was working on at the time were the Liar of Partinel, which is Hoid's backstory, and the Rithmatist and both of these books got derailed to one extent or another by me dropping everything and working on the Wheel of Time. When I sat back down to write the Rithmatist 2, I had been derailed for so long and so much had happened in my life that the outline that I had just did not work. I wasn't pleased with it. It is one of things that I considered a mandate that I must do. I will finish it, but it's gonna take me a little bit more time. I've been trying to write things, like novellas, that don't promise sequels as much and finish off the things that did promise sequels. So I finished off Legion. The last Alcatraz book is basically done. It is called Bastille Versus the Evil Librarians or subtitle "Alcatraz Versus His Own Dumb Self." We're actually sending that off for artwork and things, so that should happen pretty soon. There's like one little scene that needs to be revised and then Rithmatist will be on the list of things to do. So, I promise it someday but I'm just not sure when. Stormlight 4 is going to take all my time for the next 7 months still, most likely. I won't be done with that until July 1st and then I really need to get the next Wax and Wayne book done and there are 2 more books of Skyward that I need to write. So, we'll see. My biggest goal is to not, whatever I do, let myself slip behind on Stormlight books because these kind of form the backbone currently of the cosmere sequence. So those can't come out less frequently than about once every 3 years. Once every 3 years is about as fast as I can do them. They take about 18 months and I need about 18 months off between them, otherwise I'll get burned out. There's an answer that's not a full answer for you. I'm sorry. It will happen. I'm not sure when.
What would happen if Nightblood was drawn inside of a perpendicularity?
It depends on the perpendicularity. It has a good chance of collapsing it.
In the Nalthis system, with the Cognitive Anomaly, does it orbit the star or is it stationary in space?
RAFO. Good question.
What would happen if Azure's sword was wielded against Nightblood?
If Azure's sword was wielded against Nightblood, terrible things would happen, but Nightblood would be the stronger of the pair. Good question.
Is soulstamping a form of corrupted Investiture?
Not in most instances, but it is possible to make it such.
Now, just another warning, that has huge continuity problems with what’s come before. I was really searching for getting sure I’d have Eshonai’s voice and I would be interested in making these flashbacks work, making sure that they would be really interesting to read for this book. So, don’t expect the final version to be quite like that. (That’s just to cover Karen. She hadn’t edited this or done her continuity edit, so you can’t go to her and say, “But Karen! Brandon said in the previous book that…” Don’t worry, I know.)
Eshonai had heard it said that mapping the world removed its mystery. Some of the other listeners in her camp insisted that the wilderness should be left wild, the place of spren and greatshells, and that by trying to lock it down into paper, they risked stealing its secrets. She found this to be flat-out ridiculous.
She attuned Awe as she entered the forest from the back way. Closer to the Shattered Plains, almost everything was flat, grown over only by the occasional rockbud. Yet here, not so far away, was a place where trees grew in abundance. She’d started her map by going around the perimeter of the forest until she found the river on the other side. Now, after a few days of walking, she intended to head back along the river until she came out on the other side, closer to her camp.
Everyone had been so worried about the storms and her being trapped in them alone. But she had been out in storms a dozen times in her life, and she had survived just fine. That had been without the forest here. These trees made a wall before the storm, like the ones that encircled the ten camps.
Those camp walls had fallen long ago, like most of the ancient listener creations. That was proof: you couldn’t steal the secrets from nature simply by exploring them. The mere thought was laughable. Yes, listeners could create mighty walls, but they were a poor imitation for what nature presented. This forest had likely stood when the ancient city at the center of the Plains had been new; and it stood, still, now that the city was little more than a scattering of lumps in the crem.
She settled down near a rock and unrolled her map, made from precious paper. Her mother was one of the few among all the camps who knew the song that outlined the steps in creating it. With her help, Eshonai had perfected the process, and made certain her cases were sealed against the rain. She used a pen and ink to sketch the path of the river as it entered the forest, then dabbed the ink until it was dry before rerolling the map.
Though she was confident, Resolve attuned, she did admit that the complaints of the others had seemed particularly bothersome to her lately.
“We know where the forest is! Why draw it out?”
“The river flows this direction. Everyone knows where to find it. Why bother putting it to paper?”
“You try to capture the songs, but the songs aren’t meant to be trapped. Save writing for marking debts. Don’t force something as alive as spren to become as dead as a sheet of paper.”
Too many of her camp wanted to pretend the world was smaller than it was. She was convinced that was why they continued to squabble and fight with the other camps. If the world consisted only of the ten camps and the ground around them, then fighting over that land made sense.
But their ancestors hadn’t fought one another. Their ancestors had united. Their ancestors had turned their faces to the storm and marched away, abandoning their very gods in the name of freedom.
Well, Eshonai would use that freedom. And with her maps, she would show the others, expand their minds, bring them with her next time she visited the forest, and would show them the wonders out here.
They would sit by the fire and complain that she was stealing Cultivation’s secrets away, never experiencing the beauty she offered, never knowing the best wonder of them all, the ultimate question: What will I discover next?
The river wound through the heart of the forest, and Eshonai mapped its course using her own methods of counting the distance and rechecking her work by surveying sites from multiple sides. It flowed after highstorms, but often continued for days once one had passed. Why? When all the water had drained away or been lapped up, why did this river keep going? Where did it start? Once she had this map done, she intended to head all the way up the river, further than she’d ever gone before, and try to figure out its origin. Rivers excited her. They were markers, guideposts, roadways. You could never get lost if you knew where the river was.
She stopped for lunch near one of the bends, and there discovered a type of cremling that was green, like the trees. She’d never seen one that shade before. She’d have to tell Venli.
“Stealing nature’s secrets?” she said to Annoyance. “What is a secret but a surprise to be discovered?” Making a map didn’t lock down or constrict the wonders of nature. Nature would keep on changing, growing and providing new wonders! All a map did was provide a path to experience them.
Finishing her steamed hasper, she put out her fire and continued on the way. By her guess, she could travel through here only a day and a half before reaching the other side. Then, if she rounded the other side of the forest, she’d have a finished picture of how this land looked. It might take months of work after that to map the interior of the forest; if it could be mapped. How would she keep from getting lost without the river to guide her or the edge of the forest to mark a barrier? Such an intriguing problem. Such a wonderful problem! There was so much to see, so much to know, and so much to do; and she was going to discover it all. She was going to…
What was that? She frowned, stopping in her tracks. The river wasn’t particularly strong right now; it would likely slow to a trickle by tomorrow. The trees grew far back from its banks, evidence that the flood during a highstorm was dangerous. That could be so loud, she could follow it from a distance, just by listening. Now, though, the water made barely a gurgle. And over it, she easily heard the shouts in the distance.
Had others come to find her? She’d told them not to expect her back soon. She hurried forward, in part overjoyed. If someone had come after her, perhaps they were growing more willing to explore.
It wasn’t until after she was almost to the sounds that she realized something was very wrong with them. They were flat, no hint of a Rhythm, as if they were not made by listeners, but by the dead.
A moment later, she rounded a bend and found herself confronted by something more wondrous and more terrible than she’d ever dared imagine.
I’m going to read to you from the flashback sequence from [Stormlight Four], and the flashbacks are being split between Eshonai and Venli.
Now, there’s some things to be aware of in this flashback. The first is that, when I wrote this, I was specifically trying to get the tone and character right, ‘cause I wasn’t sure if I was gonna do Eshonai or if I was gonna do Venli. Turned out that I decided to do a hybrid between them. But what that means is, when I wrote this scene in particular, I wasn’t really even planning for it to go in the book. What I was doing is searching for the tone.
Which means it has some continuity problems that I knew about, even when I started it. For instance, I think there might have been more people with Eshonai when this event happened, mentioned earlier. It may not happen at the time or place that it says in here. Basically, a version of this chapter will end up in the final book. But the actual exact details around it might change a lot.
The flashbacks tend to go through some of the most rigorous changes because of continuity. Because we have a whole timeline that Karen is very good at keeping track of. And when I write a chapter like this, I’m just not paying attention to it at all. I’m just ignoring it, ‘cause I want to see if the character works. But we’re gonna just see briefly from Eshonai here.
It's pronounced SAY zed. And his nickname Saze is pronounced SAYZ. Or in IPA it's ['sei̯.zɛd] and [sei̯z].
Actually his name was Senn all along and got changed to Cenn when a couple alpha readers thought it was too close to Szeth.
How did lerasium get its symbol when it was already in use as "A" during the Final Empire? Similarly, who decided in-world what symbol harmonium gets?
I imagine, like with a lot of symbols, these things grow organically in the world. With the alphabet... at some point, probably, what happened is: they had all of these symbols for the metals. And they started using them as an alphabet. And somebody along the line, probably under the Lord Ruler's watchful eye, assigned symbols for the different letters. And then as new metals are discovered, they just assigned symbols that hadn't been used for a metal.
So, probably what they did is, they said, "Okay, we know there are this many metals. We'll assign these symbols to letters. But hey, we have a lot more letters than we know of Allomantic metals, so we'll make more symbols." So they did. And then, as they found more Allomantically charged metals, then they would assign them the next one in line.
So, I imagine if we see more metals in the future in the books, that the letters that don't have metals associated with them will get assigned to metals. But that's what happened with lerasium.
What's going on with the "diya, tiya, niya, siya" at the bottom [of a prototype Steel Alphabet chart] there?
This was based originally, the sounds, and we kind of diverted from this direction... So, I was a missionary in the Philippines, and I speak Tagalog, and I was really interested in the way that old Tagalog has this symbol system, where they would put marks in different places, depending on which vowels and things. So those are Tagalog sounds right there, that they use in their language, and I just threw those in there as extra letters. I didn't know what we were gonna do yet.
The "diya" actually is a "J" sound. Tiya is a "CH" sound. "Ñ," we find that in Spanish, we find that in Tagalog. And then "Sh." But we didn't really go down that path completely. That was more experimentation. You can see here there's a letter "NG," which is another very common letter in Tagalog.
Have you ever considered making [the Steel Alphabet] into a TrueType font so people could just type in symbology?
So... we have one. We just haven't released it yet. And it's actually the Alloy era that we have in the font, because we needed it for the broadsheets that we do in those books. So we actually have that as a TrueType font that we use internally, but we haven't gone through all the things that we need to do to make it work nicely.
Do you have a "look bible" [for collaborating artists]? Or do you literally give them the stuff that you've already produced? Do you say, "This is my map of X," or "This is the way the Lord Ruler works," or do you kind of go, "Hey, here's what Vin has been for the last ten years, but these are the things you can't change"? Do you have guidance like that that you give people?
Usually the guidance we give them is the words in the book. We sometimes give pictures and things, reference. We did that for the cover for Oathbringer, where we provided reference of, "Here are some pictures of people who look kind of like Jasnah that might work." We're doing that more and more, but at this point...
I know that Magic: The Gathering has these big look bibles that they share with their artists, and those are really cool. And then they wind up turning them into these gorgeous art books that they've been putting out, using a lot of the same stuff from there. And we haven't gotten quite to that point where it's like, "You know what? This person has to look this particular way." We're moving that direction, slowly, but that's because we're based on books. We want people to be able to imagine the characters as they would.
We hesitate sometimes, when it's like, "Okay, here's the look of what this person is." Even with the Heralds, that we were putting at the endpapers of the Stormlight books, we are careful to say that those paintings are somebody's interpretation. We like ot think of these as in-world interpretations, and each of the artists who are painting them for us are maybe artists actually on Roshar, and they've painted these paintings that are hanging somewhere in some prince's palace or queen's palace, and they've got all of these pictures of the Heralds. So we treat these as in-world artifacts. However, they were not painted from the real people that the Heralds are, so it's more of the tradition of what this Herald looks like.
It's very interesting you say that, because you even said that, when you showed us your early sketches of Vin, looked very much like what [fan artists] made. So, the words are descriptive enough that they're fairly clear.
I mean, there are some thing that we have to canonize later, like, "Which ear is Vin's earring in?" Well, it's not mentioned. It's not mentioned until we got to the leatherbound books, and we said, "We have to figure this out!" And then we made a few notes in the leatherbound books, "This is her left ear." But there are things we run into like that. And the more secondary the character is, usually the less words that are written about them, so there's more wiggle room on how to define them.
Was Nazh married? Do you know how to pronounce the full name?
We call him Nazh (næz), and his name is Nazrilof (ˈnæzɹɪlɔf).
We're not ready to reveal whether he was married yet, or not. Or if he still is married. A lot of questions there. However, this is something that we are actively working on, is Nazh's backstory and Khriss's backstory right now. Actively working on them.
What's interesting about the difference between the classic era Allomancy symbols and the Alloy of Law era ones is, when you get to Alloy of Law, the rusty nails become railroad spikes almost, right?
Yep, they do. We codified that, we decided, "Okay, now they're turning these things into typefaces, they're turning them into fonts." We even have some that hopefully we'll use later in the 1980s era trilogy, Era 3, where we've made them really thick. They're just different font, too, we've been playing with different ideas of, "How would they use the Allomantic symbols as typefaces?"
Those dots [in Allomancy symbols] can move around. They are an alphabet, so you can use these as an alphabet to write things. And the placement of the dot will tell you where the vowel is that comes after it.
So, if you do tin and duralumin... tin is the "I." (It looked like an "I," so I assigned "I" to it. Plus, I thought it was cool. My name starts with an "I," and I wanted it). Duralumin is the letter for "S." And the ones that are not vowels, you can move the dot around for different things.
I think you can throw the dot outside of it, and it will make a different sound, and I can't remember. Like, it might go from "Sah" to "Say." And if you don't change it, then it just acts...
I think, on the Badali [rings], they're just transliterating it one-to-one.
I've always wondered if there was any rhyme or reason to the designs of the original Allomancy symbols. Do the number of spikes signify anything? The direction they're point? In, out, the number of dots, etc.
No. For the most part. If I remember right, some of them have the dot inside the circle, some of them have the dot outside of the circle. And that signifies whether they're a Pushing metal or a Pulling metal.
At one point, we were going to do little sketches in Mistborn, and then we decided on just symbols. But there were going to be little sketches in front of the parts.
So how did you move away from sketches into the current symbology that we have?
I honestly think that I just wasn't good enough an artist at the time (maybe not even now) to pull off this sort of illustrative thing that we wanted to do, so it kind of morphed into symbols instead.
How did you meet Brandon?
Kind of in a roundabout way. We were both at a magazine at BYU called The Leading Edge. I didn't go as often. He was the editor; I met him once or twice. He didn't remember me, but I met a lot of other people that worked at the magazine who, now, some of them are my coworkers here at Dragonsteel. But I stopped going to the magazine at some point, finished my schooling, went on to start working, and decided that I needed to go back to school for optometry. I just didn't know if there was going to be a future in art for me, so I went back to school for optometry. I already had a lot of the prerequisites because I had tried a stint at dentistry for a few years before going into animation.
So I went back to school, decided to take the science fiction writing class again at BYU. By this time, Brandon was teaching it. He and I were closer in age than the other students there. This was, like, his second year teaching it. And we just clicked. We became friends. One night at dinner (because we would go out after the class and eat on those nights), I was drawing on the tablecloth at a Macaroni Grill (where they give you the crayons and things), and he said, "Oh, I didn't know you were an artist." 'Cause I was going to school for optometry at the time, I wasn't really advertising that I was an artist. So, doodling on the tablecloth, he said, "Hey, wanna do maps for my next book?" By this time, Elantris wasn't out yet, but it was about to come out. So I said, "Sure, I'll do your maps." He didn't know that I'd been doing fantasy maps on the side just for fun for quite a while, so it was kind of serendipitous.
i do have a rough design for this, because we had Dalinar's bridges appearing on the endpaper illustration that I helped Michael with. We ended up making them veeeeerrry small in the final, but a design was roughed out for 'em nevertheless.
I should warn it's even less canon than my sketches for Sadeas bridges. But I'll see what I can dig up.
Threw this together out of some loose stuff I had laying around. In the corner is part of the original sketch I had sent to Michael. Then I added some step-by-step sketches and filled out the remaining space with miscellaneous unseen stuff.
I must emphasize once again, these are not Brandon-approved concepts. Half of it isn't even that well thought-out, it's just a draft so I could wrap my head around the idea for the purposes of background details. I am also not an engineer.
Anyhow, I had the idea that the hinge is the weak point, but it also doubles the length you can extend, so I added two large posts that would extend to counterweight the bridge during operation and then push the other way to support the surface of the bridge during the crossover of the tower. Not only does the raised bridge shield your troops from fire up to the drop point, you can station archers in the upper portions to rain fire down upon the enemy that defends your landing position.
The downside to all of this, of course, is that it's sllloooowwww... and of course, these big towers with their support crews and complex engineering are a lot more costly than throwing thirty or forty slaves under a wedge of timber and forcing them to run, drop, lift, run, drop, lift, run, drop, die. Dalinar's crews have a decent chance of actually surviving their runs. Dalinar's bridges can also cross slightly wider chasms than Sadeas's (I don't recall if that's from the books or just me trying to give this design a bit of an advantage).
There's probably a smarter way to handle the hinge and counterweight issue than those long posts, but I haven't given it much thought.
I've done most of the illustrations for The Mistborn Adventure Game. It's the licensed tabletop RPG for the series.
Lots of different cane designs in there, and a few that carried into the sourcebooks for Alloy of Law. I've tried out several designs, just about every variation I could think of... there's no single "correct" design for dueling canes. It depends a lot on the style of the duelist and the fashion of the period. For instance, the jitte design suggests a dueling style that traps the opponent's cane. Reversing the guard might suggest a more aggressive style that protects the fingers when the duelist is open after a swing or a thrust. And then there's canes with even hilts, or no hilts, or hilts that follow different shapes.
If you will say you're the MCU, to compare you, we're at, I think, the Winter Soldier period?
Maybe, yeah. The comparison to the MCU doesn't quite work. It is the closest thing. The thing that I warn people is that the convergence of the Cosmere books is more about the clash of the different cultures of the Cosmere worlds, and it's less about uniting a group of heroes. The MCU works because your title character, your title character, your title character, and your title character are going to team up, which is really cool. For the Cosmere, don't imagine that that's where I'm going, though some of those characters will show up. The idea is that I am building Star Trek one planet at a time, and I'm then going to deal with the intergalactic politics of it all, and it's the clash of all these different societies and their different magics and their way of seeing the world is what I'm pushing toward, rather than a big team-up event.
I think everybody would like to know, what is the Infinity War of the Cosmere?
The equivalent would be the last Mistborn trilogy.
Let's say we are twenty years in the future. You've finished the Cosmere books. What do you think you'll write next? I don't think you'll ever stop writing!
No, I won't. Let's get me there, first. Because, for me to finish the Cosmere, I need Warbreaker 2. I need to do Elantris 2 and 3. I need to do the Threnody novel. I have two other standalones that are not planets you know yet. I need to finish six more Stormlight books. I need to finish the last Wax and Wayne book and two more eras of Mistborn. And I need to do the prequel Hoid story, the Dragonsteel books. I mean, the Cosmere, I don't know the count on there, but the Cosmere is, like, fifteen books so far. And I have more than that left to write, and it's been fifteen years. So we're averaging one book a year, so 20 years, hopefully, I'll be approaching. But let's get me there, first.
I also read that you went to visit the United Arab Emirates, and you wrote the Alloy of Law while you were on the plane.
I didn't write the whole book.
What did you write on the way here?
I wrote Stormlight Four on the way here. Let's see if I can give you a non-spoiler version of the scene, so you can know when you get there. In the scene, the person who's a Bondsmith is being flown about by Windrunners who are not the Windrunner who is the main character. So when you get to a scene that this character's being flown about by Windrunners and moving to a different part of the world, you will know that scene was written on the flight here.
What was the moment that you finally understood that you were an international success?
The first moment that happened was actually before the Wheel of Time. Things were really starting to take off. Hero of Ages was where it started to really just hit. And I can still remember... my agent, one of their jobs is to go around the world and sell all my books in all the different languages. And they're very, very good at this. Most of the languages you sell the books in, the population of fantasy readers is such that they aren't big checks. We don't do it for the big checks for a lot of these countries. It's just more about how science fiction/fantasy fandom is a big community, and we like having the books. And a lot of the smaller countries, the agent doesn't really earn their money back, but it's still cool to do, so we do it. And I'm used to getting these checks for 50 bucks, or things like this. "Here's your Bulgarian rights at 50 bucks," and you're like "Yes!"
And I opened a check from Taiwan, and I was expecting 50 bucks. And it was 50 grand. So I called the agent, and I'm like, "Hey, you moved the decimal." I legitimately just thought it was a bank error. When you're expecting 50, and it's 50 grand, that's... you know. And my agent said, "Guess what... Turns out Mistborn is a massive bestseller in Taiwan."
So you're almost big in Japan?
Most fantasy authors aren't big in Japan, by the way. Japan's one of the places that's very hard to sell fantasy. The local writing traditions are so strong that they have their own... the anime and manga and light novels and litrpg that traditional Western fantasy just doesn't do very well in Japan. (Which is totally fine. They have lots of cool stuff; I read their stuff.)
But when I got that, and then the other countries started coming in. And instead of being 50 dollars, they'd be 5 grand, or things like this. And you're like, "Oh, something is happening." And my agent's like, "Yeah, something's happening." That's when we first got the inkling.
Well, we're going to read Rhythm of War. Rhythm of War is the working title, most likely the final title, of Stormlight Four. There are not that many things I can actually read for you that won't spoil the first book. There are a few. For those who haven't read the Stormlight books, all of the prologues take place on the same day, and the books before, they always flash back to a different prologue from a different character viewpoint on the same day that the king was assassinated. (And that's not a spoiler because the first line of the book, of the prologue, is a character thinking about how they're there to assassinate the king.)
So, the thing I'm gonna warn you about here is that my continuity editor has not been through this yet. And these prologues get really tricky to intertwine because of where everybody is at certain times. So whenever I turn in one of these prologues, it's a lot of work to make sure that each of the characters can be where they need to be, so that the prologues don't go out of continuity with each other. So, do be warned, this is first draft. But this is Navani's prologue.
Where are all the [movie] rights?
Mostly, at this point, I'm keeping a lot of these rights close to my heart and not selling them off as easily as I did earlier in my career. I just don't need the money anymore. So I'm being a little more discerning, being a little slower to sign deals.
So, we have the Reckoners at Fox, with Sean Levy. I did sell Legion for a television show. That's under option right now. And we likely will sell Alcatraz here very soon for an animated show.
A lot of people ask if I will make animated Mistborn or Stormlight. That's on the table. It will depend on where some of these animation projects like the Castlevania adaptation and things like that, if this continues to be a good, viable method of storytelling. So, it's certainly not off the table, but neither are live action television shows. I really wanna see how The Witcher does. I wanna see how Wheel of Time does. I'm a producer on that. We'll see how the new Lord of the Rings at Amazon does. I wanna see how they're doing with fantasy in this sort of post-Game of Thrones world. So, we'll see. Hopefully, we'll get a really good Rothfuss adaptation out of Showtime. There's a lot of cool things happening.
So, we will see. Right now, most of the Cosmere is not under contract to anyone anymore, and I'm just kind of holding onto it. There's a company, DMG, that I've been working with on some of them. They still are involved, I still like them, but we are moving slowly, right now. We're just kind of keeping our eyes open.
Are there any cool powers or mechanics that you really liked but had to cut out of your work?
I went through a lot of cool powers for Allomancy that I thought were nifty that I didn't end up using. So, yes, there's some there. You would ask me to list a few, and I would just have to get out the notes to remind myself, because it's been fifteen years. So, I'm not sure what they are. But I know I went through a whole list of abilities before I settled on the ones I was gonna use.
I cut a really fun character from Elantris; you can read deleted scenes on my website. There's a really fun antagonist who showed up in the story at the wrong place. It was a big distraction. I cut that out.
Every book has some things that get trimmed or cut out. Usually, they're not really big elements. Book Three of Stormlight was supposed to have a Syl viewpoint. It didn't get in there, but we'll get it in in another book, don't worry. It just didn't fit. We had even a little symbol drawn up for her, so hopefully we'll be able to use it in the next book.
There's just things that happen that just don't end up working, and they end up on the cutting room floor. You're like, "Don't cut any of it, Brandon! Just leave it!" Trust me; it's better. The first draft of Oathbringer was 540,000 words long, and the final cut was 460,000 words. So, we cut 80,000 words, which is an entire novel, out of that book. But the book is way stronger for having done that. And you wouldn't enjoy it as much.
It's like, I try to get it down so the soda tastes right. And if it's watered down too much, you're like, "I get two cups of Coke instead of one!" But both of them taste half as good. I would rather give you one really good cup of Coke.
In The Reckoners, you mostly focused on the USA. I'm assuming that it happened across the world. So my question is: what happened to Israel?
Oh, man. I'm barely figuring out what happened in Europe. You're gonna make me stretch. I'll RAFO that for now. It'll be a bug in my ear until I figure it out, how about that.
Your magic systems are very structured, and specific rules that dominate them. But are there any universal laws that apply to all of the magic systems in the cosmere together?
Yes, there's several of them. Basically, the most important one and relevant to people who enjoy real physics is that I consider something called Investiture to be a third state of matter and energy. So, instead of e=mc^2, we have a third thing, Investiture, in there. And you can change Investiture to matter or to energy. And so, because of that, that law that you can do this, is where we see a lot of the cosmere magics living.
We also have a kind of rule that beings all exist, everything exists on three different levels. The Physical, the Spiritual, and the Cognitive. And, like we have DNA for our Physical self, we also have Mental DNA and Spiritual DNA, and all three influence one another. For instance, you couldn't test an Allomancer's blood and find the Allomancy gene, because it is in a different set of their DNA. You just have three sets. You could compose a test that could test it on the Spiritual Realm, but you're gonna have to use a different branch of physics to do that and determine who was an Allomancer. And so they all work on this kind of fundamental rules of: your Identity, your Connection, and being part of your soul, and the magics working through those things.
So there's some fundamental rules about this, about changing forms from energy to matter, and you having this Identity, Investiture, and Connection stored in your Spiritual DNA that are really relevant to everything.