Recent entries

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    You’ve obviously been indisposed the last few months with Towers of Midnight so I’m curious about what is on your nightstand to be read next?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There’s a big stack. Peter Orullian’s book, which Tor is releasing next year is one I’ve wanted to read for a while. Spellwright, which a lot of people really loved and I got to read. There are a couple of Pratchetts I still haven’t read. I’ve been slowly working my way through Jim Butcher’s books, which I think are fantastic. I’ve also started reading through Brent Weeks’ works. So there are a lot of things to read. I still want to finish The Hunger Games. There’s so much to read, but fortunately during my two-week tour there will be a plane ride every day. Hooray.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    You're an avowed Magic: The Gathering lover. What is your color combo deck of choice? Also, preferred edition? I've always leaned towards Revised/Fourth as later editions focused on counters too much for my liking

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would say Black/Blue/White is what you find me playing most often, and usually Blue/White. Favorite editions? I’m going to disagree about the focus on counters. They’ve actually taken counterspells down a notch or two in recent years, which is nice. Besides, I play casual games, where I don’t run into a lot of counterspell decks, land destruction decks, or card discard decks—you know, the “un-fun” decks. My favorites recently—I really like Eldrazi, the set they released this year, which I’ve had a blast with. Other than that, probably Ravnica and Time Spiral were my favorite of the recent sets.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    Was there any physical inspiration behind the Shattered Plains, which features so prominently in The Way of Kings? Too many visits to the Grand Canyon?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once, but I do live in Utah, which has beautiful red rock formations and this wonderful, windblown stone formations scattered all across southern Utah. I’ve hiked there and spent a decent amount of time there. I would say that Roshar is partially inspired by that.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    Terry Brooks recently said he'll be doing more Shannara books and that he wishes he didn't use the title The Elfstones of Shannara already since his new arc is basically all about the Elfstones. Did your reticence to titling The Gathering Storm as such have anything to do with The Stormlight Archive? The Gathering Storm certainly seems like a perfect title for a book in the series.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. I didn’t choose The Gathering Storm. If you know the story, it all happened while I was asleep, and they said this was the title they were going to use. There were a couple of reasons. Number one, I knew I was releasing a book soon afterward that was in a series called The Stormlight Archive. Perhaps I pay a little too much attention to making sure that I don’t feel like I’m repeating myself. Kaladin in The Way of Kings was originally named Merin, and one reason I changed his name was because it sounded too much like Perrin. He had been Merin for eight years or so, but when I was just a Wheel of Time fan, it was okay to have a name that sounded a little like a Wheel of Time character’s. But now I may be a little hypersensitive to that.

    Honestly, the greatest reason I might have preferred The Gathering Storm to have a different title is that I felt it was just a little bit generic, more so than recent titles in the series have been. Recent Wheel of Time titles have been beautiful; I love Crossroads of Twilight as a title, for example. But The Gathering Storm is a good title for a lot of other reasons, and it works very well for the first of that sequence. So I was satisfied with it even though it wasn’t the title I would have chosen.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    Glad to hear you'll be back in the short game. Can you take us through a normal writing day? Do you have a word count goal?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. It depends on the day and the book, but generally 2,000 words is my goal. 3,000 to 4,000, probably around 3,500 is a really solid day for me. A basic writing day: I get up at noon or 1:00, depending on when I went to bed. I play with my son for about an hour, giving my wife a break. Then I go downstairs for four or five hours, check my email, write for a while, go up and have dinner, play with my son some more, then go back down and go back to work until I’m done for the night. The last couple of years have been pretty much a lot of me with my laptop on my couch or in my beanbag chair writing books.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    Besides "Firstborn" have you tried your hand at Sci-Fi any other time? By the same token will you ever dive back into short fiction?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I did write two science fiction novels during the era that I was unpublished. Neither are particularly good, but they were experiments, with me trying to figure out where my talents and interests lie. I was just experimenting a lot during those days, so I did write two science fiction novels—I believe they were my second and fifth novels. I will go back to short fiction. I’ve said before that I don’t feel I’m as good at it as I am at the longer form, but I like doing new things and trying new things. You will see more short fiction from me, but we’ll have to see when it happens. I’m thinking of writing a short story to post on my website, during my break between Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. And there’s also “Defending Elysium,” another science fiction story, which appeared in Asimov’s and is already on my website.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

    All of your fantasy worlds exist in the same universe and share linked magic systems and at least one character. Can you speak to the overall vision of this shared Hoidverse? Why not create separate worlds?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I started doing this early in my career before I got published, when I felt that writing sequels was not a good use of my time. Just look at the hypothetical; if I’m trying to get published and I write three books in the same, if an editor rejects book one, he or she is not going to want to see book two. But if an editor rejects book one but is optimistic about my writing, I can send them a book from another series and they can look at that.

    During my unpublished days I wrote thirteen books, only one of which was a sequel. So I had twelve new worlds, or at least twelve new books—some of them were reexaminations of worlds. But I wanted to be writing big epics. This is what I always wanted to do; something like the Wheel of Time. So I began plotting a large, massive series where all these books were connected, so I could kind of “stealth” have a large series without the editors knowing I was sending them books from the same series. It was mostly just a thing for me, to help me do the writing I wanted to be doing. And then when publication came I continued to do that, and told the story behind the story.

    Why not do separate worlds? Because it was more interesting for me this way. This is the story I want to tell. The big, overarching story that I’ve planned out. I’ve been talking recently about how my inspiration for this is the idea that in science people have for a long time been looking for a unified theory of physics, some theory that will explain all interactions of physics in a concise way. I wanted to tell about a universe where there was a unified theory of magic, where magic worked according to a unifying principle. Despite the magic systems looking very different and doing lots of different and interesting things, hopefully original for each book, there is an underlying rationale that is keeping them all together. I write what I find interesting, and that was interesting to me.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    Will we ever get to visit The Origin of Storms? And has the ending for the series already come to you?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I know exactly what the ending of the series is. I’ve been tempted to write it down a few times. Things Robert Jordan has said make me not want to write it down yet because he felt that writing the ending down before he got there was the wrong move, and I think he might be right. But I do have it worked out. In fact, I’m going to have a big powwow with Peter, Isaac, and Emily where I sit down and explain all these things so that they can point out holes before I start the second book, which is going to be a very interesting thing—we’ll probably record that and then twenty years from now post it on the internet. But yes, I do know the ending. I will not say whether we’ll go to the Origin of Storms.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    If you can tell us, what's the tentative title for Book 2? And estimated release date? I know you've plenty left to tackle with WoT 14 so we'll take anything you say with that in mind.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Good. The tentative title was originally Highprince of War. I’m not decided on that yet, because it might be Shallan’s book, not Dalinar’s book. It depends on whose flashbacks I decide to tell, and which ones will complement the events of the next book. Though I have an expansive outline for the series, I really have to sit down and get a more detailed outline for the second book before I decide which title I want. If it’s Dalinar’s book, it will be Highprince of War. If it’s Shallan’s book it will not be. Tentative release date? I’m going to start on A Memory of Light January first, and it will be published probably about three months after I finish it. (Knowing how Tor’s publishing my books these days.) It will just depend on how long that takes to write. Then I will start on The Stormlight Archive 2 after that. I don’t anticipate that book being as hard to write as A Memory of Light, which is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work. Best case is that I finish A Memory of Light in August of next year, it gets published in November, and I write the sequel to The Way of Kings starting immediately after that and finish it in the middle of the next year so it can be published November 2012. That’s the best-case scenario. But it’s what I hope to be able to do; we’ll see.

    JordanCon 2018 ()
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    Karen Ahlstrom (paraphrased)

    1. Just as highstorms come less frequently around the Weeping, they are more frequent around Midpeace.

    2. Following the advent of the Everstorm, the normal highstorm calculations/schedule was found to be thrown off by about four (Rosharan) months.

    3. Highstorms move at about 370 miles per hour. The Everstorm moves at about 120 miles per hour. Those are variable of course, and shouldn't be taken as official, definitive numbers.

    4. For approximate Everstorm timing calculations we used a cycle of 9.1 (Rosharan) days.

    5. Roshar's circumference is about 22110 miles. Again, this shouldn't be taken as an official, definitive number.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    Weather is a major force in The Way of Kings since that is where they derive their magic powers from. Also, the mythology of the series most people believe they are descended from others who lived in another world similar to heaven, but were thrown out of because of the Voidbringers. Reincarnation seems to be a theme as well. All these ideas follow along with Norse mythology to a degree. Was that intentional or just a byproduct of the evolution to this world?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Half and half. I am steeped in mythology, and I enjoy reading about it. I’m absolutely in love with the idea of Valhalla and Ragnarok. But this was not me saying I’m going to copy Norse mythology. Whatever I’ve read can pop into my head. You’ll probably see a bunch of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism too if you look for it. But it was me drawing on various sources, and also just trying to make my own thing. Yes, there’s certainly a Norse aspect to a lot of the weather magic and things like that, but it’s more that I wanted to tell a story about a world that got hit by these magical hurricanes every few days. Weather being such a force is going to therefore be an aspect of the religion, the belief systems, and the day-to-day workings of the people who live in that world. So it was partially natural outgrowth and partially my love and fondness for things that I’ve read.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

    The Way of Kings serves mostly as an introduction to the world of The Stormlight Archives but only hints at the larger story arc. With the long wait before Book 2, can you provide hungry fans with any teasers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    What Jasnah is trying to do in this book becomes very important to the next two books. That's a very big teaser. The second book will delve much more deeply into the magic; particularly, Shadesmar will be much more of an important aspect. I don't want to give spoilers.

    A lot more magic. I'm telling the story about the awakening of an Age of Legends-style world of mechanical magic, and you can look forward to seeing a lot more of that. We only hint at it here. A very important discovery was made by some characters in a random interlude that will have long-lasting ramifications.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

    Will The Stormlight Archives have prolonged mystery to rival that of Asmodean's murder?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You know, that's really going to depend on the fans and what they latch on to. I think the first book has plenty of mysteries. But what makes Asmodean different is that everyone latched on to it and fell in love with it. As I've said, Robert Jordan was a genius at foreshadowing and subtlety. I'm not going to sit down and say, "I'm going to put in something like Asmodean." I don't think that's something I could set out to put in. I just have to set out to write the best story I can, with plenty of mysteries and what's going on behind the scenes. The whole Hoid thing is something that hopefully people will be curious about, because it's supposed to be interesting. But I don't think you can set out to write something to parallel Asmodean.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

    How do you set out to write a 1,000 page book? How do you set out to write a 10 volume series? How did you make a decision what to include in The Way of Kings and what to leave out?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Lots of trial and error, mixed with a very, very detailed outline. I spent a lot of time on my outline, and it's very expansive. But really, this is a question to ask after I've finished the series. Right now I'm very optimistic about being able to do it all.

    Let's see if I can actually pull it off.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    Did you move a lot of sections around during the development? It certainly seemed as though Kal's parts could go in a different order or start his story from the bottom and work out how he got there.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, I did move things around a lot, particularly between the first draft of this book in 2003 and this draft. Things have jumped around all over the place, and even at the last minute I was moving different things between parts. Dalinar moved around more than Kaladin did because I was trying to decide where I wanted his ending in part two to happen. I wanted each of the parts to have its own climactic sense, to have a good ending particularly for the characters who didn't continue in the next part, when Dalinar and Shallan were alternating. So there was a lot of juggling and trying to decide—for instance, the prelude was added very late in the process. I'd had the prologue and decided I needed a second prologue as the prologue to the series, which is where the prelude came from.

    Kaladin's entire sequence, with the flashbacks and things, was decided on early on, but remember I'd written this book once before. At the end of his flashback sequences, he makes a decision. Where this book deviates from the original I wrote in 2003 is that in the old version he actually made the opposite decision, and it happened in chapter one.

    Now we get to see flashbacks of him making the other decision, which works so much better. It's one of those things where I was beating my head against the wall for years trying to figure out how to make his character work. His character was the part of the original The Way of Kings Prime that had not worked, and it took me years to figure out how to make his character work right. That one decision of his was the turning point.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

    How are you applying lessons learned from your work closing Robert Jordan's epic series in beginning your own?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I've already talked about it a little bit—one of the things is learning how to approach the middle books, specifically how to use the form to enhance the novel as a whole. One of the big things I've learned from Robert Jordan recently is foreshadowing.

    I used to think I was good at it until I really sat down and studied what he was doing. Another thing I think I've learned a ton about from him is viewpoint; excellent use of viewpoint is one of the ways to keep all your characters distinct. In addition, juggling so many plots, etc., all of these things have forced me to grow as a writer and have helped me quite a bit with writing The Way of Kings.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

    Structurally, The Way of Kings is fairly unique. There are three main POV characters in Kaladin, Dallinar, and Shallan, a handful of minor POV characters Szeth, Adolin, and then The Asides in which we only get a few pages of material largely unrelated to the overall plot. How will the cast grow and change in future volumes? Are you thinking of keeping each volume to a similar number of POVs or expanding it?

    Brandon Sanderson

     

    There will be a similar number, with a small expansion. At this point I believe you have met every one of the major viewpoint characters for the series. I don't want it to spiral out of control. I think too many viewpoint characters is a danger to epic fantasy, putting a writer in difficult predicaments for subsequent books—whether to leave some characters out, or whether to show a little bit of each of them without getting any major plot arcs for any of them.

    So you've seen pretty much everybody. Now, at this point there are several who are major viewpoint characters for the series who we have not had many or any viewpoints from yet—Jasnah is one, a character who shows up in the epilogue is another, and there are a few others—but there are in my mind essentially eight or ten major characters in this series, and it will stick to that.

    The interludes will continue to be what they are, which is that those characters may show up again, but it's unlikely that there will be many more viewpoints from them. The interludes are there because I wanted to have my cake and eat it too—I wanted to have the big sprawling epic with a lot of major viewpoints that we spend a lot of time on like Robert Jordan did, but I also wanted to have the quick jumps around that George R. R. Martin does, and they're two masters of the genre. And so I decided on the interludes as a way to jump around and show the world, to give depth and to give rounding to what's happening—give you little glimpses into important aspects of the world—but those characters are not people you have to remember and follow. Each of the interludes will have one character that you need to pay attention to, but you can take the interludes and read them and without having to focus too much on remembering and keeping track of what their plot is. Then you can jump back into the main characters. And that's always going to be the case in the books to come.

    Each book will also have one character who has flashbacks throughout that book—we'll stick to one per book, and you will find out how they ended up where they are as we dig back into their past.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    The Way of Kings looks to be your largest book to date, but it also might be the longest in gestation with even having an old Amazon page from when it was first contracted where people have written all kinds of lovely things. Can you tell us a little bit about its history?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Way of Kings, like any of my books, is an amalgamation of ideas that work together and fascinate me, hopefully creating something larger than the pieces; the whole is greater than the parts. Ideas for it began back when I was in high school and starting my very first book. The Shattered Plains first appeared in a novel I wrote back in 2000. The Way of Kings as a novel was first written in 2003; I now call that book The Way of Kings Prime. I wrote that book because I was frustrated with my own writing process. That was during my unpublished days, and I had been writing books that I wasn't pleased with—I've got an entire essay on that on my website. Eventually I decided, "I'm tired of trying to write what other people tell me will sell. I'm going to write the coolest, biggest, baddest, nastiest, most awesome fantasy epic I can conceive, and pull out all the stops and grab all the cool ideas that I've been putting off for a while."

    So I wrote this massive book. And then, unexpectedly, I sold a different book—one that had been sitting on an editor's desk for eighteen months. That was Elantris—then Moshe Feder called me up and wanted to buy it, and that threw chaos into my whole worldview.

    Here I thought I would never get published, and I was just writing for myself, but now someone wants one of my old books that I thought would never sell. Then Moshe asked me what I was working on at the time, and I sent him The Way of Kings. Which he was very surprised to get, because it was twice as long as Elantris, and it was extremely big and sprawling and epic. It scared the daylights out of him. He wasn't sure what to do with it. He called me up and said, "I don't know what we can do with this. Can we split this into multiple books? I don't know if I can convince the publisher to publish this massive novel."

    At the same time—and I've said this numerous times before--I wasn't a hundred percent pleased with The Way of Kings because I didn't have the skill yet to write it. So we shelved it, and I wrote the Mistborn trilogy, which I pitched to him very soon afterward—it may have even been on the same phone call—which I was very excited about at the time. I'm very pleased with how that turned out, but it was a little bit smaller in scope. In some ways it was me practicing and learning how to write a series.

    And then the Wheel of Time dropped on me like a truckload of bricks out of nowhere, and I was forced to swim in the deep water and learn how to become a much better writer so I could finish such a wonderful series. During that process I learned a lot about writing.

    Tor started asking me what my next book was going to be and if there was any way I could get them something to put out between Wheel of Time books, so I pitched them The Way of Kings. Then I sat down and wrote it. I wrote it from scratch again; I didn't take anything from the 2003 version of the book other than my memories of what had worked and what hadn't. I reached back and grabbed the Shattered Plains out of that other book that I had written; I reached back and grabbed another few cool ideas that had been bounding around in my head since I'd been a kid. I poured everything into this book, everything that I had, all of my best ideas, to try to make the fantasy opus that I had always wanted to write. That's where it came from. That's the history. I don't know yet if I've been successful, and I won't know for many years, until we see whether it stands the test of time.

    JordanCon 2018 ()
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    Jofwu (paraphrased)

    1. In your "Oathbringer's Timeline" blog post you said that Oathbringer ends on the 100th day of the year. What event does that refer to? The battle, the wedding, the epilogue?

    2. Looking at my own Oathbringer Timeline, it seems like Venli spent only a few days in Marat. Is that true?

    3. What day did Shallan and Jasnah leave for the Shattered Plains?

    Karen Ahlstrom (paraphrased)

    First, note that the timeline is a flexible thing that can be changed to make other events work if needed.

    1. The 100th day of the year marking the end of Oathbringer refers to the last event in the final chapter.

    2. Venli spent just 5 days in Marat before they left for Thaylen City. 

    3. Shallan and Jasnah left for the Shattered Plains on "Day 6927". (referring to the day number used in my calendar as explained in the "Roshar's Date System" blog post)

    Postmodernism in Fantasy: An Essay by Brandon Sanderson ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    THE WAY OF KINGS

    The Mistborn books were successful. Many readers liked the idea of a world where the Dark Lord won, where prophecy and the hero were not what we expected them to be.

    Because of how well it worked, however, I fell into something of a trap. When it came time to rewrite The Way of Kings, I floundered. I knew the story I wanted to tell, but I felt I needed to insert a major twist on the fantasy genre, along the lines of what I’d done in Mistborn. What would be my twist? What would be the postmodern aspect of this book? It literally kept me up nights. (Not hard to do, since I’m an insomniac, but still.)

    Over time, I wrestled with this because a larger piece of me resisted doing the postmodern thing in Mistborn again. That piece of me began to ask some difficult questions. Did I want to be known as “The guy who writes postmodern fantasies”? There would be worse monikers to have. However, one of the major purposes of deconstructionism, is to point out the problem with self-referential material. There was a gimmick to the Mistborn books. It was a very useful one, since it allowed me to pitch the book in one sentence. “The hero failed; this is a thousand years later.”

    There are a lot of very good postmodern stories out there, and I love the Mistborn books. But my heart wasn’t in doing that again. In order to write Mistborn the way I did, I also had to rely on the archetypes. My characters, for example, were very archetypal: The street urchin. The clever rogue who robs to do good. The idealistic young nobleman who wants to change the world. My plots were very archetypal as well: a heist story for the first book, a siege narrative for the second. I believe that a good book can use archetypes in new ways without being clichéd. (The Name of the Wind is an excellent example.)

    In fact, it’s probably impossible not to reflect archetypes in storytelling. I’m sure they’re there in The Way of Kings. But I found in working on it that I didn’t want to intentionally build a story where I relied upon reader expectations. Instead, I wanted to look for themes and character concepts that I haven’t approached before, and that I haven’t seen approached as often in the genre.

    There’s a distinction to be found. It’s much like the difference in humor between parody and satire. (As I define them.) In the first, you are funny only if your audience understands what you are parodying. In the second, you are funny because you are innately funny. Early Pratchett is parody. Mid and late Pratchett is satire. (Not to mention brilliant.)

    And this is why, in the end, I decided that I would not write The Way of Kings as a postmodern epic. (Not intentionally, at least.) Mistborn felt, in part, like a reflection. There were many original parts, but at its core it was a study of the genre, and—to succeed at its fullest—it needed an audience who understood the tropes I was twisting about. Instead of making its own lasting impression and improvement on the genre, it rested upon the work done by others.

    In short, I feel that using that same process again would make it a crutch to me. There is nothing at all wrong with what Mistborn did. I’m very proud of it, and I think it took some important steps. But it’s not what I want to be known for, not solely. I don’t just want to reflect and study; I want to create. I want to write something that says, “Here is my addition, my tiny step forward, in the genre that I love.”

    To couch it in the terms of the Jewel video that started the essay, instead of creating a piece of art that screams, “Hey, look at those other pieces of art and hear my take on them,” I wanted to create something that says, “Look at this piece of art. This is what I think art should be in this genre now.” Part of me thinks that a video that was beautiful for its own sake, that didn’t rely upon the follies of others, would do more toward undermining those follies than would a video that pointed them all out.

    And so, I tossed aside my desire to confine The Way of Kings into a single, pithy sentence explaining the slant I was taking on the fantasy genre. I just wrote it as what it was.

    Postmodernism in Fantasy: An Essay by Brandon Sanderson ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    MY OWN WRITING

    I ran into this problem full-on when I first conceived the idea for Mistborn. For those who haven’t read the series, one of the main premises is this: A young man followed the hero’s cycle from a fantasy novel, but failed at the end. The thing that made me want to write it, originally, was the thought, “What if Rand lost the Last Battle? What if Frodo had failed to destroy the ring? What if the Dark Lord won?”

    A very intriguing thought. And yet, I realized early on that if I wrote the book as I was planning, I would fail. That story undermines itself. Perhaps there is someone out there who can write it in a way that engages the reader without betraying them at the end, but that person was not me. By the point I started that book, I was in the camp of those who (despite having a great love for the fantasy epics of the past) wanted to explore where fantasy could go, not where it had already been. I wasn’t interested in writing a standard hero’s journey. Jordan had done that already, and had done it well.

    And so, I set Mistborn a thousand years after the hero’s failure. I made my original concept into the backstory. People have asked (a surprisingly large number of them) when I’ll write the prequel story, the story of Rashek and Alendi. My answer is to smile, shake my head, and say, “I don’t think it’s likely.” To explain why would require a lecture divided into three lengthy parts, and you know how boring that kind of thing can be.

    Now, some of you may be thinking the obvious thought: “But Brandon, Mistborn is a postmodern fantasy epic.”

    Indeed it is. I was intrigued by the concept of writing a postmodern fantasy, and that’s what Mistborn is. In each book, I consciously took aspects of the fantasy epic and twisted them about. My story above wasn’t to discourage that type of writing; it was to explain one major way that it could go bad, if you’re not careful.

    I tried to walk a line in Mistborn. Enough archetype that I could resonate with the themes from fantasy that I wanted to play with, but enough originality to keep the readers from expecting a standard ending. It’s the type of balance that I can never walk perfectly because there is just too much variety to be had in the world. Some people are going to read the books and feel betrayed because of the things I pull; others are going to find that they’re not original enough for their taste.

    The success of the books was in hitting the right balance for the right people; those like myself who love the old epics, and like some resonance with them—but who also want something new in their storytelling. That careful blend of the familiar and the strange, mixed up and served to people who have tastes like my own. That’s basically one of the only measures we authors can use. (And note, I’m not the only one—by a long shot—doing postmodern fantasy. Look to Jacqueline Carey’s series The Sundering for another example of someone doing the right blend, I feel, in a postmodern fantasy epic.)

    Postmodernism in Fantasy: An Essay by Brandon Sanderson ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    THIS APPLIES TO FANTASY

    Before postmodern literature can start appearing in a genre (and therefore, before deconstructionists can start pointing out the irony inherent in that postmodern literature) you need to have a body of work with dominant themes and concepts. You need an audience familiar enough with those themes to recognize when they are being molded, changed, and built upon.

    Fantasy (and the epic in particular) hit a postmodern stage with remarkable speed. Tolkien was so remarkably dominant, so genre-changing, that reactions to him began immediately. And, since so much of the audience was familiar with his tropes (to the point that they quickly became expected parts of the genre), it was easy to build upon his work and change it. You could also argue that the Campbellian monomyth (awareness of which was injected into the veins of pop culture by George Lucas) was so strong in sf/f that we were well prepared for our postmodern era to hit. Indeed, by the late ’70s, the first major postmodern Tolkienesque fantasy epic had already begun. (In the form of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.)

    During my early years writing, I mixed a lot with other aspiring fantasy novelists. A great number of us had grown up reading the Tolkien- reaction books. Brooks, Eddings, Williams, Jordan. You might call us of the rising generation Tolkien’s grandchildren. (Some of you may have heard me call him, affectionately, “Grandpa Tolkien” when I talk about him, which is an affectation I think I got from a David Eddings interview I once read.) A lot of my generation of writers, then, were ready for the next stage of fantasy epics. The “new wave,” so to speak.

    During those years, I read and heard a lot of talk about “taking the next step” in fantasy. Or, “making the genre our own.” It seems that everyone I talked to had their own spin on how they were going to revolutionize the genre with their brilliant twist on the fantasy epic. Unfortunately, a lot of us were a little unambitious in our twists. (“My elves are short, rather than tall!” or “I’m going to make orcs a noble warrior culture, not just a group of evil, thoughtless monsters!”) Our hearts were good; our methods were problematic. I remember growing dissatisfied with this (specifically with my own writing, which was going through some of the same not-so-original originality problems), though I couldn’t ever define quite why.

    I think I have a better read on it now. It has to do with a particular explanation one writer gave when talking about his story. It went something like this: “Well, it starts out like every other ‘farmboy saves the world’ fantasy novel. You know, the plucky sidekick rogue, the gang of unlikely woodsmen who go on a quest to find the magic sword. But it’s not going to end like that. I’m going to twist it about, make it my own! At the three-quarter mark, the book becomes something else entirely, and I’ll play off all those expectations! The reader will realize it’s not just another Tolkienesque fantasy. It’s something new and original.”

    There’s a problem in there. Can you spot it?

    Here’s the way I see it. That book is going to disappoint almost everyone. The crowd who is searching for something more innovative will pick up the book, read the beginning, and grow bored because of how familiar the book seems. They’ll never get to the part where you’re new and original because of how strongly the book is relying upon the thing it is (supposedly) denying. And yet, the people who pick up your book and like it for its resonant, classical feel have a strong probability of growing upset with the novel when it breaks so solidly out of its mold at the end. In a way, that breaks the promise of the first three-quarters of the book.

    In short, you’re either going to bore people with the bulk of the book or you’re going to make them hate your ending.

    That’s a tough pill to swallow. I could be completely wrong about it; I frequently am. After all, I’ve often said that good writing defies expectations. (Or, more accurately, breaks your expectations while fulfilling them in ways you didn’t know you wanted. You have to replace what they thought they wanted with something so much more awesome that they are surprised and thrilled at the same time.) But I think that the above scenario exposes one of the big problems with postmodern literature. Just as Jewel’s music video is likely to turn off—because of the sexual imagery—people who might have agreed with its message, the above story seems likely to turn away the very people who would have appreciated it most.

    Postmodernism in Fantasy: An Essay by Brandon Sanderson ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    POSTMODERNISM IN FANTASY

    The Way of Kings is out. I’ve been thinking a lot about the novel, what it has meant to me over the years, and why I decided to write it as I did. I’ve had a lot of trouble deciding how to pitch this novel to people. It’s a trouble I’ve never had before. I’m going to explain why this one doesn’t work as easily. But I’m going to start with a story.

    There’s a particular music video I saw quite often when working the graveyard shift at the local hotel. I worked that job primarily because it allowed me to write at work (I wrote some eight or so novels while sitting at that front desk, including both Elantris and the original draft of The Way of Kings). However, part of my job there was the do the night audit of the cash drawer and occupancy, that sort of thing. As I worked, VH1/MTV would often become my radio for an hour or so, playing on the little television hidden behind the front desk.

    The video was by Jewel, and was for the song “Intuition.” We’ll pretend, for the sake of defending my masculinity, that I paid special attention for the literary nature of the video, and not because I have a fondness for Jewel’s music. And there was something very curious about this video. In it, Jewel transitions back and forth between washed-out “normal world” shots of her walking on a street or interacting with people, and color-saturated “music video”-style shots of her engaging in product promotion while wearing revealing clothing.

    The tone of the video is a little heavy-handed in its message. Among other things, it is meant to parody rock star/music video culture. It shows Jewel in oversexualized situations, having sold herself out in an over-the-top way. It points a critical finger at sexual exploitation of the female form in advertising, and juxtaposes Jewel in a normal, everyday walk with a surreal, Hollywood version of herself promoting various products.

    Now, what is absolutely fascinating to me about this video is how perfectly it launches into an discussion of the literary concept of deconstructionism. You see, Jewel is able to come off looking self-aware—even down-to-earth—in this video, because of the focus she puts on how ridiculous and silly modern advertising is. The entire video is a condemnation of selling out, and a condemnation of using sexual exploitation in advertising.

    And yet, while making this condemnation, Jewel gets to reap the benefits of the very things she is denouncing. In the video, her “Hollywood self” wears a tight corset, gets soaked in water, and prances in a shimmering, low-cut gown while wind blows her hair in an alluring fashion. She points a critical finger at these things through hyperbole, and therefore gains the moral high ground—but the video depends on these very images to be successful. They’re going to draw every eye in the room, gaining her publicity in the same way the video implies is problematic.

    Deconstructionism is a cornerstone of postmodern literary criticism. Now, as I’m always careful to note, I’m not an expert in these concepts. A great deal of what I present here is an oversimplification, both of Jewel’s video and of postmodernism itself. But for the purposes of this essay, we don’t have time for pages of literary theory. The title itself is already pretentious enough. So, I’ll present to you the best explanation of deconstructionism I was given when working on my master’s degree: “It’s when you point out that a story is relyin’ on the same thing it’s denyin’.”

    That will work for now.

    Babel Clash: Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks ()
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    Brent Weeks

    How do you keep magic, well, magical over multiple books? How do you balance the rationalist impulse of "I need to explain how it works so it seems well thought out and balanced" with some of that Harry Potter-esque sense of wonder? How do you balance the ability to surprise your readers with being careful not to make the magic feel like a deus ex machina? Is the presence of magic in fantasy about more than adolescent power trips? Must the functions of magic be analogous to other technologies or physical processes, or can it be truly alien?

    To paraphrase one of the commenters, if you dissect the magic too much, do you risk it dying on the table?

    *Maybe I'd put JK Rowling as an exception, arguing that eventually what she was writing was epic fantasy. And it did get better. Mostly.

    Brandon Sanderson

    If you dissect the magic too much, do you risk it dying on the table? Certainly, you do. Any time you explain a magic, rather than allowing it to remain mysterious, you are trading some of the sense of wonder for something else. An ability for the reader to understand the world, and what the characters are capable of. If you give a character a magic box, and say that when it is opened, something magical will happen that's one thing. If you tell them what the magic box does when it is opened, that trades some of the sense of mystery and (a smaller bit) of the wonder in exchange for a plot point. Now the character can open the box consciously, and influence the world around him/her by what is in the box. Done cleverly, you've traded mystery for suspense, which do different things.

    When you start explaining why the box works like it does, you also make a trade. You trade more of your sense of wonder in exchange for an ability for the character now to extrapolate. Maybe figure out how to make boxes of their own, or change what the box does when it is opened. You make the character less of a pawn in a scheme they cannot understand, and more of a (potentially) active participant in their destiny.

    I'm certainly over-simplifying, and I don't want to understate the power of either side. A sense of wonder, mystery, and a smallness to the characters was essential for such works as The Lord of the Rings. If you'd known exactly what Gandalf could do, and why, it would have changed the experience. Instead, you are allowed to feel like Frodo and Sam, who are moving through a world of giants, both literally and figuratively.

    However, there are always going to be trades in fiction. What is it you're trying to do? I tend to gravitate toward worlds where the science adheres to the scientific method. And so long as something is repeatable, it can be studied, understood, and relied upon. You don't have to understand the HOW, so long as you know the WHAT and a little of the WHY. What is going to happen when I open this box, and how can I change the effect?

    Done really well (and I'm not certain if I do it really well, but I hope to someday get there) explaining can still preserve a measure of wonder. The classical scientists discovered, explained, and tried to understand science. But the more they learned, the more wondrous the world around them became, and the more answers there were to be found. I think it is important to establish that there IS more to be learned, that the answers haven't all been found.

    Babel Clash: Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    One of the challenges of writing a series is to make certain the reader is satisfied with the book they buy, even though it's part of a larger story. Readers seem to have a love/hate relationship with the series, at least in our genre. Stand alone books, as a rule of thumb, do not sell as well as series books. Mistborn outsold Elantris and Warbreaker, as an example, and the Wheel of Time books did not start reaching the top of the bestseller charts until the series was at its eighth or ninth volume.

    And yet, the longer a series goes, the less pleased readers seem to be with it. If one looks at most series and compare reader reviews on something like Goodreads, the longer the series goes, the worse the reviews tend to get. It has happened for nearly every major fantasy series. (Pratchett is a shining exception.)

    Is this because the writing is getting worse? That might be the cynical response. There are a number of complaints leveled against the longer series. That the author is getting lazy, or that they're so popular now they no longer get the editing they once did. Some critics think that series degradation happens because the author starts milking them—writing more in the series simply because they sell well.

    I wonder if it's something else, however. Not a failing on the author's part, but a natural evolution based on the form of the series. Readers seem to want continuing characters and plotlines, but along with those come the need to juggle various sub-plots/storylines, and keep track of them across books. The cliffhanger endings that are really more "Hey, here's what we'll be dealing with in the next book" are another aspect of the series. I agree, true cliffhangers stink. But it feels very natural to have a section at the end of a book introducing some of the elements from the next book. This ties the series together.

    But it's also something that could make readers gripe. (Especially if they have to wait another year or more to read what you're teasing them with.) Anyway, I love series. I love writing them and reading them. But I also like a nice stand alone for flavor now and then. (Which is why I'll continue to do them, regardless of sales comparisons.) However, it is interesting to me that the nature of the beast is such that the more you write in a world, the more people will simultaneously praise you and complain about that fact.

    Babel Clash: Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    I think short chapters do some good, and accomplish a lot. Martin is a master, and he uses them well. (At least, in some places.) Pratchett does an equally good job at it in a different type of sub-genre. But used poorly (or, well, unfairly) they do some terrible things to me as a reader.

    An example here for me is Dan Brown. I don't want to pick on him, as big targets are often too easy to pick on. He's obviously been very successful, and has some very interesting things about his writing. However, one thing I noticed reading the Da Vinci Code was that he seemed to be using the same tricks over and over and over to simply get me to turn the page. Someone would open a door and... We don't find out what was on the other side. The chapter ends. We go to the next chapter, and we either find out that nothing really that important was on the other side of the door, or we get told "I'll tell you what was on the other side of that door eventually...if you keep reading."

    This actually works, quite well, for a little while. (For me in the Da Vinci Code it worked for about half the book.) And then, it just gets wearying to me. The gimmicks start to show through, and I get tired of never finding anything out. There doesn't feel like development, just one big long stall. Yes, it's possible for a book to be "too exciting." Because if excitement is all there is, we lose character, setting, and a whole lot of depth. We go from trouble, to trouble, to trouble. High tension moment to high tension moment.

    Now, this is an extreme example, but I think that it's something for writers to think about. You suggest that self-indulgence is a danger. Yes, perhaps it is. At the same time, I'm not writing thrillers. I'm writing epic fantasy. I'm writing 300,000 word plus books. There should be ups, there should be downs, there should be moments of frantic pace, and there should be scenes of (yes) dinner. Sometimes, the most telling scenes in a story can be a simple dinner sequence. The scene with Faramir riding to charge while his father eats from the LoTR movies comes to mind.

    But this isn't exactly what I was trying to get to. I write long chapters not to (hopefully) indulge. I do it to make each chapter (or sequence of them) to have its own rising action, its own climactic moments, its own falling action. I want to open the door and, instead of cutting away, show something on the other side that really does upset the scene. Then continue through the scene to show the ramifications. I want to have each chapter be a story unto itself, rather than a movie trailer for the next chapter. (Which, in turn, is a movie trailer for the next one...and so on.)

    Again, I do think there are great ways to use the short chapters. But I worry that the conventional wisdom of "Don't ever let them put the book down!" is bad advice for some authors. Les Miserables has a whole lot of parts that are not very exciting. There are plenty of parts where, once I'm done with the scene, I can put the book down and walk away. It pulls me back to read not because it uses a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, but because the deep, rich characters draw me back to read further about them.

    I do agree that the larger casts are a problem that doesn't seem to have a good solution. Either you ignore half your characters for a book—as GRRM did—or you give them only brief appearances—as Robert Jordan often did. I don't think I'm in a position to criticize either author as, unlike Dan Brown, I think they both do/did fantastic jobs with their works. But I am consciously keeping the cast of the Stormlight Archive down.

    Babel Clash: Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    I thought I'd do a post on pacing, chapter length, and pulling readers through a story. This is something I've been thinking about. Specifically, I’ve noticed at many authors in fantasy seem to be adopting a more thriller-style (genre, not the music video) of pacing. Shorter chapters, with cliffhanger endings that make for a quick turn to the next page.

    Perhaps it's always been this way, and I'm just more sensitive to writing methodology now, as I'm a writer myself. But it does seem to be happening more. A good example are the Codex Alera books by Jim Butcher. But I've noticed some of it in your own books, Brent. It makes me wonder if this is a reaction, on our part as a genre, but the huge teen-fantasy bubble that happened surrounding Harry Potter. YA and middle grade also tend to be more quickly paced, more tight in this regard.

    Oddly, I've found myself reacting against it. Not that I don't like this style of storytelling—in fact, I think it works very well. Jim's novel that I mentioned above was a real pleasure to read. Terry Pratchett does this in his books, and they're excellent. But I don't know if it matches every project and every story.

    Conventional wisdom in writing is that you don't want the reader to stop and take a break, otherwise they might not return to the book. You always want to leave them hanging. And yet, I don't know if this kind of pacing works very well in the very long form novels. When I write my books these days, I WANT to give the reader some breathing room. Some time to step away from the book, if they want, and digest what has happened. I feel that if I pace them absolutely break-neck, the experience will be exhausting and draining across the long haul, and the book will end up unfulfilling.

    Babel Clash: Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks ()
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    Brent Weeks

    So something that I'd love to hear your thoughts on are if you think as your career progresses that you can get away with things—story things—that you couldn't when you were less well known?

    Obviously, as we grow in our storytelling skills and experience with the industry, we can try harder challenges and succeed where we wouldn't have before. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm more curious about if you think we train our readers (and book store buyers). I think—pure speculation because I haven't yet dug in to my copy of The Way of Kings—that if a 400,000 word tome hit my desk from someone I'd never heard of and when I began reading, I found it didn't follow any epic fantasy structure I knew, I'd be much more likely to assume it was just an amateur mess—but because it says "Brandon Sanderson, #1 NYT Bestselling Author" on the front, I trust that you're Doing Something Big. I think I read it differently. Do you agree?

    I run into the same sort of thing: I've got a decent reputation for deep characters now, so when a character does something contradictory (dumb jock says something brilliant or whatever), my readers think, "Oh, there's more going on here under the surface, can't wait to see what." Rather than, "This character is inconsistent. Bad writing."

    And I would contend that precisely because you're a magic system guy, that if you don't explain the magic in TWOK, people are NOT going to say, "Good book, but magic system doesn't make sense." They're going to say, "Obviously brilliant stuff going on with the magic, can't wait until book 12 to see what!" (That's hyperbole with a wink, not snark.)

    Do you believe you can get away with storytelling stunts, elisions, or tricks now that Brandon Sanderson the debut author couldn't have? If so, what's the good part of that—and is there a bad side?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, there are things I can get away with now that I couldn't before—or ones I didn't try to get away with before. One big one is flashbacks. In my early years as a writer, published and unpublished, I stayed far away from flashbacks. Partially because I'd been told to do so, and partially because I'd seen them done poorly from a large number of other new writers. There are good reasons to stay away from them, and the advice is good. If you do flashbacks the wrong way, you'll break the flow of your narrative, risk undermining the tension of your story, confuse the reader, and basically make a big old mess.

    Then Pat Rothfuss comes along and does a narrative-within-a-narrative where the entire book is basically flashback, and it works really well. I do know, however, that Pat had a lot of trouble selling that book of his to start. (Though admittedly, I'm not sure if that was the flashbacks or not. I seem to remember he added the frame story later in the process, and that the huge length of the book was what was scaring people away at first.)

    I guess this brings us back to the first rule of writing: you can do whatever you want, if you do it well. Regardless, I decided—after some deliberation—that I'd use flashbacks as an extensive device in The Way of Kings and the rest of the series. None of these were in earlier drafts of the novel, however, because I knew that many readers (and editors) have a knee-jerk reaction against flashbacks because of how likely they are to screw things up. Now that I'm established, however, I feel that people will trust me when they see them.

    (One thing I'm leaving out is that I think I'm a better writer now than I was before, and if I'd tried these flashbacks during earlier days, I'd likely have flubbed them.)

    JordanCon 2018 ()
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    Isaac Stewart (paraphrased)

    The stamp-like glyph at the bottom corner of the "Ironstance Scroll" artwork in Words of Radiance is the symbol of the Calligrapher's Guild. It uses the phonemes from "Isaac", but doesn't phonetically represent that.

    Jofwu (paraphrased)

    I thanked Isaac for explaining that rather mysterious glyph, and asked if he could say anything about the even more mysterious glyph that has appeared in every book so far.

    Isaac Stewart (paraphrased)

    I don't know what it means, but that Brandon has asked me to put it in several places. Compare it to the Calligrapher's Guild glyph. "That's all I'll say."

    Babel Clash: Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks ()
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    Brent Weeks

    1) Brandon, multi-volume epic fantasy presents unique storytelling challenges and unique demands upon a reader. You said in your essay that with The Stormlight Archive, "I didn't want to intentionally build a story where I relied upon reader expectations." But I assume you meant that in a specific rather than a global way: you do intend that subplots will get wrapped up eventually, that there is a main plot, that characters have arcs, and that the story has an ending...right?

    2) If that's a valid assumption, then as a storyteller chunking a story out in ten volumes, how much do you worry about imposing the traditional limits of a novel on each volume? (i.e. Chekhov's Gun: "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it must absolutely go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.")

    For example, I wrote a scene for The Black Prism which was interesting in its own right and introduced a cool monster and a setting that I plan to use later in the trilogy—but it didn't accomplish anything necessary for book 1. It slowed the headlong rush to the end of the book; it looked like gratuitous worldbuilding. It wasn't, but a critic wouldn't know that until they read book 3—which I haven't yet written. So I cut it.

    Would you have? Would you have cut an analogous scene in Mistborn 1, but not from TSA 1?

    Are you writing these books so that each volume has that rousing, bang-up finish, or are you fine with a cliffhanger, content that the series must be judged as a whole? In a ten-volume epic, do you conceive of them as telling one story or ten stories? Or both? Or more?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The short answer to your first comment is a yes, you are right. The realization I came to while working on The Way of Kings was that I was so accustomed to writing self-aware fantasy in the Mistborn books that I was searching to do the same with Kings. While anyone can enjoy Mistborn (I hope) it works best as a series for those who are familiar with (and expecting) tropes of epic fantasy to come their direction. That allows me to play with conventions and use reader expectations in a delightful way. But it also means that if you don't know those conventions, the story loses a little of its impact.

    But this is an interesting discussion as to the larger form of a novel. Is it okay, in an epic fantasy, to hang a gun on the mantle, then not fire it until book ten of the series written fifteen years later? Will people wait that long? Will it even be meaningful? My general instincts as a writer so far have been to make sure those guns are there, but to obscure them—or at least downplay them. People say this is so that I can be more surprising. But it's partially so that those weapons are there when I need them.

    It often seems to me that so much in a book is about effective foreshadowing. This deserves more attention than we give it credit. When readers have problems with characters being inconsistent, you could say this is a foreshadowing problem—the changes, or potential for change, within the character has not been presented in the right way. When you have a deus ex machina ending, you could argue that the problem was not in the ending, but the lack of proper framework at the start. Some of the biggest problems in books that are otherwise technically sound come from the lack of proper groundwork.

    In the case you mentioned, however, I think I would have cut the creature. Because you said it was slowing things down. There's an old rule of thumb in screenwriting that I've heard expressed in several ways, and think it works well applied to fiction. Don't save your best storytelling for the sequel. If your best storytelling isn't up front, you won't get a sequel. Of course, once you're done, you do need to come up with something as good or better for the sequel, otherwise it might not be worth writing.

    For The Way of Kings, I've had to walk a very careful balance. I do have ten books planned, but I had to make sure I was putting my best foot forward for the first book. I had to hang guns for the later novels, but not make this story about them—otherwise readers would be unsatisfied to only get part of a story.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    SFF authors such as Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, and Steven Erikson have all had problems keeping an adequate momentum over the course of long series. Looking forward and knowing that there are pitfalls associated with writing fantasy sagas of epic proportions, how do you plan to avoid this as you progress with The Stormlight Archive?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That is a wonderful question. The people you mention are brilliant writers whose skill and mastery of the genre I'm not sure I can ever get close to matching. I'll just put that out there. I do think, having read their work and seeing what they've had to do—I mean, if you look at something like the Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire, these authors have had to do this without a lot of guidance. When Robert Jordan wrote The Wheel of Time, there were no fantasy epics of that length out. There were trilogies; we had David Eddings' five-booker, but those were all much shorter than what The Wheel of Time became. There was just nothing like what Robert Jordan was doing. George R. R. Martin was kind of in the same boat. They've had to do this without examples to follow. What I have going for me is that I've been able to watch them do it—and as you said, watch them hit those pitfalls (and admirably do great jobs of crossing them)—and hopefully learn from their example. The main thing that I feel I need to do with this series is keep the viewpoints manageable. What Martin and Jordan both ran into is that the more viewpoints you add, the more trouble you get in, because when you get to the middle books you've got so many characters that either you have a book that doesn't include half of them, whereupon you have the latest George R. R. Martin book, or you do what Robert Jordan did famously in book 10 of the Wheel of Time, which is to give a little bit from each viewpoint and progress none of them very far. Which was also very problematic. Both of those solutions were very wonderful things to try, and I'm glad they did them, but what this says to me is, "Keep your viewpoints manageable." So that I won't run into that problem as much.

    Another big thing I'm doing is that I'm trying to make sure each book has its own beginning, middle, and end so that it is a complete story when you read it. When I would read the Wheel of Time as just a fan, and get only a small sliver of the story, it would be very frustrating. When I reread the Wheel of Time knowing and having read the ending, it was a very different experience. I didn't feel a lot of the slowing and the frustration, because I knew the ending, and I knew how long the book series was. So if I can give a full story in each book, I think it will help with that.

    The last thing I'm doing is this idea of the flashbacks for each character. I think that each character getting a book will fundamentally change the form of the epic fantasy, which will allow each book to have its own story without having to do something like Anne McCaffrey did, in which main characters in one book wouldn't have viewpoints in later stories. I think that made for a wonderful series, but for me it detracted a bit from the series' epic scope. I knew that if I read about a character, I wasn't going to get that character again, ever, and there was something sad about that. I don't want this series to be like that. Kaladin will be very important to the rest of the series—in fact, he's probably going to get another book, so he has two.

    Hopefully the books will remain epic without having that drag. We'll see if standing upon the shoulders of giants as I am will help me to approach this in a different way.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    What can readers expect from the second volume of The Stormlight Archive? Any tentative title or release date?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I originally had titled the second book Highprince of War. I'm not sure if I will keep that title, depending on who its central character ends up being. With the Stormlight Archive, I am playing with the form of the epic fantasy novel in a way that's very exciting to me that I haven't done since Elantris. If you read Elantris, the form of that book was very important in how it developed, with its chapter triad system. The books in this series also have a very specific form. Each book will focus on one character. That character will get flashbacks exploring their past, to show you how they arrived where they are. But the book will progress the narrative for everyone. For instance, this book was Kaladin's book, and you got flashbacks for him. He will appear substantially in the next book, and you'll have lots of viewpoints from him, but it will be someone else's book and that character will get flashbacks. Each book will have one central character, with two or three major characters who have no flashbacks and not quite as much screen time—characters like Dalinar and Shallan in the first book, and to a lesser extent Adolin and Szeth.

    The other thing that will continue is the interludes. I really enjoyed including those in the book; I'm not sure what people will think of them, but most of them are essentially going to be short stories set somewhere in the world, that enhance the main narrative and show different aspects of the world without forcing you to follow yet another plotline. They're just quick one-offs. You'll see those between parts in all of the other books.

    Tentative release date? I have to finish A Memory of Light first. I don’t know how long that will take to write. In a perfect world, which is probably not going to happen, the ideal case is that I’m able to finish A Memory of Light by around August of 2011, whereupon it gets published in November 2011 and I start Stormlight Two January of the next year and it's ready for publication in November 2012. That would be the ideal situation. I often do manage to hit the deadlines in ideal situations, but I'm not making any promises on this one. I'm thinking 2012 spring is more likely for A Memory of Light, but we'll see.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    The issue of faith, religious or otherwise, is often a theme in your writings. How has faith influenced your life and development as a writer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Another very astute question. I am a person of faith. It's been interesting for me, in my life, to be a person of faith and also a person of reason. I have a science background; I like to ask questions; I like to think about questions. I think everyone has to find their own balance in this area. Some people decide they're going to be reason only, and some people decide they're going to be faith only. But I think there can be a balance, and I try to find my own balance in my life. I feel it's one of the most engaging and interesting aspects of life. It leads to a lot of pondering, a lot of thinking, and a lot of personal development. It's mostly just me finding out where I'm going to let faith reign and where I'm going to let reason reign, and whether I have to let one be suborned to the other.

    Faith is very important to my life. It's very important to my worldview and my philosophy. I believe that throughout the history of mankind, for the vast majority of people faith—or reacting against faith—has been important. I'm fascinated by the different ways people deal with it. I had in the Mistborn series a notable agnostic character, and I really wanted to have an atheist character in the Stormlight Archive. Whenever I approach something like that I try very hard to give that character the arguments that a person with their worldview would give that character if they were writing the book. I don't want to write books that exist simply to prove certain characters wrong. I include such characters because they fascinate me. You end up, hopefully, with a range of people in my books who approach faith in different ways—because that's interesting to me, and I hope it will be interesting to readers.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    Over your previous books you've developed a reputation as the 'magic system guy'. Was it therefore a deliberate move to hold back on the magic in The Way of Kings, at least compared to your earlier books?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, it was. That's a very astute question. I've written a blog post that I'm not satisfied with, but that I'll probably be revising and posting very soon, that is going to talk about this. When I finished the Mistborn trilogy and Warbreaker, I felt that there were a few things that were becoming Brandon clichés that I needed to deal with. I don't mind being known as the magic system guy. But when I become known ONLY as the magic system guy, that worries me. It isn't that I sat down with this series and said, well, I'm gonna show them, I'm not going to do a magic system. But when I planned this series, it was not appropriate for me to shoehorn in a lot of the magic system in book one. Though my agent suggested that I do just that. He said, look, this is what you're known for, this is what people read you for; if you don't have this it's going to be glaringly obvious. My response was that I would hope that story and character are what carries a book, not any sort of gimmick—well, gimmick is the wrong word.

    Something that I pondered and wrote about a lot—just to myself—is that Mistborn was postmodern fantasy. If you look at the trilogy, in each of those books I intentionally took one aspect of the hero's journey and played with it, turned it on its head, and tried very hard to look at it postmodernly, in which I as a writer was aware of the tropes of the genre while writing and expected readers to be aware of them, to be able to grasp the full fun of what I was doing. And that worried me—that was fun with Mistborn, but I didn't want to become known as the postmodern fantasy guy, because inherently you have to rely on the genre conventions in order to tell your story—even if you're not exploiting them in the same way, you're still exploiting them.

    For that reason, I didn't want to write The Way of Kings as a postmodern fantasy. Or in other words, I didn't want to change it into one. And I also didn't want to change it into a book that became only about the magic, or at least not to the extent that Warbreaker was. I like Warbreaker; I think it turned out wonderfully. But I wanted to use the magic in this book as an accent. Personally, I think it's still as full of magic as the others, but the magic is happening much more behind the scenes, such as with the spren I've talked about in other interviews, which are all about the magic. We haven't mentioned Shardplate and Shardblades, but those are a very powerful and important part of the magic system, and a more important part of the world. I did intentionally include Szeth's scenes doing what he does with the Lashings to show that there was this magic in the world, but it just wasn't right for this book for that to be the focus. I do wonder what people will say about that. I wonder if that will annoy people who read the book. But again, this is its own book, its own series, and in the end I decided that the book would be as the story demanded, not be what whatever a Brandon Sanderson book should be. As a writer, that's the sort of trap that I don't want to fall into.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    In your previous fantasy series, you had one main character or plotline, with only a few secondary characters and subplots. But here in The Way of Kings, you expand this to three main plotlines and dozens of secondary characters. Was this division of the book into three main protagonists rather than just a single "lead" something that you had intended from the first draft, or did this story division develop over time and many drafts?

    Brandon Sanderson

    With how long this book has been around, it's hard to say what was in the first draft and what wasn't. If we look at The Way of Kings Prime—the book I wrote back in 2003, then tossed aside and rewrote to create this book—I did have quite a strong multi-character focus. It's always been something I wanted to do. I actually scaled back a little bit for this draft. In the previous version I used six main characters; there was another character who has not yet appeared in the new version, and Jasnah was a main character with as many viewpoints as the others. It was too distracting, too much to juggle. So I pulled back a little bit. But to me, this series is not about one person. That's just how I conceived it from the start, and that's what I want to do with it. That will continue.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    On several fantasy forums, there have been discussions of "black and white" characters and your name sometimes is mentioned as being one who creates "black and white," good/evil characters. What I'm curious about, however, is how do you think of your characters' traits when you develop them. Are there characters that you think, "well, this 'evil' character has this motivation' for acting like a jerk," or is there something else behind these character creations?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would certainly say I do black and white more than someone like George R. R. Martin does. I would hope that I'm not doing directly black and white, but...this is a hard question for me to answer because I'm not sure that I look at it this way. I don't look at characters as evil or good; I just look at them as who they are and what their motivations are. I personally don't feel that I generally write all-evil characters, though if I look at it rationally from an armchair English major standpoint, I do tend to write very noble characters. Nobility is something that fascinates me, and something that I think we could use a little more of in our world. So I'm straying fairly often into the good, though I don't see any of my characters as entirely evil. Hrathen was not evil; the Lord Ruler was not wholly evil. I don't even look at Ruin as particularly evil; Ruin was a force of entropy, which is its own different thing. In this book, I would say there is a presence of evil that is on a higher level. Is Szeth evil? Well, I don't know. Is the person pulling Szeth's strings evil? Yes, by most definitions I think he would be called evil, but he certainly doesn't see himself that way. I could point at him and say, "You are doing the wrong thing," but he would not agree with me. I'm not trying to moralistically say here is black and here is white; I'm just telling stories about the characters I want to tell stories about.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    In Elantris and Mistborn it felt more like the world was there to support the story and characters, but outside the locales the characters were in little was revealed about them. The Way of Kings feels much more expansive, with a vast continent packed with different cultures, races, religions and so on. Was this simply a natural development of needing a world that could support ten long novels, or was there some other motive in making Roshar so much more detailed?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm going to reverse-engineer your question. When I wrote Elantris and Mistborn, I intentionally kept the world more sparse. The goal particularly of Mistborn was, "I'm going to take an epic fantasy story and condense it into three novels." The focus for me in those novels was plot. Of course I wanted to have great characters and great magic, but there was more of a plot focus, and I didn't want the world to distract. It was a conscious decision in Mistborn.

    When I sat down and wrote The Way of Kings, the plan from the start to do ten books influenced how I approached the world. But really, the world of Roshar is such a big part of the story, and of the history and the mysteries of the series, that I wanted it to be full and immersive. Immersion was one of my main driving forces. With Mistborn, one of my main driving forces was to keep it moving. I hope The Way of Kings still feels fast-paced, but it's a thousand pages long, twice as long as Mistborn. A lot of that extra space is dedicated to fleshing out the world and making it feel like a real place, because that's very important for the series. When I write a book, I look at what the book needs and what is required by the story I'm trying to achieve. Another valid element is that when I wrote Mistborn, I was a newer writer. Writing The Way of Kings, I'm more experienced. I think I'm better at making this sort of decision now, and I felt I could tackle in this book the sorts of things that I couldn't achieve in Mistborn.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    The settings of your novels often seem to be something quite different. It seems the majority of fantasy are basically earth with magic and maybe some cool animals to go along. The Way of Kings just feels different (and the Mistborn books for that matter)—harsher, darker, almost like what we would like call a wasteland. How and why did you create the world The Way of Kings in this way? The landscape of the Shattered Plains is especially unusual and evocative. Was it inspired by the landscape of the American Midwest?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Southwest, particularly. My visits to places like Arches National Park, relatively close to where I live right now, certainly influenced me. More than that—and I've said this in numerous interviews before—I'm a fantasy reader foremost. Before I was a writer I was a reader, and I'm still a reader. As a reader, I grew a little bit annoyed with the generic setting that seemed to recur a lot in fantasy. I won't speak poorly of writers who used it very well—there are certain writers who used it extremely well—and yet a lot of other writers seemed to just take for granted that that's what you did. Which is not the way that I feel it should be done. I think that the genre could go many places it hasn't been before.

    When I approached writing the Stormlight Archive—when I approached creating Roshar—I very consciously said, "I want to create something that feels new to me." I'm not the only one who does this, and I'm certainly not the one who does it best, but I wanted a world that was not medieval Europe. At all. I wanted a world that was its own thing. I started with the highstorms and went from there. To a person of our world, Roshar probably does look barren like a wasteland. But to the people living there, it's not a barren wasteland. This is a lush world full of life. It's just that what we equate with lush and full of life is not how that world defines it. In Roshar, a rock wall can be a lush, vibrant, and fertile place. It may look like a wasteland to us, but we're seeing through the eyes of someone who's used to Earth's flora and fauna. I've also said before in interviews that science fiction is very good at giving us new things. I don't see why fantasy shouldn't be as good at doing the same. Perhaps even better. So that's what was driving me to do what I did.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    Your solo adult novels have these recurring elements such as the character of Hoid and references to the Shards. In Mistborn, Elantris and Warbreaker these elements are minor and more along the lines of easter eggs, but they seem to be more prominent in The Way of Kings. Can we expect these elements to be expanded on further in future Stormlight books? Will we find out Hoid's full story in this series or are you holding off on that for now?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I will mostly RAFO that. Yes, it will continue. No, you won't get a lot of it. The Stormlight Archive will not be about the story behind the story, though someday I will write a book series about that. There are basically two large epics in the greater sequence of books I'm writing, and the Stormlight Archive is one of them. There is another one, and both of the large epics will have certain amounts of influence from Hoid. Other books will be written that will not have nearly as much influence. But I'll go ahead and say that Hoid's origin story is not in the Stormlight Archive. That's not what this series is about.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    Do you think that the process of working on The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive almost simultaneously has been beneficial to your writing of the two series, with influences from one creeping into the other?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes and no. I never write new material on more than one book at a time. I will be revising one while I'm writing new material for another, which really helps me keep my brain divided, if that makes any sense. It's good to be influenced by Robert Jordan's genius; it's bad to let themes and tropes from one book creep into the other. So I've tried to keep those things separate. Yet at the same time, who I am as a writer influences what themes and tropes I put into books. I do think people will be able to notice similarities in some of what I'm doing, in the same way that you can notice similarities between others of my books. Hopefully there is a larger gap because the Wheel of Time is Robert Jordan's rather than mine. I would say that there is an influence, but not an unhealthy amount.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    The Way of Kings is a book that you have been planning for a very long time. Is the finished book close to your original vision or has it altered significantly in that time, with the influence of your other work, particularly on The Wheel of Time?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would say yes, it has altered significantly. Eventually I'll be able to release the previous version of The Way of Kings so people can see how. It's really kind of odd; I can now almost see it as a parallel world, with several important deviations that branch out and create spiraling different stories. In some ways it's very similar. Dalinar's character is essentially identical with who he has always been, yet Kaladin and his story have transformed extensively. Szeth is essentially the same person. Shallan didn't exist in the previous draft; she's new to this one. Some things are the same—the world, the history—and yet some things are different. The characters are more complex and have more depth now, and that certainly was influenced by the Wheel of Time. I think I'm better at foreshadowing, which something else the Wheel of Time influenced.

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    Patrick

    The folks at Tor Books appear to be keeping you on a very tight leash ever since you accepted to complete Robert Jordan's magnus opus. Working on The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive (a ten-volume saga) certainly means that you are juggling countless balls simultaneously. Add to that the fact that you are a teacher and a family man, with all that it entails. Are you concerned that keeping such a harsh schedule might at some point prove to be too much and hinder the creative process altogether?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. Which is why I've decided to slow down. This last year was a very hard year, and it's something I did to myself by deciding that I really wanted to do The Way of Kings right now. I felt this was the time that it needed to be released. But now I get to slow down, and I'm not going to be releasing two epic fantasies a year from now on. This is the end of that. I'm going to focus on finishing the Wheel of Time right now, and then I won't have to juggle all of those balls anymore.

    When you describe it like that it looks a lot more impressive than it really is; when I teach, I only teach one class one night a week, for one semester—four months out of the year. It's not like I'm a professor. And I don't have a commute, which means that I can still work fourteen-hour days some days (twelve hours has been more common), yet spend a significant amount of time with my family. But I don't have to do that anymore. It was a really hard year. It really pushed me. I think both books turned out fantastically well, but if I had kept up that schedule, my writing would have begun to suffer. From now on I'll be working at a much more modest pace.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    With The Way of Kings about to be released, how well-received as the novel been thus far? Are you pleased with the advance praise and reviews?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So far so good. As with any book, there are some reviews that just make me happy and dance on the clouds, and there are others that are still good reviews but make me think, "Oh, they didn't quite get it," or that sort of thing. Asking an author or an artist about reviews is an interesting process, because we all want everyone to love everything that we've created, but not everyone is going to. It's hard, even as a writer, to judge what people are saying. So far it looks really good. We'll see.

    I do think that this is the best book that I've written, but I also think that there are some of my readers who are not going to like it as much. With every book that I write, I do something different. The Mistborn books felt slightly different from Elantris; Warbreaker felt slightly different from the Mistborn books. This newest book feels slightly different again. There are some readers who are going to wish that I were doing shorter, more fast-paced stories rather than longer, more epic stories. I will write more books like that later on, but this book is the book that I wanted it to be. I'm pleased with it.

    Boomtron Interview ()
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    Lexie

    Are the symbols going to be further explained throughout the series?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, you want me to- let me open this up *opens WoK* what she’s talking about are the symbols right here, this does relate to the magic and to the Knights Radiant. I will eventually explain what it is but for right now it’s just there to be interesting and to look at. It should be telling that one of them ended up on the front of the book, this is actually the same symbol as one of these, just done in a slightly different style. This is what we call in the books the glyphs, the writing system, they actually can be read phonetically, but they are also partially art.

    The inspiration for these that I gave to the artist was the Arabic writing, where people actually, often take words and will do them as designs and these beautiful works of art, changing the words, and that’s what happened with the-you probably can’t see that very well- the embossing on this but that’s what happens with the writing system on this world and so the glyphs will usually will write them in the shape of something and that’s one of the glyphs written in the shape of a sword. So that will be explained eventually, it is something for the entire series, every book will have the same end pages like this so slowly over time you will understand that and I haven’t said anything at all about the one in the back, and I don’t intend to for quite a while.

    Boomtron Interview ()
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    Lexie

    How many magic systems did you go through before deciding on the one in the book?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Building the magic for a world is not something I’ve simply been able to drop in, usually. I generally am working on lots of different themes and ideas in my head *laughter* When I’m planning a novel and the magic will fit a certain story and influence how it goes and I will do a lot of building and practice to see if that’s working and do a lot of, I’ll do a lot of pre-writing and see how the magic influences the plot, influences the setting. If these things are also intertwined then it’s not a drag and drop so to speak and usually even if I pull out a magic, I’ll really be pulling out parts of it and replacing it with other parts.

    For instance with the Mistborn books Allomancy was in one form there from the beginning and yet what the powers that Allomancy could do often I was ripping out and adding new ones in, in order to better fit the novel and the narrative I’m shooting for. So for Way of Kings I’ve kind of taken a—the series I’ve been working on for quite a while, people have read the online interviews and things like that. I generally took a ‘more is awesome' approach to the magic systems and yet because of that I didn’t want the first book to be overrun by them, it would be very easy for my books to simply become interesting gimmicks about a magic rather than a story about characters and the story that happens to them, and so I was actually very careful to not overwhelm with the magic in this book. Which is actually somewhat ironic because this book, I built into it somewhere around thirty magic systems and yet I didn’t want to overwhelm and so the first book, there are only hints of any of them but generally when I was world building this I came up with a great idea, I worked it into the magic system rather than saying "Oh, let’s do this instead."

    Boomtron Interview ()
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    Lexie

    Will we be seeing any more worlds from the cosmere?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are other word-worlds you will see, there are several I haven’t visited yet at all. White Sand, the world of that book which was one of my earlier novels I never published. I intend to eventually do that series, it may not have the same title or anything but I do intend to do that series, there will be a sequel trilogy to Mistborn, eventually. I’m actually in the middle of working on a short story for that world right now to release online and there will be sequels to elantris but the sequels to elantris will deal with new characters they won’t they won’t, they’ll take place the second book will take place 10 years after the first book.

    Boomtron Interview ()
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    Lexie

    Will there be other crossover characters like Hoid?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There already have been.

    Lexie

    Really?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Lexie

    Can you tell?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I cannot say more than that, I think that they’re placed quite obviously, they were not very obvious before this book, they do exist, other crossovers do exist. But none so obvious as Hoid. I think there are several obvious ones in this novel, no one has yet found them that I know, but I think once they see them- once you look closely they’re there

    Boomtron Interview ()
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    Lexie

    Was Kaladin supposed to be Originally with the bridge crew or was that something that just built from while you were writing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It’s actually built at the planning, it was not originally, in fact I did an entire draft of the Way of Kings, in 2003, so seven years ago, the version of the Way of Kings I wrote then didn’t have him as a member of the bridge crews at all. In fact the Shattered Plains weren’t even in Roshar at that point. They were something I’d been developing for another series and when it came time to do this version of this draft I hadn’t exactly been pleased with the one I wrote in 2003, I wanted to do the book again, actually tossed all that and started from scratch.

    I was looking for a really strong visual setting location for Kaladin's story to take place. I was building him separately as the soldier, and the surgeon, with both two sides of him warring within him at this part. This part of this book for me is about the contrast between the sides of, different sides of people, people who have different things pulling on their insides trying to wreck them, so I was looking for a great setting location and the Shattered Plains through various- actually doing artwork, some of the concept art for the world. I was working with an artist, just to give myself a better visual handle on things. The Shattered Plains appealed to me, it worked and so I built it in and it all kinda came together.

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    Lexie

    In reading the Way of Kings a very Ben Hur vibe can be felt from Kaladin., was this intentional and what other genres were your inspiration?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I wouldn’t say that I was specifically shooting for that vibe, certainly I am influenced by all the things around me, I was just looking to tell a really great story, and this is the story that came out. It was Kaladin's story in specific, it was - the genesis of the story was actually the Shattered Plains themselves, the area. I write fantasy and one of the reasons that I write fantasy is I want to tell stories about places that don’t exist, that maybe couldn’t exist in our world and so the geography of the shattered plains is sort of what appealed to me. I’d actually been planning this for many years and extrapolated from there, how would warfare be like in this place and then I extrapolated from there, what are they going to need, what types of troops. And Kaladin as a person was growing separately, and I just wanted the best place to put in- the place of most conflict and it ended up being that.

    Plot-wise to be perfectly honest I was looking more at- when I was building this plot- underdog sports narratives. To be perfectly honest, I like to, when I look for inspiration in plotting sequences I like to look far afield to try and take things and pull them into my books so that we aren’t getting some of the same repeated dealings over and over again. But certainly historical works like the ones you mentioned are a big part of my make up as well.