Could someone, using Investiture the right way, could a transgender person use Investiture to change their body to match--
Could someone, using Investiture the right way, could a transgender person use Investiture to change their body to match--
In Way of Kings, Jasnah recommends to Shallan the Devotary of Sincerity. Their motto is "There is always something more to discover." That sounds very similar to our favorite Mistborn psychopath's saying; is Kelsier connected to that at all?
Is the Cognitive Realm on other planets called Shadesmar?
For simplicity's sake in translation, for the most part, we are going to use the word Shadesmar, acknowledging that in some of the languages it may be a different word. But the cosmere standard used in Silverlight and things is Shadesmar. That's just for ease of talking about it but the scholars in Silverlight they use the actual word Shadesmar. I'm going to force Eric to do some heavy lifting for me on some other things like this.
<Expresses that not everyone will be pleased about this WoB>
Yeah I suspect that as I move into Era 4, Cognitive Realm might start replacing it, the more scientific term, but Shadesmar is the colloquial term.
If you had a chance to go back for Elantris and the early Mistborn books and stuff like that, would you potentially consider adding more crossover characters, because you did put Hoid in all of those, but would you potentially put other smaller things from other planets, like other worldhoppers, in it?
So, the cheeky answer to this is, I've read The Monkey's Paw, and I've read enough science fiction stories to know that if someone says "Do you want to change this thing about your past?" that you say "No." Because depending on the writer you are either going to end up in a horror story, or you are going to have to learn some lesson about how important you are, or your family is, and then it will all be a dream, so no, I wouldn't.
But really the answer is no, I wouldn't change. I like the fact that the cosmere has a very light touch on those early books. I like it in part because I feel like people who are just getting into my fiction, I don't want them to feel like they have to follow everything to enjoy one book. And yeah, I'm adding little bits more into Stormlight, but that's inevitable because so much will take place in Shadesmar, which by it's nature is far more cosmere-aware, and so we're going to have to do more things the further Stormlight gets and the further Mistborn gets, because it will become inevitable. And that's fine, I'm embracing that. The further we go in the cosmere, the more you're going to have to be on board for the idea of the crossovers working. But I don't want the initial books that you get into to have to be like that. I was very intentional with my light touch on those early cosmere books and I wouldn't go back and add more. Even Way of Kings, right? Has what has Hoid and Felt in it, and that's just about it.
Felt's in Words of Radiance.
Oh, is he in Words of Radiance? He's not even in Way of Kings.
*talking over each other*
Yeah, you saw Galladon, you saw the seventeenth shard. So there's like one scene in the whole book, maybe two, depending, but Hoid isn't even very Hoid-like in that first one. It's the second one where he mentions Adonalsium and stuff—
*correct the previous statement*
Is it the first one? It's the first one. It's that party at the thing with Dalinar. So there's two scenes in Way of Kings, and that's very intentional. By the time we get to the second stage Stormlight books, and the fourth stage Mistborn books, you'll just have to be on-board. But by then you're entrenched. If you're reading Stormlight seven, then the Stormlight series is already longer than everything else, so you might as well just've read everything else.
Speaking of the cosmere, because it's this multiverse that's the setting for all these different epic fantasy series, do you ever feel restricted by the cosmere in a sense of sort of wanting to do with a plot or the magic or wanting something really epic to happen but be like, "Wait that's not legal in the system I've created?"
It doesn't happen very often because, most of the times in my outlining process, I notice these things and I move something out of the cosmere. If it's just not going to work with the cosmere magic, it just doesn't have to be cosmere. And I'm really glad I gave myself that freedom because I think that you can get too locked in, right? If I'm like, "Everything has to be cosmere!" then either I'm going to break it, which is going to decrease the value of the continuity, or I'm just not going to be able to write some books that I'm excited about. And I don't like either of those options.
And so being able to say, "You know what? This magic that I'm working on for FTL does not match any of the ways that the cosmere FTL could work. I'm going to move this out of the cosmere." That's what happened to Skyward. Skyward was in the cosmere for a little while, but then I moved it out. I'm like, "No this matches other stuff better. I'm going to go with this FTL, that is not a cosmere FTL." That frees me like--
Skyward is a science fiction space opera, starship pilots and things like that. And if I would have done this in the cosmere, I would have just had to avoid talking about things that would be spoilers for other cosmere books, which would have been terrible, right? So either you have the Skyward books that have their hands bound so that I can't give spoilers, or Skyward gives all the spoilers, and then cool things happening in the future of the cosmere are just like, "whatever". I take option number three, which is I'm just not going to do this as a cosmere book because obviously it doesn't fit.
Is, "Secret Project," Infinity Blade?
Secret project is not Infinity Blade. I'm sorry. Secret Project is a secret. Secret Project I cannot discuss for contractual reasons.
On Sel, in the dialogue from Khriss, the Arcanum Unbounded, she mentions that the Cognitive Realm is especially dangerous because Devotion and Dominion were killed there. Why is it dangerous? Are there bad spren?
Well it's called the Expanse of the Densities in Roshar for a very good reason.
On every planet, do all the objects have the ability to know what they are and remember?
Yes, to an extent.
Odium said to Taravangian, "You did this without access to Fortune or the Spiritual Realm?" How does one access Fortune without the Spiritual Realm or Feruchemical chromium, as almost all future sight tends to utilize the Spiritual Realm in some way?
So, that line is mostly just me saying... *long pause* I think you're picking apart those things too much.
Right, that makes sense. Hey, Odium said it, so I didn't know-- Gotta take that seriously, so.
So, yeah, don't read too much into picking apart those two things. You can read it as-- Honestly, that is me making sure I am being clear in the text.
That there are those are two different things.
Yeah those are two different things, but they are just interrelated. Fortune is a property, and the Spiritual Realm is a place, but not a place. Do you know what I mean? To use Fortune, you're always involving the Spiritual Realm, but in the Spiritual Realm, you're not always involving Fortune.
So if you jumped off a high place and you were a steel Feruchemist, could you store the speed of you falling?
No, because-- I'm going to say you need to be moving under your own-- because otherwise it's all relative, right? If you're falling, it's no different than if you're traveling on the planet or things like that.
So it's related more to muscle contractions.
*hesitantly* Yes, kind of. Feruchemy bends all sorts of weird things, ever since I started doing the weight one. So, yes.
The thing about Feruchemy is it feels like you could be like a savant short of it, but it would be much more minor than something like a savant for-- It would be more things like what you could get for exercise and stuff like that.
Yeah. Yeah, that's possible.
Do Rosharans store their gemstones in spheres in imitation or inspiration of the spheres in [Shadesmar]?
No, they don't. There is a relationship there, but that's not what caused it.
If a Radiant brought some infused gems into Shadesmar, could they transfer that Stormlight into the black glass substance that seems to compose Shadesmar?
I'll RAFO that one.
If you had a spanreed, and you took one half into Shadesmar, would it still be able to write with the conjoined one in the Physical Realm?
Szeth has an afterglow because his soul is lagging behind his body slightly.
So if he was moving fast enough, could a Shardblade pass through his physical body and not cut the soul?
Ummm, that sounds like the sort of thing-- I'm going to say, the soul is more stretchy, so I don't think that's possible. But you could do some weird things where you're cutting the soul and not the body.
How did Spook die?
That's a RAFO. There's your card.
When can we get a Herald of War perspective?
You've gotten one really brief one. You really won't get them until starting around book six. So, you got a little bit left. Taln is a main character in the back five books, but he's only kinda just a tangential character in the first ones.
The black glass beads in Shadesmar on Roshar. If you could somehow get that material into the Physical Realm, would it hold stormlight?
So, that's a RAFO. Because getting stuff out of the Cognitive Realm into the Physical Realm is a different matter from taking stuff from the Physical Realm to the Cognitive.
Well, you don't have to weigh in on whether they could get it to the Physical Realm.
Still a RAFO!
With Adhesion you can use it to either create negative pressure and stick two things together, or you can manipulate to create pressure bubbles around you, like Kal did facing down the storm. Or say with Gravitation, you can either do a Basic Lashing and change the direction gravity is acting on something, or you can do a Reverse Lashing and change the-- and have something with its own gravity field. So I was wondering then, if that is possibly caused by Pushing and Pulling on Surges?
Yes, that is a legitimate interpretation.
Is Ingenuity a Shard?
Umm... *long pause* Maybe. *smiles slyly*
Did the Aimians want Aimia to be Scoured?
No. But, doesn't mean that they--some of them may have seen what happened as necessary. But certainly that was not a prevailing thing.
Do you need a perfect gemstone to imprison an Unmade or a powerful spren?
Yeah. Well, the stronger the spren, the better the gemstone needs to be. Those flaws in the crystal structure are going to lead to leaking if it's not. But an Unmade requires an extra-special level of perfection.
At JordanCon, you said that Gavilar's black sphere was something that, "It's what you expect it to be." Does that mean that it's holding an Unmade?
Not necessarily. Voidlight can be trapped like Stormlight can. Unmade can be trapped like spren can. Does not mean that the sphere has an Unmade.
Is there a feminine Alethi nickname that means gift or blessing?
Yes, but I'd have to go look at the dictionary.
Is that dictionary purchasable?
No, but if you email me, we can hunt through it and see what we can find.
Can we get a small, just a small tidbit or a reveal of what Marasi is going to be doing in The Lost Metal?
So, opening scene of The Lost Metal is her and Wayne. It's a couple of years later and Wax is basically retired to <a thing> and Wayne is her deputy now instead, mainly so she can keep him channeled in the right direction.
The Cognitive aspect of an object is the way that the object views itself and others view it. Say the Vessel of a Shard started to view their power in a somewhat different way than when they first got that power, and the people on the planet also start to view it that way. Would the intent/mandate of that Shard be altered by that changes?
Within some limitations, yes. Certain Shards--certain Vessels believe it can go further than others believe it can go. But there is at least some wiggle room there.
When you're sad, would a seon, especially when you're a kid, would it like nuzzle you and tell you nice things?
It would definitely tell you nice things. Seons barely have any weight to them, and touch, and so nuzzling is not a natural instinct, I would say, for them... But they will definitely comfort you.
Okay. So they're not born?
No, not really anymore. They were all created kind of around the same point.
I'm a geologist. I was wondering does Scadrial have tectonics the way Earth does?
Yes. Scadrial does have tectonics. Roshar doesn't. I think it's the only one I built that doesn't, because of some specific things. But yes, Scadrial tectonic.
*inaudible* also storing Stormlight. Did you decide the value of the gems first?
So I actually retrofitted it. What we looked at is how much food does it create, how much is that equivalency in our world, what factors do we need to change, and things like that. And we retrofitted how much things were worth. There's also a measurement in there of how much-- amount of Stormlight there is and how much that is worth, how much energy and work that can do.
I assign other people to do a lot of that these days. I say, "Here is the situation I want, run the math on this and come back and tell me how much I may use here or there."
Was Syl starting to bond with Tien before he died?
No, good question. But Tien was starting to bond a different spren.
I was suspecting that he was bonding a spren, but then Syl says, at one point, I think she was familiar with Kaladin's hometown, so I was like, maybe!
Good question, but no, he was going in a different direction.
Can you tell me--
If you store one type of Investiture in a nicrosilmind, for example, if you store Stormlight, could you retrieve it as another type?
It's possible. It's not quite as simple as you might think.
Will we be seeing more of Axies the Collector?
Yes, but briefly. Axies probably won't get another-- Maybe there'll be another interlude from Axies' viewpoint. Maybe. He's just around to have fun.
He told me he consults with several people who are well versed in psychology when he tries to portray anything along these lines. He did say (and this goes along with other statements already made) that his intention was not to have Shallan diagnosed with DID like Kaladin is with Depression. He did take some ideas from the disorder to use in the story, but he didn't intend for her to be set into a specific mental illness category. Like we said before, Brandon's focus was mainly on the magical consequences, which makes her case weird anyways.
What are the official colors of the Alethi Highprinces?
(From the internal Dragonsteel wiki)
Can you put the Cosmere books into [chronological] order?
Here is the order that I have publicly confirmed. There are obviously other books and stories fitting in there. For those, you’ll just need to RAFO.
Knowing that you have already stated that the Listeners aren't originally of Odium or of Cultivation. Is it possible that they could actually originally be of what opposes Adonalsium?
I'm going to have to RAFO your question; good question though.
I have a Reddit PM WOB that says the Terris were given Feruchemy as a gift, and that Brandon may get into how that occurred at some point.
It was more of a gift than an accident, but I do plan to someday dig into it more.
How do your fans react to your being a member of the Church?
It's hard to say because I think most of my fans don't care one way or the other. The vocal ones send me e-mails, though. Occasionally, I get messages from people who say, "Hey, I'm not a member of your faith, but it's cool that you have one, and thanks for writing, and I appreciate your books." I've also received more than several e-mails from LDS people who are very pleased with the books and happy to see an LDS writer who produces works they can enjoy. Sometimes I have received e-mails from people who are not proponents of the LDS faith who challenge me on my beliefs. I'm a debater, but not an arguer, though, and I think the difference is that as a debater, if I feel that my side has been presented adequately, I'm not going to feel bad if people disagree with me. So when I respond to e-mails like that, I say something along the lines of, "Hey, here's why I believe what I do. Here's what the basis of my faith is. Here's why I believe in this doctrine that you are challenging. You don't have to believe in it. Believe what you want. But this is my reasoning." I think I usually have pretty good logic and every time someone has responded to one of my reply e-mails, it's been positive. Most of the time, the person will send something back that says, "You know what, thanks for not actually getting into an argument. I was kind of in a bad mood when I sent that and thank you for being respectful." I think being respectful will get you much further than getting into arguments will. I have had universally good experiences with people reacting to my LDS faith, even on such charged topics.
Do you ever plan to write any works dealing with Mormon characters?
I've considered it. The thing, though, is that since I tend to write high fantasy, which entails other worlds that are completely unrelated to this one, there haven't been many opportunities to create one. I've been tempted a couple of times, and if I do end up doing it, it would probably be in a science fiction setting or more of an urban fantasy setting. Nothing is ruled out, though, except that I'm pretty soundly involved in the high fantasy epic genre right now. I haven't done it, but who knows if I will?
Are there any other projects that you're currently working on?
Right now I'm working on a children's series. It's a middle-grade series, a genre targeted at ten- to thirteen-year-olds. Even though it's marketed for that age group, I wrote it for anyone to read. It's a more humorous fantasy series about a kid named Alcatraz who discovers that librarians secretly rule the world. He's part of this family whose members all have really silly magical powers that they use to fight the librarians. For example, his grandpa's superpower is the ability to arrive late to appointments. They use these powers in fun and interesting ways to resist the librarians' control of the world. They are very fun books and have actually been optioned by DreamWorks for a movie. We're hoping that it ends up getting made. The website for the series is evillibrarians.com, and it should be going live in just a short period of time. It will feature a blog written by the evil librarians griping about Alcatraz and his family.
I also have a standalone book that will be released this summer called Warbreaker. I've posted all of the drafts for it on my website. That way people can download and read it, and then if they like it, they can go out and buy it when it's available. It's coming out in June in hardcover. After that, I'll be working on the final book for the Wheel of Time series, and from there I'll be starting a new multi-volume series called The Way of Kings.
Do you plan on writing any other books that feature allomancy?
It's possible. When I write a series, I imagine it in my head as a certain length, and I generally keep to it. But that doesn't mean that I won't revisit the world for new stories. The story of the characters in the Mistborn books is done; the trilogy is finished. If I were going to write more in this world, I would either go forward in time or backward in time, which unfortunately makes it so I'm not as likely to write one. Not that I would be opposed to approaching the Mistborn world in a new way and telling a series of new stories—there were still some holes in allomancy by the end of the books which were intentionally left there in case I did want to revisit it. So, it's definitely possible. But with The Wheel of Time on my plate, I can't promise when or if it will ever happen.
You mentioned that one of your most popular series is the Mistborn trilogy. How did those books come about?
The evolution of a novel is such a complicated, complex, and strange creative process that it's hard to step people through it. I don't think even I can fully comprehend it. But by the time I was writing the Mistborn books, I was in a different situation with my career. I'd sold Elantris by that point and the publisher was saying, "We want something else from you." Rather than taking one of the thirteen books that I'd written before, I wanted to write something new. I wanted to give people my newest and best work. At that point I had time to sit down and ask myself, "What do I want to be the hallmark of my career? What am I going to add to the genre?" I want to write fantasy that takes steps forward and lets me take the genre in some interesting direction. At first I wanted to play with some of the stereotypes of the genre. That's a dangerous thing, though, because, as any deconstructionalist will tell you, when you start playing with stereotypes, you start relying on something that you want to undermine, and that puts you on shaky ground. I was in danger of just becoming another cliché. A lot of times when people want to twist something in a new way, they don't twist it enough and end up becoming part of the cliché that they were trying to redefine. But I really did want to try this and went forward with it anyway.
A lot of fantasy relies heavily on the Campbellian Monomyth. This is the idea focusing on the hero's journey. Since the early days of fantasy, it's been a big part of the storytelling, and in my opinion it's become a little bit overused. The hero's journey is important as a description of what works in our minds as people—why we tell the stories we do. But when you take the hero's journey and say, "I'm going to make this a checklist of things I need to do to write a great fantasy novel," your story goes stale. You start to mimic rather than create. Because I'd seen a lot of that, I felt that one of the things I really wanted to do was to try to turn the hero's journey on its head. I had been looking at the Lord of the Rings movies and the Lord of the Rings books and the Harry Potter books, and I felt that because of their popularity and success, a lot of people were going to be using this paradigm even more—the unknown protagonist with a heart of gold and some noble heritage who goes on a quest to defeat the dark lord. So I thought to myself, "What if the dark lord won? What if Frodo got to the end in Lord of the Rings and Sauron said, 'Thanks for bringing my ring back. I really was looking for it,' and then killed him and took over the world? What if book seven of Harry Potter was Voldemort defeating Harry and winning?" I didn't feel that this story had ever really been approached in the way I was imagining it, and it became one idea that bounced around in my head for quite a while.
Another idea I had revolved around my love of the classic heist genre. Whether it's Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery or the movies Ocean's Eleven and The Italian Job, there are these great stories that deal with a gang of specialists who are trying to pull off the ultimate heist. This is the kind of feat which requires them to all work together and use their talents. I hadn't ever read a fantasy book that dealt with that idea in a way that satisfied me or that really felt like it got it down. So that bounced in my head for a while as well.
One more of the ideas for the Mistborn series happened when I was driving home to see my mom. She lives in Idaho Falls, and after passing Tremonton on the I-15, I just went through this fog bank driving at seventy miles an hour. Even though my car was actually driving into the fog, it looked like the mist was moving around me instead of me moving through it. It was just this great image that I wrote down in my notebook years before I ended up writing Mistborn.
After a while, all these different ideas, like atoms, were bouncing around in my head and eventually started to run together to form molecules (the molecules being the story). Keep in mind, a good book is more than just one good idea. A good book is twelve or thirteen or fourteen great ideas that all play off of each other in ways that create even better ideas. There were my two original ideas—a gang of thieves in a fantasy world, and a story where the dark lord won—that ended up coming together and becoming the same story. Suddenly I had a world where the prophecies were wrong, the hero had failed, and a thousand years later a gang of thieves says, "Well, let's try this our way. Let's rob the dark lord silly and drive his armies away from him. Let's try to overthrow the empire." These are all the seeds of things that make bigger ideas.
After I outlined the book, it turned out to be quite bit longer than I expected, and I then began working through those parts that weren't fully developed yet, changing some things. I ended up downplaying the heist story in the final version of the book, despite the fact that it was a heist novel in one of my original concepts. But as I was writing it, I felt that if I was going to make it into a trilogy, I needed the story to have more of an epic scope. The heist was still there, and still the important part of the book, but it kind of became the setting for other, bigger things in the story, such as the epic coming-of-age of one of the characters, the interactions between the characters, and dealing with the rise and fall of the empire. But that happens in the process of writing. Sometimes the things that inspire you to begin a story in the first place eventually end up being the ones that are holding it back. Allomancy, the magic system in the book, was a separate idea that came about through these revisions.
I wrote the books in the trilogy straight through. I had the third one rough drafted by the time the first one had to be in its final form so that I could keep everything consistent and working together the way I wanted it to. I didn't want it to feel like I was just making it up as I went along, which I feel is one of the strengths of the series. I don't know if I'll ever be able to have that opportunity again in a series, but it certainly worked well for the Mistborn books.
Your books don't have overtly Mormon characters in them, but they do contain many recognizable Mormon elements—especially in book three of the Mistborn trilogy, The Hero of Ages. How do you feel that your faith has influenced your writing?
Being an author, the story is what is most important to me. Theme and message are really secondary. I don't go into a book saying, "I'm going to write a book about this." In other words, I don't want to preach with my books. What I want to do is have compelling, realistic characters who care about different things. Some care about religion, others don't. By writing compelling characters who care about issues, I realize that what the characters care about tends to be influenced by what I care about. As for my faith, it is what primarily influences me because it makes me interested in certain topics. For instance, religion does tend to be a theme in my books. Yet if you read Elantris, my first published work, the religious figure was the primary antagonist. People have asked me, "Brandon, you're religious—why are you painting religion so poorly in this book?" And my answer for them is that I'm not painting religion poorly. The misuse of religion is one of the things that scares me the most in life. Someone who is taking faith and twisting it and manipulating it is doing one of the most purely evil things that someone can do, in my opinion.
With the Mistborn books, I wasn't ever trying to be overtly LDS. Yet my values shape who I am and what I determine to be important. I then end up having characters who deal with these same things, and I think there are a lot of LDS things going on. But of course I think there are a lot of Buddhist things going on as well. I served my mission in Korea and have a lot of respect for the Buddhist religion. Because of that, I think some elements of Buddhism show up in my writing. Not because I set out to say, "Okay, I'm going to use Buddhism here," but because it seems to happen when I'm developing a character who cares about something. That's one of the tricks about being a writer.
One of my main goals is that any time I put a character in whose beliefs are different from mine, I want to make sure that I'm making them realistic, that I'm painting their ideas and philosophies as accurately as possible. I think it's important for all authors to make their characters actually feel real and not just portray them as talking heads who are there to learn a lesson. Another author, Robert Jordan, once said that he loved it when his books made people ask questions, but that he didn't want to give them the answers—he believed that they should come up with their own. That's what I try to do, too.
How does your website fit into your work as a writer?
I want to do the things for my readers that I wish I had had as a reader, and the Internet gives us this wonderful opportunity to do them. We really couldn't connect with readers in the same way before. The other thing is that fantasy is a small-selling genre compared to some others. That may surprise people because it's so popular, but it's only popular among readers. It's not as popular among non-readers. Most people who buy books are buying either romance novels (most often because they buy only those kinds of books or they're grabbing something as they move through the airport) or they are buying a non-fiction book because it was suggested to them, and it tends to be the only book they buy that year. Because of all this, we fantasy authors depend on loyal readers who buy all of our books. We may have a smaller fan base, but our fans are much more dedicated, much more loyal. If fantasy readers really like an author, they will search out books by that author and read everything that they've produced. They will support you. They'll even buy the books in hardcover if they really like them. Because of things like this, I think it's appropriate to do a lot of outreach to readers—to give them a lot for their money. I mean, if someone buys one of my books in hardcover, that's almost thirty bucks they're spending, and I feel like I should do whatever I can to make that book the best experience for them possible.
My number one goal is always to write a really fantastic book. But I can give some added value by saying, "Here are chapter-by-chapter annotations," which are kind of like a director's commentary on a DVD; or if you're an aspiring writer yourself, "Here are some drafts so you can see how this book progressed and how I came up with the plot." All of these are things that I want to do to reward the people who are willing support me and actually go out and find my books. In a lot of ways, I think about it like this: in the past, for an artist to survive, they would have to have a wealthy patron. The patron would financially provide their living so that the artist could create this great art. We do a lot of the same things now, except the patron is the buying public. All the people that read my books are my patrons. It's because of them that I get to do what I love for a living. I feel indebted to them, and I want to make sure I give them everything to enhance their reading experience.
You have many blog posts and podcasts about the writing process and getting published. Could you touch on a few of the core things would-be authors should do?
I would say that the first and most important thing for an author is to learn to write consistently. It's just so important. A lot of people say they want to be writers but don't actually write, or they just write here and there. You can't expect to be a master at something when you first try it. Even if you're pretty good at it, you're still not a master. So just write something. Write a book, edit it, start sending it off, and then immediately start writing something else. Give yourself time to learn to love the process and learn to become a professional, because if you really want this, then you need to act like one. The way you do that is you learn to make yourself write. You need to learn how to deal with writer's block, too. It happens to all of us and we all deal with it in different ways, but you have to find what works for you and how to get yourself to produce.
You don't need to be writing as fast as I did. I just absolutely love the process, and one of my big hang-ups early on was that I wouldn't edit my books. That's part of what took me so long. When I'd get done with a book, I'd say, "Yeah, I learned a lot from that; let me see what I can do now," then I was always excited about the next new idea. I always thought, "Oh the next one's going to be really good." But because of that mentality, I never gave the books that I did finish the credit or polish work that they deserved. It wasn't until I learned to start editing and revising that I got published. The first book I sold, Elantris, was actually the one that went through the largest number of revisions. Learn what works for you.
Another big thing I want to mention is that you shouldn't try to write just toward the market—write toward yourself. Write something that you would love to read. It's good to be aware of what's happening in the market and what types of stories are out there and who else is writing books like that so that you can better explain what you're writing. What you don't want to do is say to yourself, "Teenage girl vampire romances are selling really well—I'm going to write one of those," unless you happen to really love writing teenage girl vampire romances. If you write a good book, someone out there will want to read it, and someone will want to buy it and produce it for those people. Not all genres are as viable marketwise as others. But again, you can't just say, "This sells well, so I'm going to write it," unless you happen to really like what happens to sell well.
How did you get your start as a published author?
By this time, I had already written about twelve or thirteen novels, which I was trying to market for publishing. I was still working the graveyard shift at the hotel, and eventually one of the manuscripts that I'd sent somewhere got me a callback from an editor who had finally looked at my manuscript and wanted to buy it. I actually got the phone call as a voicemail. It was from an editor that I'd sent a book to eighteen months before. By that time I had pretty much given up on it; eighteen months is a lot longer than you expect for them to ever get back to you. You figure, "Okay, it's either lost or they didn't like it and just rejected it but forgot to send you a letter." It's a funny story, though. The one who gave it to the person who finally contacted me was actually an agent I had met and talked to at a convention. He said to me then, "Oh, you seem so nice," and later told me that it was because I was such a nice guy that he didn't want to just reject the book without looking at it. I guess that got me lots of points, because he sat on it for all those eighteen months before he eventually looked at it. But by then all my contact info was wrong, because during the time that I had sent the book out, I had moved and had AOL get rid of my e-mail address because I stopped paying for the service. I had also purchased a cell phone, so my phone number was no longer accurate. So this person, who would later become my editor, had to google me. He found my contact information on my BYU grad student page, which fortunately I had kept up-to-date, and when he called me, the voicemail said, "Hi, I don't know if this is the right Brandon Sanderson, but if it is, you sent me a manuscript about eighteen months ago, and I finally started looking at it last night. I got a few hundred pages into it, and I knew I had to call you and make sure it's still available, because I think I want to buy it."
I called him back, and then I called the agent that I had met, because it seemed like his editorial style matched mine. He handled the contract negotiations, and I became an author. I quit my graveyard shift job, taught freshman English composition in between to keep me going while we were waiting for the books to actually come out, and fortunately I've never had to go and get another real job. I've always worried I would have to.
How did you become interested in being a writer?
My start as a writer can be traced back to when I was fourteen years old. I was not a very distinguished student, so to speak: Bs and Cs in all my classes. I really didn't have any direction, either; there was nothing I really loved to do. I was also what they call a "reluctant reader". My reading skills were not fantastic, so when I tried reading Lord of the Rings for the first time, it was just completely over my head, and I assumed that all fantasy novels were boring. It was a teacher who handed me the very first fantasy novel I ever really finished reading. The book was called Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, and it had this gorgeous Michael Whelan cover on it which immediately caught my eye. I read the book and absolutely fell in love with it. I became an avid reader, mostly of fantasy novels, over the next couple of years. Soon I began to think, "You know, somebody out there is making a living at this, and it seems like it's something that I would really enjoy doing." That's when I found some purpose and direction.
There were certain influences in my life, my mother primarily, who convinced me that being a writer was hard to do, and she was right. It's one of these jobs where not everybody who tries it actually makes it. She convinced me to go into chemistry during college because I had done well in the sciences all throughout high school, thinking I could write in my spare time and have a real, solid job. It wasn't terrible advice; I'm just not sure it was the right advice for me at that time. I served a mission and during that time I was very, very pleased to be on another continent, away from chemistry. I really missed writing, though, because I'd been doing it for fun all through that freshman year before I left. I actually started my first novel when I was fifteen, but it didn't go anywhere. It was rather derivative and all those things that you expect from the majority of novels written by guys in high school. Knowing I could actually produce something, though, gave me some encouragement. Of course I didn't show it to anybody. I hid it behind the painting in my room because I didn't want anyone to see the pages I'd printed out and make fun of me.
When I got back from my mission, I thought, "You know what? I'm going to give it a try." It sounds kind of stupid, but like I said, there are people that get to do this for a living, and I decided that I was never going to be happy unless I gave it a shot. So I changed my major to English because I assumed that's what you did if you wanted to be a writer. I've since learned that that's not the only way to go about it, but it did work for me. It gave me a much better grounding in the classics. I was able to take some creative writing classes too, as a part of my required credits. I got a job working the graveyard shift at a hotel, which was great for my writing because I was there most weeknights from 11 pm until 7 am, and the only requirements that they put me to were, "Just don't fall asleep. Do whatever you want, just don't fall asleep. We need you awake in case there's an emergency or if anyone comes in." I ended up spending a lot of my time working on novels during those early morning hours, and that's how I was able to pay for school, attend it full-time, and still have time for writing. I did that for about five years until I eventually decided that I would go back for a master's degree. It was sort of a way to delay having to make the inevitable decision of what I was really going to do with my life. My backup career then became working as an English professor, partially because I do enjoy teaching, and I enjoy scholarship on the academic level. My parents were worried about me, though. They were afraid that I was going to end up begging for beans on the side of the road, or whatever it is that starving artists do. At least being able to tell them that I was getting a master's degree was helpful. It was also nice to be part of a community of writers and to be able to see what other people were creating.
From your experience teaching creative writing, what is some advice you give your students?
The biggest piece of advice I would give them is: You just gotta finish stuff. A lot of people want to be writers. And a lot of people have really great ideas. And get their great ideas together and say, "Wow! I think this could be a book." Then they start on it and for various reasons, they stop. One of the main reasons is they get discouraged because it's not turning out as they want it to turn out, or they get distracted by another really great idea they've just had, or they want to go back and keep revising this initial stuff that they've written. And you've got to finish. You won't understand how to be a writer until you actually finish a book. And you've got to remember that nobody starts off being perfect. And it's that process of writing books that aren't so good that teaches you how to write books that are good. No one expects to sit down and play the piano perfectly the first time. Yet a lot of people sit down and try to write the perfect book the first time. So, my biggest piece of advice to them is: Sit down, write, finish a book. And that will teach you how to write a good book.
And your Mistborn series, like you said, it is more serious. Tell us a little bit about the Mistborn series.
Okay. One of the things I felt that I wanted to do, when I finally did break in, was find some way that I could add to the genre, rather than re-treading the same ground. I felt that I wanted to try and look at the fantasy genre and do plots that hadn't been explored yet. And the Mistborn books are my attempt at doing that.
A lot of epic fantasy has this same sort of concept. This young protagonist, raised in the rural area goes on a quest to defeat the dark lord. And it's a wonderful, powerful story; it's the story that Tolkien used to an extent; it's certainly the story that Robert Jordan used, and you see it coming up over and over again in fantasy and I worried it had come up too many times. And so the Mistborn series came from me saying, "Well, what if he failed? What if this kid, this plucky protagonist, you know, went to save the world and it went all wrong?"
What if Frodo kept the ring? Or what if Sauron had killed him and taken the ring? What if Voldemort killed Harry Potter at the end of book seven? What happens? And the way that I approached this is saying, "Okay, that's happened. You've got your generic epic fantasy story that all happened, and the hero failed." Thousand years later, now what? And it focuses around a team of thieves who get together and decide, "Okay, the prophecies were lies, the hero didn't save us, the world is essentially enslaved. Let's try this our way." And their plot is to rob the dark lord silly, use the money they get to bribe his armies away from him, and over throw the empire. And that's Mistborn.
You know, Brandon, as you were talking about the Mistborn [series], you brought up some memories of my childhood. I don't remember what this series was, but I read this series that exactly was kind of like that: you know, the character is a normal person, he's great, throughout the series, but the very end, it doesn't all turn out right. He becomes evil and the series ends! And it haunted me. My whole life. And I still don't remember what the series was. I wish I would have remembered it, but . . . yeah, that's a very interesting concept and it doesn't happen very often.
I was tempted to actually do that. I felt that would have been too much of a downer. Which is why I jumped forward a thousand years and then used kind of flash backs to tell the story of what happened a thousand years ago, because it's not as clear cut as I've made it sound.
The other thing is I would have had to write it as a kind of more generic fantasy at the beginning and then take it other places, and I wasn't sure if I could do that because I don't know if my heart would have been in it, trying to write a fantasy that is more generic.
The other big thing I like to do with my books that I hope does something new and interesting is try to approach having interesting different types of magic. And I think the best fantasy books do this, and I wanted each book that people read of mine to have a new magic system. I like to write magic that feels like it could be a science, that in this world there's another branch of science that we don't have in our world, that if you explore and apply the scientific method to it, you can figure out how it works. And I tend to write stories where we've got people figuring out the magic. They're working in sort of a magical renaissance. That's the theme for my next series, The Way of Kings, which is what's going to be coming out next year, is the idea that we're living in a world where people are discovering the magic and bringing it back to the world and trying to figure out how it works and actually applying reason and science to it to get some hard numbers on what it can do and what it can't do.
Yeah! I know everybody is excited to talk about The Wheel of Time, but let's first talk, really quickly about your Mistborn and your Alcatraz series. 'Cause I think it's interesting to find out where you came from before you got into The Wheel of Time. From the title, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, I get the hint that it's little humorous. Tell us a little bit about that series.
Well, that series is targeted a little younger, but most of my fans of it are actually older people. It's a silly series about a kid who discovers that evil librarians secretly rule the world.
Yeah. Let me back up and kind of explain how I work as a writer. I spent many years trying to break in, as a lot of us do, and during that decades worth of time, about, I wrote 13 novels. I was working on my 13th novel when I sold my first novel which was Elantris.
A stand alone, epic fantasy. That was the sixth book I'd written. And then my next series was the Mistborn Trilogy, which you've mentioned. That was the first time where I had to sit down and write three books in the same world, which was actually pretty tough for me, to manage because I wasn't used to doing that. And after I'd written the second one, I needed to do something different. I needed to do something new. And so I jumped and wrote this book and in a lot of ways it was me riffing on what I do in my other fantasy books. You know, my epic fantasy, I think, takes itself very seriously as epic fantasy has to. And so I wanted to do something that poked some good-natured fun at that. And that's where Alcatraz came from.
Well, you do give a lot of advice, don't you? I mean you teach creative writing classes.
Do you still do that? Even with all this on your plate?
I still do it. But I only teach one class a year nowadays. So, it only lasts for about three months. But I feel a need to do that because it was in that class when I was an undergraduate, long ago, that I got the final bit of information I needed, it was the final kick in the pants, so to speak, to go get published.
It was taught by David Farland at the time who was just doing what I'm doing. He was a professional writer. He was just stepping in to teach the class for a few years. And he gave me real world publishing advice, gave the whole class real world publishing advice. A lot of creative writing classes are very touchy feely. That's a good thing; they'll talk about the feel of writing and how to grow a story and all of this stuff. But Dave was the first one that came in and said, "Look, you can do this for a living. I'm going to tell you how and we're going to talk about the nuts and bolts of creating a story." And that was wildly useful to me. And so I feel a need to go back, when I have the opportunity and explain to new writers, those same sorts of things.