Do Parshendi have gemhearts?
Excellent question. Which I will RAFO.
Do Parshendi have gemhearts?
Excellent question. Which I will RAFO.
When you optioned out the game for Mistborn, what happened to the tabletop RPG?
It is still in print, and it's been made. They came to me and pitched, and I said, "This sounds awesome. I like gaming. This is the sort of game that I would like." And we sat and we chatted about game mechanics and things. They designed it all, but I was involved in saying, "This is what I love, this is what I do, and this is the kind of game that I enjoy." So they built it kind of based on the type of gaming I like. And then I kind of annotated the sourcebook. I think they are going to be releasing soon an Alloy of Law supplement. The thing about the Alloy of Law supplement is, because I haven't written the books yet, and I haven't nailed down a bunch of things, I'm allowing them some extrapolation that may not become canon as I write the books. So, keep that in mind, particularly the Alloy of Law one. It's easier when they had a complete series. And even then, I let them extrapolate a bit on magic to make the mechanics of the game work. But when you get the Alloy of Law supplement, if you do, realize that they may be going places that aren't 100% canon.
What are you willing to reveal about the Seventeenth Shard?
The three guys that you meet in Ishikk's interlude are all from the Seventeenth Shard. And it is an organization of people who about... They aren't convinced that what Hoid is doing is what he should be doing.
How do you write and not subconsciously incorporate other elements from other authors? Do you have a plan to avoid that?
That's an excellent question. We did a whole podcast on that in Writing Excuses. And you may want to go listen to that one, because we talk about it in length.
It is something to be aware of. Oftentimes, when I'm working on something, I'll try to read something very different. Like, it's why I love Terry Prachett novels, they are so different from what I do that I can read them and love them and enjoy them, but not worry about unconscious influence. In other cases, I would read something, and be like... I can kind of tell what is influencing me in what way, and I'll try to be aware of it and conscious of it. The trick is, I don't feel like I should stop reading, because that would be like a doctor not keeping up on what the current medical practices are. If you do that, I think you're gonna have a bad time as a doctor. So I feel like as a writer, I need to be aware of what the new writers are doing, what the established writers are doing, where the genre is moving. I can't talk with expertise about a lot of genres. I don't know science fiction; I love reading it, but I don't know it so well that I can do that. Same thing with paranormal. But with fantasy, for epic fantasy, I want to be on top of the game, and know exactly what other authors are doing, so I can be aware of it.
So, I have to just try and manage it. It is a concern, though, a very big concern.
You have books that contain three completely different magic systems, that they're little or no resemblance to anything I've seen before. Where do they come from?
This comes from my personal philosophy on the fantasy genre. I've been reading it for 20+ years now. I love the fantasy genre. But I personally feel that the genre hit some points in its career where it stagnated a little bit. It was not branching out as much as it should. And that was part of the drive behind me writing what I write. Now, I'm not pointing any fingers, it was just on us of the new generation to say, "All right, where can we take this genre?"
That's what happened in science fiction. If you go back, science fiction was one thing. And then the next generation made it something else. And then the next generation made it something else. It's why science fiction has such depth to it. And you can still find all the original stuff, and people are writing things like that right now, but you can also find this whole wide variety. And so the genre is extremely varied. And fantasy is a newer genre. It really is epic fantasy, really though. Fantasy goes all the way back. But epic fantasy was a genre that did not have enough of this variation to it, in my opinion.
The trick is that being really varied with your plots, you can do it, it just makes generally bad plot. You can do completely unexpected or completely depressing, you can do weird things with plot, but they're either confusing, or they aren't very fun to read. That's not to say nobody has ever done it, people do, but I really felt that fantasy, rather than plot, the place that it needed to innovate was in setting, and maybe in style. I really like how fantasy is kind of inching toward this... you see more gunpowder fantasies nowadays, you see more fantasies set in an African culture or an Asian culture, things like this. And this sort of expansion has really helped the genre quite a bit.
So, the magic systems, where do they come from? They're what I'm most excited about in the genre, so it's what I do naturally. Mostly, when I buy books and I read them, I'm like, "Come on. This same magic. Again? Can't we do something new?" So, it just happens naturally. I do want to say, at the end of the day, a generic magic system and a generic setting plus fantastic writing and characters is still better than the best setting you can imagine with boring characters. So, as writers, I would say to you, keep that in mind. You really need to learn to write killer characters and an engaging plot. But then, I suggest a lot of variety with the setting or the style, and ways that you can approach your writing.
How many Shards have ever been on Roshar?
Oh, boy. At one point, all of them were on Roshar. Which is technically true.
How much are you willing to reveal about Hoid and worldhoppers?
So, for those who aren't aware, there is a... People noticed really early on, it did not take them long, that a character from Elantris actually showed up in Mistborn. And they assumed it was just me reusing the name, until this character kept showing up and kept being involved in things tangentially. If you've read The Way of Kings, it's the King's Wit. It is the guy named Dust, who... did I name him Dust? I just changed his name to Hoid. He's the storyteller in Warbreaker who tells stories with dust. He's the old beggar that has the shadowed that Sarene talks to in Elantris, that she sends in with supplies into the city. So, this same character kept showing up. And then other characters kept showing up. Like Galladon's in The Way of Kings, if you missed that. He's a character from Elantris.
So, the question is, how much am I willing to reveal? What I'm willing to reveal is what goes in the books. People like yourself, and these indivdiuals, have made a profession out of teasing extra hints out of me. Because I write the books too slowly, apparently. How much am I willing to reveal? Well, what I want to reveal, I've put in the books. But I will say other things when people ask questions, and they can tease them out of me.
Before we wrap up, Brandon have you got any news about movies or a Mistborn game?
Yes, the Mistborn video game is very much a go. The guys at Little Orbit have just been awesome. We are working together to make an excellent game, I hope. I'm working on the story. I've turned in to them an overarching story for the whole, for the game and they are taking that and building the game and level design around that and then I will come back after they've done that and actually write the dialogue for the characters that moves the story along. So the video game is a completely go, cross-platform PS3, Xbox 360 and Steam for 2013.
The movie we are pitching to studios this month, so hopefully we can get something rolling on that, I have no news other than what I posted on my blog which is we've now got a good screenplay, it's quite good and now we're trying to pitch to studios and trying to convince somebody to pick this thing up and run with it. We're really hoping that, you know, fantasy has a really good reputation right now because of the excellent Game of Thrones adaptation, and so we're hoping that people will take a look at some good fantasy properties and that we can get a film made.
How did the whole cosmere come about?
Oh that's a good question. The cosmere came about because- there's really two genesises of it. First off I'm a big fan of Asimov's work and if you know Asimov's work, he tied his two universes together later in his life and I thought he did a brilliant job of it, though patching it together later in his life as he did there were certain continuity problems in doing it and I always thought, "Boy, I bet he wished he'd done it from the beginning".
So, as I started to work on things, I thought, "Well why don't I try something like that from the beginning." Once again I got to see what one of the masters did and learn from them, stand on their shoulders.
The other thing is, early in my career I realized that if I were writing mini-books, writing them all in the same series would be a bad for getting published. Let's say I wrote five, I'm gonna write five books and a publisher rejects the first one. If the other four are in the same series, it's going to be very hard to convince that publisher to read book two if they've already said no to book one. However, if they are five standalone books, set in different worlds, then I can say if someone says, "I liked this book but not enough to publish it," I could send them another one and say, "Hey this one is different but similar, maybe you'll like that." It just increased my chances.
The problem with that is I grew up reading the big epics and I love big epics and they are the books of my heart, are things like the Wheel of Time. I wanted to write big epics and so I started writing a secret big epic. It started with Elantris, which is the first one that I wrote in the cosmere and right after it Dragonsteel, which is actually a prequel but in a different universe [world]. I started putting characters from each of these books in the other books to have what I call a hidden epic, mostly for myself, because I had all these books I was going to be selling and marketing separately. But when Elantris sold, all of that stuff was buried in there, and I said, "Well, I love it, I'm not gonna cut it, I'm just gonna put it in there to see if people notice." I'm going to keep telling my hidden epic because eventually I will be telling the greater story with Dragonsteel and the third Mistborn trilogy dealing with these things and so that's where the idea for the cosmere came from, those two pieces.
Brandon you do a lot of interesting stuff with publishing formats like Warbreaker being free. I know you talked recently about bundling the last, the last book with an ebook and a hardcover. So what kind of stuff do you see happening in the future and what do you like as far as formats?
I think a lot of exciting things are happening. One thing that's happening, I think the digital revolution is changing things a lot, and I think this is gonna let people like me get away with more things. For one thing, digitally our lengths don't matter as much. Theoretically, I doubt we'd be able to pull this off, but theoretically, we could do something like re-release Gathering Storms, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light reordered with their chapters in the original order as before they were split, I had originally put them, which i think would be awesome. You could release that as one book which in print you never could do, so length sort of shenanigans are things we can do.
I also like the idea of bundling. I think eventually I'm going to be able to convince people to do this. I would love to do something more like what we've seen in movies and in records, where we release a really nice special edition of a book with a hardcover and with an included ebook copy, and with included audio book copy and like something like a book-end or a medallion and like an art book. You know, something that we release for just uh--you know, make it expensive. It'd be like a two hundred and fifty dollar product that comes signed and numbered and all this stuff. We can do that, and at the same time release a very cheap ebook for those who don't have the cash for that, or don't have the interest. And I think that by doing that we can allow the people who want a really nice collectors thing to pay what they want, and people who want a few dollar ebook to pay that and we actually end up at the same amount of money that we're making, except everybody’s happier.
And so I don't see why we wouldn't be choosing these sorts of things, there are just so many questions. The big one is we don't want to disenfranchise retailers. A lot of particularly independent bookstores have stuck with us over the years and you know a lot of these stores are wonderful in that they will grab new authors like me when I was brand new and really promote them and get behind them and do these wonderful things for them, and we don't want to do anything where we are cutting them out of the loop. I really want there to be strong independent bookstores in the coming years, because I think it's really important for the genre, so we have to find a way to work all of this with them at the same time.
If you could have the abilities of one of your characters, what abilities would you want and why?
Any one of my characters? Well I would love to be able to, if I were to pick one superpower it would probably be flying and so I would totally go with, probably Steelpushing just because I think it would be so much fun. The ideas of the, of the Lashings from Way of Kings would be a nice second but the Steelpushing just sounds like fun, so I would totally be a Mistborn. I would get them all.
Was Honor Splintered?
Was Honor Splintered? Ooh someone's been paying attention, very much. I would say that yes, Honor was Splintered. That is a very important question to be asking, someone knows their stuff.
I loved the character reversal that took place with [Vivenna] and Siri [Moderator: and actually I'm enjoying that at the moment]. Did you come up with that idea--was that an early idea in your planning or did it emerge as a result of the story writing itself?"
That's a good question, for most of those they were early ideas. I had two main themes for myself when writing Warbreaker, one was character reversals. I wanted to play with the idea of reversed roles, you see it from the very beginning when the two sisters are forced to reverse roles and also the role reversal between Vasher and Denth.
The other big thing was I wanted to work on my humor and try and approach new ways of being, of having humor in a book and seeing what different types of character humor I could use. It was really actually me delving into a lot of Shakespeare at the time and seeing the way he pulled reversals and the way he used multiple levels of humor and I wanted to play with that concept in fantasy novels, so a lot of those were planned. Some of them were not, some of them came spontaneously, as you're writing the book, you always come up with great ideas for books while you're working on them so you kind of see the evolution of a few of them.
Warbreaker is posted for free on my website, the complete draft of it and I actually posted the first draft all the way through to the last draft and so you can actually take and compare the published draft to the very first draft and even the chapters as I wrote them, you can see how some things were evolving and coming to be and I was realizing certain things while I was doing it and other things just were very well foreshadowed from the beginning.
In a lot of your books the internal struggle is just as important as the external conflict. How do you keep that internal struggle from devolving into just, into whining essentially?
Right, no, that's a real danger. We call it "navel gazing" a lot in writing where if you delve too much into that, you just have scenes with characters sitting and pondering and nothing happens. I have to walk that line. In fact some of mine probably turns into navel-gazing because I probably err on that side a little too much. I would say that the way I try to work on this is to mirror internal conflict with external conflict, meaning what the character is working on inside is, is enhanced, is conflicted, is in some ways changed by what's happening externally which then allows some very powerful ways of showing them working through their problems in the real world, not just sitting and thinking about them.
That has worked with me so far, it is certainly a danger that I'm aware of and something that I think writers need to be aware of. At the same time, you know, what fiction can do is show internal conflict, emotions, thoughts, feelings in a way that other mediums can't. It's one of our specialties and I think that avoiding it completely is the wrong move because, yes, any time you delve into that you risk just getting boring, but when you don't delve into that you're basically just trying to imitate what a film can do, do everything external and a film can do that much better. I like taking what we can do as writers and really playing to our strengths and exploring what the medium is capable of and so that's why I do it.
Are chasmfiends related to thunderclasts?
No. Good question though. Thunderclasts are actually... It shows up pretty early in the series, the second book, more what thunderclasts are. Dalinar sees one in a flashback in the second book. So you'll get a good explanation of where they come from, but they are more related to the voidbringers, whereas chasmfiends are actually a living part of the ecosystem.
So what is the purpose of the pupating?
You will find out. Shallan is asking that very question.
What would you like to be working on? Do you have any ideas bouncing around in your head?
I would like to write the book I've wanted to write for a long time (I'll probably do it as a novella), about the planet where catching a disease gives you a magical talent. And I'm probably gonna do that one as my next novella, next year. So in between projects I'll write that one.
If you were to be a misting, which...
Coinshot. Easy answer. Bouncing around off of cars and things would be so cool!
But without pewter, you would land too hard and break something?
eh, Wax manages. You just have to be really careful. Pewter would be number two.
Are TenSoon and MeLaan gonna be in the Wax and Wayne series at all?
You have seen TenSoon in Alloy of Law, and MeLaan was mentioned by reference, though they didn't know her name.
Was it in the broadsheet?
Nope. You just watch. They both are in there. TenSoon is wearing someone's body. So watch for somebody who changes personalities drastically between the beginning and the end of the book.
Is the the police guy?
Most of your magic systems seem superhero-ish to begin with, people have an ability or two that they can do. With the exception of Elantris. Do you intend to return to that one, or do another system that's similar to that?
I will. I like to do all kinds of different things. The thing about it is that I like having discrete powers that I can really explore. I find that a lot of magic system that have just so many things you can do — it's not necessarily that it's a bad magic system, I just find that I like to take one thing and dig into it deeply. Like, I love reading the Wheel of Time, that had a very expansive magic system. But when you see my books come along, you see the characters focusing on a few weaves and using them really well. That's just kind of more of a me thing.
Ten Orders of Radiants. Ten books. One new Order for each book?
So we won't actually see the last one in action until the last book?
Oh, you may see them in action, but the thing about it is, it's actually focused on the people who have the flashback sequences. So, the first one was Kaladin, and he's a Windrunner. And the next one's Shallan, and she's a Lightweaver. In fact, if you pop open the first book and look on the cover, the stamp on the cover is the Windrunner stamp.
In Warbreaker, how does Denth remember who his sister is if he was Returned?
That is an excellent question and it will be answered. It is a conscious decision of mine, doing that. It is something you are supposed to be wondering. In the future books I want to delve into that sort of thing a lot more. So, Read And Find Out, but it was a "That wasn't a mistake" Read And Find Out.
What is your prefered writing tool? Mac, PC, Windows, Word, Word Perfect?
I use regular Word. The reason for that is I like some of the tools like the Document Map. Very useful for me. And the autocorrect function. Over the years I've built a whole autocorrect library where it takes all my weird spellings and spells them right. I feel like I spell things correctly on Word, when I really don't. The other thing that I do like is wikidpad, the wiki software. I like that a lot. It's a free wiki software, and it's what I keep all my worlds in.
In the sample chapter for the sequel to Alloy of Law, that you read, you said that since Sazed is in charge of Hemalurgy, Hemalurgy's not wrong anymore.
That is what the book that Wax reads says.
Except for the murder!
Except for the murder part.
Are Inquisitors bald?
Yes, Inquisitors are bald.
Are they bald from being bald, or do they shave their heads?
They shave their heads. Hemalurgy does not automatically make you bald.
So, how do you pronounce [Jasnah's] name?
They use the J as a Y. But you don't have to say it that way, you can say it how you want. Because they actually use a guttural, sort of Middle-Eastern <koh>, which is in Kholin. You can say the names however you want, but that is the pronunciation style that I'm using. It's very Semitic, the language family.
And you also said that they don't look human. They're humanoid...
No, they look human, but they have the epicanthic fold. So, they have what we would consider Asian eyes. So when they see Szeth, who has very Caucasian eyes, in fact a little rounder than ours, he looks childish to them. If you saw Kaladin, for instance, you would say, "Wow, that guy looks like he's half Japanese half Middle Eastern. Vaguely darker skin, curly black hair. The actual model I used for Kaladin is a Hawaiian who's half Japanese.
So, that's Kaladin, I assume, on the front of Words of Radiance. Does that look like him, or not?
No, but he redid the picture. Yes, there will be a different Kaladin on the front. He actually redid the cover, Whelan did. So, it looks better, but it still doesn't look 100% like... Getting across the ethnic sense is a little harder. He hasn't quite gotten Kaladin down, in my head. No one has, even the sketches that I got to do early on, the concept sketches didn't capture him. They got Dalinar, and the Shallan are perfect, they're dead-on. But the concept art for Kaladin just didn't work.
I feel that it is upon my shoulders as as writer to make sure that when I write a character's viewpoint different from my own, I present it as strongly as I would want some to present my philosophy in a book they were doing. And I feel that multiple sides to an argument strengthen all sides. You will find, as Jasnah interacts with other people who have examined their beliefs in a little bit more depth, you will hopefully find some very good conversations in this regard.
A lot of people I know think that you are an atheist because you wrote such a believable atheist. And an atheist that we all liked in Jasnah. So, I'm wondering if you interviewed people or you got that from philosophy classes.
I did. Philosophy class mixed with interviews. And I spent a suspicious amount of time hanging out on atheist forums. Really what I would do is, I tried to find the threads where they complained about misconceptions about them, and things like that, and used that to inform creating Jasnah's philosophy on life.
You mentioned you were going to break up the Stormlight Archive into two sets of five books. So, how is that going to work? Are you going to change stories, with different characters?
Characters from the first will appear in the second five, the ones who survive. The first five is Kaladin/Dalinar/Shallan's story. The back five is Jasnah, Taln, and the story of the Heralds, and things like that. And that's how I've broken it up in my head.
The break point will make for an obvious break point, where you could almost say I'm starting a new series when I start the next one.
Does Roshone get his comeuppance?
More of what happened with Roshone is in the second book. He will at least be mentioned and you will find out more.
What is the name or intention of Bavadin's Shard?
I have not revealed that yet. I don't think I want to get into that quite yet.
Any good reads you recommend for the book fans?
I have recently read Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. I guess it's been a few months now. I really like that. The other most recent book I read is an unpublished novel that I'm hoping will be published because I thought it was fantastic, by a friend of mine. It's called A Thousand Faces—I don't know if she'll end up changing that title. But, Promise of Blood, very good, highly recommended. And if you're looking for something great, and you haven't tried Terry Pratchett, he's one of my go-to recommendations. I love Pratchett's work. Don't start with the first one. Start with Guards! Guards!, or The Truth.
Talk about your writing routine—you're very prolific!
I, like I said, need to be jumping projects. It's just something about me. When I finish something, I feel the need to do something else very different from what I just finished. And given the chance to do so, I will jump and do something bizarre, for me. Bizarre, in a different line. And so, I'm often doing this. How do I juggle them? Well, it's more a matter of I would have more trouble not juggling them because then I would be locked into one thing, and I think it would be a lot harder for me to do my writing the way I do it. It's just my natural inclination.
You're known as an epic fantasy guy. Why the change-up?
I like to do different things. It's what keeps me productive—switching projects. And usually after I've finished something big, I want to do something very different. And so I like to try different genres. Granted, the speculative aspect, the science fiction/fantasy aspect of things, is what really interests me. I basically have never written a book without some at least hint of the science fiction or fantasy element because that's what I love, so that'll show up in everything. But I also do like thrillers. And writing this book—it's been called dystopian now—I viewed it as action-adventure. Dystopian in the same way that some of the darker superhero films are dystopian.
Is it my first YA? I have another YA called The Rithmatist. This I wrote as an older middle grade novel, which is a very fine distinction that really only matters to literacy professionals, and to authors, and things like that. Middle grade ended up getting published as a young YA novel instead—the line there blurs very much. So, yes and no. I mean, Mistborn, which I'm best known for, stars a sixteen-year-old girl. That's shelved in 'adult' because there are adult characters as well, but the story's about her. So is it my first YA, is it not? I'm really honestly not sure. That's sort of a distinction I'll let the librarians and the booksellers argue over.
[Tell us about] coming up with the names for the Epics.
It was really all right. I wouldn't say "proud" with regard to 'Steelheart', more "ecstatic" because I came up with the name very early on. And I'm like, "Oh, I hope no one has used this. I hope no one has used this." And then I went and looked and there were no major superheroes with that name listed on the various lists that I found. So I figure I'm pretty safe. But from going on there, finding names was really difficult. I wanted to do things that hadn't been used by any major Marvel or DC characters. And they have lots and lots and lots of characters—lots of them! And so, my instinct was if there's a Wikipedia article dedicated to this character, they're probably too big a character for me to use that name. And so, I spent most of the time either there, or there are resources on various fan sites that just list all the characters that I could search, just by names. And I would have a list of twelve names for a superhero or supervillain, and spend all this time trying to figure in, and all twelve would have been used, and I would have to go back to the drawing board and come up with twelve more, or something like that.
Why are the Epics, the people with the power, all evil?
So the idea for this story came when I was driving along on the freeway and someone cut me off in traffic, and my immediate instinct was, "You're lucky I don't have any superpowers because I'd blow your car up right now." This is what happens when you're a fantasy writer, right? You have weird instinctual reactions like that. I was very frightened, though, because I'm like, "Wow, I can't believe that's inside of me." It's probably a good thing that I don't have superpowers because I don't know that I could be trusted not to blow people off of the road when they cut in front of me. And that led me down the natural progression to, "What would happen if people really have superpowers?" Would people be good with them, or would they not? And if my first instinct is to use them in this sort of awful way, what happens if everyone starts abusing these powers?
And that led me down the road to the story of, the idea of, there being no heroes—there being a story about a common man with no powers, trying to assassinate a very powerful superpowered individual. It's weird talking about this in the terms of superheroes, though, because as I was writing the book, my focus was on sort of an action-adventure feel—definitely using some of the superhero tropes, and the comic book tropes. But I have found that in the fiction I've read, it's better to do kind of a strong adaptation–kind of like movies do. I like how movies have adapted comic books and kind of made them their own, and turned them into their own action-adventure genre. And that was what I was kind of using as a model for this. And so yeah, I wanted to tell the story of this kid—I say kid, he's eighteen—this young man, who wants to bring down the emperor of Chicago, and doesn't have any powers himself, but thinks he might know what Steelheart—that character's—the emperor's weakness is.
Is burning atium related to Scadrian worldhopping?
Hehehe. That's a good question, the answer is no.
Does mechanical Feruchemy draw from the user or the machine?
Let's see if I can phrase this correctly. Feruchemy-- I don't want you to guess everything I'm going to do, then the books won't be interesting for you in the future. When I'm approaching using them mechanically I'm trying to keep to the core principles of the magic as much as possible.
Going back to The Way of Kings, as you said you wrote that in 2002 then you shelved it. So that's, like, even in your introduction you say it's over ten years of planning and through that, a lot of the planning on a series like that is also worldbuilding and so on, but the next book you said you want to get through as quick as possible, do you think it'll have an impact on the, not on the quality of the book, but on the type of book? In the sense, The Way of Kings took ten years and the new one, less. What do you think?
I'm hoping it won't. I will have to see when I write it. I'm certainly hoping that I don't have to write it and then shelve it for ten years. I think people would be very angry with me. If it's the right move to do, I'll do it, but I think I would have major outcries. My instincts... you know, over the years I've developed pretty good instincts for when a book is going to work and when it is going to be a rougher write, and I'll know very quickly once I start it if it's working or not. I'll be upfront with people as I write it about that. My instincts right now are very good for it, I'm kind of chomping at the bit. The original Way of Kings from 2002, there are many parts of that that I didn't end up getting to in the new one, because it wasn't time for them yet. So there's still stuff floating from that book that is still going to be part of the future books.
Who would win in a fight? Vin, or Vasher, or the Nightblood?
And who would win in a fight between Vin and Vasher? It would probably depend on who got the jump on who. Vin's a bit more sneaky, so I have the feeling that Vasher would be in trouble if it involved sneaking, but Vasher is... he only has to get one little cut on you and you're gone so it, it would probably... my money would be on Vin.
You're planning the Stormlight Archive as this big long ten book series and I imagine that obviously look at your work with the Wheel of Time the other big long epic series, one of the issues that at least some fans perceive is that these series are at least perceived to sag or at least slow down at some point in the middle. People start to get very bogged down and it takes years for the next one's out, is that something you're considering for your structuring of the Stormlight Archive and what are you trying to do to address that?
Excellent question, it is actually something that I've very consciously thought about when designing this story. One of the reasons that I didn't release The Way of Kings when I wrote it back in 2002 is that I hadn't figured out this problem yet. And it's one of the reasons that I shelved the book and re-wrote it from scratch back a couple of years ago.
I really was conscious of it because I have an advantage over authors like George Martin and Robert Jordan, who have had these kinds of accusations levelled at them, in that I've read them! I've read Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan didn't get to read Robert Jordan in the same way, and I can see he's kind of pushed his way through the snow for some of us to fall behind and see some of the things that he did, even after he said "Boy, I think I might have done that differently." We can learn from that.
What I'm trying to do is... first off The Stormlight Archive is divided in my head into two five book series, it is a ten booker but it is two big five book sequences, which I do think that will give me more of a vision of a beginning, middle, and end for each of the sequences.
The other thing I'm doing is I consciously did some little thing in the books. For instance, one of the reasons we end up with sprawl in epic fantasy series is I think writers start writing side characters and getting really interested in them. The side characters are awesome, they let you see the breadth of the world and dabble in different places. What I did is I let myself have the interludes in The Way of Kings, and I will continue to do those in the future books, and I told myself I can write these interludes but those characters can't become main characters. Those characters have to be just glimpses.
The other main thing that I'm doing is that each book in The Stormlight Archive is focused on a character. That character gets flashbacks and we get into the backstory and that gives me a beginning, middle, and end and a thematic way to tie that book together, specifically to that character, which I hope will make each character, each book feel more individual.
Which is part of also the problem I feel with the big long series, that they start to blend. And then, if the author starts to view some of them as blending then you stop having big climaxes at the ends of some of them and view them too blended together. This isn't a problem when the series is finished. I think that when the Wheel of Time can be read beginning to end straight-through, a lot of this worry about middle-meandering is going to go away, because you can see it as a whole. But certainly while you're releasing it, you get just these little glimpses that feel so short to us.
I feel that if I can take each book and apply it to one character, give a deep flashback for each one and thematically tie it to them, each book will have its own identity and hopefully will avoid some of that. That's my goal, who knows if I'll be able to pull it off but it is my intention.
You seem to be pulling it off so far Brandon.
Well I only have one book yet! I mean none of these, none of these series... they all started with great first books, in fact I feel that a lot of them are great all the way through, but the sprawl issue doesn't usually start to hit til around book four is really where the, where the problems show up.
1. Are there any other sentient spren like Syl, if not are there any spren capable of becoming sentient, or is she purposefully unique?
2. If so, what are the conditions that must be met for a spren to become sentient?
1. There are other sentient spren.
2. There are many more who could become sentient. There were choices that were made that we will get into that were made by some spren that, that involved... what is happening. There were certain choices that were made that influenced this, so yes, that was a very detailed and specific question, you did a good job and so I will give you your answer that there are others like Syl that could become, and there are some that are sentient already
Would that also mean that certain spren would have an alignment, or would some spren be tailored toward good and evil or not?
They're creatures of nature and so good and evil aren't as, as big a deal to them. Though there are some that may be put in that sort of alignment. Certainly honorspren are going to be of a certain type, but there are many spren of many different temperaments and they are kind of aligned to their temperament, having to do with who they are and what they are.
I was wondering if you could only write in one universe from now on, assuming it was any one you wanted, what would you pick?
Well you gave me an out, since so many of my books are in the same universe.
You know, I thought you might say that.
So that, I could cheat and just say the cosmere, but I think the soul of the question is which series would I write on.
And I would probably have to... boy it would probably be a toss up between Mistborn and the Stormlight Archive, Mistborn because I've invested so much into it already. If I can only pick one, I would probably pick Stormlight because there is so much left to tell there and I've got a lot of places to explore, but I would cheat and say they're all in the same universe.
I was wondering, when you're recording Writing Excuses, how often do you ahve to stop and take a break because of how hard you're laughing when Mary pulls out her puppet voices?
Usually, we don't ever want to stop. There have been a few times where we descend to laughter to the point that we end up having to cut things. But usually if we're descending into laughter, we feel that's a good thing because part of what makes Writing Excuses work is we try to be really genuine, we try to be ourselves. Hopefully an entertaining and snappy version of ourselves, but really just us.
And you know we try to make it quick and fast but also genuine and so we're laughing like that, those moments are ones we love and as long as it's genuine laughter, we can't replicate it. There's some times where something goes wrong technically and we don't end up catching on the audio something that was just awesome and we can never replicate it if it happens, if we try to, so we like to trying capture those moments live. We don't usually stop to do that. What we'll usually get together to record three or four episodes and then we we'll take a break and we'll try to do something to help with the creativity. Meaning, maybe sometimes we'll go out to write, often times we'll go out to lunch and just start chatting and throwing things back at each other, helping each other with stories and then we'll come back and do four more and then do that again and we find that helps us keep the rhythm and the energy for the podcast.
Although like stories and you know, plot characters, twists are all very important, for me a great story is made up of great moments and the question I wrote in the post there was about when Dalinar swaps his sword for the bridgemen and asks the question, "how much is a life worth?" and for me that was a moment where I had to put the book down because it was just so great, it brought the characters together and all these reasonings and all these visions, it all came to a head and I was thinking how many moments like these do you think a great book needs for example I mean other things I'd seen in that book was when Kaladin, he tells his men to come out after the storm and see him alive again or in The Gathering Storm when Rand is on Dragonmount and everything you know, he destroys the Choedan Kal. So how many moments like that do you think they need and can you give me an example of a great book that you love from another author's book where you think there is a great moment like those ones?
Okay, excellent, I'll start with the last one, one of my favorite books of all time is Les Miserables and it's full of moments like that and I'm going to have to pick the moment where Jean Valjean goes for Marius and brings him back through the sewers and things like that, moments like that are what makes books work for me.
What you're noticing is part of the way I design my plots. When I'm going to write a story I feel like I have to have moments like that prepared and planned that I can write towards. I will often go and turn on epic music of the right type--whatever I'm feeling is epic at the time--and go and walk or go on the treadmill, or do something active. And while doing that I will try to imagine what moments like that will be for this given book. What will be the really powerful character or plot moment that just make you want to put the book down and sit back for a minute and say "Whoa!"
I have to be able to imagine some of those for every book I write, otherwise I can't start the book. I write my books kind of... the points on the map philosophy, meaning I have to have something to write toward for me to get there. It's like having a map where you say, okay, I'm going to drive from one place to another and here are the places along the way I'm going to stop. I need to know where those places are and these places are usually these powerful moments and it's how I build stories.
A lot of your characters seem to go through crises of faith, particularly Sazed in The Hero of Ages where he essentially questions all his... everything he's come to believe. Have you ever experienced any conflicts with your own religious faith about including such characters in your books?
That's also a good question. Conflicts is perhaps the wrong way to put it. I believe strongly in the precepts of people like Socrates, that the unexamined life is not worth living and I find that if I'm interested in something I should question it, I should examine it from as many directions as I can.
I tend to do that in my fiction. It's the way I express myself. Rather than actually writing a journal, I don't actually do that. I write stories that explore what I'm working on, myself, what I'm interested in and I find it vital that I attack them from lots of different directions, not just the way I am, but the way I see other people exploring the same problems, the same questions.
It's just--it's valuable to me as a writer and as a person to explore these things in depth, so I've never seen conflict but I certainly have expressed my own questions and examinations through characters as they have reached similar moments in their lives.
Specifically, which mistakes you made as a beginning novelist that stand out the most as ones you've corrected as you've learned the craft better.
That's an excellent question, I would say that my biggest mistake as a new writer was not being willing to revise. I'm a classic, what we call a one-drafter this is a type of author who likes to just imagine it, get it ready, plan a lot and then get in on the page and be done with it and that was a mistake, I've become a big believer in learning to take a book that's a good book and make it an excellent book and doing a lot of strong revisions and early on I wasn't willing to do that and I think it held me back quite a bit.
Do you think that maybe not having a writing group to back you up contributed to your lack of revisions?
Maybe... I actually did have a writing group, and what I would do is I would get the feedback from my writing group and my opinion was, "Oh, I did all these mistakes. I made all these mistakes." Instead of fixing them, early on I would say, "Well, I won't make those mistakes again for my next book," cause I was always so excited an eager to write the next book and I didn't slow down enough and really focus in on making books great.
And that was a mistake that was very particular to me, I don't think... as a writer there are so many different ways to do this and so many different types of writers. Part of learning to be a writer is about learning what things hold you back and what mistakes you make and they can be very different. Depending on who you are and what type of problem you have.
With the maps. How much influence do you get in the creative process of building those worlds?
So, Brandon's actually really good about being collaborative on the maps. There are definitely things that he wants in there. There are definitely things in the maps that he has said, "These need to be there," and there are places where he gives a lot of creative freedom. There are some places on the maps that are named, that I got to name. Which is kind of cool.
And it depends on the map, too. Like, he can tell you what he got for Mistborn. What did you get for Mistborn?
Brandon gave me a picture that was drawn in MSPaint in, like, three colors. And just, like, "Stuff is here." Couple of names, but the basic directions are right. There was no map for Luthadel. I came up with that one, and then he used that to make sure everything was right in the book. So, it kinda goes both ways.
But then, Way of Kings, I actually handed him a picture and said, "Here is the shape. And here are [where] all the kingdoms. Now you can work on actually making it look like a map." But I gave him the exact shape. So it does vary, but a lot of times it'll be, I'll say, "Hey Isaac, look at this cool map I found online. Let's do something like this." Or a few months ago, he was in Europe. You were in Rome, right? You'd seen some maps that hang in the Vatican. And he said, "I wanna do one like this." And that became your back endpage for this book. Was he wanting to do a map like he had seen hanging in the Vatican for our world. And it's actually a painting on a roof that he did. So if you open up and look at the back endpage [of Words of Radiance], it is a roof that he has painted as if it is a roof in something like the Vatican.
At one point, you said something about how the way that the humans on Roshar perceive spren, or how that's important in their <rough position> in the Physical Realm. So, going to the interlude where we have the two ardents, they do two tests. But it seems like there's a third test that they kinda, maybe should have done. And I want to know how that would have played out.
So, the two tests that they did were; he's measuring for real and telling her, and she's writing down what the actual measurements are, and it sticks. The second one is, write down something that's possible, and she knows this isn't right, so she writes it down and nothing happens. What would have happened in the case where she thinks she's writing down the right thing, but he's actually lying to her?
If she thinks she's writing down the right thing and he's lying to her, the first would happen. It would stick.
I have a question about the Mistborn video game. I wanna know how much involvement, how much of the writing do you do?
I wrote the story and will be writing all the dialogue for the game. So, the first thing I did for them once we sold it, we had to write in the contract that I write the story. And I wrote the story and sent it to them. They are building a game frame around that story, for the setpieces and things, and then I will go in and write the dialogue. Now, I have this feeling when I play video games, my favorite games, the way that they do stories... For those who like video games, I like it when you don't stop the action for the story. For instance, I much prefer... Have you played the game Infamous? I really prefer the way Infamous did it, where you're going somewhere, and people are talking to you, and you're getting story as you're going; as opposed to action games, in particular, where you stop, and then you have a cutscene. I don't like that as much. So, what we're gonna try to do is integrate it like that. Where I have written side characters who will be saying things to you, hopefully amusingly, as you're charging through, trying to get to where you're going next, and stuff like that.
How do you suggest dealing with worldbuilding disease?
So, worldbuilder's disease is what we call it when you spend all of your time worldbuilding, and none of it writing. And this is a big deal for those of us like myself who like to worldbuild. You have to learn. And my biggest piece of advice for worldbuilder's disease is to set goals. Say "I am going to be done worldbuilding on this day." Or "On this day, I at least have to write Chapter One." And just give yourself limits, and say, "I have to do this." You can always add more in later. If you write your book and find holes, you can fill those in later. You can write down, "I need to know more about this." So set a goal, and say, "I need to start writing on this date." And then keep that date. That's the number one thing I'd suggest, you've just got to practice writing.
The other big thing, you can also practice writing something that you're not worldbuilding, to practice your writing. You say, "I'm gonna write this other story that's in the history of this world that's just gonna be for me. That's part of my worldbuilding. It's not my main story. So I don't have to stress about it, if everything's right, because it's just gonna be the background for my story eventually."