Dalinar has a task to "Unite them". Is it's ultimate purpose applies only to Roshar or it could go beyond Roshar, to the greater cosmere?
This could be interpreted that way.
Dalinar has a task to "Unite them". Is it's ultimate purpose applies only to Roshar or it could go beyond Roshar, to the greater cosmere?
This could be interpreted that way.
Stories are one of the most powerful ways of bringing about change. In your opinion, how can authors strike a balance in their storytelling between raising awareness about things like violence against women, while telling an engaging story, without being pedantic or preachy?
Do you think it's important for influential authors such as yourself, who are read all over the world, to make a conscious effort to include characters in your stories that show reinforcements of respecting women as people and as human beings?
Definitely a big "yes" to your last one.
This is a big issue, and I'm glad you asked it, because it's something I've thought about quite a bit. At its core, it comes down to, "How do you write a story that explores difficult questions without preaching." Because, at the end of the day, we're picking up an epic fantasy book because we want to go to a new world, enjoy this new world, and have an interesting adventure. And we're not picking up it up because they want Brandon Sanderson to lecture them. And certainly, there are authors I do read to be lectured. So it's not a blanket statement, "This is how someone should do something."
But for me, there's a couple of core tenets. One is the one I've already mentioned. Which is, if I'm going to put a character in (which I think I should put a wide variety of characters in) approaching questions from different directions, make sure that I am researching that person's viewpoint, people who have that viewpoint in the real world, and make sure I'm doing the job that they would want me to do with their position, their subculture, their belief structure, and things like this.
But that kind of plays into another big... pillar of what I think my duty as a writer to do, which I've expressed it in the books, I've gotten it through things I've heard other authors write. Which is "Raise questions. Don't give answers." I believe that if you are raising questions, and having multiple people who are all sympathetic disagreeing on this question, or struggling with this question in different ways, it innately makes the reader start to say, "Well, what do I think about that? And is it something that I need to think about more?" And not dodging these topics, but also not coming down with long sermons about them, I think, is the way that I want to be able to approach them.
I often share this story, so I apologize if some of you heard it before. But the book that got me into science fiction and fantasy was Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. And Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly, is criminally under-read in the science fiction/fantasy community. I have read it again as an adult, it holds up, it is a fantastic novel. What made Dragonsbane work for me? I was a fourteen-year-old boy who was handed this novel by his English teacher, and she said, "I think you are reading below your level. I think you would like something a little more challenging. Why don't you try one of these books on my shelf." And that's the one that I ended up picking up. This book should not have worked for a fourteen-year-old boy, if you read the Cliffnotes on how to get a reluctant reader to read books.
Dragonsbane, if you haven't read it, is about a middle-aged woman who is having a crisis as she tries to balance having a family and learning her magic. Her teacher has told her she can be way better at the magic if she would dedicate more time to it, but her family takes a lot of her time. And this is her main character conflict through the story. Now, it also involves going and slaying a dragon, and things like this. And it's a wild adventure with some excellent worldbuilding, and a really interesting premise. The story is about having to kill a dragon, her partner has been asked to slay a dragon, he's the only person who's ever slayed a dragon, but he killed a dragon when he was in his 20's, and now he's middle-aged, and he's like, "I can't do that like I used to anymore." And together, they go down and try to figure out how to kill a dragon when you're an old person. But this story should, on paper, not have worked for me, but it was the most amazing thing I'd ever read in my life.
Meanwhile, my mother graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in most of her accounting classes. She had been offered, as she graduated, a prestigious scholarship to go become a CPA. And she actually turned that down because of me. She was having me as a child, and she decided that she would put off her education and career for a few years. She is now the head accountant for the city of Idaho Falls power plant, so she did go back to her career, but she put that off for me. Now, as... a middle school kid, if you told me the story, I'd be like, "Of course she did. I'm awesome. I'm me. Of course she would do that. That's the right thing to do." I read this book, and I'm like, "Oh, ditch your kids, woman. You could be a wizard!" I got done with this book, and I realized: I just read a fantasy book about slaying a dragon. High fantasy, all the stuff that should have just been brain popcorn. And yet, I got done with this book, and I understood my mother better. And it hit me like a ton of bricks, that a story could teach me about my mom in some ways better than living with her for fourteen years, because I was a stupid kid who wouldn't listen, and assumed he had the answers. But when I saw through someone else's eyes, who was very different from myself, that changed the way I saw the world.
This is why stories are important. This is why it is important-- if you're writers out there, it's why your stories are important. When you ask, "Well, what can I write that's new?" You can write who you are. And that will be new. And that is valuable in and of itself. Those stories have value because you're telling them. And this is what stories do. And this is how, I think, I want to be approaching telling stories. I want people to read the stories, and I don't want them to feel lectured to. But I want them to see the world through the eyes of someone who sees it in a very different way. Maybe that'll make them, make you, make all of us think a little harder about some of the things in our lives.
We have a lot of different characters in your books. There are, of course, misogynistic characters in your books, and there are storylines that feature violence against women. But generally, the male/female relationships between the main characters are quite equitable. The heroes are respectful of women in their plots and decisions. But oftentimes, the line between consent and coercion in fantasy isn't always clear. Whether it's epic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance. Do you think this is an issue that writers in the genre have started tackling successfully in recent years?
Yes. I do think... This is an issue, at least in my culture, American media culture, that stretches back pretty far. We showed my kids the original Star Wars movies, which I still love. But Empire Strikes Back, you talk about a line between consent and non-consent, and there's a scene where Han Solo backs Leia into a corner and tells her that she wants him, when she says she doesn't. And it's really uncomfortable to watch in the current climate and realization that our entire society has emphasized a certain sense of masculinity through our media for many, many years. And it's not something that I would have ever noticed if people hadn't started pointing out, "Hey, there's a problem here."
And I do think people are doing a better job with it. I think we, as a culture, though, bear quite a burden for the way that we have glorified this kind of behavior, even in some of our best and most beloved media properties. And this goes back to my philosophy, though, that we try to do better. We don't-- Pointing backward and vilifying the creators of Empire Strikes Back because they were part of it is not my goal. My goal is for us to say, "Hey, we can do better than this. We should do better than this.
And I guess one of my pet peeves, as a side topic to this, is that showing good relationships between people in committed relationships is just not a thing that media is good at, because media wants to have conflict. And conflict is story. But because of that, what we end up with is a whole lot of really dysfunctional relationships being held, and it's hard. Like, when I sat down to write Stormlight Archive, I wanted to write a misogynistic and racist culture that you didn't hate, but that at the same time, you're like, "Yeah, you know,it is." And how do you do that without setting it as a standard? You want to approach it and say, "Look, this is-- through a lot of history and a lot of cultures, cultures that human beings have created have been pretty misogynistic."
So, how do you write a fantasy book that doesn't glorify this, but still says, "This is how cultures often are"? And there's a really fine line to walk there. And one of the things I think we, as a culture, need to do is, we need to get better about distinguishing between, "Hey, this is how this character is, and this is how people should be." And I'm not sure if I have the answers on that, at all. But one of the things I do like to do is to show, people can be in relationships that have some conflict, but still who genuinely love each other, and genuinely do work their problems out like rational human beings do in the real world. And you can still have conflict and a great fantasy story with people whose relationships are functional.
When you write the books, do you set up the setting and stuff first, because it's an amazing setting.
Yeah, I do a lot of planning ahead of time. I'm naturally an outliner. It's not the only way to write a book, some people do it the opposite way, but I do a lot of outlining.
I have a lot of trouble outlining myself.
Sometimes it doesn't work. There are some writers, that if they outline the book, it actually ruins the book cause they feel like they've already kind of gone through and written it.
What is your favorite parable from the Way of Kings?
I'm not sure if I have a favorite. It's kind of like what I'm thinking about or feeling at the moment. One of the reasons I haven't written the whole thing out is because I want to be able to add to it when the right mood strikes me and stuff like that. I will say, the ones i haven't written yet will probably be my favorite if that makes any sense.
Well I'm an English teacher major for little kids and I was wondering what you think, or any advice, on how to make my students life long writers and readers.
When I was a teenager and I didn't like books and a teacher, the first teacher who really took the time to find a book that would match me rather than assigning me a book that they liked, was the one that got me hooked, so I kind of focus on that idea. I tell kids sometimes, books are like shoes, not everyone wears the same kind of shoes and when you wear the wrong size you might think shoes are painful but if you get the right size they make your life way better. Books are kinda the same way so try lots of different things, introduce them to a lot of different things and encourage them to read what they love.
So how big are spren, like when Kaladin sees a spren, how...
It depends on the spren. lifespren are real tiny, little dots. windspren *presumably gestures*, like that. Some spren are as large as buildings. There is no strict size increment, but you can guess the size if I don't say otherwise. It really depends.
So, my question for you is writing related. I just finished a new first draft in my novel.
I know you! Yeah, ok sorry. It took me a minute.
So yeah, I finished my draft; what was it that helped you when you... cause I recalled hearing on Writing Excuses, you talked about this, how editing was the bane of your existence earlier, you just didn't wanna do that, and I'm finding that too. I dont wanna jump in and fix all the terrible things. What was it that helped you kinda like...
It honestly is the thing that held me back the most. I think it was kinda partially just, getting rejected enough that I realized I just had to learn to do it. That was part of it. Giving myself space after finishing a book, writing something else and then coming back to it when I was feeling kind of fresh about it and exited about tackling it again, that helped a lot. It was also kinda like growing up as a writer, if that makes sense, and realizing I'm not ever gonna sell a book until I could learn to take a good one and make it great and then I just started buckling down and learning to revise.
One of the things I read when I was researching for Stormlight that was really interesting, I kind of dug into, was this idea that practical medicine, particularly through the Middle Ages up approaching the Renaissance, was actually the one that was regarded with fear, superstition, and dislike. Which is why it fell to the barbers. And what we would call the "superstitious physician" was a well-respected position, depending on where you were looking. And it was this weird area where people who were approaching things practically and actually doing what you needed to do, were being ostracized and vilified. It wasn't as bad as being an executioner; that was the worst deal. But there was this sort of thing, that those people stayed-- You did not want your son or daughter marrying into that family, and these sorts of things. It was really interesting.
With the Stormlight Archive, when you created this, do you know everything? Do you know the end of the book at the beginning?
I do, but... You have to be willing to change as you go, as the characters mature and you mature. For instance, Adolin wasn't gonna be a main character in the original outline. And as I developed the first book, I realized I needed another perspective of somebody who could offer perspective on the things that were happening. That was Adolin's perspective. So I brought him in as a main character. So that wasn't in the original outline.
And for instance, the ending of Book 2, with Kaladin, was actually originally the ending of Book 3. So I ended up switching those around. So things like this happen.
Books 4 and 5, my dividing line, where those two divide, is not really strict right now, and so one of the things I'm doing in outlining is saying, "Let's make sure Book 4 feels like a book, rather than half of a book that Book 5 ends."
I'm curious about Kaladin. Did you write Kaladin as having depression? It never distinctly says it.
Yes, he has depression. I purposefully didn't distinctly say it, because it's not like they can diagnose in their culture. But yes, Kaladin has depression. Straight-up depression. And it's not even... Like, there's PTSD stuff in the third book, but that's not the cause of it. He just has chemical depression. Even going back to when he was a teenager. And it's not like the story is... In some ways, it's about him overcoming it, but it's not about it going away. It's about a hero who lives with depression.
And I personally, I have depression, so I relate with Kaladin so much when I read it. So I just think it's really cool ,that... Most people don't write about heroes that have depression.
I wanted to do it, in part, because I have some dear loved ones that... You know, this is just part of their everyday life. It was something I just didn't see being touched upon. And I remember my wife talking about it and saying, "It's kind of frustrating to read a book about someone with depression because that's the only thing about them. Books, they're like, problem novels. Can't I just read a book about somebody who has depression?" So, she was a big help.
In the last [Alcatraz book], why did you make everyone die?
So Alcatraz is making things out to be a little worse than they really are. Because he wanted to end the book on a sad note, because he always promised everyone he would. That's why Bastille feels she needs to write the real ending. The next book should not be nearly as grim as Alcatraz wants you to believe everything is. That's why she wrote that little secret ending. So keep your hope up: it's not nearly as bad as Alcatraz wants you to think it is.
So, I created a magic system that's pretty easy to grasp at first. But I realized I have aspects of it that are very complex I'm having trouble tying to my novel. I was just wondering if you've ever run into these kind of problems with your magic systems.
Yes, though I kind of like it. A magic system that looks simple, but you can dig into deeply, is a good magic system to me. If you can write it so that some characters just use it surface-level, and other characters start to ask these deep questions, you'll be able to do something for everyone. People who just want to read it and enjoy the adventure and the mystique of a fantasy story can. Those who really want to dig in can dig in. I would say don't worry, don't stress it, that's actually a really good thing.
Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons?
I have. I played a whole lot of 3.0 and 3.5. A little bit of Second Edition when I was younger. And a little bit of Fourth. But mostly 3.5 was my game.
How do you keep everybody straight? Do you use a program like Scrivener?
I use something called Wikidpad, a personal wiki. Just like Wikipedia, but only on my computer. And then I have a continuity editor, and her job is to go, after I've written a book, and put everything from the new book into it, into the wiki. And then to also warn me of continuity errors that I've made.
I wish I could say I did it all perfectly, but I don't. I still make a ton of mistakes. We catch most of them. But you can see, like, the Mistborn books have way more continuity errors than Stormlight, because I didn't have her back then. And so, we're doing the leatherbounds, they have to come to me and say, "Uhhh... this person walks, like, five times as far as a human being can travel in this amount of time. Maybe we need to move this building across the city," and stuff like that.
What kind of books do you like to recommend to people who ask? What's your favorite book to read?
I have a Goodreads account that I tend to post books I've liked up there. Basically, the ones that I like, do I write about. So that's a good place to go.
Growing up, my favorite authors were Anne McCaffrey, Barbara Hambly, and Robert Jordan. And David Eddings. Nowadays, I tend to like stuff that's a little more... fantasy that's a little more avant-garde, doing different things. Because I've read a lot of great stories that have the more traditional hero's journey stuff. So the stuff you'll see me liking now tend to be things like N.K. Jemisin, doing weird things. But I like a wide variety of things.
I'm curious, how much interaction do you get with the people who narrate the books out loud?
So usually I record pronunciation guides and send them to them on a tape recorder. And usually I pick them beforehand. My tape recording doesn't always get there in time. So if their pronunciation's wrong, it's usually my fault, and not theirs. Because it just means that we haven't gotten that recording done by the time they need it to record. But I like to pick my own audiobook narrators. And when I can, I like to meet them.
So you don't have in a say in who's cast?
I don't. I can always offer my opinion, and hopefully they would listen to it. But usually, as a writer, you just don't get say in that. When someone's spending $200 million making your book into a movie, they're writing the check, so they get the final say.
Have you ever met Michael Kramer and Kate Reading?
I have met Michael Kramer. I haven't met Kate. I've met Michael, he came to one of my signings. They live in the D.C. area, so he came and did the reading for one of my signings.
How would you handle dragons?
Dragons, I feel, are inherently cool. And they're one of those things that, personally, I think you can just get away with without having to, like, make your own. I'm tired of orcs, but I'm not tired of dragons. So if I were gonna handle dragons, they'd feel like pretty classic dragons.
I'm a bit of an aspiring author myself. How would you deal with ADHD writer's block?
Some things I know that work for some writers... Do you like hiking? Do you like walking? Because I have known professional writers who have trained themselves to write by talking into a microphone, in order so that they can be walking somewhere, and kind of being visually stimulated while they're writing. I wish I knew better how to write, like, ADHD.... How do you motivate yourself to do other things? Is it a reward mechanism? Is it a short burst sort of thing?
The issue that I have is that whenever I sit down to write, I sit down, and I'm either just sitting down and writing for five minutes, and then I get bored and move on, switch over to playing video games or surfing the web. I do a lot of thinking about what I want my world to do, stuff like that, but I don't actually have an outline.
Have you tried writing longhand, when you're away from the internet, getting a notebook, going out somewhere, writing in a notebook. That helps a lot of people who are getting distracted by the internet frequently, if there's just no internet to get on. And sometimes it works really good because you also are writing it, and can be, like, "You know, it doesn't have to be perfect while I'm writing in the notebook. I'll make it perfect when I transfer it to the computer." That gives you permission to be free. I don't know that you need to have an outline. Like, Stephen King never uses one. It's a tool that works for some authors and doesn't for others.
How do you do go about worldbuilding for religion?
It's a little bit of a mix between the way I see religions work in our world, and trying to find a fantastical version. Something that couldn't really actually exist in our world, 'cause that's part of why I write fantasy. So what could people worship, what methods of worship could they have, that kind of echo things in our world, but aren't actually anything that could ever exist here. We did a Writing Excuses podcast on worldbuilding religion that you might find handy. If you Google "Writing Excuses Religion," we've got a podcast for you.
Hoid was at the Shattering of Adonalsium?
He was there, yes.
Was he Adonalsium?
He was not. Good question.
Are these old Radiants?
Those are Heralds. That's Ash, who you'll see that the very end of this [Oathbringer]. That's Jezrien who's also near the end. You haven't met her [Vedel] yet. Ishar, you have heard about. And it's identified in this book who he is. But those are artist interpretations of them, in-world. They're like the Sistine Chapel versions of the Heralds. They might not look exactly like that, but that is an in-world interpretation of them by an artist.
Now that Wax is a major part of society, are people trying to copy his coat?
That, you will see in the next book! You'll have to wait and see!
I thought with that one, I wouldn't get that!
Wax has had an effect on the fashion industry.
Is Wit a remnant of Adonalsium?
No. Good question.
I thought I had it figured out! I figured he was going around collecting himself. Getting all the different *inaudible*.
No, he is not a remnant of Adonalsium. Good question, though.
I want to know what Sazed's robes look like.
Sazed robes are long, and they've got a V pattern.
It is sewn into it. The V pattern is just sewn into it like that. Of alternating colors. Not alternating, various colors. Kind of a rainbow look.
Is there a lady in the future for Kaladin?
That is a Read and Find Out. Let's just say Kaladin is historically not that great on relationships but he has not given up on trying.
My question is a follow up to what you answered in my Well of Ascension. I asked if Hoid had any love interests, and you said, "Several". My follow up question is, have we seen any of those *inaudible*.
They will show up in various books but you have not seen them yet. They're *inaudible*.
Cultivation and Honor were with the Parshendi, Odium came with the humans. And there was a bit of a reversal happened there.
Have we seen Hemalurgy used anywhere other than Scadrial
I believe you have. Let's do that as a, "I believe you have."
Does Hoid have a way of checking if people are Invested or not?
He has a way of detecting whether Investiture is being used.
In Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, they use silver to fight Shades. I'm wondering if that's actual silver or they just call it silver and it's a mysterious metal that's known to fall from the sky.
It's a good question. I have it as actual silver.
Would it be effective, at fighting...if you wanted to harm a spren or seon or other types of Cognitive Shadow?
There is ironpulling and steelpushing. And then there's also the surge of a Windrunner that changes their center of gravity. Are those combined somehow?
Combined, no, but trying to deal with different facets of the same idea, yes.
When did Shallan take the First Oath?
That's been quite a while. She's been on this path longer than almost anybody. Jasnah's been going for a while. If you look at the timeline, I think Jasnah beats her. But she's been on this path for years.
Do we get to find out when she took that First Oath?
Yes, I'm planning to delve into that. It's supposed to be a "Wait, What?" I'd have to look exactly at the timeline, Jasnah beats her. Jasnah definitely beats her.
<Are you sure?>
Maybe not. I'd have to look at the timelines. This is why I have Karen, to keep my timelines for me!
What is your favorite Italian dish?
It depends on my mood. There are some times where I just want to *inaudible* spagetti and meatballs. But sometimes carbonara. I would probably in a vacuum choose the carbonara. Probably. But it just really depends.
Do the Natan people live longer than normal humans, because they have Aimian blood?
*Hesitant* Yes...Let's say, you are theorizing in a good direction.
You told someone that Nan Balat likes to hurt things. Like, a supernatural tendency to hurt things.
It's more along the lines of, "He has suffered some...enhancement of a psychological issue through supernatural effects."
It's not an Unmade thing?
RAFO! Good question! That's basically a confirmation, isn't it? *teasing laugh*
If Hoid could have picked to join any order of the Knights Radiant, regardless of the Oaths he had to swear, just the powers, would he have picked Lightweaver?
He would have.
Tell me more!
Lightweaving matches him very well, he's quite familiar with it and experienced with it. He's very good at using it and he likes it.
It's the fulfillment of a long, long quest of his to finally get full access to Lightweaving.
Even though he had some sort of Lightweaving?
He did have some sort of, yes. He's a very very happy Hoid.
How did Marsh survive? When everybody was hiding in the caves, you never explained where he went.
Oh, I do know. He has his ways.
If an Allomancer were to go to a different planet and burn the metals on that planet from that planet, it still works?
Same way, no differences?
No differences. The metal is more of a key to draw the magic out than it is providing any power itself.
Is there a set number of them[Dawnshards]?
Are you willing to say?
Are you willing to say if they originated in the Rosharan system?
I am not willing to say.
Are we going to find out more about Hoid in the next book?
Yes, but only little bits and pieces until a little later. The further we get along, the more comfortable I will be giving you Hoid stuff. Particularly in Stormlight. So yes, but it's a tentative yes.
If you infused a ruby and split it into three or more pieces, would you be able to create a groupchat spanreed?
This has been attempted so far unsuccessfully. Good question! It is very plausible in the magic system.
I've always felt this was related to quantum entanglement. Is that part of where you got the idea from?
Absolutely. I mean, I know that's not how quantum entanglement actually works. But the magic systems all in the Stormlight Archive grew out of my interest in the fundamental forces. We are several magical steps removed from the actual science in each of these cases, but that was the origin for all those magics. The quantum entanglement fascinates me, particularly the way that we think things should work and find out they don't. I love that stuff.
Is Hoid the only one of his kind that we've met in the Cosmere books?
What do you mean by his kind?
Is he the only one from the planet he's originally from that we've met?
No. Because Ati and Leras, the Ruin and Preservation, were both from that same planet.
All of the Shards of Adonalsium were from that planet.
How would an Awakened with Breath piece of cloth react if it got hit with a Shardblade?
A Shardblade would probably be able to cut it, but it depends on how much Breath we're talking about.
So if it had enough, it might be able to block it
Approximately how much Breath would it take to invest a regular object enough to that a Shardblade couldn't cut it?
I would have to look at the notes. One of the things we're doing right now is, we're unifying the actual unit of investiture. So, I'm not going to answer that until I have that codified, but it is one of the projects we're working on right now. I'll have some answers for you more...we'll just get a unit of measurement that we can use, probably based on that.
Has Hoid just collected--<like he does>--the spren, or...?
He has legitimately bonded the spren. Let's just say, he has given up on trying to cheat some of the systems and has decided to try to play by the rules.
Do you already have the Ideals figured out for all the other orders?
Yes, but I don't always stick to 100% the wording. I got the sentiment and a sample phrase. But for a lot of them, they vary based on the individual. So there's some flexibility. I don't tell people what they are, generally, because I need the freedom to change just in case I decide to.
If someone was a good enough writer, would you ever consider letting someone else write in the Cosmere?
It is a possibility. I'd be very wary of doing it, but right now, Isaac, who's my illustrator, wants to do it, and he's been a friend for many years. So I've said, "If you really want to you can." So I'm open to the idea. You probably want to be a professional writer first, and have your own things published.
When you were writing Elantris, did you think of the artwork for all the symbols and stuff as you were writing?
I did, I drew them myself. Those are the only ones that I did the symbols for. After that book, I went and got somebody who knew what they were doing, so they look a little pedestrian compared to the other ones, but I did them all myself.