Recent entries

    Mormon Artist Interview ()
    #4151 Copy

    Nathan Morris

    How does your website fit into your work as a writer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Mormon Artist Interview ()
    #4152 Copy

    Nathan Morris

    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?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Mormon Artist Interview ()
    #4153 Copy

    Nathan Morris

    How did you get your start as a published author?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Mormon Artist Interview ()
    #4154 Copy

    Nathan Morris

    How did you become interested in being a writer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    TheAuthorHour.com Interview ()
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    Matthew Peterson

    From your experience teaching creative writing, what is some advice you give your students?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    TheAuthorHour.com Interview ()
    #4156 Copy

    Matthew Peterson

    And your Mistborn series, like you said, it is more serious. Tell us a little bit about the Mistborn series.

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Matthew Peterson

    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.

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    TheAuthorHour.com Interview ()
    #4157 Copy

    Matthew Peterson

    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.

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    TheAuthorHour.com Interview ()
    #4158 Copy

    Matthew Peterson

    Well, you do give a lot of advice, don't you? I mean you teach creative writing classes.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do.

    Matthew Peterson

    Do you still do that? Even with all this on your plate?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Michael Whelan, an Appreciation ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve always wondered who “They” are, and if—by chance—they’ve never heard of Michael Whelan. Because my experience in life has been very different.

    It’s been almost twenty years now since I first discovered Michael’s work. I was fourteen when it happened, and I was not a reader. I’d been handed a succession of novels about young boys living in the wilderness and taking care of their pet dogs. (Which would die by the end of the book.) I disliked reading with a passion. So, when my eighth-grade teacher assigned me to do a book report, I did everything I could to get out of it.

    That failed. In fact, it failed so solidly that the teacher—unwilling to let me choose my own book to read, for fear I’d choose something not up my reading level—steered me to the back of the room, where she kept a group of ratty paperbacks to loan out to students. You probably know the type—ripped, stained by spaghetti sauce from cafeteria lunches, pages folded and worn. I was told I had to read one of these and had to do a book report on them—and she’d read them all, so she’d know if I tried to fake it.

    Sullen and annoyed, I began to sift through the books. Most looked terrible. I resigned myself to another dead dog story, but then one of the books actually caught my eye. It had this vivid painting of a dragon standing in the mists, a woman held limply in its hand. Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. The painting was so beautiful, so realistic yet imaginative, that I snatched it up, actually a little eager to look through the pages. I ended up taking it home with me.

    I read that book in one day. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever tried reading before. (I had never been introduced to fantasy novels.) Dragonsbane was amazing, challenging, imaginative, gripping, and beautiful all wrapped up in one. I remember a severe bout of disappointment upon finishing the book because I thought surely there couldn’t be anything else like it in the entire world.

    Still, hopeful, I visited the school library the next day. I looked through the card catalog, and picked the next book—alphabetically by title—after Dragonsbane. It was called Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. I went and pulled it out, and was once again captivated by the cover. I took it home and read it.

    My life changed. Now, we throw around sentences like that in writing, using them over and over again until they become as worn as the shoes of a traveling salesman—hardly capable of holding meaning any longer. But let me say it again. My life changed.

    I devoured every Anne McCaffrey book in the school library. Suddenly, what I’d discovered in Dragonsbane wasn’t a single, freak event. There was a pattern. If two authors could do this, perhaps there were others. Hungry for more, I went to the bookstore and discovered there was an entire fantasy genre.

    There were so many books. Which to choose? Dragons had treated me well so far, so I looked for some dragon books. And there, right on the shelf, was a beautiful book called Dragon Prince. I consumed it, and then everything else Melanie Rawn was writing.

    What do these books all share? It wasn’t just the dragons; it was the covers. Each time, there was something dramatic and special about them. I now own prints of Dragonsbane and several of Melanie’s covers. All were painted by Michael Whelan.

    By the time Tad Williams’ Dragonbone Chair came out, I could recognize Michael’s art on sight. And I also knew to trust it. It didn’t seem logical—you really shouldn’t be able to judge a book by its cover. But a Whelan cover became a seal of approval to me, a sign that the publisher trusted the book so much that they got the best person available to do the cover.

    I can’t tell you all of the authors Whelan’s art led me to over the years: Patricia Mckillip, Joan D. Vinge, Stephen Donaldson, and even Asimov. (Yes, you read that right. I first picked up Asimov because Whelan had done the new Foundation covers.)

    I remember when winter 1993 rolled around. My local bookseller noted to me that Whelan had a new art book coming out, one half dedicated to covers, one half dedicated to his fine art. It was the only thing I requested for Christmas, and my parents bought it for me despite the cost. I spent hours leafing through the wonderous, fantastic art. Those imagines sparked things in my mind. I was an author in embryo, absorbing, thinking, dreaming. One of the very first stories I ever wrote was a ‘fanfic’ based on Whelan’s Passage series of fine art prints.

    The years have passed. There are other wonderful fantasy artists out there—and, in a way, the market has finally caught up to Whelan (much as the fantasy genre itself needed time to catch up to Tolkien.) I’ve been lucky to have some of those incredible artists paint covers for my books. But I’ve rarely felt as much excitement, wonder, and awe as I did the when I got to open an email and see the cover for The Way of Kings.

    Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) asked me to provide a quote about how I feel having a Whelan cover on one of my books. My editor, Moshe, noted “Surely you’ll mention how it’s a dream come true for both you and your editor.” But 'Dream come true' is another one of those phrases we use so often it has lost its meaning.

    How do I really feel? Well, when I was a senior in high school, I was forced to take a life-planning class. In that class, we had to write down ten 'life goals' we wanted to achieve some day. #1 on my list, which I still have somewhere, was “Publish a book someday that is good enough to deserve a Michael Whelan cover.”

    It has always been a deep-seated desire of mine to one day have a Whelan painting on one of my works. Without this man’s skill and vision, I might never have discovered the fantasy genre, and I might not be writing novels today.

    You might say I’m a little bit pleased.

    Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Interview ()
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    Patrick

    Regarding The Way of Kings, given the fact that the synopsis doesn't shed much light on what the tale is about, what can you tell us about the book and the rest of the Stormlight Archive sequence? You know, a little something to whet your fans' appetite!

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm actually preparing a blog post on this. I've had a very tough time describing The Way of Kings. I've been working on this book for many, many years. Parts of it I can trace back 15, 17 years ago to my very early days as an aspiring writer in my teens. Beyond that, I'm planning a very large story that spans many books. So what this book is and means to me is a lot more extensive than with other books I've worked on.

    Because of that it's really defied my ability to describe it. What can they expect? Well, it's about the length of Lord of Chaos. It will be much more epic and larger in scope than anything I have published so far on my own. There's a whole lot more worldbuilding to it—I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 words of worldbuilding notes, scattered across several documents, that I'm now coalescing into a wiki.

    I don't know that this is new information, but the story of the Stormlight Archive revolves around ten orders of knights, each of whom had their own magics and abilities, who fell thousands of years ago for reasons no one understands. Some say they betrayed mankind, others say they were destroyed, others say they were charlatans all along.

    The Stormlight Archive deals with the history of these knights, discovering what happened to them. It also deals, perhaps, with their redemption. Another big theme has to do with the onset of a magical industrial revolution, so to speak. Think of this as Renaissance-era technology where people are discovering how to harness magic and use it in practical ways. I've always wanted to do a story about the dawning of something like the Age of Legends in the Wheel of Time books.

    Chatzy Q&A ()
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    Bashar

    After the WoT I made a decision to never read a series that is in progress. That's why I never read GRRM. Will I have that problem with the Stormlight Archive or will each book have very satisfying conclusions?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I try VERY hard to do that in all of my books. So hopefully, yes it will.

    Chatzy Q&A ()
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    Dana

    We <3 you, Brandon Sanderson! Now hurry and publish more books, lol!

    Brandon Sanderson

    Lol. Dana, I'm REALLY trying to publish as many as possible. Magic cards do help, though... In a more serious tone, I do offer to let people read my older books. So if you're starved for something, you can shoot and email through the website and ask for White Sand or Aether of Night. They're not up to my current standards, but they're okay. And if you're really interested in the larger story happening behind the scenes in my books, those two novels are important. Watch for the Wells of Power in Aether of Night, for example. There will be an Elantris sequel some day. Hopefully.

    Chatzy Q&A ()
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    baldwinusa

    I like how your book covers mysteriously lead us into wrong conclusions about who characters are. Who comes up with that? You mostly, or does publisher have input??

    Brandon Sanderson

    Mostly, those are the publisher's deal. I generally have some input, but only a small input. The longer I go, the more I have to say. Often, I will suggest scenes, but it's up to the publisher/artist to decide. For example, the cover of Mistborn 3 was originally a concept cover for the cover of Mistborn One. Everyone liked it so much, they decided to tweak the sketch and do a full painting for Mistborn 3.

    Chatzy Q&A ()
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    MysticFyre

    Brandon.....just how much sleep per night ARE you getting?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do usually get 8 hours. My day goes like this: Get up, take my sons and play with them for an hour so Pemberly can nap. Work until 6 or 7. Eat dinner, hang with wife and kids. Back to work at 8 or 9, work until four. Sleep until noon.

    Chatzy Q&A ()
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    zebobes

    What will happen to the fifth Alcatraz novel if Scholastic doesn't pick it up?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, I do want to write it, and Tor would publish it in a second—but I can't take time away from WoT right now. So MAYBE Tor will publish it. A lot depends on the film, which is being developed by Dreamworks Animation. The Dreamworks option runs out in December.

    Grasping for the Wind Interview ()
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    John Ottinger

    You avoided using the traditional races of epic fantasy (elves, orcs, dwarves, etc.) instead giving the reader variations on humanity. Why did you avoid using the standard tropes, but still create significant physical deviations in your races?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A couple of reasons. Those are really two questions. Why did I avoid the standard tropes? Because I felt they had become a crutch in some cases, and in other cases they had just been overplayed and overdone by people who were very good writers and knew what they were doing. I certainly don't want to point any fingers at people like Stephen Donaldson who wrote brilliant books making use of some of the familiar tropes from Tolkien, but one of the things to remember is that when he did that they weren't familiar tropes. They were still fresh and new. The same can be said for Terry Brooks. I feel that some of these authors who came before did a fantastic job of approaching those races, and I also feel that we as a fantasy community have allowed Tolkien's worldbuilding to become too much of a crutch—in particular, Tolkien's storytelling in epic fantasy. And really, if we want to approach the heights of great storytelling and take it a few more steps so that we don't just copy what Tolkien did, we do what Tolkien did, which is look to the lore ourselves and build our own extrapolations.

    But personally, why do I include the races that I include? I'm just looking for interesting things that complement the story that I'm telling. The races in The Way of Kings come directly into the story and the mystery of what's happened before. If you pay close attention to what the races are, it tells you something about what's going to happen in the future and what's happened in the past. It's very conscious. This is just me trying to explore. I feel that epic fantasy as a genre has not yet hit its golden age yet. If you look at science fiction as a genre, science fiction very quickly got into extrapolating very interesting and different sorts of things. Fantasy, particularly in the late '90s, feels like it hit a bit of a rut where the same old things were happening again and again. We saw the same stories being told, we saw the same races show up, we saw variations only in the names for those races. For me as a reader, it was a little bit frustrating because I read this and felt that fantasy should be the genre that should be able to do anything. It should be the most imaginative genre. It should not be the genre where you expect the same stories and the same creatures. This is playing into what I like as a reader and my own personal philosophies and hobby horses, but it really just comes down to what I think makes the best story.

    Grasping for the Wind Interview ()
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    John Ottinger

    You have stated elsewhere that your story is about a world recovering, a world that has fallen from the height of its power. Why did you choose to set your story in such a setting, what about it makes it an appealing place to write about?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Several things. There's a real challenge in this book because I did not want to go the path of The Wheel of Time in which there had been an Age of Legends that had fallen and that the characters were recapturing. Partially because Robert Jordan did it so well, and partially because a lot of fantasy seems to approach that concept. But I did want the idea of a past golden age, and balancing those two concepts was somewhat difficult. I eventually decided I wanted a golden age like existed in our world, such as the golden of Greece and Rome, where we look back at some of the cultural developments etc. and say, "Wow, those were really cool." And yet technologically, if you look at the world back then, it was much less advanced than it is now, though it was a time of very interesting scientific and philosophical growth in some areas. What we have in Roshar is that the Knights Radiant did exist, and were in a way a high point of honor among mankind, but then for various reasons they fell. The mystery of why they did and what happened is part of what makes the book work.

    Why is this world appealing to write in? Well, I like writing my worlds like I write my characters, where at the beginning of the book you're not starting at the beginning or the end of the characters' lives; you're starting in the middle. Because when we meet people, their lives don't just start that day. Interesting things have happened before, and interesting things are to come. I want the world to be the same way. Interesting things have happened in the past, and interesting things are to come again. I want there to be a depth and a realism to the history. It's fascinating for me to write at this point because on the one hand, there are things to recapture in the past, but at the same time there are things that the people in the past never understood and could never do. The former heights of scientific reasoning didn't go at all as far as they could have gone. So there are new places to explore and there are things to recapture. In a lot of ways, this plays into my philosophy for storytelling. The greatest stories that I've loved are those that walk the balance between what we call the familiar and the strange. When a reader sits down and there are things that resonate with stories they've read before that they've loved, there's an experience of joy to that. At the same time, you want there to be things that are new to the story, that you're experiencing for the first time. In this world, that's what I'm looking for. There is that resonance from the past, but there's also a long way to go, a lot of interesting things to discover.

    Grasping for the Wind Interview ()
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    John Ottinger

    The sprite-like spren seems to be an odd addition to The Way of Kings. Understanding just when and how a spren appears and how and when people are able to notice them is the most confusing part of the novel. Could you elucidate the reasoning behind them, and how one might be able to predict their appearance?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The spren felt very natural to me. I didn't anticipate them being as controversial as they've become. I think part of the reason for this is that the people of the world take them as natural. They're just there, and everybody in this world is going to treat them as familiar. Asking them why a spren appears the way it does is a little like asking a layman in our world why sometimes the wind blows and sometimes it doesn't. If you walk outside, sometimes the wind will be blowing and sometimes it won't, and you just take that for granted. You don't ask why, you just say that it's windy or it's not windy. These characters in this world will say, "Oh, there are some fearspren; someone's scared," but sometimes they don't appear and sometimes they do. Some of the rationale around that will become more and more clear as the series progresses, but the reason it's not explained in this book is because the characters have just all grown up with these things all their lives. They don't necessarily ask those questions any more than most of us ask why a particular leaf falls off a branch when another one stays attached. It's just the natural process of the world. There are lots of reasons why they're there, but I don't think I can get into those without spoiling the series.

    Grasping for the Wind Interview ()
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    John Ottinger

    Your battle system involving bridges and plateaus is both complex and innovative. In writing these scenes, was a significant amount of research necessary, and did you encounter any difficulties when writing the sequences?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes to both questions. This is not going to be immediately obvious, but the big difficulty was in designing bridges that were mobile but also strong enough to support a cavalry charge. It took a lot of research and talk with my editor, looking at the engineering of it and the physics of the world to actually be able to create these things. I'm sure fans are going to try to diagram them out. That was one aspect of it: how were the bridges going to be set?

    I approached this first from a "how would you actually fight on these plains?" direction. But also I wanted to evoke the concept of a terrible siege, with a man running with a ladder toward a wall. And yet that's been done so much. The Shattered Plains came from me wanting to do something new. I liked the idea of battles taking place in a situation that could never exist on our planet, what it would require, what it would take out of the people, and how it would naturally grow. And so I did a lot of reading about siege equipment. I did a lot of reading about weights of various woods, did a lot playing with the length, the span between the chasms, etc. One thing that people should know if they are trying to figure all this out is that Roshar has less gravity than Earth does. This is a natural outgrowth of my requirements both for the bridges and for the size of the creatures that appear in the book—of course they couldn't get that large even with the point-seven gravity that Roshar has, but we also have magical reasons they can grow the size they do. That's one factor to take into account.

    Grasping for the Wind Interview ()
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    John Ottinger

    How did the idea germinate and come to fruition for the gem-studded magic system of The Way of Kings?

    Brandon Sanderson

    One of the things to keep in mind is I that developed this book before Mistborn was published. I do wonder if sometimes people are going to say, "Oh, he did metals before, and now he's doing crystals." But the thoughts arose quite independently in my head. You may know that there is a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds—a behind-the-scenes rationale. Like a lot of people believe there's unifying theory of physics, I have a unifying theory of magic that I try to work within in order to build my worlds. As an armchair scientist, believing in a unifying theory helps me. I'm always looking for interesting ways that magic can be transferred, and interesting ways that people can become users of magic. I don't want just to fall into expected methodologies. If you look at a lot of fantasy—and this is what I did in Mistborn so it's certainly not bad; or if is, I'm part of the problem—a lot of magic is just something you're born with. You're born with this special power that is either genetic or placed upon you by fate, or something like that. In my books I want interesting and different ways of doing that. That's why in Warbreaker the magic is simply the ability to accumulate life force from other people, and anyone who does that becomes a practitioner of magic.

    In The Way of Kings, I was looking for some sort of reservoir. Essentially, I wanted magical batteries, because I wanted to take this series toward developing a magical technology. The first book only hints at this, in some of the art and some of the things that are happening. There's a point where one character's fireplace gets replaced with a magical device that creates heat. And he's kind of sad, thinking something like, "I liked my hearth, but now I can touch this and it creates heat, which is still a good thing." But we're seeing the advent of this age, and therefore I wanted something that would work with a more mystical magic inside of a person and that could also form the basis for a mechanical magic. That was one aspect of it. Another big aspect is that I always like to have a visual representation, something in my magic to show that it's not all just happening abstractly but that you can see happen. I loved the imagery of glowing gemstones. When I wrote Mistborn I used Burning metals—metabolizing metals—because it's a natural process and it's an easy connection to make. Even though it's odd in some ways, it's natural in other ways; metabolizing food is how we all get our energy. The idea of a glowing object, illuminated and full of light, is a natural connection for the mind to make: This is a power source; this is a source of natural energy. And since I was working with the highstorms, I wanted some way that you could trap the energy of the storm and use it. The gemstones were an outgrowth of that.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

    To go along with my other obsession what is your favorite type of hat?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I do have a fedora that I’m somewhat attached to, but I haven’t worn it in years. When I was a high school kid, I would wear my fedora around until I discovered that wearing a fedora was already cliché for a nerdy kid like myself, which I found annoying since I’d been doing it because I thought it was original. I still have that fedora, which sits in my closet, and someday perhaps I will wear it. But the problem is that Dan Wells, my friend who writes in my writing group and in my basement, already wears a hat around. So I would feel like I was just copying Dan. Maybe I need to get a fez or something.

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    JordanCon 2018 ()
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    Karen Ahlstrom (paraphrased)

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

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

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

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Yeti Stomper

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

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

    A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration Interview ()
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    Mad Hatter

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

    JordanCon 2018 ()
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    Jofwu (paraphrased)

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

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

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

    Karen Ahlstrom (paraphrased)

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

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

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

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

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

    THE WAY OF KINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    MY OWN WRITING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    THIS APPLIES TO FANTASY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    POSTMODERNISM IN FANTASY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    That will work for now.

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

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

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

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

    Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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