I was wondering if the Oathpact was limited just to the 10 original Heralds, or if someone could possibly take their place?
*Presumably hands RAFO card*
I was wondering if the Oathpact was limited just to the 10 original Heralds, or if someone could possibly take their place?
*Presumably hands RAFO card*
So, in the beginning of Alloy of Law, Bloody Tan says that he has met God, Death, and the Survivor. We know that Lessie was working with Harmony the entire time. Was Bloody Tan also under the influence of Harmony?
So, "under the influence of" is perhaps a...so I would say "No," but, he is not lying at that point.
Oh, that is awesome.
So, "under the influence" is extreme, but...Harmony is also not 100% guiltless. Let's put it that way.
You know, that feels like a good answer. That way I can at least have Harmony not my most hated Shard, but...
Harmony does not deserve to be hated, but Harmony is having troubles figuring out how to make things work.
Have you ever thought of stepping out of fantasy, and doing a different kind of drama, like "Let me do a romantic comedy and see how that goes"?
Umm yeah. I mean Legion is a detective story, which is one of my departures, and I do some science fiction. I've never really been interested in doing something that didn't have a sci-fi/fantasy element, 'cause it's part of what fascinates me, but i would be most likely if I were to step out of that, to do something...probably a straight up mystery, would be where I would go. You might also be able to see me writing a historical novel.
Like if you tried to do a romantic comedy...but somehow it got some sci-fi--
Yeah, every time I try to do something like that, some sort of fantasy element pops into it somehow.
My friends and I had this debate when we were playing the Mistborn Adventure Game. So when a kandra imitates a human, do they replicate the organs perfectly?
Usually, yes. But there are kandra that do not, by intention, do that.
Does that include the reproductive organs?
So theoretically if a kandra were to copulate with a human while pretending to be a human, would it create another human?
It would. And I think I've been consistent on that. So, I have to do things like this because I didn't want a blood test to be able to determine who was a kandra and who wasn't, because that's your go-to way to find a shapeshifter. So I think I had to imitate entirely. But boy, would it imitate the genetic code... *sounds of thought and frustration*
That's the question we have.
You know, I don't know that they would...so they were human...I'm going to go ahead and back pedal and RAFO on that. I haven't decided 100% yet...I know you can't tell with a bloodtest, but if you look at the DNA, would you be able to tell it's a kandra? And I'm kinda thinking you probably would be able to.
So then, following that they wouldn't be able to reproduce.
Yeah, they wouldn't be able to reproduce in that case. I'm gonna go--jury's out. And I have to really make a call on this. I'm going to say, "Yes," right now, that they are doing this down to the cellular level, a copy, but I may have to backpedal on that when I get to future Mistborn books, when I really look at it, what it would take, to do that. It's an unofficial yes, with a RAFO attached to it.
Who has been your favorite character to write so far?
It's hard to say, they're all like my children. I often default to Wayne, because he's a blast.
I was curious, what is your favorite metaphor in the Steelheart series?
Definitely the potato in a minefield, just because it comes at the right moment. It's not the best of the metaphors, but it's the most...the most 'David' of the metaphors.
When is Wax coming back?
Wax is coming back...Wax will be the next...well...it will happen before too much longer. I was gonna write it next but I don't know, it would kinda feel nice to finish the whole Skyward trilogy, turn it in, and be done, and not have to come back to it, but then when do I do Wax 4? So we'll see. It shouldn't be too much longer.
Are we gonna get more Cosmere or are you done with that?
You'll get a lot more Cosmere. A lot more.
My husband's a Hufflepuff.
Do you know what I am? Can you guess?
I would say...a little bit of Slytherin, I've seen your evil faces when you give out RAFO cards.
*Talks over* Slytherin, I'm Slytherin.
I figure if you sort yourself in Slytherin, it's the house that...if you think you are, you probably are.
Who is your favorite female character?
Favorite female character? Jasnah, probably. It's hard to say, it's like they're all my children, right? Whose your favorite child? but...Jasnah, maybe?
*Talking about Mistborn and Feruchemists.* Personally, which one would you rather be?
Probably a Mistborn. Because I want to be able to fly. Even kind-of/halfway/maybe/sort-of fly.
What was the black gemstone that Gavilar gave to Szeth before he died? Was it Unmade, and what did Szeth do with it?
So Szeth has put it in a safe place, and, "Is it an Unmade or is it not?" is a RAFO.
How connected is Stormlight to the Warbreaker books?
Pretty connected. Yeah, a lot of them...so, when I wrote Warbreaker, I actually had already written the first book Way of Kings, in Stormlight, and I was writing Warbreaker as kind of a prequel to it, but then they came out in reverse order. But they are very...they are the most connected of the Cosmere books right now.
Why aren't there any dragons in your books?
There are dragons in my books, they're just hiding.
So, I don't know which one it's in, but when Nazh was analyzing Bridge Four--
Nazh was analyzing Bridge Four, yes.
Why was Nazh analyzing Bridge Four? Well, you will find clues to that in the pieces of art in The Stormlight Archive, that he was trying to obtain...they are very interested...certain elements of the Cosmere are very interested in the progress of the Nahel bond as the Knights Radiant are making them.
In The Stormlight Archive there are characters with names that are different from characters they are in the other Cosmere books, and I'm wondering if there is their a place that has a "this is this person" or if there are like clues that we could watch for.
People have different names, they're using aliases in various parts of the Cosmere and things like this. The only thing I can point you toward are the fan wikis and fan forums which you probably already know about, the 17th Shard being the biggest of those. I am not revealing who the people are, but theories are on those websites and I have confirmed a few of them.
*Written on a sticky note* Is there a connection between the characters who have large purple birthmarks?
I do not have any significance to it right now, no.
Hoid. Was his hair white from birth?
Hoid's hair, in the current incarnation, was not white from birth. But that's not canon until I write it. So, his hair was not white in the very first story I wrote about him, but it was white by Dragonsteel, so who knows what I'll do when I really get back to that. But, right now I have it not being natural.
Let's go with, canon answer for Hoid, 'not natural white hair.' But that's got the asterisk of "it's possible I could change that when I actually write it." Who knows what I'll do in 15 years. I think I'm going to have enough trouble making sure all the things that I've put in the books about him are all--stay true. I don't want to pull a Lucas and have the four things we've actually talked about not actually happen in the prequels, but...I'm not going to hold myself to all the Words of Brandon, particularly when I write Dragonsteel.
In The Way of Kings, Hoid says that he has a grudge against Rayse and Bavadin; is that like one grudge against both of them, or is that two separate grudges?
Uh, they are a similar grudge.
But from different incidents?
I'll RAFO that too. Partially because I don't know exactly how I'm going to write it yet. That's more a RAFO of, "I'm writing that in 15 years so we'll wait until I do."
Is Hoid, Handerwym?
[laughs] Handerwym is not Hoid. Handerwym is snarky on his own.
But he is a worldhopper?
Thats...hmmm [gives RAFO card]
Is he native to Scadrial?
He is native to Scadrial.
When do you expect your next Stormlight Archive book to be released?
They take about three years to do, is what I found, so we're about one year into that so about two more years.
I read on your FAQ that your in-world language was going to play a bigger part in some of the later books. Is that still something you're planning on?
Still something I'm planning, but we will see. The numerology aspect of The Stormlight Archive is a bigger part of the world than I usually emphasize, because if you emphasize stuff like that people will assume it is actually magical. They are a bit more superstitious with their numerology than I sometimes imply—
Is that why there's lots of things in tens?
Yeah, well even more than that, it's based on the whole idea that in the Hebrew, a number and a letter are the same thing, so people would translate words to numbers and numbers to words. They do a LOT of that.
When is Dragonsteel coming out?
Dragonsteel is a looong way off. I have to finish Stormlight, and the next Mistborn trilogy after this one first.
Do you visit schools?
Once in a while, but not as much as I used to because it is really demanding on my time.
If Hoid was to get his hands on "bavadinium," could he alloy it with lerasium and get Sand Mastery?
This is theoretically possible.
In The Stormlight Archive, we know the characters can draw Stormlight from various objects, right? Can they steal it from each other?
So... [Begins saying no, fades out]
Too much of a reveal?
No, the answer is mostly no, in those situations... no. So I'll give you like a kind of, "Except in special situations." But that doesn't count if they're carrying it, only if they've invested.
The other Surgebinder in Amaram's army. Was it Tien?
Tien was a Surgebinder and was in Amaram's army. So yes. <pause> And [he] was a Lightweaver.
I have one about Hoid. I want to know, in Mistborn, in Arcanum Unbounded, we find out some really important things about him. But we find out, Hoid is an incredibly powerful person.
Like, probably one of the most powerful people in the Cosmere.
He once was, and no longer is. So, I can't talk a lot about Hoid, but I'll give you a little bit of where he came from. Where he came from in my brain.
For those who don't know, there's a character who shows up in all my epic fantasy books, named Hoid. Or at least that's the alias he's been using lately. Where did this come from? Well, he came from me reading books when I was a teenager. I can specifically remember doing it with the Anne McCaffrey books, that I mentioned earlier. I was reading those, and I would insert my own characters. I still do this in movies, and books that I read. I add to the story. And oftentimes, when people, bit parts people, would walk onscreen in those books, or in the chapters, I'd be like, "Oooh, this is the secret character," right? And then I would have them go to the other books, and I'd imagine this kind of behind-the-scenes thing where these characters were going from different worlds of different people's books, so I'd read Anne McCaffrey, and they'd show up in David Eddings, and they'd show up in Tad Williams' books, and they'd show up in Melanie Rawn books, and I was imagining this whole story behind the story that I was creating. This was where the beginnings of me being a writer came from, was doing that. It's my own kind of fan fiction, but it's my own kind of fan fiction in my head where I was saying, "Even the characters in these books don't know the real story."
And when it came time to start writing my own, I was really in love with this idea. I can trace the idea of connecting worlds probably back to when I read the Foundation book that connected the Robots books and Foundation books, if you've ever read those by Asimov. That book kind of blew my mind, that those two series I'd been reading could be connected. And it was really, really fascinating to me. And so that's where the Cosmere came from.
And so Hoid has his origins. He existed behind the scenes of the Cosmere books. You don't have to know who he is to read them. You can just read them, don't worry about it. But behind the scenes, there is a story behind the story, and he was there for those events that happened that created... basically ended up with the various deities on the various planets. Where their origins were, he was there. But he wasn't one of them.
So, Vorinism and the safehand, it's obviously a modesty type thing kind of like the hijab. Where does the modesty stop? Or does it go up the whole arm?
It doesn't go up the whole arm, it actually ends at about the wrist.
Okay, so if they had, like, a slitted sleeve?
That would be fine.
Now, parents are usually the most influential role model in a person's life. You're a father, Brandon, as a father, what do you think parents can do to help prevent violence against women and girls in future generations, and get boys involved in helping to do so?
One of the things that I've noticed, having three little boys, is the weird way we sometimes look at consent, just, as little boys roughhousing. And I'm not here to say, lets stop roughhousing and things like that. But I think it's a good general rule, that when your little brother is saying, "Don't tease-- Don't tickle me, please stop." Then, we say, "Yeah, you stop." When somebody says, "Stop touching me," it doesn't matter if it's your little brother. It doesn't matter if it's your mother. It doesn't matter if it's your father. You don't say, "Stop touching me," number one, and not mean it. And when someone says that, you listen and you stop tickling them. You stop jumping on them.
My boys love to roughhouse and I love to play with them and have them jump on me and things like that, and there's nothing wrong with that. But when they jump on somebody else and they say, "Don't do that," we need them to know, at least that's what I feel, I need to let them know, "Listen, ev-- other people have the right to tell you no and you have to stop, right away. That's not a thing that you, that you then giggle and do it again." And that's just one of the areas that I've seen, that-- and the thing about it is, it's a bigger, bigger-- It makes our home way more serene, when that rule, and my kids understand that rule and they know they can say, "Stop tickling me," and it means something, everybody's happier. Right?
And so, I don't know, that's one way, teaching my kids to respect everyone, right? Resp-- When somebody expresses their opinion and their emotions and the experience they've had, your response, is not to say, "No." You can say, "Well my experience has been this," that furthers the discussion, but saying, "No, you're wrong about your own experience?" I think that is something, that we all as a culture need to start teaching people to pay attention to.
Now you just talked about writing characters that are flawed. Your female characters are generally flawed in some way, as are all people, nobody's perfect. And of course there are women who are villains. So my question is, when you write female characters, do you ever feel pressured by gender and cultural stereotypes to make them likeable or relatable? Do you ever get any flack for not making a female character likeable enough?
I have not really gotten flack. I think these-- this is the sort of thing that we worry will happen to us, and we use an excuse... just kind of in the back of our mind without it actually really being an issue. I think, readers want interesting characters who are strong character archetypes, that doesn't mean unflawed. And I think, as readers that's what we want. But there are long standing sort of assumptions, that you can't do this, or can't do that.
One of the things that I kind of had to push through when I was writing, and again, I am not the perfect example of how to do these sorts of things. There are people, particularly women authors, you should listen to more than you listen to me, talking about things like feminism, right? Go watch Feminist Frequency, or something like that if you want to-- if you want to get a real in-depth and well done look at it.
But I noticed at least for me, one of the things that happens is, you start off, determined to not fall into the stereotypes, whatever it is. You know, we'll talk about in terms of sexism, right. So what you do when-- men do this a lot, but women do this with male characters also. This does happen, you just don't see it as often, where what happens, you say "I'm going to make sure, that I am writing this person who is different from me, in a way that's not going to be at all offensive." And so the first step you take is you make them just awesome. And you see this in a lot of media, particularly in a lot of media where there's an all male cast and they put one women in the cast. They make sure that women is good at everything, is really, really strong and is a great action hero and things, and this is like the step you take to make sure that you're not falling in the trap, which is a bad trap, of the women always needing to be saved.
But I think there's a step beyond that where you start asking yourself, "Well, how can I make all of my characters interesting? How can I make sure they all have a journey, that they're all flawed? That they-- that instead of-- there's a certain level of sexism to putting someone on a pedestal, as well as to making them always have to be saved. And certainly, it's a step forward to trying to avoid fridging all of your female characters, or things like that, but if they don't have autonomy, if, you know the character is different from you, is only there to be in a perfect ideal paragon, then that's not doing a justice to your characters either. And that's a trap that I think, we all as writers, particularly male writers like me, fall into a little too often.
So, I guess, do you just have to be brave, and do what you think is right?
You also have to be willing to fail, and that's really hard. And you have to be able to own up to doing something poorly, even something you thought you were doing well, you have to own up to the fact that you might have gotten some things wrong and that's hard. That's just super hard. We're all very sensitive about our art, and we're very sensitive about trying-- we want to tell a good story and do well by it, and it's hard to listen to any sort of criticism and so-- but the more you listen as a writer, the more, I'm convinced, you become a better writer.
So, Brandon, you just introduced a really amazing female character [Spensa] to us. Your female characters throughout all your books are resourceful and independent. Some of them are leaders, some of them go through very interesting journeys of growth and self-discovery. Some of your female characters, like Vin and Sarene, they have mentors and teachers who are men, but their decisions about who to be and what to do are always their own. They always have agency. Was it a conscious choice to write these female characters and their journeys like this, and can you tell us if the process was easy or difficult?
So, there are a number of different responses to this. One is, I came into fantasy by way of some excellent female novelists that I highly recommend. Barbara Hambly was my first experience with fantasy, and then Anne McCaffery, Melanie Rawn, and Jane Yolen were kind of my introduction to fantasy. It's how I got pulled into it-- To the point that when I was first given a David Eddings book, I was hesitant, because I was like, "Is this a genre guys can write?" was my honest reaction to that. So, when I started writing my own books, I knew I wanted to do a good job with this, but I was really bad at it at the start. It was very embarrassing to me as a writer. And this happens to all new writers. There are things that you want do that, in your head, you imagine yourself doing very well, and then when you start out, you just do poorly. And the later in life that you start writing your stories, the more you're generally able to recognize how poorly you're doing things that you want to do well. And my very first book, that I didn't publish, particularly the female lead was very generic, and written very much to fill the role of the love interest rather than to be a character. And I recognized it, even as I was writing it, but I didn't know how to do it differently. And it took practice. It took a lot of work. It really shouldn't, on one hand, right? Write the characters as people. rather than as roles. That's what you have to learn is: everybody is the hero of their own story in their head. They're the protagonist, whoever they are. And writing the characters so that they view themselves that way, and so they have autonomy, and they aren't being shoved around by the plot or by the protagonist, or things like this, but it's just very hard to do. I had a lot of early readers who were very helpful. I often credit my friend Annie as being one of the big reasons why Sarene eventually ended up working in Elantris. And she gave me some early reads, and things like this.
But, you know, it is hard to abandon our own preconceptions that we don't even know are there without practice, effort, and somebody pointing them out to you. And it was just a matter of practice and trying to get better. And I still think that there are lots of times I get it wrong. And you mentioned Mistborn. And I was really determined that I was going to do a good female protagonist. I try to stay away from the kind of cliched term "strong female character." Because we don't talk about "strong male characters." We talk about characters who are distinctive, interesting, flawed, and real people. And I was determined to do this with Vin. And I feel like I did a pretty good job. But, of course, I had a completely different blind side in that I defaulted to making the rest of the crew that Vin interacts with all guys. This is because my story archetype for Mistborn was the heist novel, the heist story, and my favorite heist movies are Ocean's Eleven and Sneakers and The Sting, and these are great stories. I absolutely love them. But they all are almost exclusively male casts. And that's not to say that, you know, someone can't write an all-male cast if they want to. But it wasn't like I had sat down and said, "I'm intentionally going to write an all-male cast." I just defaulted to making the rest of the cast male because that was the archetype that was in my head, that I hadn't examined. And so, when I got done with those books, I looked back, and I'm like, "Wouldn't this have been a better and more interesting story if there had been more women in the cast?" And I absolutely think it would have been. But becoming a writer, becoming an artist, is a long process of learning what you do well, what you do poorly, what you've done well once and want to learn how to replicate, what you've done poorly and want to learn to get better at. It's a very long process, I think, becoming the writer that we want to be.
I was asking about the diets of the Shin, Stone Shamanism, because Szeth in one of the interludes talks about the stone walkers, being able to eat food on any day of the week, so I was wondering what that actually referred to.
*Inaudible about placebo effect and wound severity*
The placebo effect is a very strong thing. I'm not sure it's ever actually stopped bleeding or stopped an infection. But it can affect a patient's attitude, and willingness to participate in care. So I think it's a real thing, I'm just not sure it applies as much to trauma as to a lot of other illnesses.
Yeah, I've read a lot about it recently because I was really interested. But yeah, it ends when you have this sort of thing, it doesn't do anything here. But the really fascinating thing, if you want to take a little tidbit is: the placebo effect, for what it works on, works on people who know it's a placebo, too.
Okay, so the question is: How do you draw the line between deciding to be realistic, and to fudge it in the name of drama, essentially. Pointed out, like, at the end someone gets shot in a way that would normally lay them out but you need the story to keep going. You have a number of options here, and sub-genre and tone is going to have a lot to do with it. The fact that Star Wars is not in any way realistic in its physics does not prevent it from being enjoyed by even a lot of us who understand how bad the physics is, right? Because Star Wars does not present itself as a story where they need to get the physics right. Whereas a hard science fiction movie that we're watching then make an enormous error-- I love The Martian, but this is why Andy Weir gets so much flack. It was way better than 99.9 percent of all science fiction stories; he gets one thing wrong and people will notice it because it's a hard science fiction story.
So, you're going to have to decide on the tone of your story, that's a large part of it. And the other thing is, you build up, in some ways, credibility, like I said, often with the small details. And then you use those small details. We often call it the pyramid of abstraction. You lay the foundation with concrete details, building the scene so the reader is on board for what you're doing. And then, when you need to fudge it and strain plausibility, even in a very realistic story, the reader generally gets on board and goes with it, and doesn't let it break immersion for them. In your example, if all the way through this story you had dealt with these things very realistically, at the end you even dealt with it realistically, but had the character kind of overcome it for a little while and push through. I am totally on board to buy that, right? I am there with you. I'm like, "This is the climatic moment. Yeah, he should have dropped, but instead, he manages to stand up and push the fire alarm or something like that." This sort of thing, readers will be on board. You just need to make sure to keep them on board and to sell them on the idea of the tone of your story.
As Sidney and Jen pointed out earlier, the wound that is ultimately fatal, often is not immediately fatal. That's one of the other Hollywood tropes that I sometimes hate is: sometimes he gets shot and immediately falls down. No, doesn't happen. A headshot maybe, but that's about it.
Yeah, I was interviewing some people for a story I was writing, and I interviewed someone who had been shot. And he said "It felt like someone had tapped me on the back, just like that, and I didn't know I had been shot." The bullet went all the way through him, but he still was up and doing things for another couple of minutes.
This is where the writers can exploit this a little bit, and it's always a balance, right, as a novelist. The original question was: Alexander the Great survived, famously, a punctured lung. And so, the fact that it does happen means you can get away with it in your fiction, you can get away with a lot of things. But as it was brought up earlier on the panel, one of the things we try to do in fantasy, and I would say the hallmark of an epic fantasy is the sense of immersion. That's why we are writing epic fantasy, we want to draw people in, and while you are reading this book you want to feel like this is a real place and these are real events that happened.
One of the things I read regarding blunt trauma that Hollywood and authors like to ignore is-- I've been told by several experts, the old "Hit 'em on the back of the head and knock them out thing" is just not a thing. If you hit them on the back of the head hard enough to knock them out, chances are you have done serious damage to them. This [is] just not a thing.
I actually have a really good resource for you writers out there, if you want. There's a YouTube series done by historical fighting recreationists in the U.K. And a lot of times, if I'm like-- I was writing Oathbringer, my latest book, I'm like, "I need spear versus dagger." Which is, you don't want to be in that fight, but someone got in that fight, and I'm like "Alright, what are his chances, what would he do to actually win?" And I Googled on this YouTube series, which I really love, and lo and behold, they had 20 matches of dagger versus spear with some discussion about what the strategy for the dagger fighter was, and what the strategy for the spear fighter was. They played it out and showed you. The dagger fighter won a couple times, it's totally possible. Grab the front of the spear, yank them forward, get in close range. But it was really helpful. So this is called Schola Gladiatoria, on YouTube. I've been following it for years, and it's really great. You'll be able to find sets of, you, "here's 2 swords versus sword and shield." He also does reviews of historical weapons saying, "Here is what it was used for." He just really likes swords so he buys them frequently and talks about them. Really great resource.
One of the things I relied on my surgeons for when I was working was, they would periodically say, "Cauterize this one, not this one." I'm not sure I ever really figured out why, but I just did what they said. But I think that could be really handy for the audience. Any suggestions?
Yeah, I had that on my list. So, cautery has been around for a very long time, and properly applied it can both stop bleeding, what we mostly use it for now, and limit infection by sealing the skin. So that's a perfectly valid therapy from way way back.
From a surgeons perspective cautery is a primary tool that I use in the operating room all the time. Mainly on small vessels. In the same, when you're doing abdominal surgery is that charcoal doesn't bleed, today. The problem with cauterizing a very large vessel is that it will stop the bleeding, and then the eschar, the charred part falls off and it starts bleeding again. So cauterizing your entire arm to stop bleeding is not as effective as cauterizing, say, an open bleeding wound that doesn't involve a major blood vessel.
I will say that one thing that I did after doing a lot of this research was I just decided early on I needed some natural antibiotics. I just did. Because I'm telling a story about a bunch of people who are slaves in a warfare situation whose lives are not cared for, and there's one guy with some medical training who ends up among them, and he considers it his job to keep these guys alive. And I learned very [early] on I needed some natural antibiotics. I just needed-- And that's the thing you can do in an epic fantasy, is you can decide, "You know what? I'm going to make this call, I'm going to build into my setting this way around it," because there were certain stories I wanted to tell, and if he couldn't save anybody, then this story doesn't work.
Do you ever get so creatively exhausted from producing so much that your mind feels like an old wrung-out sock? And if so, what do you do to get yourself back on form?
That's an excellent question. I have an advantage over a lot of writers in that I was really bad at this when I started. That may not sound like an advantage; but what it meant was I wrote for a long time, trying to get to a level that I was equal to some of my peers, who were much more talented, I feel, than I was when I began. And because of this, because of these long years learning to be a writer-- And certainly, I can't say I didn't have some talent. Some of what has happened is raw luck of the draw that I was able to learn how to write. What happened is, I got very accustomed to changing projects frequently and trying new things. And that process became very interesting and exciting to me and became the process by which I recharge. The way I recharge is by doing something new. And it has prevented, so far in my twenty-some years of writing, me from really ever experiencing severe burnout. Once in a while, I get really tired of the story I'm working on. Generally during the fourth or fifth draft of that story (or if it's Memory of Light, the twelfth draft). Sometimes, you get very, very tired. I do. But, because I have this sort of fallback method of "do something very different," that spark usually just lights me right back up, and I get really excited about doing something new.
And so this is why you see me writing a lot of different things. It's why you see me releasing Oathbringer, a large epic fantasy. Followed by my next book being the Legion book in about two weeks, which is a detective modern-day with slight science fiction elements. And then a YA space opera [Skyward]. This is why I hop between these different things. And really-- I haven't gotten burned out yet. I'm always excited for the next things.
How do you not get overwhelmed by all the books that you want to write?
There's a very good question in that also. Because, as I get older-- When I was young, my brain, I could tell myself, "Well, I'll be able to write all of these someday. I just have to put them in order, and write the ones I'm most excited about right now." The older I get, the more I realize I'm not gonna be able to write every idea that comes to me. And I have this core line of the Cosmere books that I'm going to write. But a lot of times now, it is a little overwhelming to realize, "I have this really great idea for a story. But it's not quite as great as the other ideas in the list. And it just is probably never gonna get written." And there's kind of a story triage that goes on in that regard. And it can be a little overwhelming sometimes to realize, "I just can't do this story." And that's something I'm coming to terms with, the older I get.
Let's talk about geek culture. So, geek culture in general, including science fiction and fantasy, has had its share of critics saying that it's still too male-dominated despite there being a rising number of prominent, well-respected, well-known female authors. Plus, there's still plenty of hostile misogynist and sexist behavior by male geeks towards female geeks. What do you think needs to be done to make geek culture as a whole, whether it's comics or gaming or books or conventions, more welcoming for women and girls?
Wow. I don't know if I'm the right person to ask, right? I am at the top of this social structure, and so asking me this question-- I mean I'll try to give an answer, but let's point out that I may not be the best person to answer this question. I see it a lot in Magic: The Gathering circles, where you go to the game stories, and there are just so many guys who are--
I wanna say this the right way. I have had female friends, who when they visit, feel like they are being evaluated by everyone in the room based on their dateability, primarily. And I think this could be a big part of the problem, is that-- maybe not emphasizing in your head, that when a woman enters our realm-- It shouldn't even be "our realm," right? There's my bias speaking right there. But when we look at women who walk into an area that has a lot of male dominance, and then everyone hits on her? I can't imagine how off-putting that would be, right?
I think we need to listen. I think, when women explain their experience in some of these circles, we need to be less dismissive. I mean, these are, like, 101-level things... Oh, man, I see these posts, and the immediate explaining of why they're wrong, and I'm like, "This is a person's experience. Their experience can't be wrong. It is what they experienced in life." It's not there for argument. It's their expressing who they are, and what they've been through.
So, what can we do? Boy. We can certainly listen better. We can try to make these atmospheres less focused on, like I said-- do a little less-- You see how much I'm struggling with this? Because I feel I need to listen better on this topic myself. And I need to have other people telling me. I'm not the one who needs to be saying what we can do.
I do think there's still a problem. There's obviously a problem, because people who are writing about it are saying there's a problem. And they're the ones who have experienced it. And I think that sci-fi/fantasy, in particular, we like to pride ourselves on being forward-thinking. This is what science fiction's all about, let's look to the future and try to imagine a better world. Sometimes, we imagine that better world by displaying a terrible one and saying, "Let's not become this." But either way, it's kind of about trying to imagine a better world. And fantasy, I think, doesn't look backward. fantasy is talking about the world we live in right now by using certain metaphors and storytelling.
So, yeah. We think that we're very good at this. And we need to be willing to acknowledge that we're not. And be willing to listen about how we're not. And be willing to change in the ways that people who are not me tell us we need to change.
So, I don't know if that's a good answer to your question. Because it's a hard question for me, specifically, to answer. My response would be, "Well, let's here what women who are having problems with-- Man, how can I even say it without-- Yeah, let's listen to the women, and see what they say.
Vin stands out to us at the Pixel Project because she went through a lot of abuse in her young life, physical and psychological, at the hands of family and people that she should have been able to trust. She is a survivor, and with the help of her new friends she eventually finds self-worth, she realizes she can overcome her past trauma, she grows as a person. The question is, why did you decide to write a character with this kind of background, and what kind of research did you do to write the character who is an abuse survivor?
Yeah. So, two part question. First up: How and why did I decide. There are two main parts to this. One is, I knew I was writing in the world of Mistborn, a very less than perfect society. Let's just put it at that. The pitch for myself was, what if Sauron had won? What if you had to grow up in Mordor? I felt that if I had a character who was untouched by that, that the story would lack sincerity. If the only main character was someone who had somehow avoided that, there would be a certain-- like I said, lack of sincerity. There would be a certain, sort of-- I feel that, when you're writing stories, one of the things you should be looking to is to let characters who are part of a problem, solve the problem, rather than people outside the problem coming in to fix the problem. It's generally stronger storytelling, and generally more respectful of people who have had these life experiences themselves. So, I knew I needed someone who had been through a lot of trauma, because of the things we needed to change in this society.
The other part about it was planning-- I am an outliner, with my plots and my worlds and my characters, I discovery write. And oftentimes, what I'll do when I start a book is I'll start with multiple attempts at writing a person into that world. It's almost like I have a bunch of actors come in and try out for the part. I wrote three very different first chapters for that book, and the one that worked was the Vin you ended up with. What drew me to her as a character was the mix of strength and vulnerability at the same time, that she has. It's hard to explain why I came up with that, because really, as a writer, you're just kind of searching for someone whose voice works and whose soul matches that of the story. And it gets very mystical, for me, when you talk about characters, which I don't like, I like to be able to break things down, and talk about how it works and why I made the choice I did. But I made the choice of Vin because Vin was right. Part of that was, she was solving a problem that she had been directly-- that had directly affected her life.
How did I go about doing it right? This is where the best research that I get is reading the stories of people who are willing to share them with the rest of us. Reading firsthand accounts from people who are willing, because that takes a lot of bravery. It takes a lot of-- it's not something I could ever ask anyone to do, but it is something that people offer. On their blogs, and on forums, and spending your time listening to what people say, and trying to get the characters to express the way that these people would express it if they could write that character in their story, is one of my main goals. In fact, I think that's my prime mandate as a writer, is, try to write the characters like the people who have their life experience or beliefs would write them if they had my skill as a writer. And, so I spent a lot of time on blogs, I spent a lot of time on forums, and I wasn't ever posting on these, I was just listening. And then I made sure I had some good readers. Shallan has gone the same way. I can directly credit some very helpful beta readers who have had life experience similar to Shallan's, which have made sure, at least I hope I do this right, and always do better, that I'm walking a line between not sensationalizing, and not glorifying, but using this person's life experience to help them become the person that they want to become.
And is that why we don't learn about the characters abuse on screen-- it's never on screen, it's always in their thoughts-- did you purposely write it like this because you didn't want...
Yes. This was very, very conscious. I feel like one of the biggest traps that writers in fantasy fall into, is using abuse of women, specifically, but all people who are in positions of lacking power, as a means of proving how bad your villains are, or how heroic your heroes are. I think that there are certain authors who are really good at doing this without making it a sense that this is how the world is. So it's not me pointing fingers and saying you shouldn't do that, but I felt that if I was to put it on screen, I don't think I could handle it without sensationalizing it. And by making it there, but never explicit, I think everyone knows it was there, I think everyone knows that Vin suffered abuse, but I could write a story that can deal with overcoming these things without having to sensationalize the thing itself.
Are you planning on using what you learned from writing Renarin and Steris to improve the characterization of Adien when you write Elantris 2?
Yes. Adien is one of my-- regrets is probably the wrong term. But I talked earlier about coming to terms with the fact that as you grow as a writer, there are certain things that you will have done less well then you can do them now. I consider Steris and Renarin my-- Again, apology's the wrong term. I tried very hard when I wrote Elantris. I was not the writer I am today, and I did not have access to the helpful readers who could point me-- you know, by writing Adien a little pop culture-y, the pop culture version of someone with autism, I was able to be told by people, "you know, this is kind of a stereotype." What Adien is does exist, but very rarely, and if you wanna have a more complete picture of it, you should read this resource or talk to this person. That's one of those areas that, here I thought I was being all forward thinking. And I did something that perpetuated a stereotype at the same time. That's not something I think you need to be embarrassed of, as a writer, as long as you're willing to listen and do better.
Could someone burn an Allomantically inert metal that was Invested, like Invested silver or Invested lead?
...I'm gonna give you a no on this one. I rarely give straight up "no"s, but you've got to remember that the Allomantic metal is the key, and the power behind it is gonna be inaccessible without the key. Now, there are more things that are Allomantically viable than have been discovered or talked about. But that's the problem right there. If it's not the right metal, if it doesn't provide the right-- I'll just stop at key. If it isn't the right key. We'll get more into this as the cosmere progresses. That's a very rare no for me. Usually you're gonna get a "well, it depends."
Your Shardworlds have a lot of societies of varying social development. So, apropos of this charity, what would be the penalties of hitting your wife in various worlds: Roshar, Scadrial, Nalthis?
Oh, wow. The problem with this question is that no world is a monoculture. There are going to be a lot of different cultures on a lot of different planets, and a lot of different social mores, and a lot of different laws. I'm not sure that that's a question I really want to delve deeply into.
Have you ever considered writing more female friendships?
Yeah, you know, that's something that I noticed, right? That's another one of these things we do a bad job of in fiction. Particularly female friendships. Like, you see the bromances happening a lot, particularly in fantasy, but we tend to see-- particularly written by men-- a lot of the "one woman among a large cast of men", and this sort of thing. And certainly that's not to say that there aren't women who have a lot of friends who are male. But it is certainly something I think we get wrong a lot in fantasy. And it's one of those kind of things you don't notice. But I have noticed it about my fiction, that I'm really good at guy friendships, and I have kind of ignored female friendships. I actually took a stab at doing a better job of this in Skyward. So you can tell me if I've done a better job of it or not with this book.
I had a lot of fun writing Spensa. She's a character I've been working on for many, many years. This very imaginative and passionate woman who wants to be a fighter pilot. And it was actually very tough to get right, it took me years to get right. And that first chapter is my fourth version of the first chapter. I should be-- I'll probably post the other versions on my website once the book's out. But it is one of the hardest books to start that I've ever written. Just getting that tone down and getting it right and making her feel right was very, very difficult.
Deep lore question: Why is the storm that goes backwards called the Everstorm and not the Reversestorm?
Heh heh heh. That is actually a RAFO, which stands for Read And Find Out. I can explain the terminology a lot better after upcoming books are out.
Okay, cool, so you just have to wait.
You do have to wait on that one.
Are kandra/mistwraiths naturally immortal? If so, is it magically sustained, or natural, like the immortal jellyfish? If not, what is the natural lifespan of a kandra/mistwraith?
No, they are not immortal, but they are very, very long lived. If you look at the First Generation, you'll see an example of aging happening. They will eventually die of old age. They don't suffer from some of the ailments that, say, humans do, and it takes a bit longer, and there is some magical sustaining of them going on.