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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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I don't generally sit down and say I'm going to write someone who's this archetype or that archetype. What I wanted for this book, honestly, was just to have fun. I love writing epic, awesome stories; I love stories that are full of deep character conflict and broad world-spanning conflict—but sometimes I just want to back away from that and have fun.
The Wax archetype with the sidekick—the two of them were built from the ground up to be characters who played off one another well to facilitate good banter. Because I like to write good banter. I like to read it, I like to enjoy it. Whether it's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Holmes and Watson or whatever—I get a kick out of these types of stories. So when I was writing this book, I was really just saying let's step back for a little while from the kind of stories I was writing with The Way of Kings and the Wheel of Time—which are both (I hope) very awesome, and deep, and complex—and let's do something that's just fun.
So . . . While the plane was landing, I had a great idea for fixing Death By Pizza, a novel I abandoned a few years ago. NOT RIGHT NOW, BRAIN.
Lol. Have you even read that one?
No. But I wanted to react anyway.
You and your ideas on planes! Isn't that how Legion got started?
Yeah, traveling does that to me. Mistborn started while I was driving on a road trip.
Given I don't know anything about you besides the fact that you're a ridiculously talented writer, that title and you don't seem in-sync.
Heh. It was one of my "breather projects." Stories I free-write (rather than planning in detail) between larger books.
I spent most of my early career, as I kind of implied earlier, reacting against books that I had really liked. The main purpose for this being that I felt that Robert Jordan and various other authors really covered that type of story and that type of world really well. And so I said, "Well, what other room is there to explore?" And so you see me reacting against.
For instance, Mistborn is a direct reaction to the Wheel of Time. Mistborn began as the question, "What if Rand were to fail?" That's what spun me into creating that entire book series: what if the prophesied hero was not able to accomplish what they were supposed to accomplish? And that became the foundation of that book series. So you can see where I was going and things like that. A lot of times I will read something, and if it's done very well I'll react against it, and if it’s done very poorly then I’ll say, "Oh, I want to try and do this the right way". And both of those are kind of an interesting style of reaction to storytelling. So I would say I was deeply influenced, but it's more in the realm of, "Hey what have they done? What have they covered really well, and where can I go to explore new ground?"
Yeah, where did I get the inspiration for that? There's a couple of places, and I don't want to go off on this too long, if you go look on the Q&A database that these guys have on the 17th Shard you can find more.
But there were really two things that made me do it. First off is reading how Asimov did it and really being impressed with what he did and also noticing that he had to like do some patches in order to make everything work. Asimov connected his Robot series and his Foundations series after the fact many years later. It turned out really well; the two series, as it turns out, blend together in a really cool way but it felt to me it felt after the fact . And I wanted to do something from the get-go and say, "Well, if I've got something like this as a model." Stephen King did it also, but he did it after the fact. But I've got writers like this as a model to show how cool this can be, so my question to myself is, "How much cooler can it be if I do it from book one?" And you know, it's the sort of advantages you get as a writer by standing on the shoulders of authors like that, who have done these awesome things in the past. It allows us to kind of see what they did and say, "Okay, how can I expand on this? How can I do something new, rather than just doing what Asimov did?" And one of the approaches was to try it from book one.
And the other reasoning was that I like big epics but I also want to be writing a lot of stand-alones. And early in my career in particular, it was important for me to be writing stand-alones. And so the hidden epic behind the scenes allowed me to embed some of this depth of foreshadowing and connection in a way that would not be intimidating to readers because they could just read the story and enjoy the stand-alone. And then if it's something- if they're the type that really gets into this and really wants to dig deep, they can find the other level and be like, "Wow, there's an epic on here and Mistborn is a sequel to Elantris. I didn't know that," and things like that. Or they can be read completely independently and you never have to worry about that. So I like that versatility.
I will eventually write some stories connecting all of these things in a more obvious way, but I don't want it to come to the forefront of any series that that's not already the focus. For instance, I don't want Way of Kings to be about that, because I've already promised you what Way of Kings is about. And I don't want then to trick you into, "Oh, now it's this other thing." I have books planned that will be that, but they're a little ways off.
Just wanted to ask how you come up with all your different universes?
You know, it’s hard to say where specifically where they come from. You can point to certain ones and say, Mistborn, Mistborn came from me driving through a fog bank at 80 miles an hour and saying, “Wow that looks cool, can I use that?” And you can point at Warbreaker with me saying, “I’ve done this whole world of ash and I need to do something colorful, let’s build a color based magic system.” Way of Kings is definitely influenced by tidal pools and things like that. And so, each one’s different, it’s just things I see that I think will make interesting stories and settings.
Great answer. I have to be honest, Brandon. I'm not a big fan of superhero fiction—but Steelheart blew me away. I described it as a "mind-blowing" experience. Do you recall where the original seed of inspiration for this novel, and series, came from?
That's very cool to hear! Approaching this book was in some ways very difficult for me because I have read superhero prose, and it usually doesn't work. I came to it with some trepidation, asking myself, "Is this really something you want to try?" A lot of the superhero tropes from comic books work very well in their medium and then don't translate well to prose. So for my model I actually went to the recent superhero films. Great movies like The Dark Knight or The Avengers have been keeping some of the tropes that work really well narratively. Tropes that feel like they're too much part of tradition—like putting Wolverine in yellow spandex—work wonderfully in the comics. I love them there! But they don't translate really well to another medium.
I think part of the problem with superhero fiction is that it tries to be too meta. It tries very hard to poke fun at these tropes, trying to carry them over into fiction, and it ends up just being kind of a mess. But the genre has translated wonderfully well to film through adaptation. So when I approached Steelheart, I actually didn't tell myself, "I'm writing a superhero book." In fact, I've stayed very far away from that mentally and said, "I am writing an action-adventure suspense-thriller." I use some of the seeds from stories that I've loved to read, but really, Steelheart is an action thriller. I used that guide more than I used the superhero guide. I felt that adaption would be stronger for what I was doing. Comic books have done amazing things, but I felt this was what was right for this book.
As for the original seed that made me want to write this story, I was on book tour, driving a rental car up the East Coast when someone aggressively cut me off in traffic. I got very annoyed at this person, which is not something I normally do. I'm usually pretty easygoing, but this time I thought to myself, "Well, random person, it's a good thing I don't have super powers—because if I did, I'd totally blow your car off the road." Then I thought: "That's horrifying that I would even think of doing that to a random stranger!" Any time that I get horrified like that makes me realize that there's a story there somewhere. So I spent the rest of the drive thinking about what would really happen if I had super powers. Would I go out and be a hero, or would I just start doing whatever I wanted to? Would it be a good thing or a bad thing?
You mentioned that one of your most popular series is the Mistborn trilogy. How did those books come about?
The evolution of a novel is such a complicated, complex, and strange creative process that it's hard to step people through it. I don't think even I can fully comprehend it. But by the time I was writing the Mistborn books, I was in a different situation with my career. I'd sold Elantris by that point and the publisher was saying, "We want something else from you." Rather than taking one of the thirteen books that I'd written before, I wanted to write something new. I wanted to give people my newest and best work. At that point I had time to sit down and ask myself, "What do I want to be the hallmark of my career? What am I going to add to the genre?" I want to write fantasy that takes steps forward and lets me take the genre in some interesting direction. At first I wanted to play with some of the stereotypes of the genre. That's a dangerous thing, though, because, as any deconstructionalist will tell you, when you start playing with stereotypes, you start relying on something that you want to undermine, and that puts you on shaky ground. I was in danger of just becoming another cliché. A lot of times when people want to twist something in a new way, they don't twist it enough and end up becoming part of the cliché that they were trying to redefine. But I really did want to try this and went forward with it anyway.
A lot of fantasy relies heavily on the Campbellian Monomyth. This is the idea focusing on the hero's journey. Since the early days of fantasy, it's been a big part of the storytelling, and in my opinion it's become a little bit overused. The hero's journey is important as a description of what works in our minds as people—why we tell the stories we do. But when you take the hero's journey and say, "I'm going to make this a checklist of things I need to do to write a great fantasy novel," your story goes stale. You start to mimic rather than create. Because I'd seen a lot of that, I felt that one of the things I really wanted to do was to try to turn the hero's journey on its head. I had been looking at the Lord of the Rings movies and the Lord of the Rings books and the Harry Potter books, and I felt that because of their popularity and success, a lot of people were going to be using this paradigm even more—the unknown protagonist with a heart of gold and some noble heritage who goes on a quest to defeat the dark lord. So I thought to myself, "What if the dark lord won? What if Frodo got to the end in Lord of the Rings and Sauron said, 'Thanks for bringing my ring back. I really was looking for it,' and then killed him and took over the world? What if book seven of Harry Potter was Voldemort defeating Harry and winning?" I didn't feel that this story had ever really been approached in the way I was imagining it, and it became one idea that bounced around in my head for quite a while.
Another idea I had revolved around my love of the classic heist genre. Whether it's Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery or the movies Ocean's Eleven and The Italian Job, there are these great stories that deal with a gang of specialists who are trying to pull off the ultimate heist. This is the kind of feat which requires them to all work together and use their talents. I hadn't ever read a fantasy book that dealt with that idea in a way that satisfied me or that really felt like it got it down. So that bounced in my head for a while as well.
One more of the ideas for the Mistborn series happened when I was driving home to see my mom. She lives in Idaho Falls, and after passing Tremonton on the I-15, I just went through this fog bank driving at seventy miles an hour. Even though my car was actually driving into the fog, it looked like the mist was moving around me instead of me moving through it. It was just this great image that I wrote down in my notebook years before I ended up writing Mistborn.
After a while, all these different ideas, like atoms, were bouncing around in my head and eventually started to run together to form molecules (the molecules being the story). Keep in mind, a good book is more than just one good idea. A good book is twelve or thirteen or fourteen great ideas that all play off of each other in ways that create even better ideas. There were my two original ideas—a gang of thieves in a fantasy world, and a story where the dark lord won—that ended up coming together and becoming the same story. Suddenly I had a world where the prophecies were wrong, the hero had failed, and a thousand years later a gang of thieves says, "Well, let's try this our way. Let's rob the dark lord silly and drive his armies away from him. Let's try to overthrow the empire." These are all the seeds of things that make bigger ideas.
After I outlined the book, it turned out to be quite bit longer than I expected, and I then began working through those parts that weren't fully developed yet, changing some things. I ended up downplaying the heist story in the final version of the book, despite the fact that it was a heist novel in one of my original concepts. But as I was writing it, I felt that if I was going to make it into a trilogy, I needed the story to have more of an epic scope. The heist was still there, and still the important part of the book, but it kind of became the setting for other, bigger things in the story, such as the epic coming-of-age of one of the characters, the interactions between the characters, and dealing with the rise and fall of the empire. But that happens in the process of writing. Sometimes the things that inspire you to begin a story in the first place eventually end up being the ones that are holding it back. Allomancy, the magic system in the book, was a separate idea that came about through these revisions.
I wrote the books in the trilogy straight through. I had the third one rough drafted by the time the first one had to be in its final form so that I could keep everything consistent and working together the way I wanted it to. I didn't want it to feel like I was just making it up as I went along, which I feel is one of the strengths of the series. I don't know if I'll ever be able to have that opportunity again in a series, but it certainly worked well for the Mistborn books.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Any given book for me has more than one inception point, which makes it hard for me to discuss where the ideas come from. Books come from a lot of cool ideas bouncing around in my head until some of them stick together.
Why are the Epics, the people with the power, all evil?
So the idea for this story came when I was driving along on the freeway and someone cut me off in traffic, and my immediate instinct was, "You're lucky I don't have any superpowers because I'd blow your car up right now." This is what happens when you're a fantasy writer, right? You have weird instinctual reactions like that. I was very frightened, though, because I'm like, "Wow, I can't believe that's inside of me." It's probably a good thing that I don't have superpowers because I don't know that I could be trusted not to blow people off of the road when they cut in front of me. And that led me down the natural progression to what would happen if people really have superpowers. Would people be good with them, or would they not? And if my first instinct is to use them in this sort of awful way, what happens if everyone starts abusing these powers?
And that led me down the road to the story of, the idea of, there being no heroes—there being a story about a common man with no powers, trying to assassinate a very powerful superpowered individual. It's weird talking about this in the terms of superheroes, though, because as I was writing the book, my focus was on sort of an action-adventure feel—definitely using some of the superhero tropes, and the comic book tropes. But I have found that in the fiction I've read, it's better to do kind of a strong adaptation–kind of like movies do. I like how movies have adapted comic books and kind of made them their own, and turned them into their own action-adventure genre. And that was what I was kind of using as a model for this. And so yeah, I wanted to tell the story of this kid—I say kid, he's eighteen—this young man, who wants to bring down the emperor of Chicago, and doesn't have any powers himself, but thinks he might know what Steelheart—that character's—the emperor's weakness is.
I was inspired by just how imaginative it was. I had never read a fantasy book before and I loved the idea of another world that was so similar and yet so different from our own.
When you read that one book, was that where your inspiration started, or were you always—
I was always telling stories, but I didn't find fantasy, and myself in fantasy, until I read that book.
And, you know, there were many lists, and most of them were sort of facetious; some of them were, you know, less so, and I was just kinda wondering, when we did actually kill the Squishy Invulnerable Assassin Creature in, I think it was the second-to-last book.....
...where did the inspiration for that come from? Was it maybe from that site? Because there one there that... [laughter]
I will say that I am, with a lot of things in fandom, I am...was familiar with that list, and I did, after I had built the outline, go to the list and say, "How did they suggest doing these?" It had been a long time, but I was familiar with the list.
And so I can't say that I said, "Oh, I should do it this way." But I can say that this thing and some of these, like a lot of the Asmodean theories—which, by the way, I didn't have to choose on [laughter]—but, things like this were in the back of my brain. It's part of being part of fandom.
Like, I'm not the only one that theorized about gateways, right? Fandom had been theorizing about gateways forever; it's one of the things that drew me to fandom, is when I come on...I had been dreaming about what to do with this, and I'm like, "Ooh, here's other people who are magic system people like me!" and this is a magic system thing, right? How do you kill this thing. And so, this... So, yes, I was familiar with them, but I can't pinpoint and say, "This is something that inspired me."
Um, but it definitely was in the back of my brain. The entire FAQ is something I had read, at various points in its development, and so, yeah. It's hard to say what of the FAQ, over the years, seeped in there and got in my brain, and, you know, it's only things like the...some of the really tough stuff to talk about with the Wheel of Time is, when you start reading a series when you're 15, and you read it multiple times, certain things get cemented into your head that aren't actually part of the books, and some of them are, but they're your own weird interpretation, and...
It's called fanon vs canon.
Yeah, yeah. And when you...being brought on as the writer, I tried to become aware of these, and say, "Okay, what are my own biases?" But I couldn't separate them all. Working on one of the books, I remember this scene—I've told you guys this story before—where I wrote this whole scene, happening with the bridges going into Tar Valon, and Maria's like, "They can't see. This is like a mile-long bridge." And I'm like, "A mile-long bridge!? Not in my Tar Valon!" [laughter] I imagined it perfectly! And nope, going back there, these enormous bridges that I had not imagined, even though they're pivotal to Tar Valon. I have a good friend who insists to this day that Thom Merrilin does not have a mustache. That's pivotal to the character, right? But each of us are going to have these things...when we are reading, our initial impression of the character becomes canon in our own head, and shaking us from that is very difficult sometimes to do. And so, bringing the legacy of all of this with me to writing the books means that you sometimes end up with me being unable to trace where an idea came from. Is it, when I was reading and I was 17 saying, "Oh, I wish this will happen." Is that the origin of the scene, you know, when we bring Tam and Rand back together? Is that the origin of that? I mean, how long had I been thinking about that? Is the origin of that when that meeting with Harriet in April where she said "I have one big request, and it is that you find a way for Tam and Rand to meet again early in one of these books." Was that...? You know. How much of it was that, how much of it was my own fan desire, how much of it was....you know, it's so hard to trace these things and break them down, but I suspect it's a bit of everything.
This was the first novel I wrote knowing for certain that it would be published. That was an odd experience for me, after having written some thirteen novels without ever knowing if I'd make it as a novelist or not.
So, in a way, this is my celebration novel. And, as part of that celebration, I wanted to include cameo nods to some of the people who helped me over the years. We get to see characters named after my friends and alpha readers, the people who encouraged me to keep trying to get published—my first fans, in a sense.
So, a lot of the names of side characters come from friends. Stace Blanches, mentioned in the last chapter, is Stacy Whitman, an editor at Wizards of the Coast. House Tekiel was named after Krista Olson, a friend and former writing group member. (Her brother Ben is my former roommate.) Ahlstrom square was named after my friend Peter Ahlstrom, who is an editor over at Tokyopop. There are over a dozen of these in the book—I can't mention them all.
I do, however, want to point out Charlie—or, as he's called in the book, Lord Entrone. I've never actually met Charlie, but he's hung out on the timewastersguide message board for the last three or four years. He was my first British reader. I figured I'd commemorate that by having his dead body get dumped over a wall by Kelsier.
Spook is actually based directly on someone I know, but I'll get to that later.
I always wondered. You say you produce clean drafts, and you apparently produce stories quickly (relatively to a lot of people I've met.), how do you keep cranking it away? What is the motivation to keep creating? (I think this might be the key to why some many people start and never finish projects. ??)
I'm not actually a fast writer, hour by hour, but I am very consistent. I enjoy writing, but I will admit, some days it is hard. What keeps me going? This has changed over the years. At first, it was a desire to prove myself, and to make a living doing this thing I love. Eventually, it has transitioned into a feeling of obligation to the readers mixed with a desire to see these stories in my head told.
My wife is curious about where your inspiration comes from when coming up with names of people, places, magic systems, etc. what would you say?
They come from all over! Inspiration is a tough thing to pin down. I've had casual meetings, long-time friends, movies I loved, movies I hated, passing something interesting on the freeway, visits to museums, and basically anything else give me an idea. I'm generally looking for some kind of interesting conflict.
Hi Brandon. Firstly I would like to say thank you for coming to Manchester last week. I really enjoyed the readings and book signing. I am currently reading The Way of Kings and my question is Do you get inspiration for the settings in your books from anywhere?
Settings are often inspired by something I've seen in our world, then taken to the extreme. The storm on Roshar, the mists on Scadrial...even Elantris was based on my readings about leper colonies.
Is there anything in particular that inspires you to come up with new stories and/or magic systems?
Really, anything can be the seed. Reading about science and scientific discoveries tends to be the most helpful, but I can't say specifically what leads me to create them. (Though I'd suggest looking at "Sanderson's Laws" of magic for a longer explanation.)
The coats that the Alethi wear, that the officers wear. Is it a Prussian sort of thing?
I'm thinking in my head probably french early 1800's. Just past Napoleonic. Bound tails.
Where did you get the basis for the spren?
The spren are partially based out of Shinto mythology, the idea that everything has a soul and a spirit to it. And partially mixing that with my desire to have some sort of a unique representation of emotion in these books.
Yes I did but that one is a little closer to home, [several people in Brandon's life have depression].
I have depression as well, it's pretty inspiring to me.
I had never seen a hero who had depression and I was like "I need to do a real, legitimate that it's not about their depression, they just have it" Does that make sense? Like whenever I read a book it is all about them having depression. And I'm like "No, your life is not about you having depression, your life-- that is part of your life but--" So it was very important to me that I get that one right.
I just, yeah I just find your book so inspiring so I just really appreciate you doing all this for us.
It really depends on the book. If you want to know the inspiration for the Mistborn books, you can Google "Sanderson's First Law". It's an essay I wrote about how I came up with the magic system. That'll help you see where some of the ideas came from and how I take them and use them.
What about The Stormlight Archive?
Stormlight, the original inspiration was the storm of Jupiter. The big storm that rotates around Jupiter, and I wanted to do something that had a perpetual storm like that.
Spook is based very loosely on a person I knew from the timewastersguide forums. Zack—or Gemm, as his nick was—is very good at posting random gibberish which, if you look at it very closely, actually reads to be rather poetic. I wanted to do a character who spoke with a dialect that had an interesting rhythm, yet was difficult to make out.
Hence the character of Spook. Normally, I don't like dialects. Yet, something about this one was very intriguing to me. I like the way his sentences sound, even when they're completely unintelligible. I do realize, however, that some people really don't like reading what he has to say. Don't worry, he begins to speak more and more intelligibly from here on out.
The Terris religion, and the Keeper's inability to find it, is one of the more interesting—and tragic—elements of the society. I liked this concept of a race that collected and preserved knowledge of the past for those who would come. However, I couldn't have them be experts on their own religion, since that religion hides many of the clues about the nature of what is going on in this series of books.
That necessity gave birth to the idea that they're searching for the most important of religions—their own—yet haven't been able to find it yet. They have everyone else's knowledge memorized, but that which they want the most is still lost to them.
Keep Venture is actually based on real cathedrals. Actually, visiting a few cathedrals was what that sparked the entire structural theme for the buildings in this book. The main inspiration for Keep Venture was the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. I loved the way it incorporated the huge windows at the sides, inset with pillars, with interesting balconies above for viewing. I took that concept and changed it around a bit, turning the worship hall into a ballroom.
After that, the other keeps were easy. Keep Lekal came from the Luxor in Vegas. Hasting and Elariel I came up with on my own—one because I wanted a tower keep, and the other because I imagined a room with stained glass windows in the ceiling.
Now, if Sazed's leaving her alone didn’t hint at you that something was coming... well, you need to go back to foreshadowing school.
The image of Vin bursting out of the building as the rose window churned the mists, falling beneath her, was one of the first fight scene images I got for this book. When I came up with it, I knew that I absolutely had to find a way to have a fight at Keep Venture.
Originally, I was going to have Vin use her Allomancy more obviously in front of the crowds. Having her do it the way it ended up happening in the book was simply a matter of convenience—the plotting of the chapter had her end up in the back corridors rather than in front of any crowds.
Either way, this turned out to be a very powerful chapter, one in which I'm extremely pleased.
The Lord Ruler's throne room is one final look at the gothic cathedral motif that has been a part of this book. I took the stained-glass concept to the extreme, expanding it to make a room that was really nothing more than one giant stained glass window. So, to me, it's a fusion of the gothic motifs and a kind of new-wave artistic rendering. I found that appropriate for the final of the 'ball rooms' that I get to show in this book.
The obligator vs Inquisitor political maneuvering here is supposed to feel like only a sliver of a much larger political system. You can, hopefully, imagine the various Cantons struggling for dominance over the centuries. This right here is a nice little culmination of that, with Vin forming the apex of the Inquisitor argument.
I really like this scene because it shows that other things are going on besides Kelsier's plan and the crew's plot. It's very amusing to me that this entire other book happened at the same time—the Inquisitors researching, looking for weaknesses in the other obligator power structure, then hunting down Vin so that they can use her to prove their point. All of the things that have happened with Vin being hunted—their chasing of her and her brother for over a decade, their slaughter of Camon and Theron's thieving crews, the bait for Kelsier at the crossroads—all of this was done simply so that they could find Vin and use her to take control of the Ministry. It's ironic, really, that the two plots would intersect, and that Vin would find herself at the center of both of them.
Tevidian's death here was one of the reasons why I started the book with a discussion between a Lord and an obligator, explaining what happens to skaa women after noblemen rape them. There's a nice symmetry to the book in my mind—a cohesion bookended by an explanation in the first chapter, then a payoff near the end.
The return of Captain Goradel, the one who leads Elend to where Vin is being held captive, is a metaphoric nod to the fairy tale genre, where fantasy (partially) has its roots. Sometimes, if the lion doesn't eat the mouse but lets it go, the mouse comes back to save him. Help the old woman in the first part of the story, and she'll come back and bless you by the ending. And, convince the soldier to join the rebellion instead of just slaughtering him, and he'll return with your boyfriend and a bunch of soldiers to rescue you at the last moment.
Finally, Vin gets to have her moment with Elend. I like the mixture of genuine emotion, humor, and power in this scene. There is some real pay-off here, in the narrative way that I like to do it. Instead of having some silly scene where Elend feels betrayed that Vin lied to him and is really a Mistborn, we get a scene where Elend gets to see her in her majesty, and is awed.
So, my favorite secret in the novel is the fact that the Lord Ruler is actually Rashek. I'm still not sure if this revelation will mean as much to readers as I want it to—it depends on them reading, and caring, about the story that happened in the past. However, when it all comes together, I think it really pays off.
So, the concept that started me on this book was "What if the Dark Lord won?" I thought about that, then figured it would be more scary if the hero had become the Dark Lord—only something worse. Kind of a "What if Frodo kept the ring?" idea. Well, I eventually decided to twist that into a "What if Sam killed Frodo and took the ring, then became a Dark Lord?" Like Kelsier says, there's always another secret.
The story, of course, grew into much more from there. The interaction between Rashek and Alendi (the unnamed hero from the logbook) was interesting enough to me that I decided to give it its own story, told through the chapter bumps. I see this book as actually having three prime viewpoint characters: Vin, Kelsier, and Alendi.
My favorite kinds of revelations are after this nature—things that the reader has been familiar with, yet not quite understanding, the entire book. Things you could have figured out much earlier, if you'd really been paying attention to the right clues.
These clues, then, led to the source of the Lord Ruler's immortality. It has been foreshadowed that age is one of the things that Feruchemists can store up, and we've established that the Lord Ruler can change his age. So, I don't think it was too great a stretch to make Vin understand that his Feruchemical storages were somehow behind his immortality. You'll get more explanation of this in the epilogue.
It's kind of surprising to me, but to some people, appendices like this can be very divisive topics. There are people who will pick up a book and check to see if it has a map and appendix—and if it has both, they're more likely to read it. (I was actually one of these when I was younger.) I guess the philosophy here, if I analyze my teenage self, was that if an author put so much work into a book—and if the book was so complex—that there had to be an appendix, then that was a book I wanted to read.
Others have the opposite reaction, I've come to learn. I've met people who think that this sort of thing in the back of a book indicates that the author is sloppy, and can't tell a tight story. Or, that the story is going to be too complicated to enjoy.
In Elantris, my first book, I fought for a pronunciation guide and a cast of characters in the back. I like appendixes, though now it's mostly because my untrustworthy brain often forgets who characters are. With the Mistborn trilogy being as complex as (hopefully) I want it to be, I figured I'd need cast lists in order to help you remember book one when reading book two.
So, book two has a bigger appendix. However, I wanted to do something in this one as well. One thing I knew people were going to ask about was a way to keep the metals straight. That's why I developed the quick reference chart, and my friend Isaac did that beautiful metal table for a visual reference—I absolutely love how it looks.
The name "Ars Arcanum" deserves a note as well. I've always liked how Ann McCaffery named her appendix the 'Dragondex' in the back of her Pern books. One of the biggest draws of my books are the magic systems, and since I intend to do a new one for every series I write (and many, like the Mistborn trilogy, will have multiple magic systems per series) I wanted some sort of 'catch all' title I could name the appendixes in each of my books.
I fiddled around for a while. Ars Magica was my first choice, since it's kind of a cool Latinate take on 'Magical Arts' or 'Magical Skills.' However, there's an RPG out with that name, and I figured I wanted to stay away from their title. Ars Arcanum, then, was my next choice. I ended up liking it better, if only because it has a little more true Latinate feel to it.
My magic systems are generally like a new science for the world in which they are practiced, so I like the feel this gives. Hopefully, you found this appendix useful. If not, I suspect you'll really appreciate the one in book two, as the cast of characters there will provide a lot of helpful reminders.
You might be curious to know that I based Elend, in part, on my editor Moshe. I don't know that it was conscious—in fact, I just noticed the connection while writing right now. However, the speech patterns and the way he thinks are very similar to Moshe, and I kind of see him in my mind as looking like a younger version of my editor. I guess I see Moshe as a sort of heroic guy.
He wouldn't make a very good dictator either. But, then, I think that's a good thing, since I have to work with him. :)
Yeah, there will be... You will see much more of that. Definitely.
So we'll be able to see the actual Elantris again? Shining and beautiful again?
Yes, you will.
It was very sad, to see them all in pain, the continual pain and...
The Kandra were my favorite part of the Mistborn series. What was your inspiration for them? What was your inspiration for the style you used for their names?
Additionally, where do you look to for inspiration for character names?
I've answered above about character names, though there is a lot of variety to the ways I can answer that--since there's no one place I get name inspiration.
For the kandra, I started with the idea that a thieving crew would need a good "inside man" type, who could do costumes. None of the powers fit this, but I knew I also wanted to foreshadow Hemalurgy. From there, developing them was an organic process digging deeply into the history and worldbuilding I was doing.
The idea of the wolfhound kandra appealed to me a great deal before even starting the first book, and was where I targeted my plotting after it struck me.