Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
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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Are you going to write more about the Mistborn? There's still those mysterious metals, and it's a brand new world out there now so many possibilities you could do with that!
I will, someday, write a follow-up trilogy to Mistborn. It will be set several hundred years after the events of the first trilogy, after technology has caught up to where it should be. Essentially, these will be urban fantasy stories set in the same world. Guns, cars, skyscrapers—and Allomancers.
That's still pretty far off, though. The other metals are being revealed on the poster I'm releasing of the Allomantic table. Should be for sale on my website sometime soon, though someone here can probably link to the image I posted of it, which has the other metals explained. (I can't remember where exactly that link is right now.)
Hero of the new trilogy would be a nicrosil Misting.
Vin has been hard for me to pin down, inspiration wise. I tried so many different variations on her character (even writing her character as a boy) that it's hard to pinpoint when I got it right. There was no one single inspiration for her. (Unlike Sarene, who was based on a friend of mine.) She's a mix of my sisters, a good writer friend of mine, and a dozen different other little bits of people.
The time when I got her character RIGHT was when I wrote the scene that became her first in Mistborn, where she's watching the ash blow in the street, and envies it for its freedom. That, mixed with Kelsier's observation that she isn't a bad person—she just thinks everyone else is—were the big points where her character took form.
He spoke about magic system creation and that he had a science background that inspired him in creating Allomancy which has a scientific basis, and elements of chemistry, biology and physics. He also mentioned a podcast he is a part of, Writing Excuses, and that one episode was about creating magic systems.
What would it take for me to successfully bribe you into writing a sequel to Alloy? I think you may have answered this one before, but where do you come up with your names for all your characters? Thank you! I really love your work.
I will probably do one anyway.
It depends on the series. For Mistborn, I build a 'feel for certain regions and develop names using the linguistic rules of that region. The Central Dominance (and Elendel in this book) had a slightly French feel to the linguistics, and many of the names came from that paradigm.
However, unique to the Mistborn world was the need to give people simple nicknames in a thieving crew sort of way. Wax, Clubs, Breeze, Mr. Suit, all of these are along those lines.
Ruin and Preservation were not the only Shards of Adonalsium, though they are the only ones on Scadrial at the moment. Sazed's ability to be both at once is actually something I drew from Eastern mythology, where it is believed that the ability to contain two opposing forces at the same time represents ultimate harmony. The Buddha, for instance, was said to have performed the miracle of producing both fair and ice from his hands at the same time.
Is "Scadrial" the proper name to refer to the Mistborn world?
Scadrial is indeed the name of the planet.
Brandon, I just wanted to confirm that you did have a couple of cameos as Slowswift? Or was that mean to be someone else?
I'm pretty sure Slowswift is Hoid. The Ars Arcanum says he "bears a striking resemblance to a storyteller", which I take to mean Hoid.
Slowswift is an homage to Grandpa Tolkien. A study of his personality will reveal why that name was chosen for him.
Hoid appears in that same chapter, but Vin doesn't meet him. Something he does spooks her. She's just too darn observant for her own good.
Tell me about Mistborn
The Mistborn trilogy was the series I released following Elantris. I knew I wanted to follow up with something a little bit longer. Elantris was a standalone, and I wanted to try my hand at a series. I had made a name for myself, with Elantris, for being someone who does something different with fantasy: doesn’t do the same sort of things. Still, I want my books to feel like fantasy, I want them to give you that same feeling of epic wonder that you get in a good fantasy series. I just don’t want to do the same stories that have been done a lot.
And so with this, the inspiration really came from two places. I love the fantasy genre, I read a lot of fantasy books, I love the classics—Tolkien—I love the Harry Potter and the Robert Jordan books. These books all kind of share one similar plot element, which is kind of about the young hero, who goes on a quest to defeat the Dark Lord, which a lot of my classic favorites in fantasy deal with. I thought “Is there something different I can add to this?” I was actually watching one of the Lord of the Rings movies, watching Frodo go on his quest to fight Sauron and defeat the Dark Lord, and I thought about Harry Potter with Voldemort and all of these and I thought “You know, these Dark Lords always get taken down by these peasant kids. What happens if the Dark Lord wins? What happens if the peasant hero loses?”
That idea kicked around in my head for a long time, and I began to think of this story where there had been this young hero, who’d gathered an unlikely band of followers, and they’d gone traipsing off on a quest to defeat the great evil, and they lost: the Dark Lord took over the world, and began to rule. That’s kind of a depressing story: I didn’t to start, I didn’t want that to be the whole story, but that was a beginning.
The other seed for this story was my love for the Heist genre. I love the old Mission Impossible TV show, where you’ve got a gang of specialists who can each do something really unique, and they get together and try and pull off something impossible. I have often wondered: why don’t I see more of this in fantasy? It would be a great way to apply the genre—each person in our team could have a different magical power.
These two ideas rammed together, and I began to conceive this story of a world where the hero had lost, and now, a thousand years later, we’ve got this gang of thieves who say “okay the Peasant Hero, he didn't save us. the Prophecies, they were all bunk. We're now ruled by this terrible dark emperor—let’s do this our way. Let's rob the guy silly, bribe his armies away from him, and overthrow the empire. “And so it’s kind of a different take on the same story, and that’s what I did, and it turned out to be kind of a mix between Lord of the Rings and Ocean’s Eleven and a kung-fu epic and a little bit of My Fair Lady thrown in there for good measure. It’s kind of its own unique thing.
Well Mistborn, the series is a trilogy, and the progression from Book 1 to Book 2 is interesting in that, when I was originally conceiving this trilogy, this series, one of the things I wanted to do is tell the story of what happens once the heroes have already won. I wanted to start where the story usually ends because one of the things I like to do is try and turn the genre on its head, do new things with the genre. When I was planning the series, I decided that the story of the heroes winning is a great story, and that’s one that I wanted to tell. So I actually backed up by a book and started with Book 1, telling the story of the fight against the evil empire by a gang of thieves, trying to rip off the Dark Lord himself. But Book 2 then starts where my original concept had been. What now? I won’t tell you how Book 1 ends, but we’ve got the heroes having done something pretty spectacular, it’s where most books usually end, most series usually end. Book 2 takes up there and says “What now? What do you do now that you’ve pulled off this great accomplishment?" It leads me to some really interesting places, I think, in the series, because I get to tackle things that most people haven’t covered. Most series are done by now. It lets me forge some new ground in the fantasy genre.
How did Vin and Elend change during the course of the story?
This story, the series is about them, it’s about progression. I talk about the plot for books, for instance, the Mistborn series is about a group of thieves taking out a Dark Lord, but books, for me, are about character. Action is only as interesting as it happens to people you care about, in my opinion, and a setting is only as fascinating as characters’ ability to interact with it. The progression, who characters become, is really where I think fiction can shine. In a different medium, you just don’t have the time to do what we do, and we can show across a span of years how someone starts as a street urchin and ends up as a queen. You can show this and you can show the internal changes, and the struggles inside of them that leads to this.
The story, about, for Vin and Elend is the story of them coming to accept each other’s different worlds. Vin starts as a street urchin, and she understands that life. Elend starts off as a nobleman, and he understands that life. As they start to interact and begin to have romantic interest in one another, their two worlds sort of collide and start sucking each other into each other’s worlds. Vin’s progress is learning that there is a part of her that can survive in this world of nobility, and of balls, and of political intrigue. But Elend, just as much, needs to understand that there’s a need to be able to survive “on the street,” a need to be able to take care of yourself rather than being pampered. It’s a role-reversal for the two of them, how it works as the series progresses.
Hero of Ages is the third and final book of the Mistborn Trilogy. One of the things I love about this book is that it is the ending. I like to end things. I don’t want to leave people hanging. I like my stories to come to a conclusion. I promised people at the beginning, when I was writing this series, that it would be three books: and I would give them a dramatic, powerful ending. Endings are my favorite part, honestly, of novels. In a given novel, I love telling you the ending, and Book 3 is kind of a book that is an ending itself. The entire book is an ending. It’s a big climax: it’s exciting, and it’s powerful, and it fulfills things that have been building in the series for three books now. I was able to write the trilogy straight through when I was preparing, and so I had Book 3 drafted before Book 1 even went to press, which allowed me to really make these three novels cohesive. I have seeds in the very first few paragraphs of Book 1 to things that become climactic powerful moments in the end of book 3. Book 3 is just an overload of action and excitement and character climaxes and just an amazing, just, romp through this series. I’m really excited about people being able to finally read it because I’ve been waiting for quite a while to make good on the promises I made at the beginning.
The great thing about Book 3 is that I'm introducing a completely new magic system. Each book has had its own. We'll start talking about Hemalurgy, and Steel Inquisitors, and where they come from. A lot of the origins of things that people have been wondering about since Book 1. The last 200 pages are just some of my favorite writing that I’ve ever been able to write because I was able to bring things to a head and to a close. I hope you enjoy it.
Talk about your process of writing; and also about how you creatively approach it.
Every writer has a different process. There’s as many ways to do this as there are writers in the world. For me, my creative process is that I’m always searching for the ideas that I can connect into a larger story. I feel that a book is more than just one idea. A good book is a collection of ideas; usually a good idea for each character—something that forms the core of their conflict—several good ideas for the setting: something that’s going to drive the economy, something that’s going to drive (for me the magic) the setting—that sort of thing—and then several good plot ideas. These all bounce around in my head—I’ll grab them randomly.
An example of one of these was for Mistborn: For Mistborn, one of the original seeds was, I was watching the Harry Potter movies that had come out, and I was thinking about Lord of the Rings, which I had just reread, and I was thinking, you know, I like the hero’s journey: young, plucky protagonist goes, collects a band of unlikely followers, face the Dark Lord… and I thought “yeah, but those Dark Lords always get, just like, a terrible, raw end of the deal. They’re always beat by some dufusy kid or thing like that,” and I thought “I want to write a book where the Dark Lord wins.”
But that was kind of a downer of a book, as I considered it, a little bit, you know, “you read this book, and then at the end the hero loses,” that’s kind of a downer. So I stuck that in the back of my mind saying “I want to do something with that idea, but it’s going to take me a little while to figure out exactly what I want to do with that idea.” And then I was watching one of my favorite movies from a long time ago—both of these ideas come from movies, many of them don’t but these two did—Sneakers, if any of you have seen it, just a, like an amazingly awesome heist story, and I thought “ya’ know, I haven’t seen a heist story done in fantasy in forever,” little did I know that Scott Lynch was going to release one, like, one year later [The Lies of Locke Lamora].
But nobody had done one, and so I said “I want to do a fantasy heist story.” The two ideas combined together in my head. Alright: world where the Dark Lord won, a hero failed; thousands of years later, a gang of thieves decided to rip the Dark Lord off and kind of try to over thrown him their way, you know, making themselves-- by making themselves rich.
And those ideas combined together. And so a story grows in my mind like little atoms bouncing together and forming a molecule: they’ll stick to each other and make something different. Those two ideas combine to make a better idea, in my opinion, together. And then character ideas I’d been working on stuck to that, and then magic systems I’d actually been working on separately. Allomancy and Feruchemy, two of the magic systems in Mistborn, were actually designed for different worlds, and then I combined them together and they worked really well together, with the metals being a common theme.
I did all of that, and when it comes down to write a book I sit down and I put this all on a page, and then I start filling in holes by brainstorming. “What would go well here, what would go well here, I need more here” [accompanying gestures indicate different “here’s”]. And I fill out my outline that way, and I fill out my “World Guide,” as I call it. I actually just got—the wonderful folks of Camtasia (it’s a software that records screens) sent me a copy of their software so that I can record a short story, and I’ll go—I’ll do the outline, and then I’ll do the story, and then I’ll post it on my website and you can see exactly, you know, step-by-step what happens. Just don’t make too much fun of me when I spell things wrong.
It’s really weird when you’ve got, like, that screen capture going on, you know people are gonna’ be watching this, and you can’t spell a word, and it’s like “I don’t want to go look it up, I can get this right,” it’s like, the writerly version of the guy who refuses to go get directions. So I like try a word like seventeen different ways, and like “Gehhhh okay,” and then Google tells me in like ten seconds. Anyway, that’s your answer and I hope that works for you. Thanks for asking.
I intentionally hit the setting very hard in this chapter. People bring a lot of preconceived notions to fantasy, and sometimes it's difficult to shake them free. With this book, I don't want people to assume an immediate time period or culture for this world. In realty, I've stolen from all over the place. My hope is that I'll be able to destroy people's conceptions quickly, then instead build my own world in their mind.
So, here we have a land where the sun is red, ash falls from the sky, mists come upon the land at night, and plants are brown rather than green. In addition, we have a slave population who live like very rural peasants—but, at the same time, Lord Tresting checks his pocket watch in the first scene. Later on, you'll see gothic cathedrals mixing with people in near-modern clothing. It's all just part of the image I'm trying to create—a place that isn't set in any particular time. In fact, it's a little bit frozen in time, as you'll find in later books.
This introductory scene, where Dox and Kell meet on the city wall, has just the right feel for me. I wanted this book—particularly at the beginning—to have the feel of a heist movie. Something like Ocean's Eleven, Sneakers, or Mission: Impossible. I thought a couple of senior thieves getting together on the wall and talking about the team they are gathering would fit in just perfectly.
That was, by the way, one of the major inspirations for this book. I've mentioned that I stole the concepts for Allomancy and Vin's character from other books I wrote. The plot came from a desire to write something that had the feel of a heist movie. I haven't ever seen that done in a fantasy novel—a plot where a team of specialists get together and then try to pull off a very difficult task.
In MISTBORN PRIME, there were no such thing as Mistings. Allomancy's practitioners were called Mistborn, and they could use all of the various abilities, depending on which metal they ingested.
When I started work on this incarnation of the book, however, I felt that I wanted to involve a specialized team of Allomancers. That meant including people who were really good at one specific thing, but who couldn't do other things. It's a staple of the heist genre—you want specialists. So, I split up Allomancy, allowing lesser Allomancers to exist. These people, who only could do one of the many Allomantic powers, would be very good at the one thing they do. And, since Mistborn were so rare, you couldn't really make an entire team of them. You'd be lucky to even get one. (Though Kelsier's team just got a second one.)
Soon, you'll get to meet the rest of the crew, and will be able to see how I split up Allomancy. One thing of interest, however, is that there was no emotional Allomancy in MISTBORN PRIME. I added Soothing and Rioting—the ability to make people less or more emotional—into this book because I felt I needed something that would be more. . .sneaky. These are skills that don't relate to fighting, and I think they'd be very helpful for the sort of political intrigue I want to do in this book.
Okay, so I lied. I thought the fight scene came in chapter six, but it came in five. I'm better at pacing than I thought!The truth is, this is one of my least favorite fights in the book. I put it in primarily because it gave a good, quick showing of the basic concepts in Allomancy. You got to see Kelsier enhance his strength with pewter, his senses with tin (including using it to help him focus), and then use both steel and iron in a variety of different Pushes and Pulls. The thing is, it wasn't that exciting because it wasn't really a fair fight. As soon as Kelsier got ahold of that ingot, those soldiers were toast. I did spice up the fight a bit by giving them shields—something that was missing from the original draft of the fight. Even still, this seems like a kind of brutal combat, not the more poetic and flowing battles I generally envision for Allomancy. (This is, by the way, the only fight I ported over from MISTBORN PRIME. There was a similar scene in that book where the protagonist took down a group of men with only an ingot. Again, I decided to grab it because of how well it introduced the concepts of Allomancy. It was quick and dirty.)
As I re-read this chapter, I'm realizing just how obvious I made it here that Renoux is a kind of Mistwraith. Maybe I overdid it a bit. One problem with this novel in alpha reads was that many of my readers had also read MISTBORN PRIME, and so they understood the nature of kandra, and immediately knew what Renoux really was. It's not an extremely important surprise, however, so it probably doesn't matter that people can figure it out.
Once I was to this point in the book, I knew that I had something. I needed a book to follow ELANTRIS—one that did all the things that ELANTRIS did well, but then expanded and showed off my strengths. In other words, I needed a "You haven't seen ANYTHING yet" book.
MISTBORN is, hopefully, that book. I took the best magic system I've ever developed, and put it together with two killer ideas and some of my best characters. I cannibalized two of my books for their best elements, then combined those with things I'd been working on for years in my head. This is the result.
We've now seen Sazed preach a couple of religions to members of the crew. You may be interested in my process of coming up with his character.
It actually began when I was watching the movie THE MUMMY. Yes, I know. Sometimes it's embarrassing where we come up with ideas. However, my inspiration for Sazed was the moment when the oily little thief character gets confronted by the mummy, and pulls out a whole pile of holy symbols. He goes through each one, praying to each god, looking for one that would help him.
I began to wonder what it would be like to have a kind of missionary who preached a hundred different religions. A man who, instead of advancing his own beliefs, tried to match a set of beliefs to the person—kind of like a tailor looking to fit a man with the prefect and most comfortable hat.
That's where the inspiration for the entire sect of Keepers began. Soon, I had the idea that the Lord Ruler would have squished all the religions in the Final Empire, and I thought of a sect of mystics who tried to collect and preserve all of these religions. I put the two ideas together, and suddenly I had Sazed's power. (I then stole a magic system from FINAL EMPIRE PRIME, which I'll talk about later, and made it work in this world. Feruchemy was born.)
Why do I have the ball scenes in this book? Isn't this supposed to be an action story? Well, the absolute truth is I like party scenes like these.
It's kind of odd. I don't particularly like parties myself, but in books, they add quite a nice contrast to the dark skulking type of activities Vin has been about so far. It's nice to show the lavish side of life in Luthadel. The ball scenes in ELANTRIS were some of my favorite, since they allowed for some relaxed—if important—verbal sparring and witty commentary. So, when I was planning MISTBORN, I knew I had to have some parties at the noble keeps.
So, that meant I had to get Vin to said parties. That meant she had to pretend to be a noblewoman. That's where this whole plot cycle started—with me wanting an excuse to have ball scenes in this book.
Then Kiley had a question. She's very soft-spoken so I'm not sure I got it all down right.
So how much, either consciously or unconsciously, do the diary entries from the Lord Ruler reflect the Rand-type characters?
That's the pitch to myself for Mistborn, years ago: "What if Rand failed, and decided to take over the world instead?" basically. It's more than that, though; it's, you know" "What if Frodo kept the ring? What if the hero from the monomyth failed, and instead became the tyrant?" And so, I consciously evoked that.
So did you ever see in that through the end, so that Rand didn't go....like, this is really similar, ever?
Not specifically, but you know, I was basing the idea off of that, yeah.
It was like, "This could be Rand's diary," you know.
All of the keeps in the Mistborn series are based on real structures I've visited. The mists are based on a trip to Idaho, were I drove through a fog bank at high speeds.
Warbreaker's setting was inspired, in part, by a visit to Hawaii.
Much of Roshar is inspired by tidal pools and coral reefs.
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.
The epigrams in this section of the book should look familiar. Not because you've read them before, but because—assuming you have any familiarity with fantasy—you've read this kind of story before. The young peasant hero who rises up to fight the dark evil. I suspect that the jacket flap, if you've read it, gives away much of this storyline. This is one of the foundational concepts for the book, however. I've read too many stories about young peasant boys who save the world. I wanted to tell one about a world where the prophesied here came, then failed!
This concept, of course, evolved. The original idea was for the Dark Lord to defeat the peasant boy. Instead, however, I found the concept of the peasant boy becoming the dark lord more interesting.