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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 couldn't do that same thing with this particular book because of the way the plot arcs work. It worked very well with Rothfuss' book—of course, I loved his books—but what he's got going on is sort of an episodic story where Kvothe does this and Kvothe does that and Kvothe does this. And you can kind of separate those as vignettes. With Way of Kings, what I was doing is...I've got three storylines for three separate characters who are each going through troubled times. And if we were to cut the book in half, for instance, you would get all of the set up, and all of the trouble, and none of the payoff. And so what'd happen is you'd have actually a really depressing first book, where nothing really good happens and people are in places that they...mentally, they haven't come to any decisions yet; they're struggling with problems. Essentially, you'd only get the first act; you'd get all of the setup and none of the payoff.
I see. The two books in front of you here, obviously being re-released... Which point is it that this cuts off at?
This cuts off... We decided we had a fairly good break point, because Shallan's storyline comes to...there's a resolution. And some decisions have been made, and it's kind of... We broke it right at the kind of middle point where people are deciding, you know, we've had these struggles, we've had these struggles; now we have some sort of promise of victory. But the victory or things haven't actually happened yet. And so I do strongly recommend that people read both books—have them both together to read together—because there is a certain poetry to the arcs that are built into this. The second half is lots of massive payoff for the first half. But we did find a decent break point. But conceptually it's one novel, even if you can break for a while and then pick up the second one. Conceptually, to me they are one.
That doesn't mean I won't write book two. It just means that I'm thinking of starting a much larger story, then slipping in the WARBREAKER sequel sometime later.
Anyway, WARBREAKER 4.0 will go up early next week. It is my goal to post the downloadable version, then actually do an html chapter-by-chapter version for ease of reading. Would anyone (who hasn't read Warbreaker yet) be interested in this? Sound off on my LJ, my Facebook, or my forums.
You can also let me know what you think I should do next. You probably won't change my mind (it's not a vote) but I'd be curious to see what readers are wanting.
Elantris sequel (Different characters, same world.)
Big Epic (five or six books on a new project)
Random Stand Alone
Dragonsteel (Which is written, but now I don't know when to release it.)
More books in the Mistborn world
Also, for your amusement, two links:
All right, now that the press release is out, let's talk about some things. I like to be transparent with my readers, whenever possible, and I feel it's time to let you in more fully on what has been happening this last year.
Pull up a chair. Get some hot cocoa. This is going to take a while. I'm a fantasy author. We have trouble with the concept of brevity.
In order to explain to you how this book came to be split as it did, I want to step you through some events of the last sixteen months. That way, you can see what led us up to making the decisions we did. You might still disagree with those decisions (many of you will.) But at least you'll understand the rationale behind them.
Before we start, however, let me explain that I only saw one piece of what was going on. As I've stated before, Harriet and Tom are the ones making decisions when it comes to publication issues. I've deferred to them. My input has by no means been ignored, but often I was so focused on the book that I didn't have the time or energy to do more than say "Harriet, I trust your decision. Go with what you feel is best." Therefore, some of what I say may be distorted through my own lens. I don't have the whole story, but I think I've got most of it.
Let's hop back to November of 2007. That's the month where I'd discovered for certain that I'd be the one finishing THE WHEEL OF TIME. I was excited, nervous, and daunted all at the same time—but today's blog post isn't about that aspect of the experience. Perhaps I'll have a chance to write more about it later.
The first discussion of length came in late November, early December during the contract negotiations for A Memory of Light. I say negotiations, though those 'negotiations' were really nothing more than Harriet's agents saying "Here's what we offer." And me saying to my agent "Sounds good. Say yes." I wasn't about to let the chance to work on this book slip away.
The contract stipulated that I was to provide a completed work which (including Mr. Jordan's written sections) was to be at least 200,000 words long. This sort of length provision isn't uncommon in contracts; it's there to make certain neither author nor publisher are surprised by the other's expectations. It's generally a ballpark figure, very flexible. I hadn't seen any of the materials for A Memory of Light at that point, so I essentially signed blind, saying yes to produce something "At least 200,000 words" in length.
I'm not sure what Harriet was expecting at that point for length. She was still coping with Mr. Jordan's death, and was focused on finding someone to complete A Memory of Light so that she could rest easier, knowing that it was being worked on. Remember, this was just months after Mr. Jordan passed away. I honestly don't think she was thinking about length or—really—anything other than making certain the book was in the right hands. She left it to my decision how to proceed once I was given the materials.
Around January or February, I posted on my blog that I was shooting for a 200k minimum. This surprised a lot of people, as 200k would not only have made A Memory of Light the shortest Wheel of Time book other than the prequel, it seemed a very small space in which to tie up the huge number of loose ends in the book. I wasn't focused on that at the moment; I was just passing along my thoughts on a minimum length. I think that I, at the time, hoped that we could do the book in around 250k. That was naive of me, but I honestly didn't want to drag this on for years and years. I wanted to get the readers the book they'd been waiting for as soon as possible.
At that point, I started reading through the series again. I did this with the notes and materials for the final book at hand, taking notes myself of what plotlines needed to be closed, which viewpoints needed resolution. The read-through took me until March of 2008. As I progressed through the series, I began to grasp the daunting nature of this book. How much there was to do, how many plotlines needed to be brought back together, the WEIGHT of it all was enormous.
April 2008. I had to make a decision. I realized that the book would be impossible to do in 200k. I'd begun to say on my blog that it would be at least 400k, but even that seemed a stretch. I looked over the outlines, both mine and Mr. Jordan's. I stared at them for a long time, thinking about the book. And this is where the first decision came in. Did I try to cram it into 400k? Or did I let it burgeon larger?
To get this into one book, I'd need to railroad the story from climax to climax. I'd have to ignore a lot of the smaller characters—and even some aspects of the larger characters. I just couldn't justify that. It wouldn't do the story justice. I cringed to consider what I would have to cut or ignore.
Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps readers would have preferred a single, condensed volume so that they at least knew what happened. But I just couldn't do it. The Wheel of Time deserved better.
This was not an easy choice. I knew it would anger some readers. I knew it would take a lot of time, and I would end up dedicating a great deal more of my life (and my family's life) to the Wheel of Time than I'd initially anticipated. At the very least, I was contemplating writing a book three to four times the length of the initial contract—essentially, doing four times the work for the exact same pay.
But this had never been about the pay for me. I'd been put in charge of this project. I wanted to do what I felt Mr. Jordan would have done. I felt, and feel, a debt to him for what he did with this series. He had promised readers a big, big book—not big for big's sake, but big because there was so much to do, so much to tie up. I decided that I would do whatever the story demanded, no matter how many words it would require, no matter how mad it made people. I would not artificially inflate the book—but I would treat each character, even the minor characters, with care and consideration.
I flew to Charleston that month and outlined my feelings on the various outlines for the different characters. The Charleston camp was cautiously enthusiastic; I don't know if they realized just how much work this would all take. I'm not sure if I even told them how many words I was starting to feel it would be. At this point, Harriet was pretty much letting me call the shots when it came to the actual drafting of the novel. Harriet is an editor; she works best when I provide material to her, then she works her magic to turn it from good to excellent. That meant I was in charge of getting material to her as I saw fit, then she would tell me if I was on target or needed to try again.
I had already set the progress bar at 400k words on my website. I started writing in earnest, and also started warning people that the book was likely going to run longer than my initial estimate. Perhaps much longer. Soon, I was saying 750k.
By this point, I'd already warned Tom and Harriet that I saw the length being very large, but I hadn't told Tom the 700-800k number. When I'd mentioned 400k to him once, he'd been wary. He explained to me that he felt 400k was unprintably large in today's publishing market. Things have changed since the 90's, and booksellers are increasingly frustrated with the fantasy genre, which tends to take up a lot of shelf space with very few books. There is constant pressure from the big chain bookstores to keep things smaller and thinner. When I'd turned in Mistborn 2 (revised and already trimmed) at 250k, production and marketing had nearly had a fit, complaining that the book would cost more to print than it would make. Tom approved the publication of the book anyway. (And fortunately we managed to fit it into enough pages—and sell enough copies—that it was still profitable.)
Anyway, Tom implied that 400k was what he saw as a cut off for length. Anything 300-350 could be one book, anything over 350 should be cut. (That's me guessing on things he said; he never gave those hardfast numbers, and I know there was probably some flexibility.) Anyway, Tom—like Harriet—wanted to wait and see what I was able to produce first. At this point, it was too early to begin talk of cutting the book. I'd barely written any of it.
I wrote all summer, and the next point of interest comes at Worldcon. Tom and I were on a panel together, talking about A Memory of Light. I noted that (by that point) I had around 250k written. He said something like "Ah, so you're almost done!" I looked chagrined and said "Actually, I feel that I'm only about 1/3 of the way there, Tom." He blinked, shocked, and then laughed a full bellied laugh. "It's happening again!" he exclaimed. "Jim sold me one book that somehow became three, and now it's happening again!"
Well, that was the first hint I had that this might be three books instead of two. I started to lobby Harriet subtly, pointing out that previous Wheel of Time books had been 380k, and perhaps that would be a good length for each Volume of A Memory of Light, if it was cut. I also indicated that I felt it would be really nice to keep volumes of the book published close together if, indeed, the book had to be split.
What I didn't realize was just how taxing this process was going to be. There's only so much one person can write in a year. Before working on A Memory of Light, my average wordcount for a year was around 300k. One 200k epic fantasy, then 50-100k on other projects. During 2008 I wrote over 400k—fully a third more than usual, and that was done with three months of my working time spent re-reading and taking notes on the Wheel of Time series. (Yes, it was easier because of materials left by Mr. Jordan. However, that was offset by the need to become an expert on thousands of characters, places, themes, and worldbuilding elements. All in all, even with outlines, notes, and written materials Mr. Jordan left, I'd say this was the most difficult 400k I've ever written.)
By December, after my book tour, I was pushing hard to even get 400k done. I still had this phantom hope that somehow, I'd be able to spend January, February, and March writing harder than I'd ever written before and somehow get to 750k by the March deadline that Tom had said was about the latest he could put a book into production and still have it out for the holidays.
In January, Tom called Harriet and they talked. At this point, I'd hit my 400k goal, and I knew that I was only about halfway done. (If even that far along.) Very little of that 400k had been revised or drafted. Tom and Harriet chatted, and several things came up. One of the most dominating points was this: it had been four years since the fans had been given Knife of Dreams. Tom felt that we NEEDED to provide them a book in 2009. They couldn't wait until I finished the entire volume to publish something.
Harriet called me and I finally agreed that I needed to stop work on writing new material. It was time to begin revising. That was, essentially, the decision to split the book. And I wasn't certain that we could simply print the 400k that I had written. There were scenes all over the place, and if we printed that portion as-is, it would cut off right in the middle of several plot arcs. The book just wouldn't be any fun to read. Beyond that, editing 400k would take too much time to have it done by April.
This is the second big decision. Perhaps you would have chosen differently. But let me outline the options as I see them. Pretend you're Tom Doherty or Harriet in January 2009, making the call on how to publish the book.
1) You can decide not to print anything until the entire novel is finished. That means letting Brandon write until the end, then revising the entire thing at once, followed by printing the book (either as one enormous volume or several chunks, released in quick succession.) Last summer and fall, this was what I was hoping we'd be able to do.
If you make this choice, the readers don't get a book in 2009. You're not sure when they'll get a book. Brandon took a year to write 400k words, and feels that he's around halfway done.
So, if you choose this option, let's say Brandon writes all 2009, delivers you a rough draft of a full, 800k book in 2010. 800k words would take roughly eight months to edit and revise. Production would take another eight months or so. (Minimum.) You'd be looking at releasing the book somewhere in summer 2011. Perhaps one volume in June and another in August.
2) You could publish the 400k as they are done right now. If you do this, the readers do not get a book in 2009. 400k would take roughly four months to revise (and that's rushing it), and you'd have to put the novel into production with a January or February 2010 release date. That's not too far off the November 2009 date you'd promised people, so maybe they would be satisfied. But you'd leave them with a story that literally cut off right in the middle of several plotlines, and which did not have tied up resolutions.
In this scenario, Brandon writes all through 2009, turns in the second half sometime around April or May 2010. It takes roughly four months to edit and revise that portion, and you're looking at a summer 2011 release for the second half. Maybe spring 2011. (This way, you get the whole thing to the readers a little bit faster than the other option because you have the luxury of putting one half through production while Brandon is writing the second half.)
However, in this scenario, you end up releasing two fractured books, and the bookstores are mad at you for their size. (Which may translate to the bookstores ordering fewer copies, and fans being mad because they can't find copies as easily as they want—this is what happened with Mistborn Two, by the way.). Beyond that, you missed releasing a book in the holiday season, instead putting one in the dead months of early 2010.
3) You could do what Tom did. You go to Brandon (or, in this case, to Harriet who goes to Brandon) and you say "You have 400k words. Is there a division point in there somewhere that you can cut the book and give us a novel with a strong climax and a natural story arc?"
I spent a few days in January looking over the material, and came to Tom and Harriet with a proposal. I had what I felt would make the best book possible, divided in a certain way, which came out to be around 275,000 words. It had several strong character arcs, it told a very good story, and it closed several important plot threads. I felt it would be an excellent book.
Now, this was longer than they'd wanted. They'd hoped I'd find them a cutting point at the 225k mark. But I didn't feel good about any cuts earlier than 275. In fact, I later took that 275,000 word book and I added an extra 25k in scenes (one's I'd been planning to write anyway, but decided would work better here in this chunk) in order to fill it out and make of it the most solid novel possible. Right now, the book sits at about 301,000 words—though that will fluctuate as I trim out some excess language here and there. I suspect the final product will be right around 300,000k words.
Now, let's assume you made this decision, just as Tom did. This is the ONLY case in which you get to keep your promise to the Wheel of Time readers and deliver a book in 2009. (Though, it took a LOT of work to get it ready. I've been pulling 14-16 hour days six days a week for the last three months.) In this scenario, you get to deliver them a solid book, rather than a fractured one.
But you are also splitting a book that Robert Jordan intended to be one book. (Tom and Harriet both have said they don't think he could have done it, or would have done it, given the chance.) A bigger problem is that you're releasing a book without knowing when you'll be able to release the next section. You aren't certain what to tell people when they ask how large a gap there will be between the books; it will depend on how long the next chunk is and when Brandon can finish it. (Plus, Brandon keeps increasing the final estimate, which—now that I've added some material to this book—indicates that the final product will easily be over 800k.)
So . . . how big will the gap be? Well, the honest truth is that I don't know. Tom has been telling other publishers and retailers that November 2009, 2010, 2011 seems like a safe bet. But that's just an estimate, erring on the side of caution. I'm pretty certain that we have to divide the book in three parts because of where I chose to make the split. There will be another good split at around the 600k mark.
If I had the next 300k or so done already, it would take me 4 months to revise it at the shortest. I feel that the next chunk is going to need a lot more revision than this one did. Partially because I cut into the 450k completed portion with the hacksaw and pulled out 275k. What's left over is ragged and in need of a lot of work. I'd say five months of revisions is more likely. So, if it were all done, we'd have the second book coming out five months after the first.
But it's not all done. It's around halfway done. I've got a lot of writing left to do—four to six months worth, I'd guess. By these estimates, we'll have another book ready to go to press, then, in February next year. That means a fall 2010 release. And if things continue as they have, the third book (none of which is written right now) would come out summer 2011 at the earliest.
And I guess that's what I'm trying to show you with all of this: No matter how the book is split, cut, or divided, the last portion wouldn't come out until 2011. Why? It goes back to that first decision I made, the one to write the book the length I felt it needed to be. And so, it's not the greedy publisher, stringing you along that is keeping you from reading the ending. It's not the fault of production taking a long time. The blame rests on me.
I am writing this book long. I'm writing it VERY long. Most books in most genres are around 100k long. I'm shooting for eight times that length. And one person can only produce so much material, particularly on a project like this. Writing this book, keeping all of these plot threads and characters straight, is like juggling boulders. It's hard, hard work.
You're getting a book this year. You'll get one next year. You'll get one the year after that. I don't know which months in 2010 or 2011 the books will come out. You can keep hope they'll be sooner, but you might want to listen to Tom's November, November estimate, as I feel it's the absolute latest you'd see the books.
I know some of you will be mad that it is getting split; I feel for you, and I hope to be able to persuade Tor and Harriet to publish a special edition omnibus some day. But . . . well, they're both convinced that it will be too long for that. I'm not going to fight for it right now; I'll wait until the books come out.
I will continue to fight to get the books released as quickly as is reasonable. But I have to write them first. You've been able to watch my progress bar; you know that I'm working and the book is getting written. I'm not going on vacations and living it up. I'm working. Hard. Sixty, seventy, sometimes eighty hour weeks.
I won't make you wait an undue amount of time. But please understand that some of the things you want are mutually exclusive. You want a high quality book that is of an enormous length published quickly. Get me a time machine and I'll see what I can do.
George Martin and Patrick Rothfuss have both spoken on this topic already, and both did it quite eloquently. Books, as opposed to a lot of other forms of mass media, are unique in that they rest solely on the production capabilities of one single person. A good day of writing for a lot of authors is about 1,000 words. And you're lucky to get 200 days of writing in a year, with all of the other demands (edits, copyedits, book tours, publicity events, school visits, etc.) that come your way. I tend to scale higher than the average, partially (I think) because of all those years I spent unpublished getting into the habit of constantly writing new books.
But even I can only do so much. We'll get these books to you. At the slowest, they will be November, November, November—meaning that they all come out in the space of two years. Perhaps it will be faster. If we can do them more quickly, and keep the quality up, I will continue to advocate for that. But I honestly don't know if I can do another two years like these last sixteen months. I'm exhausted. I've pushed very, very hard to get you a book in 2009 because you've been waiting so long. But I can't promise that I'll be able to keep the same schedule. Plus, I do have other commitments, contracts signed to other publishers, fans of other writings of mine who cannot be ignored. I'll need to write another Alcatraz book this year sometime. And I will have to do revisions on The Way of Kings, which I've stayed pretty quiet about. I'm planning to do these things during down time on A Memory of Light, when waiting for revision notes or the like. But I also can't afford to get burned out on The Wheel of Time. You deserve better than that.
Now, some words about titles. Where did The Gathering Storm come from? Well, in January where it was decided to split the book, I continued to advocate for something that would indicate that this was ONE book, split into three parts. (I still see it that way.) And so, I suggested that they all be named A Memory of Light with subtitles. I love the title A Memory of Light; I think it's poetic and appropriate. Plus, it was Mr. Jordan's title for the book. That alone is good enough reason to keep it.
And so, I suggested smaller, shorter, more generic sub-titles for each of the parts. With a long, evocative title like A Memory of Light as the supertitle, the subtitles needed to be shorter and more basic, as to not draw attention. The first of these was named Gathering Clouds by Maria's suggestion. Book two would be Shifting Winds, book three Tarmon Gai'don, all with the supertitle of A Memory of Light.
We proceeded with that as our plan for several months. And then, suddenly, Tom got word from marketing that the titles needed to change. The bookstores didn't like them. (You'll find that the bookstores control a lot in publishing. You'd be surprised at how often the decisions are made because of what they want.) In this case, the bookstores worried that having three books titled A Memory of Light would be too confusing for the computer system and the people doing the reordering. They asked for the supertitle to be cut, leaving us with the title Gathering Clouds.
I shot off an email to Harriet, explaining that I never intended that title to be the one that carried the book. It was too generic, too basic. She went to Tom with some suggestions for alternates, and The Gathering Storm was what they decided. This all happened in a matter of hours, most of it occurring before I got up in the morning. (I sent her an email at night, then by the time I rose, they'd made the decision out on the east coast.) Some materials had already gone out as Gathering Clouds, and I wonder if The Gathering Storm was chosen because it was similar. I know it was the one out of those suggested by Harriet that Tom liked the most. It's somewhat standard, but also safe.
That title swap came at me rather fast. I plan to be ready for the next one, so hopefully we'll have the time to produce something a little more evocative. I don't mind The Gathering Storm, but I do realize that it is one of the more bland Wheel of Time titles. (My favorite title, by the way, is Crossroads of Twilight.)
I think that brings you all up to speed. The question many of you are probably wondering now is "What did you decide to put in this book, and what did you decide to hold off until the next one?" I can't answer that yet—perhaps when the time gets closer, I'll be able to hint at what was included and what was saved. But know that I believe strongly in the place where the cut was made, and I love how the final product has turned out.
I also want to mention that one of my main goals in division was to make certain that most (if not all) of the major characters had screen time. Some have more than others, but almost everyone has at least a couple of chapters. (In other words, it wasn't cut like A Feast for Crows/A Dance with Dragons with half the viewpoints in one and half in the other.) However, some of the important things you are waiting for had—by necessity—to be reserved for the second book.
I'm almost done with the revisions on the first part. I expect to start writing new material for part two sometime in April. The progress bar will inch forward again when that happens.
Anyway, that's the story of how this all came to be. I don't expect you all to be happy with the choices we've made, but I do want you to understand where we are coming from. I have to trust my instincts as a writer. They are what got me here, they are what made Harriet choose me to work on this book, and it would be a mistake for me to ignore them now.
Those instincts say that we've made the best choices, and I think The Gathering Storm will vindicate those choices. So, if possible, I ask you to hold back on some of your worry and/or anger until you at least read the book this November. As always, the work itself is the best argument for why I do what I do.
So, that's it, right? I think I've talked about everything. Now, some of you may be wondering what this means. Is there going to be no solo Brandon Sanderson book released in 2010?
As early as last summer, Tom Doherty began asking me if there was any way I could get Tor a novel for a 2010 release. He doesn't like going years without releases, and he worried that my readers would feel dropped in favor of the Wheel of Time readers. Plus, he really wants to see something more from me.
When he first mentioned it, I laughed. He was asking me, essentially, to finish the entire Wheel of Time book by spring of 2009, then write him a solo book by fall 2009. Even then, I knew it wasn't going to happen. A Memory of Light was too big a project.
However, now that A Memory of Light has been split, Tom has asked more and more often about getting a Brandon Sanderson solo book to release between the WoT books. He's very worried about there being a period of three years during which I don't release anything of my own. And so, with his questions, he got me thinking. Was there anything I would feel comfortable releasing? Liar turned out poorly, Scibbler isn't epic enough, Warbreaker 2 isn't written. What else is there?
The answer was simple. The Way of Kings.
The Way of Kings was the book I had just finished when I first got offered a book deal for Elantris. I originally signed a deal for Elantris and for Kings. (And because of that, you can still find an Amazon entry for Kings—which has some amusing reviews posted by readers with too much time on their hands. Note that the book was never released, so these are all just made-up amusing reviews.)
Yes, the original contract was for Kings—but I decided that Kings needed to be put off. Kings is a great book, perhaps the best I've ever written. But it just didn't FEEL right to release after Elantris. The Way of Kings is a massive war epic of legends, mythology, and magical revolution. It's intricate, complex, and was a bit daunting for me when I thought about readying it for publication. Just to give you an idea, Mistborn has three magic systems, Kings has well over twenty. Mistborn has six main viewpoint characters across the trilogy; Kings has dozens. I wrote about 30k of background material for Mistborn. Background material for Kings is over 300k.
Difference in scope is only one of the reasons Kings wasn't the right follow-up to Elantris. After a stand-alone novel, I felt that I wanted to publish a trilogy, perhaps two, before I offered my readers the first of a big, multi-volume epic. I also worried that the initial draft of Kings just wasn't good enough—because my skill wasn't up to making it good enough.
Working on the WHEEL OF TIME has forced me to grow immensely as a writer, however. Over the last year, the more I thought about it, the more I itched to dive in and do a revision of The Way of Kings. If I could effectively use all I've learned, I might be able to make the book become what I want it to be. And so, I told Tom about Kings, and he eagerly offered me a new contract for it. I've warned him that it might not be ready in time to come out next year, but I'm going to give it a try.
Kings needs a solid rewrite. I've been tweaking it over the years, worldbuilding the setting and so forth. I've been planning, working on, and revising this book for eight years. I think that if I do a rewrite now with my current writing abilities, it would turn out very, very well.
The thing is, I can't be certain. Maybe it won't work as I want. Maybe I will just have too many things on my mind. Maybe I'm not up to doing this book yet. But, because of the pleading of Tom, my readers, and (most importantly) my own heart, I'm going to give it a try.
As I said above, writing and revising take different parts of the brain. I can only write new material for a certain number of hours a day, usually around four or six. But I can revise all day long. Perhaps it's the difference between mental heavy lifting and mental long-distance running. Either way, in order to give this a try, I've hired a full-time assistant, Peter Ahlstrom, to do all the things in a day that normally take my time away from writing/revising. Usually, when I'm not revising, the 'non-writing' hours of the day are spent doing all kinds of tasks associated with being self-employed. Peter is going to be handling all of this, theoretically freeing up a few hours each day during which I can revise The Way of Kings.
This will not take my time away from writing Shifting Winds. If it starts to look like it will delay that book, I will stop working on Kings—not because of any criticism I may get from readers, but because I feel a debt to Mr. Jordan and this project I have agreed to do. I like to keep my promises.
I explain all this because I want you WoT readers to understand that I do have a life beyond the Wheel of Time. I have obligations, both to publishers and to myself. I feel very strongly that the time has come for me to show readers what I've been working on behind the scenes for many years. And so, on my blog I will spend time talking about projects other than the WHEEL OF TIME.
I like to be open. I like you to be able to see what I'm doing, and so I feel I should be up-front with you about what I plan. I've shelved a lot of books for THE WHEEL OF TIME, and rightly so. But there are two projects I WILL be spending time on this year—Alcatraz 4 and The Way of Kings. I plan to add progress bars for each of them, and link the titles here so those who come to my site later can read this explanation.
Sorry to be long winded . . . again. Occupational hazard.
I do love big series. I mean, this is what... This is what got me into fantasy; these huge monster series. And so I think every fantasy author—not every, but most of us have a deep-seated love for the great big epic. And I've wanted to do one of those eventually myself. But at the same time, there are so many ideas I have, bouncing here and there, that I feel sometimes I just want to write a single book. This was particularly true when I broke in; my first book was a standalone, Elantris. And one of the reasons why I didn't write a sequel to that was, sometimes I, as a reader, got little bit annoyed when I would see a new author's book on the shelf, that I had never heard of, and it said, "book one of nine." Or something like this. And it threw me as a fantasy fan into a conundrum. I've never tried this author before. I don't know if I'm going to enjoy their books. If I try the first one, and I like it, I've just committed myself to spending the next twenty years reading these books and doing this. If I dislike it, then I've committed myself to never finding out what happened to all these characters that I've read about. You know, even if you don't like a book, you wonder what happens. And so it puts you in this position where it's hard to win. And so, I loved it when I could pick up a standalone by an author to try them out, to see if I liked their style. Tad Williams did this with Tailchaser's Song. And so when I first published, I wanted to do a standalone that people could pick my work up and say, "OK. This is what Brandon Sanderson's like." And I actually really like that I'm releasing Warbreaker right before the Wheel of Time, because there's that same opportunity. People can go pick up Warbreaker and can read a standalone, one volume book by me before they... So they can know what I'm like.
Before they pick up that...
Before they pick up that Wheel of Time book. They don't have to go and read a big long series of mine; they know they can pick up that one and get closure and resolution. I like both forms, quite a bit. I am going to do a big epic. It's probably gonna be called the Stormlight Archive. The first book's called The Way of Kings. I've mentioned it a little bit on my web site. And it's coming, and I've been planning it for years and years and years, like we tend to do; it's actually been going for about eight years. And so I am going to do that. But I've always wanted to be stopping and doing the standalones. In fact, I'll probably do one or two—or two or three—in the Stormlight Archive and then do a standalone somewhere else. And then do two or three and then do a standalone. Because something about that form really appeals to me as well. Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana is just a beautiful book that wouldn't be the same if it were a big series. Just that one standalone. And the book that got me into fantasy originally was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. She eventually did some sequels to that many years later, but for many years it was a standalone. And I loved how it was a standalone, and… I liked that form. So I had planned to always be releasing some of those, every now and then.
I haven't, but I can tell you about it. I'm pretty open on these things. One of the ideas that made me want to write this book—a series; I'm calling it Stormlight Archive. I'm not sure if that will be the final series title. I don't know. These things always change. But I love that feel. Anyway, it's got a good feel to it. The Way of Kings...When I was growing up reading fantasy, and even still when I read fantasy, one thing kind of makes me sorrowful about the fantasy genre. Not that I dislike it, but it wakens sorrow in me, and that is, there tends to be a theme in fantasy that the magic is going away. Whether it's you read Tolkien, the elves are leaving. The world is becoming more like our world. This happens in Terry Brooks; this happens in David Eddings. This happens in a lot of these great fantasy series I grew up reading, and it still happens. The fantasy is this thing that's growing more rare. You know, it's the Last Wizard, the Last Unicorn, the last...These sorts of things. And there's a little bit of a sense of loss in me for that. And I really wanted to do a story which is about magic coming back. An epic fantasy about the return of magic to the world after a long period of it being gone. Which is kind of the opposite. There are no mentors around who are great, powerful magicians that can teach you how to use it, because nobody—nobody knows. It's been thousands of years. So I want to tell the story about the return of magic to the world, right about the time that it's time it's needed because of various things that are showing up. So, that's going to be one of the themes of this book; it's the return of magic.
OK. I'll definitely be looking forward to that one. I actually...I think that's it. You've been absolutely wonderful.
Well, thank you very much.
In a recent (May 2009) interview you stated the following:
Q: What do you have planned after you finish Wheel of Time?
A: My next series will be The Way of Kings, which is the start of a big epic for me. I've plotted it as ten books. Fantasy writers, we get into this business because we love the big epics. We grow up reading Brooks and Jordan, and we get to the point where we say, "I want to do this myself."
This should tie you up for a good ten years after you finish The Wheel of Time. Does it mean that you are not going to write anymore one- or three-volume epic fantasy novels?
Can you give us some hints as to what The Way of Kings will be about?
I've told Tor that I want to release Kings on a schedule of two books, followed by one book in another setting, then two more Kings. The series of Kings has been named The Stormlight Archive. (The Way of Kings is the name of the first volume.)
So I should be doing plenty of shorter series in between. We'll see how busy this all keeps me. I think I'd go crazy if I weren't allowed to do new worlds every now and again.
But, then, Kings turned out very, very well. (The first book is complete as of yesterday.) What is it about? Well...I'm struggling to find words to explain it. I could easily give a one or two line pitch on my previous books, but the scope of what I'm trying with this novel is such that it defies my attempts to pin it down.
It happens in a world where hurricane-like storms crash over the land every few days. All of plant life and animal life has had to evolve to deal with this. Plants, for instance, have shells they can withdraw into before a storm. Even trees pull in their leaves and branches. There is no soil, just endless fields of rock.
According to the mythology of the world, mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. Well, a group of evil spirits known as the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms, but the Voidbringers chased them there, trying to push them off of Roshar and into Damnation.
The voidbringers came against man a hundred by a hundred times, trying to destroy them or push them away. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, men resisted the Voidbringers ten thousand times, finally winning and finding peace.
Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world, essentially, is at war with itself—and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne.
That's the backstory. Probably too much of it. (Sorry.) The book follows a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn't understand and doesn't really want to fight. It will deal with the truth of what happened deep in mankind's past. Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?
I've been working on this book for ten years now. Rather than making it easier to describe and explain, that has made it more daunting. I'm sure I'll get better at it as I revise and as people ask me more often. ;)
The man who died before Vin took over was named Leras. (I've occasionally written it as Laras. I've said the names in my head for years, but I'm only now writing them down as people ask me on forums.) Leras, like Ati (aka Ruin), were NOT Adonalsium. (Sorry about the typo on that one in Mistborn 3. I wrote it down on the manuscript, and it didn't get put in quite right. We'll get it fixed.)
Adonalsium was something or someone else. You will find out more. There are clues in Warbreaker and The Way of Kings.
Well, here's the thing. What Sazed is right now is something of a god in the classic Greek sense—a superpowered human being, elevated to a new stage of existence. Not GOD of all time and space. In a like manner, there are things that Sazed does not have power over. For instance, he couldn't bring Vin and Elend back.
Where Tindwyl exists is beyond space and time, in a place Sazed hasn't learned to touch yet. He might yet. If you want to add in your heads him working through that, feel free. But as it stands at the end of the book, he isn't yet with Tindwyl. (He is, however, with Kelsier—who refused to "Go toward the light" so to speak, and has been hanging around making trouble ever since he died. You can find hints of him in Mistborn 3 at the right moments.
Well, what was going on here was a clue established and set by Leras before he died. He wanted something to indicate—should he be unable to inform mankind—that what was happening wasn't natural, but instead something intentional. He worried that men wouldn't be able to realize they were being made into Allomancers.
And so, the mist was set to do something very specific, as has to do with the interaction between the human soul, Allomancy, and the sixteen metals.
Each of the 'Shardworlds' I've written in (Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, Way of Kings) exists with the same cosmology. All things exist on three realms—the spiritual, the cognitive, and the physical. What's going on here is an interaction between the three realms. I don't want to bore you with my made up philosophy, but I do have a cohesive metaphysical reasoning for how my worlds and magic works. And there is a single plane of existence—called Shadesmar, the Cognative Realm—which connects them all.
You will never need to know any of this to read and enjoy my books, but there is an overarching story behind all of them, going on in the background. Adonalsium, Hoid, the origin of Ati, Leras, the Dor, and the Voice (from Warbreaker) are all tied up in this.
And, speaking of that writing, things are going very well. The Way of Kings rewrite is proceeding quickly, and I should be done on-target. I'm feeling very good about the rewrite, though I won't be certain about my plans for it until I get through a few trouble areas later on. As for The Wheel of Time, I just got the Copyedit—which is the final part of The Gathering Storm that needs to be done. This will distract me for another week or so from doing new material, but we'll see.
Now, the big news. At about 6:00 am this morning, I finished The Way of Kings rewrite. It ended up at 380k words, which is almost double the length of Mistborn [The Final Empire]. (It's almost as long as The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan.) Now, before you get TOO excited about that size, know that I tend to write too much on a first draft intentionally, and now plan to trim it down by at least 10%. The final book should be between 300k and 350k. Either way, though, it's going to be a meaty book. (Not long for long's sake, mind you. That's just what it took to tell the story the right way.)
How did it turn out? Well, to be honest, it's FANTASTIC. This is a monstrous, beastly, awesome epic of a book. And so I'm going to give Tor the official thumbs up so they can put it on the schedule for release next year. The series title, if you haven't heard, is going to be called THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE.
The book does everything I wanted it to, and then some. It was a lot more work to revise it than I'd anticipated. I essentially ended up writing the thing all over again, not keeping any of what had been written before. But knowing the characters already helped a great deal. (And if you guys ever see my wife at a convention, make sure to give her a thanks and a hug for deal with a husband who has been essentially working two full time jobs for much of this year—one on Kings, one on THE WHEEL OF TIME.)
Like any time I finish a book, there's still that itching, authorial paranoia that nobody is going to like what I've done. I have chosen a career path where, instead of releasing all of my books in one series, I jump around. I've done this partially because I want the freedom to reinvent myself. Some of my favorite authors growing up seemed unable to give new life to a series when they started it, and ended up repeating the very same story and tone over and over. I wanted to train myself to be doing new things, and wanted the freedom to write different books in different ways.
I know I'm not as wildly different in my variation as some other authors, but at the same time, there's a different feel to each book/series I've done. Hopefully, all will have great characters, a fun setting, and a compelling plot. But there will always be those who prefer Elantris's thoughtful contemplativeness to Mistborn's action or Warbreaker's reversals and humor. Each time I've released a new book, I've worried. Will my audience follow me in this (slightly) new direction? What will they think of what I've done?
Kings is no different. In fact, it's got me even more worried. My goal for this book was to give it SCOPE. The setting is the most distinctive I've written, with the largest world and the largest number of cultures and peoples. The book (though mostly linear) involves flashbacks to character pasts, and sometimes firsthand looks at the deep past of the world. At the same time, because of the enormity of what I'm trying, I found that the book couldn't telegraph as easily what it was about.
What does this mean? Well, Mistborn and Elantris both did excellent jobs of telegraphing to the reader—right off—what the story was going to be about. After the first few chapters of Mistborn, you pretty much knew that it would be a book about Kelsier's attempt to overthrow the Lord Ruler, mixed with Vin's training as a Mistborn. Elantris was about Raoden trying to restore Elantris, Sarene investigating his disappearance, and Hrathen's attempts to convert the people. Because of the scope of these books, I was able to get across very easily what they would be about and what the central conflict would be.
Kings . . . well, I have trouble describing what the heck Kings is about. While there are a number of plots bouncing around in those 380k words—and many of them do get resolved—the larger storylines are only just beginning. The book isn't about one or two things, like Mistborn was. It's about dozens. And yet, the main character's plotline is simple: survival. He's in a terrible, brutal situation, and he just wants to live.
Anyway, the book needs a lot more revision, but it's in a state where I think we'll make it. So send a little good will my way as I dig into it over the next eight months. Maybe I'll be able to come up with a way to describe this beast.
Next, I've been hearing about The Way of Kings series you are starting. Are you planning to have that as a single book or going to try and make it a trilogy like Mistborn or a large ten or more book series?
It's going to be a big series. No promises on length right now, but I feel that it is going to be long. I have 10 books plotted right now, though some of those might get combined—essentially, there are 10 plot arcs I want to cover. But expect it to be big. The first book is done, and came in at 380,000 words before editing.
Will The Way of Kings series be based on one of the worlds and magic systems you have already created or are you inventing a totally new one for this series?
It will be new. There are going to be a lot of different types of magic in the world (I see there's a question below asking about that, so I'll answer more there.) But there will be two main magic systems for the first book. The first will deal with the manipulation of fundamental forces. (Gravity, Strong/weak atomic forces, Electromagnetic force, that sort of thing.) The second will be a transformation based magic system, whereby people can transform objects into one of the world's ten elements.
You have stated in your blog that Mistborn had three magic systems (Allomancy, Feruchemy and Hemurology) and also that The Way of Kings will have upwards of 20. For comparison, how many magic systems would you say the Wheel of Time series has? Two (One Power and the True Power)? How do you classify other abilities (not necessarily related to the One Power or True Power) such as Dreamwalking, viewing the Pattern, Wolfbrother-hoodness, and changing 'luck' or chance? Would you classify these abilities as a magic system in and of themselves? Has your chance to see the background material Robert Jordan left changed how you view these abilities?
This kind of gets sticky, as it's all up to semantics. Really, you could say that Mistborn had a different magic system for each type of Misting. But at the same time, you could argue that something like X-Men—with huge numbers of powers—all falls under the same blanked 'magic system.' And take Hemalurgy in Mistborn 3—is it a new magic system, or just a reinterpretation of Allomancy and Feruchemy?
So what do I mean by twenty or thirty magic systems in Kings? Hard to say, as I don't want to give spoilers. I have groupings of abilities that have to deal with a certain theme. Transformation, Travel, Pressure and Gravity, that sort of thing. By one way of counting, there are thirty of these—though by another way of grouping them together, there are closer to ten.
Anyway, I'd say that the Wheel of Time has a fair number of Magic systems. The biggest one would be the One Power/True Power, which is more of a blanket "Large" magic system kind of like Allomancy being a blanket for sixteen powers—only the WoT magic system is far larger. I'd count what Perrin/Egwene do in Tel'aran'rhiod as a different magic system. What Mat does as something else, the Talents one can have with the Power something else. Though I'd group all of the Foretelling/Viewing powers into one.
Sounds like a topic for a paper, actually. Any of you academics out there feel like writing one?
Let's just say that The Wheel of Time has a smaller number of larger magic systems, and I tend to use a larger number of smaller magic systems. Confusing enough? ;)
I found this on a blog posted July 2008. Does it have any relationship to reality?
...No matter your race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or belief system, you will find something to love in The Way of Kings. There were pirates, ninjas, monkeys, fireworks, grand journeys, infidels dragged through streets by dragons and a fair amount of buckles swashed. There were ladies romanced, men romanced, sheep romanced and one scene where even two mice get it on. And if you can forgive an inordinate amount of abuse aimed at Canadians, this just may be the book for you. Be forewarned, however, if you can't abide graphic depictions of sexual content that would make Laurell K. Hamilton blush and cover her naughty bits, you might want to skip this book...
...The way Brandon Sanderson breathes life into this story is inspirational. The characters, the storyline, the magic—seemingly woven (as only Brandon can) from sheer nothingness. One of my favorite parts of the book is where the Wizard Ooflar divides one rather simple system of magic into five complex subsets, each with its own arcane history and labyrinthine steps. Who would have thought the apprentice Pemberly could put an entire village to sleep by tapping out a quadrille in her clogs? Although it would seem implausible, somehow his magical system works, especially the dance-off. I also enjoyed the ten-day feast in section two, chapter 85. I don't know if I'll ever forget the scene in which we see King Horag the Midleth eating live grunthyean orbs. (gag) I loved this book and can't wait for the sequel...
Ha. These are some of the amusing fake reviews for Kings that readers have been posting on Amazon. For some reason, Amazon put up a page for this book years and years ago, when I got my first contract. Somehow, they heard I was working on a book called The Way of Kings, and jumped the gun in adding a page for it, even though I was still working on the book. (I've been planning, writing, and wrestling with this story for some ten years now.)
Anyway, readers noticed the page and began having fun with it. None of them have read the book, but that hasn't stopped them from reviewing it. There are even pictures of it, including photoshops of me holding a fake book. Look for it on Amazon. It's rather amusing.
Is there any information about Way of Kings that you can give us at this time?
I've wanted to do a long epic for a while. I guess that's what comes from reading Jordan and the others while growing up. And so, way back in the late 90's—when I was experimenting with my style—I started working on ideas for a longer form series. I knew the real trick for me would be to do it in a way that it didn't feel stale after just a few books; there needed to be enough to the world, the magic, and the plot arcs that I (and hopefully readers) would keep interested in the series for such a long time.
What it gives me (the thing that I want in doing a longer epic) is the chance to grow characters across a larger number of books. Dig into their pasts, explore what makes them think the way they do, in ways that even a trilogy cannot. In Kings, I don't want to do a longer 'saga' style series, with each book having a new set of characters. I want this to be one overarching story.
One of the things that has itched at me for long time in my fantasy reading is the sense of loss that so many fantasy series have. I'm not complaining, mind you—I love these books. But it seems like a theme in a large number of fantasy books is the disappearance of magic and wonder from the world. In Tolkien, the Elves are leaving. In Jordan, technology is growing and perhaps beginning an age where it will overshadow magic. It's very present in Brooks, where the fantasy world is becoming our world. Even Eddings seemed to have it, with a sense that sorcerers are less common, and with things like the only Dragons dying, the gods leaving.
I've wanted to do a series, then, where the magic isn't going away—it's coming back. Where the world is becoming a more wondrous place. Where new races aren't vanishing, they're being discovered.
Obviously, I'm not the first to approach a fantasy this way. Maybe I'm reading too much into the other books, seeing something that isn't there. But the return of magic is one of the main concepts that is driving me.
Well, that and enormous swords and magical power armor.
My turn. Did you do the illustrations for Way of Kings?
Fortunately I haven't done any of the illustrations in my books since the Aons in Elantris, and those were all redone in-house. I have very little talent with visual art, though for The Way of Kings I did get to have a lot more influence on the art than many authors might have been able to have. Irene at Tor was very good to work with; she gave me some leeway that she really didn't have to.
I worked very closely with the artists to get what I wanted. Some of the pieces went through a half dozen or a dozen drafts as we explored and tried to feel out what was in my head, and have the artist add to that until we came to pieces that we were satisfied with. So it was a very interesting process. It wasn't simply "submit a description, get a piece back." It was "submit a vague description, talk to the artist on the phone, get across what I'm trying to do, send lots of examples of other art that's like it, get some early drafts, nudge one direction or another, keep working on it." Some of these pieces took months to do.
Do you know when we'll start seeing The Way of Kings? Sample chapters in particular. This series sounds freaking amazing and I can't wait to see more of it. So, yeah..now that the first draft is finished (congratulations, by the way), I'm quite curious...
My plan is to start releasing sample chapters of Kings next year sometime in the spring. Not too close to draw any attention away from the release of The Gathering Storm, but far enough ahead of the Kings launch to give a good preview. February, perhaps? If you don't see them by then, I officially give you permission to send my assistant a reminder email to 'poke' me into doing it.
I almost forgot, now that The Way of Kings first book, first draft is finished, when can we expect that to hit the shelves?
August or September of next year. (Huzzah!)
In my history as a writer, The Way of Kings is a project I've been working on for years and years and years. But the Mistborn trilogy was an idea I had, executed, and finished. These two projects have been very different from one another to work on. With one, I had a great idea, I built the world, I built the story, and I wrote the three books straight through and released them. And with the other story, I have all the "killing your darlings" sort of things that are tough to deal with when you've been playing with a character since you're fifteen years old and now you're finally sitting down to write their story. It's hard to manage the baggage of that many years and weave out and cut out things that aren't needed for the story despite the fact that they're integral to the character's soul, to you having spent all this time on them.
That's one of the reasons why I recommend to new writers not to initially work on those stories that have been so close to you for so long. I feel now that I'm practiced and established an author, I know how to tell the best story out of all of this stuff I've been working on since I was a kid. When I was a new author I don't think I could have done it. I think it would have turned into a fanboy session for my own world that nobody else knows, which would have been a disaster.
Is The Way of Kings your biggest work planned or do you have something on the shelf that's bigger?
Well...depends. Dragonsteel is plotted at seven books. And I plan two more trilogies, eventually, in the Mistborn world. But Kings was always planned and plotted to be the big war epic, focusing on large numbers of characters across a large number of books. Mistborn will span hundreds and hundreds of years, though, so it could be 'bigger' by some definitions. Dragonsteel also is in the running, but for reasons I can't really explain without giving away things I don't want to.
The other thing that happened in December to slow me is that production from Tor started to get anxious because they didn't have The Way of Kings (book one of my new series, The Stormlight Archive) in final form yet. So I had to spend a lot of time working on another draft of that book, along with getting some of the interior artwork done.
Talk has already started to float around the internet about Kings. I'll start posting more about the book in the upcoming months. I wanted this update to be focused on the Wheel of Time.
I'm working on the final draft of The Way of Kings in order to meet its April 8th deadline, and over the past few days I've posted on Twitter and Facebook breakdowns of how many words I'm cutting from each chapter. This has confused some readers who have asked me not to cut anything out or to save them for an eventual "writer's cut" edition. Trust me on this one—the book you'll get on the shelf is the writer's cut, and you wouldn't like the writing as much if I didn't go through and do the trimming on this draft. Sort of like a director shoots a lot of film and then edits it into a coherent narrative later, I tend to overwrite on my first drafts—the language is more wordy than it needs to be, sometimes a character will come to the same realization multiple times as I'm working out where best to fit it in, that sort of thing. In my final draft I go in and trim out all the fat. We talked about this in an episode of Writing Excuses last year; if you're curious about the process, give it a listen.
So the words I'm cutting in this draft aren't anything you're going to miss as a reader. Now, sometimes I will cut an entire scene or heavily rework a section, but that usually happens in earlier drafts than this. I do save the cut scenes in case they contain something I want to use somewhere else or just for posterity. In the Library section of the website I've included some deleted scenes from Elantris, Mistborn 1, and Mistborn 2—check those out if you want to understand why it's a good reason those scenes are gone. Long after The Way of Kings is out, some of its cut scenes or early draft sections may end up on that page. We'll see.
I am working on two major projects right now. The first, and probably of most interest to most people watching this, is the second of the three books that will complete the Wheel of Time. I have a large chunk of the actual writing done, and right now I am fine-tuning some of the character viewpoints and things like this to make sure they feel right. The soul of the Wheel of Time, the reason I love it so much, is because of the strength of characters, the strength of the viewpoints of those characters. And I want to make sure I'm writing them as they should be, as they really are. The goal is to have that book out by November of this year, which is still likely that it will happen. It will depend on how long it takes me to do the revisions, but we're looking like we'll be on target.
The other book I'm working on is called The Way of Kings. It is a book I've been working on for about ten years now. It is the start of a longer epic, a story I've been wanting to tell for a very long time. I did that over the summer last year. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and that is coming out in August.
Brandon's assistant Peter here. He's hard at work on Towers of Midnight, which you know if you've been following on Twitter or Facebook. And I've been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work for The Way of Kings release (the book is being composited as we speak and is due back from proofreading on Friday). So we're a bit behind on updates.
The most recent Mistborn 3 annotations cover Allomantic secrets including atium Mistings and the kandra coup and Sazed's decision. I've got the next four annotations queued, which should tide you over until we've got the KINGS proofs approved and I can line up the rest.
There are three new episodes of the writing advice podcast Brandon does with Howard Tayler and Dan Wells that haven't been mentioned on the blog. First up is a talk with Isaac Stewart, interior artist for the Mistborn books and one of the artists for The Way of Kings, about the visual elements of storytelling. Next up is breaking the fourth wall, again with Isaac (who is also half of the team behind the webcomic Rocket Road Trip with Warbreaker map artist Shawn Boyles). And finally is Living with the Artist which features Sandra Tayler, Dawn Wells, and Kenny Pike talking about what roles they play in their spouses' careers, among other things. (Kenny is a former student of Brandon's whose wife Aprilynne's book Wings hit #1 on the New York Times list. Who Sandra and Dawn are should be obvious.)
Brandon then went on to talk about his upcoming novel, The Way of Kings, which is book one of a projected ten in the Stormlight Archive. Brandon explained that, as one would expect, any writer that is developing while reading Jordan would have a grand epic of some sort in the back of his head. The Way of Kings is his. He wrote a first draft of it a while ago. It was a behemoth of a book, and he had initially tried to get it published right after Elantris. His editor was not so sure that would be something he could do, especially as it was a super-ambitious project. So they shelved it and he moved on to Mistborn. But it was still there, waiting.
After The Gathering Storm was finished, two things happened. The first being that Brandon found he needed a break from The Wheel of Time to rejuvenate. The second was that Tom Doherty (the big boss of Tor) called him and said that they did not have a book from just Brandon Sanderson coming out this year and that he would like one. Brandon tried to protest, but Tom was persistent and said the six words one should probably never tell an author: "You can do whatever you want." So, Brandon rewrote The Way of Kings entirely, using his since-refined skills to tighten it up (some, it is still nearly a thousand pages), and even managed to get Tom to call in an old favor with Michael Whelan to do the cover art.
Something to be warned of, though. Book Two of the Stormlight Archive is going to be a long time coming. Brandon is going to finish The Wheel of Time first before he goes back to that. He then intends to do two more Stormlight books, then some other single project, then two more, then a single, et cetera and so forth. So be ready for at least a small wait for a sequel to that.
I'm actually preparing a blog post on this. I've had a very tough time describing The Way of Kings. I've been working on this book for many, many years. Parts of it I can trace back 15, 17 years ago to my very early days as an aspiring writer in my teens. Beyond that, I'm planning a very large story that spans many books. So what this book is and means to me is a lot more extensive than with other books I've worked on.
Because of that it's really defied my ability to describe it. What can they expect? Well, it's about the length of Lord of Chaos. It will be much more epic and larger in scope than anything I have published so far on my own. There's a whole lot more worldbuilding to it—I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 words of worldbuilding notes, scattered across several documents, that I'm now coalescing into a wiki.
I don't know that this is new information, but the story of the Stormlight Archive revolves around ten orders of knights, each of whom had their own magics and abilities, who fell thousands of years ago for reasons no one understands. Some say they betrayed mankind, others say they were destroyed, others say they were charlatans all along.
The Stormlight Archive deals with the history of these knights, discovering what happened to them. It also deals, perhaps, with their redemption. Another big theme has to do with the onset of a magical industrial revolution, so to speak. Think of this as Renaissance-era technology where people are discovering how to harness magic and use it in practical ways. I've always wanted to do a story about the dawning of something like the Age of Legends in the Wheel of Time books.
Now that it's done, it is time for me to take a break. I've been going full steam on the Wheel of Time and the Stormlight Archive now for about three years. These last eighteen months were particularly demanding, filled with seventy-hour weeks. I don't regret it, and I'm certainly not complaining. I agree to deadlines when I make contracts, and I love my job. I will gladly work twelve- and fourteen-hour days six days a week at something I love if it means I don't have to work eight hours a day five days a week at something I hate. (Which would be pretty much anything other than writing.)
But I have to take care not to burn myself out either. And so, as I did last summer, I'm going to take some time off and work on side projects. These are very relaxing to me—books that have no deadline and that no editor is waiting for or expecting to see. I'll probably only have time to write one, and I'm not sure what it will be yet, but it won't be an epic fantasy. (They take far too long for the time I'm giving myself.) Probably a YA novel or maybe even something wild, such as an urban fantasy or the like. Perhaps some short stories.
One of the things to keep in mind is I that developed this book before Mistborn was published. I do wonder if sometimes people are going to say, "Oh, he did metals before, and now he's doing crystals." But the thoughts arose quite independently in my head. You may know that there is a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds—a behind-the-scenes rationale. Like a lot of people believe there's unifying theory of physics, I have a unifying theory of magic that I try to work within in order to build my worlds. As an armchair scientist, believing in a unifying theory helps me. I'm always looking for interesting ways that magic can be transferred, and interesting ways that people can become users of magic. I don't want just to fall into expected methodologies. If you look at a lot of fantasy—and this is what I did in Mistborn so it's certainly not bad; or if is, I'm part of the problem—a lot of magic is just something you're born with. You're born with this special power that is either genetic or placed upon you by fate, or something like that. In my books I want interesting and different ways of doing that. That's why in Warbreaker the magic is simply the ability to accumulate life force from other people, and anyone who does that becomes a practitioner of magic.
In The Way of Kings, I was looking for some sort of reservoir. Essentially, I wanted magical batteries, because I wanted to take this series toward developing a magical technology. The first book only hints at this, in some of the art and some of the things that are happening. There's a point where one character's fireplace gets replaced with a magical device that creates heat. And he's kind of sad, thinking something like, "I liked my hearth, but now I can touch this and it creates heat, which is still a good thing." But we're seeing the advent of this age, and therefore I wanted something that would work with a more mystical magic inside of a person and that could also form the basis for a mechanical magic. That was one aspect of it. Another big aspect is that I always like to have a visual representation, something in my magic to show that it's not all just happening abstractly but that you can see happen. I loved the imagery of glowing gemstones. When I wrote Mistborn I used Burning metals—metabolizing metals—because it's a natural process and it's an easy connection to make. Even though it's odd in some ways, it's natural in other ways; metabolizing food is how we all get our energy. The idea of a glowing object, illuminated and full of light, is a natural connection for the mind to make: This is a power source; this is a source of natural energy. And since I was working with the highstorms, I wanted some way that you could trap the energy of the storm and use it. The gemstones were an outgrowth of that.
Yes to both questions. This is not going to be immediately obvious, but the big difficulty was in designing bridges that were mobile but also strong enough to support a cavalry charge. It took a lot of research and talk with my editor, looking at the engineering of it and the physics of the world to actually be able to create these things. I'm sure fans are going to try to diagram them out. That was one aspect of it: how were the bridges going to be set?
I approached this first from a "how would you actually fight on these plains?" direction. But also I wanted to evoke the concept of a terrible siege, with a man running with a ladder toward a wall. And yet that's been done so much. The Shattered Plains came from me wanting to do something new. I liked the idea of battles taking place in a situation that could never exist on our planet, what it would require, what it would take out of the people, and how it would naturally grow. And so I did a lot of reading about siege equipment. I did a lot of reading about weights of various woods, did a lot playing with the length, the span between the chasms, etc. One thing that people should know if they are trying to figure all this out is that Roshar has less gravity than Earth does. This is a natural outgrowth of my requirements both for the bridges and for the size of the creatures that appear in the book—of course they couldn't get that large even with the point-seven gravity that Roshar has, but we also have magical reasons they can grow the size they do. That's one factor to take into account.
Several things. There's a real challenge in this book because I did not want to go the path of The Wheel of Time in which there had been an Age of Legends that had fallen and that the characters were recapturing. Partially because Robert Jordan did it so well, and partially because a lot of fantasy seems to approach that concept. But I did want the idea of a past golden age, and balancing those two concepts was somewhat difficult. I eventually decided I wanted a golden age like existed in our world, such as the golden of Greece and Rome, where we look back at some of the cultural developments etc. and say, "Wow, those were really cool." And yet technologically, if you look at the world back then, it was much less advanced than it is now, though it was a time of very interesting scientific and philosophical growth in some areas. What we have in Roshar is that the Knights Radiant did exist, and were in a way a high point of honor among mankind, but then for various reasons they fell. The mystery of why they did and what happened is part of what makes the book work.
Why is this world appealing to write in? Well, I like writing my worlds like I write my characters, where at the beginning of the book you're not starting at the beginning or the end of the characters' lives; you're starting in the middle. Because when we meet people, their lives don't just start that day. Interesting things have happened before, and interesting things are to come. I want the world to be the same way. Interesting things have happened in the past, and interesting things are to come again. I want there to be a depth and a realism to the history. It's fascinating for me to write at this point because on the one hand, there are things to recapture in the past, but at the same time there are things that the people in the past never understood and could never do. The former heights of scientific reasoning didn't go at all as far as they could have gone. So there are new places to explore and there are things to recapture. In a lot of ways, this plays into my philosophy for storytelling. The greatest stories that I've loved are those that walk the balance between what we call the familiar and the strange. When a reader sits down and there are things that resonate with stories they've read before that they've loved, there's an experience of joy to that. At the same time, you want there to be things that are new to the story, that you're experiencing for the first time. In this world, that's what I'm looking for. There is that resonance from the past, but there's also a long way to go, a lot of interesting things to discover.
A couple of reasons. Those are really two questions. Why did I avoid the standard tropes? Because I felt they had become a crutch in some cases, and in other cases they had just been overplayed and overdone by people who were very good writers and knew what they were doing. I certainly don't want to point any fingers at people like Stephen Donaldson who wrote brilliant books making use of some of the familiar tropes from Tolkien, but one of the things to remember is that when he did that they weren't familiar tropes. They were still fresh and new. The same can be said for Terry Brooks. I feel that some of these authors who came before did a fantastic job of approaching those races, and I also feel that we as a fantasy community have allowed Tolkien's worldbuilding to become too much of a crutch—in particular, Tolkien's storytelling in epic fantasy. And really, if we want to approach the heights of great storytelling and take it a few more steps so that we don't just copy what Tolkien did, we do what Tolkien did, which is look to the lore ourselves and build our own extrapolations.
But personally, why do I include the races that I include? I'm just looking for interesting things that complement the story that I'm telling. The races in The Way of Kings come directly into the story and the mystery of what's happened before. If you pay close attention to what the races are, it tells you something about what's going to happen in the future and what's happened in the past. It's very conscious. This is just me trying to explore. I feel that epic fantasy as a genre has not yet hit its golden age yet. If you look at science fiction as a genre, science fiction very quickly got into extrapolating very interesting and different sorts of things. Fantasy, particularly in the late '90s, feels like it hit a bit of a rut where the same old things were happening again and again. We saw the same stories being told, we saw the same races show up, we saw variations only in the names for those races. For me as a reader, it was a little bit frustrating because I read this and felt that fantasy should be the genre that should be able to do anything. It should be the most imaginative genre. It should not be the genre where you expect the same stories and the same creatures. This is playing into what I like as a reader and my own personal philosophies and hobby horses, but it really just comes down to what I think makes the best story.
The Way of Kings, like any of my books, is an amalgamation of ideas that work together and fascinate me, hopefully creating something larger than the pieces; the whole is greater than the parts. Ideas for it began back when I was in high school and starting my very first book. The Shattered Plains first appeared in a novel I wrote back in 2000. The Way of Kings as a novel was first written in 2003; I now call that book The Way of Kings Prime. I wrote that book because I was frustrated with my own writing process. That was during my unpublished days, and I had been writing books that I wasn't pleased with—I've got an entire essay on that on my website. Eventually I decided, "I'm tired of trying to write what other people tell me will sell. I'm going to write the coolest, biggest, baddest, nastiest, most awesome fantasy epic I can conceive, and pull out all the stops and grab all the cool ideas that I've been putting off for a while."
So I wrote this massive book. And then, unexpectedly, I sold a different book—one that had been sitting on an editor's desk for eighteen months. That was Elantris—then Moshe Feder called me up and wanted to buy it, and that threw chaos into my whole worldview.
Here I thought I would never get published, and I was just writing for myself, but now someone wants one of my old books that I thought would never sell. Then Moshe asked me what I was working on at the time, and I sent him The Way of Kings. Which he was very surprised to get, because it was twice as long as Elantris, and it was extremely big and sprawling and epic. It scared the daylights out of him. He wasn't sure what to do with it. He called me up and said, "I don't know what we can do with this. Can we split this into multiple books? I don't know if I can convince the publisher to publish this massive novel."
At the same time—and I've said this numerous times before--I wasn't a hundred percent pleased with The Way of Kings because I didn't have the skill yet to write it. So we shelved it, and I wrote the Mistborn trilogy, which I pitched to him very soon afterward—it may have even been on the same phone call—which I was very excited about at the time. I'm very pleased with how that turned out, but it was a little bit smaller in scope. In some ways it was me practicing and learning how to write a series.
And then the Wheel of Time dropped on me like a truckload of bricks out of nowhere, and I was forced to swim in the deep water and learn how to become a much better writer so I could finish such a wonderful series. During that process I learned a lot about writing.
Tor started asking me what my next book was going to be and if there was any way I could get them something to put out between Wheel of Time books, so I pitched them The Way of Kings. Then I sat down and wrote it. I wrote it from scratch again; I didn't take anything from the 2003 version of the book other than my memories of what had worked and what hadn't. I reached back and grabbed the Shattered Plains out of that other book that I had written; I reached back and grabbed another few cool ideas that had been bounding around in my head since I'd been a kid. I poured everything into this book, everything that I had, all of my best ideas, to try to make the fantasy opus that I had always wanted to write. That's where it came from. That's the history. I don't know yet if I've been successful, and I won't know for many years, until we see whether it stands the test of time.
There will be a similar number, with a small expansion. At this point I believe you have met every one of the major viewpoint characters for the series. I don't want it to spiral out of control. I think too many viewpoint characters is a danger to epic fantasy, putting a writer in difficult predicaments for subsequent books—whether to leave some characters out, or whether to show a little bit of each of them without getting any major plot arcs for any of them.
So you've seen pretty much everybody. Now, at this point there are several who are major viewpoint characters for the series who we have not had many or any viewpoints from yet—Jasnah is one, a character who shows up in the epilogue is another, and there are a few others—but there are in my mind essentially eight or ten major characters in this series, and it will stick to that.
The interludes will continue to be what they are, which is that those characters may show up again, but it's unlikely that there will be many more viewpoints from them. The interludes are there because I wanted to have my cake and eat it too—I wanted to have the big sprawling epic with a lot of major viewpoints that we spend a lot of time on like Robert Jordan did, but I also wanted to have the quick jumps around that George R. R. Martin does, and they're two masters of the genre. And so I decided on the interludes as a way to jump around and show the world, to give depth and to give rounding to what's happening—give you little glimpses into important aspects of the world—but those characters are not people you have to remember and follow. Each of the interludes will have one character that you need to pay attention to, but you can take the interludes and read them and without having to focus too much on remembering and keeping track of what their plot is. Then you can jump back into the main characters. And that's always going to be the case in the books to come.
Each book will also have one character who has flashbacks throughout that book—we'll stick to one per book, and you will find out how they ended up where they are as we dig back into their past.
I've already talked about it a little bit—one of the things is learning how to approach the middle books, specifically how to use the form to enhance the novel as a whole. One of the big things I've learned from Robert Jordan recently is foreshadowing.
I used to think I was good at it until I really sat down and studied what he was doing. Another thing I think I've learned a ton about from him is viewpoint; excellent use of viewpoint is one of the ways to keep all your characters distinct. In addition, juggling so many plots, etc., all of these things have forced me to grow as a writer and have helped me quite a bit with writing The Way of Kings.
Yes, I did move things around a lot, particularly between the first draft of this book in 2003 and this draft. Things have jumped around all over the place, and even at the last minute I was moving different things between parts. Dalinar moved around more than Kaladin did because I was trying to decide where I wanted his ending in part two to happen. I wanted each of the parts to have its own climactic sense, to have a good ending particularly for the characters who didn't continue in the next part, when Dalinar and Shallan were alternating. So there was a lot of juggling and trying to decide—for instance, the prelude was added very late in the process. I'd had the prologue and decided I needed a second prologue as the prologue to the series, which is where the prelude came from.
Kaladin's entire sequence, with the flashbacks and things, was decided on early on, but remember I'd written this book once before. At the end of his flashback sequences, he makes a decision. Where this book deviates from the original I wrote in 2003 is that in the old version he actually made the opposite decision, and it happened in chapter one.
Now we get to see flashbacks of him making the other decision, which works so much better. It's one of those things where I was beating my head against the wall for years trying to figure out how to make his character work. His character was the part of the original The Way of Kings Prime that had not worked, and it took me years to figure out how to make his character work right. That one decision of his was the turning point.
Lots of trial and error, mixed with a very, very detailed outline. I spent a lot of time on my outline, and it's very expansive. But really, this is a question to ask after I've finished the series. Right now I'm very optimistic about being able to do it all.
Let's see if I can actually pull it off.
What Jasnah is trying to do in this book becomes very important to the next two books. That's a very big teaser. The second book will delve much more deeply into the magic; particularly, Shadesmar will be much more of an important aspect. I don't want to give spoilers.
A lot more magic. I'm telling the story about the awakening of an Age of Legends-style world of mechanical magic, and you can look forward to seeing a lot more of that. We only hint at it here. A very important discovery was made by some characters in a random interlude that will have long-lasting ramifications.
So far so good. As with any book, there are some reviews that just make me happy and dance on the clouds, and there are others that are still good reviews but make me think, "Oh, they didn't quite get it," or that sort of thing. Asking an author or an artist about reviews is an interesting process, because we all want everyone to love everything that we've created, but not everyone is going to. It's hard, even as a writer, to judge what people are saying. So far it looks really good. We'll see.
I do think that this is the best book that I've written, but I also think that there are some of my readers who are not going to like it as much. With every book that I write, I do something different. The Mistborn books felt slightly different from Elantris; Warbreaker felt slightly different from the Mistborn books. This newest book feels slightly different again. There are some readers who are going to wish that I were doing shorter, more fast-paced stories rather than longer, more epic stories. I will write more books like that later on, but this book is the book that I wanted it to be. I'm pleased with it.
The Southwest, particularly. My visits to places like Arches National Park, relatively close to where I live right now, certainly influenced me. More than that—and I've said this in numerous interviews before—I'm a fantasy reader foremost. Before I was a writer I was a reader, and I'm still a reader. As a reader, I grew a little bit annoyed with the generic setting that seemed to recur a lot in fantasy. I won't speak poorly of writers who used it very well—there are certain writers who used it extremely well—and yet a lot of other writers seemed to just take for granted that that's what you did. Which is not the way that I feel it should be done. I think that the genre could go many places it hasn't been before.
When I approached writing the Stormlight Archive—when I approached creating Roshar—I very consciously said, "I want to create something that feels new to me." I'm not the only one who does this, and I'm certainly not the one who does it best, but I wanted a world that was not medieval Europe. At all. I wanted a world that was its own thing. I started with the highstorms and went from there. To a person of our world, Roshar probably does look barren like a wasteland. But to the people living there, it's not a barren wasteland. This is a lush world full of life. It's just that what we equate with lush and full of life is not how that world defines it. In Roshar, a rock wall can be a lush, vibrant, and fertile place. It may look like a wasteland to us, but we're seeing through the eyes of someone who's used to Earth's flora and fauna. I've also said before in interviews that science fiction is very good at giving us new things. I don't see why fantasy shouldn't be as good at doing the same. Perhaps even better. So that's what was driving me to do what I did.
I'm going to reverse-engineer your question. When I wrote Elantris and Mistborn, I intentionally kept the world more sparse. The goal particularly of Mistborn was, "I'm going to take an epic fantasy story and condense it into three novels." The focus for me in those novels was plot. Of course I wanted to have great characters and great magic, but there was more of a plot focus, and I didn't want the world to distract. It was a conscious decision in Mistborn.
When I sat down and wrote The Way of Kings, the plan from the start to do ten books influenced how I approached the world. But really, the world of Roshar is such a big part of the story, and of the history and the mysteries of the series, that I wanted it to be full and immersive. Immersion was one of my main driving forces. With Mistborn, one of my main driving forces was to keep it moving. I hope The Way of Kings still feels fast-paced, but it's a thousand pages long, twice as long as Mistborn. A lot of that extra space is dedicated to fleshing out the world and making it feel like a real place, because that's very important for the series. When I write a book, I look at what the book needs and what is required by the story I'm trying to achieve. Another valid element is that when I wrote Mistborn, I was a newer writer. Writing The Way of Kings, I'm more experienced. I think I'm better at making this sort of decision now, and I felt I could tackle in this book the sorts of things that I couldn't achieve in Mistborn.
Weather is a major force in The Way of Kings since that is where they derive their magic powers from. Also, the mythology of the series most people believe they are descended from others who lived in another world similar to heaven, but were thrown out of because of the Voidbringers. Reincarnation seems to be a theme as well. All these ideas follow along with Norse mythology to a degree. Was that intentional or just a byproduct of the evolution to this world?
Half and half. I am steeped in mythology, and I enjoy reading about it. I’m absolutely in love with the idea of Valhalla and Ragnarok. But this was not me saying I’m going to copy Norse mythology. Whatever I’ve read can pop into my head. You’ll probably see a bunch of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism too if you look for it. But it was me drawing on various sources, and also just trying to make my own thing. Yes, there’s certainly a Norse aspect to a lot of the weather magic and things like that, but it’s more that I wanted to tell a story about a world that got hit by these magical hurricanes every few days. Weather being such a force is going to therefore be an aspect of the religion, the belief systems, and the day-to-day workings of the people who live in that world. So it was partially natural outgrowth and partially my love and fondness for things that I’ve read.
If you can tell us, what's the tentative title for Book 2? And estimated release date? I know you've plenty left to tackle with WoT 14 so we'll take anything you say with that in mind.
Good. The tentative title was originally Highprince of War. I’m not decided on that yet, because it might be Shallan’s book, not Dalinar’s book. It depends on whose flashbacks I decide to tell, and which ones will complement the events of the next book. Though I have an expansive outline for the series, I really have to sit down and get a more detailed outline for the second book before I decide which title I want. If it’s Dalinar’s book, it will be Highprince of War. If it’s Shallan’s book it will not be. Tentative release date? I’m going to start on A Memory of Light January first, and it will be published probably about three months after I finish it. (Knowing how Tor’s publishing my books these days.) It will just depend on how long that takes to write. Then I will start on The Stormlight Archive 2 after that. I don’t anticipate that book being as hard to write as A Memory of Light, which is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work. Best case is that I finish A Memory of Light in August of next year, it gets published in November, and I write the sequel to The Way of Kings starting immediately after that and finish it in the middle of the next year so it can be published November 2012. That’s the best-case scenario. But it’s what I hope to be able to do; we’ll see.
Will we ever get to visit The Origin of Storms? And has the ending for the series already come to you?
I know exactly what the ending of the series is. I’ve been tempted to write it down a few times. Things Robert Jordan has said make me not want to write it down yet because he felt that writing the ending down before he got there was the wrong move, and I think he might be right. But I do have it worked out. In fact, I’m going to have a big powwow with Peter, Isaac, and Emily where I sit down and explain all these things so that they can point out holes before I start the second book, which is going to be a very interesting thing—we’ll probably record that and then twenty years from now post it on the internet. But yes, I do know the ending. I will not say whether we’ll go to the Origin of Storms.
Terry Brooks recently said he'll be doing more Shannara books and that he wishes he didn't use the title The Elfstones of Shannara already since his new arc is basically all about the Elfstones. Did your reticence to titling The Gathering Storm as such have anything to do with The Stormlight Archive? The Gathering Storm certainly seems like a perfect title for a book in the series.
Yeah. I didn’t choose The Gathering Storm. If you know the story, it all happened while I was asleep, and they said this was the title they were going to use. There were a couple of reasons. Number one, I knew I was releasing a book soon afterward that was in a series called The Stormlight Archive. Perhaps I pay a little too much attention to making sure that I don’t feel like I’m repeating myself. Kaladin in The Way of Kings was originally named Merin, and one reason I changed his name was because it sounded too much like Perrin. He had been Merin for eight years or so, but when I was just a Wheel of Time fan, it was okay to have a name that sounded a little like a Wheel of Time character’s. But now I may be a little hypersensitive to that.
Honestly, the greatest reason I might have preferred The Gathering Storm to have a different title is that I felt it was just a little bit generic, more so than recent titles in the series have been. Recent Wheel of Time titles have been beautiful; I love Crossroads of Twilight as a title, for example. But The Gathering Storm is a good title for a lot of other reasons, and it works very well for the first of that sequence. So I was satisfied with it even though it wasn’t the title I would have chosen.
Was there any physical inspiration behind the Shattered Plains, which features so prominently in The Way of Kings? Too many visits to the Grand Canyon?
I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once, but I do live in Utah, which has beautiful red rock formations and this wonderful, windblown stone formations scattered all across southern Utah. I’ve hiked there and spent a decent amount of time there. I would say that Roshar is partially inspired by that.
Yes, it was. That's a very astute question. I've written a blog post that I'm not satisfied with, but that I'll probably be revising and posting very soon, that is going to talk about this. When I finished the Mistborn trilogy and Warbreaker, I felt that there were a few things that were becoming Brandon clichés that I needed to deal with. I don't mind being known as the magic system guy. But when I become known ONLY as the magic system guy, that worries me. It isn't that I sat down with this series and said, well, I'm gonna show them, I'm not going to do a magic system. But when I planned this series, it was not appropriate for me to shoehorn in a lot of the magic system in book one. Though my agent suggested that I do just that. He said, look, this is what you're known for, this is what people read you for; if you don't have this it's going to be glaringly obvious. My response was that I would hope that story and character are what carries a book, not any sort of gimmick—well, gimmick is the wrong word.
Something that I pondered and wrote about a lot—just to myself—is that Mistborn was postmodern fantasy. If you look at the trilogy, in each of those books I intentionally took one aspect of the hero's journey and played with it, turned it on its head, and tried very hard to look at it postmodernly, in which I as a writer was aware of the tropes of the genre while writing and expected readers to be aware of them, to be able to grasp the full fun of what I was doing. And that worried me—that was fun with Mistborn, but I didn't want to become known as the postmodern fantasy guy, because inherently you have to rely on the genre conventions in order to tell your story—even if you're not exploiting them in the same way, you're still exploiting them.
For that reason, I didn't want to write The Way of Kings as a postmodern fantasy. Or in other words, I didn't want to change it into one. And I also didn't want to change it into a book that became only about the magic, or at least not to the extent that Warbreaker was. I like Warbreaker; I think it turned out wonderfully. But I wanted to use the magic in this book as an accent. Personally, I think it's still as full of magic as the others, but the magic is happening much more behind the scenes, such as with the spren I've talked about in other interviews, which are all about the magic. We haven't mentioned Shardplate and Shardblades, but those are a very powerful and important part of the magic system, and a more important part of the world. I did intentionally include Szeth's scenes doing what he does with the Lashings to show that there was this magic in the world, but it just wasn't right for this book for that to be the focus. I do wonder what people will say about that. I wonder if that will annoy people who read the book. But again, this is its own book, its own series, and in the end I decided that the book would be as the story demanded, not be what whatever a Brandon Sanderson book should be. As a writer, that's the sort of trap that I don't want to fall into.
I originally had titled the second book Highprince of War. I'm not sure if I will keep that title, depending on who its central character ends up being. With the Stormlight Archive, I am playing with the form of the epic fantasy novel in a way that's very exciting to me that I haven't done since Elantris. If you read Elantris, the form of that book was very important in how it developed, with its chapter triad system. The books in this series also have a very specific form. Each book will focus on one character. That character will get flashbacks exploring their past, to show you how they arrived where they are. But the book will progress the narrative for everyone. For instance, this book was Kaladin's book, and you got flashbacks for him. He will appear substantially in the next book, and you'll have lots of viewpoints from him, but it will be someone else's book and that character will get flashbacks. Each book will have one central character, with two or three major characters who have no flashbacks and not quite as much screen time—characters like Dalinar and Shallan in the first book, and to a lesser extent Adolin and Szeth.
The other thing that will continue is the interludes. I really enjoyed including those in the book; I'm not sure what people will think of them, but most of them are essentially going to be short stories set somewhere in the world, that enhance the main narrative and show different aspects of the world without forcing you to follow yet another plotline. They're just quick one-offs. You'll see those between parts in all of the other books.
Tentative release date? I have to finish A Memory of Light first. I don’t know how long that will take to write. In a perfect world, which is probably not going to happen, the ideal case is that I’m able to finish A Memory of Light by around August of 2011, whereupon it gets published in November 2011 and I start Stormlight Two January of the next year and it's ready for publication in November 2012. That would be the ideal situation. I often do manage to hit the deadlines in ideal situations, but I'm not making any promises on this one. I'm thinking 2012 spring is more likely for A Memory of Light, but we'll see.
That is a wonderful question. The people you mention are brilliant writers whose skill and mastery of the genre I'm not sure I can ever get close to matching. I'll just put that out there. I do think, having read their work and seeing what they've had to do—I mean, if you look at something like the Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire, these authors have had to do this without a lot of guidance. When Robert Jordan wrote The Wheel of Time, there were no fantasy epics of that length out. There were trilogies; we had David Eddings' five-booker, but those were all much shorter than what The Wheel of Time became. There was just nothing like what Robert Jordan was doing. George R. R. Martin was kind of in the same boat. They've had to do this without examples to follow. What I have going for me is that I've been able to watch them do it—and as you said, watch them hit those pitfalls (and admirably do great jobs of crossing them)—and hopefully learn from their example. The main thing that I feel I need to do with this series is keep the viewpoints manageable. What Martin and Jordan both ran into is that the more viewpoints you add, the more trouble you get in, because when you get to the middle books you've got so many characters that either you have a book that doesn't include half of them, whereupon you have the latest George R. R. Martin book, or you do what Robert Jordan did famously in book 10 of the Wheel of Time, which is to give a little bit from each viewpoint and progress none of them very far. Which was also very problematic. Both of those solutions were very wonderful things to try, and I'm glad they did them, but what this says to me is, "Keep your viewpoints manageable." So that I won't run into that problem as much.
Another big thing I'm doing is that I'm trying to make sure each book has its own beginning, middle, and end so that it is a complete story when you read it. When I would read the Wheel of Time as just a fan, and get only a small sliver of the story, it would be very frustrating. When I reread the Wheel of Time knowing and having read the ending, it was a very different experience. I didn't feel a lot of the slowing and the frustration, because I knew the ending, and I knew how long the book series was. So if I can give a full story in each book, I think it will help with that.
The last thing I'm doing is this idea of the flashbacks for each character. I think that each character getting a book will fundamentally change the form of the epic fantasy, which will allow each book to have its own story without having to do something like Anne McCaffrey did, in which main characters in one book wouldn't have viewpoints in later stories. I think that made for a wonderful series, but for me it detracted a bit from the series' epic scope. I knew that if I read about a character, I wasn't going to get that character again, ever, and there was something sad about that. I don't want this series to be like that. Kaladin will be very important to the rest of the series—in fact, he's probably going to get another book, so he has two.
Hopefully the books will remain epic without having that drag. We'll see if standing upon the shoulders of giants as I am will help me to approach this in a different way.
POSTMODERNISM IN FANTASY
The Way of Kings is out. I've been thinking a lot about the novel, what it has meant to me over the years, and why I decided to write it as I did. I've had a lot of trouble deciding how to pitch this novel to people. It's a trouble I've never had before. I'm going to explain why this one doesn't work as easily. But I'm going to start with a story.
PART TWO: BUFFERS AND MY WRITING SPEED
Because of this, and because of my writing style, I need a little bit of a break before I tackle it. I pushed myself very hard to get both Towers of Midnight and The Way of Kings ready for publication this year. Even then, it was only possible because I had written a sizable chunk of Towers of Midnight while working on The Gathering Storm AND because I'd already finished an early version of The Way of Kings.
People have mentioned before that I am somewhat prolific. Some of this is an illusion. For a while now, I've been warning people that we've been chewing through my buffer at a frightening rate. Once upon a time, I would turn in a book three years before it was scheduled to come out. This gave me a lot of wiggle room. If a book wasn't working, I could shelve it and think about it, then get back to it. Working that far ahead prevents most big crunches.
However, the books I've been working on lately were a little more high profile than previous ones—and high-profile books get released when they get turned in, not three years later. So, though I took eighteen months finishing The Gathering Storm, it looked like I finished it very quickly. (I turned it in during the summer of 2009, and it came out in the fall of 2009. Warbreaker came out that same year, though I'd turned it in back in 2006.) The very long write of that book was invisible to a lot of readers because books I'd written years before continued to come out while I was working on it.
The buffer is gone now. I'll talk more about that later. However, I want to mention something else that helps me be productive—and that's allowing myself deviations to keep myself interested. I've told people before that I wrote the Alcatraz books to give me a break between Mistborn novels. If I'm able to refresh myself on other projects, I don't get burned out on the big epics. (Which are my true love, but can be very demanding on me mentally.)
PART FOUR: STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE PUBLICATION SCHEDULE
Now on to Stormlight Two. (The title was originally Highprince of War, but I'm feeling in my outlining that this book needs to be weighted more toward Shallan, so a different title is likely). I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place here on this one. Writing a Stormlight book, like writing a Wheel of Time book, is a huge undertaking. Getting one of each out in the same year required fourteen-hour days, six days a week, for a good year and a half. I can't ask my family to go through that again. Beyond that, the buffer is gone. (I still had a little bit of it when working on Towers of Midnight—not to mention the first version of The Way of Kings that I'd written in 2002. I threw it away and started over, but having written it once before sped the process a great deal.)
So . . . what do I do? I'm feeling right now that I will go straight into Stormlight Two after A Memory of Light. But that means (at very best) it won't be out until the fall of 2012. I don't really have a choice, however. The Wheel of Time fans have waited too long for their ending already. I need to do A Memory of Light, and I need to do it right, no matter how long it takes. So I can't make any promises about Stormlight Two except that I won't take a break after A Memory of Light, but will go right into it and try to have it done in time for the fall 2012 season.
That means, by a quirk of the publishing business, that I have two epics this year, none next year, and two the following year. (If I meet my Stormlight deadline, which may or may not happen.) Still, this is what I'm planning to do. Barring something unexpected, this is what you should anticipate. I don't think there will be a book at all from me next year, which punches me in the gut. But that's what we get for pushing to have two books out last year and two books this year.
THE WAY OF KINGS
The Mistborn books were successful. Many readers liked the idea of a world where the Dark Lord won, where prophecy and the hero were not what we expected them to be.
Because of how well it worked, however, I fell into something of a trap. When it came time to rewrite The Way of Kings, I floundered. I knew the story I wanted to tell, but I felt I needed to insert a major twist on the fantasy genre, along the lines of what I'd done in Mistborn. What would be my twist? What would be the postmodern aspect of this book? It literally kept me up nights. (Not hard to do, since I'm an insomniac, but still.)
Over time, I wrestled with this because a larger piece of me resisted doing the postmodern thing in Mistborn again. That piece of me began to ask some difficult questions. Did I want to be known as "The guy who writes postmodern fantasies"? There would be worse monikers to have. However, one of the major purposes of deconstructionism, is to point out the problem with self-referential material. There was a gimmick to the Mistborn books. It was a very useful one, since it allowed me to pitch the book in one sentence. "The hero failed; this is a thousand years later."
There are a lot of very good postmodern stories out there, and I love the Mistborn books. But my heart wasn't in doing that again. In order to write Mistborn the way I did, I also had to rely on the archetypes. My characters, for example, were very archetypal: The street urchin. The clever rogue who robs to do good. The idealistic young nobleman who wants to change the world. My plots were very archetypal as well: a heist story for the first book, a siege narrative for the second. I believe that a good book can use archetypes in new ways without being clichéd. (The Name of the Wind is an excellent example.)
In fact, it's probably impossible not to reflect archetypes in storytelling. I'm sure they're there in The Way of Kings. But I found in working on it that I didn't want to intentionally build a story where I relied upon reader expectations. Instead, I wanted to look for themes and character concepts that I haven't approached before, and that I haven't seen approached as often in the genre.
There's a distinction to be found. It's much like the difference in humor between parody and satire. (As I define them.) In the first, you are funny only if your audience understands what you are parodying. In the second, you are funny because you are innately funny. Early Pratchett is parody. Mid and late Pratchett is satire. (Not to mention brilliant.)
And this is why, in the end, I decided that I would not write The Way of Kings as a postmodern epic. (Not intentionally, at least.) Mistborn felt, in part, like a reflection. There were many original parts, but at its core it was a study of the genre, and—to succeed at its fullest—it needed an audience who understood the tropes I was twisting about. Instead of making its own lasting impression and improvement on the genre, it rested upon the work done by others.
In short, I feel that using that same process again would make it a crutch to me. There is nothing at all wrong with what Mistborn did. I'm very proud of it, and I think it took some important steps. But it's not what I want to be known for, not solely. I don't just want to reflect and study; I want to create. I want to write something that says, "Here is my addition, my tiny step forward, in the genre that I love."
To couch it in the terms of the Jewel video that started the essay, instead of creating a piece of art that screams, "Hey, look at those other pieces of art and hear my take on them," I wanted to create something that says, "Look at this piece of art. This is what I think art should be in this genre now." Part of me thinks that a video that was beautiful for its own sake, that didn't rely upon the follies of others, would do more toward undermining those follies than would a video that pointed them all out.
And so, I tossed aside my desire to confine The Way of Kings into a single, pithy sentence explaining the slant I was taking on the fantasy genre. I just wrote it as what it was.
He spoke a bit about writing methods, and mentioned one: "In late, out early."
He mentioned that he doesn't like editing.
He wrote a few practice books, and a lot of back story for The Way of Kings, about 200k words.
He wanted to do a short series first alone with some stand-alone novels before writing an epic series.
He usually writes from 12AM to 4AM.
He learned about being chosen to finish WOT from a voicemail from Harriet, who picked him after reading Mistborn. Finishing A Memory of Light is now his focus.
How much pre-writing do you do for each book?
He wrote 50k words backstory for Mistborn, and 200k words backstory for The Way of Kings. It takes about 8 months to write a novel. Though it only took a month to write Alcatraz, which was a parody of conspiracies, and included bad super-powers, an anti-epic fantasy (and that a possible movie from Dreamworks was in the works at the time).
It's worth mentioning here—"though my publisher would rather I stopped talking about this, they think it's off-putting"—that he had always intended it to be volume one of a 10-book series, The Stormlight Archive, each book of which will be about the size of the first.
"The thing about fantasy novels is that they start off with a very steep learning curve. They're like historical novels, except that the world is entirely invented. You have to learn new names, you have to learn new laws of physics, new geography, new history, all of these things."
"This is what fantasy readers love, but when you're making the effort to master all this information it's nice to maximise the payoff. That's what a big series has that a shorter series doesn't, it can be far more richly immersive. You get to spend serious time in this new world."
He mentioned that doing Towers of Midnight and rewriting/editing The Way of Kings the same year was quite intense in terms of time. He is still committed to getting books out quickly and regularly, but The Way of Kings and Towers of Midnight in one year was more than he wants to do on a regular basis.
He is going to take three months to reread the series and plans to have A Memory of Light done by end 2011 for a release in early 2012.
I can. You don't grow up reading Robert Jordan and Melanie Rawn and all of these people who've done large epic series without wanting to do one yourself. I started planning a large epic of my own many years ago, and finding a publisher and convincing them to take a chance on me is very difficult: the longer your book is, the more ambitious, the more hesitant they are—and rightly so, because that can fail. You know, the high opportunity for success also generally means great opportunity for failure. And so this was a book I actually sent to Tor, and they said: "This isn't the right time for this, it's not the right time in your career for this", which was okay. So it's been brewing for a long time; it's dealing with a lot of themes and concepts that I wanted to deal with for a long time.
And again it comes back to me trying to look at where fantasy can go, not where it's been. A lot of fantasy seems to be very static: the technology doesn't change, the world doesn't change. It's been thousands of years in these fantasy worlds, and there's been no evolution of culture, or technology or anything like this: it's always been that way, and it will always remain that way—which bothers me a lot. It's not realistic, but it also does not give a lot of opportunity for conflict and change and the exploration of that sort of thing.
The Way of Kings is many things: it's about the dawning of essentially an era of Renaissance, a magical Renaissance, exploration of what magic can do, and the conflicts of magic and technology. But that is actually kind of the background of the series, and in the first book it's much more personal. It's about a young man who was trained as a surgeon by his father, who gets recruited against his will, essentially, into a terrible war. And it's about the conflict between having been taught to heal and then being trained to kill. And what does that do to a person? How do you protect, who can you protect, and who can you heal, when your entire life is about fighting for your life or killing other people? And that really drives him. It's also a story about a young woman who is based a little bit on a mix between Darwin and Pliny the Elder, a natural historian who's kind of at the advent of this Renaissance, this beginning of a magical technology revolution, and her life and experience. It's both of those characters: it's about the characters.
It's so hard to explain a book this large, because if I start talking about the large-scale concepts, those don't even appear in the first book; they're just hinted at.
But one of the other things about The Way of Kings that I like to talk about is that I want to see, again, where the genre can go, and I've been pushing for a lot more art. Scott Westerfeld did a very interesting book that included a lot of art recently; it's kind of a half-graphic novel. I wanted, with Way of Kings, to do something like that. If you read Tolkien: Tolkien had a map, and this map had a purpose. If you looked in the book it was a map that the characters actually carried; it was part of the world. And the map has actually, for a fantasy novel, become something of a cliché: you open it up, there's a map, okay. But I don't like that because it's just there: where did this map come from, what does it represent? I want everything to be a piece of the story.
So I wanted to include a lot of art that was pieces of the story: sketchbooks from one of the characters' notebooks, illuminated manuscript pages from a manuscript they're reading—these sorts of things, so when you read you can see their culture in the art. I've been very excited about it.
No, not really. Most of my plans for the Stormlight Archive go back years and years to before I was working on the Wheel of Time. I would say that the The Gathering Storm/Towers of Midnight character split happened because of the book split, less than any real planning on my part. I had the character arcs and decided which ones would fit well together if I was only going to be releasing one batch of them at a time.
So the answer is no, but with the caveat that with the way my mind works, it may have been working in the same way in both cases.
I wrote a blog post on this back in October.
After I finish A Memory of Light, my major novel publishing schedule will be Stormlight Archive books two years in a row, followed by something else the next year. This pattern should continue until the series is finished. That doesn't count shorter exploratory side projects like Alcatraz or The Rithmatist (formerly called Scribbler), which comes out in 2012. I'll do one or two of those every year when I take a break after finishing a major novel, and not all of them will get polished to publication standards. Those deviations are largely to keep me from burning out.
Both good questions. I've spoken before of the big changes that happened when I wrote The Way of Kings 2.0. One of them was bringing in the Shattered Plains. The problem was that there was a big hole in Kaladin's storyline, because in the original manuscript of The Way of Kings (major spoiler), he accepted the Shardblade. That was the prologue of the book; Kaladin—then known as Merin—saved Elhokar's life. They tried to take the Shardblade away from him, and Dalinar insisted that he be given it. So Merin was made a Shardbearer in the very first scenes of the book. And from that point, his character never worked. So in doing the second version of the book, I decided that no, we've got to build more into this, we've got to dig deeper, and he has to make the opposite decision, which is where the entire framework of him turning down the Shardblade and then being betrayed all came from. The problem was then what was he going to do? I knew I wanted him to have therefore ended up sold into slavery and have terrible things happen to him, but I couldn't figure out what Kaladin was going to do and was unable to write the book until I mashed in the Shattered Plains and said, "Ah, that was what he needed to be doing all along."
I really don't know what I'll do in Dragonsteel without that now. The problem is that it was the part of Dragonsteel that worked, but it was the part that was most at odds with the story in Dragonsteel. The story that I wanted to tell was the first half of the book, which is the more boring part. Hopefully as a better writer now I can make that part more interesting, but that was the core of what Dragonsteel was. The Shattered Plains was always just going to be a small diversion, but when I wrote it it was fascinating, and I ended up pouring tons of effort and time into it. In many ways it was a distraction, a deviation, a beautiful darling. So for a long time I've been thinking, "I can't kill my darling, because that's the most exciting part of the book." Yet it was at odds with what the story of the book was originally intended to be. I wasn't as good at controlling my stories back then, making them come out to have the tone I wanted. Anyway, we'll have to approach that when I actually write Dragonsteel.
There will be more art in future Stormlight Archive books. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and I think adding a visual aspect to novels helps create a more complete and immersive experience. You'll notice that art has been important to one extent or another in all of my books. Elantris had its map and the Aons; Mistborn had its maps and the Steel Alphabet. The Rithmatist, when it comes out in 2012, will have extensive magic system diagrams with every chapter.
Including a map in a fantasy book has become a bit of a cliché ever since Tolkien did it. But if you go back and look at what Tolkien actually did, the map that was in the book was an in-world artifact—it was something the characters carried around with them and used. So I've approached the art in my books in a similar manner. Each piece represents something that is made and used by the people in the world of the books. I think that helps give a richer feel to the world I'm creating.
One thing you probably won't see me doing in future novels is including character art. I want to leave exactly how characters look up to the imagination of the reader. But I'm a big fan of the sequential art storytelling form as well, so you'll likely see me do some completely graphic novels in the future.
The Dark One would spit him back out because he tastes bad.
In honor of Asmodean, I'll say that there is a mysterious death in The Way of Kings that could use some resources devoted to it. I did not put it in there simply because of Asmodean, but as I thought about it after writing it, I said, "Oh wow, I wonder if people will pick up on that." So there you go.
Seeing as this is a planned ten book series, do you ever fear that your writing will deteriorate along with the length of the series like Robert Jordan's (arguably) did?
First question first, as it is an excellent one.
Long series run into some problems, particularly if they're a single, ongoing story rather than a sequence of episodes. Robert Jordan ran into some of these problems, as has George R. R. Martin. I think much of it can be mitigated by releasing books regularly. The Wheel of Time reads much differently to me now that I know the ending, and am not waiting years between books, only to get one that doesn't feel like it progresses the story as far as I want.
I feel the other big danger with the long series is the explosion of side characters. Sometimes, it seems that their narratives—and their plots—take the bulk of books, causing some bloat to the series.
I can't promise my writing won't deteriorate. I haven't ever tried something of this length before. However, I have attempted to do some things specifically in the construction of my outline to try to forestall it. Specifically, I've outlined quite a lot. (See my other reply.) I know where I'm going.
Tangents will be kept to a minimum; I've given myself the interludes, as I've mentioned before, to let me explore some tangents. I think this will keep me from feeling I need to tell entire books about side characters; I can give them an interlude, and hint at a greater story for them. Then I can leave them be.
The other thing I'm doing has to do with the flashbacks. Each book will have a single focus character, and I will delve into their backstory. I'm hoping this will give each volume it's own cohesion; rather than just a tiny slice of a story, I hope this will help make each one feel like it is its own story.
Time will tell if I succeed or not. Until then, I don't fault you for being wary.
It depends on the book, honestly. For a thick, multi-volume epic fantasy, I take years working on the world. Such was the case with The Way of Kings, and a few of the other massive Epics I'm planning. Mistborn had about a year of planning ahead of time.
Some books, however, I write more freely. I almost always spend a few months working on the world before writing; it's the thing I feel I need best fleshed out. However, it is dangerous as well. Some writers spend all of their time worldbuilding and none of their time writing.
I try to focus my energies on areas of worldbuilding important to the conflict and the characters. In Mistborn, the languages weren't important—I was going to have everyone speaking one language. In Kings, language was more important, so I developed the linguistics. (Though that won't be manifest for a few more books.)
The number 10 seems to be a recurring theme in this world. Are the Ten Fools the antithesis of the ten orders of the Knights Radiant?
Have you ever killed off a character and later regretted it?
When writing a battle scene in which thousands die do those deaths affect you in any way?
I really enjoy your books, and I can only think of one question at the moment, perhaps I'll come back with more.
I suppose my question is about how you name your characters. I've been reading WoT and notice some similarities, for example Cenn, and Sarene, and Shalon (different spelling, but they probably sound the same). Is it purely by accident that you have characters with similar names, or is it a homage to a recent master of the fantasy genre? Or is it just that with RJ's 2000+ names, it's impossible to escape some overlap? :) So I guess I'm curious about how you name your characters in general (and even places. Urithiru is an awesome name.)
Thanks for your time, and your books!
I ended up with a lot of unconscious similarities in Kings as I was working on it for such an extended period of time. Cenn wasn't actually intentional. (At least, I don't think so; sometimes, it's hard to remember back to which names pop out intentionally and which do not.) The eyebrows of the Thaylens were, however, an intentional homage, as is the name of the mountains by where Szeth's people live.
There is going to be some overlap. Sarene is a great example of this; I'm pretty sure that one is just coincidence, though I'd lay odds on Cenn being an unconscious influence.
Some of the names in the book were constructed quite intentionally to fit linguistic paradigms of the setting. Urithiru, for example, is a palindrome—which are holy in the Alethi and Veden tongues. Some names, like Shallan, are intentionally one letter off of a holy word—as to not sound too arrogant. (Shallash would be the holy word; nobility will often change one letter to create a child's name to evoke the holy term, but not be blasphemous.)
With many, I just go for the right feel. I've worked these names over for years and years at this point. Dalinar's name has been set in place for a good ten years or so, but Kaladin used to be named Merin and Szeth used to be named Jek. (The first changed because I didn't like it; the second changed because the linguistics of the Shin people changed and I needed a name that better fit.)
Before I ask my questions I just wanted to say I loved Mistborn and found The Gathering Storm to be my favorite WoT book after The Great Hunt.
For my question I was wondering, how do you go about worldbuilding? Do you come up with a premise for a book before creating a world for it or do you like to create a world first and then come up with a story to take place in it? Got a favorite part of worldbuilding?
Also, where do you feel you've improved most as a writer since your beginning? And if you'd like to go one further, what do you think are some common flaws which tend to be found an author's earlier works?
Thanks for taking the time to do this!
I jump around a lot when outlining, and so things kind of grow in one place (maybe character backgrounds) and that sparks me thinking about something in the culture, so I jump over there and work on it for a while. Then over to plot, then back to world.
However, Kings is a little different in that I specifically spent months and months doing dedicated worldbuilding for the novel. In this case, I started with the most important setting elements and explored them in a kind of encyclopedia form, then moved on from there.
In your gut instinct, who would win in a fight, Marsh (no atium, limited feruchemy) or Szeth? (Or maybe we could go Zane & Szeth since I see a lot of similarities in their characters. They also happen to be my favorites from their respective series)
One of the interesting things I really liked about the book was Jasnah's lack of faith. It seems like during a lot of the scenes where that is an issue, you give her the upper hand. She makes some argument or point and the other characters leave it unchallenged. For instance the line where she says something like "Religion looks for super natural explanations to natural phenomena, science looks for natural explanations to super natural phenomena." That side of her seemed incredibly well written and genuine. Was it hard to do? Where did you get her arguments/points from? I swear a lot of what she says could of been ripped from comments of /r/atheism.
Lastly, I've been rereading the Mistborn series again after reading The Way of Kings twice in a row so I could decide which I liked more. So far...it's still a tie. I'm really liking getting back into the Mistborn world though. That has me super excited for Alloy of Law. Once it get's a bit more polished would it be possible to get an early copy? :)
First question: It's always hard to answer these questions, since there are so many factors. Do the combatants start at a distance? If so, Marsh/Zane have a huge advantage; they have the ability to fling coins.
Does Szeth have metal on him? Szeth's Shardblade would be mostly immune to Pushing and Pulling, as it's an Invested object. But he'd still have trouble getting to them if he had a clasp on his shoes, for example. He doesn't carry a lot of metal, but he might have some.
Overall, I'd say that a full-blown Mistborn would be tougher than Szeth in most cases.
Also, send me a PM with your Email, Phaz. I can't find your email in my address book. I remember that it's not something I expect it to be, so I'm having trouble looking it up.
First off, I really enjoyed The Way of Kings. I became more emotionally attached to the characters in this book than I did in Mistborn or Elantris. Dalinar and Kaladin are some of my favorite literary characters of all time.
My question is in regards to the audio book version of The Way of Kings. I think Michael Kramer and Kate Reading did a great job narrating the book and creating voices for each of the characters but I wanted to know what you thought about it. Do you feel like the characters were portrayed accurately based on your original ideas for them?
I'm also reading WoT for the first time. I just finished A Crown of Swords and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens and how you complete the series. I just hope it doesn't delay the sequel to The Way of Kings too much. ;)
I asked for Michael and Kate specifically, since I've liked their work on the Wheel of Time. That said, it's always an odd experience to hear the book read by someone else. In fact, I find it an odder experience than getting cover art, which is arguably a larger 'interpretation' of my work than a reading is. I think with the reading, I find myself wanting to tweak and change things, so it's kind of a nerve-wracking experience.
I think Michael and Kate did a great job, though sometimes, it's a strange experience to hear voices I associate with WoT characters being used for someone else.
Hi! Two sort-of related questions here, about the writing process:
What would you do differently if you were writing the books to be released all at pretty much the same time (like Lord of The Rings) rather than as episodic updates? Would you still go into the same level of detail in describing relatively trivial events such as the affixing of contraband from the Chasms to the underside of permanent bridges?
I'll probably finish up the book later today, and if/when I write the review it will be a mixture of fulsome praise and F7U12-level frustration. The latter is largely because you set up so many questions—hints about characters' backgrounds, secrets about the world, its people and its magic, riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas. After 1007 pages I feel I deserve more answers! I imagine you planting the seeds of mysteries and thinking "haha, I'll make 'em suffer 8 years before they get the answer to that one!". The question here is how do you balance (1) providing enough information to make the world and characters seem consistent, real and immersive with (2) withholding information for revelation later in the series? Do you consciously think about building up trust in the reader that the questions they have will one day be answered, or worry that the reader might think everything is so mysterious it will probably end up in a nonsensical betrayal like so many scifi films and tv series?
This is a very interesting question.
I actually wrote the Mistborn trilogy straight through before releasing the first, so I have some experience doing it both ways now. With Kings, I'm much more careful with my foreshadowing. Maybe to the point of teasing. That's a contrast to Mistborn, where I may have been too blunt with my foreshadowing. (Or just not put it in.)
The trilogy there was one book in my mind, so things that happened at the end of the first book that should have been better foreshadowed didn't get the foreshadowing they deserve—because I was looking at them as elements I was introducing 1/3 the way through the story, and thinking of them as being on a proper curve of information.
The balance of what to provide and what to withhold has more to do with not bogging down this story with details for a future story than it does with trying to tease. In my mind, this book is three things: Kaladin's experiences as a bridgeman 2) Dalinar's decision to do what he does at the end of the book 3) Shallan's first apprenticeship. I wanted to keep the narrative focused on those things, and provide climaxes dealing with those three concepts. Other secrets and teases are more intended to begin setting up future stories.
However, the "Lost" effect (making the mysteries so cool that no reveal can live up to them) is in the forefront of my mind. My feeling is that instead of dragging them eight books, I should be quick to give answers in future volumes. The things that span eight books as secrets shouldn't be the ones that you're wondering at in the first book; they should be the things that, after you begin wondering about them in the seventh book, you can look back to the first book and see the hints. Then you get your answers in the eighth.
There are also a couple of other updates. Towers of Midnight has made it to the semifinals of Audible's Tournament of Audiobooks, but it is currently behind in votes to Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. If you liked the Towers of Midnight audiobook, consider giving it your vote. (Of course you can vote for Matterhorn instead, if you think that was a better audiobook.)
I haven't linked this week's Writing Excuses podcast episode yet. Recent episodes were recorded at LTUE when I was at ConDFW, so I haven't been appearing, but this episode marks my return. Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, and I talk about urban fantasy.
I started doing this early in my career before I got published, when I felt that writing sequels was not a good use of my time. Just look at the hypothetical; if I'm trying to get published and I write three books in the same, if an editor rejects book one, he or she is not going to want to see book two. But if an editor rejects book one but is optimistic about my writing, I can send them a book from another series and they can look at that.
During my unpublished days I wrote thirteen books, only one of which was a sequel. So I had twelve new worlds, or at least twelve new books—some of them were reexaminations of worlds. But I wanted to be writing big epics. This is what I always wanted to do; something like the Wheel of Time. So I began plotting a large, massive series where all these books were connected, so I could kind of "stealth" have a large series without the editors knowing I was sending them books from the same series. It was mostly just a thing for me, to help me do the writing I wanted to be doing. And then when publication came I continued to do that, and told the story behind the story.
Why not do separate worlds? Because it was more interesting for me this way. This is the story I want to tell. The big, overarching story that I've planned out. I've been talking recently about how my inspiration for this is the idea that in science people have for a long time been looking for a unified theory of physics, some theory that will explain all interactions of physics in a concise way. I wanted to tell about a universe where there was a unified theory of magic, where magic worked according to a unifying principle. Despite the magic systems looking very different and doing lots of different and interesting things, hopefully original for each book, there is an underlying rationale that is keeping them all together. I write what I find interesting, and that was interesting to me.
It depends on what I was trying for in the various different books. For instance, in Mistborn, I wanted the battle sequences to be very personal. One-on-one, allomantic fights, or one-on-small group.
As a novelist, feel that I need to approach action sequences differently from how movies approach them. In a film you can watch Jackie Chan going through this marvelous fifteen-minute blow-by-blow fight, but I think that in fiction the same thing written out descriptively would get very boring. I can't compete with movies in that regard. So I try to make my action sequences character-driven and problem-solving-driven, as well as how the magic system works. I look at what resources the character has, what they are trying to achieve, who they are and how that influences their actions.
For The Way of Kings it was a little bit different in that I was trying to do large-scale warfare, and in that case I needed to look to historical accounts and research and read up on how actual battles played out. Something that gave me a bit of leeway was setting the battles in scenery like the Shattered Plains. One of the reasons I did that is because it's fantastical scenery that couldn't exist in our world, at least not in the same way, and it therefore allows me to exercise my fantasy worldbuilder muscles as well as my historical warfare muscles, such as they are. Putting all of that together let me create scenes that are hopefully unlike anything others have written or that my readers have read.
A couple of reasons. Those are really two questions. Why did I avoid the standard tropes? For a long time I've felt that epic fantasy has relied too much on Tolkien, who did a wonderful job, but I feel that rather than doing what he did by creating races and mythologies and worlds of our own we've in some ways allowed ourselves to be strongly influenced by him and relied on some of the work he did. In other cases those tropes have just been overplayed and overdone by people who were very good writers and knew what they were doing. I certainly don't want to point any fingers at people like Stephen Donaldson who wrote brilliant books making use of some of the familiar tropes from Tolkien, but one of the things to remember is that when he did that they weren't familiar tropes. They were still fresh and new. The same can be said for Terry Brooks. I'm sure if I were writing back then that's what I would have done too, because we were still exploring the genre and trying to decide where it was going to go and what epic fantasy was and meant. But I feel that I belong to the generation after that. There was the generation who relied a lot on Tolkien and the generation who grew up reading those authors' books, and a lot of us in my generation of writers seem like we are reacting against the previous generations by saying, "Okay, that's been done, and you did a good job. Where else can we take this?" I have no interest in writing about elves or dwarves or any of these things that have been explored for the last four decades in intricate detail. I want to go my own directions.
But personally, why do I include the races that I include? I'm just looking for interesting things that complement the story that I'm telling. The races in The Way of Kings come directly into the story and the mystery of what's happened before. If you pay close attention to what the races are, it tells you something about what's going to happen in the future and what's happened in the past. It's very conscious. This is just me trying to explore.
I feel that epic fantasy as a genre has not yet hit its golden age yet. If you look at science fiction as a genre, science fiction very quickly got into extrapolating very interesting and different sorts of things. Fantasy, particularly in the late '90s, feels like it hit a bit of a rut where the same old things were happening again and again. We saw the same stories being told, we saw the same races show up, we saw variations only in the names for those races. For me as a reader, it was a little bit frustrating because I read this and felt that fantasy should be the genre that should be able to do anything. It should be the most imaginative genre. It should not be the genre where you expect the same stories and the same creatures. If we want to approach the heights of great storytelling and take it a few more steps so that we don't just copy what Tolkien did, we do what Tolkien did, which is look to the lore ourselves and build our own extrapolations. This is playing into what I like as a reader and my own personal philosophies and hobby horses, but it really just comes down to what I think makes the best story.
One very common story in fantasy, ever since Tolkien, is how the magic is going away. In the Stormlight Archive I wanted to write a story about the magic coming back. According to the mythology of the world, mankind used to live in heaven until a group of evil spirits known as the Voidbringers assaulted and captured it, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, a world of storms, but the Voidbringers chased them there, trying to push them off of Roshar and into Damnation. To help men cope, the Almighty gave them powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, men resisted the Voidbringers ten thousand times, finally winning and finding peace. Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world, essentially, is at war with itself—and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne.
That's the backstory. The book follows a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn't understand and doesn't really want to fight. It will deal with the truth of what happened deep in mankind's past. Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?
In my writing I try to combine the unfamiliar with the familiar. If something is too unique and unprecedented, then readers won't have anything to relate to and will just be lost.
But if something is too familiar, it will feel stale and cliche. I like to look for twists on familiar tropes that haven't been extensively covered before. This often comes when I read other books in the field and think of a different way something could go. That's not to say other authors aren't doing the same thing, but I like to tackle takes that I haven't seen before. Trying to do what the market expects of you is a bit of a trap in the publishing field. You want your books to be things that people want to write, but if you try to write to the market you usually end up with something too familiar and boring. Back when I was writing those thirteen books I was sending the good examples out to editors and agents and getting a lot of rejection letters. (Elantris was the first book I wrote that I felt was good enough to send out, and I also sent out a couple I wrote after it.) After being told time and time again that my books were too long (Elantris in manuscript form was 250,000 words), I decided to try to do what I thought the market wanted and write books that were a lot shorter. But I discovered that the books I turned out in that format just weren't any good; they contained some very interesting ideas but were lacking in many areas.
When Moshe bought Elantris and wanted to follow it up with another novel, I first offered him The Way of Kings but we realized that it was too ambitious a project at that point in time. So instead I took concepts from three of those failed novels and rewrote them into the first Mistborn book, writing it at the length my natural style seemed to work best at. And Mistborn was a huge success.
You shouldn't assume that when you've read one Brandon Sanderson novel, you know what the next one is going to be like. From one series to the next I like to try different things. I know that some readers who really liked Mistborn are not going to like The Way of Kings; Mistborn had a narrower scope and faster pace than a huge epic like The Way of Kings has, and if a reader prefers that sort of book that is perfectly okay with me. I am going to write some books that are fast-paced and others that are huge epics. I like to change things up.
The Stormlight Archive—you don't grow up reading the books I read, such as the Wheel of Time, without wanting to tell a big epic, and this is kind of what I always wanted to do, to have my own big epic. It's what I love to read and so it's what I want to write. So I've always planned for The Stormlight Archive to be very big, and hopefully meaty and weighty. I started writing about the characters as long as two decades ago, and I finished the first draft of The Way of Kings in 2002, so almost ten years ago now. So it's a series I've been working on for a long time.
I think you'll find that most authors have series like this; for Robert Jordan it was The Wheel of Time. And people have asked me if I want this to be my Wheel of Time, but that's a very difficult comparison for someone to make. What I want is for this to be a great story, hopefully told really well; it's a story I've been wanting to tell for years and years. And time will tell how that turns out.
It will be multi-volume; I pitched it to Tom Doherty [of Tor Books] as ten books, and I envision it as being a project I work on for a very long time, and try to do these audacious things I've wanted to do forever.
It's very art-intensive, and very different from the other books I've done; it incorporates some of the other things I've liked to do from other books, but at the same time it's its own thing. So I view as something awesome that I want to be working on for a long time.
There's already some in the book. Front cover. Look at the corners.
Maybe eventually. The thing is, the Heralds are... they're mythological figures of lore. So what you'll see are things like that. Those are actually large representations of them in the archways.
Is Skai Unity?
(Brandon seems confused by the pronunciation. It is apparently more like "Skae".)
Is the body the focus for Surgebinding, I think is what he meant.
[Eric's note: Well, I meant what I said, but whatever. :P]
People have been asking me to expand on that essay, though it was written (originally) to be part of a series I did on writing The Way of Kings. I never had the time, however, and that was the only one that was fleshed out, so my assistant suggested it might be a good fit for a Scalzi guest blog. However, I do worry that some of the ideas are unformed, as it was written to come after several other essays I was planning.
The short answer to your first comment is a yes, you are right. The realization I came to while working on The Way of Kings was that I was so accustomed to writing self-aware fantasy in the Mistborn books that I was searching to do the same with Kings. While anyone can enjoy Mistborn (I hope) it works best as a series for those who are familiar with (and expecting) tropes of epic fantasy to come their direction. That allows me to play with conventions and use reader expectations in a delightful way. But it also means that if you don't know those conventions, the story loses a little of its impact.
But this is an interesting discussion as to the larger form of a novel. Is it okay, in an epic fantasy, to hang a gun on the mantle, then not fire it until book ten of the series written fifteen years later? Will people wait that long? Will it even be meaningful? My general instincts as a writer so far have been to make sure those guns are there, but to obscure them—or at least downplay them. People say this is so that I can be more surprising. But it's partially so that those weapons are there when I need them.
It often seems to me that so much in a book is about effective foreshadowing. This deserves more attention than we give it credit. When readers have problems with characters being inconsistent, you could say this is a foreshadowing problem—the changes, or potential for change, within the character has not been presented in the right way. When you have a deus ex machina ending, you could argue that the problem was not in the ending, but the lack of proper framework at the start. Some of the biggest problems in books that are otherwise technically sound come from the lack of proper groundwork.
In the case you mentioned, however, I think I would have cut the creature. Because you said it was slowing things down. There's an old rule of thumb in screenwriting that I've heard expressed in several ways, and think it works well applied to fiction. Don't save your best storytelling for the sequel. If your best storytelling isn't up front, you won't get a sequel. Of course, once you're done, you do need to come up with something as good or better for the sequel, otherwise it might not be worth writing.
For The Way of Kings, I've had to walk a very careful balance. I do have ten books planned, but I had to make sure I was putting my best foot forward for the first book. I had to hang guns for the later novels, but not make this story about them—otherwise readers would be unsatisfied to only get part of a story.
Question for you, then, Brent. Have you ever planned out a story to be a certain length, then ended up deciding there just wasn't enough there to justify it? I had trouble learning this balance as a younger writer, and some of my readers know that I wrote two failed books (one called Mistborn, the other called The Final Empire) in which neither one had enough material to form a novel. It wasn't until I combined the ideas and story together and wrote Mistborn: The Final Empire that everything worked.
I'm thinking we'll try something else that tour. The Storm Leaders were awesome, but we had Jason to set that all up. I may return to doing something like that on another tour, but this one will involve something else. I'll explain eventually.
Brandon, when does your tour for The Way of Kings start? I saw that you would be out this way later on in the month
The Way of Kings tour starts August 31st. Lasts about 3 weeks, with Dragoncon in the middle.
Yes, I do feel that desire to get on to Stormlight 2. However, this is not a new feeling. In every book—at about the 50% mark or so—I want to be moving on to the next book. By then, I've already done a lot of the exciting things in worldbuilding and discovering characters, but I'm not yet to the exciting ending.
This is a challenge for a lot of writers. I know Neil Gaiman has spoken on it before. I have trained myself to remain focused on the project at hand.
Do you ever take breaks away from A Memory of Light and go over notes and ideas for the next installment of the Stormlight Archive?
Yes, I do take breaks and outline other projects (specifically Stormlight.) But not for long.
Is Adonalsium going to be mentioned by name in Warbreaker and The Way of Kings or is he going to be an underlining "God"(I don't know what to call him yet) idea? I am curious now, so I will have to keep my eyes open for him.
Will Sazed appear at all in the Stormlight Archive?
There are no current plans for him to do so.
One other question, what is the name of the planet that Elantris is on?
Way of Kings: Roshar
White Sand: Taldain
There are others, but I haven't talked much about those yet, so I'll leave them off for now.
Upcoming book plans: A Memory of Light is first, of course; he expects to follow that with Book 2 of the Stormlight Archive in March or April 2013. Book 2 will have Shallan as the focus character (like Kaladin was in book 1), followed in subsequent books by Szeth, Navani and Dalinar. Once the first 5 Stormlight books are out, he plans to do the second Mistborn trilogy, then books 6-10 of Stormlight. Interspersed with the first 5 Stormlight books, he'll do several more Wax and Wayne books; similar to Alloy of Law, they'll be shorter, lighter, more witty & adventurous than the epics.
Warbreaker 2 will be another "in between" book; he plans to use the same process as the first Warbreaker, posting sections on his website and getting feedback, using a very open and interactive process of development.
Let’s start with an Alloy of Law question, since that’s why we’re both here. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into the evolution of the world of Scadrial, specifically in how you’ve integrated the world’s technological advances. Was there anything in particular that drew you to the old west setting, and did you do anything to research it, like going to a shooting range or a ranch?
Good question. I actually wrote the prologue LAST. I wrote it to be the prologue to another book about Wax and Wayne if I did one. I always knew what happened, but I didn’t want to start the book with the old west, because most of it didn’t happen in the old west, it happened in the city. What is now chapter one used to be the prologue. And after writing the whole book I realized that we didn’t see into Wax’s heart, we didn’t know what he was always referencing with Lessie… we actually needed to see it. And so I actually took that chapter and moved it to the front. I worry a bit that it will old-west-ify it a bit too much, because I did see this as a city book. All of the Mistborn books have taken place in cities.
As of doing this interview, the last book of the Wheel of Time is nearly done, but boy, that's a big "nearly." There's so much work to do with the last chunk of this book that it's feeling pretty overwhelming right now. My goal is to have a revised manuscript in to Harriet by January 1st. When it comes out will depend on how long it takes to edit it.
The second Stormlight Archive book is in the planning stages; I should go right into writing that starting January 1st, with it coming out hopefully around a year after that, maybe March 2013. That's a long wait since The Way of Kings was released, and I hate to make people wait that much, but I plan to write the third book fairly soon thereafter.
Alcatraz is on hold until I decide what to do with the series. I will write one more book in that eventually. The Rithmatist is exciting; it's fun; but I also don't want to have too many balls up in the air that people are reading and having to keep track of. So I keep delaying it with Tor, saying we shouldn't release it until I'm sure I can commit to getting the trilogy done in a reasonable amount of time.
Other than that, I have a few random side projects in the works that should be coming your direction. I always have random side projects in the works, but none of those are ready for announcement yet.
It depends on the magic system. They are all related to a kind of "Spiritual DNA" that one gets from their heritage on a specific planet. However, there are ways around that. (Hemalurgy, for example, 'staples' a piece of someone else's soul to your own, and creates a work around to give you access to magic you shouldn't have.) Some of the magics are more regionally tied than others. (In Elantris, you have to access the Dor, which is very regionally influenced.)
The end answer is this: With in-depth knowledge of how the magics work, and their connection, one could probably get them all to work on other planets. It may take effort for some of them.
Most of the main POV characters have been introduced. Each book will take one major character (Kaladin, Dalinar, Adolin, Jasnah, Shallan, Navani, Szeth, Taln) and give them 'flashback' sequences in the same way Kaladin got flashbacks in the first book. There are some open spots for which I'm toying with other characters being used.
Other characters will get viewpoints now and then, but I feel that one of the ways that big series get off track is by changing the focus to side characters. (Note that I will continue doing the Interludes to give some other voices and perspectives screen time. Few of these will be main characters.)
This problem, more than any other thing, 'broke' 3 of the biggest fantasy series for me (you can probably guess which ones)—I gave up on each of them partway through.
I liked Mistborn, but honestly I hadn't planned on even giving Stormlight Archive a chance because I assumed it would do the same type of thing as those other series. Knowing what you said above, I'm going to have to pick up that first book, now.
I'm hoping it will work. If I can do it right, and each main character gets a book of their own, it should keep me on track.
The sprawl gets reduced, in theory, as each book has its own specific focus. You get a little of each main character in each book, but one takes center stage and you get a full story with them. (Flashbacks to their past, getting them to the first book, and a depth of story for their narrative in the novel.)
If you do read the book, one of the things I do to try to keep this all from going out of control is I write what are called "Interludes." Most of these (all but the ones about a character named Szeth) are essentially short stories in the world, about characters you don't have to remember or learn. They add depth, expand the plot, but are set off as their own thing with a specific sort of "This won't be on the final" sort of feel.
Once a year. Opposite it in the year is an extremely powerful highstorm.
When, relatively to the events in Way of Kings is/will be the nearest Weeping? (I ask, because I started wondering, if this powerful storm was, coincidentally, the one, during which... you know... the face in the clouds and all that.)
Well, there are ten months in year. If I haven't mentioned dates in the last book (I may or may not have) I am planning to in the next. So a timeline should be possible for fans to figure out...
Honestly, I'll let myself drop by a few books if the story demands. I won't inflate it to ten if, in the long run, the story just can't hold it up. Right now, though, I've got a really solid outline.
It's ten books, though in my mind, there are really two five book arcs.
That's not intentional, but it could certainly be unconscious influence.
Very interesting thought. One I never considered, but will think about further. I've heard Brandon talk about these characters and he said that originally there was no Adolin. Dalinar was the only character speaking to both the belief and doubt of what he was experiencing. Brandon's Writing Group gave feedback that having one character flip-flop like that wasn't working, so Brandon developed Adolin to help express those doubts. What a great way to solve a problem, and the result is a wonderful relationship that imitates many powerful Father/Son stories. So, I would guess that the parallel you mentioned wasn't intentional, but as writers, of course, that which we believe, read and experience will find itself, unwittingly, on the page.
You're ALMOST right. Adolin wasn't a viewpoint character initially, but he was in the book during the draft you're talking about. (The one where I had to fix things.) But if I go back to Dalinar, the character, back in his origin (before I wrote The Way of Kings the first time, back in 2002) he did not have a son. It was his relationship with his brother and nephew (needing to take over the kingdom for a beloved brother who died, and rule it for a nephew—then have concerns about giving up power, and how much he should take) that was the origin of Dalinar.
Yes, there is. You've been...are you a 17th Sharder?
That's a really smart question. [laughter] If you're not aware of this and you're kind of baffled by this, people have figured out that all of my books are connected, and there is a continuing character who was in Elantris who shows up in Mistborn who also is in Warbreaker and The Way of Kings. This person is trying to figure out some of the connections between the worlds.
It's actually a mix of both. I generally flesh everything out at the beginning—then, as I write (particularly the first book) knock huge holes in the worldbuilding and replace them with new and better things.
I work everything out, then leave notes to myself as to what is cannon so I can throw out bad ideas and replace them with better ideas as I write.
So, all ten orders are finished and worldbuilt. (I feel pretty good about them.) However, I could decide to move some things around as I write.
Kings has by far the most extensive artwork for any book I'd done. However, in the others, you are generally missing out on one or two really excellent maps. (Isaac's work is wonderful in the Mistborn books.)
I think ebooks ofter a lot of exciting opportunities, and some challenges. We can probably start doing full color maps, for example, in all books—but we need to make sure the devices can show them in the right way. For Way of Kings, the hardcover is the way to go for the art. That might not always be the case.
No, Vallano was not Truthless.
Szeth was a very respected member of his society, once. There are clues to what happened in his story, but you won't hear it in full until he gets his book. (Which will include his flashbacks.)
Sure. First off, The Way of Kings is the book of my heart—the book I've been working on for years and years. For example, it has a character in it who originated in the very first novel I tried my hand at as a young teen. Finally having this book come out is extremely fulfilling, and having people enjoy it as much as they have is even more fulfilling.
Specifically with the Gemmell Award, I'd lost the award two years in a row—in fact I'd lost three times in those two years, since I had two books nominated one of the years. Finally winning was extremely gratifying and a really big honor. Plus the actual award itself is a battleaxe. That is the best award ever.
Quick question I get asked all the time working here at Barnes and Noble. When are you expected general release dates for Stormlight Archive #2 and A Memory of Light?
Alright, so this is what I'm doing right now. I am turning in A Memory of Light December 31st. If I don't, Harriet will probably fly to my house and shake me. And so I will start writing Stormlight 2 right then. It's going to be a tough year because I want to get that done as soon as it is reasonable but I also have to edit the wheel of time book. and I will balance those two projects. Wheel of Time—I will tell you, most likely is October, November. We would like it to be sooner, but we have to wait on Harriet's edits, and beyond that, it's the last book, and she requested extra time to make sure we get everything in it.
That is my guess right now. Stormlight 2, if I'm on the ball, is March or April of the following year . That is what I'm really shooting for. The only other release that I have potentially is Tor has been hanging on to my children's books that they haven't yet been sure when they want to release. They actually have a book that is called Scribbler , which has been renamed the Rithmatist, and people see me talk about it. I actually wrote that one back in 2007 I think? Yeah, 2007. They've been hanging on to that one. I keep being noncomittal on that because it needs heavy rewrites.
So it needs a heavy rewrite. It would take like 2-3 months, and I've not had 2-3 months to dedicate to it. The other book they have of mine is Steelheart, which I've read from at things at signings and whatnot, it's a book I wrote a while ago during one of my breaks. They may release one of those next year, I'm not sure. Probably not The Rithmatist, because I don't have 2-3 months to spare. We may see Steelheart next Summer or next Fall. The thing is, they are in the process of acquiring the Alcatraz books from Scholastic, to repackage them, and they said they probably going to get that deal for sure, so they have them. So they probably want to do an original, like Steelheart, or Rithmatist, before they release the Alcatraz books, so they say "Hey, Tor has Brandon's children's books, now here is a new children's book, and by the way, here are repackaged books." Kind of in tandem in the publicity place. If they were going to do this, Steelheart in September, alongside Alcatraz 1 repackaged in September, and then 2, 3, 4 repackaged in the next months, and then Alcatraz 5.
So that is what's going on right there. A lot of it depends on how long it takes to write Stormlight 2.
It's okay, we're Wheel of Time fans. We're used to waiting. (laughter)
I want to be more punctual than some authors have been recently in fantasy. (laughter) The thing about it is, we sometimes give Robert Jordan some grief about this but he was really good. There was a book a year for many years and then he went to a book every two years, and it wasn’t until late in his career when he was sick that he got a lot slower. He is actually a good model to follow. I’d like to have a book every year, going forward for as long as I can. I’d really like to do 2 Stormlight Archives every three years, if possible. I’m not sure if that’s viable or not.
We would like that too. (laughter)
That's not a side project.
Yeah, that's not a side project.
I did this knowing that I would still try to keep my main...you know, I would still try to keep Mistborn and Way of Kings—Stormlight Archive—with support. You know, I have to work a lot of sixteen hour days to make sure it does, but I didn't want my readers to get short-changed for the Wheel of Time readers, even though Wheel of Time is my main focus right now. And so I've made sure I'm still doing that; I just can't do the other wacky things I've done. My kids' books—I couldn't finish that series until the Wheel of Time is done. You know, the contract ran out, but I still want to do another one, but I could not sign another contract, couldn't write that book because—
You're under contract already.
—I'm under contract. I have to do the Wheel of Time, I have to make sure it's got all of my attention and that it comes out and is really good. So those side projects just had to fall by the wayside.
Writing is a funny thing. In the last month, I've probably written only fifty or sixty pages. The month before that, I wrote five hundred. For me, I do spend a lot of time planning, thinking, and working things out.
However, it's not always a rushing river of words for me. Most of the time, it's ten pages a day, day after day. There are periods of two or three pages a day. There are periods of forty or fifty pages a day. It all depends on the project. Right now, I'm working on the first of what will be a lengthy series, and so it's slow going for me because of the weight of thought that has to go into foreshadowing and worldbuilding.
In Way of Kings, Hoid gives Kaladin a flute. Is that flute going to play a important role in progression, or is it just a trinket?
I can’t answer that right now. That’s too much of a RAFO.
When will we see a Hoid book?
It’ll be a little while. He’s playing around with things in the Stormlight Archive if you couldn’t tell, he’s decided to—Hoid is fiddling with things, more than he usually does. But Hoid as a major part of things doesn’t really show up till the third Mistborn trilogy, which is the outer space Mistborn, the sci-fi Mistborn.
If you didn’t know, Mistborn was pitched to my editor as a trilogy of trilogies. I told him I wanted to do a trilogy of epic fantasy books, then the same world in a modern setting, which we’re not to yet, but it’s going to be Allomancers in the 21st century-equivalent technology. It’s an urban fantasy series. Then I wanted to do a Science Fiction series in the same world, using the Epic Fantasy world as kind of a mythology to this new world, and the magic system becoming the means of Space Travel.
And so that’s how I pitched Mistborn to my editor.
Alloy of Law is actually a deviation from that, because I didn’t want people to forget about Mistborn, I wanted them to keep reading Mistborn, so I wanted them to keep releasing things, and we’ll eventually get to that second trilogy—
Hey there you are Mark! I heard you got number one.
You’re crazy (laughter). You’re awesome though. He even beat the 17thshard people, which is really a hard thing to do. (oohs and aahs) Two hours. Beat them by two hours.
So Alloy of Law I wanted to set up things for the second trilogy. I didn’t want to do the second trilogy yet, because the second trilogy, like the first trilogy is kind of bigger books, with a very involved storyline evolved across three books, and I didn’t want to be releasing that parallel to Stormlight Archive, which is the same sort of thing. Very evolved books where you tie a lot of things together, and so I wanted a series of Mistborn novels that were more independent.
Alloy of Law is intended to be a “read it, have fun.” Eventually I may end up doing more with those characters, but when I do, you won’t have to remember that much about this one. It’s not like you have to remember a cast of 500 characters. You can just keep track of the main characters. They’re more of an episodic adventure. I kind of imagine Alloy of Law being—I’m not totally sure how to describe it. It’s like you have the giant movie that comes out, and then you have a TV show that’s based off of it, and then another big movie series, or something like that, if that makes any sense.
So that’s what Alloy of Law is. So Hoid is very involved in the third Mistborn trilogy, he’s also very involved in Dragonsteel, which is actually the first book in the sequence, long before Elantris happened. So eventually I will tell that story. You can read a draft of it at the BYU library. It’s the only copy that I know of in existence. It’s almost always checked out. It’s my Honors thesis, and it’s not very good. It really is not very good, but basically it’s involving the ideas that eventually will become Dragonsteel once I write it again. But I stole the Shattered Plains and put them in Roshar instead because the fit better there.
How many marks to a broam? [Stormlight Archive currency]
Uh, Peter—take out the … It’s been so long. I had it at ten, but then I think he came in and said “it can’t be ten”, and so it’s actually in our wiki. Peter—hey, where’s Peter? How many marks are in a broam? Is it ten or 25?
Email Peter, and he’ll tell you. I have to get back into it when I start writing that series again, but I’m so in the Wheel of Time right now, so I’m like “Well it’s Tar Valon marks and...” (laughter)
Who’s going to be the focus for the next Way of Kings?
I spent a long time deliberating this, and eventually, in my plotting, I came upon one of those moments where you’re “Ah, this is what I need to do”, so it is going to be Shallan. So the focus for the next book is Shallan, and half of you want it to be Dalinar, and half of you want it to be Shallan, Dalinar will get his book, Shallan will get her book, but there’s a funny story here. In my original outline, I named many of the books, like Dalinar’s is named Highprince of War. Shallan’s book was actually named after the book that Jasnah gives her, which is very thematically important to her. But then I started telling it to people, and they started laughing, because the book that Jasnah gave her is called the Book of Endless Pages (laughter).
So, I thought that was a really cool title, but apparently, that’s going to give the reviewers too much fuel. (laughter) So you can pretend in your head that it’s called that, but I’ll come up with a different name.
Do you have particular Inspirations from classics that you brought in your books? I felt like Dalinar was heavily influenced by Constantine.
Well, I did have a degree in English, and so I read lots of stuff, but my favorite classics are Moby Dick, Les Miserables, and depending on the day one of the Jane Austen books, it changes. And so those are definite influences. You can probably see some Les Mis influence, a lot of it, in the Mistborn books. There were several places where I kind of consciously let myself be influenced there. I wouldn’t say that Dalinar though. The thing is, I started writing Dalinar when I was 15. He was my first character. In fact, I posted at Tor.com when Way of Kings came out a page from my very first novel that I tried to write when I was 14, and it was really really bad, and it has Dalinar in it. He is one of the few characters that survived through all these years from maturing, growing, and things like this. The story of the brother of the king who dies, and the brother must decide: does he take control, or does he let his nephew take control. So a lot of things have influenced Dalinar, but I can’t point to one specific thing.
What’s the difference between a Dawnshard and a Shardblade?
They’re actually, they… You will find out. (laughter) I can’t really reveal that right now, because that’s a RAFO. I’ve got RAFO cards that I can give you that say “Sorry I can’t answer your question.”
Ok, the first question is, why did you change the main character's name to "Kaladin" in the final draft?
Excellent question. I see you're stealing all of my annotation questions that I would ask myself. For those of you who don't know, the character's original name was Merin. The change was a very hard decision because the history of Way of Kings goes back so far. You know, I started writing about and working on Merin as a character in the year 2000, so he'd been around for almost a decade in my head as who he was.
A couple of things sparked the change. Number one, I'd never really been pleased with the name. I had been doggedly attached to it, despite the fact that all of my alpha readers on the original Way of Kings—Way of Kings Prime we'll call it now—said, "This sounds like a girl's name." I'm like, "Well...you know, sometimes in different cultures names sound like girls' names. I've recently discovered that Bilbo and Frodo's actual names are "Bilba" and "Froda". Those are their actual names; that's what they say in-world and in the appendices. Tolkien in one of his appendices said, "I English-ized them to make them sound more more masculine for the 'translation' of the Lord of the Rings books, but they would actually call themselves Bilba and Froda." So, anyway, Merin sounded a little bit feminine, but still I dug in my heels.
One of the concepts for the new Way of Kings is Kaladin's arc as a character. In Way of Kings Prime he makes a decision very early in the book, and in The Way of Kings I wanted to have him make the opposite decision. There's a big decision that comes to him and it's almost like these two books are branching paths from that moment in a lot of ways. And so it's going to be a very interesting process when I eventually let people read Way of Kings Prime, which I won't right now because it has spoilers for the rest of the series, but you can see how all the characters go in different directions from that moment and they also change slightly. It's like an alternate world version of the book you're reading.
So, point number two was that I started to feel he's changed so much as a person I can no longer think of him as the same character. Point number three was that, as I am now working on The Wheel of Time, having a character whose name sounded a lot like Perrin started to be problem to me. Particularly since in Way of Kings Prime Merin was not the main character but in this Way of Kings he is. Way of Kings Prime was much more evenly divided between the characters, but in the published book he gets essentially double the space, and so he becomes the main character. I felt I wanted the main character of this book to have a much stronger, perhaps a little more mythic name. I tried lots and lots of names before I eventually settled on "Kaladin".
Kaladin does sound like a much more powerful a name.
Yeah, it's a much better name. I'm very happy we did it, but we changed it on like the last draft, so it was very surprising to my editor and to my writing group when all of a sudden he changed to a different name.
We know it's not your job to pick cover artists, of course, but do you have any idea if Michael Whelan will make additional Stormlight Archive covers, or will it be different artists each time?
Another good question. This one I don't quite know the answer to. The thing is, Whelan is so busy and does so few covers that it'll come down to whether he has the time and is willing to. We would certainly like him to do more, and I've heard news around Tor that they're optimistic for him doing the rest of the series. But, like I've said, I felt like it was incredibly fortunate that we got him to do one. You'll notice that he doesn't even do whole series for some of his favorite authors anymore. For example, Tad Williams's latest in the Shadowmarch series. He did the first cover in the series, and they had someone else do the other covers. I don't know the details of that but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Michael Whelan likes to do his fine art. As a favor to people he'll do the occasional brilliant, beautiful cover but then he wants to go back and I can't blame him for that. So we'll see what happens when the second book is ready for a cover.
What's it feel like to finally have your baby released to the public? It's probably a very different feeling from any of your other book launches.
Are you more nervous than usual or have the positive ARC compliments made you feel fairly confident?
I'm more nervous than normal. It has been my baby for a long time, and I got Tor to invest so much into it, what with the cover, the interior art, the end pages, the really nice printing, and the sheer length of it. Tor would really rather not publish books of this length. The rest of the series will be shorter; I promised that to them. I do want to warn readers that the 400,000 word length is not going to be the standard for the series. They're probably going to be more like 300,000 words, which is what this one should have been, but I just couldn't get it down. It was right for the book for it to be this length.I'm worried about it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it is a departure for me in a couple of ways. I've been planning a big massive epic for a long time but I only wanted to have one or two big massive epics. My Adonalsium mythos couldn't support multiples of something this long and so a lot of my other books are much more fast-paced and I do wonder what readers are going to think of a much larger more epic story, because it is going to have a different feel. It's happened every time I've released a book though; Warbreaker felt very different from Mistborn, which felt very different from Elantris. Way of Kings feels very different from all of those as well so I'm worried that there are a lot of readers who are not going to like it as much. I hope that there are a lot of readers who are going to like it more, but we'll have to just see what people think of it.
On later Stormlight Archive novels will there always be one character we get to see flashbacks for?
Yes, and it should rotate to different characters. I have not yet decided who gets book two yet. It's really between Dalinar and Shallan and I go back and forth on whose story I want to tell next.
So, does that mean there's going to be 10 different characters that would be seen?
It's very likely there will be 10 different characters. The only caveat on that is that part of me really wants to do a second Kaladin book. And so I haven't quite decided who gets flashback books. You can probably guess from reading this book some of them who do. But there are some that don't necessarily absolutely need them, so Kaladin may get a second flashback book.
So, fingers crossed, fingers crosses, will Szeth get one?
Szeth will get a book.
YES! (laughter) We're all cheering.
Yes, Szeth will get a book. Shallan and Dalinar will get books.
Um…I'm not sure on him yet. He's one that could, maybe not. I mean he's got some interesting things going on but we'll see how the series progresses first. There are characters who will get flashback books that you haven't yet met or at least not spent much time with.
You've told us that you took the idea of the Shattered Plains from Dragonsteel into Way of Kings and reading Way of Kings it's hard to imagine the book without them. What did Roshar look like without them? Can you walk us through the process of moving that concept from that series to this one?
Yeah, it looked pretty much like it looks in the books, but Way of Kings Prime takes place mostly in Kholinar and in a location that has not yet been talked about in the books.
Ah...it took place in another location, how about that?
One of the big things with this book is, as I was saying, that I think I started [Way of Kings Prime] in the wrong place. I moved some things back in time and some things forward in time. For instance, if you ever read Way of Kings Prime, the prologue to Way of Kings Prime is now the epilogue to The Ways of Kings. You know, the thing that happens in the epilogue with the thumping on the door and the arrival of a certain individual? That scene is now from Wit's viewpoint which it wasn't before. Pull Wit out of that scene and you'll get almost exactly [what happened] in the [original] prologue. So, the timing has been changed around a lot.
As I was playing with this book I found that, like I said, one of the big things I had a problem with was that I felt that Kaladin had taken the easy route when he needed to take the hard route. I was really looking for a good plot cycle. I needed something to pull this book together. I had characters but I didn't have a plot and I've mentioned before that sometimes things come [to me] in different orders. In this book world and character came to me, in fact character came to me first, world came second and then I was building the plot around it. I knew the plot of the entire epic and the entire series but I needed a much stronger plot for book one. Because of the various things that are happening I wanted to deal with a war.
So I was planning a war away from Alethkar, and I'm trying to decide what I'm going to do with this war. Meanwhile I have Inkthinker, Ben McSweeney, doing concept art for me to use in my pitch to Tom Doherty at Tor and he says, "Hey, I just drew up this sketch of some creature that lives at the bottom of a chasm, what do you think?" And he showed me this.
I told him that we were looking for kind of above water coral reef formations, and he sends me this brain coral, which is essentially the Shattered Plains with a big monster living at the bottom and I'm like, "Wow!" I actually did a book where this was essentially the setting. I looked at that, and that's actually what made me say, "Wait a minute, could I transpose this and would the Shattered Plains actually make more sense on Roshar than they ever did on Yolen?" I started playing with that concept and I absolutely fell in love with the idea. Unfortunately for Dragonsteel, that was the only really good plot cycle from that book.
[You can read Ben's take on this story here. That's also where we got the images, which we've used with permission. —ed]
So, I ripped it out of that book and I put it here, and that means it brought with it a few side characters who no longer live on Yolen because they now live on Roshar. Rock is one of them, though he's been changed. When he came along the Horneaters were born; they had not been in the books before. For those who have read Dragonsteel, he was Ke'Chan [a nationality, not a name. —ed] in that book. I couldn't bring that culture because that culture is extremely vital to [Dragonsteel]. I can bring a plot cycle or a little region, and there's certain things you can pull out of a book without ruining the soul of what the book is. I couldn't take the Ke'Chan out of Dragonsteel; they're just part of what that book is and so Rock had to change nationalities. I had to build him his own nationality, a new culture essentially just for him. And yeah, it worked wonderfully.
Someday I'll let you have that art, and if you remind me to ask Peter you can probably post it with the interview. As you can just see it's not the way that it ended up being because it looks different from how the Shattered Plains turned out, but it was the spark that made me say, "Let's move this over."
That's cool, so basically Inkthinker's responsible for the Shattered Plains?
Inkthinker is responsible for them moving to the new book, yes.
That's pretty cool.
What can you tell us about the Knights Radiant?
Um…what can I tell you that's not in the books?
A little more about them.
There were 10 orders of Knights Radiant. Each order was based on a combination of two of the "smaller" magic systems in this world, so to speak. You combine two of them together and they each had something kind of "their own". So if you look at the map in the front of the magic system and you mark circles that include one large circle and two of the smaller circles in between, you can find the 10 orders right on there. The mini circles are the powers and the big circles represent the orders and the essences and things like that. So one big circle, two little circles equals an order of Knights Radiant.
Please explain the arches and symbols that are seen at the beginning of each chapter and why you decided to do them.
The arches and symbols are a series of arches and symbols at the beginnings of chapters.
There's an explanation for you. They rotate and change for every chapter. What they mean should be intuitively obvious to the casual observer, as Robert Jordan used to say.
I decided to use them because I wanted to have interesting things at the start of each chapter. These were done by Isaac. I originally sat down with Isaac and said, "I want to be able to build symbols at the beginning of my chapters. Something like in The Wheel of Time, which I really like, but I don't want to imitate them, I want to go somewhere different. I want to have different pieces that interlock together that form some stonework symbol that's at the beginning of every chapter." I also told him what I wanted the symbols to mean (among other things) and he actually transmogrified all that into an archway. I had originally been planning it to be some sort of inscribed rock stamp or something like a little relief at the beginning of each chapter, but he persuaded me that an archway with a different kind of symbol in the center [would be better]. So, they became arches through Isaac's working with the art and changing things and deciding what would look good visually.
The Way of Kings has a very interesting format. Why did you decide to go with that format and what prompted you to include the interludes?
That's another excellent question. You guys are really on the ball. Uh...so, what went through my head is one worry that we have in epic fantasy. The longer the series goes, and the more characters you add, the less time you can spend with each character. This gets really frustrating. You either have the George R. R. Martin problem where he writes a book and doesn't include half of them, or you get the middle Wheel of Time problem where he will jump to each character for a brief short time and no one's plot seems to get advanced.
If you look back at Elantris, I did a lot of interesting things with form in that novel, and I wanted to try something interesting with form for this series that would in some way enhance what epic fantasy does well and de-emphasize the problems. And I thought that I could do some new things with the form of the novel that would allow me to approach that, and so I started to view the book as one main character's novel and then short novellas from other characters' viewpoints. Then I started adding these interludes because I really like when, for instance, George Martin or Tad Williams or some other authors do this. You'd jump some place and see a little character for a brief time in a cool little location, but the thing is, when most epic fantasy writers do that, that character becomes a main character and you're just adding to your list. I wanted to actually do something where I indicated to the reader that most of these are not main characters. We're showing the scope of the world without being forced to add a new plot line. And I did that is because I wanted to keep the focus on the main characters and yet I also wanted to have my cake and eat it too. I wanted to show off the interesting aspects of the world.
When you read Way of Kings Prime someday you'll see that there are six major viewpoint characters, all in different places, with all different plots, because I wanted to show off what was happening in different parts of the world. That spiraled out of control even in that one book. Keeping track of who they were because there were such large gaps between their plot lines was really problematic. Instead I condensed and made, for instance, Kaladin's and Dalinar's plots take place in the same area as Adolin's. And so, even though you have three viewpoints there the plot lines are very similar. Or, at least they're interacting with one another.
And so the interludes were a means to jump around the world. They're essentially short stories set in the world, during the book, so when you get this book, maybe you can think of it this way: Kaladin's novel with Shallan and Dalinar each having shorter novels or novelettes or novellas, with occasional, periodic jumps to short stories around the world. And then of course Kaladin's flashbacks. As we've mentioned, every book will have flashbacks from its main character to enhance the main plotline.
I'm hoping that form will do a couple things. It'll show the scope of the world without us getting too overwhelmed by characters we have to keep track of. You know when you hit interludes that you aren't going to have to pay attention to most of them. You can read and enjoy them, but you aren't going to have to remember them. How about that? You can want to pay attention but you don't have to remember them. By the end of the book, the main characters' arcs and flashbacks should have been resolved and you should have a feel of a completer story from that main character. And then we have other characters that are doing things that are essentially just starting plotlines.
In the next book, you'll get another character with a big arc and flashbacks. The major characters from previous books will still have parts and viewpoints; Kaladin will still be important in the next book but it won't be "his book". He'll get a novella-length part instead.
(Of course, they're not really novella-length because it's a 400,000 word book. Those "novellas" are actually like 70,000- or 80,000-word novels)
Will the next Stormlight Archive books have interludes as well?
Yes, all of them will have interludes.
And you will, very occasionally, revisit people in the interludes. I'll let myself have one interlude that's same between each part like we did with Szeth in this book.
Ah...Szeth's a little bit more of a main, major character, so you'll get, like, one four-parter and then you'll get what, eight just random [characters/viewpoints] around the world. And you may occasionally see those characters again, but you don't have to remember them; they're not integral to understanding the plot. They should add depth and they should be showing you some interesting things that are happening in the world while we're focused [on a few important plot lines]. I don't to travelogs in my books; my characters are not going to be sweeping across the countryside and showing you all the interesting parts of the world. I tend to set my books in a certain place and if we travel someplace, we skip the travel.
But that means the chances of us ever visiting Gavland, um...or Bavland I think I ended up naming it...
Was that the place with the grass?
Shinovar is where Szeth's from. Bavland is where Szeth is owned by the miner and things like that. I can't remember what I renamed that. Originally I called it Gavland, and then we had a Gavilar and so my editor insisted that it be changed. I think it's Bavland now.
And so the chances of us ever visiting there with a major character and a long plot are very low. But, you know, being able to show just a glimpse of Szeth there allows me to give some scope and feel to the world.
Makes it epic.
Okay, next question. How is The Way of Kings related to the rest of the cosmere? What point in time is it?
Oh, so far I have written the books/series chronologically. Though, I have skipped books...
And so there will be jumping back eventually, but Elantris, Mistborn, Warbreaker and Way of Kings all happened chronologically.
Just in general, how is it related to the rest of the cosmere? Or can you say?
I, uh...officially don't know what you're talking about.
I mean, what do you mean by "related to"?
For example, the letter...
Yes, just like the letter that I have no idea what you're talking about.
Just in general, how is Stormlight Archive related to the rest of the cosmere? Or can you say?
I will tell you that one of the novels I skipped is actually set in the same solar system.
Oh...so this is the series that that book shares.
Yes, this is the series that the book shares that I skipped. I was planning to do it first, but now was the time to do the Stormlight Archive. So you will eventually see a book set on a planet in the same solar system. You could just pick out in the sky of Roshar if you were watching when ..., and it may even get mentioned because it's a fairly close planet.
Is that on Divine Silence?
Silence Divine happens there.
What is the name of that planet?
Hmm...should I tell you?
Oh, Peter says no.
You got PAFO'd.
(laughter continues) Go ask Peter and find out.
No, it's like, Peter and not find out.
(still laughing) PANFO.
Yeah, PANFO'd, Peter and not find out. Good.
(more laughter) We just won't leave.
Yeah, so, I will tell you the name of that planet once it is out like I've told you the rest of them.
Ok, fair enough.
My burning question for Brandon is did I miss the explanation, world building moment or historical gem that explains why women have a safe hand and why they must keep it covered?
No, you haven't missed it. People have asked about this. There will be more explanation in-world as it comes along, but it's for much the same reason that in some cultures in our world you don't show people the bottoms of your feet, and in other cultures showing the top of your head is offensive. It's part of what has grown out of the Vorin culture, and there are reasons for it. One of them has to do with a famous book written by an artist who claimed that true feminine pursuits and arts were those that could be performed with one hand, while masculine arts were those performed with two hands, in a way associating delicacy with women and brute force with men. Some people in Roshar disagree with this idea, but the custom has grown out of that foundational work on masculine and feminine arts. That's where that came from. One aspect of this is that women began to paint one-handed and do things one-handed in upper, higher society. You'll notice that the lower classes don't pay a lot of attention to it—they'll just wear a glove.
As a student of human nature and of anthropology, it fascinates me how some cultures create one thing as being taboo whereas in another culture, the same thing can be very much not taboo. It's just what we do as people.
There's more to it than that, but that will stand for now.
The inside cover is beautiful. Do you plan to do something similar with every book?
We asked for colored endpages. At first Tor was hesitant; they're very expensive. We kind of begged a bit, then showed them these cool pages and talked about how great the book would be with them, and eventually Tor decided that they would go with it. One of the aspects of doing colored endpages like that is that generally you have to use the same endpages for the entire series, to offset the printing cost. So those same endpages will be in every hardcover of the series. There will be different interior art, however.
Will Kaladin (or Shallan, or any of the other characters) be going to visit the various places Kaladin saw in his dream, and if so, for extended periods of time or just short trips? I think the interludes are wonderful ways of showing other parts of the world, if I may also comment.
I'm glad you liked the interludes. One of the reasons to include them is to show parts of the world that I won't be getting to for a while, but this is an epic, and there will be characters traveling to various places you've seen. Maybe not all of them, but some places will be visited. Some for extended periods, some for shorter periods.
Are you already decide whether it's Shallan or Dalinar story for book 2 central plot? What about the tentative title?
I keep going back and forth. I'll probably have to sit down and completely write out both of their backstories--their flashback sequences--and after finishing that see which one best fits the theme and the plot of the novel, the story I'm trying to tell. So it's going to take a while to decide that, and it would require enough of my focus that I really need to do A MEMORY OF LIGHT first. So we'll know more after A MEMORY OF LIGHT is finished and I begin writing out their sequences.
Which one will you focused more in the future, the Heralds or Radiants? Will you dig deeper into each of Heralds story and some of Radiants?
I feel that I should probably RAFO this one. We are going to delve into the Radiants as orders a lot. But the Radiants as individuals? Depends on what you mean. Kaladin is well on the path toward becoming one of them, though he's not one yet, as Teft is quick to point out. So if you mean focusing on actual Knights Radiant, we'll have to see if anyone actually manages to become one.
The Heralds are integral to the entire story, which is why the Prelude focuses on them. Since someone showed up at the end of the book claiming to be one of them, I think you can obviously expect some attention to be drawn there. Who each of the Heralds are and what their natures were is important.
Is spren lost their memories and personalities because of the loss of their attached radiants? But retain a basic attraction to things associated with the radiants they bonded to previously?
Not all types of spren bonded to Radiants. You will find out more about this in the future. However, if you're speaking specifically of spren that were bonded to Radiants, then yes, you're on the right track.
Question. When writing TWoK, did you write the story lines individually & then weave them together (e.g. Place the chapters as desired.), after the fact? Or did you write the book generally in the order that we see the end result?
I wrote the parts by viewpoint. Meaning that for Part One, I wrote Kaladin straight through and then Shallan straight through. And then I switched for Part Two and wrote Dalinar and Kaladin, and then I switched back. So I did write the storylines individually by viewpoint, but in sections by part.
I really like the dialogs between Jasnah and Shallon, convering sometimes atheism, god, blind faith, etc.
Are you going to expand on these philosophical topics? Will it play a larger part in the plot?
I really enjoyed these moments and hope to see more of them
I'm glad you liked them. These questions are very important to Shallan and Jasnah and to an extent other characters such as Dalinar, so you will indeed see much more of this. I wouldn't include it if it weren't very important to the characters. And what's important to the characters has a strong influence on what's important to the plot.
If what happens at the end of Part Five with Dalinar is to be believed, then there is a very interesting theological conundrum to this world. Something claiming to be God claims also that it has been killed. Which then in some ways leaves someone who is atheist right, and yet at the same time wrong. When Jasnah and Dalinar meet, you can expect some discussion of what it means to be atheist if there was a God and God is now dead. Or will she say that obviously wasn't God? Those circles of thought are very fascinating to me and to the characters.
Just a nagging question: What happened to Gaz? After some character development he just vanishes in chapter 59 without further explanation. Will he be back on the next books?
I'm planning for you to find out what happened to Gaz. There are sufficient clues that you can guess. But it is not explicitly stated, and I'm not going to say it's as obvious as Robert Jordan implied Asmodean's killer is. I was tempted to spell it out explicitly, but there wasn't a good place for it. I will probably answer it eventually, maybe in the next book, but until then you are free to theorize.
Your sidekick characters (Nightblood, TenSoon in WoA and Syl) are always interesting, sometimes more so than side characters. Is this planned out or does it just happen? Do you control their lines more than other characters? (I really liked Syl's personality if that wasn't clear.)
Thank you. That is partially intentional. One of the aspects of writing characters like them is that if we're not going to get viewpoints from them, their personality has to be strong enough to manifest externally. Which tends to have an effect, if it's not done well--or sometimes even if it is done well--of making them feel one-sided. In some ways I play this up; for instance Nightblood really is one-sided because of the way his personality works, the way he was crafted. He's a construct, and he has a main focus.
So with someone like Syl, I really wanted to bring out a lot of personality in her dialogue so that we could characterize her without having any of the internal thoughts and monologue and emotions that I sometimes instill in other characters. But Syl also was meant to be a vibrant splash of color in Kaladin's sometimes dreary viewpoints. Because of that, I really needed her to just pop off the page. So it was done intentionally.
I felt the illustrations added a lot to the book physically and to the story. Will there be more in book two and so on if you have your way or was it a one book experiment?
I'm glad you like what the illustrations added to the book and the story. I plan future volumes to have more of them.
Can a Herald's blade/equipment be um....adopted? I only ask because Dalinar seems to be lacking one and that Herald at the end did kick the bucket in his capital and he's gonna need more than armor when Szeth shows up.
Someone who is not himself or herself a Herald can indeed use one of the Honorblades.
Does the scene where Shallan is counting heartbeats mean what I think it means? It just kind of strange to imagine her carrying around of of those but then again she does like secrets.
It means what you think it means.
Will there be flashbacks for a different character in this next book?
Yes. Each book will explore a different character in flashbacks, though Kaladin will also end up getting another book with flashbacks of his sometime down the line.
Was Syl's appearance and behavior caused by Kaladin giving up his shardblade?
It was a major fundamental factor in what happened between them.
Will Hoid be a major player in all, most, or only some of these books?
He should have as large a role in other books as he had in this one, for the most part.
1. Are Kaladin's parents still alive, and if so, are they actually mad at him?
2. Do dead parshmen turn into Chasmfieds?
3. What is the dark-glowing sphere?
4. What did Szeth do to become a Truthless, and is there anything else involved in being a Truthless that we haven't seen?"
1. Yes, they are still alive. RAFO.
3. Major big RAFO.
4. Szeth was perceived as betraying his people in a fundamental way, and you will learn more about that when his book comes along.
5. Is Hoid a Herald, or a Shardholder, or something else entirely.
6. Was the letter posted on the top of chapters to Sazed?
7. Barring the Almighty, did we seen a Shardholder (like Sazed) in this book?
5. Hoid is something else entirely.
6. It is written to a character who exists outside of Roshar. I won't yet say who.
7. I think "Shardholder" would get confusing alongside "Shardbearer." Basically, in the Cosmere's terms, when someone holds a Shard of Adonalsium, I call that person a Shard of Adonalsium. They are imbued with the power of that Shard, but they also become the Shard. Fans can use whatever terminology they wish, but this is how I term it.
You did at least see the direct effects of two of the Shards of Adonalsium, but I won't say whether or not you actually saw a Shard of Adonalsium.
I've read somewhere (probably your blog) that the Way of Kings will be made into ten parts. My question is this: Is it ten individual books, or really just ten parts? I notice that the first book had several parts in it so I was just curious.
Ten individual books.
The Way of Kings is certainly a great first book of a series. It does, however, leave one hungry for more. What's the best guess on when for #2? And does it have a name?
I'll try to write it so it can be published in late 2012, but it really depends on how long it takes to write A Memory of Light, since I won't start until after that is finished. As for the title, if it ends up being a Dalinar book it will be titled Highprince of War, but if it ends up a Shallan book it will have a different title.
Do Szeth and Kaladin both belong to the same order of knights radiant?
Szeth isn't actually in an order of Knights Radiant. Something different is happening with Szeth that people have already begun to guess. And Kaladin isn't yet a Knight Radiant, but the powers he uses are those of the Windrunners, one of the orders of the Knights Radiant. Szeth is using the same power set. So your phrasing is accurate to that extent.
The Stormlight archive is a very big book. Do you have plans of including a glossary that's more expansive than the ars arcanum?
If I do make a glossary, it will probably be on my website. Perhaps I'll be able to slip in a longer glossary into future books. The problem is that the first book is already so long, as you said. I just don't have the pages for it now. As the series expands, maybe.
The thing is, I've always partially liked a glossary and partially not liked them, because as series get longer and longer, you have to make decisions about what to include and what not to include. Using the glossary in the backs of the Wheel of Time books is somewhat bittersweet because it only covers around one percent of the things you'd want to be in there. So in some ways it's become irrelevant, because most of the things you'll want to look up are not going to be there. It seems like it served its purpose best in the early to middle books, but now if you really want to know you've got to go to Encyclopedia WoT or a similar site. So maybe we'll just do an online glossary or send people to one of the fan-created wikis.
Has Kaladin's windspren Syl reached the epitome of her consciousness or will we see a smarter spren in future books?
Syl has recovered everything of her personality. There are things she doesn't remember, and things she can still learn to do, but she has recovered her personality in full.
I keep hearing about the great art in the book, but I listened to the audio version. Is the art available to view online?
It's not currently online. I need to bug my assistant to put the art on my website.
Yes and no. The concept of the "Almighty" in Roshar has a lot of meanings, many of them wrong.
But the person who held the Shard Honor was originally named Tanavast?
Yes. You wiggled it out of me. That was the name of the original holder of the Shard Honor
"How is a Splinter different from a Sliver?
"Let me see... You have met splinters in Elantris, Warbreaker, and in Way of Kings. You have not met them in Mistborn."
"I feel like we know that. So, qualitatively, what's the difference?"
"Qualitatively, they're reverses of one another. A Sliver is a human intelligence who has held the power and released it. A Splinter has never been human."
"But it derives from a Shard's power."
"Yes. That's not it completely, but there's at least something to think about."
What is your favorite book you've written?
Favorite is hard to pin down. I'm most proud of either The Gathering Storm or The Way of Kings, as they were among the hardest and most satisfying.
Is the recipient of the letter in Way of Kings also in Dragonsteel?
Yes. (Good question.)
If so would it be the person that Topaz gets mad at?
RAFO on the second one. I've already given you too much!
Another question, do you think you'll eventually publish a "The World of Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere"?
Probably. Though first, we'd probably do The Way of Kings and Mistborn worldbooks.
Loved Way of Kings; can you say where shardblades go when not summoned or is it a RAFO?
It is RAFO, but one that will be answered for sure.
Someone asked if it were hard to write Jasnah, an atheist character, for a devout Christian.
Brandon said he read a lot of atheist message boards for inspiration. Also, it sounded like he'd had the character in his head for a while, but hadn't found the right book to put it in—e.g. he said it would make no sense to put an atheist in a world where gods walk around (i.e. Warbreaker).
This is a big one and I hadn't heard any of this before. A girl asked what was up with Taravangian, since it seemed a rough break between the tottering old man and the scheming mastermind that Szeth meets at the end.
The answer is quite surprising. Brandon said that Taravangian used the Old Magic, and that he wakes up each day with a different IQ. Sometimes he's a genius, sometimes he's an idiot. So what he does is he writes up math puzzles for himself in the evening, and if he cannot get a certain score in the morning the guards have orders to just take care of him and keep him away from important decisions for that day. That way he keeps his effect (personal speculation, it could be his curse, but also his boon if e.g. he asked for intelligence and only got it part-time) under control.
There was more, but I can't really remember anything major. Finally, I came up and got to ask my questions. Since I started the thread about outposts and stone bridges, I felt like getting some input there.
Brandon told me that single highprinces could not erect outposts because due to the superior mobility of the Parshendi—they would overwhelm any small outpost quickly. Soulcasting stone bridges is also not plausible. Apparently, they would need to first get the wooden bridge out there, then soulcast it and then, since the stone is heavier than the wood, they would have to reinforce it, e.g. with ropes. These could then be cut by the Parshendi, so it would not help at all. Dalinar with his mobile bridges is on a better track in his opinion. He did say however that several highprinces working together could easily establish outposts in the Plains. He said the competitive nature of the Alethi was doing them a huge disservice in the war and that if they would work together, they could have taken the Plains long ago.
So you must be (of) the guys that asked me about my question about Axies the Creator:
I asked if Axies could regrow limbs, and he stated that he could do 'some interesting things', and that the two species of Aimian (whom Axies is of) each do different interesting things.
This post is for anything info that was gleaned at the recent signing at Forbidden Planet in London.
To start with, The question i asked him was, 'Is Shalash the lady smashing up the art in The Way of Kings?'
He was apprehensive to say it out loud, but he wrote in my copy of Alloy of Law 'Shalash appears in The Way of Kings'! I shall get a scan of that once i am able, and ill put it up in here. He also said to me 'you'd be surprised at how many of the Heralds appear in the book', so i guess another re-read is in order!
The Stormlight Archive is going to be in two 5-book arcs; will there be a big gap between these (story time wise)?
He said there would be a small gap, nothing as big as Mistborn and Alloy of Law, but it would be there.
I made a comment about the role mythology plays in WoT, and if Brandon was planning on using any real world mythological parallels for the Stormlight Archive.
No, he said that while they play a huge role in WoT, that if he were to include mythological parallels in Stormlight, that they would be parallels of Roshar's own mythology. (So perhaps were going to see Kaladin/Dalinar paralleling the Heralds?)
Concerning the Radiants' shardplates, and the glyphs on them that Dalinar had never seen before, is there any relation to these and the AonDor? Could they perhaps act as an added focus?
From what I recall, he didn't really give a definitive answer on this one, but he seemed as if we were in the right direction.
Asked him for more info on what he meant when he said that Stormlight will be organized as two 5-book series within the total 10 books.
Understandably he didn't want to give much away, he wouldn't say if there would be a time skip or not. He did tell me that there would be a large change in tone between books 1-5 and 6-10. Also, he said that since book 2 is now going to be Shallan's, he wants Dalinar's book to be number 5. He then talked about how the 5 characters that were introduced in depth in Way of Kings would be the the 5 flashback characters for the first 5 books and the others would be more focused on in the final 5 books.
The Alloy of Law left me wanting more books in the universe right away. Any hints as to when we might get to see the next trilogy?
My current plan is to hold out on the second trilogy until I've reached a breaking point in the Stormlight Archive. (So after book five.) My reasoning is that the second trilogy is very involved, and I'm not certain if I want two thick-booked series going at once. There is a good chance I'll return and do another shorter book, like this one, in the world before then. Either about Wax, or perhaps a quick glimpse of the southern continent.
That's awesome! I really enjoyed both worlds, but right now the Stormlight Archive is the one that got me totally hooked. How was the reception for the first Stormlight compared to Alloy of Law? :)
I would say the reception is about what I hoped. The Way of Kings has made much more of an impact, as I would hope would be the case. A book that is the result of many years of effort compared to a fun diversion...well, I would be worried if Alloy of Law had been the one everyone latched onto.
That said, I've been very pleased with the reception to Alloy of Law. The sales are strong, and most people seem to be enjoying it for what it is rather than expecting it to be something it is not.
How long before Way of Kings is Alloy of Law? I heard somewhere that it's a hundred years, but I don't think that's right.
I intended them to be happening roughly close to one another, with Way of Kings slightly before.
That is correct; it's going to be ten books. Ten is a holy number in the series. It's related to the Order of Knights Radiant and the number of magic systems and things like this. So ten books.
Is the 1000-page format something that's going to continue throughout the series?
Each of the books will be medium long. I'm not sure...you know, I can't tell you exactly how long they will be. Instinctively, looking at my outline, I feel that the first is probably one of the longest in the series, which is a bad way to do it, honestly. You really want to have the first ones be the quick pow, and the middle ones get to be the thick, meaty ones. But I'm expecting... This one was about 400,000 words; I'm expecting them all to be around 300,000 words. There may be some that go a little bit longer. It'll depend on the book and how many characters I decide to deal with in that book, and the plot structure of the books.
That's an excellent question—somebody's been reading my mind. First, I do want to say, thank you, guys, all, for reading the books; thank you for all you're doing supporting me as a writer. With this series, one of things I wanted to approach was...both of those concepts, actually. A lot of fantasy has the feel of magic's going away. Magic is dying. This goes back to Tolkien, with the idea that, you know, the elves are leaving and magic is going to leave the world, and that's always made me a little bit sad, that these books have this theme. And so I did want to write a book about the return of magic. But beyond that, I'm very fascinated with technology, and the development of technology, particularly as it relates to magic. And so this series is about the rediscovery of magic and how magic interacts with science, and the treating of magic in a scientific way on a large scale. You know, you see that in each of my books, with magic being treated scientifically, but I really wanted to do it in a way that changes the lives of everyone. The common people—magic changes their lives as much as technology changed the lives of the common people in the technological revolution we went under. And so that's what I'm going to try to approach in these books.
You have met almost all of them. Let me do a count... Let's see. The main characters in the book areï¿½in the seriesï¿½Kaladin, and Dalinar, Adolin, Jasnah, Shallan, and Navani, whom you all met in this book and most of them had viewpoints. Szeth, Taravangian, and Taln. And one of the other Heralds; I'm not going to tell you who that is. But I think you've met...you have, I'm sure, met that person; I know he's in there. And so, I think you've met them all, basically. Taln is the person who shows up in the epilogue.
Why are so many Alethi point of views used as opposed to others? This was basically one of the changes I made as I was working on the series. I originally had planned to show all of these viewpoints, from all across the world, and I found that, when...the original time I tried this book, that since people's plots weren't interwoven together, the book was very difficult to read. Because people weren't connected to one another, emotionally and spiritually. And so because of that, when I rewrote the book, when I started again, I made sure to put Dalinar and Kaladin and Adolin in proximity of one another. So that this story...their stories would play off of each other. And so you would have a consistent storyline.
That said, we do have...you know, those three are all Alethi. But Shallan is not, and Szeth is not. And those two have fairly significant parts in this book. Most of the characters will be Alethi for that reason, that their stories are tied together. But you will....see, this is one of the reasons why, with this book, once I pulled everything back and was telling Alethi stories, I felt I needed to show the breadth of the world, and that's where the interludes came from, was me wanting to jump around the world and show all these different other characters and cultures, but shown in bite-sized portions so you didn't get overwhelmed with all of these different characters, that you knew when you go to an interlude, you can read this person and then you can kind of forget about them. You don't have to follow who they are, because they're there to show you the breadth of the world and what's going on, but not necessarily to show you...to go on a big distracting tangent.
I see. Excellent.
This was all me. In fact, the publisher was kind of skeptical, because it's not something you see in epic fantasy. And publishers, you know, they have this weird sort of mix inside of them—they want to do what's been successful in the past. And yet, unless you innovate a little bit, you won't continue to be successful. And that's a hard balance. And to Tor's credit, they decided that what I was pitching on this book with all these illustrations was in the right direction. That it would be evolving, and it would help with the sense of immersion, rather than fight against it. But they really worried it would feel like a graphic novel. There's nothing wrong with graphic novels, but we don't want the audience to get the wrong opinion of the story.
And one thing I was very careful to do is I don't illustrate the characters. I want the characters to be how you imagine them, and I don't want to give you a picture of them. So these illustrations I really wanted to be in-world illustrations done by someone...done by Shallan. And this was something I've wanted to do for a while, and I felt was integral and important to the book. And that without it, the book wouldn't work as well because Roshar is a pretty weird place. It's got some pretty bizarre feelings to it, and I wanted to give some illustrations to help the reader get a real sense this is a real place. So that was me. I'm glad that people are enjoying them; we did dedicate quite a bit of work making them all come across—there are four illustrators that worked on the book. And so...yeah.
Yes. I certainly would. If I were far enough along in it. If happened tomorrow, it were only one book in. At that point, I'd say, "You know what? Scrap the project. Don't make people... You know, don't..." I don't have enough notoriety for it to happen. But let's say I got seven books in and there were three books left. At that point I would say, "Definitely, it needs to be finished." I do keep very good notes. And so, basically, I would trust my editor to find somebody, and I would want them to work very closely with my assistant Peter who has known me for many years and is very... He's the one that knows the most about my books and my worlds, aside from myself. And there are lots of very talented authors. There are plenty of authors who are even more talented, you know...more talented than I am, certainly. Plenty of authors. And so, finding the right one, I would leave that up to editors and people like that. I mean, most people that I would want, that I would pick, are too popular in their own right to want to go write this dopey guy's books. I think Brent Weeks and I write very similarly, and I think he would be a fantastic choice, but there are plenty of authors out there that I think could do the job if I left the right notes.
Thank you. Again, a great answer there by Brandon.
I dislike double posting, but I have one question that came up recently from your tweet. You said that there are "multiple" people from Mistborn in WoK. Does this include Hoid?
Yes, it does.
Are they just vague allusions?
Vague, no. But I wouldn't say they, save Hoid, have any important impact on the events of the book.
Wait, are Mistborn and Stormlight Archive somehow connected?
Multiple people from Mistborn appeared in The Way of Kings.
You have said before that all the planets had their names before the arrival of the Shards. Is Roshar the planet's name before the Shards arrived?
How do the Roshar natives know the name of the Cosmere?
You have said previously that the Stormlight Archive will include Lightweaving. Is that still the plan?
Have we seen a Roshar native in The Way of Kings who can use Lightweaving?
Yes, we have seen someone who has potential.
He seemed to be trying to say that they didn't know that they can use it.
How many Heralds appear in The Way of Kings
More than you might expect. Some have appeared, some have been mentioned but not appeared.
Choosing the next project is a balance between the promises I've made to readers and the best way to channel my creativity. I stay fresh by jumping between projects; it's the way I've (for better or worse) trained myself. And so I always have a lot of ideas, and there are a lot of things I've worked on.
One thing to keep in mind with me is that, because of the way I work, some of these things just don't end up turning out. They aren't good enough for publication, at least in their current state, so I shelve them. Imagine it like the B-sides of an album. The band may do a lot of playing, jamming, and recording—and then they pick the very best to present to their listeners.
In the case of the books mentioned above, Liar turned out poorly enough on the first go-around that it's shelved indefinitely. I'm not sure how I stand on The King's Necromancer yet, and White Sand is unlikely to be in good shape for many years. Scribbler (one you didn't mention) turned out great, and you'll probably see it in the near future.
As for sequels to books that are half-promised, we'll see. Something like Nightblood (where there is a potential sequel, but the story of the book was wrapped up and told strongly, I feel) is less urgent than something like the rest of the Stormlight Archive (which is a single story, told across many books.) In the case of Stormlight, I've made a stronger promise to readers, one I feel the need to fulfill.
Of course, the question you asked is how I keep them all straight. Lots of notes mixed with quirks of the way my brain works.
I like it when my characters live on in people's minds. I have no plans right now to write any more books about Spook or Breeze, though what they do in the next period of time will create the history for the next series. However, there's a chance I'll change my mind on this. However, this ending was not set up for another book specifically. I just wanted to tell the best ending I could, and this is how it turned out.
Brandon does want to write more Mistborn books, but not with the same characters. There would be two more trilogies. The second trilogy would be set a few hundred years later, in a modern day–type setting, when the events of the first trilogy have passed into legend. The third trilogy would be set a few more hundred years later, in a future, outer space–type setting.
It's such an audacious idea I wish he would write it right now because I want to read it, especially the third trilogy. But Brandon has announced his next project (pending Tor approval) will be Way of Kings, a 10-volume epic fantasy. He'll sprinkle in a book from another project here and there, so the next Mistborn trilogy might start before Way of Kings is ended, but it will be years yet before there is any more Mistborn.
But Ookla, he already wrote that one!
I know. :)
The real story is that Brandon was writing (or revising?) Way of Kings when Tor offered to buy Elantris. Brandon signed a two-book contract for Elantris and Way of Kings. Then Brandon realized he wasn't in the point in his career yet where he could write Way of Kings the way he wanted to, so while he was supposed to be revising Way of Kings he secretly wrote the first Mistborn book instead, which he then sold to Tor as a trilogy, replacing Way of Kings in the original contract.
But for some reason Amazon already had a listing for Way of Kings, with a release date. Thence the fake reviews.
I've read an early draft of the first book, and it aims to be very epic. (No, Elvis is not involved.) I do wonder, though, whether when it actually comes out, the fake reviews will get attached to its Amazon listing. :)
This is all true. Note that the book would not be named The Way of Kings. Most likely, I'm going to make that the series name. So I guess the book "The Way of Kings" must be some kind of parallel novel or prequel or something... ;)
Oathshards is out, eh?
You're such a tease, Brandon. All these details about the next series will make everyone hungry for it, and then we'll all have to wait.
Of course, any other book you put out in the meantime will still be awesome, so we should be content, right?
I don't think Oathshards is as strong a name as "The Way of Kings." Plus, that's really what the series is about.
This essay I just posted:
Started as a blog post for this thread, talking about the old books I wrote to give context to my previous post. It outgrew the length of a proper forum post, so I put it on the site instead. But this might help you understand some of my history as a writer, not to mention explain the origin of all these old books Ookla that references all the time.
I remembered a thread from ages ago in which Brandon posted a list of the books he'd written, I looked it up when I realised it wasn't in the article, and I figured you guys might be interested too, so here it is.
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy
8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)
13) The Way of Kings (Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)
16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Unfinished. Coming late 2007)
18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)
19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)
Thanks for posting that. Note that I can never quite remember which was first, Aether or Mistborn Prime. I always feel that Aether should be first, since it wasn't as bad as the two primes, but thinking back I think that the essay is more accurate and I wrote it between them.
This would be the new list:
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (First Published)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic, other than the not-very-good Final Empire prime.)
8 ) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt, turned out much better.)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
13) The Way of Kings Prime (Fantasy War epic.)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Came out 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Came out 2007)
16) Alcatraz Verus the Evil Librarians (Came out 2007)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Came out 2008)
18) Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Came out 2008)
19) Warbreaker (Comes out June 2009)
20) Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia (November 2009ish)
21) A Memory of Light (November 2009ish. Working on it now. Might be split into two.)
22) The Way of Kings Book One (2010ish. Not started yet.)
23) Alcatraz Four (2010. Not started yet)
Will elements of your untitled Aether project be worked into the Dragonsteel series?
The Silence Divine (Working title. Stand alone Epic Fantasy. Unwritten.)These titles are news to me. You described two potential YA or middle-grade books to me and Karen when you came out to Book Expo, plus Dark One, but now I can't remember the plots except they were cool (and that one of them involved superheroes). Are they among this list? Also, is that really Harbringer or is it supposed to be Harbinger?
Steelheart (YA Science Fiction. Unwritten)
I Hate Dragons (Middle Grade fantasy. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Zek Harbringer, Destroyer of Worlds (Middle Grade Sf. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Bah! That's what I get for typing so quickly. Yes, Harbinger. It should be "Zeek" too. Short for Ezekiel.
Steelheart would be the superhero one, though that's a working title, since I'm not sure if it's trademarked or not. Haven't had much time for thinking about any of these books lately.
Brandon, here you said Alcatraz 4 is called Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent; is that still the working title? Also, you mentioned Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens, but now you say The Liar of Partinel is a standalone. Change of plans? (I know you can't get back to Dragonsteel for a while.)
The Alcatraz titles are in flux because I need to know if Scholastic wants the fifth one or not. (They only bought four.) Dark Talent will be one of them for certain.
The Liar of Partinel was part of a two-part story told hundreds of years before the Dragonsteel epic. However, since I've dropped plans to go with Liar anytime soon—A Memory of Light has priority, followed by Way of Kings—I don't know what I'll end up doing with the second book, or if I'll ever even write it. I was planning on not calling either of these "Dragonsteel" in print, actually, and just letting people connect the two series on their own. It wouldn't be hard to do, but I didn't want the first actual book in the main storyline to be launched by Tor as "Book Three" since there would be such a large gap of time.
Ok, fair enough. Do you have a scene you enjoyed more than the rest, and on the flip side, was their something that you did not enjoy?
I will say that I really loved doing all the interludes because they gave me a sense, when I was writing this book, of jumping to something new, which is part of what kept me going in all of this. Are they my favorite scenes in the book? No, but they were probably my favorite to write because it's like I get to take a break and write something whacky and looney, so to speak.
Hmm…is there anything that was harder? You know, revisions are always hard. In the next to last draft I changed Dalinar's arc very substantially, and that was a hard write. And, you know, Adolin was not originally a viewpoint character, so there was a lot of hard writing there. So, poor Adolin probably gets the badge for hardest to write. Not because he as a character was hard to write but because I was having to repurpose scenes and toss out scenes and rewrite them with Adolin as the viewpoint character and so on to add just a little more dimension to Dalinar's plot arc.
You hired four artists to contribute to this book…
…and had their artwork included in the book. Why did you decide to do this?
When I say four artists I am including Michael Whelan whom I didn't hire, the company commissioned, so we really have three interior artists and then Michael Whelan who did the beautiful cover. Again, I wanted to use the form of this novel to try and enhance what epic fantasy can do, and downplay the things that are tough about it. One of the tough things about epic fantasy is the learning curve. How much you have to learn a pay attention to, how many things there are to just know. I felt that occasional illustrations could really help with that. For instance, how Shallan's sketch book, or uses of multiples maps, could give us a visual component to the book. You know, pictures really are worth a thousand words. You can have on that page something that shows a creature much better than I can describe it. And so I felt that that would help deemphasize the problem of the learning curve, while at the same time helping to make this world real. Epic fantasy is about immersion, and I wanted to make this world real since that's one of the great things we can do with epic fantasy. We've got the space and the room to just build a completely real world, and I felt that the art would allow me to do that, which is why I decided to do "in world" art.
I didn't want to take this toward a graphic novel. I like graphic novels but it wasn't appropriate here to do illustrations of the scenes and characters from the books, because I don't want to tell you what they look like. I want that to be up to your own imagination. And so we wanted that "in world" ephemera feel to it, as though it were some piece of art that you found in the world and included.
I think it goes back to Tolkien. There's a map in The Hobbit, and that map isn't just a random map, which has become almost a cliché of fantasy books, and of epic fantasy. "Oh, of course there's a random map in the front!" Well [Tolkien] wanted you to think this map was the actual map the characters carried around and that's why he included it. He wrote his books as if he were the archivist putting them together and translating them and bringing them to you, this wonderful story from another world, and he included the map because the map was there with the notes. That's what I wanted the feel for this ephemera to be. As though whoever's been writing the Ars Arcanum for all of the books has collected this book together, done the translation and included pieces of art and maps and things that they found in the world that had been collected during these events, and that's what you're getting.
Is Cultivation a Shard on Roshar?
Yes, Cultivation is. (very inquisitively) Where did you get that word?
It's in the book.
Is it in the book? Okay.
It's mentioned once.
Okay, one of the Shards from Roshar is Cultivation.
Firstly he read from his novella, Legion, which is out in November [I think??]. It's about a genius whose genius manifests in the form of hallucinations. Basically whenever this guy studies anything, he creates a hallucinatory expert that retains the full extent of all this knowledge like a repository, and it is with his 'legion' of hallucinatory experts that his full genius and ability comes from.
On the second day he read from a new novel set in the Elantris world (though in a whole different part of the world, with completely new characters (barring, of course, Hoid)). I didn’t write it down, but the title was something like 'Soul of the Dragon Emperor'. The magic system involves Forgers, people who can through study and understanding something’s past, forge a soulseal which can change that past so long as it is touching the thing itself. So a Forger could look at an old and battered table, and by studying it—understanding where the wood came from, where the polish came from, so forth—they could then create a soulseal that says the table has been lovingly and carefully cared for, and so long as that seal is laid into the table, the table will no longer be battered and old, but perfectly polished. This is the gist of the plot as well, that something has happened to the Emperor and a talents Forger who works as a thief is supposed to Forge the Emperor’s soul so that it appears as if nothing has happened.
Other than that the only other thing I have in my notes is that Shallan is to be the Stormlight 2 Flashback character.
I was wondering if you could only write in one universe from now on, what would you pick?
Well you gave me an out, because so many of my books are in the same universe.*laughter*
You know, I thought you might say that.
So that, I could cheat and just say the cosmere, but I think the soul of the question is which series would I write on.
I would probably have to -boy- it would probably be a toss up between Mistborn and the Stormlight archive, Mistborn because I've invested so much into it already. If I can only pick one I would probably pick Stormlight because there is so much left to tell there and I've got a lot of places to explore, but I would cheat and say they're all in the same universe.
1.Are there any other sentient spren like Syl, if not are there any Spren capable of becoming sentient or is she purposefully unique?
2.If so, what are the conditions that must be met for a spren to become sentient?
1. There are other sentient spren.
2. There are many more who could become sentient, there were choices that were made that we will get into that were made by some spren that, that involved-
There were certain choices that were made that influenced this, so yes, that was a very detailed and specific question, you did a good job and so I will give you your answer that there are others like Syl that could become and there are some that are sentient already
Would that also mean that certain spren had an alignment or would some spren be catered toward good or evil or not?
They're creatures of nature and so good and evil aren't as, as big a deal to them. There are some that may be put in that sort of alignments, certainly honorspren are going to be of a certain type, but there are many spren of many different temperaments and they are kind of aligned to their temperament, having to do with who they are and what they are.
So my question is, you're planning the Stormlight Archives as this big long ten book series and I think that obviously look at your work with the Wheel of Time the other big long epic series one of the issues that at least some fans perceive is that these series are at least perceived to sag or at least slow down at some point in the middle, people start to get very bogged down and it takes years for the next one to come out, is that something you're considering for your structuring of the Stormlight archives and what are you trying to do to address that?
Excellent question, it is actually something that I've very consciously thought about when designing this story. One of the reasons that I didn't release the Way of Kings when I wrote it back in 2002 is that I hadn't figured out this problem yet, and it's one of the reasons that I shelved the book and re-wrote it from scratch back a couple of years ago.
I really was conscious of it because I have an advantage over authors like George Martin and Robert Jordan, who have had these kinds of accusations levelled at them, in that I've read them! I've read Robert Jordan, and I can see he's kind of pushed his way in the snow for some of us to fall behind and see some of the things that he did even after he said "Boy, I think I might have done that differently." We can learn from that.
What I'm trying to do is -first off the Stormlight archive is divided in my head into 2 five book series, it is a 10 booker but it is divided into two big five book sequences. I do think that will give me more of a vision of a beginning, middle, and end for each of the sequences.
The other thing I'm doing is I consciously did some little thing in the books. One of the reasons we end up with sprawl in epic fantasy series is I think writers start writing side characters and getting really interested in them. The side characters are awesome, they let you see the breadth of the world and dabble in different places, so what I did is I let myself have the interludes in the Way of Kings (I will continue to do those in the future books) and I told myself I can write those interludes but those characters can't become main characters, those characters have to be just glimpses.
The other main thing that I'm doing is that each book in the Stormlight Archives is focused on a character that character gets flashbacks and we get into the back-story and that gives me a beginning middle and end and a thematic way to tie that story together, specifically to that character, which i hope will make each chara- each book feel more individual.
That's another part of the problem with the big long series; they start to blend. If the author starts to view some of them as blending then you stop having big climaxes at the ends of some of them and view them too blended together. This isn't a problem when the series is finished, I think that when the Wheel of Time can be read beginning to end straight through, a lot of this worry about middle-meandering is going to go away because you can see it as a whole. But certainly while you're releasing it, you get just these little glimpses that feel so short.
I feel that if I can take each book and apply it to one character give a deep flashback for each one and thematically tie it to them, each book will have its own identity and hopefully will avoid some of that. That's my goal, who knows if I'll be able to pull it off but it is my intention.
You seem to be pulling it off so far Brandon
Well I only have one book yet! I mean none of these, none of these series- they all started with great first books, in fact I feel that a lot of them are great all the way through but the sprawl issue doesn't usually start to hit til around book four is really where the, where the problems show up.
Going back to the Way of Kings, as you said you wrote that, 2002 then you shelved it. So that's, like you give it an introduction you say it's over ten years of planning and through that, a lot of the planning on a series like that is also world building and so on, but the next book you said you want to get through as quickly as possible, do you think it'll have an impact on the -not on the quality of the book, but on the type of book? In the sense, the Way of Kings took ten years and the new one, less. What do you think?
I'm hoping it won't. I will have to see when I write it, I'm certainly hoping that I don't have to write it and then shelve it for ten years; I think people would be very angry with me. If it's the right move, I'll do it but I think I would have major outcries. My instincts - over the years I've developed pretty good instincts for when a book is going to work and when it is going to be a rougher write and I will know very quickly once I start if it's working or not. I'll be upfront with people as I write it about that. My instincts right now are very good for it, I'm kind of chomping at the bit. There are many parts of the original Way of Kings that that I didn't end up getting to in the new one, because it wasn't time for them yet. So there's still stuff floating from that book that is still going to be part of the future books.
In reading the Way of Kings a very Ben Hur vibe can be felt from Kaladin., was this intentional and what other genres were your inspiration?
I wouldn’t say that I was specifically shooting for that vibe, certainly I am influenced by all the things around me, I was just looking to tell a really great story, and this is the story that came out. It was Kaladin's story in specific, it was - the genesis of the story was actually the Shattered Plains themselves, the area. I write fantasy and one of the reasons that I write fantasy is I want to tell stories about places that don’t exist, that maybe couldn’t exist in our world and so the geography of the shattered plains is sort of what appealed to me. I’d actually been planning this for many years and extrapolated from there, how would warfare be like in this place and then I extrapolated from there, what are they going to need, what types of troops. And Kaladin as a person was growing separately, and I just wanted the best place to put in- the place of most conflict and it ended up being that.
Plot-wise to be perfectly honest I was looking more at- when I was building this plot- underdog sports narratives. To be perfectly honest, I like to, when I look for inspiration in plotting sequences I like to look far afield to try and take things and pull them into my books so that we aren’t getting some of the same repeated dealings over and over again. But certainly historical works like the ones you mentioned are a big part of my make up as well.
Was Kaladin supposed to be Originally with the bridge crew or was that something that just built from while you were writing?
It’s actually built at the planning, it was not originally, in fact I did an entire draft of the Way of Kings, in 2003, so seven years ago, the version of the Way of Kings I wrote then didn’t have him as a member of the bridge crews at all. In fact the Shattered Plains weren’t even in Roshar at that point. They were something I’d been developing for another series and when it came time to do this version of this draft I hadn’t exactly been pleased with the one I wrote in 2003, I wanted to do the book again, actually tossed all that and started from scratch.
I was looking for a really strong visual setting location for Kaladin's story to take place. I was building him separately as the soldier, and the surgeon, with both two sides of him warring within him at this part. This part of this book for me is about the contrast between the sides of, different sides of people, people who have different things pulling on their insides trying to wreck them, so I was looking for a great setting location and the Shattered Plains through various- actually doing artwork, some of the concept art for the world. I was working with an artist, just to give myself a better visual handle on things. The Shattered Plains appealed to me, it worked and so I built it in and it all kinda came together.
I'm sorry I don't have more specific WoT posts for you—I know that Harriet prefers me to be more closed-mouthed. However...
Maria from Team Jordan has finished her revision notes for the entire book, as has Harriet herself. So we're only waiting on Alan's notes.
As he's playing "Great Captain" for me on A Memory of Light, his notes are vital—and he needs to be detailed. When I get them, I can finish revising.
Sooooo...there might be a sooner release date than the current for January?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely.
Darn, I need to haste to be ready for A Memory of Light once it releases. Is there gonna be a ebook version along with the physical book?
(Winces.) Harriet has a distrust of ebooks; she prefers to delay the release. It is her call. (Ebook is a few months later.)
Do we have chapter names yet? Or do you know how many chapters there will be? Or is that a secret?
No chapter names yet, as it won't be until this draft is finished that I settle on the number of chapters. Some are being combined.
I'm truly hoping this book is 1/3 battles/fights.
More than 1/3, I'd say...
Forgive me for not understanding, but what does this mean? Release date's not going to change, is it?
Probably not. It's just a progress update, so people know things are still moving behind-the-scenes.
How's The Stormlight Archive coming? I need more.
A Memory of Light comes first. I will get to the next Stormlight book soon, but not until A Memory of Light is done to my satisfaction.
So this means we will be reading the final volume sooner than first announced?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely. I still need to do two drafts, I feel. Then there are beta reads, then proofreads, then we need at least two months to get the books printed and shipped.
What does it take to be one of the beta readers?
Be one of the major members of fandom for years, and personally know Harriet. (Sorry.)
Another interesting moment in this scene is Sarene's idiocy act. There's actually a good story behind this plotting device. I've always enjoyed this style of plot—where a character intentionally makes people underestimate them. You can see a similar plotting structure (pulled off quite a bit better) in my book THE WAY OF KINGS. (It should be published around 2008 or so. . . .) Anyway, some of my favorite plots of this type are found in HAMLET and DRAGON PRINCE (by Melanie Rawn.)
Sarene's own act, however, plays a much smaller role in the book than I'd originally intended. I soon discovered that I'd either have to go with it full-force—having her put on a very believable show for everyone around her—or I'd have to severely weaken it in the plot. I chose the second. There just wasn't a reason, in the political climate I created for the book, to have Sarene pretend to be less intelligent than she was. (The original concept—though this never made it to drafting—was to have her pretend to be less intelligent because of how many times she'd been burned in the past with people finding her overbearing and dominant.)
I decided I liked having her personality manifest the way it is. The only remnant of the original feigning comes in the form of this little trick she plays on Iadon to try and manipulate him. Even this, I think, is a stretch—and it has annoyed a couple of readers. Still, it doesn't play a large part in the plot, and I think it does lead to some interesting moments in the story, so I left it in.
Thanks, all, for the good wishes on this.
I first started talking about Steelheart a number of years ago. (Five, maybe six?) It was one of the projects I'd been planning to do in 2007 when the Wheel of Time came along and kind of distracted me.
Unable to work on it for years, I instead did up a proposal and started shopping it in Hollywood. I got interest, but everyone said "We'd be more comfortable if the book were done." So, over the years, I slowly pieced together an outline in my spare time and did chapters when I could. (I think a reading I did of the prologue of this last year is floating around on-line somewhere.)
One of the problems with working on the Wheel of Time is that it's so time-consuming, I basically can't work on any other big project while writing it. I stay creative by changing to new ideas and new concepts whenever I start feeling burned out—I work on them for a short time, then get my groove back and turn to the larger project.
That's why you see all kinds of little projects popping out here and there from me. I can't do Stormlight 2 at the same time as WoT. Two big series are just too much to do at once; one would suffer. Yet, I still need artistic liberation now and then to try something new and refresh myself.
The two novellas I'm releasing this year (Legion, The Emperor's Soul) and the short Mistborn novel last year (Alloy of Law) are things that came out of these side deviations. Steelheart is another. Shouldn't affect Stormlight 2 very much. I always like to have one large project and a handful of smaller ones running at the same time.
It may seem like a lot to have on my plate, but if you add Alloy of Law, Steelheart, and the two novellas together they are combined around half the length of The Way of Kings. (And took about 1/10 the brain space...)
I don't want to make excuses for not doing Stormlight 2, but this might give a little insight as to why you keep seeing all of these other projects popping up.
Are any of these stories within the cosmere?
The Emperor's Soul, a novella, is in the cosmere.
I've got a question-
One of the early typo's that was mentioned in the Way of King ARC was the numbering (changing from three to 3) in the chapter-header-death-quotes. Peter said he and the editor saw that too, but then you explained something to them, and they understood why you did it. Why did you do it?
Thank you for all you do. I truly love your works.
It's not a typo. Brandon may answer you, but I think the explanation to this one is easy enough to figure out on your own if you look at the big picture.
I am curious if professional writers ever get psyched out by their own works. When you are working on an epic series, such as 'The Stormlight Archive', do you ever have moments of doubt in your ability to see it through to completion? Does it ever feel overwhelming that you have so many volumes ahead of you to write?
That's not the part that psychs me out. Length doesn't do that to me, particularly when I have a series well planned and I have a feel for how each book is going to be distinctive. This really helped me with the Mistborn series, for instance-when I planned it out, I planned each book to have its own identity. That kept me interested in them.
No, what psychs me out is that sometimes something just turns out really well, like The Way of Kings, and then I immediately start thinking, "I have to do that again, and I don't know how I did it in the first place." Writing becomes a very instinctive thing.
Most of the time when I talk about the process of writing, I'm analyzing what I've done after the fact. The truth of it is that right in the moment, right when you're sitting there working on a book, a lot of that stuff isn't going through your head. You're just running on instinct at that point. So it's easy to get psyched out when you're not sure if you can ever do it again.
When are the sequels for Way of Kings and Alloy of Law coming out?
I am working on revisions for the last Wheel of Time novel, and I have a number of revisions to do; I’m planning to be done with that around July. At that point I will write the sequel to Way of Kings. I feel very bad that people have to wait so long for the second book, but I plan to be much quicker in the future. And I plan to alternate a Way of Kings book and a Mistborn book after that.
Where are you planning to take us with your writing next?
[musingly] Next, where am I planning to take you? Certainly I want to try and do the Stormlight Archive, the Way of Kings series, in a way that I hope is just awesome. I have an advantage over people like Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin in that I’ve read Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin. The big epic fantasy series is a real challenge: to do a longer series and have it work. Have it not sag during the middle, in places. To have all the characters and the narrative remain tight. Having learnt the lessons of the great writers who have come before me, I think I can try this in a new way. So I’m really eager to give it a shot. Recently a writer did it in a way that it looks like the best it’s ever been done, which was Steven Erickson. I haven’t finished his series yet but, from the fan reaction and from what I’ve read of it, he seemed to get around that. I think there are great things we can still do with the epic fantasy genre. I want to try and explore them, I want to find what the great things we can do with the genre are and try to take us there.
What does the future hold for you?
Keep writing books, keep telling stories. Now that I have finished the Wheel of Time, I can get back to a bunch of these little side stories that I’ve been wanting to do. This year I am releasing two novellas in published form.
Emperor’s Soul—you wanted to say Emperor’s New Groove, didn’t you?
NO! What I am visualising is the cover of the book, which kind of looks a bit like pen and ink drawing, it’s gorgeous. I was going to say Emperor’s Ink, getting the artwork and the title confused.
Yes. Often when I do a big trip, I kind of try to absorb everything from the culture and spit out a novella. That’s what I did in Taiwan. The Emperor’s Soul came from my trip to Taiwan. I actually have one that I’m absorbing that’s built—growing—from Australia. If I can work drop bears into a book and actually make them not silly I am totally going to do it. These novellas are both ones that I did that for: Legion and The Emperor’s Soul. Legion comes out in June, and The Emperor’s Soul in November, I think.
So that’s something I can be releasing since I didn’t have time to write a novel. It’s something I can give the readers, so hopefully people will enjoy those. They are both quite good—I think, if I may say so for myself—as novellas go.
I’m not a great short fiction writer; I’m trying to learn how to be a great short fiction writer. A step toward it is to be a novella writer first. I can use those novel writing skills. So those are coming out. From there, I will write the second Stormlight book, and I will write the sequel to Alloy of Law. After that I will probably just let myself do anything. I will take time off and say, ‘Brandon, you don’t have to write anything specific, just see where you go,’ and I’ll write something crazy. After that I’ll come back and do more of the other stuff I’m supposed to do.
Now I stroll back into my workshop and find that a little bit of dust has gathered. Out of necessity, the Stormlight Archive has been neglected. I am pleased I made the choice to work on A Memory of Light instead of Stormlight 2. However, it is time to pick up that story again and make this series all of the awesome things I've dreamed of it being for some twenty years.
The stories of Mat, Rand, Egwene, and Perrin are now done. Returning to the stories of Kaladin, Shallan, Jasnah, and Dalinar will be my next major project. You'll also see me doing revisions on both The Rithmatist and Steelheart this fall—as I've made arrangements for both to be published next year or the year after. You'll probably hear more about them in the days to come. And yes, I WILL be doing a sequel to The Alloy of Law.
Since you've had this other career—which has helped, I'm sure, in a lot of ways—what impact has this been on your original writing career, I mean I know you had to have slowed down your progress and your series, but you've still been writing those. What are the biggest impacts you've seen on your writing career because of taking on the Wheel of Time?
It's definitely done some...it's made me have to put down projects. In fact, next year, I have coming out the projects I was working on in 2007 when this came my way; The Rithmatist and Steelheart are both books that I did way back then that I didn't feel that I was able to release in the middle of the Wheel of Time books, even though I had them done, because I wouldn't have been able to do the revisions on them, and because I wouldn't be able to support them; I wouldn't be able to do sequels and things like that. They're both YA books. And that's, you know...when I accepted this, I said "Okay, I'm shelving these things." I did get to do a couple of books, I got to do The Way of Kings, which, granted, I already had a draft of that done. So really, the only book in these last years, the last five years that I've been doing this, that I've written from scratch and released was Alloy of Law. And so it's going to...it did kind of slow me down. The only reason it didn't slow me down as much as it could have was because I had all of this stuff done already. I had a great big backlog of books, because I enjoy writing, and I've been writing for years, and back then I wasn't as popular as I am now, so Tor would put things in slots later on, like...while I've been working on these, Warbreaker and Mistborn 3 came out, both of which were done years before I was offered the Wheel of Time. And so...yeah, all of this stuff that I had been working on long ago got delayed, and that was just fine—I went into this eyes open—but it is going to be nice to be able to go back to these things and give them some of the support that I've wanted all along.
You know, this project took more time than all of us expected it to. I had to say yes sight unseen to knowing how big it was. I knew what Jim had said, but I didn't know how much of it was done. I didn't know that we had two hundred pages out of two thousand. There was no way for me to know how much would need to be done. So yeah, it's been a big long deviation, but not a distraction, because I think my writing has grown by leaps and bounds. It's kind of like I had to go pump iron, because writing in the Wheel of Time has been much harder than writing on anything else I've done, and I have been forced to grow, and you can see my being forced to grow between the books in the Wheel of Time books. I think my writing is way better in Towers of Midnight than it was in The Gathering Storm, particularly in some of the ways that that Jim was strong. And so, I think that's helped me. It's certainly not an experience that I would trade for anything. I got to read the ending in 2007, so there's that. (laughter) But yeah, it's been a wonderful experience, but boy, it's been a big, big, big deviation. It's not where I thought my career would go at all.
Was it daunting seeing just that small amount of work that was taken care of before you stepped on?
Well, it's daunting in two ways: First, I got that. It was really nice to have the ending. Like, having the prologue and the ending basically done—those were the two things that he did the most work on—meant that I had the bookends, which is how I build an outline anyway. I know where I start, I know my ending, and I build an outline out of that. But at the same time, there's three million words of notes about the series, which is daunting in another way. Yes, there's two hundred pages of work done on the book, and then there's this stack over here of all these other notes that include all of these things that are just mind-boggling, the stuff that's in there. We released a few of them last year for you guys. Was it last year that we released the notes?
Yeah, we got the page on Cadsuane and...
Yeah, the page on Cadsuane and stuff like that. You just see all of weird things that he had in his notes. I have all the same sort of weird stuff in my notes about like Stormlight and stuff, but it's just fun to see. You go pore through these notes...he has the most random stuff. Lists of trees, lists of people, lists of this, and just millions and millions and words of this stuff, more than I can keep track of at all. It requires Maria and Alan to keep track of all this stuff. So it was also daunting in that, yes there are two hundred pages written, which actually nice, because as I've said before, if the book had been 80% of the way done, they wouldn't have needed to hire me, they wouldn't have needed to bring me in. When a book is 80% of the way done, that's when you get a ghostwriter, or Harriet just does it herself. She really could have done it in-house herself and finished that and said "Look, here we're going to do a few patches and stuff, but the book is mostly done."
And so, getting there and saying "Hey, I actually get to do something with this, I have an opportunity to add the scenes that I've been wanting as a fan for years and years, so I get a chance to actually write these characters, rather than coming in and just patching some holes," was very thrilling for me at the same time. You know, I worried that I would get there and it would just be patching holes—"Write these five scenes," or something like that—and that would have meant I wouldn't have really had a part in it. Granted, that would have been better, because it would have meant there was more Jim in it, and it would have made a better book, but at the same time, when I got to see those two hundred pages, I was saddened but excited at the same time.
Okay, so here we see the words FINAL EMPIRE for the first time. Continuing the discussion I had in the last annotation, one of the books that I wrote after MISTBORN PRIME was called THE FINAL EMPIRE. (I now call it FINAL EMPIRE PRIME.) It was the story of a young boy (yes, boy) named Vin who lived in an oppressive imperial dictatorship that he was destined to overthrow. It was my attempt at writing a shorter book that still had epic scope.
This book turned out to be okay, but it had some fairly big problems problems. While people reacted rather well to the characters, the setting was a little weak for one of my books. Also, once again, I wasn't that enthusiastic about the way the plot turned out.
After that, I gave up on the short books. I proved no good at it. I decided to do THE WAY OF KINGS next, a massive war epic. It turned out to be 350,000+ words—I kind of see it as me reacting in frustration against the short books I'd forced myself to write. About this time, I sold ELANTRIS, and Moshe (my editor) wanted to see what else I was working on. I sent him KINGS. He liked it, and put it in the contract.
I, however, wasn't certain if KINGS was the book I wanted to use as a follow up for ELANTRIS. They were very different novels, and I was worried that those who liked ELANTRIS would be confused by such a sharp turn in the direction of my career. So, I decided to write a different book to be my 'second' novel.
I had always liked Allomancy as a magic system, and I liked several of the character concepts FINAL EMPIRE. I also liked a lot of the ideas from both books, as well as some ideas I'd had for a great plot. I put three all of these things together, and conceived the book you are now reading.
Well, you'll be glad to know that I finished with the first section of it last night; the second book is Shallan's book, so I was writing her flashback sequences.
Any new name ideas yet?
Not yet. The name's still the Bad Name. [explains to others]. In my notes it's called The Book of Endless Pages, because that's the book Shallan gets at the end of Book 1, but the problem is that it's kind of a silly title for a book this long.
Yes. A person can possess more than one Shardblade. [referring to us] They're like Oooh!
That actually changes a whole lot of ideas that I had.
So has there been debate on this topic?
No, not that I know of.
Yes, spren can die.
Okay, so Syl, she's been around for at least a few thousand years, right?
How does she forget her memories? Is it in connection to humans that makes it so she remembers things?
And she's what, a Bonding Spren?
You will find out. She [says she's] an Honorspren, but you will find out.
Is that bond the Nahel bond?
[Nervous grin on Brandon's face] [laughter] There is a certain amount of... It is a symbiotic bond that is gained by Syl. And things gained by the person bonding. And the stronger presence in the physical realm, and the ability to think better in the physical realm is a part of that bond. She is mostly getting [something] of the physical realm. Without the bond, it is very hard for her to think in this world.
Because she's windspren?
That's part of it. That's part of something else.
Shallan. What the crap was up with the headless spren?
You will find out! Read and Find out! I did just finish her flashback sequence, the first thing I wrote for the second book.
Next fall. If I'm on the ball. That's not supposed to rhyme, but it did. Tor said they'd put it out next fall if I turn it in on time.
When is turn in time?
April. They said if I get it to them in April, we'll be fine. The trick is, for Michael Whelan to do the cover, I need to give him a cover scene like next month. Because Michael takes his time, because he's the best artist in the business, so you need to turn stuff in early. So I need to decide "What's the cover going to be", and come up with a fantastic cover scene for it.
So is it finished? Is the book finished?
You can follow on my website, I'm at 7% right now. I have to turn it in in April, so if I can get to 100% by April (or 110% knowing Brandon) we'll be all right. If we can't than it gets a little more sketchy.
Is that turning in the first draft?
Yeah, we should be able to do it if I turn in the first draft in April.
Any estimate when the first book might be?
I might do some more Alloy of Law era things in between, they are not the second trilogy, but I will do them. The second trilogy will come between the break between the first sequence in the Stormlight Archive, and the second sequence of the Stormlight Archive. it's two five book sequences, and during that break I will stop and do the second Mistborn trilogy. So it will depend on how quickly I can write those.
So when exactly would the second Mistborn trilogy take place relative to Alloy of Law?
Late 20th century era. Modern technology.
I've heard that's like... 50? years after Alloy of Law.
Yeah, right around there. Roughly. Not quite information age, is what I was looking at. So there's no direct equivalent, because the different technology aspects, but you would see it as something around the 80s. Maybe early 90s. Allomancer SWAT team is what it's about.
Okay, that's exciting.
First book is a Mistborn serial killer versus an Allomancer SWAT team. With deeper ramifications to everything.
Is Dan helping you with the psychology on that one?
Uh, I actually haven't yet gotten his help on a [profile?] yet.
No, I'm always looking for something that strikes me. And I'm looking for things that haven't been done before. Things that will make nice conflict, that walk the line between science and superstition.
That's what I love, that it's all super scientific but it also has magic.
If you will Google Sanderson's First Law, and Sanderson's Second Law, I have two essays that I wrote about how I do magic. They're both on my website, but Google will find them easier than trying to find them on my website.
Did you ever read Master of 5 magics?
I did. That's old school.
Yeah, not great stories, but wonderful magic.
Yep. Great magic. That's what I felt about them too.
When will the next Mistborn (Alloy of Law era) come out?
It will probably come out after the next Way of Kings. Next Way of Kings is next Christmas, the next Alloy of Law era book is probably the following Spring or something like that.
Are you planning two more or three more?
I will do as many of those as strikes me. The Alloy of Law books are a deviation from the main world plotline.So it's just for fun. I'm not going to commit to how many I'll do or not do. Just whatever's working.
People have been thrown by you saying that Odium is not native to Roshar.
Odium is not native, that's the thing. Are any of them native? So if you dig the deeper question, are any of them native, ehhh, none of them are native to the planets you've seen so far. What I probably should've said to be more precise is that Honor and Cultivation were there long before Odium showed up.