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Interviews: Amazon.com Author One-on-One: Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson

Summary:

Entries

18

Date

2011

Type

Verbatim

Links

Amazon.com

  • 1

    Amazon.com

    In an exclusive interview for Amazon.com, epic fantasy authors Patrick Rothfuss (The Wise Man's Fear) and Brandon Sanderson (Towers of Midnight) sat down to discuss collaborating with publishers, dealing with success, and what goes into creating and editing their work.

    Learn more about their books:

    In The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, the highly anticipated sequel to The Name of the Wind, Kvothe continues his quest for answers and comes face to face with challenges that will make him a legend in his own time.

    In Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (the penultimate novel of Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling series—the second of three based on materials Jordan left behind when he died in 2007), brings the dramatic and compelling Wheel of Time series to its long awaited conclusion.

  • 2

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Heya Brandon.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hey there, Pat. Nice talking with you again.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Thanks for being willing to do this. I know you're insanely busy these days.
  • 3

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Okay. Let me just jump right in here with a question. How long was Way of Kings? I heard a rumor that the ARC I read was 400,000 words long. It didn't really feel like it...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Let me see. I will open it right now and word count it, so you have an exact number. It's 386,470 words, though the version you read was an advance manuscript, before I did my final 10% tightening draft, which was 423,557 words.

    I didn't really want it to be that long. At that length we're running into problems with foreign publishers having to split it and all sorts of issues with making the paperback have enough space. I didn't set out to write a thousand-page, 400,000-word book. It's just what the novel demanded.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Wise Man's Fear ended up being 395,000 words. And that's despite the fact that I've been pruning it back at every opportunity for more than a year. I'd spend weeks trimming superfluous words and phrases, extra lines of dialogue, slightly redundant description until the book was 12,000 words shorter.

    Then a month later I'd realize I needed to add a scene to bring better resolution to a plot line. Then I'd add a couple paragraphs to clarify some some character interaction. Then I'd expand an action scene to improve tension. Suddenly the book's 8,000 words longer again.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, that's exactly how it goes.

    It's very rare that I'm able to cut entire scenes. If I can cut entire scenes that means there's something fundamentally not working with the sequence and I usually end up tossing the whole thing and rewriting it. But trimming, or pruning as you described it, works very well with my fiction.

    I can usually cut fifteen percent off just by nurturing the text, pruning it, looking for the extraneous words and phrases. But I wonder if in doing that there's a tendency to compensate. There's a concept in dieting that if someone starts working out really hard, they start to say, "Well, that means I can now eat more," and you'll find people compensating for the extra calorie loss by eating more because they feel they can. I wonder if we do that with our fiction. I mean, I will get done with this big long trim and I'll say, "Great, now I have the space to do this extra thing that I really think the story needs," and then the story ends up going back to just as long.

    Though at least in my case I can blame my editor too. He's very good with helping me with line edits, but where we perhaps fuel each other in the wrong way is that he'll say, "Ooh, it'd be awesome if you add this," or "This scene needs this," or "Can you explain this?" And I say, "Yes! I can explain that. I'd love to!" And then of course the book gets longer and then we both have to go to Tom Doherty with our eyes downward saying, "Um, the book is really long again, Tom. Sorry."

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  • 4

    Brandon Sanderson

    I have a question for you, then. Did you always intend the Kingkiller Chronicle to be three days split across three books? Or did you start writing it as one book and then split it? What's the real story behind that?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Assuming I had any sort of plan at the beginning is a big mistake. I just started writing. I didn't have a plan. I didn't know what I was doing.

    For years and years I just thought of it as The Book in my head. I've always thought of it as one big story. Then, eventually I realized it would need to be broken up into volumes.

    I can't say why I picked three books except that three is a good number. It's sort of the classic number. And while the story is working well in this format, part of me wishes I'd broken it into smaller chunks. This second book has so many plotlines. If I'd written this trilogy as say, 10 books, each one would be much shorter and self contained. More like the Dresden Files.

    That's pointless musing though. I'm sure if I'd written smaller volumes right now I'd be thinking, "Oh! if only I'd written these as longer books I could play more with interwoven plot lines..."

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, it's interesting you should mention this, because what I keep getting told from a publishing side is that no one ever wants me to cut the story. I never get that. People ask that of me all the time, "Does your publisher want you to make the book shorter?" Well, the publisher would really like the books to be shorter, but they don't want any of the story to be cut. I do sometimes wonder what we're doing, what we're setting ourselves up for by writing books of this length. Jim Butcher is able to reliably release a book every year or so in his series, in part because he's able to split the story into manageable chunks. And you and I are not splitting our stories into very manageable chunks. This happens a lot in series.

    I look back at the Wheel of Time; Robert Jordan was able to release books one a year for a period of time until the books were long enough and he got through the backlog of writing he'd already done, and suddenly he was not able to release a book every year because the books were long and involved and took a lot of work. Well, when he stopped releasing them every year all his fans complained, "What's going on? Suddenly you're not releasing your books every year?" So he started releasing them faster and shorter and they all started complaining that the books were too short.

    And so, starting our series with such long books does kind of put us in this strange conundrum. And there are a lot of considerations people don't understand, like printing costs and the like. Has there been, on your side, any sort of attempt on the publisher's end to nudge you—saying, "They don't have to be this long. You can tell the story in shorter chunks; don't cut any story! But do it in shorter chunks"? Because I've gotten a bit of that. Granted they're always willing to let me do what I want to do, but it's kind of along the lines of, "We wouldn't mind, Brandon, if you did it in smaller chunks.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    No, I don't get any of that. My publisher, DAW, is really long-book friendly. Perhaps the most long-book friendly of all the publishers out there. They published Tad Williams back before Big Fat Fantasy was cool. They didn't bat an eye at The Name of the Wind being 250,000 words. That's a freedom that's rarely given to new authors for their very first book.

    That said, I was a little worried about the length of book two. The thing kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally I called Betsy and asked if the length was going to be a problem.

    At first she just laughed it off. But when I told her it was getting REALLY long, she said, "Let me do some research." Two days later she calls me back and tells me the longest paperback ever was about 420,000 words. So as long as I was under that, I would be fine.

    All I could think was, "Shorter than the longest book ever? Sure, I think I can manage that."

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  • 5

    Patrick Rothfuss

    My turn. Did you do the illustrations for Way of Kings?

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Footnote

    See Brandon's drawings of Goodkind, a Greatshell, and Zombie Asmodean.

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  • 6

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Do you mind if I ask a question you've probably been asked a bunch of times before?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'll happily respond, but as I'm responding I'm going to try to think of the most boring question I can ask you. Something you've answered a billion times, to get payback.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Heh. Fair enough.

    When I first heard that someone was continuing Jordan's Wheel of Time, my first thought was, "Wow, that's a cool gig." Then my second thought was, "I would not want that responsibility for all the money in the world."

    How did you come to grips with that? Those are big shoes to fill...

    Brandon Sanderson

    My thoughts were all over the place. I do legitimately love the Wheel of Time and have been reading it since I was a young man. If you look at my early unpublished books, you'll find they were deeply influenced by the Wheel of Time. Amusingly so; looking back on it now, I see things I didn't even notice that I had done. So that love of the series was part of what was bouncing around in my head.

    I didn't become a writer because I wanted to write in other people's worlds. I wanted to tell my own stories, and I was making a comfortable living at my writing before this. For a lot of projects I would have said no regardless of what they offered, so it had to be about more than the money. Beyond that, there was this sense, as you expressed, of "Wow, if I screw this up, I'm in serious trouble. People will find me and burn my house down. Wheel of Time fans are hardcore." I struggled with this, and it almost caused me to say no. One writer I know mentioned regarding this, or posted it somewhere, "This is a thankless job. Anything that Sanderson gets right will be attributed to Robert Jordan, and anything he gets wrong will condemn him." I took all those things into consideration.

    But in the end, I felt I could do a good job on this, and that it could be a sendoff I could give one of my favorite authors, someone who deeply influenced me as a writer. And I felt that if I passed on it, someone else would be found and would get to do it. The question that it came down to for me was, "Knowing that someone who is not Robert Jordan is going to do this, can you really pass and let anyone other than you do it?" And the answer was that I couldn't let someone else do it. I had to do it. So I said yes.

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  • 7

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Okay. Your turn. Ask your payback question.

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, when's book three going to be out? And don't you already have it written? Because I've heard you say before that you already have it written. So what's the holdup?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Yeah. I've heard that one before. That's actually a pretty reasonable question.

    Here's the deal:

    In some ways, I do already have the trilogy written. I wrote all of Kvothe's story all the way to the end back in 2000.

    So yeah. In some ways, the whole trilogy is finished.

    But really it depends on what you mean by "Finished."

    Back in 2000, I thought the story was pretty much done. I thought it was awesome. I thought it was ready to be published.

    Since then, I've learned a lot about writing. A lot. When I recently re-read the third book, I could see huge glaring mistakes that weren't obvious to me before. That's a good thing.

    The other problem is that the first two books of the series have changed considerably since 2000. I've added characters and plotlines. I've probably added, 250,000 words worth of new material since then. Back in 2000, Devi wasn't in the book. Neither was Auri. Neither was the Draccus.

    That's part of what took me so long with book two. I didn't just have to write a sequel. That would have been hard enough. I had to take a book I'd already written, and re-write it so that it matched up with all the changes I'd made to book one.

    I think doing that is harder than starting from scratch. Re-writing the beginning section of The Wise Man's Fear was really, really hard. But adding a 60,000 word subplot later in the book was really easy, because I wasn't revising it, I was creating it all fresh.

    Book three is going to take a couple years because now I have to integrate all the changes from TWO books when I'm re-writing. Luckily, now I have a better idea how to do that. I'm a much better writer than I was two years ago, and I'm actually looking forward to digging in and starting on the project.

  • 8

    Brandon Sanderson

    Some of these questions I'm pitching at you at because I'm pretty sure I know the answer, but I want to have somewhere I can point people when they complain to me, "Rothfuss already has the book done and it's not getting released! What's up?" And I'm sure you've answered these questions before, but they're probably buried in your blog or something like that.

    I've heard that the frame story was added after the fact. Is that true?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Yeah. The story originally started with the Sentence. "My Name is Kvothe." There was no Waystone Inn. No Bast. No Chronicler. Just him telling his story.

    Admittedly, that was a very early draft. The book has obviously changed a lot since then.

    I think part of the problem is that when I talk about revision, most people assume I'm fixing comma splices and running spellcheck. No. That's copyediting. That's proofreading.

    When I'm doing revision, it's REVISION. I treat the book like it's a car engine. I strip it down into all its component parts and make sure each of them is doing exactly what it should. If it isn't, I fix it.

    The problem, of course, is that if a part isn't working right, I can't just order a new one out of a catalogue. I have to invent it myself and then try to reassemble the rest of the engine around it. If it doesn't work, I have to take it apart and start again.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's interesting to me, I find, in both books—I'm now reading Wise Man's Fear—that the frame story writing has a different feel of maturity about it. So that's why I was curious to know if the frame story stuff is new. I actually think that some of the very strongest writing in the entire series has been in the frame story.
  • 9

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's interesting that you should mention rewriting and changing as an author. In some ways, these books that have been with us for so long are much harder to work on than books that just occur to us or that we start off brand new.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    I think you're absolutely right about that. Writing that 60,000 word subplot was easy. It was integrating it into the rest of the book that was hard.

    Brandon Sanderson

    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.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Yeah. It's relatively easy to take a pile of lumber and turn it into a house. But a lot of what I've been doing (And a lot of what it sounds like you had to do with Way of Kings) is like building a house out of a different house. A house that you built back before you knew what the hell you were really doing.

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  • 10

    Brandon Sanderson

    So my other question for you is kind of related to that. How has it been killing your darlings?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    It's been hard. Sometimes painfully hard. But I haven't had to abandon any parts of the story that I loved. So in that case it hasn't been an issue of killing my darlings, it's been more like performing extensive reconstructive surgery. The book is stronger, healthier, and prettier as a result. It will have a better life, and I hope it lives longer because of it.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Would you recommend to people to start with a project like this or should they try something smaller in scope? What do you tell your students when you teach?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    I would absolutely recommend that people start with something simpler. Don't follow in my footsteps. I'm not a role model.

    Plus, I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to tell a simple story well. You can learn a lot doing that. There's nothing wrong with writing a good, honest, 300 page novel.

    When I started my book, I didn't know what I was getting into. I didn't even know the word "metafiction" meant. As I result I bit off WAY more than I could chew. Hell, it took me 12 years to chew it. That's not really the best way to learn your craft. It's certainly not the best way to get published.

    That said, I do recommend that people write the book that they really want to write. The book that rides close to their heart. The book they can't stop thinking about. If that book tends to be a little more complicated than boy-meets-girl? A little longer than 300 pages? A little genre bending? Well...go for it. If you fail you'll learn a lot. And if you succeed, you'll hopefully have a story that's different and kinda cool.

  • 11

    Brandon Sanderson

    Some writers say that our books are like our children. But now both of us actually do have children. It's pretty weird, isn't it? Being a daddy.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Oh man, is it ever. How old are yours?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Three years old and one year old.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Got any cute kid stories?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I've got tons of cute kid stories. One happened today at lunch—I'm sure he'll be embarrassed in ten years if I share this, so that's a good reason to share it.

    We were sitting at lunch and just talking about whether policemen are nice or mean. Because he's suddenly got it in his head that policemen pull you over—they'll get you if you do certain things—and we're trying to explain to him, no, policemen are nice but their job is to keep us safe and to keep us from doing things that they don't want us to do.

    Meanwhile, while we're getting into this conversation, he does his favorite three-year-old thing which is to start digging for gold in his nose, to use a euphemism. He's picking his nose quite voraciously, and he freezes and pauses. I just said policemen stop us from doing things we're not supposed to do, and his mom is very constantly telling him don't pick your nose.

    So he says, "Policeman will get me if I pick my boogers?" And we say, "Um, well, no that's not technically against the law, but you shouldn't do it." And he says, "Policeman wants my boogers? He'll take them?" Because we've been talking about how they'll take your car away, so he's suddenly afraid that since he's not supposed to pick his nose that the policemen will arrest him if he picks his nose and take his boogers away.

    So there you go. There's a wonderful cute kid story for you, or at least a disgusting one, somewhere in there.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Wow. I can't top that. Oot is still just on the cusp of talking.

    Just tonight Oot brought me my winter boots and made it clear he wanted to wear them. So I helped him put them on. He just stood there. They were way too big for him to move his feet. But he stood there looking really proud, like he was king of the world.

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  • 12

    Brandon Sanderson

    Pat, your life situation is really different now than when you wrote Name of the Wind. Has your changing life status made a difference in how you write?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    The most recent change for me has been coming to grips with the whole working dad thing. And I've been having trouble with it. With all the deadlines these last four months, there have been some days where I only see Oot and Sarah for a half an hour.

    Needless to say, when that happens three times in a week, it makes me feel like a total ass. Like that stereotypical neglectful work-obsessed absentee father. But the truth of the matter is, I'd already missed too many deadlines. I couldn't miss this one. So for about two and a half months I had to pick being a writer over being a dad. I'm trying to make up for that now, but I still regret it.

    For me though, the biggest change between writing book one and writing book two, is that I got a workspace that's outside the house I live in. That really helped to improve my writing output. I work best with quiet, distraction-free writing space. Making sure there was no internet in the office was pivotal, too.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Even when I'm on a tight deadline, I make sure I have an hour after I get up and an hour in the evening to play with my son. And I take Sundays off from writing. It's important for me to have some time to recharge, to keep some perspective. I love writing and my idea of a vacation from writing is to write something else, but any one book will come and go. I can't afford to miss being there for my family.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    I think I need to institute some sort of policy like that too.

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  • 13

    Patrick Rothfuss

    What's your writing space like? Do you write at home, or do you have an office?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I don't do the office thing. How shall I say this? I became a writer so that I didn't have to deal with the whole office thing. I know some authors need an office and a writing space; that's great. But I just need my laptop and some music and I'm good pretty much anywhere.

    I tend to be a roving writer, meaning I pick a place and I stay there for a few months, and then I get tired of it and I pick another place. So I write all over the house. My favorite locations tend to be in front of a fireplace with my feet up. I've actually stolen my wife's easy chair and moved it over in front of the fireplace in my bedroom—it's a gas fireplace, so I just turn it on. I've set up a light and a little stand next to me, and I've been working here for a few months. But I move around. It's just basically laptop plus music. I don't work at a desk; I cannot do the desk thing. I'll work lying on my bed, on a couch, in an easy chair, in a beanbag chair, but not at a desk.

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  • 14

    Patrick Rothfuss

    You've been doing a ton of touring lately, and I'm about to start my first big tour. Any advice for me?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh boy. Number one: Even though you may want to get work done while on tour, don't plan on getting anything done. It is exhausting. I'm constantly surprised at how exhausting touring can be. And I'm not an introvert or an extrovert. I'm one of those hybrids in between where I like spending time with people and being around people, but once I do that, I need to go recharge. And it's hard to find time to recharge when on tour. For me that was the most exhausting part. On my first big tour I did the thing where I met with fans beforehand and did dinners with them, which was great—I love meeting the big Wheel of Time fans and talking over dinner—but it just added on another hour and a half on to me being around people and being exhausted all the time.

    Eat healthily, even though it's going to be hard because they will take you out to eat every night. You know, they're going to want to feed you steak and pasta every night. Pack yourself with vegetables and fruit because otherwise you will start feeling sick after a week of it.

    Try and make sure you have time for you, for recharging, whatever it is that you do to recharge. Don't let them schedule an interview or a dinner every minute of the day—which, on my tour, they did.

    And one of the things I've learned is try to keep it to two weeks. They put me on a four-week tour once, and that just laid me flat. I was literally sick many of the days the last two weeks, just physically ill and I can't even explain why. I'm a hearty person! I don't usually get that sick. I can usually just keep on going, keep plugging away. I'm known for being slow and steady in my writing and always working, always having stuff done. But the tour was unlike anything else I'd ever experienced. Try to keep it to two weeks and if they want more, do two weeks and take a few weeks' break and then do two more weeks. And eat right.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Thanks much. I'll try to conserve my energy. I do tend to go overboard when I'm at conventions. I'll do 14 hours of panels and readings and signings. I'll have to rein that impulse in and pace myself a bit.

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  • 15

    Brandon Sanderson

    We are both in an odd situation—for different reasons and in different ways, but it's somewhat similar in that five years ago we were both unknowns, and right now our names tend to come up very frequently when people are talking about fantasy. Looking at Pat Rothfuss, you're as much of a fantasy superstar to most people as George R. R. Martin is. How does that feel?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Heh. I think there's probably only a handful of people that think of me as being on the same level as Martin. But I know what you're talking about.

    Mostly it feels weird to me. Good but weird. Mostly weird.

    Brandon Sanderson

    For me, when I go to a forum where people are talking about fantasy, and they're talking about me, that's been a surreal experience because just a few years ago I could participate in forum discussions and no one knew who I was, but now the conversations are partially about me. Reconciling that has been an interesting experience for me, and I can only imagine it's been even more so for you because your career has skyrocketed faster than mine. The Wise Man's Fear is probably the second most highly anticipated fantasy novel of the near future, right after A Dance with Dragons. How does it make you feel?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    That's easy to answer: Terrified.

    That's another big piece of the reason that book two took so long. I was paralyzed with fear.

    It's like this, if people read your first book and don't like it very much, that's heartbreaking, but it provides some real motivation. You think to yourself, "I'll show them! My next book will be even better!" Then you knuckle down and work your ass off to produce something that will really dazzle them.

    But when someone e-mails you and says your book was the best they ever read. Or that they read it with their kid who was sick with leukemia and it brought them closer together. Or they tell you they're more excited about your upcoming book than their own birthday...

    I mean really. How the fuck and I supposed to deal with that? How am I supposed to write anything ever again when the bar gets set so high?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I wondered if that was the case. It is strange for me because you know, we had a similar quick rise to success—I mean, you've been around for what? Three or four years? And I've been around for five and when I was reading fantasy, when I getting into this genre, it felt to me that most of the writers I've been reading have been around forever. Now that's not true because I was a young kid and what being around forever meant to me then is different from what it really means. But I was reading Anne McCaffrey, and in my perception Anne McCaffrey had been around forever. She'd been writing for twenty years. I'd been reading David Eddings and Terry Brooks and these are people who had been writing for twelve years before I picked up their books. And now my books are doing really well and I've only been around for a few years and it feels to me like I don't have the credibility that I think I should have before I reach this level of recognition, if that makes any sense.

    I'm more impressed with people's longevity in a field and having a long-lasting impact. Someone like George R. R. Martin is hugely impressive to me because he's been around for forty years in the business. He has slogged away hard and released book after book and edited anthologies and worked in TV, and finally after all of this work he gets this big best-selling series and it's like, yes! You finally get the recognition you deserve. You are a major inspiration and success story, and you just stuck in there and stuck in there forever. Then you get someone dopey like me and it's like, whoop-dee-do, you know, my third book hit the New York Times Bestseller List and suddenly I'm hitting number one on the list, and it's a weird experience because in a way I don't believe that I deserve it. Though I'm very proud of my writing, I don't feel I've put in the time to deserve the success. I don't know if that makes any sense or resonates at all.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Yeah. You're singing my song again. I hit the NYT Bestseller list with my first book. Everyone says, YAY! You're brilliant! And I have to remind them, No, I just wrote one book. You can't plot a graph with one point of data. I'm the flavor of the day. If I write two good books, then you can call me a professional writer. Until then, I'm a fluke.

    So yeah. I completely know where you're coming from when you say you feel like you haven't earned it the same way folks like Martin did. My first book was a success. But it was a success because I got very, very lucky. I got the right agent, then the right publisher. The audience was ready for my sort of book. I was in the right place at the right time.

    But that's not something you can repeat. You can't rely on luck. That's where a lot of my stress came from after the first book came out.

    Brandon Sanderson

    How do you deal with it?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    That's easy to answer too: Badly.

    For about a year I struggled to get any productive writing done.

    Then, slowly, I started to get used to it. It was kinda like the emotional and social equivalent of getting into a really hot bath. At first it felt scalding hot, but now I've acclimated to it, and it feels kinda nice. It's kinda relaxing, in fact.

    I also engage in a daily regimen of not taking myself too seriously. My friends help with this, of course.

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  • 16

    Patrick Rothfuss

    How about you? How do you deal with the stress of the sudden fame?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The writing group is very helpful. It's nice to have a writing group, who have been reading my book since the beginning and to whom I'm nothing special so to speak. It is very good keeping one down to earth.

    Honestly, having a three-year-old and a one-year-old, being a daddy and having a real life—a normal life—is also really helpful. It keeps you down-to-earth. I mean, it's hard to think of yourself as Number One New York Times Bestseller when you're elbow-deep in stinky diaper. Beyond that I do also try to keep a perspective on this. Some people like to pretend that authors are celebrities, but in my mind we're not really celebrities because if you walk up to the average person on the street and say "Who is Brandon Sanderson?" or "Who is Pat Rothfuss?" or even "Who is George R. R. Martin?" most of them are going to have no idea at all. Such a small percentage of the population actually reads. And beyond that, there's so many books out there that if they are a reader the chance of them having read your book is small. Everyone knows who Tom Cruise is, but nobody's going to know who I am. And that's good for keeping perspective.

    The other thing I do to keep perspective is to keep in mind that science fiction and fantasy in particular as a fandom is very much a community. In a lot of ways writers generally grow out of the fan community. Even if they aren't active in the fan community, they were fans first. Something about that changes the way this all works. A lot of fans rightly seem to act more like colleagues, which is a good way to see it. It's like the writers are the ones the rest of community supports to produce material for the community. It's less an idolization of superstars and more of a, "Yeah, we'll support you, and you create this fiction for the good of the community." It's a patron-and-artist sort of relationship. At least that's how I view it.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    I think that's healthy. From some of your answers, I think you knew a lot about the community before you were published. That probably helped ease your transition a bit. I never knew much about that stuff until I was in the middle of it.

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  • 17

    Brandon Sanderson

    We've been talking a lot about our big projects, Wise Man's Fear and Way of Kings, and do you have any other side projects? Because I loved your children's book—in fact, for a fun story for those reading this: We got in a big argument in my writing group about the meaning of Pat's children's book and what was really happening behind the scenes. So I used a little bit of colleague privilege and called him on the phone to ask him his interpretation. And he was very much an author in that he said, well, it could mean this, it could mean that—he gave a very good answer where he gave us some of what the writer was thinking but left it open to personal interpretation.

    Do you have any other projects like the children's book? Are we going to be seeing anything small between Wise Man's Fear and the third book?

    Patrick Rothfuss

    Yeah. I'm absolutely going to doing some other smaller projects while I'm working on the third book. I loved writing The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. It was fun. It didn't steal time away from working on my novel, it reminded me why I write in the first place.

    I already have plans for the sequel to that book. I've got plans for a few short stories, too.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I also take time off after I finish a huge book to work on experimental side projects and recharge my creative energy. Sometimes these projects go somewhere, and sometimes they don't. Last year after finishing Towers of Midnight I took some time to work on an urban fantasy, and though I got over halfway through it there was just something that wasn't working, so I set it aside.

    Then I started what was going to be a Mistborn short story, and once I was a few scenes in, it was really clicking. It ended up turning into a short (for me) novel that I’m very happy with. Tor was also pleased to hear about it since they weren't going to have a book to release from me in 2011, but now Mistborn: The Alloy of Law will come out in November. And now my writing battery is all charged up to start working on the Wheel of Time again.

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  • 18

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's been great talking to you again, Pat. Will I see you at Worldcon in Reno this August? We're going to record some episodes of the Writing Excuses podcast there, and we'd love to have you on as a guest again.

    Patrick Rothfuss

    I'll be there. And I'd love to do another Writing Excuses. I had a ton of fun with the first one.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Thanks, Pat. It's been fun. I'm looking forward to posting my review of Wise Man's Fear when the book comes out.

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