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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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Nov 8th, 2011
Alloy of Law Book Tour
Brigham Young University Bookstore
Whatís your favorite fantasy/scf characters that you havenít written?
Excluding my books and the wheel of time, Sam Vimes from the Discworld books, I really, really like. I have a strong affection for Harry Dresden. I really am fond of Lesa from Dragon Riders. Dragon Riders was one of the early books that I really really liked. Letís see, who else. That guy from Dragon Prince. Dragon Prince is one of my favorite all-time books. Who else? Who else is good characters? The Fool from the Assassin books by Robin Hobb that she wrote is really awesome. Thatís a good place for you. I would like to say Kvothe, because I love those books, but I donít think he and I wouldnít get along. I love the books and think that Kvothe is a jerk, and thatís part of why I love Name of the Wind, because Kvothe is kind of a jerk.
So what happens if you have a Bendalloy bubble, and then another Bendalloy bubble inside of it?
It will compound and double, and it will multiply. Bendalloy is one of the metals from Alloy of Law if you havenít read it, as this person obviously has, or has read the Ars Arcanum, youíll find out what it does.
Does Iron store mass or weight?
Excellent question. The thing is it really does involve mass, but Iím breaking some physics rules, basically. I have to break a number of physics rules in order to make Magic work in the first place. Those whole laws of Thermodynamics, Iím like ďYou are my bane!Ē (laughter) But I try to work within the framework, and I have reasonings built up for myself, and some of them have to be kind of arbitrary. But the thing is, it does store mass if you look at how it interacts, but when a Feruchemist punches someone, youíre not having a mass transference of a 1000 pounds transferring the mass into someone else.
So there are a few little tweaks. You can go talk to Peter, because Peter has the actual math. Oh Peterís back there. Peter is dressed up as Allomancer Jak from the broadsheet. In fact weíre giving some out broadsheets, arenít we Peter. So when you come through the line, weíre giving out Broadsheets. Please donít take fiftyóI think we might have enough for everybody. The broadsheets are the newspaper from the Alloy of Law time. Itís an inworld newspaper. Itís actually reproduced in the book in four different pages, and we put it together in one big broadsheet.
So anyway, you can talk with him, heís got more of the math of it. I explained the concept to Peter and heís better with the actual math, so he said ďWeíll figure it out.Ē
How does Hoid know where to go when?
Alright, who does not know who Hoid is? If you want to know about Hoid, the 17th Shard, which is the official fansite for my works, has some great information about him. There is a character who showed up in Elantris, who showed up in Mistborn, who showed up in Warbreaker, who showed up in Way of Kings. All with the same name, the same person. So thereís lots of theorizing about it. How does he know? He has his ways! (general groans) So a little bit more? Just a little bit more? He may be capable of a little bit of foreseeing of certain events, not whatís going to happen, but he may need ot be in a certain place in a certain time.
When will we see a Hoid book?
Itíll be a little while. Heís playing around with things in the Stormlight Archive if you couldnít tell, heís decided toóHoid is fiddling with things, more than he usually does. But Hoid as a major part of things doesnít really show up till the third Mistborn trilogy, which is the outer space Mistborn, the sci-fi Mistborn.
If you didnít 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 weíre not to yet, but itís going to be Allomancers in the 21st century-equivalent technology. Itís 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 thatís how I pitched Mistborn to my editor.
Alloy of Law is actually a deviation from that, because I didnít want people to forget about Mistborn, I wanted them to keep reading Mistborn, so I wanted them to keep releasing things, and weíll eventually get to that second trilogyó
Hey there you are Mark! I heard you got number one.
Youíre crazy (laughter). Youíre 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 didnít 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 didnít 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 ďread it, have fun.Ē Eventually I may end up doing more with those characters, but when I do, you wonít have to remember that much about this one. Itís not like you have to remember a cast of 500 characters. You can just keep track of the main characters. Theyíre more of an episodic adventure. I kind of imagine Alloy of Law beingóIím not totally sure how to describe it. Itís like you have the giant movie that comes out, and then you have a TV show thatís based off of it, and then another big movie series, or something like that, if that makes any sense.
So thatís what Alloy of Law is. So Hoid is very involved in the third Mistborn trilogy, heís 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. Itís the only copy that I know of in existence. Itís almost always checked out. Itís my Honors thesis, and itís not very good. It really is not very good, but basically itís 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.
You said you were going to rewrite Dragonsteel? Is it going to be a one-book thing, or a trilogy, or what?
Dragonsteel is set to be seven books. I shouldn't tell you these things, because it scares people. The cosmere sequence is set at, what did I say, 36 books? Yeah, it's 36 books. A trilogy of Elantris, Two books from Warbreaker, ten books from Way of Kings, and the Mistborn series, and some other books. So anyways, this is a big thing, but don't get scared. You don't have to pay attention to any of this. Just go ahead and enjoy the books. This is behind the scene stuff, and in fact the reason why we don't have a book about Hoid is because I don't want you to have read all of those books in order to understand that book, does that make sense? As soon as Hoid becomes a main character, then you have to have read the whole sequence in order to get it. I don't you to have to do that. I don't want you to have to read Mistborn to understand Stormlight Archive. Hoid may be involved in these things, but he will never be a prominent character, changing things, until he gets his own sequence.
How many Feruchemical powers have you revealed in the Alloy of Law?
In the Ars Arcanum in the back, I have revealed them all. I have not explained them all. (laughter), But I have revealed them all, they are in the back, so you are free to theorize what they mean.
What the heck is Investiture?
Iím not going to say that because it would be a spoiler for those who havenít read the Ars Arcanum yet.
How do you get the different personalities for all your characters?
With the characterization for me is a very organic thing. I acutally plot my plot in detail, do my worldbuilding in detail, before I start on my characters though, if I plan them out too much, they donít have enough life to them. Itís a very weird thing to explain, but for me, what I have to do is I have to try writing through this characterís eyes, and if it doesnít work, than I actually have to toss that chapter and try again, and often times youíll see me start a book try a character a couple of times to get them right. And then they just grow into what they are as the plot goes along. And in fact, the characters have veto power over the plot, and so if I get to a point that I feel like a character would not do this, I have to either go back and cast a different person in this role, or óinterruptionó
If you are very interested in how I write, I do a podcast called Writing Excuses. And what it is is itís through your browser, so you donít do anything special, you just go there and press play, and itís me and Mary Robinette Kowal who writes these books, theyíre like Jane Austen with magic. (laughter) Yeah, sheís good. And itís Dan Wells, who writes these really scary creepy books, but theyíre really good, and itís Howard Tayler. So anyways, Writing Excuses, all you aspiring writers, itís Hugo-nominated, it's very well received, I think youíll really enjoy it. You can look by topic, and find where I talk about writing characters, and weíll give you a ton of advice. Thereís two hours of advice on characters you can listen to.
Have you ever thought about making your writing class open?
Yes I have. There are some back and forths here. One thing, about the classes, I really do like teaching at BYU. I like being a BYU teacher, I like being involved a little bit in our Alma Mater, I like coming here, and if I were to make the class open, basically, what I would have to do, I would have to stop teaching at BYU and go to a library or something like that, and just do it in an Auditorium, and I like the class as it is. BYU has policies that say ďYou have to be a BYU student to go to the classĒ and thatís not something I can influence or change. So as long as I have it at BYU, it kind of has to be that way. Does that make sense?
Though Iíve tried to let them get me to record it and like Webcast it, but they have requirements and rules that so far we havenít been able to make that work. But Writing Excuses is basically the way that I do my class without doing my class, if that makes sense.
Whatís your schedule like as a writer with so many projects?
Well, what I do is I get up really early in the morningónoon. I get up at noon. This is hard sometimes! Maybe Iíll get up at 11. Usually I write until 5, and that writing is interspersed with a lot of email, and things like that and kind of distractions. Then I go hang with my family, and then I go back to work, depending on the day, at around 8 or 9, and then I work until about 4, and then I go to bed.
Usually Iím only writing one book at a time, while outlining another, and Iím often revising a third. I canít do new material usually on two projects at once, I can only do new material on one thing at a time. But I can be doing some revising on one, and some planning on another, but the truth is Iím very much a segmented writer, and work on segments on things. Right now, with the Wheel of Time, Iím usually not working on anything else or planning, Iím all gung ho on this one thing, and then Iíll shift modes and do something else eventually.
I know that Tolkein hated allegory in his story. What is your belief?
Tolkein hated allegory. He thought that his stories should just be stories, and I actually feel similar to him. I do have themes in my books, but I let the theme come as an outgrowth of what the characters are passionate about. And certainly, there are certain things, youíll read Way of Kings and Dalinarís very interested, a very big theme spiritually in the book (I know, that sentence doesnít make any sense). But, itís not me going in and intentionally writing an allegory. I like the story to stand as a story, I like telling stories. Iím not big into writing metaphors.
Certain people are very good at that. C.S. Lewis did a great job of that, itís not what I try to do.
How many marks to a broam? [Stormlight Archive currency]
Uh, Peterótake out the Ö Itís been so long. I had it at ten, but then I think he came in and said ďit canít be tenĒ, and so itís actually in our wiki. Peteróhey, whereís Peter? How many marks are in a broam? Is it ten or 25?
Email Peter, and heíll tell you. I have to get back into it when I start writing that series again, but Iím so in the Wheel of Time right now, so Iím like ďWell itís Tar Valon marks and...Ē (laughter)
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month], and would you?
I did it several times before I got published [But he never actually did it; see the link at the bottom for more info]. Way of Kings, I wrote during NaNoWriMo, a big portion of it. I actually wrote the NaNoWriMo pep talk this year, they asked me to, and so youíll get an email from me in your inbox.
Usually, I canít do NaNoWriMo officially because Iím in the middle of a book, and I canít stop a book and write another one, I will eventually be able to do that, but the Wheel of Time, and other things have been so busy lately that my schedule doesnít allow me to in November stop writing. And Iím usually touring in November, almost always. And thatís really tough for getting 50,000 words. If you havenít done NaNoWriMo, itís awesome.
Can a Drab Return?
A Drab can not Return as the Returned are known, and there are things about the Drab that are not completely understood. But a Drab without a Breath, itís going to be very hard. Drabs do not Return. Good question, by the way. No one has ever asked me that before.
Whoís 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 youíre ďAh, this is what I need to doĒ, 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 thereís a funny story here. In my original outline, I named many of the books, like Dalinarís is named Highprince of War. Shallanís 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, thatís going to give the reviewers too much fuel. (laughter) So you can pretend in your head that itís called that, but Iíll come up with a different name.
Whatís the future for the Alcatraz books?
I am actually in negotiations right now to bring the Alcatraz books to Tor, because we want to recover them, and rerelease them. So itís kind of in a little bit of a limbo until I can get it to Tor, they were at Scholastic, and weíre in negotiations. Thereís some things that I very much like about Scholastic, but at this point weíre kind of want to have all of my books at the same publisher, so if we do that, we will do a rerelease with new covers, then I will do the last book.
How can you rerelease a book with a new cover when sometimes you have references in the book to the covers? [Alcatraz made reference to the cover]
Then I can just add a little addendum to say that the rereleased cover makes sense.
How many magic systems have you gotten rid of, and how do you decide which ones to keep?
Itís an ever growing process. I mean Iíve started tons of magic systems, dozens, maybe hundreds, and I keep them based on how viral they all are, against the other magic systems Iím thinking of, how well this one appeals to me. Sometimes it depends if I have a book that will fit that magic or not.
For instance, some books are very action-oriented, and some magic systems are not very action-oriented, so the magic needs to fit the book, so they just keep on kind of spinning there till they work.
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 wouldnít 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 canít point to one specific thing.
With the Alloy of Law being more Steampunk-style, and your genre of choice being fantasy, what things have you done differently in this book than in your previous ones?
Just a quick caveatóI donít really view Alloy of Law as being Steampunk, but they put goggles on the cover, because Steampunkís really popular, but I donít view it as being Steampunk because it doesnít fit the Victorian feel. Itís much more Edwardian, itís later era, the book is really based off of 1910 New York, the feel and the culture that is there, but itís really a Mistborn book. I think when you read it, youíll feel that itís more a Mistborn book than it is a Steampunk, or a Western, or anything else. Itís Mistborn. Itís Allomancers with Guns instead. (laughter)
So what have I done differently? I really wanted it to feel like a Mistborn book, with some new elements. Itís really more of a Sherlock Holmes feel than anything else, because I wanted the mystery feel, and I wanted the character dynamic deal with things like that, so this was just a conscious choice to have two or three compelling main characters be in a more episodic story, and I was more focused on that than if itís Steampunk, or whether this is what, I really want this thematically to feel like a Mistborn book.
Whatís the difference between a Dawnshard and a Shardblade?
Theyíre actually, theyÖ You will find out. (laughter) I canít really reveal that right now, because thatís a RAFO. Iíve got RAFO cards that I can give you that say ďSorry I canít answer your question.Ē
How did you come up with the Mistborn idea?
Boy, thereís so many different places this came from. The plot came from me wanting to tell a story about a world where the hero failed. You know, the Heroís Journey a thousand years later, the sort of ďWhat if Frodo had kept the ring?Ē or ďWhat if Voldemort had killed Harry Potter?Ē That was one of my big concepts for it. Another big foundational concept was the desire to do a heist story, because I really love those, and I want to do one in the fantasy world.
What do you do to keep yourself from burning out? What do you do to decompress?
I play with my Magic Cards. (Laughter) I go and sort them, I go build a deck.
Roll around in them.
No! I canít do that! Then they get bent. (More Laughter) Thatís basically what I do.
With all the books you have planned, how many years of your life do you have planned out?
Iím intending to live till my 90ís probably, and Iíve got enough books for two books a year until then. (laughter) But I also write quickly, so youíll get books consistently and hopefully theyíll be funny and interesting. I really do try to work hard to make sure that they are each a self-contained story. The place where I stop doing that is in the last chapter and epilogue, where I really like to punch you, and Iím sorry, itís just some sort of instinct that I have. Itís like ďOh, everythingís wrapped upóNO ITíS NOT!Ē (laughter) So Iím sorry about that.
These are things that I overheard.
Kelsier was not spiked.
Part of the Lord Ruler's motivation for setting up The Final Empire was revenge against the people he viewed as encroaching on his people's land. He was also obsessed with creating order, which Ruin later exploited.
The Ars Arcanum in the books were all written by one person.
The author of the Ars Arcanum is either Hoid or a member of the Seventeenth Shard. Brandon also pointed to an annotation on the map of Elendel that's relevant to this question.
There's just the one system in Warbreaker, and it's also a world with only one Shard on it.
Are the usual quadrants (Physical, Mental, Temporal, Enhancement) preserved in Feruchemy and Hemalurgy?
No. In Ferchemy, it is based Realmatically. There is a quadrant of Spiritual, a quadrant of Cognitive and two quadrants of Physical.
How do Kandra decide gender? Is it just intellectual? Or are there subtle physical differences?
Kandra have a specific gender that is associated with scent- you can tell if a kandra is a boy or girl depending on how they smell. There is more to it than that. They also know who they are attracted to.
Does the person being pierced in order to charge a Hemalurgic spike have to die?
Not necessarily. A spike does require you to rip pieces of a soul from the victim, but that does not mean they must die. They would be a very different person afterwords though.
Why do Seons become broken when their person is taken by the Shaod?
A Seon has a Spiritual Connection with their user. When the Shaod takes the user, it messes up the spiritual nature of the user, and it really messes up the nature of the Seon.
Far from the Central Dominance, skaa can hold land and get rich. The Lord Ruler doesn't let this be known.
Watch for what happens when something leaves a bendalloy bubble.
Entities exist on all three realms that are only vaguely shadowed on the other realms. You have seen entities who exist primarily on the Cognitive Realm + are shadowed on the Physical.
The Lord Ruler once gave up and tried to end the Final Empire.
Expanse of the destinies = a world you know.