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Interviews: WorldCon 2009 - Dom

Summary:

Entries

9

Date

Aug 8th, 2009

Type

Paraphrased

Location

Montreal, QC

TourCon

WorldCon 2009

Reporter

Dom

Links

Theoryland

  • 1

    Dom

    I went to the Brandon Sanderson signing/Q&A in Montreal.

    He's as nice in person as he appears to be online.

    A lot of it dealt with Way of Kings, of course (but not much about Mistborn and Warbreaker).

    As expected, there were no huge revelations about WoT, but a few interesting tidbits, some by implication. Brandon fears spoiling people coming to these Q&A, so he's not even willing to discuss/mention the specific information which he knows is already around (for instance, to acknowledge that The Gathering Storm deals mostly with Egwene and Rand—he's telling people who want to know to look around on WoT sites for that).

  • 2

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    He told a nice (but longish) anecdote about how Harriet and Jim met in a Charleston bookstore after she had left Manhattan (and her position as Tor's editorial director) to return to the house she had just inherited from her mother, while he was writing the Fallon books and planning WOT. He gave her his Fallon manuscripts (which she ended up buying and publishing through her own house), she became his friend/advisor about his Fantasy project. Eventually they fell in love, and she introduced him to Tom Doherty, who hired him for the Conan books. In the late 80s, Harriet and Jordan came to New York to pitch WOT to Tom Doherty together. At the time, Jordan wanted to do a trilogy. Book one's original outline, the one they pitched, ended with Rand taking Callandor in Tear. Doherty, who knew a bit Jordan's style by then, was adamant to have him sign a six books contract instead. He doubted it would be a trilogy, and if it did after all the contract would be for Jordan's post WOT books instead. As RJ wrote book one starting with its middle act (he usually worked out of order like this, according to BS'd educated guess from the spotty nature of the A Memory of Light manuscript and what Harriet told him—he was the kind of writer who worked on the scenes that inspired him when they inspired him, then filled the gaps) he realised it was too much for one book and that's how it ended up as The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, and The Dragon Reborn.

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  • 3

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    About Harriet, Brandon revealed that not only did she provide most of the chapter titles and decide on the icons and maps (which we already knew) but she is also the one who handled the titles for most of the books. So those multi-layered titles that fit the main themes of each book and the opening quotes so well, or bring back metaphors or details from earlier books are actually hers, not RJ. Exceptionally, he's the one who came up with A Memory of Light for the last book as he was working on it. Normally it's Harriet who came up with a title after reading the full manuscript.

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  • 4

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    About the prequels/sequels, there was no big news. Sanderson 'strongly advised' Harriet not to have them written—but if she thinks otherwise, he wants to write them. He said (contrary to what he implied before—or at least what fans understood of what he was saying) that it's not really a matter of money. The 'huge advances' and new contracts Tom Doherty showered Jim with came about out of personal friendship for him because the Rigneys needed help with Jim's escalating medical expenses and it was also Doherty's way to tell Jordan he had faith he would pull through and live to write many more books for him. He's apparently telling Harriet not to worry about those advances or to let that influence her decisions. According to Brandon, it's the three outriggers Doherty is trying very hard to convince Harriet to have written, and the motive is quite personal: RJ sold him hard on the ideas for this trilogy and Doherty is apparently the biggest Mat Cauthon fan on the planet, so he wants these books written very very badly. Brandon would still prefer they were not. Harriet doesn't want to think about them for the moment.

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  • 5

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    Brandon drew a graph of A Memory of Light's structure and explained in some details how he ended up re structuring it as three books. Not much that isn't already known in there, book 12 will have two main story lines (we know it's Rand and Egwene, but as I said Brandon didn't say so explicitly at the Q&A) and teasers for three more (Mat—and seemingly Perrin and Elayne). By 'teasers', Brandon precised he means 3 or 4 chapters per story line, the rest of the chapters being divided between the two main story lines (by recent books, this could means Egwene/Rand have about 10-12 chapters each, or a few more). Some developments happen in the teasers but it's not huge stuff, more like set ups chapters for what happens in book 13.

    Book 13 will have the opposite, with 3-4 chapters each for Egwene and Rand, "toward the end". Brandon kept those for book 13 to avoid spoiling in The Gathering Storm the climax of book 13, which will mark the reunion of all the main story lines at some location, and launch Tarmon Gai'don. So in book 13 we will have the residual Rand/Egwene chapters that specifically build up to the reunion.

    Brandon explained the decision to split the books this way came about between Harriet and him, in part to avoid the "Crossroads of Twilight trap". Apparently, RJ went that way in Winter's Heart/Crossroads of Twilight mostly because he had been affected by all the grief he got for keeping Mat out of The Path of Daggers. He decided to try to put all the main characters in the next books, even if it meant all the story lines would advance more slowly if they were all told in parallel like this. He very much regretted this after Crossroads of Twilight, for which he got even more grief than for The Path of Daggers, and decided to return to his more organic/uneven approach for Knife of Dreams and A Memory of Light. The original plan for The Gathering Storm was to develop all the story lines in parallel again, but Brandon and Harriet had qualms about this and Brandon came up with an alternative to focus on two story lines in one and three in the other.

    There is one of the 'POV clusters' Brandon had written that it mostly unused for The Gathering Storm and will go in book 13.

    Brandon of course wouldn't tell who is the character not in The Gathering Storm at all, though he gave a few clues. Piecing all his bits of answers together, the character isn't Aviendha, Cadsuane or Nynaeve, nor Mat (the only character he confirmed is in the two first books, but we already knew this). He basically destroyed the speculation it could be Perrin by hesitating on the words 'major character' and then adding the bit that the vast majority of fans would actually place this character at the very bottom of the list of characters to be considered 'major'. The way he put Elayne over and over among the five really major ones during the Q&A suggests it's not her either after all. He also said while explaining his graph that there were chunks (his "teasers" for three story lines in The Gathering Storm and the core of the story for two—and his 'five' clusters he explicitly said were Rand, Egwene, Perrin, Mat and Elayne.

    So perhaps we've read too much in his 'major POV character' comment (Jason's review may also allude to this, when he commented that one major character is missing but it's pretty much up to each reader to decide who is major and not in WOT). At some point, he said a major POV character in A Memory of Light will be missing in The Gathering Storm, which is not exactly the same as saying a major POV character from the earlier books isn't in The Gathering Storm—which is the way his previous comment was interpreted by many.

    Dom

    Lan isn't a major POV character in the earlier books, but now he's on his own he may very well become one in A Memory of Light.

    In any case, I'm more and more thinking it's Lan (or possibly Moiraine), not Elayne or Perrin which I doubt many would place 'at the very bottom' of the list of characters to be considered major. Most people would place Elayne not near the bottom at all but among the top 7 or 8 most important characters. Above Moiraine and Lan, Thom, Loial and probably even Min and Aviendha.

    Footnote

    The POV character missing in The Gathering Storm was Elayne, and they didn't quite make it to the reunion of all plotlines at the end of Towers of Midnight as they had originally planned.

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  • 6

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    Another question was if there were shocking/very surprising twists coming (Brandon was asked to answer this one as a fan when he read the outline). Sanderson said himself was surprised by a few things (most of which will happen in book 13) and he initially had a few WTF! moments when Harriet or Maria explained to him what Jordan intended to happen during some of the outline's gaps, but after looking around the WOT sites more he realised these things seemed pretty much common place expectations among the real maniacs of the series. He also said if someone picked all the right bits from all the theories and threads and put them together and in the right order, that's pretty much the books. So, no, in his opinion, there aren't many big plot twists or shocking moments in store, not for the hardcore fans—he said Jordan rather found out interesting ways to tie up all the foreshadowing and it made for a very satisfying finale, especially the third part, the Last Battle, which he enjoyed the most. He then indirectly confirmed the Seanchan attack is the climax of Egwene's story line, using her as his example to explain there is no huge surprise or plot twist there, that she's long Dreamed about what is going to happen at the Tower at the end of her pre-Tarmon Gai'don story line.

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  • 7

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    About Asmodean, he gave a few more details but no huge news. When he decided that after all he would reveal the killer in the books (which he originally didn't intend) then got sick, Jim took no chance and took time to write down an extensive note about the murder, explaining very precisely and in many details what happened and what led to it. He had not decided where this could go (or even if it really would be in the book or he would publish the note after the paperback of A Memory of Light was out), so it was left up to Brandon and Harriet to decide on the character who could reveal some of this, and how and where in the book. Brandon denied to me having told anyone (someone mistakenly reported having read the opposite recently) in which book the murder is revealed. He said Harriet and him agreed long before the book split (soon after he read the outline, in fact) which scene seemed the best spot for the revelation. There was one that felt natural and obvious for this and it's the one they chose. Their choice hasn't changed because of the split, so the revelation is in whichever of the three books this scene happens and that's that.

    Footnote

    This report is also contradicted by many later reports indicating that all Brandon got was a Sherlock Holmes write-up from a fan with a note saying 'this is right', though the fan write-up was detailed.

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  • 8

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    After the Q&A, Brandon stayed around to sign more books and chat and answer more questions. He showed us some awesome concept art he had an artist do to help him envision his Way of Kings concepts. He talked at some length about the main characters and the set up. I must say this sounds like an awesome series—Brandon described it as somewhat midway in style and story between Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire—or at least it was his goal when he conceived it.

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  • 9

    Dom

    Brandon Sanderson

    He also got into his own approach to magic systems, which lead to questions about how much of a challenge he found the One Power and how he prepared himself to handle it (and yeah, he admits being a One Power fan). Brandon explained researching and analyzing the One Power was one of his main focuses during his pre-writing re-read of the series (the other was analyzing the characters' "voices". He also said RJ left a massive amount of notes about the One Power, some of it he's read (he couldn't read everything, he rather relied on Maria to find him the exact information he needed when he needed it). I think he's said that before—or RJ did—but RJ's notes for WOT are longer than the series itself and he always kept adding to them, from back story and history elements to world building tidbits to creating hundreds of characters he could use to sketches for possible scenes. It was Maria's job to index all of this so if he was writing a scene he wanted to use backstory elements or a new weave in, he could have her look first if this already existed in the notes and what of it had appeared in the series already—or if he didn't already have it and needed to create something from scratch.

    Sanderson said he resisted creating new weaves (beside introducing those Jordan planned to introduce) for the most part. His contribution will rather be to have the characters figure out they can use weaves they know in new ways—turn them into weapon etc., and for this he looked for details in the previous books. He mentioned one specific example: after Knife of Dreams, he thought characters figured out gateways and deathgates can also be used to slice non-Shadowspawn up in battle.

    We also discussed a bit the 21 levels list, which Brandon used a lot. Jordan did start it just the way he described it long ago, that is as a way to keep track of who defers to whom among minor players etc. However, as of now, this document's scope goes beyond this (and it's quite big). The document assigns a rank number to each Aes Sedai referring to the twenty-one levels system, and it lists their personal weaves if they have any, and who knows and have the skills to use which weave and to what extent, their strength in flows if details in the series have blocked this up etc. Brandon confirmed Jordan developed a similar ranking system for the Asha'man as well, but couldn't recall out of hand how many levels there were for them.

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