Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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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.
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.
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.
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.
You have quite the world you have created. I look at the map and see a lot of different locations. How many of the named locations are actually going to be used? ... Anyway, I am always curious as to how much of one's world that has been built actually gets used.
You'll have to read and see what happens. I will say this: When I build a map, I don't consider it to be a to-do list. In fact, it makes a world feel unrealistic to me when every single place on the map ends up getting visited. So it's not a to-do list, but many of those locations are very important.
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.
I also asked what project he would like to tackle next.
I'm assuming he meant after Stormlight Two. He said he really would like to get Elantris 2 out in time for the 10th anniversary addition of Elantris, which will have extra art and other bits in it. after that one, he says he would love to do another stand alone, and said The Silence Divine would be his choice.
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.
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.
You've been involved with some pretty big projects over the last few years. Tell us what it's been like working on the art for novels such as the Mistborn trilogy and The Way of Kings.
Writing, art, and book publishing have always been my biggest interests, so working on these great books has been very fulfilling.
I get the manuscript early on in the process, print it out, and go through the whole thing with a pencil, marking it up with notes about artistic details and tiny maps marking places in relationship to each other. Then comes my favorite part of the process: working with Brandon and his assistant Peter to make sure that my vision melds with Brandon's vision for the book. We usually do a lot of revisions and emails to get to the point where we're all happy with the results. I cannot say enough good about Brandon and Peter; they are both gentlemen to the core.
I know some of us have heard the story of how you came up with the symbols for Mistborn, but tell those of us who haven't how they came about.
I'd drawn about a half dozen pages of symbols inspired by my first reading of the book. Pages with dozens and dozens of tiny, intricate symbols—maybe someday I'll write a post about the process: Failed Allomantic Symbol Designs. But nothing was really working for me or Brandon.
I'd collected a lot of reference material for the steel inquisitors—nails, railroad spikes, those sorts of things—and one day when I was looking at a picture of a rusty pile of bent up nails, I saw the symbol for Iron. It was a Beautiful Mind experience. The symbol just jumped out at me. Glowing and everything.
After that initial experience with the symbol for Iron, it was easy to come up with the others. The bent nail part eventually became the crescent shapes used in the final book.
On a similar note, The Way of Kings has a lot of symbols associated with different aspects of the book. Were you involved with creating those, and if so, how did you design them?
I created forty-plus symbols for The Way of Kings. Many of these are found in the color charts in the hardcover version of the book (link here). My absolute favorites are used at the beginning of each Part (one of them is debossed on the book's hardcase beneath the dust jacket). I used Arabic word art and the shard blades as inspiration for these. Many of the originals were drawn on an iPod Touch and later brought into Photoshop for clean up.
Are the symbols going to be further explained throughout the series?
Yeah, you want me to- let me open this up *opens WoK* what she’s talking about are the symbols right here, this does relate to the magic and to the Knights Radiant. I will eventually explain what it is but for right now it’s just there to be interesting and to look at. It should be telling that one of them ended up on the front of the book, this is actually the same symbol as one of these, just done in a slightly different style. This is what we call in the books the glyphs, the writing system, they actually can be read phonetically, but they are also partially art.
The inspiration for these that I gave to the artist was the Arabic writing, where people actually, often take words and will do them as designs and these beautiful works of art, changing the words, and that’s what happened with the-you probably can’t see that very well- the embossing on this but that’s what happens with the writing system on this world and so the glyphs will usually will write them in the shape of something and that’s one of the glyphs written in the shape of a sword. So that will be explained eventually, it is something for the entire series, every book will have the same end pages like this so slowly over time you will understand that and I haven’t said anything at all about the one in the back, and I don’t intend to for quite a while.
Originally, I had the steps leading up to Elantris from the outside be a construction put there by the people of Kae. I knew I wanted a large number of scenes on the wall—it is such a dominant visual feature of the book that I thought it would make a good stage for scenes. However, I quickly realized that it would be the people of Kae—not the Elantrians—who controlled the wall. The Elantris City Guard grew from this idea, as did the set of steps constructed on the outside, leading up.
As I worked more and more on the book, however, I came to realize that the pre-Reod Elantrians wouldn't have needed a city wall for protection.
Obviously, to those who've read more, there is a good Aon-based reason for the wall. However, there is more to it than that, as well.
The wall of the city is a symbol—it's part of the city's majesty. As such, it made more and more sense that there would be plenty of ways to get up on top of it.
When we got the cover art back from Stephen, we were amazed by its beauty. A few things, however, didn't quite mesh with the text. One of these was the set of steps—they were so ornate, so beautiful, that it didn't fit that they would have been designed by the people of Kae. At that point, things kind of fell together, and I realized that there was no reason why the Elantrians themselves wouldn't have put a large staircase outside the city leading up to the wall.
And so, in the final rewrite of the book (the ninth draft) I changed the staircase, and the general feel of the wall, to give the proper sense to the reader. The staircase was placed by the Elantrians as a means of getting up on top the wall. The wall itself became less a fortification, and more a wonder—like the Eiffel Tower. It is there to be climbed and experienced.
This is the first year I've been a Special Guest at SDCC. On top of that, Gen Con has me as their Author Guest of Honor and Dragon*Con is bringing me in (for the third time) as an invited guest. With this conflux of awesome conventions happening, I wanted to do some special things. For years, I've wanted to do con exclusives—something to make it worth the effort for people to go out of their way to come see me. And so, this year, we have some awesome things going on. Read below for an expanded list of my SDCC activities.
I do realize that not everyone can make conventions like this, and I'll do my best to make some of these items available to those of you who can't come. However, I'd like to make the con experience a great one for all involved. In addition to simply attending SDCC this year, I have a booth (for the first time) provided for me in Artist's Alley (#II-10). Isaac, who does much of my artwork, and his wife have decided to come and run the booth. I'm hoping this will prove lucrative enough for them that we can do things like this in the future. So please, do come stop by and see us. We will have freebies every day and awesome merchandise. If you know someone who is going to SDCC, send them by to pick something up for you!
Feruchemical Table Fine Art Print
As a complement to the Allomantic Table we offered a few years back, we are bringing 100 signed, numbered copies of the matching Feruchemical Table. This wonderful artwork by Isaac Stewart is printed using archival ink and paper. There will be a limited edition of 300 fine art prints, all signed by both me and Isaac. They're absolutely gorgeous. We'll be selling numbers 101–200 at SDCC. The other two hundred are going to be for different cons and, most likely, for a small internet sale after the cons are over. Once these are gone, they're gone—though Isaac may do a smaller, unsigned poster-style print afterward. (Like we did with the Allomantic Table.)
Wheel of Time and Mistborn Temporary Tattoos
Price: Free at my booth!
Each day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Isaac and Kara have a promotional temporary tattoo to give away. (A different one each day, while supplies last.) Two are Allomantic symbols, and one is the Snake Wheel logo from the Wheel of Time. (They also have the dragon symbol from the Wheel of Time, but that one misprinted to be tiny. They'll give those away too, but they look a little silly printed as small as they are. Be sure to ask for one anyway—and I believe they'll give those away on any day.)
Isaac and Kara paid for these themselves as promotion, so I'm hoping that when you guys stop by the booth, you have a look at the T-shirts they've brought. (A Wheel of Time shirt and a brand new Way of Kings shirt that I'll talk about next.) Isaac is an awesome artist, and he's put a lot of work into the Feruchemical posters and the shirts.
Do you feel like the art you've provided for the various novels has fueled your desire to create your own worlds, or is it a separate animal all together?
Stories and art were always separate things in my head. But my art has somehow begun to pave the way for my own story-related projects. My love of art and story have accidentally collided. It's so obvious, I didn't know why I didn't think of combining them that way before. Talk about the biggest duh-moment of my life.
What are some of the books you've been a part of, and what exactly were you in charge of?
I’m responsible for all the maps and symbols in the four (so far) Mistborn novels as well as all the symbols, chapter headings, maps, color end pages, and Navani's notebook pages in Brandon's Way of Kings. (The other artwork in the book was done by Michael Whelan, Ben McSweeney, and Ben Call. I'm thrilled to be showcased in the same book with these amazing artists.)
On the design side of things, I've been designing self-published books—covers and interiors—for a while, but recently had the luck to get into the business professionally with the book design for Bryce Moore's YA novel, Vodnik. I've also done covers for some ebook re-releases of some science fiction and fantasy classics from the 80s.
In addition to Brandon's maps, I've also worked on maps in the re-release of Robert Silverberg's Nebula-winning novel A Time of Changes and the upcoming reprint of his very-enjoyable Downward to the Earth.
How often does the author end up hating the art that's provided for their book (be it cover design or chapter art)? Has anyone ever been less than thrilled at something you gave them?
Occasionally I hear about authors who aren't thrilled with their book cover. More often, I see cover reveals where the author is ecstatic. Designers, artists, art directors, and publishers really want to design beautiful book covers that will get their books into the hands of those who will enjoy the books the most. In the process, you'll wind up sometimes with authors whose opinions differ from their publisher's, or in some cases, the cover might truly be awful.
No client has ever come to me and said they hated what I did (doesn't mean there isn't someone out there who hates what I've done for them—if there is, they just haven't told me). Usually the process we work through to get to a final idea weeds out the awful stuff. Ideas and thumbnails are thrown out all the time because they stank like week-old dead fish. Sometimes you've got to sift through the fish to find the roses. That's a terrible metaphor, but you get the idea.
Shallan's sketches in The Way of Kings are terrific additions that enhance the epic feel of the novel. What inspired you to push for these illustrations?
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 and 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 sketchbook, or uses of multiple maps, could give us a visual component to the book. 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 has put 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—that's what you're getting.