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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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PROJECT THREE: SCRIBBLER
Many of you have asked about this book. It is a very nifty gearpunk young adult book I wrote in spring of 2007, before the WoT came my way. Unfortunately, I can't justify spending time on it while I've got A Memory of Light to finish. People have been waiting too long for A Memory of Light, and now that it's three volumes, I need to make sure I don't delay those volumes. To those of you who were looking forward to Scribbler, I'm sorry!
PROJECT FOUR: DARK ONE
Another Young Adult book I was working on. It's about half finished, and hasn't been looked at since I was asked to finish the WOT. See the above explanation. This one's not coming anytime soon.
PROJECT FIVE: THE LIAR OF PARTINEL (A.K.A Dragonsteel)
This was the book I was working on for a 2010 release. Epic fantasy. I wrote it in 2007, then put it aside when the WoT was offered to me.
Frankly, I was never pleased with how this book turned out. It was a rough, rough draft—and though I finished it, it wasn't really ever 'finished.' I've tossed it back into the wood chipper of my brain. I can do better, and I just can't ask you to buy this book, as I don't feel satisfied with it. I could revise it, but that would take about six months of work—delaying the second WoT book for six months. That's unacceptable, particularly for a book I feel so unsatisfied with. You'll get a revision of this someday, perhaps.
So, that's it, right? I think I've talked about everything. Now, some of you may be wondering what this means. Is there going to be no solo Brandon Sanderson book released in 2010?
As early as last summer, Tom Doherty began asking me if there was any way I could get Tor a novel for a 2010 release. He doesn't like going years without releases, and he worried that my readers would feel dropped in favor of the Wheel of Time readers. Plus, he really wants to see something more from me.
When he first mentioned it, I laughed. He was asking me, essentially, to finish the entire Wheel of Time book by spring of 2009, then write him a solo book by fall 2009. Even then, I knew it wasn't going to happen. A Memory of Light was too big a project.
However, now that A Memory of Light has been split, Tom has asked more and more often about getting a Brandon Sanderson solo book to release between the WoT books. He's very worried about there being a period of three years during which I don't release anything of my own. And so, with his questions, he got me thinking. Was there anything I would feel comfortable releasing? Liar turned out poorly, Scibbler isn't epic enough, Warbreaker 2 isn't written. What else is there?
The answer was simple. The Way of Kings.
The Way of Kings was the book I had just finished when I first got offered a book deal for Elantris. I originally signed a deal for Elantris and for Kings. (And because of that, you can still find an Amazon entry for Kings—which has some amusing reviews posted by readers with too much time on their hands. Note that the book was never released, so these are all just made-up amusing reviews.)
Yes, the original contract was for Kings—but I decided that Kings needed to be put off. Kings is a great book, perhaps the best I've ever written. But it just didn't FEEL right to release after Elantris. The Way of Kings is a massive war epic of legends, mythology, and magical revolution. It's intricate, complex, and was a bit daunting for me when I thought about readying it for publication. Just to give you an idea, Mistborn has three magic systems, Kings has well over twenty. Mistborn has six main viewpoint characters across the trilogy; Kings has dozens. I wrote about 30k of background material for Mistborn. Background material for Kings is over 300k.
Difference in scope is only one of the reasons Kings wasn't the right follow-up to Elantris. After a stand-alone novel, I felt that I wanted to publish a trilogy, perhaps two, before I offered my readers the first of a big, multi-volume epic. I also worried that the initial draft of Kings just wasn't good enough—because my skill wasn't up to making it good enough.
Working on the WHEEL OF TIME has forced me to grow immensely as a writer, however. Over the last year, the more I thought about it, the more I itched to dive in and do a revision of The Way of Kings. If I could effectively use all I've learned, I might be able to make the book become what I want it to be. And so, I told Tom about Kings, and he eagerly offered me a new contract for it. I've warned him that it might not be ready in time to come out next year, but I'm going to give it a try.
Kings needs a solid rewrite. I've been tweaking it over the years, worldbuilding the setting and so forth. I've been planning, working on, and revising this book for eight years. I think that if I do a rewrite now with my current writing abilities, it would turn out very, very well.
The thing is, I can't be certain. Maybe it won't work as I want. Maybe I will just have too many things on my mind. Maybe I'm not up to doing this book yet. But, because of the pleading of Tom, my readers, and (most importantly) my own heart, I'm going to give it a try.
As I said above, writing and revising take different parts of the brain. I can only write new material for a certain number of hours a day, usually around four or six. But I can revise all day long. Perhaps it's the difference between mental heavy lifting and mental long-distance running. Either way, in order to give this a try, I've hired a full-time assistant, Peter Ahlstrom, to do all the things in a day that normally take my time away from writing/revising. Usually, when I'm not revising, the 'non-writing' hours of the day are spent doing all kinds of tasks associated with being self-employed. Peter is going to be handling all of this, theoretically freeing up a few hours each day during which I can revise The Way of Kings.
This will not take my time away from writing Shifting Winds. If it starts to look like it will delay that book, I will stop working on Kings—not because of any criticism I may get from readers, but because I feel a debt to Mr. Jordan and this project I have agreed to do. I like to keep my promises.
I explain all this because I want you WoT readers to understand that I do have a life beyond the Wheel of Time. I have obligations, both to publishers and to myself. I feel very strongly that the time has come for me to show readers what I've been working on behind the scenes for many years. And so, on my blog I will spend time talking about projects other than the WHEEL OF TIME.
I like to be open. I like you to be able to see what I'm doing, and so I feel I should be up-front with you about what I plan. I've shelved a lot of books for THE WHEEL OF TIME, and rightly so. But there are two projects I WILL be spending time on this year—Alcatraz 4 and The Way of Kings. I plan to add progress bars for each of them, and link the titles here so those who come to my site later can read this explanation.
Sorry to be long winded . . . again. Occupational hazard.
As of doing this interview, the last book of the Wheel of Time is nearly done, but boy, that's a big "nearly." There's so much work to do with the last chunk of this book that it's feeling pretty overwhelming right now. My goal is to have a revised manuscript in to Harriet by January 1st. When it comes out will depend on how long it takes to edit it.
The second Stormlight Archive book is in the planning stages; I should go right into writing that starting January 1st, with it coming out hopefully around a year after that, maybe March 2013. That's a long wait since The Way of Kings was released, and I hate to make people wait that much, but I plan to write the third book fairly soon thereafter.
Alcatraz is on hold until I decide what to do with the series. I will write one more book in that eventually. The Rithmatist is exciting; it's fun; but I also don't want to have too many balls up in the air that people are reading and having to keep track of. So I keep delaying it with Tor, saying we shouldn't release it until I'm sure I can commit to getting the trilogy done in a reasonable amount of time.
Other than that, I have a few random side projects in the works that should be coming your direction. I always have random side projects in the works, but none of those are ready for announcement yet.
While I eagerly await the next novel in The Stormlight Archive I recently read your description of The Rithamist as "It’s kind of like playing magical chalkboard Starcraft, in a gearpunk world, told through the eyes of the unmagical son of the cleaning lady." and was instantly intrigued. How is the progress on it going?
zas678 got it below. The Rithmatist MIGHT come out this year, if I have spare time to revise it. I don't know that I will, as other projects come first. It feels bad to leave it hanging all of this time, but my real worry is that it had an ending that implied more books (which is the type of ending I like to write.) That is bad at this juncture. A cool stand-alone is fine, yet another series people will wait to see more of is bad. So I can't release it until I can either support it, or until I can fix the ending to not imply more volumes. That, plus the book needs a heavy draft.
From what I've heard, he wrote it a couple of years ago, but it needs a good 3-4 months of Brandon revisions. So it will be a while, because he really feels like he needs to get out WoT and then Stormlight Archive 2. After that he may write it.
Choosing the next project is a balance between the promises I've made to readers and the best way to channel my creativity. I stay fresh by jumping between projects; it's the way I've (for better or worse) trained myself. And so I always have a lot of ideas, and there are a lot of things I've worked on.
One thing to keep in mind with me is that, because of the way I work, some of these things just don't end up turning out. They aren't good enough for publication, at least in their current state, so I shelve them. Imagine it like the B-sides of an album. The band may do a lot of playing, jamming, and recording—and then they pick the very best to present to their listeners.
In the case of the books mentioned above, Liar turned out poorly enough on the first go-around that it's shelved indefinitely. I'm not sure how I stand on The King's Necromancer yet, and White Sand is unlikely to be in good shape for many years. Scribbler (one you didn't mention) turned out great, and you'll probably see it in the near future.
As for sequels to books that are half-promised, we'll see. Something like Nightblood (where there is a potential sequel, but the story of the book was wrapped up and told strongly, I feel) is less urgent than something like the rest of the Stormlight Archive (which is a single story, told across many books.) In the case of Stormlight, I've made a stronger promise to readers, one I feel the need to fulfill.
Of course, the question you asked is how I keep them all straight. Lots of notes mixed with quirks of the way my brain works.
I debated writing this because you seem like a genuinely nice guy who cares about his fans, and I don't want to hurt your feelings. If you find it difficult to read criticism, please don't read any further.
To be honest, I am hoping that you won't write the outriggers/prequels because it seems to me like your heart's just not in it anymore. In 2011 you announced that you needed time off to reread the entire series before starting work on A Memory of Light since you'd forgotten too much and this had led to continuity issues in Towers of Midnight. But according to your own website, you only reread a third of the series, then went on to work on Alloy of Law, Legion, The Emperor's Soul, The Rithmatist... As someone who enjoyed Way of Kings a great deal, I'm glad that you've continued to work on your own books, but the fact that you abandoned the reread does make me worry about the quality of A Memory of Light. If you cannot give WoT as much time and attention as it needs, it's better to let it go.
Another big issue for me is the characterization. You're great at writing Perrin and also did a good job with Rand and the girls for the most part. Others felt off, and that unfortunately includes the main characters the outriggers and prequels would focus on. I'll leave out Mat since that's been discussed to death already, but Lan and Moiraine's scenes in Towers of Midnight were a huge disappointment for me. Lan has always been a favorite of mine, but here he came off as a whiny combination of Gawyn and Perrin. He's a grown man in his late 40s, not a sulky teenager.
Then there's Moiraine, now ready to give up all her power if only Thom tells her to. Yes, her captivity undoubtedly changed her, but at her core, she is someone who was ready to sacrifice everyone and everything to win the Last Battle, including herself. So it didn't seem right for Moiraine to offer to give up an important tool like the angreal.
""Egwene, I know what you feel for Rand, but you must realize by now that nothing can come of it. He belongs to the Pattern, and to history."—Moiraine, The Shadow Rising
For an instant she regretted sending Thom away. She did not like having to waste her time with these petty affairs. But he had too much influence with Rand; the boy had to depend on her counsel. Hers, and hers alone.—Moiraine, The Shadow Rising
That had been one of Moiraine's more succinct bits of advice. Never let them see you weaken.—Rand, Lord of Chaos
I happen to like Moiraine a lot, but there's no denying she was partly responsible for Rand thinking he needed to be hard. Yet in Towers of Midnight you have Rand speak of how caring she was; even Mat and Nynaeve sing her praises. You seem to be trying to retcon Moiraine into a saintly figure she never was. All WoT characters have major flaws; Moiraine's was that she treated people as chess pieces that sometimes needed to be sacrificed for the greater good. In The Shadow Rising she intentionally tried to separate Rand from his friends so she could be the only person influencing him. It wasn't until Rhuidean that she discovered firsthand what it felt like to be the person forced to make the ultimate sacrifice, and she finally became the advisor Rand needed. But even then she was still manipulating him and encouraging him to be hard, so obviously she hadn't changed completely. To ignore her flaws and mistakes is to do the character a disservice and hides her growth in The Fires of Heaven.
This is getting long, so I'll wrap it up here. I hope this made sense and that I didn't hurt your feelings. I still think you're a very talented writer and look forward to reading both A Memory of Light and the next Stormlight book.
Well, thanks for the thoughts. I will take the comments for what they are worth, and appreciate your sincerity.
By way of correction, I do want to point out that Alloy of Law, Legion, and The Rithmatist were all written BEFORE I started work on A Memory of Light. The only thing I've written during A Memory of Light was The Emperor's Soul, which is a short work I wrote on the flight home from Taiwan earlier in the year. I have always stopped my main projects for side ones. It is part of what keeps me fresh. Alcatraz was in the middle of Mistborn, Rithmatist in the middle of Liar of Partinel (which I decided not to publish; it was the last book I wrote before the WoT came my way.) Legion was during Towers of Midnight. Emperor's Soul during A Memory of Light.
My heart is completely in it—that I can assure you. I stopped the re-read because I was just too eager to be working on the book, and I'd already re-read (the last year) books 9-11 in working to get Perrin and Mat down for Towers of Midnight. But your complaint is valid. I did not re-read 6-8, except for spot reading. I kept telling myself I needed to get to them, but I was too deeply into the writing by that point.
As for where I misfired on characterization, I apologize. In some cases, I don't see them the same way as you do. In other cases, I am doing a worse job than RJ would have, and the failings are mine. I don't want to diminish your opinion, as it is valid. I certainly have struggled with some characters more than others.
Though, for the scene with Moiraine and Thom you quote above...I, uh, didn't write that scene, my friend. That one was RJ in its entirety, and was one of the most complete scenes he left behind.
Brandon, thank you for the thoughtful response. I understand that it's very difficult for most authors to read criticism (let alone reply to it), so I appreciate that you took the time to read and reply.
I'd like to stress that I wholeheartedly agree with Neil Gaiman's "GRRM is not your bitch" post and hope it didn't come across like I thought you shouldn't be working on anything besides WoT. Side projects are very much a good thing (happy and creative authors→better books), and I am personally excited about your upcoming books. It was mainly the fact that you seemed to have given up on the reread that felt like a reason for concern since you had previously said you needed to refresh your memory to avoid a repeat of Towers of Midnight's continuity errors. It also made me worry that you had gotten weary of working on A Memory of Light, which would have been understandable given that it's a very time-consuming and demanding project that you've already spent 4-5 years on. I'm glad to hear this is not the case.
"In some cases, I don't see them the same way as you do."
That's not something I object to since we all have different perceptions of the characters. In most cases I understand where you are coming from even if your interpretation differs somewhat from mine. Unlike me, you also have access to all sorts of character notes and spoilers about their futures.
However, in some cases it felt like your personal love or dislike of certain characters also played a strong role. To put it bluntly, it's easy to tell that Perrin, Egwene and Moiraine are your favorites since they've received a disproportionate amount of PoVs or praise from other characters, Egwene in particular (how many scenes do we need where people talk about how brilliant, clever and talented Egwene is?). I don't know how much you follow other WoT boards, but there's been a lot of debate in fandom as to whether Egwene has become too much of a Mary Sue-type character who easily defeats supposedly shrewd political opponents and is constantly praised by other characters, often at the expense of people like Siuan. It's impossible for a writer to remain completely objective, and your background as a fan is on the whole one of your biggest strengths, but sometimes things like that can feel jarring. I would not want to see the same happen to a complex, flawed and interesting character like Moiraine.
"Though, for the scene with Moiraine and Thom you quote above...I, uh, didn't write that scene, my friend. That one was RJ in its entirety, and was one of the most complete scenes he left behind."
I have to admit, this comes as a surprise to me, partly because of Moiraine's seemingly uncharacteristic offer to surrender almost all her power for Thom's sake and partly because she used contractions in this scene (in the New Spring graphic novel, there's a note from Jordan informing the comic writers that Moiraine never uses contractions). She and Thom seemed to have a mutual respect and attraction in the early books, but spent very little time together, so I would not have expected any full-blown love or a marriage proposal at this point. It just seemed very strange for Moiraine to be willing to sacrifice her only chance at regaining her strength when she's barely even thought about Thom in her PoVs before. But since Jordan wrote that scene, there's nothing to do but accept that it's where he wanted to take the characters.
Re: Contractions Interesting story here. Harriet and Team Jordan worried about my use of contractions in places that RJ did not. It seemed very striking to them. Their first instinct was to go through and change it, after the fact, in order to match RJ's style.
Harriet didn't like how that looked. She felt that my style needed to be blended with RJ's, rather than taking my style and forcing it to fit into something else. So it was decided that one of her tasks, as editor, would be to blend the writing after it was put together. She'd go through and make scenes feel right together, and would blend the two styles like a painter blending paint.
So, she takes away contractions from me where she feels they need to go and she actually adds them to RJ's writing where she thinks it needs to be blended. I was curious if that was the case here, so I went back to the original notes.
And it turns out RJ wrote the scene with contractions. Most likely, he was planning to trim them out with editing. Remember, even the most complete scenes we have from him are first drafts. In fact, in some of them, the tense is wrong. (Much of this Moiraine/Thom/Mat scene is in present tense. )
An example from the notes is:
He puts the angreal on her wrist, and says 'I'll marry you now.'
In revision, this line turned into:
He put the bracelet back on her wrist. "I'll marry you now, if you wish it."
Anyway, I don't want to spend too much time defending myself, because that's not the point of your post. Really, the most important thing for me to say is that I understand. I'll do my best, and criticism like this is important to me. (Particularly on the Wheel of Time books, where I feel that listening to fan direction is important for gauging how well I'm doing on the characters.) It was fan criticism that brought me around to finally seeing what I was doing wrong with Mat, and (hopefully) making some strides toward writing him more accurate to himself.
Brandon's book release plan for the next five years:
After A Memory of Light is finished, Brandon's next focus is finishing the next Stormlight Archive book "as soon as possible, hopefully by this time next year." The next book is already intricately plotted out, which is about the halfway point for Brandon, and the rest of the writing "could take as little as 6 to 8 months."
There are two books that Brandon finished before starting on the final Wheel of Time book but which won't come out until after A Memory of Light, as Brandon wanted to properly support their release, which just isn't possible while finishing The Wheel of Time.
The first is The Rithmatist, a middle grade coming out from Tor Books next year about Joel, a non-magic kid enrolled in a magic school (his mom's the cleaning lady there) who starts investigating a murder that happens at the school. The magic system is "chalkboard magic," which Brandon likened to playing Starcraft. The kids draw a chalk circle around themselves on the floor then scribble in things that try and chew through the other kids' own chalk circles. Fans of his Alcatraz series will find the same appeal from The Rithmatist, according to the author.
Next is Steelheart, a post-apocalyptic superhero book where people in our world can only obtain super powers if they're evil. The inspiration for the story occurred to Brandon when he got cut off by another driver one day. "I thought, if I was a supervillain this guy would just be...BOOM." Which got him thinking about a world where people could actually do that.
In the world of Steelheart, these people are considered "forces of nature" and eventually the most powerful form little fiefdoms. The protagonist is an 18 year old boy whose father was killed by Steelheart, one of the most powerful superpowered villains, who joins an assassination guild in hopes of taking Steelheart down.
After Stormlight 2, Brandon will probably go straight into the third Stormlight book, although he might take a short break and write the follow-up to The Alloy of Law. And after that? Brandon really wants to write a follow-up to Elantris, as 2015 marks the ten-year anniversary of the publication of the first book.
Now I stroll back into my workshop and find that a little bit of dust has gathered. Out of necessity, the Stormlight Archive has been neglected. I am pleased I made the choice to work on A Memory of Light instead of Stormlight 2. However, it is time to pick up that story again and make this series all of the awesome things I've dreamed of it being for some twenty years.
The stories of Mat, Rand, Egwene, and Perrin are now done. Returning to the stories of Kaladin, Shallan, Jasnah, and Dalinar will be my next major project. You'll also see me doing revisions on both The Rithmatist and Steelheart this fall—as I've made arrangements for both to be published next year or the year after. You'll probably hear more about them in the days to come. And yes, I WILL be doing a sequel to The Alloy of Law.
Since you've had this other career—which has helped, I'm sure, in a lot of ways—what impact has this been on your original writing career, I mean I know you had to have slowed down your progress and your series, but you've still been writing those. What are the biggest impacts you've seen on your writing career because of taking on the Wheel of Time?
It's definitely done some...it's made me have to put down projects. In fact, next year, I have coming out the projects I was working on in 2007 when this came my way; The Rithmatist and Steelheart are both books that I did way back then that I didn't feel that I was able to release in the middle of the Wheel of Time books, even though I had them done, because I wouldn't have been able to do the revisions on them, and because I wouldn't be able to support them; I wouldn't be able to do sequels and things like that. They're both YA books. And that's, you know...when I accepted this, I said "Okay, I'm shelving these things." I did get to do a couple of books, I got to do The Way of Kings, which, granted, I already had a draft of that done. So really, the only book in these last years, the last five years that I've been doing this, that I've written from scratch and released was Alloy of Law. And so it's going to...it did kind of slow me down. The only reason it didn't slow me down as much as it could have was because I had all of this stuff done already. I had a great big backlog of books, because I enjoy writing, and I've been writing for years, and back then I wasn't as popular as I am now, so Tor would put things in slots later on, like...while I've been working on these, Warbreaker and Mistborn 3 came out, both of which were done years before I was offered the Wheel of Time. And so...yeah, all of this stuff that I had been working on long ago got delayed, and that was just fine—I went into this eyes open—but it is going to be nice to be able to go back to these things and give them some of the support that I've wanted all along.
You know, this project took more time than all of us expected it to. I had to say yes sight unseen to knowing how big it was. I knew what Jim had said, but I didn't know how much of it was done. I didn't know that we had two hundred pages out of two thousand. There was no way for me to know how much would need to be done. So yeah, it's been a big long deviation, but not a distraction, because I think my writing has grown by leaps and bounds. It's kind of like I had to go pump iron, because writing in the Wheel of Time has been much harder than writing on anything else I've done, and I have been forced to grow, and you can see my being forced to grow between the books in the Wheel of Time books. I think my writing is way better in Towers of Midnight than it was in The Gathering Storm, particularly in some of the ways that that Jim was strong. And so, I think that's helped me. It's certainly not an experience that I would trade for anything. I got to read the ending in 2007, so there's that. (laughter) But yeah, it's been a wonderful experience, but boy, it's been a big, big, big deviation. It's not where I thought my career would go at all.
Was it daunting seeing just that small amount of work that was taken care of before you stepped on?
Well, it's daunting in two ways: First, I got that. It was really nice to have the ending. Like, having the prologue and the ending basically done—those were the two things that he did the most work on—meant that I had the bookends, which is how I build an outline anyway. I know where I start, I know my ending, and I build an outline out of that. But at the same time, there's three million words of notes about the series, which is daunting in another way. Yes, there's two hundred pages of work done on the book, and then there's this stack over here of all these other notes that include all of these things that are just mind-boggling, the stuff that's in there. We released a few of them last year for you guys. Was it last year that we released the notes?
Yeah, we got the page on Cadsuane and...
Yeah, the page on Cadsuane and stuff like that. You just see all of weird things that he had in his notes. I have all the same sort of weird stuff in my notes about like Stormlight and stuff, but it's just fun to see. You go pore through these notes...he has the most random stuff. Lists of trees, lists of people, lists of this, and just millions and millions and words of this stuff, more than I can keep track of at all. It requires Maria and Alan to keep track of all this stuff. So it was also daunting in that, yes there are two hundred pages written, which actually nice, because as I've said before, if the book had been 80% of the way done, they wouldn't have needed to hire me, they wouldn't have needed to bring me in. When a book is 80% of the way done, that's when you get a ghostwriter, or Harriet just does it herself. She really could have done it in-house herself and finished that and said "Look, here we're going to do a few patches and stuff, but the book is mostly done."
And so, getting there and saying "Hey, I actually get to do something with this, I have an opportunity to add the scenes that I've been wanting as a fan for years and years, so I get a chance to actually write these characters, rather than coming in and just patching some holes," was very thrilling for me at the same time. You know, I worried that I would get there and it would just be patching holes—"Write these five scenes," or something like that—and that would have meant I wouldn't have really had a part in it. Granted, that would have been better, because it would have meant there was more Jim in it, and it would have made a better book, but at the same time, when I got to see those two hundred pages, I was saddened but excited at the same time.
Talking about people taking chances with fantasy and pushing the genre in interesting places has me thinking about one of my favorite spec-fic subgenres: Steampunk.
I've been fascinated by the Steampunk (and its younger cousin gearpunk/springpunk/whatever you want to call it) since my early days enjoying the anime movies my brother would dig up here and there. (If you're lost as to what these are, might I point you to Wikipedia? They'll do a better job of explaining it there than I have time for here.)
There are a lot of interesting things going on in the sub-genre. Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan looks very well done, and the sub-genre as a whole seems to be enjoying a renaissance of books, stories, and visuals. (A lot of fantasy art lately has had a decidedly steampunk edge.) I actually wrote a very fun gearpunk story two years back—a full novel, actually, that I haven't had time to revise or do anything with. (The Wheel of Time has proven somewhat distracting to me lately....) It's called Scribbler. Maybe I'll get around to doing something with it eventually.
I have a lot of curiosities about this genre. What is it that draws us to it? Why do we love this classical use of technology, turned in to science fiction? Perhaps it captures that sense of exploration and wonder that used to exist to a larger extent in scientific discovery. Science is still exciting, but it's become something much more...technical these days. Back in the late 1800's early 1900's, there was a feel that science could not only solve all problems, but that it was something every day people could explore and understand. A lot of branches of science were relatively new, at least in the modern form, and there was a general excitement and enthusiasm to the process.
Now, science is something we study in school and take tests on. In general, even the common person has a grasp of basic scientific principles. What is happening is amazing, but at the same time, there's a density to it. Trying to figure out quantum physics or other areas where breakthroughs are happening can twist the brain in knots. Some of the wonder is gone. And so, we find ourselves looking back at times when science WAS magic to us, and we create stories that explore these eras.
Or maybe that's all just me waxing overly philosophical. What are your thoughts? Do you like Steampunk? Is it played out and over-done, or is it here to stay? Why haven't we had a really good steampunk live-action movie? (Note that I said a GOOD one. LXG and Wild Wild West do NOT count. Hellboy gets points for having some gearpunk elements, though.) Why does this subgenre fascinate us so?
I sent out a newsletter over the last couple of weeks, which you can see here. If you want to be on the mailing list (I send maybe three or four of these per year), sign up here. And if you want me to email you when I'm signing near where you live, be sure to tell me your city.
One of the things I mentioned in the newsletter is that my young adult book The Rithmatist is coming out next year. You may remember that I finished the first draft of this book (formerly known as Scribbler) way back in April 2007. Due to being a bit busy over the past five years I was never able to revise it to my satisfaction, but I've now had the chance, and Tor Teen will be releasing it next summer.
It's a fantasy/steampunk/mystery about a boy who gets free tuition to a magic school because his mom is the cleaning lady—yet he has no magical talents himself. I'll post more on it as next summer approaches.
Tor.com has posted the cover art, and my editor Susan Chang gives her thoughts about the book here. Look forward to it!
Also, Tor.com put up the prologue and first chapter of my YA fantasy The Rithmatist that's coming out in May. Read them here. (Illustrations by Ben McSweeney, who also did the Shallan's Sketchbook illustrations in The Way of Kings.)
With the series coming to a close, it now allows Sanderson to move on to his own material. He is working on the second Stormlight Archive book, which he hopes to release in November, and a couple of young adult novels.
"These are projects I had been working on for years and years, and I finally have some time to work on them," Sanderson said.
Sanderson plans to release The Rithmatist in May and Steelheart, the first of a trilogy, in late summer or early fall.
The Rithmatist follows Sanderson's normal fantasy themes. However, Steelheart is more of an action/adventure with some fantasy twists. In the book, the only people in the world with super powers are evil, and normal people organize ways to try to bring them to justice.
He sold the film rights to Steelheart to Random House after eight different companies bid on it.
Thanks, Bob. You rock.
So what kind of prewriting did you do for A Memory of Light @BrandSanderson?
Lots of practicing character viewpoints. I also make a huge outline, which started on big sheets of butcher paper.
Is there anything specific process-wise you learned from completing WoT that you will apply to future projects?
I'm in awe of RJ's subtlety and hope to be able to transfer my understanding of that to my own works.
Did the ending of A Memory of Light influence the end of Emperor's Soul?
Not intentionally, but it's hard not to be influenced by projects like this.
For example, I wrote Rithmatist while developing the revision for The Way of Kings, and both ended up with a redhead artist.
Did the confrontation between Vin and Ruin in Hero of Ages influence the Rand v Dark One scenes?
Everything I do influences everything else, so I'd say yes—but in this case, I had RJ guiding me as a greater influence.
How does it feel now that the Wheel of Time is over?
Sad. Awesome, but sad.
Is it tough knowing you can't continue the story?
Yes, and no. I feel the ending is the right one. And I can imagine in my head what happens, so for me, that is enough.
It should be Christmas 2013; that's what we're aiming for. In fact, I have to name it this weekend so TOR can start the publicity for it.
And then we're also getting A Memory of Light, obviously, and The Rithmatist?
Yes, that's the book I wrote just before Wheel of Time in 2007, back before I was offered a Wheel of Time offer...and it languished for years because I was so busy with Wheel of Time—and when I had any free time, The Way of Kings—I wasn't even able to do revisions. The three or four months it would have taken would have slowed down one of those two books, so I was able to take those months after A Memory of Light was done.
And is there anything next year?
I don't know when Steelheart will be out, but probably 2014...but it is on people's radars. This is another one before I took up before Wheel of Time, but I wrote it in gaps between books, so people know about it. I've been trying to shop it Hollywood for years, but I was finally able to polish it off and sell it. Once Wheel a Time was done I was finally able to spend time on these things which have been put aside for years. Things like this are good, but to give them the time to make them great while I was working on them would have taken time away from A Memory of Light, and it wouldn't have been right to let them demand that time, so it wasn't until recently that I've been able to give them that time. So, I think that'll be 2014, but we do get three books next year most likely.
Yep, and that's great... I'm looking forward to reading them all.
What other projects do you have planned or in the works?
My novella Legion just came out from Subterranean Press and I'll do a signing for it at the Missing Volume booth at noon on Saturday; it's a modern-day story about a guy who has something like schizophrenia, but he's a genius. He himself can't do anything special, but all of his hallucinations are experts in their respective fields. People come to him with problems they need solved, and he brings a few of his hallucinations along with him to help solve them.
In November I have another novella, The Emperor's Soul, coming from Tachyon Publications—it's more like my fantasy books, in a world where trained Forgers can change reality, and the main character has to Forge a new soul for the Emperor, who was left brain-dead in an attack.
Next summer I have two YA books coming out: The Rithmatist, which is about fighting with magical chalk drawings, and Steelheart, which takes place in a world where all the superheroes are evil; the main character is a boy who knows the weakness of the Emperor of Chicago and wants to hook up with a team of assassins to hunt him down.
Then my next book that will come out after those is the sequel to The Way of Kings, which I'm working on the outline of right now.
BOOKS YOU WILL SEE SOON: (The books that are done.)
The Rithmatist (once named Scribbler): Summer 2013
Steelheart: Fall 2013 or spring 2014.
BOOKS YOU WILL SEE SOMEWHAT SOON: (Working on right now.)
Stormlight 2: Hopefully Fall 2013.
Shadows of Self (New Wax and Wayne): 2014
Alcatraz 5: I own the rights again now, and hope to write this book sometime in the near future.
Stormlight 3: Goal is to write this soon after Stormlight 2
Steelheart and Rithmatist Sequels: I will probably try to do one of each of these between Stormlight 2 and 3.
Elantris 2: I'd still love to do a sequel for 2015, the 10th anniversary of the book's release.
Warbreaker 2: Long ways off.
Dark One: Unlikely any time soon.
The King's Necromancer: Unlikely any time soon.
I Hate Dragons: Unlikely any time soon.
Death By Pizza: Turned out mediocre. Won't be released anytime soon.
The Silence Divine: Will be written someday.
White Sand: Will be written someday.
Mistborn modern trilogy: Will be written during the gap between Stormlight 5 and 6.
The Liar of Partinel Didn't turn out well. Scraped.
Dragonsteel: Won't be written until Stormlight is done.
Not a lot of changes from back then, except that Steelheart got finished and Rithmatist got a release date for certain.
Rithmatist and Steelheart? Both of these are coming out next year. The Rithmatist is the last book I wrote before being offered the Wheel of Time. It was the book I was working on and finishing. And it is a book about a boy who gets to go to a magic school, but he has no magical talents himself, he's the son of the cleaning lady so he gets free tuition. And so he gets to go to this high-class school and get this high-class education that also trains wizards but he can't do the magic, he just doesn't have the genetics for it. And it's a really fun book about a chalk-based magic where you basically play like a magical version of a tower defense game by drawing a circle around yourself in chalk and creating little beasties to go attack your opponent's chalk circle. The loser is the first one that gets their chalk circle breached. It's really fun and like I said, it's kind of a mashup between those two ideas; the idea of the Muggle at Hogwarts mixed with these chalk magics. So that's coming out next summer.
And sometime next fall or the following year is Steelheart, which is a book I've been working on for a long time that I also developed as a Hollywood pitch. And it's about a world where people start gaining superpowers, but only evil people get them. And a big apocalypse basically happens because they just start taking over. And it's about a young man whose father was killed by one of these creatures called Epics, evil superheroes basically. And he joins a team, or seeks to join a team, that all they do is hunt down Epics, figure out what their weakness is, and assassinate them. And he wants them to assassinate Steelheart, the Emperor of Chicago, cause he thinks he might know what Steelheart's weakness is. So it's one of these wacky things that pops out of my brain occasionally and so that'll be coming out sometime eventually then. So thank you for giving me that wonderful marketing opportunity.
When you were talking about the Rithmatist, you said that he wasn’t genetically capable of doing magic and I was wondering if you actually had like a genetic system for how...
Yeah, this one actually isn’t genetic. I said genetic, but it’s not. But I don’t want to give away what it is that makes someone use the magic in that world. I did actually develop a genetic magic system that was very interesting that is in a book that didn’t get published.
Is it going to get published?
Probably not, but I might recycle the magic eventually.
Tor.com has put up chapter 2 and chapter 3 of my forthcoming YA fantasy The Rithmatist. (If you missed them, the prologue and chapter 1 are here.) The book comes out next month. Tor has also announced a mobile campaign involving (at the moment) the Wheel of Time and The Rithmatist. On your mobile phone text "EPIC" to 555111 to receive facts, trivia, and more (and no, that's not an April Fools joke, though it was announced on April 1st). Or you can sign up at this link.
My YA fantasy The Rithmatist is coming out in two weeks (three weeks in the UK). Tor is doing a Goodreads giveaway of 15 copies of the final book. You can sign up hereâ€”but only if you're in the US. For those of you outside the US, I apologize—hopefully there will be something you can participate in soon. And if you missed the announcement of my book tour, you can find the list of tour cities here.
Included on the tour is Phoenix Comicon, and I will bring my convention-exclusive "Firstborn"/"Defending Elysium" hardcover to the con. Also attending will be Shawn Speakman, whose anthology Unfettered will include the story "River of Souls", a deleted sequence from A Memory of Light. Unfettered doesn't come out until June, but there is a four-story preview (including "River of Souls") that will be available at Phoenix Comicon.
Shawn is also auctioning off several signed books, including a signed limited edition of Legion, to benefit Duane Wilkins of the University Book Store in Seattle. Duane is a very cool guy who has supported my career from the very beginning.
The Rithmatist is out! Buy it from the links to the right or visit your local bookstore. (In the UK/Australia, the release date is May 23rd.) My book tour starts tonight in New York and continues in Philadelphia, Denver, Omaha, New Orleans, Houston, San Jose, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Provo, and Spanish Fork. For details see my events page. (And note, as always I'm happy to sign any books you bring to a signing. Don't feel bad showing up to a signing for The Rithmatist carrying your copy of A Memory of Light. I'll sign it gladly. And if you want me to send you an email when I'll be signing near you, tell me your city here.)
I'm super excited about The Rithmatist. Imagine a world where people duel using a magical, StarCraft-like system where one draws units and structures in chalk. Those come to life once you complete them, though they remain two dimensional, and you can use any drawing surface as a dueling platform. The main character, Joel, gets to go to a school specializing in this magic, though he can't actually use it himself. (He is the son of the cleaning lady, so he gets free tuition.) Students start disappearing, and he gets mixed up in the mystery.
This book is a favorite among my beta readers. (The Rithmatist has been around in draft form for some six years now, so many of the inner circle of my fans have read it already.) It's a fun, quick read that (hopefully) will tide you over while I'm finishing up Stormlight 2, Words of Radiance. (About 80% done with that right now.)
While I love my Alcatraz series for younger readers, that series is very bizarre and quite different from the style of my adult books. I've found that many of my readers wish I had something more "Brandonesque" to hand to their younger siblings, children, nieces and nephews, etc. Well, this is the book for you. Deep worldbuilding, a complex magic system, and a sharp plot.
Read onward on this blog post if you want to hear some of the background of The Rithmatist and how it came to be. Otherwise, check out those sample chapters, and come see me on tour!
The origin of The Rithmatist
Six years ago, I was writing a book that I hated.
Now, that's both rare and common for me at the same time. I tire of pretty much every book I work on at some point, usually during the revision process. I push through and get over it. That's what you do as a writer. By the time I'm done with the process, I'm tired of the book—but it's the good kind of tired. The "I worked hard, and now have something awesome to show for it" tired.
Unfortunately, that wasn't happening for this book. Called The Liar of Partinel, every chapter was a chore to write. Though it had started very well, it continued to spiral farther and farther down the drain. I was familiar enough with my own writing by this point to realize the problems with Liar wouldn't work themselves out. The characters were boring, the plot forced. The worldbuilding elements never quite clicked together.
It had been years since I'd had such a bad feeling about a novel. (The last time, in fact, was Mythwalker—my sixth unpublished book&mdsah;which I abandoned halfway through.) Part of the problem, I suspect, had to do with my expectations. Liar, set in the same world as Dragonsteel, was to be the origin story of Hoid, the character who has appeared in all of my Cosmere novels. (Information here—warning, big spoilers.)
I needed Hoid's story to be epic and awesome. It just wasn't. And so, I ended up "hiding" from that novel and working on something else instead.
The Rithmatist. It started with some drawings and a purely creative week sketching out a world, characters, and magic. That week is the exact sort that turned me into a writer in the first place, and was a distinct contrast to the grind that had been Liar. I abandoned the book and dove into The Rithmatist (then called Scribbler), and wrote a book where everything just came together. It happens sometimes. It just works, and I can't always explain—even to myself—why.
I finished the first draft of the book in the summer of 2007. In the fall, I got the call regarding the Wheel of Time, and my world transformed forever. The Rithmatist, though an awesome book, languished for years because I didn't have the time to devote to it. Doing a tour or contract for another teen book was impossible at that time, and beyond that I couldn't commit to writing any sequels or even doing any revision for the novel.
I did tell Tor about it, though, and they started to get excited. The publisher tried several times to get me to release it, but I didn't feel the time was right. I couldn't let my attention be divided that far. I was already stretched too thin, and I wanted my attention (and that of my readers) to be on the Wheel of Time.
The month A Memory of Light was done and turned in, however, I called Tor and told them it was time to move forward. I'm pleased to be releasing the book now, when I can give it the attention it deserves.
And hopefully someday I'll be able to fix The Liar of Partinel. (At this point, I'm feeling I need to rewrite it as a first-person narrative, though making that switch is going to cause an entire host of problems.)
Anyway, thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoy The Rithmatist.
What can your fans expect from The Rithmatist, as compared to your other adult novels? Was it easier or harder to write for a YA audience (or was there anything different about the writing process for this particular book)?
That's an excellent question! I wouldn't say it's either easier or harder. For me, a story grows in my mind till I just can't ignore it anymore, and I have to write it. That certainly happened with The Rithmatist.
As for what I did differently, there are a couple things. When I work on a teen book, I usually try to focus the viewpoints. That's one of the big distinctions for me between an epic fantasy that has teen characters—like the Mistborn books—and a book that I've specifically written for a teen audience. I usually focus on a single character—maybe two—so the narrative is a bit more streamlined.
The other big difference here is that I really wanted to write something with a sense of fantasy whimsy to it. I say whimsical, and it might be the right term, and yet it's not. For example, the magic system is one of the most rigorous and specific that I've written. I hope readers will find it as interesting as I do—with the defensive circles and the different types of lines.
With my epic fantasy books like The Way of Kings, for example, I looked at the size of the planet, its gravitation, its oxygen content—all the sorts of things that allow me to worldbuild with some scientific rigor. I consciously didn't want to do that with The Rithmatist. I replaced the United States with the United Isles, turning the country into an archipelago. I shrank the planet, and I did really weird things to the history of the world because I thought it would be fun. For example, I let Korea conquer the world, because I'm a fan of Korean history.
It's not like I'm sitting down and saying, "What is plausible?" I'm sitting down and saying, "What is awesome?" Then I write a story in which that awesomeness can shine. I let myself do that in my YA works more than in my adult works to give them a different feel. Writing this way allows me to exercise different muscles.
I believe that children and teens are better able to mode shift. When they pick up a book, they don't necessarily feel that it has to fit in one of the genre boxes. As an author, that allows you to do some interesting things in teen that are harder to do within an adult genre.
In all of your other books, you write strong, layered female characters—what can we expect from The Rithmatist in the protagonist/heroine department?
I often worry about falling into the trap of making female characters strong by not making them feminine. In Mistborn, Vin is strong in part because of how good of a warrior she is, and that's fine. There are plenty of women like that, who can hold their own in a fight. But in The Rithmatist, one of the things I wanted to do was write a female character who is more girly, so to speak. I wanted to make her a strong protagonist in a way that does not undermine her femininity. I hope that I've managed to approach that with Melody in The Rithmatist.
You create some of the most elaborate magic systems in fantasy today; these systems function as intrinsic parts of your worlds and characters. Typically, how do you address the different types of magic systems in your different books? Do you define these systems before you start writing the books, or do they evolve and develop as you go along?
The answer to that is yes! It's different for every book. With my Cosmere books—which are the shared universe of my epic fantasies—I need to be a little more rigorous. There are fundamental underlying principles that guide the magic systems, and so there's a larger developmental phase before I start writing the book. Then I stick more strictly to the rules I've given myself.
All the way back in 2007, I was writing one of my epic fantasies, and it just wasn't working. I needed a break to something creative, different, and distinctive. So I jumped ship, abandoning that epic fantasy, and wrote The Rithmatist instead, which had a lot less planning than one of my epic fantasies.
With something like The Rithmatist—which is outside the Cosmere—I'm allowed a little more freedom, which is one of the reasons I like writing books like this, where I allow myself to develop it as I write. The magic was the first thing that got me excited about The Rithmatist, so I based the book around it.
The first thing I wrote was the scene—now late in chapter one—where Joel watches Fitch get defeated by Nalizar in the classroom. It started out on a chalkboard, but I eventually moved it to the floor because that made more sense. As I was writing these chapters, I developed the Rithmatic lines and let the story feed the magic and the magic feed the story in a way that some writers call "discovery written."
Well all the defense's names are based off of families he knew in Nebraska, and the evil tower is placed where his childhood house would be.
Mistborn didn't contain any explicit sexual themes but did have gore. I would have no trouble recommending it to a YA reader. Did you go about changing your style/tone/whatever for something like The Rithmatist that is geared more towards YA or is it mostly the same?
The whole YA movement is a difficult one to parse in sf/f. We have a grand history of books that might be packaged right now as YA. Would Shannara be YA if published today? What about the Belgariad? I think you could make arguments for both.
At the core of designing a story, I don't think about which audience it is for. I design something I think is interesting and fun. However, during the writing process, I think it is appropriate to consider audience. In a YA book, I will focus more on the younger protagonists and their viewpoints. I will also generally try to streamline the story—not dumbing it down, but keeping my attention on a more focused narrative.
Which book should be my next to read?
Elantris and Rithmatist were my next two books on my list and I was going to read which ever I just got my hands on first. I ended up getting both of them in my hands right now, so I don't know what I should read first.
Elantris is his first novel and many people really love it while Rithmatist is new and sounds really interesting.
What would you suggest reading next?
Also, if it makes a difference, I will be going to an event that he will be at over the weekend, so I want to be able to talk about more than just Mistborn.
Thanks for the help.
Elantris was my first published book, and it does show. I think it's still perfectly readable, but do go into it knowing that it wanders in places, that the prose is a little rough, and the characters a little more straightforward than those of Mistborn. It would be a good one to read if you are interested in the Cosmere, as The Rithmatist isn't a Cosmere book.
The Rithmatist is a stronger work overall, but has a weaker start. (That's the roughest part of the book.) It is also more narrow—it has one viewpoint character, and is about basically one event. It's going to read faster than Elantris, come together more tightly, but overall is going to feel less deep because of its focused nature.
Either way, thanks for reading.
You've been described as "insanely prolific," and with all of your recent releases that's an apt descriptor. How do you find the time to write so much, and more importantly, how do you keep the stories and characters fresh?
I don't know if you know the history of The Rithmatist.
No, I don’t.
In 2007, before Harriet [McDougal] called me about the Wheel of Time, I was writing a book that wasn't working. It was called Liar of Partinel. You've never seen it. No one's ever seen it. It just happens to writers: once in a while you write a book and you know something deep is wrong with it, like it's fundamentally broken in some way. I was bored while writing it. This wasn't writer's block—that's something different. Across two months, every chapter I would go through the motions, but I wouldn't feel any passion to the chapters. Eventually, halfway through, I said, "I just can't do this anymore. I need something I'm excited about."
I sat down and started sketching. I don't do a lot of drawing. The last time I did some sketching that started a book was Elantris, where I did all the symbols for the Aons. I just started sketching, and I started imagining this story where people would duel with these chalk circles. You draw this chalk circle around yourself, and then you draw little beasties, little creatures that would crawl across the ground and attack your opponent's circle, and when your circle got breached that was the end of the thing. It's like a magical version of a tower defense game or something like StarCraft. I imagined these kids playing this game and thought, "Where do I go from this?"
It was one of these purely creative experiences where I was just drawing and making notes at the side and coming up with things in order to not have to do this other book, which I found so boring. Over the course of a month, instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing, I wrote The Rithmatist. It's one of those books that just flowed out of me. It just came out like it is, basically, right now. We've done revisions and so on, of course, but the revisions are all minor.
It's hard to even explain why it happened, but it came from those sketches. I just started drawing.
When I finished The Rithmatist, Harriet called me [to ask Sanderson to complete the Wheel of Time series]. I was really relieved that I didn't have to go back to that book that I didn't like anymore. I turned my attention toward the Wheel of Time.
I love The Rithmatist. Great system of magic. You do these unique systems of magic, and yet you say all your worlds are related.
Yes, they are all related, but I didn't connect The Rithmatist to that.
Because The Rithmatist has connections to Earth, and I don't want the Earth books—anything on Earth—to be related to the big system of everything else, because it adds too much. Does that make sense? It adds too much baggage.
So The Rithmatist is its own contained world. I wanted to play with Earth history. I just wanted to do wacky things. The JoSeun Empire, which is the old name of one of the Korean dynasties, has conquered Europe at various points, and so European food is very Asian influenced. You'll eat spaghetti with chop sticks, and things like that.
I'm not trying to do true alternate history. True alternate history is when people say, "What if this arrow had hit this guy in this battle and instead . . . ?" That's not what I'm doing. What I'm doing is alternate world, where we're reimagining everything and just letting it be fun.
I've shrunk the planet. It's much smaller. You can take a train to Europe. The United States are a bunch of islands instead, and people duel with chalk, and my hometown in Nebraska is the source of all evil in the world, with a magical tower the monsters come out of.
By the way, all the Rithmatic defenses are named after friends of mine from Nebraska, or people I knew, or things from Nebraska history. There's something called the Osborne Defense. Well, if you're from Nebraska, you know that Tom Osborne was the great coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers for many years. All the defenses are named after things like that, just for fun.
How about your parrot?
Parrot. Didn't you have a parrot in there?
I did. Well, it's a cockatiel. He's called Beaker, because he sounds like the Muppet. All sorts of random things from my life. Like Professor Layton, the math teacher, is a good friend of mine who was the best man at my wedding and who is a math teacher in real life. You know, you can do fun stuff like that in a book set in our world that's not our world, things that you just can't do in something like The Way of Kings where you want it to be a little more serious and epic. It has to take itself seriously. You've got to maintain continuity. Oftentimes, when I'm escaping from something like that, I write something like The Rithmatist, which I don't need to be quite as serious with. In some ways, it's a release valve from writing the big epics. They're my true love, but there are things you can do in a book like The Rithmatist that you just can't do in The Way of Kings.
You're known as an epic fantasy guy. Why the change-up?
I like to do different things. It's what keeps me productive—switching projects. And usually after I've finished something big, I want to do something very different. And so I like to try different genres. Granted, the speculative aspect, the science fiction/fantasy aspect of things, is what really interests me. I basically have never written a book without some at least hint of the science fiction or fantasy element because that's what I love, so that'll show up in everything. But I also do like thrillers. And writing this book—it's been called dystopian now—I viewed it as action-adventure. Dystopian in the same way that some of the darker superhero films are dystopian.
Is it my first YA? I have another YA called The Rithmatist. This I wrote as an older middle grade novel, which is a very fine distinction that really only matters to literacy professionals, and to authors, and things like that. Middle grade ended up getting published as a young YA novel instead—the line there blurs very much. So, yes and no. I mean, Mistborn, which I'm best known for, stars a sixteen-year-old girl. That's shelved in 'adult' because there are adult characters as well, but the story's about her. So is it my first YA, is it not? I'm really honestly not sure. That's sort of a distinction I'll let the librarians and the booksellers argue over.
It's unlikely that I'll ever do any more Wheel of Time books. I don't think that Robert Jordan would want it to keep going.
What about your Steelheart, how many—?
That is a trilogy. I've finished the second book and turned it in, then one more left to do, and then it'll be done.
Final and kaput? No multiple trilogies?
Hmm ... you know, I could see ... but I have no plans right now to do any more. I have my next YA book that I've already got planned what I'm going to do.
The Rithmatist, how many in that series?
That's also three.
I am working on it but I don't have a specific date.
How far are you into it?
I have the outline done. The outline is about half the work for me.
Therein lies the joy, I think. We all like to discover a bit, even those of us who are outliners. I want to go a little bit sideways here and talk about your YA fiction.
First of all, what prompted you to go in that direction?
Well I read science fiction fantasy. Science fiction fantasy has a very long tradition with juveniles being part of it. We don't spend as much time distinguishing as some other genres do. I think it's a great thing that we now have the full-blown YA genre in bookstores.
When I was growing up, it didn't exist. In my local library, there was no YA section. I would look in the children's section or in the adult section and I actually found Anne McCaffrey [inaudible 00:04:57]. I asked the librarian about that. She's like, "Both groups like her." For me, it's what do they like? I put it where they like it.
If you go back to the Heinlein juveniles, if you look at Shannara by Terry Brooks, is this a juvenile, is it not, does it even really matter? I've always wanted to write for all age groups. Trying my hand at teenage protagonists in a story only about them was very natural to me. Mistborn is about a 16-year-old girl.
Why is it not YA? Because it's about a 16-year-old girl and other characters who are not and it runs the spectrum. The Rithmatist and Steelheart, which are my two primary YA series, are about focus on a character who is a teen dealing with their life, their problems. That becomes a teen book in today's parlance.
I think that as science fiction fans see writers, we transcend this, readership transcends this. It's just a convenient way for us to get a little bit more understanding of the story, what type of story to expect.
The sequel is going to be very fun, it's called The Aztlanian, it's taking place in South America.
Where in South America?
Well, I've rebuilt South America so it's kind of weird. The Aztek empire, which is the main name the Northerners have for it, they call it something else. The problem is I shrunk the planet, so I had to smash South America and Central America a little bit into each other so the islands that they are is it South America? Central America? What is it?
So is it Spanish-speaking? Or...
No, the Spaniards got fought off, they actually speak Nahautl.
No Portuguese or Spanish? It's all...
There are a couple Portuguese/Spanish islands but-- They grabbed a few of them but the main empire speaks Nahuatl.
Whew! Getting tense now. I love endings—they're my favorite parts of books to write. Once, I wrote 16,000 words in one day to finish up a book. (That was my record until I finished Scribbler a few weeks back. I think I did 23k on that book in one day to finish it off.)
We start this chapter off with our only Dockson viewpoint. You'll notice that it's a hallmark of my style to start multiplying viewpoint characters as books draw to their climaxes. I like the feeling of chaos it creates, and I like the way it lets me show a lot of sides of what is happening. In addition, it just makes the endings feel more special, since you get to see from eyes you haven't before.
Elend stays true to character in this scene, coming in with his idealism and his talk of theory and politics. He really did turn out to be a good character, which is why you're going to see plenty of him later.
Captain Goradel, by the way, is named after my friend Richard Gordon.