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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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On later Stormlight Archive novels will there always be one character we get to see flashbacks for?
Yes, and it should rotate to different characters. I have not yet decided who gets book two yet. It's really between Dalinar and Shallan and I go back and forth on whose story I want to tell next.
So, does that mean there's going to be 10 different characters that would be seen?
It's very likely there will be 10 different characters. The only caveat on that is that part of me really wants to do a second Kaladin book. And so I haven't quite decided who gets flashback books. You can probably guess from reading this book some of them who do. But there are some that don't necessarily absolutely need them, so Kaladin may get a second flashback book.
So, fingers crossed, fingers crosses, will Szeth get one?
Szeth will get a book.
YES! (laughter) We're all cheering.
Yes, Szeth will get a book. Shallan and Dalinar will get books.
UmÖI'm not sure on him yet. He's one that could, maybe not. I mean he's got some interesting things going on but we'll see how the series progresses first. There are characters who will get flashback books that you haven't yet met or at least not spent much time with.
Firstly he read from his novella, Legion, which is out in November [I think??]. It's about a genius whose genius manifests in the form of hallucinations. Basically whenever this guy studies anything, he creates a hallucinatory expert that retains the full extent of all this knowledge like a repository, and it is with his 'legion' of hallucinatory experts that his full genius and ability comes from.
On the second day he read from a new novel set in the Elantris world (though in a whole different part of the world, with completely new characters (barring, of course, Hoid)). I didnít write it down, but the title was something like 'Soul of the Dragon Emperor'. The magic system involves Forgers, people who can through study and understanding somethingís past, forge a soulseal which can change that past so long as it is touching the thing itself. So a Forger could look at an old and battered table, and by studying it—understanding where the wood came from, where the polish came from, so forth—they could then create a soulseal that says the table has been lovingly and carefully cared for, and so long as that seal is laid into the table, the table will no longer be battered and old, but perfectly polished. This is the gist of the plot as well, that something has happened to the Emperor and a talents Forger who works as a thief is supposed to Forge the Emperorís soul so that it appears as if nothing has happened.
Other than that the only other thing I have in my notes is that Shallan is to be the Stormlight 2 Flashback character.
Well, you'll be glad to know that I finished with the first section of it last night; the second book is Shallan's book, so I was writing her flashback sequences.
Any new name ideas yet?
Not yet. The name's still the Bad Name. [explains to others]. In my notes it's called The Book of Endless Pages, because that's the book Shallan gets at the end of Book 1, but the problem is that it's kind of a silly title for a book this long.
Yes, spren can die.
Okay, so Syl, she's been around for at least a few thousand years, right?
How does she forget her memories? Is it in connection to humans that makes it so she remembers things?
And she's what, a Bonding Spren?
You will find out. She [says she's] an Honorspren, but you will find out.
Is that bond the Nahel bond?
[Nervous grin on Brandon's face] [laughter] There is a certain amount of... It is a symbiotic bond that is gained by Syl. And things gained by the person bonding. And the stronger presence in the physical realm, and the ability to think better in the physical realm is a part of that bond. She is mostly getting [something] of the physical realm. Without the bond, it is very hard for her to think in this world.
Because she's windspren?
That's part of it. That's part of something else.
Shallan. What the crap was up with the headless spren?
You will find out! Read and Find out! I did just finish her flashback sequence, the first thing I wrote for the second book.
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 clichť 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.
Book two has been renamed Words of Radiance, as it's Shallan's book. Dalinar's book will be Book Five. (Though I haven't promised he will survive that long. I reserve the right to do flashbacks for someone in a book after they have died.)
It WILL be Dalinar's book, however, not one of his sons.
Late 2013 is still possible. I'm about 2/3 of the way done.
I finally got to ask a question about the Stormlight Archive that Windrunner17 and Chaos helped me with which was: "Why Can Kaladin Surgebind with any gem type but Jasnah and Shallan need specific types?"
A lot of that will be explained as the series comes along. It is really the difference between Soulcasting and the other forms of Surgebinding. It's more a quirk of Soulcasting than it is something that is different about about Kaladin. So you've kind of got it reversed a little bit though; Soulcasting has this additional restriction that the other ones don't.
So why is Shallan so whiny? No Iím just kidding...
Shallan is very young and has gone through a lot in her life.
And does she have a Shardblade?
She does have a Shardblade.
I suppose one thing to wonder is how do you enter Shadesmar? We know of a number of people who are jumping from world to world through Shadesmar. Grump Thinker and Blunt, Hoid too. How are they accessing the cognitive plane to transport themselves across the lands?
Presumably Shallan's bond with the truthspren let her get in. How does this work? If she had only a dim sphere then does it not require any stormlight, any spiritual power? Is it a purely cognitive change? I could see some advantages to that. You could hop into this alternative dimension at will if you were being attacked, even with little power.
The scholars earlier talk of whether there is food in Shadesmar, so presumably others have visited it. Can non soulcasters visit it? Is there some fabrial that grants you access? Are they only referring to the distant past, when KR had the power to access it? Is it purely a thing of the mind that anyone can learn? Is it only possible if you have access to a splinter of a shard?
And on an unrelated question, they have symbols on their heads. If Shallan managed to draw one of these would it be some glyph? Perhaps some glyph that we would recognize, like the glyphs in the artwork at the front?
There are many ways to enter Shadesmar. You'll see more of this in the future. One thing to keep in mind about Shadesmar is that space where things are thinking is expanded, while space where there is nothing to think is contracted. In other words, in an empty void, you get almost no Shadesmar. This makes distances as we think of them very different there.
As for the symbols making up the heads of the cryptics, those are not glyphs. But it's possible you would recognize them...
Is the city that the Parshendi are in Urithiru?
In the Way of Kings, Jasnah tells Shallan that Urithiru is not on the Shattered Plains. So either Jasnah is incorrect or that is not Urithiru.
In other words, youíre not going to tell me?
Iím just clarifying for you so that you have all the information you need in order to make judgements and ask questions.
This was a method I thought I would use in order to help divide each book and help me envision each book as a stand-alone volume in the series. Because one of the challenges of writing a big series like this is you donít want them all to blend together. You want them each to feel distinct, to have their own climaxes and their own story because when they start to blend together it can be detrimental to the series in the long run. So in my original outline, I spent a lot of time figuring out what everyoneís story was going to be but I didnít actually have to do them in a certain order because they all are flashbacks I didnít have to have the flashbacks in certain parts. And so I wasnít sure whether I was going to do Dalinar or Shallan for the second book, I always knew I was going to do Kaladin for the first book. And I ended up deciding on Shallan, in part because I want to get into her story because of things that are happening in the plot but also because I wanted Dalinarís sequence to come later.
Now, Iím not promising that characters all survive that long. Itís entirely possible, just so you know, that I would kill someone off and still show their flashback sequence. Because the flashbacks arenít them having a flashback, the flashbacks are- itís not them sitting there and remembering that, it is simply a non-linear way of telling their story. So just so you know, that doesnít necessarily mean that Dalinar survives til book five.Shallan Flashback
There is a debate on what to call Shallan's Symbols, so we don't have such an ambiguous term for it .
Yeah, the Symbolhead, Shallanspren,
We don't really know what to call them.
Do I want to canonize this yet?
You don't have to canonize it yet.
I don't know if I want to canonize it yet. But I will say this. They are spren, that should be pretty obvious. They are the spren connected to what Shallan is capable of doing. But I donít know if I want to canonize it yet. Truthspren is as good a name as any, and I would suggest you use that until further notice.
She did not, it was actually Syl. But he was in the process of breaking the bond, and so she was able to get some stormlight to him, but that is what really — Like you can imagine, this bond was really a strain for her to use at that point, so it was her, but doing what she did just about destroyed her, which is why you don't hear from her after that.
Is healing a universal stormlight power then?
Yes, within reason. Some are better at it, but it is a universal power.
With Dalinar, as a bondsmith, what does that mean his power-?
That is a good question! That is going to be an [RAFO card].
Perception is a very important part of how these things all work, and remember, the Honorblades work differently from everything else. Everything was based upon them. Why donít you read and find out whatís going on there, but remember, the charactersí perception is very important.
So then thatís why at one point Shallan requires ten heartbeats and now she doesnít.
Right, just like—itís the exact same reason why Kaladinís forehead wounds donít heal, because he views himself as need—as having those, somewhere deep inside of him, and that canít heal until that goes away. And itís the same reason why in Warbreaker, when you bring something to life your intention, rather than really what you say, is what matters. Itís all about perception.
The Stormlight Archive already has that feeling of an "epic" tale, not just in the size of the novels and the rich world building but the story too. Do you have any idea how long the book series might go on for?
Yes. I conceived The Stormlight Archive as a series dealing with ten characters, where each book took one of the characters and delved deeply into their past and their psychology. Granted, the other characters will appear, as Kaladin is a big part of Words of Radiance even though this volume could be described as Shallan's book. Since I have those ten characters, and there are ten orders of Knights Radiant, I built a ten-book series with two five-book arcs: five books and then a break, followed by another five books.
Are we going to find out in here, why Szeth and what the Truthless are all about?
That, you will have to wait for his flashback sequences in a future book. Each character gets a set of flashback sequences. I'm not going to promise that the characters live to the book where their flashback sequences are. You might have a character die and then get their flashbacks the next book to get more information on them. This will be Shallan's flashback, then the next book will be Szeth's flashback, then Eshonai, then Dalinar.
How deep are you going into Shadesmar in WoR?
Not terribly deep in WoR. We're going to have to wait until Jasnah or Shallan are exploring it more.
Not specifically as phrased there, but each order has quirks that are unique to it. They are magical quirks, but it's not necessarily a blend of the powers.
So Shallan's Memories is kind of a...
Is associated with her Order, yes.
It's not just because she had that wonderful ability, and Pattern came along and went, "Oh, I like this one!"
No that is not necessarily what attracted Pattern.
It just seems to me that the Weepings feel very close to Cultivation.
The primary thing you're noticing -- and I'm not going to say there's not any magical influence -- but the primary thing you're noticing is that Kaladin has season affective disorder and Shallan likes the rain. That's the primary thing you're noticing. I like the rain--my wife hates it. My wife gets depressed when it rains and I love when it rains.
The 10 heartbeats is required to revive a dead shardblade
But he wasn't dead the whole time.
He wasn't. But perception--all magic systems in the Cosmere are based on perception-what you think you can do. For instance, Kaladin can't get healed because he sees himself as having a wounded forehead with the scars and that can't vanish because his perception is in the way.