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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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I couldn't do that same thing with this particular book because of the way the plot arcs work. It worked very well with Rothfuss' book—of course, I loved his books—but what he's got going on is sort of an episodic story where Kvothe does this and Kvothe does that and Kvothe does this. And you can kind of separate those as vignettes. With Way of Kings, what I was doing is...I've got three storylines for three separate characters who are each going through troubled times. And if we were to cut the book in half, for instance, you would get all of the set up, and all of the trouble, and none of the payoff. And so what'd happen is you'd have actually a really depressing first book, where nothing really good happens and people are in places that they...mentally, they haven't come to any decisions yet; they're struggling with problems. Essentially, you'd only get the first act; you'd get all of the setup and none of the payoff.
I see. The two books in front of you here, obviously being re-released... Which point is it that this cuts off at?
This cuts off... We decided we had a fairly good break point, because Shallan's storyline comes to...there's a resolution. And some decisions have been made, and it's kind of... We broke it right at the kind of middle point where people are deciding, you know, we've had these struggles, we've had these struggles; now we have some sort of promise of victory. But the victory or things haven't actually happened yet. And so I do strongly recommend that people read both books—have them both together to read together—because there is a certain poetry to the arcs that are built into this. The second half is lots of massive payoff for the first half. But we did find a decent break point. But conceptually it's one novel, even if you can break for a while and then pick up the second one. Conceptually, to me they are one.
(For you trivia buffs, the longest book I've ever written was 306k long. It was The Way of Kings, which was the book I wrote right before Mistborn. The first draft of Well of Ascension was second, topping out at 258k in first draft form, though we cut it to about 245k before it went to press. So yes, A Memory of Light is going to be the longest book I've ever worked on. Though, since Mr. Jordan left large chunks of writing for the book—including much of the beginning and ending—I don't know that this will technically be the longest book I've written, assuming you count only words I myself wrote.)
Now, the big news. At about 6:00 am this morning, I finished The Way of Kings rewrite. It ended up at 380k words, which is almost double the length of Mistborn [The Final Empire]. (It's almost as long as The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan.) Now, before you get TOO excited about that size, know that I tend to write too much on a first draft intentionally, and now plan to trim it down by at least 10%. The final book should be between 300k and 350k. Either way, though, it's going to be a meaty book. (Not long for long's sake, mind you. That's just what it took to tell the story the right way.)
How did it turn out? Well, to be honest, it's FANTASTIC. This is a monstrous, beastly, awesome epic of a book. And so I'm going to give Tor the official thumbs up so they can put it on the schedule for release next year. The series title, if you haven't heard, is going to be called THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE.
The book does everything I wanted it to, and then some. It was a lot more work to revise it than I'd anticipated. I essentially ended up writing the thing all over again, not keeping any of what had been written before. But knowing the characters already helped a great deal. (And if you guys ever see my wife at a convention, make sure to give her a thanks and a hug for deal with a husband who has been essentially working two full time jobs for much of this year—one on Kings, one on THE WHEEL OF TIME.)
Like any time I finish a book, there's still that itching, authorial paranoia that nobody is going to like what I've done. I have chosen a career path where, instead of releasing all of my books in one series, I jump around. I've done this partially because I want the freedom to reinvent myself. Some of my favorite authors growing up seemed unable to give new life to a series when they started it, and ended up repeating the very same story and tone over and over. I wanted to train myself to be doing new things, and wanted the freedom to write different books in different ways.
I know I'm not as wildly different in my variation as some other authors, but at the same time, there's a different feel to each book/series I've done. Hopefully, all will have great characters, a fun setting, and a compelling plot. But there will always be those who prefer Elantris's thoughtful contemplativeness to Mistborn's action or Warbreaker's reversals and humor. Each time I've released a new book, I've worried. Will my audience follow me in this (slightly) new direction? What will they think of what I've done?
Kings is no different. In fact, it's got me even more worried. My goal for this book was to give it SCOPE. The setting is the most distinctive I've written, with the largest world and the largest number of cultures and peoples. The book (though mostly linear) involves flashbacks to character pasts, and sometimes firsthand looks at the deep past of the world. At the same time, because of the enormity of what I'm trying, I found that the book couldn't telegraph as easily what it was about.
What does this mean? Well, Mistborn and Elantris both did excellent jobs of telegraphing to the reader—right off—what the story was going to be about. After the first few chapters of Mistborn, you pretty much knew that it would be a book about Kelsier's attempt to overthrow the Lord Ruler, mixed with Vin's training as a Mistborn. Elantris was about Raoden trying to restore Elantris, Sarene investigating his disappearance, and Hrathen's attempts to convert the people. Because of the scope of these books, I was able to get across very easily what they would be about and what the central conflict would be.
Kings . . . well, I have trouble describing what the heck Kings is about. While there are a number of plots bouncing around in those 380k words—and many of them do get resolved—the larger storylines are only just beginning. The book isn't about one or two things, like Mistborn was. It's about dozens. And yet, the main character's plotline is simple: survival. He's in a terrible, brutal situation, and he just wants to live.
Anyway, the book needs a lot more revision, but it's in a state where I think we'll make it. So send a little good will my way as I dig into it over the next eight months. Maybe I'll be able to come up with a way to describe this beast.
Melissa, I think we have members from another forum joining us and they have information that we don't have. Maybe even advanced book information, like we know nothing about The Way of Kings and only heard about the book recently and know nothing of its content.
Could some of you newcomers introduce yourselves (maybe on our "Introduce Yourself" thread and not clutter up this one) and tell us where you are from? We love the information you are bringing and introducing on this thread but we are confused.
I posted on my website that I'd be doing this, and I don't often have time to interact on forums. (They are a delightful way to interact with readers, but have proven a HUGE time-sink for me in the past. As you might have noticed, I tend to write—and respond—in depth when people ask questions of me.) So I only appear on forums occasionally. Hence the involvement of those from my forums looking for some answers to questions.
Some backstory might help you all. I began writing in earnest in 1997. During those years, I shared the books I wrote with a group of friends. This group worked with me on The Leading Edge, a science fiction fanzine/semiprozine at BYU. Eventually, once we graduated, we founded the Timewaster's Guide, partially as a forum where we could hang out. (Tage and Ookla from the TWG forums—aka Ben and Peter—are among them, and are still very good friends of mine. Another easter egg is to watch how Ben Olsen and Peter Ahlstrom are treated in the acknowledgements of many of my books.)
The overarching story and theme of my books, what I wanted to accomplish as a writer, and how I approached the fantasy genre, all took shape during this time. These readers read many of my most important, and influential (on me as a writer) novels while in draft form. The biggest three of these during this era were White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Elantris. (On the tail end, I wrote—but never finished—the foundations of what years later became Warbreaker.)
The next era of my unpublished writing was when I worked on the worlds, stories, and themes that eventually became Mistborn, The Way of Kings, and a book called the Aether of Night. Many of my writing group friends have read these books, including the first draft of Kings (which is very, very different from the current draft.)
Anyway, these unpublished books are NOT canon yet. I don't canonize a novel until I publish it. But some of the hidden themes (including Hoid and Adonalsium) of my books are present in these novels. (Dragonsteel and Aether of Night are particularly connected—though of the unpublished Shardworld books, White Sand is probably the best written.) Again, none of this is canon yet. (For instance, I've taken chunks out of Dragonsteel to use in the revision of The Way of Kings.) However, these old books do contain clues that aren't available to the average reader.
Dragonsteel can be ordered through inter-library loan through the university library system. There are only four or five copies in existence. The BYU library has one (the book was my honor's thesis.) I believe the honors department has one. My thesis chair has one. (And maybe the committee has one, I can't remember.) I've got one in my basement. And I believe Ben's sister may have sneaked a copy out of the trash when I was cleaning out old manuscripts. (That might be White Sand.)
I do have intentions of rewriting these books and publishing them eventually. They each have pieces of the story. (Though I may decide to shift certain themes from one series to another as I eventually write and publish them.) I've been known to email White Sand or Aether of Night to readers who email and ask. (Though it does make me cringe a little to do so. In many of these books, I was experimenting with magic, theme, and narrative style—some experiments were a success, some were failures.)
Dragonsteel is frozen; I don't send it out any longer, as to not spoil the parts of The Way of Kings that I decided fit better in that world. So the only way to get it now is to borrow it from BYU. I've been told that Dragonsteel is the only undergraduate BYU honor's thesis ever to have been be read so often that it needed to be rebound. (A dubious honor, I'm not sure how I feel about so many people reading a book of mine that is that mediocre.)
Sure. First off, The Way of Kings is the book of my heart—the book I've been working on for years and years. For example, it has a character in it who originated in the very first novel I tried my hand at as a young teen. Finally having this book come out is extremely fulfilling, and having people enjoy it as much as they have is even more fulfilling.
Specifically with the Gemmell Award, I'd lost the award two years in a row—in fact I'd lost three times in those two years, since I had two books nominated one of the years. Finally winning was extremely gratifying and a really big honor. Plus the actual award itself is a battleaxe. That is the best award ever.
Writing is a funny thing. In the last month, I've probably written only fifty or sixty pages. The month before that, I wrote five hundred. For me, I do spend a lot of time planning, thinking, and working things out.
However, it's not always a rushing river of words for me. Most of the time, it's ten pages a day, day after day. There are periods of two or three pages a day. There are periods of forty or fifty pages a day. It all depends on the project. Right now, I'm working on the first of what will be a lengthy series, and so it's slow going for me because of the weight of thought that has to go into foreshadowing and worldbuilding.
How many Stormlight Archive books are you planning? And how long is the next one going to be?
Two series of five. So one ten book series, but you can view it as two sequences of five. My goal actually right now is to do the first five, take a little break, and maybe do the second Mistborn trilogy, or maybe do the White Sand trilogy. These are chunks of the Cosmere that are a part of the greater arc, but the next [Stormlight Archive] book will probably not be as long. This is because I actually felt Way of Kings was too long, but it was what it needed to be, for what I was establishing. There was no sooner place to cut this, so I had to do it in this place. When I first turned it in to my editor in 2002, it scared him to death because of how big it was. I do plan the others to be more around the size of Gathering Storm and things, which are still big books, but I’m hoping that they will be a little bit shorter, because those chunks are more manageable when the books are a little bit shorter. I can actually make the book tighter more easily.
I think Way of Kings turned out very tight, but it was so hard, because the longer you go with a sequence like that, the harder it is to make sure that everything, everyone is keeping track of everything. And the longer you go, the more of an instinct the reader will have to start following certain characters instead of reading it first as mixed, which makes for a better book. They’ll be like “Ah, I don’t remember this as well; I’ll just keep reading Kaladin,” or something like that. That’s actually a reason for me to keep them shorter, so you don’t have as much of an impetus to do that.
Is Thinker from the Purelake scene Demoux [from the Mistborn Trilogy]?
Demoux is indeed in that scene.
And for those who didn’t hear, about the other one, there is a scene in the Way of Kings. People have been trying to figure out… there are some members of… there are some people there that I have hinted are from other books, and they have now figured out two of the three. I don’t think you’ve figured out the third one, and you won’t because…
Has their book been written yet? Has their book been published?
. Their book has not been published yet. I won’t say if it’s been written yet. Is anyone confused at what’s going on there? There is a connection between the books.
In Way of Kings, Hoid gives Kaladin a flute. Is that flute going to play a important role in progression, or is it just a trinket?
I can’t answer that right now. That’s too much of a RAFO.
In the Way of Kings, you have all of these different characters, how do you keep your characters’ personalities straight?
Good question. Keeping characters straight—the thing I do that deviates from most of the way I normally write. I normally plan quite a bit. I normally—my worlds are very intricately planned out, with their histories, and usually the plot of what’s going to happen are pretty intricately planned out before I start the book. The characters are not. And this is why a book fails, like the original Way of Kings did in 2002, it’s because one of the characters is not who they need to be, and they are failing.
This is something I do by instinct more than by planning. I grow my characters, so I often describe it as I “cast” my characters, I’ll put different people in the role, I’ll sit down and say “okay, here is a character to play this role.” I’ll start writing them, and seeing their personality, and seeing the world through their eyes, and I’ll see if that works. If it doesn't, I’ll actually drop that and rewrite that scene with a different personality, a different character, have someone else walk in and try the role. I’ll do that a couple of times till they click. When they click, I basically know who they are. From that point on, I don’t have any problems keeping then right. When I write a book when a character doesn’t click, then that book often fails. Sometimes they click halfway through, and I have to go back and fix them. Sometimes they’re just 90% there, and I just need to keep writing and figure it out as I go. But sometimes, that never quite works, and this is the reason sometimes—there is this book named Liar of Partinel, which I never released, because the character never clicked. And people will say “Let me read it, let me read it!” but it will predispose you to that character, and that character, that personality is the wrong person. So I don’t know how I keep them all straight. It just works with characters.
But that’s just with characters. With plot and things, I’ve got to write it down, for setting I've got to write it down, I actually have a big wiki that I build that I reference to keep everything straight. Characters I never have to be that way. They just work.
So I can’t give you good advice on that, because it’s simply how I do it. And they just grow into their own person.
A related question. When you add to the wiki, do you soften the writing to add more information to the wiki?
Occasionally I do. Usually it’s at the end of a scene; I’ll go and add things. Or now that I have a Peter, I will say “Peter, go put this chapter ino the wiki, and fix whatever problems that don’t fit. That’s what he’s doing right now with his time is he’s going through the whole Way of Kings and making sure that the wiki matches, because the wiki actually contains like 5 or 6 iterations as I was building the world of “No, let’s rewrite the creation myth”, “No, let’s rewrite where this came from”, “No let’s rewrite this.” And it has all the old versions there as well as the newest version, and as I’m writing, I’ll change things because I’ll say “You know, this doesn’t work. I’m going to alter this.” Then I’ve got to stop and make sure that the continuity gets kept.
I know that Tolkein hated allegory in his story. What is your belief?
Tolkein hated allegory. He thought that his stories should just be stories, and I actually feel similar to him. I do have themes in my books, but I let the theme come as an outgrowth of what the characters are passionate about. And certainly, there are certain things, you’ll read Way of Kings and Dalinar’s very interested, a very big theme spiritually in the book (I know, that sentence doesn’t make any sense). But, it’s not me going in and intentionally writing an allegory. I like the story to stand as a story, I like telling stories. I’m not big into writing metaphors.
Certain people are very good at that. C.S. Lewis did a great job of that, it’s not what I try to do.
Do you have particular Inspirations from classics that you brought in your books? I felt like Dalinar was heavily influenced by Constantine.
Well, I did have a degree in English, and so I read lots of stuff, but my favorite classics are Moby Dick, Les Miserables, and depending on the day one of the Jane Austen books, it changes. And so those are definite influences. You can probably see some Les Mis influence, a lot of it, in the Mistborn books. There were several places where I kind of consciously let myself be influenced there. I wouldn’t say that Dalinar though. The thing is, I started writing Dalinar when I was 15. He was my first character. In fact, I posted at Tor.com when Way of Kings came out a page from my very first novel that I tried to write when I was 14, and it was really really bad, and it has Dalinar in it. He is one of the few characters that survived through all these years from maturing, growing, and things like this. The story of the brother of the king who dies, and the brother must decide: does he take control, or does he let his nephew take control. So a lot of things have influenced Dalinar, but I can’t point to one specific thing.
Ok, the first question is, why did you change the main character's name to "Kaladin" in the final draft?
Excellent question. I see you're stealing all of my annotation questions that I would ask myself. For those of you who don't know, the character's original name was Merin. The change was a very hard decision because the history of Way of Kings goes back so far. You know, I started writing about and working on Merin as a character in the year 2000, so he'd been around for almost a decade in my head as who he was.
A couple of things sparked the change. Number one, I'd never really been pleased with the name. I had been doggedly attached to it, despite the fact that all of my alpha readers on the original Way of Kings—Way of Kings Prime we'll call it now—said, "This sounds like a girl's name." I'm like, "Well...you know, sometimes in different cultures names sound like girls' names. I've recently discovered that Bilbo and Frodo's actual names are "Bilba" and "Froda". Those are their actual names; that's what they say in-world and in the appendices. Tolkien in one of his appendices said, "I English-ized them to make them sound more more masculine for the 'translation' of the Lord of the Rings books, but they would actually call themselves Bilba and Froda." So, anyway, Merin sounded a little bit feminine, but still I dug in my heels.
One of the concepts for the new Way of Kings is Kaladin's arc as a character. In Way of Kings Prime he makes a decision very early in the book, and in The Way of Kings I wanted to have him make the opposite decision. There's a big decision that comes to him and it's almost like these two books are branching paths from that moment in a lot of ways. And so it's going to be a very interesting process when I eventually let people read Way of Kings Prime, which I won't right now because it has spoilers for the rest of the series, but you can see how all the characters go in different directions from that moment and they also change slightly. It's like an alternate world version of the book you're reading.
So, point number two was that I started to feel he's changed so much as a person I can no longer think of him as the same character. Point number three was that, as I am now working on The Wheel of Time, having a character whose name sounded a lot like Perrin started to be problem to me. Particularly since in Way of Kings Prime Merin was not the main character but in this Way of Kings he is. Way of Kings Prime was much more evenly divided between the characters, but in the published book he gets essentially double the space, and so he becomes the main character. I felt I wanted the main character of this book to have a much stronger, perhaps a little more mythic name. I tried lots and lots of names before I eventually settled on "Kaladin".
Kaladin does sound like a much more powerful a name.
Yeah, it's a much better name. I'm very happy we did it, but we changed it on like the last draft, so it was very surprising to my editor and to my writing group when all of a sudden he changed to a different name.
We know it's not your job to pick cover artists, of course, but do you have any idea if Michael Whelan will make additional Stormlight Archive covers, or will it be different artists each time?
Another good question. This one I don't quite know the answer to. The thing is, Whelan is so busy and does so few covers that it'll come down to whether he has the time and is willing to. We would certainly like him to do more, and I've heard news around Tor that they're optimistic for him doing the rest of the series. But, like I've said, I felt like it was incredibly fortunate that we got him to do one. You'll notice that he doesn't even do whole series for some of his favorite authors anymore. For example, Tad Williams's latest in the Shadowmarch series. He did the first cover in the series, and they had someone else do the other covers. I don't know the details of that but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Michael Whelan likes to do his fine art. As a favor to people he'll do the occasional brilliant, beautiful cover but then he wants to go back and I can't blame him for that. So we'll see what happens when the second book is ready for a cover.
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.
What is your favorite book you've written?
Favorite is hard to pin down. I'm most proud of either The Gathering Storm or The Way of Kings, as they were among the hardest and most satisfying.
Is the recipient of the letter in Way of Kings also in Dragonsteel?
Yes. (Good question.)
If so would it be the person that Topaz gets mad at?
RAFO on the second one. I've already given you too much!
There was more, but I can't really remember anything major. Finally, I came up and got to ask my questions. Since I started the thread about outposts and stone bridges, I felt like getting some input there.
Brandon told me that single highprinces could not erect outposts because due to the superior mobility of the Parshendi—they would overwhelm any small outpost quickly. Soulcasting stone bridges is also not plausible. Apparently, they would need to first get the wooden bridge out there, then soulcast it and then, since the stone is heavier than the wood, they would have to reinforce it, e.g. with ropes. These could then be cut by the Parshendi, so it would not help at all. Dalinar with his mobile bridges is on a better track in his opinion. He did say however that several highprinces working together could easily establish outposts in the Plains. He said the competitive nature of the Alethi was doing them a huge disservice in the war and that if they would work together, they could have taken the Plains long ago.
This post is for anything info that was gleaned at the recent signing at Forbidden Planet in London.
To start with, The question i asked him was, 'Is Shalash the lady smashing up the art in The Way of Kings?'
He was apprehensive to say it out loud, but he wrote in my copy of Alloy of Law 'Shalash appears in The Way of Kings'! I shall get a scan of that once i am able, and ill put it up in here. He also said to me 'you'd be surprised at how many of the Heralds appear in the book', so i guess another re-read is in order!
How long before Way of Kings is Alloy of Law? I heard somewhere that it's a hundred years, but I don't think that's right.
I intended them to be happening roughly close to one another, with Way of Kings slightly before.
That's an excellent question—somebody's been reading my mind. First, I do want to say, thank you, guys, all, for reading the books; thank you for all you're doing supporting me as a writer. With this series, one of things I wanted to approach was...both of those concepts, actually. A lot of fantasy has the feel of magic's going away. Magic is dying. This goes back to Tolkien, with the idea that, you know, the elves are leaving and magic is going to leave the world, and that's always made me a little bit sad, that these books have this theme. And so I did want to write a book about the return of magic. But beyond that, I'm very fascinated with technology, and the development of technology, particularly as it relates to magic. And so this series is about the rediscovery of magic and how magic interacts with science, and the treating of magic in a scientific way on a large scale. You know, you see that in each of my books, with magic being treated scientifically, but I really wanted to do it in a way that changes the lives of everyone. The common people—magic changes their lives as much as technology changed the lives of the common people in the technological revolution we went under. And so that's what I'm going to try to approach in these books.
You have met almost all of them. Let me do a count... Let's see. The main characters in the book areï¿½in the seriesï¿½Kaladin, and Dalinar, Adolin, Jasnah, Shallan, and Navani, whom you all met in this book and most of them had viewpoints. Szeth, Taravangian, and Taln. And one of the other Heralds; I'm not going to tell you who that is. But I think you've met...you have, I'm sure, met that person; I know he's in there. And so, I think you've met them all, basically. Taln is the person who shows up in the epilogue.
Why are so many Alethi point of views used as opposed to others? This was basically one of the changes I made as I was working on the series. I originally had planned to show all of these viewpoints, from all across the world, and I found that, when...the original time I tried this book, that since people's plots weren't interwoven together, the book was very difficult to read. Because people weren't connected to one another, emotionally and spiritually. And so because of that, when I rewrote the book, when I started again, I made sure to put Dalinar and Kaladin and Adolin in proximity of one another. So that this story...their stories would play off of each other. And so you would have a consistent storyline.
That said, we do have...you know, those three are all Alethi. But Shallan is not, and Szeth is not. And those two have fairly significant parts in this book. Most of the characters will be Alethi for that reason, that their stories are tied together. But you will....see, this is one of the reasons why, with this book, once I pulled everything back and was telling Alethi stories, I felt I needed to show the breadth of the world, and that's where the interludes came from, was me wanting to jump around the world and show all these different other characters and cultures, but shown in bite-sized portions so you didn't get overwhelmed with all of these different characters, that you knew when you go to an interlude, you can read this person and then you can kind of forget about them. You don't have to follow who they are, because they're there to show you the breadth of the world and what's going on, but not necessarily to show you...to go on a big distracting tangent.
I see. Excellent.
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.
I dislike double posting, but I have one question that came up recently from your tweet. You said that there are "multiple" people from Mistborn in WoK. Does this include Hoid?
Yes, it does.
Are they just vague allusions?
Vague, no. But I wouldn't say they, save Hoid, have any important impact on the events of the book.
Wait, are Mistborn and Stormlight Archive somehow connected?
Multiple people from Mistborn appeared in The Way of Kings.
The second. I revised my placement of KINGS relative to HERO after realizing a behind-the-scenes conflict.
ALLOY had to happen after KINGS for Cosmere reasons. I had two timelines arguing, and in plotting Stormlight 2, I fixed this.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve always wondered who “They” are, and if—by chance—they’ve never heard of Michael Whelan. Because my experience in life has been very different.
It’s been almost twenty years now since I first discovered Michael’s work. I was fourteen when it happened, and I was not a reader. I’d been handed a succession of novels about young boys living in the wilderness and taking care of their pet dogs. (Which would die by the end of the book.) I disliked reading with a passion. So, when my eighth-grade teacher assigned me to do a book report, I did everything I could to get out of it.
That failed. In fact, it failed so solidly that the teacher—unwilling to let me choose my own book to read, for fear I’d choose something not up my reading level—steered me to the back of the room, where she kept a group of ratty paperbacks to loan out to students. You probably know the type—ripped, stained by spaghetti sauce from cafeteria lunches, pages folded and worn. I was told I had to read one of these and had to do a book report on them—and she’d read them all, so she’d know if I tried to fake it.
Sullen and annoyed, I began to sift through the books. Most looked terrible. I resigned myself to another dead dog story, but then one of the books actually caught my eye. It had this vivid painting of a dragon standing in the mists, a woman held limply in its hand. Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. The painting was so beautiful, so realistic yet imaginative, that I snatched it up, actually a little eager to look through the pages. I ended up taking it home with me.
I read that book in one day. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever tried reading before. (I had never been introduced to fantasy novels.) Dragonsbane was amazing, challenging, imaginative, gripping, and beautiful all wrapped up in one. I remember a severe bout of disappointment upon finishing the book because I thought surely there couldn’t be anything else like it in the entire world.
Still, hopeful, I visited the school library the next day. I looked through the card catalog, and picked the next book—alphabetically by title—after Dragonsbane. It was called Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. I went and pulled it out, and was once again captivated by the cover. I took it home and read it.
My life changed. Now, we throw around sentences like that in writing, using them over and over again until they become as worn as the shoes of a traveling salesman—hardly capable of holding meaning any longer. But let me say it again. My life changed.
I devoured every Anne McCaffrey book in the school library. Suddenly, what I’d discovered in Dragonsbane wasn’t a single, freak event. There was a pattern. If two authors could do this, perhaps there were others. Hungry for more, I went to the bookstore and discovered there was an entire fantasy genre.
There were so many books. Which to choose? Dragons had treated me well so far, so I looked for some dragon books. And there, right on the shelf, was a beautiful book called Dragon Prince. I consumed it, and then everything else Melanie Rawn was writing.
What do these books all share? It wasn’t just the dragons; it was the covers. Each time, there was something dramatic and special about them. I now own prints of Dragonsbane and several of Melanie’s covers. All were painted by Michael Whelan.
By the time Tad Williams’ Dragonbone Chair came out, I could recognize Michael’s art on sight. And I also knew to trust it. It didn’t seem logical—you really shouldn’t be able to judge a book by its cover. But a Whelan cover became a seal of approval to me, a sign that the publisher trusted the book so much that they got the best person available to do the cover.
I can’t tell you all of the authors Whelan’s art led me to over the years: Patricia Mckillip, Joan D. Vinge, Stephen Donaldson, and even Asimov. (Yes, you read that right. I first picked up Asimov because Whelan had done the new Foundation covers.)
I remember when winter 1993 rolled around. My local bookseller noted to me that Whelan had a new art book coming out, one half dedicated to covers, one half dedicated to his fine art. It was the only thing I requested for Christmas, and my parents bought it for me despite the cost. I spent hours leafing through the wonderous, fantastic art. Those imagines sparked things in my mind. I was an author in embryo, absorbing, thinking, dreaming. One of the very first stories I ever wrote was a ‘fanfic’ based on Whelan’s Passage series of fine art prints.
The years have passed. There are other wonderful fantasy artists out there—and, in a way, the market has finally caught up to Whelan (much as the fantasy genre itself needed time to catch up to Tolkien.) I’ve been lucky to have some of those incredible artists paint covers for my books. But I’ve rarely felt as much excitement, wonder, and awe as I did the when I got to open an email and see the cover for The Way of Kings.
Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) asked me to provide a quote about how I feel having a Whelan cover on one of my books. My editor, Moshe, noted “Surely you’ll mention how it’s a dream come true for both you and your editor.” But 'Dream come true' is another one of those phrases we use so often it has lost its meaning.
How do I really feel? Well, when I was a senior in high school, I was forced to take a life-planning class. In that class, we had to write down ten 'life goals' we wanted to achieve some day. #1 on my list, which I still have somewhere, was “Publish a book someday that is good enough to deserve a Michael Whelan cover.”
It has always been a deep-seated desire of mine to one day have a Whelan painting on one of my works. Without this man’s skill and vision, I might never have discovered the fantasy genre, and I might not be writing novels today.
You might say I’m a little bit pleased.
I like it when my characters live on in people's minds. I have no plans right now to write any more books about Spook or Breeze, though what they do in the next period of time will create the history for the next series. However, there's a chance I'll change my mind on this. However, this ending was not set up for another book specifically. I just wanted to tell the best ending I could, and this is how it turned out.
Brandon does want to write more Mistborn books, but not with the same characters. There would be two more trilogies. The second trilogy would be set a few hundred years later, in a modern day–type setting, when the events of the first trilogy have passed into legend. The third trilogy would be set a few more hundred years later, in a future, outer space–type setting.
It's such an audacious idea I wish he would write it right now because I want to read it, especially the third trilogy. But Brandon has announced his next project (pending Tor approval) will be Way of Kings, a 10-volume epic fantasy. He'll sprinkle in a book from another project here and there, so the next Mistborn trilogy might start before Way of Kings is ended, but it will be years yet before there is any more Mistborn.
But Ookla, he already wrote that one!
I know. :)
The real story is that Brandon was writing (or revising?) Way of Kings when Tor offered to buy Elantris. Brandon signed a two-book contract for Elantris and Way of Kings. Then Brandon realized he wasn't in the point in his career yet where he could write Way of Kings the way he wanted to, so while he was supposed to be revising Way of Kings he secretly wrote the first Mistborn book instead, which he then sold to Tor as a trilogy, replacing Way of Kings in the original contract.
But for some reason Amazon already had a listing for Way of Kings, with a release date. Thence the fake reviews.
I've read an early draft of the first book, and it aims to be very epic. (No, Elvis is not involved.) I do wonder, though, whether when it actually comes out, the fake reviews will get attached to its Amazon listing. :)
This is all true. Note that the book would not be named The Way of Kings. Most likely, I'm going to make that the series name. So I guess the book "The Way of Kings" must be some kind of parallel novel or prequel or something... ;)
Oathshards is out, eh?
You're such a tease, Brandon. All these details about the next series will make everyone hungry for it, and then we'll all have to wait.
Of course, any other book you put out in the meantime will still be awesome, so we should be content, right?
I don't think Oathshards is as strong a name as "The Way of Kings." Plus, that's really what the series is about.
A manifestation of Ruin's gathered consciousness, much like the dark mists in book two. The lake was still around in Vin's era, but had been moved under ground. (Note that the Well is a very similar manifestation. You've also seen one other manifestation like this....)
The "lake" was barely ten feet deep—more like a pool. Its water was a crystalline blue, and Raoden could see no inlets or outlets.If that's what you're hinting at...I never thought of the connection before! I just kept thinking of Aether of Night, and never thought of this pool at all.
Both are accurate, but the first is what I meant, as most people here don't have access to Aether.
I'm also thinking that the Dor in Elantris is another Shard of Adonalsium. Certainly in the Elantris world, where the Dor came from is rather ambiguous, which I expected it would be. Of course, if other Shards of Adonalsium do exist, the Dor could have come from that source.
I will RAFO from here on the other Shards of Adonalsium, as it would be better for me not to give spoilers. Please feel free to speculate. Readers have met four shards other than Ruin and Preservation.
Have we met these four by name, or just by influence? I can't think of a name that would go with the one that the Elantris lake is a manifestation of.
Hoid could be one? I know nothing his purpose other than that he shows up in lots of different books, sometimes begging and sometimes telling stories. Since most of these series happen on different planets (though two of them may happen on the same planet as each other), I'm assuming he has mad planet-hopping skills.
Ookla, I'm going to be tight lipped on this, as I don't want to give things away for future books. But I'll tell you this:
You've interacted with two directly.
One is a tough call. You've never met the Shard itself, but you've seen its power.
The other one you have not met directly, but have seen its influence.
I thought Nightblood was explained sufficiently for my tastes in Warbreaker, so I doubt that it is a Shard, but I've been plenty wrong before. Also, I don't know if Hoid could even be a Shard. Certainly he has mean planet-hopping skills, but I don't know what purpose a celestial storyteller would have in this universe. He doesn't really have the same kind of power as Ruin or Preservation did, so normally I would rule him out right off the bat. But it is possible that these Shards come in many shapes, not just in the near-deific quantity Ruin or Preservation had. I think it's a bit of a stretch to say Hoid is a Shard... but, then again, I don't have any ideas for what those four other Shards are.
Maybe Hoid is just a traveler trying to find remnants of Adonalsium and stories about them. He doesn't need to be a shard, I suppose.
This is slightly a tangent, but here is a relevant chunk from the Warbreaker Annotations. As this won't be posted for months, I'll put it here as a sneak preview.
This whole scene came about because I wanted an interesting way to delve into the history. Siri needed to hear it, and I felt that many readers would want to know it. However, that threatened to put me into the realm of the dreaded info dump.
And so I brought in the big guns. This cameo is so obvious (or, at least, someday it will be) that I almost didn’t use the name Hoid for the character, as I felt it would be too obvious. The first draft had him using one of his other favorite pseudonyms. However, in the end, I decided that too many people would be confused (or, at least, even more confused) if I didn’t use the same name. So here it is. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about. . .well, let’s just say that there’s a lot more to this random appearance than you might think.
Brandon, I believe in one of Sazed's epigraphs, he actually called it "Adonasium" rather than what you are referring to here, which is "Adonalsium". I'm thinking that's just a typo, right?
I don't suppose you could tell us which book series of yours will tell us more about Adonalsium, would you? You know, just so us theorizers on the forum know when to properly theorize about these things...
Well, I guess this means that the proofreaders did not add the "L" when I marked the error on the manuscript.(sigh). Yes, the correct spelling is Adonalsium. I will try to get this fixed for the paperback, but I've been trying to get that blasted steel/iron error in the back of book one fixed for two years now. . .
If it helps, Sazed would probably under-pronounce the "L" as that letter, like in Tindwyl's name, is said very softly in Terris.
As for your other question, you will have to wait and see. Now, you could search my old books for clues, but I would caution against this. While there are hints in these, they are not yet canon. Just as I changed how things were presented in the Mistborn books during editing, I would have fixed a lot in these books during revision. Beyond that, reading them would give big spoilers for books yet to be released. White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Way of Kings in particular are going to be published some day for almost certain. (Though in very different forms). Aether of Night should be safe, as should Final Empire prime and Mistborn prime, though of those three, only Aether is worth reading, and then only barely. (It is still pretty bad).
This essay I just posted:
Started as a blog post for this thread, talking about the old books I wrote to give context to my previous post. It outgrew the length of a proper forum post, so I put it on the site instead. But this might help you understand some of my history as a writer, not to mention explain the origin of all these old books Ookla that references all the time.
I remembered a thread from ages ago in which Brandon posted a list of the books he'd written, I looked it up when I realised it wasn't in the article, and I figured you guys might be interested too, so here it is.
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy
8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)
13) The Way of Kings (Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)
16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Unfinished. Coming late 2007)
18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)
19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)
Thanks for posting that. Note that I can never quite remember which was first, Aether or Mistborn Prime. I always feel that Aether should be first, since it wasn't as bad as the two primes, but thinking back I think that the essay is more accurate and I wrote it between them.
This would be the new list:
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (First Published)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic, other than the not-very-good Final Empire prime.)
8 ) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt, turned out much better.)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
13) The Way of Kings Prime (Fantasy War epic.)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Came out 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Came out 2007)
16) Alcatraz Verus the Evil Librarians (Came out 2007)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Came out 2008)
18) Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Came out 2008)
19) Warbreaker (Comes out June 2009)
20) Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia (November 2009ish)
21) A Memory of Light (November 2009ish. Working on it now. Might be split into two.)
22) The Way of Kings Book One (2010ish. Not started yet.)
23) Alcatraz Four (2010. Not started yet)
Will elements of your untitled Aether project be worked into the Dragonsteel series?
The Silence Divine (Working title. Stand alone Epic Fantasy. Unwritten.)These titles are news to me. You described two potential YA or middle-grade books to me and Karen when you came out to Book Expo, plus Dark One, but now I can't remember the plots except they were cool (and that one of them involved superheroes). Are they among this list? Also, is that really Harbringer or is it supposed to be Harbinger?
Steelheart (YA Science Fiction. Unwritten)
I Hate Dragons (Middle Grade fantasy. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Zek Harbringer, Destroyer of Worlds (Middle Grade Sf. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Bah! That's what I get for typing so quickly. Yes, Harbinger. It should be "Zeek" too. Short for Ezekiel.
Steelheart would be the superhero one, though that's a working title, since I'm not sure if it's trademarked or not. Haven't had much time for thinking about any of these books lately.
Brandon, here you said Alcatraz 4 is called Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent; is that still the working title? Also, you mentioned Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens, but now you say The Liar of Partinel is a standalone. Change of plans? (I know you can't get back to Dragonsteel for a while.)
The Alcatraz titles are in flux because I need to know if Scholastic wants the fifth one or not. (They only bought four.) Dark Talent will be one of them for certain.
The Liar of Partinel was part of a two-part story told hundreds of years before the Dragonsteel epic. However, since I've dropped plans to go with Liar anytime soon—A Memory of Light has priority, followed by Way of Kings—I don't know what I'll end up doing with the second book, or if I'll ever even write it. I was planning on not calling either of these "Dragonsteel" in print, actually, and just letting people connect the two series on their own. It wouldn't be hard to do, but I didn't want the first actual book in the main storyline to be launched by Tor as "Book Three" since there would be such a large gap of time.
For the love of good things, tell me who kills Asmodean?
Real question: Mistborn surprised me with its intensity. I didn't think that it would have as big of an impact on me that it did, and for writing it, thank you.
How long do things cook in your mind before you put them on paper?
When you write something as beautiful as "I am hope." Does it give you the chills? Where does something like that come from? I am just so fucking amazed that, even though I knew of his past with his wife and the mines, that you could make me think he was just doing it for greed reasons... then you bust out with this and I was floored. It cemented the entire trilogy for me. With that one line, I will forever buy anything you write.
The Asmodean killer is revealed in Towers of Midnight. (Look in the glossary.)
How long things cook depends on the project. Some, like The Way of Kings, cook for decades. Mistborn was a period of about 2-3 years. Others, like my children's series, are exercises in free writing with very little 'incubation' time give.
As for the last question...sometimes, it's hard to pinpoint how things come together, even for a planner like myself. I often compare writing to playing music. Often, a musician gets to the point where they don't know why their fingers move as they do—through a great deal of training, they learn to just make it happen. Writers develop similar instincts, but for plot, character, and prose.
Also, this video was shared with me on Facebook: ninth-grader Morgan Nielsen created the following trailer for The Way of Kings for a book report in her English class. Pretty cool.
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.
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.
Another interesting moment in this scene is Sarene's idiocy act. There's actually a good story behind this plotting device. I've always enjoyed this style of plot—where a character intentionally makes people underestimate them. You can see a similar plotting structure (pulled off quite a bit better) in my book THE WAY OF KINGS. (It should be published around 2008 or so. . . .) Anyway, some of my favorite plots of this type are found in HAMLET and DRAGON PRINCE (by Melanie Rawn.)
Sarene's own act, however, plays a much smaller role in the book than I'd originally intended. I soon discovered that I'd either have to go with it full-force—having her put on a very believable show for everyone around her—or I'd have to severely weaken it in the plot. I chose the second. There just wasn't a reason, in the political climate I created for the book, to have Sarene pretend to be less intelligent than she was. (The original concept—though this never made it to drafting—was to have her pretend to be less intelligent because of how many times she'd been burned in the past with people finding her overbearing and dominant.)
I decided I liked having her personality manifest the way it is. The only remnant of the original feigning comes in the form of this little trick she plays on Iadon to try and manipulate him. Even this, I think, is a stretch—and it has annoyed a couple of readers. Still, it doesn't play a large part in the plot, and I think it does lead to some interesting moments in the story, so I left it in.
I've got a question-
One of the early typo's that was mentioned in the Way of King ARC was the numbering (changing from three to 3) in the chapter-header-death-quotes. Peter said he and the editor saw that too, but then you explained something to them, and they understood why you did it. Why did you do it?
Thank you for all you do. I truly love your works.
It's not a typo. Brandon may answer you, but I think the explanation to this one is easy enough to figure out on your own if you look at the big picture.
Two more Writing Excuses podcast episodes are up. The first covers what we call the problem of originality: Is it possible to be too original? Do we overvalue originality? Then the second episode is another one of our "project in depth" episodes; this time we cover Mary Robinette Kowal's latest novel, Glamour in Glass. (Earlier we did the same thing with my novel The Way of Kings and Howard's graphic novel volume Force Multiplication.)
The Way of Kings Taiwanese Notebooks
Price: Free at my solo panel!
During my trip to Taiwan earlier this year, I was blown away by the awesomeness of my publisher there (Fantasy Foundation). They released The Way of Kings in a cool boxed set with the novel in two parts and one of these nifty notebooks as a promo. They're mostly blank inside, with some planner-like notations on some of the pages. I was so in love with these, I asked if I could have a few to give away on my website. They gave me a whole box! So I flew them back as one of my pieces of luggage, and I've saved them for SDCC. As these were given to me for free, I'm going to pass them on to you for free. I'll be giving them away at my solo panel at SDCC to the people who arrive first.
My plan is to arrive a little early and distribute them to the people in line. If I am late (as I sometime am) I'll give them out to the first rows of people seated at the panel, starting at the person in the left front seat (if you're facing the stage) and working my way right. Then I'll move to row two, and keep giving them away until I run out.
I believe I have around fifty of these, but Isaac has the box and is driving to San Diego as we speak. So I can't guarantee numbers. I suggest that if you want one of these guys, you come get in line for my panel early. (This panel will include me doing a Q&A and a reading. Including, hopefully, a short reading from A Memory of Light!)
Is there a pressure that has developed from traditional publishers for their authors to be pushed towards more production? When should an author consider self-publishing instead of trying to land a book deal in NY? Should one self-publish while trying to land that book deal and use potential sales numbers as part of the pitch?
I don’t feel that there has been any push from New York to publish books at any different speed at all. In fact, one of the main reasons to publish with New York as opposed to self-publishing is if you are an author who doesn’t write at least one book a year. If we’re to take The Way of Kings as an example, there’s no way that I’m going to be producing 400,000-word epic fantasies as fast as a lot of the self-published writers can put out books. There’s no way that anyone could have made that book at that speed. It’s a book that takes a year, maybe eighteen months to write. So for long epic fantasies, New York certainly has some things going for it.
One of the reasons that it’s really good to publish fast and short when you’re doing self-publishing is that you don’t have any sort of marketing push behind you. You don’t have bookstore shelf presence, which is one of the major forms of marketing—people seeing your book there on the shelves. Word of mouth is always the most important thing, but it becomes even more important for the self-published writer. Publishing quickly and getting a lot of books out helps to get your name in more places in the market and helps to push some of that momentum through. That seems to be the key way to make it as a self-published writer.
When would I self-publish versus New York-publish? I would not abandon either model. Self-publishing has proved itself so viable recently that if I were a new writer, I would be looking at doing both at the same time. Maybe taking the longer, more epic-style books to New York and doing the faster-paced, more thriller-style books online, and seeing what works best.
So the expansion of the e-book market gives you more places to go. That said, if you’re not a particularly fast writer, self-publishing is going to be a very hard route for you because everything I’ve seen—granted, I’m not an expert on this; there are places to go other than me for expertise—shows that being able to produce quickly is a key factor in being a successful self-published author in this market.
I am curious if professional writers ever get psyched out by their own works. When you are working on an epic series, such as 'The Stormlight Archive', do you ever have moments of doubt in your ability to see it through to completion? Does it ever feel overwhelming that you have so many volumes ahead of you to write?
That's not the part that psychs me out. Length doesn't do that to me, particularly when I have a series well planned and I have a feel for how each book is going to be distinctive. This really helped me with the Mistborn series, for instance-when I planned it out, I planned each book to have its own identity. That kept me interested in them.
No, what psychs me out is that sometimes something just turns out really well, like The Way of Kings, and then I immediately start thinking, "I have to do that again, and I don't know how I did it in the first place." Writing becomes a very instinctive thing.
Most of the time when I talk about the process of writing, I'm analyzing what I've done after the fact. The truth of it is that right in the moment, right when you're sitting there working on a book, a lot of that stuff isn't going through your head. You're just running on instinct at that point. So it's easy to get psyched out when you're not sure if you can ever do it again.
Do you feel that each new book you release should be better than the last? Is that something you think about while writing, or do you just do the best job that you can and hope that your works improve naturally over time with your skill?
It really depends on the project. Yes, I want every book to improve, but that's a bit of a platitude. It's an easy thing to say. It gets a bit different when you sit down to think about it.
I followed The Way of Kings with The Alloy of Law. Is The Alloy of Law a better book than The Way of Kings? No, it is not. The Way of Kings I spent somewhere around ten years working on; with The Alloy of Law I had a couple of months. In the case of a book like that, I sit down and say, okay, there are things I want to learn in this process. Different books are going to have a different feel. Now, there are people out there who like The Alloy of Law better than The Way of Kings—it's not a better book, but there are people who will enjoy it more.
When I sat down to write Warbreaker, I said I wanted to get better at a certain type of humor. And I think I did get much better at that, in that book. Is the book itself better than The Hero of Ages that came before it? I do some things better, but it's hard to compare a standalone volume to the third book in an epic trilogy. They're going to do very different things.
So it's hard to say "better book"/"not better book." I think "always learning and growing" is a better way to put it than getting better with each book.
Have you felt torn between writing your own original work and finishing Robert Jordan’s legacy?
No, because when I agreed to this, in my mind was the knowledge that I was going to have to set aside some projects in order to work on this. That was part of the decision process for me. It’s not to say that there hasn’t been a sacrifice, because there has been, but it was one I went into knowing that I was going to make one, and that I was going to be dedicated. So there wasn’t as much feeling being torn because, originally starting off, I had to say, ‘Okay, this book, this book and this book, I’m setting aside. I will try to find time for The Way of Kings,’ and I did find time for that, but I had to set aside a bunch of other projects. There’s one book I wrote in 2007 that I haven’t had time to revise yet, some little things like that I did set aside.
I knew the Wheel of Time was going to be a majorly large project. I didn’t know it was going to take quite as long as it has. I’m getting a little bit antsy to get back to a few of the things I set aside, but that’s only because now I’ve got the last book done and I’m in revisions, and I’m always antsy during revisions to move on. That’s just how I am: I talked about that earlier. The revision process is my least favourite process of the whole thing. I am eager to move on now that I actually have the whole book done, but it can’t be done yet. I have to do more drafts—we’re at draft number five right now. I do twelve drafts on Wheel of Time books.
Wow, that’s a lot, especially with the size of those books.
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.
Okay, so here we see the words FINAL EMPIRE for the first time. Continuing the discussion I had in the last annotation, one of the books that I wrote after MISTBORN PRIME was called THE FINAL EMPIRE. (I now call it FINAL EMPIRE PRIME.) It was the story of a young boy (yes, boy) named Vin who lived in an oppressive imperial dictatorship that he was destined to overthrow. It was my attempt at writing a shorter book that still had epic scope.
This book turned out to be okay, but it had some fairly big problems problems. While people reacted rather well to the characters, the setting was a little weak for one of my books. Also, once again, I wasn't that enthusiastic about the way the plot turned out.
After that, I gave up on the short books. I proved no good at it. I decided to do THE WAY OF KINGS next, a massive war epic. It turned out to be 350,000+ words—I kind of see it as me reacting in frustration against the short books I'd forced myself to write. About this time, I sold ELANTRIS, and Moshe (my editor) wanted to see what else I was working on. I sent him KINGS. He liked it, and put it in the contract.
I, however, wasn't certain if KINGS was the book I wanted to use as a follow up for ELANTRIS. They were very different novels, and I was worried that those who liked ELANTRIS would be confused by such a sharp turn in the direction of my career. So, I decided to write a different book to be my 'second' novel.
I had always liked Allomancy as a magic system, and I liked several of the character concepts FINAL EMPIRE. I also liked a lot of the ideas from both books, as well as some ideas I'd had for a great plot. I put three all of these things together, and conceived the book you are now reading.
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.
Interesting. There will be Parshendi viewpoints in the second book, and you will be able to see a lot more of that.
Are Parshendi like a hive mind sort of culture?
They are not a hive mind. I thought people might assume that.
But because of the singing, it seems like...
There is a connection. It's more Union than Hivemind. You know about Jung?
Jung's philosophy was that all people are connected.
Oh, like the dream psychologist?
I believe that collective unconscious was one of his terms. So it's not hive mind, but there is—there's something the Parshendi can tap into.
With the singing?
Yeah, like with the singing, where one sings over here, and one sings over there, they are actually in beat with one another even if they start at different times. So there is something there, a connection.
I've read a bit online about how you have an overall storyline covering all of your novels, but I really don't know much about it. I was wondering if you could expand and explain.
Okay. The overarching story of all of my novels. This warrants some backstory. If you weren't familiar, I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. I spent a lot of time practicing and learning, and I love big epic grand series. However, you know, you can't grow up reading the Wheel of Time without loving big series, but advice I heard early on was, selling a big series is actually pretty hard from a new author and if you, for instance, spend your life and you write like six books in the same series, and you send off the first book to someone and they don't buy it, you can't really send them the second book because, you know, they've already rejected that, and so it's really putting all of your eggs into one basket, and that doesn't end up working out for some people. I didn't want to do that; I wanted to expand my chances, and so I wrote thirteen novels in different worlds, all with their own different magic systems and own characters. But secretly I loved the grand epic, and so I started connecting all these worlds during my unpublished era, and telling a hidden epic behind them all that I was setting up for.
Well, eventually I sold book number six, and embedded in book number six was a bunch of this stuff for the hidden epic, of course, and six is actually one of the ones where I first started doing this. My first five were kind of throwaway novels. It was six, seven, eight, and nine that were really involved in this. Six was Elantris; seven was a book called Dragonsteel; eight was a book called White Sand; and nine was a book called Mythwalker, which eventually became Warbreaker, which I eventually rewrote and released as Warbreaker. So that four-book sequence was very ingrained in this kind of hidden story behind the stories. When I started publishing these books, I just kept it going, the hidden story, the hidden epic.
Now one aspect of this was that I didn't want people to have to know all the books that came before to understand what was happening in any one of them. So, for instance, if you read these you don't need to know anything about the hidden epic. It is back there behind the scenes for some day when I actually write a series dedicated to it, that there will be all this foreshadowing, but it will never directly and in really important ways influence a given series. For instance, you don't have to have read Elantris to understand Mistborn even though technically they're sequels; Mistborn is technically a sequel to Elantris, just set on a different planet.
There is one character who has appeared in all of my novels, and several other characters who have jumped between novels. For instance there's a character from Elantris who is in The Way of Kings—one of the main characters from Elantris shows up in Way of Kings under hidden auspices, but it's pretty obvious; the fans found it really fast, those who were watching out for it—but that sort of thing. So, there is a story going on behind all of this that I will eventually tell, but what do you need to know about it right now? That all of these things are basically Easter eggs right now. None of them are dominating the storyline at all; it's just a bunch of cool Easter eggs that eventually will mean something to you. So the character to watch out for is called Hoid; it's a pseudonym he usually uses—pseudonym is I guess the wrong term; the alias he normally uses—and he's all over in the books, so if you watch out for him you'll see him.
The culture and magic in his works, such as the epic fantasy The Way of Kings were inspired by Chinese numerology and the Confucian social order, Sanderson said in a recent interview with CNA.
"The concept of the relationships between leaders and followers, fathers and children were fascinating to me," said the 36-year-old American author who lived for three years in South Korea, where Confucianism is observed.
"It created a core order for a very organized culture," he said.
The Way of Kings, released in 2010 and the first in a scheduled 10-novel series titled "The Stormlight Archive," follows the story of three individuals from different strata of a society through a medieval feudal world thrashed by violent storms.
The author said he also drew heavily on the concept of numerology in Chinese culture to create his magic, because numbers in Chinese have diverse meanings.
"In English a one is a one but in Chinese each number and character has multiple meanings, so the idea of numerology as a superstition and almost as a science was very fascinating for me," said Sanderson, known for the complexity of his magic systems.
Calligraphy has also made it into Sanderson's novel.
At the end of The Way of Kings, one of the characters paints a calligraphic symbol on the ground then burns it.
"You paint it and set it on fire, and that is a prayer in this world," Sanderson said. "That is something I drew from the Chinese culture."
I'm now seven percent through writing the sequel to The Way of Kings, and I've finished the first sequence. You can track my progress in the sidebar on my website, and I often talk about it on Facebook and Twitter. My goal is to finish the first draft by April 2013, and if I can pull that off, I'll try to get the book released by Christmas 2013. I should know better in April whether that is possible.
Something else you've already seen if you follow me on the social media sites is this "dance review" of The Way of Kings:
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.
That master's guidance has helped Sanderson move ahead on his own work, especially his 2010 New York Times best-selling epic fantasy The Way of Kings.
Sanderson first attempted to write the epic story in 2002. However, after a couple of attempts, he said, he left it for a few years.
"I knew as an artist that it hadn't worked," Sanderson said. "But after working on The Wheel of Time, I went back, and this time it worked. I can only say this story worked because of my work on The Wheel of Time."
Sanderson said finishing the series gave him an inside look at how the craft works. It gave him a grasp of storytelling and all the things readers don't see behind the scenes in what makes a masterpiece a masterpiece.
There’s actually a good story there because Way of Kings, the first Stormlight Archive, was the book I was writing when I first sold Elantris. Elantris was my first published, but it wasn’t my first written. It was my sixth novel. It was the first one that was actually somewhat decent. But I was writing number thirteen when I got the offer on it. You’ll find that’s very common among authors—it doesn’t happen to all of us, but a lot of us, we write for a long time, until we get it done—and I had just finished Way of Kings, and it was not right yet. In fact, when I sold Elantris, TOR wanted to buy two books from me, and my editor asked, you know—"Send me what you're working on right now." And I sent him Way of Kings, and he said "Wow, this is awesome, but number one, it's enormous! I’m not sure we can publish this, at least in one volume from a new author." Later on I was able to convince them that it should be one volume. But that's when I had a little more clout, and they could print more copies which drives the prices down for printing them. But also, it just wasn't right yet; the book was not right. And I said to my editor, "I'm okay with not publishing it now, because I don't know what's wrong with it." As a writer I think it was just too ambitious for me at the time, I just couldn't do it yet. And it wasn't until I'd written Gathering Storm in its entirety that I started to figure out what I'd been doing wrong.
It was actually managing viewpoints, was one of the things. During the reread of Robert Jordan's entire series I noticed how he gathered the viewpoints together. When you start writing a big epic fantasy series, and you feel like, "Well, they have so many characters, I want to start with that." And the reason on the draft of Way of Kings, I started with—all over the world, I had all these viewpoints and things like this, and the book was kind of a train wreck because of it. Where, if you read Eye of the World, Robert Jordan starts with them all together, and then slowly builds complexity, and even the later books he's grouping the characters together so even if they have individual story lines going on they're in the same place so they can interact with each other and there's clusters of them in different places.
And that was one thing. Working on The Gathering Storm I've learned how to make my characters...also how to use viewpoint the way he did, how to manage subtlety—he was so subtle with a lot of his writing—and some of these things, it all started to click in my head. And I actually I called my agent and said, "I need to do Way of Kings RIGHT NOW," and he's like "Are you sure? Because you kind of have a lot on your plate." And I'm like, "I need to do it; it's going to be fast, because I know how to do it now." And so I actually took time off between Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight and re-wrote Way of Kings from scratch. Took me about six months, which is amazingly fast for a book of that length. And then I showed it to my editor, and it was right this time. And it's hard to explain many of the specifics. It's just, you know...it's like how do you know you can lift this weight after you've been lifting these other weights? When you've worked hard enough, that you've gained the muscle mass to do it. And lifting...writing the Wheel of Time was heavy lifting. And that's how it happened. I do apologize the sequel is taking so long, but after that deviation to the first one, which I could do very quickly, I couldn't stop to write the second one after Towers of Midnight because the second one would take too long, and delay the last book too long. And so, I am getting back to the Stormlight now—I am working on the second book—but I had other obligations first that were very important, and they're why you're here, so... [laughter]
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.
Your new epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive, has been in the works for quite some time. In an interview earlier this year with Fantasy-Faction.com, you said that you set the project aside in 2003 because you needed to "get better as a writer." During the interim, as you worked on other projects such as the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and your middle-grade Alcatraz series, which skills did you improve the most?
I would say that I learned to juggle multiple characters a lot better. That's one of the places where I needed to grow, and it's one of the aspects where the original Way of Kings that I wrote in 2002 flopped. I wasn't good at juggling all these viewpoints. Working on the Wheel of Time really forced me to learn that, and I think I've gotten much better at it. I've also learned to be more subtle with my writing; Robert Jordan was incredibly subtle in his foreshadowing. Going through his notes and rereading the books and seeing how he set up things for many books later, it impressed me quite a bit that he was able to do that. I think I've been able to learn from that.
How did you find the time and energy to work on The Way of Kings while you were immersed in Jordan's Wheel of Time? Are you a hidden Allomancer, a slider like Wayne in The Alloy of Law, with the ability to set up a mind-boggling speed bubble?
I wish I could magically create bubbles of time to give myself more space to do these things. After working on The Gathering Storm, I felt more and more that I needed to do The Way of Kings—I had done it and failed once, and I began to see all of the places where it went wrong and how I could fix it. When you get excited about a book that way, you kind of have to write it—strike while the iron is hot. It's something I never want to do again—working on that and Towers of Midnight at the same time just about killed my entire family. The hours were very long, and I'm still kind of recovering from that. How did I find the time? I didn't do much else during that year when I was getting those both ready. I think it was really good for me to do, and I don't think I'll ever do something like that again.
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.
Why do the Shardblades in the Stormlight Archive have the effect on flesh (human tissue) that they do?
He originally wrote the scene in the prologue with the assassin Szeth using a traditional sword, but it was so bloody and gruesome that Brandon was actually disgusted. He had to find a way to avoid that and so he came up with a new way for the swords to behave.
So, according to King Taravangian, the... erm... I don't actually know the name for it, the uh, death-babbling phenomenon...
OK, death rattles have been going on since about the time the Parshendi were first discovered. Soon after this, King Gavilar was killed, and he said something that sounds kind of nonsensical. Was that him talking, or someone else?
No, that was Gavilar.
Ok. The gemhearts/stormgems/whatever that are grown inside the beasts in Way of Kings ... is that the same as the way Atium is grown inside geodes in the Pits of Hathsin?
It's similar. The pits are an area where there's like a leak from the spiritual realm into the physical. That's what happens there.
Initially a biochemistry major at BYU, Sanderson served a mission in Korea, where his mission president allowed him to write stories on preparation day.
"The most inspiring facet of Brandon and his work is that he understands thoroughly and profoundly how much writing is just that: work," says Ethan M. Sproat (BA '02, MA '08), a PhD candidate at Purdue who worked with Sanderson on BYU's student-run science fiction and fantasy magazine, The Leading Edge.
Sanderson returned to BYU, changed his major to English, wrote a bunch of novels, got a host of rejection letters, applied for grad school (twice), and got rejected from just about every top writing program in the States—except BYU.
Again and again Sanderson was told that his books would never sell because they were too long or too moral. But he was determined.
"At the end of the day if you told me, 'You will never get published,' I would have still written the books," he says. Halfway through his master’s program, he started work on The Way of Kings, which, he says, "I planned to be bigger and full of all the nobility and awesomeness that I wanted to see in epic fantasy. It was flying in the face of what everyone had told me. I wrote the biggest, coolest, epic-est book I could."
Between working on The Wheel of Time and his other novels, Sanderson eventually finished the 1,007-pager, which debuted at no. 7 on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2010 and begins the anticipated 10-book saga The Stormlight Archive.
I asked if assassination is common among the Parshendi, since they have a tradition of what assassins are supposed to wear.
Brandon said (and I'm paraphrasing) that the Parshendi are a lot more unified than they used to be, and back when they existed as a lot of separate tribes (he didn't say how long ago this was), raids and assassinations were a fairly regular thing.
I’ve been fortunate enough to read White Sand and Aether of the Night and I enjoyed them very much. Will they ever be published? I also managed to read Dragonsteel and I enjoyed that too.
White Sand will definitely eventually be published. Aether of The Night, not so sure on, because Aether is two halves of two books that didn't fit together. The two pieces didn't mesh. White Sand is part of the sequence and will be done. Dragonsteel is part of the sequence and will be done, but it will be very different now that the Shattered Plains have been used in Way of Kings.
In The Way of Kings, is Assassination a common thing in the Parshendi culture, because it seems odd that they would have a specific custom for what assassins wear?
It is something that happened quite a bit more in the past than it does now. But yes, you will find out much more about them. They are now more unified, but they used to be a bunch of different tribes, and they would send assassins into each other's camps.
I get a lot of questions about Dannil, the character who was cut out of The Eye of the World. Dannil sort of figures in that cover painting. [Referring to a painting of an Eye of the World poster in Tom Doherty's office.] There's an extra character in there. He has a ghostly life.
Darrell Sweet was doing many of the biggest fantasies in the 1990's.
Yes, using his work was a big expense for a little company. It was one of the ways in which you did such a superb job of publishing. Also, what's so nice about the gorgeous Michael Whelan cover for the last book is that it's obviously a Michael Whelan, but he very tactfully made it so that when you rack them all out, they look like family. That was a lovely thing he did.
It is. He did a good job. The palette and compostion really works with the other covers. I didn't envy him the job and he turned it into a nice tribute as well as a conclusion.
And Sam Weber is so nice. I keep trying to call him Sam Weller because of Dickens. He said Whelan called him once and asked: "What's a ter'angreal?"
Looking at The Way of Kings, I had an extraordinary coincidence. A friend of mine's former wife is a curator at the Phillips Collection in Washington. She's a descendent of John Martin, an English painter also known as Mad Martin. He was the highest paid artist in Great Britain in the 1840's, and then he sank into total obscurity until a couple of war refugees rediscovered and resurrected his works after World War II. One of his paintings is the cover of The Way of Kings, except that there's a big pantheon where the guy is in the distance.
I'm going to look that up.
His skies are very much like Michael Whelan's. He was doing all that stuff way back then. I don't know if Whelan's ever looked at him, but it looks as if he has. Those fabulous skies of Whelan's.
In the Ars Arcanum of the Way of Kings, next to the Essences are listed ten Body Focuses. Are these Body Focuses the focus (in Cosmere terms) of Surgebinding?
I just want to start out by thanking you for writing such wonderful books, one read-through TWoK made you my favorite author. I cannot wait for Emperor's Soul so I can get some new cosmere information! As a 17th Sharder I have to ask at least two timeline questions.
When is Emperor's Soul set chronologically in relation to Elantris? Because if its around the same time Teod and Arelon might not have to stand alone against the Fjordell Empire.
My other question is also a timeline one. (There are a lot of those tonight haha) I heard you had to move TWoK a little bit due to some plot constraints. So does Warbreaker still fall around the same time as AoL or has that shifted as well?
I understand if you don't have time to answer these, I know authors are busy. Its great to see one such as yourself interacting with your fans. Thanks again for providing me with books that I've speculated for hours about!
Thanks for the kind words! Emperor's Soul is after Elantris, but not too long after. It is before Mistborn.
Second question is that I've moved things so that TWoK is around the same time as AoL, forced by some behind-the-scenes events. Warbreaker now happens before AoL.
Some great projects there Brandon and I'm really excited to hear you've decided to publish some of your own books.
Firstly, thank you so much for stopping by! It was great meeting you in England last year (despite my nerves!) and that interview we did still picks up tons of hits on youtube! It was truly a great day. Remembering how many question I hit you with; it probably won't surprise you I have more
1. So, now that you are self publishing - has it given you a new found respect for those who have been self publishing from the beginning? I mean, now you are do doubt speaking with printers, typesetters, cover artists, reviewers, convention organisers. I guess you are having to market your own titles as well (although you've always been a great author for self promotion). Also, has the amount of work surprised you?
2. I remember you saying originally that a lot of your work you wrote from your heart and based upon your own interests. I believe you struggled to get much attention from this early work and I believe your said Mistborn you wrote for the market as opposed to for yourself. Now that you are self-publishing certain titles, do you think we will be seeing more 'unique' and 'out-there' projects? I.e. Fantasy that is quite unlike things we have seen before?
Thanks for your time, Brandon!
1. Well, I get to cheat. I've done well enough that I ave a full-time assistant with a lot of experience in desktop publishing. So, I can hand him the book, and he can take it to design town. That said, we on the more traditional track have had to do some eating of our words in recent years. Once upon a time there was a large stigma to self-publishing, and we all kind of got infected by it. So when it became viable as a real, serious alternative for authors, we had trouble getting rid of our biases.
I wouldn't say the amount of work has surprised me, as I've paid attention to those self-publishing. I teach a writing and publishing class, and I've found that as publishing changes, I've had to keep my eyes on what it takes to publish reasonably on your own. I also know how much work goes into publishing a book on the publisher's end, and had no illusions about how much work it would take us.
2. You've got the story mostly right, though it was the original draft of Mistborn (that did not get published) which was a 'For the market' book. It was awful. The Way of Kings was the book I wrote after that, giving no care to the world, writing only from my heart--and so you can say I've already started doing that. I would like to point out, though, that the second version of Mistborn (the one that got published, in which I tossed aside everything but the magic system and some original character concept) as in my mind a 'return to form' of the books like Elantris that I'd been writing and feeling were not getting attention.
I enjoy Way of Kings, it seems like that’s the one where everyone’s coming together. I was reading online about Galladon and Demoux being in it. I enjoyed that. Is that going to happen more often?
In that book- that series, yes. There will be more crossover. It’s kinda one of the core stories, along with the things happening on the Mistborn world and things like that. And so, there’s going to be a lot more crossover. Most of it’s still kind of subtle stuff, but if you keep your eyes open there’ll be some real zingers in the next two books.
What time period do they all fit in, do they all fit in time- at the same time?
No, like for instance, Way of Kings and Alloy of Law are pretty close to one another but Elantris is fairly far before them. So far I’ve written them chronologically basically, except I’ve skipped certain stories, like there’s a series called White Sand which is in the middle there somewhere which will actually be a jump back in time when I end up doing it and some things like that. And Dragonsteel is like way at the beginning which I’ll eventually do but I’ve done them chronologically so far.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Tor.com has also started a reread of The Way of Kings in preparation for the release of the sequel, Words of Radiance, hopefully later this year. Two reread posts have gone up so far, the first one covering the prelude and the second talking about the prologue. And the ebook of Kings is still $2.99 for the next week or so.
Tor.com is continuing its reread of The Way of Kings. This week's article covers chapters 1 and 2, which include Kaladin's introduction.
And here's the newest video of me writing a chapter from Words of Radiance. This is the climax, but there are two short videos after this. I'll upload the sped-up version of the chapter the same day I upload the final video.
Tor.com has put up another two chapters of their reread of The Way of Kings: chapters 3 and 4. This covers Shallan's introduction and Kaladin's arrival at the Shattered Plains.
If you missed my AMA at Reddit, you can find my answers here.
I've finished uploading the videos of me writing one of the interludes from Words of Radiance, the sequel to The Way of Kings. I've also made a high-speed version of all of the writing, which you can see below, if the real-time version was too slow for you. There's a playlist of all of the real-time videos here, and the final video (if you were keeping up already) is here.
This has been a bit of an experiment, to show my writing process. Now that it's all done, what have you thought about the experiment?
The ebook for Unfettered, which contains the A Memory of Light deleted sequence "River of Souls," has now been released. Details below.
Tor.com's reread of The Way of Kings reached chapters 16 and 17, the first flashback with Laral and Tien, and Kaladin leading Bridge Four from the front. Also, Writing Excuses' latest podcast episode features us talking about middle grade fiction with E.J. Patten, author of Return to Exile and The Legend Thief.
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.
Several times in Way of Kings, you have characters think of the Shin as having big or round eyes. Do the Shin really have giant eyes, or do all the other peoples of Roshar have an epicanthic fold on their eyes?
It seemed to me that this was very similar to how characters in second world fantasies, like Faile in Wheel of Time, are designated as "Asian" even though there is no Asia in the book. Is this a subversion of that? Are the Shin the only people on Roshar who look Western European?
You are right, actually. Normal eyes on Roshar are those with an epicanthic fold. The Shin do not have this. Note, however, that they wouldn't look "Western European." Roshar races are fairly far off from what we imagine as Earth ones. The people most likely to look Western European to you would be those from Mistborn.
Hay Brandon, Huge fan! Finished A Memory of Light, Re-read all 3 Mistborn for the 2nd time, re-read Way of Kings for the 4th time and am currently listening to Alloy of Law while I toil away at work. Also recently listened to all of season one of Writing Excuses, very cool stuff please keep doing it, maybe a live podcast from SDCC this year?
I also wanted to mention I met you last year at SDCC on preview night and I'm working on that Memento. http://i.imgur.com/tve4Xqv.jpg
To the questions...I believe I've heard you mention more than once that you weren't happy with Way of Kings, could you explain a bit exactly what you would change or love to do-over with it or expand on your comments?
Also, any teasers for the new Stormlight archive?
The problem with doing something live like that at SDCC is that it's really hard to get the space or work out the logistics. We keep talking about it, but have trouble making it happen. Everyone is just so BUSY there. But maybe!
The original draft of The Way of Kings had some big issues. One of the largest ones was that I was trying to do too many characters with too many separate plots. (Jasnah and Taln both had full sequences with as much complexity as the three main characters in the current draft.) Beyond that, Kaladin's character (he had a different name there) was bland and never worked. I needed to rebuild him from the start.
I'll post more explanations of this in the Kings annotations, which I'm working on right now. As for teasers for the second book, one of the interludes is from Taln's viewpoint. (He's the guy who shows up in the epilogue of the previous book.)
Some other things that I had overheard and noted:
Shardblades can be willed down. We see this with Dalinar slamming the Shardblade down into the stone at the end of the Way of Kings.
Way of Kings: Is set on a strangely awesome world. Apparently, a super large storm (like hurricane size) passes across the Earth every few days. This happens in a very predictable cycle. Because of this, there is no soil anywhere, everything is stone. The plants and animals have adapted to this environment, so they are also pretty strange. The plants, for instance will be much like a coral reef. They have shells, or can withdraw into the ground, and do so when the storm comes. They also will do the same thing if you try to step on them and such. So like, as you're walking, the grass around you shrinks into the ground, and pokes back out again when you pass.
I also found out that the Way of Kings is largely about the birth of magic, since Brandon was tired of fantasy books talking about the death of it. As such, most of the magic systems are largely unknown, and will be explored. There was at one previous time, several hundred years past, magic on the earth. However, it's been gone for a while, and is being rediscovered. There are a total of 30 planned magic systems, and the books will jump around chronologically between the present and character's pasts. The technology level is a typical fantasy, Renaissance minus gunpowder. At least I think that's what he said.
He also mentioned these awesome suits of armor and like 6 foot long swords that he called "Shard Plate" and "Shard Blades." Apparently, they are the only relics left over from the time when mankind originally did have magic. Also, in the mythology of this world, mankind originally lived in heaven. However, a race of beings called (I think) the Voidbringers conquered heaven and basically cast mankind out to the earth. They made war on them again and tried to cast them out to hell, but mankind devised These Shard Blades and Shard Plate as a method of fighting the Voidbringers and were able to push them back. He also mentioned that the world is currently basically dominated by those who have these magical items, and one person with a suit of shard plate and a shard blade is basically the equivalent of an army. When I asked him if these were related to the Shards of Andonalsium at all, he said, "Maybe." He also confirmed that the Stormlight Chronicle (Way of Kings) takes place in the Shards universe.
The reason Way of Kings is called the Stormlight Chronicle apparently has to do with the massive hurricanes that come through every few days. If you leave a gemstone out during the storm (and affix it to something so it won't blow away), it will gain magical properties. One of these is that they give off light, called stormlight. The other that he mentioned is that they can be used kind of like a battery, and are used to power the Shard Plate Suits.
That's all I remember about the Way of Kings right now, maybe I'll remember something later.
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, you’re not going to tell me?
I’m just clarifying for you so that you have all the information you need in order to make judgements and ask questions.
Angrier, and my question is, why did you write him that way?
He has always been angry. In the first book, he is focused on saving his men and now that his men are safe, all of those emotions—if you go look at him from the first nine chapters of Way of Kings, he's that way there, it's when he becomes focused on saving his men he has something to drive him and it kind of subsumes these things, but once they're safe all these things he hasn't dealt with came back out.
He calls himself an old reptile.
Is he immortal?
Functionally, meaning he doesn't age but can be killed.
And it is a he and not a she?
It is a he.
I also heard he was part of your unpublished Dragonsteel.
And is that a series you are going to be publishing?
I will eventually rewrite it, it is not up to my current standards. I consider the events that happen in it basically to be canon. With some exceptions, like for instance when I originally wrote Dragonsteel the Shattered Plains were there and Dalinar was there and I split off Way of Kings into its own book. I took half of what had been Dragonsteel and made it into the Stormlight Archive and I split half of it off onto a separate planet. If you were to read it, you can check it out from BYU, half of it will be a less well-written version of the Shattered Plains sequence of Way of Kings and the other half is Hoid's story. And Hoid's story stuff is still kind of canon but the rest...
Zahel/Vasher is in Roshar for Nightblood? Will we know in Stormlight Archive why these two were separated? or in the sequel of Warbreaker?
The Warbreaker sequel will give clues about this, but the actual event happened between that and TWoK. So I'm not sure where I'll slip it in.
That's a hard question, I can't pick a favorite character. Dalinar is what I normally say, just because I've been working on him the longest. Honestly, I don't know. It's whoever I'm working on at the time.
Dalinar is a good character, I like Kaladin a lot too.
Kaladin has really worked out well. It's interesting because Kaladin-- the first time I wrote The Way of Kings, in 2002, did not work and I had to rip him out and try a completely different personality and things for him. So it's cool to see it finally working.
So Nightblood and Shardblades are both kind of powered by Investiture?
Yes, in fact you can call Nightblood kind of a miss-made, evil Shardblade-- more miss-made than evil but yes.
But a Shardblade wouldn't shear through Nightblood.
Yes a Shardblade would not shear through Nightblood. In fact I wrote The Way of Kings first and then I wrote Warbreaker and The Way of Kings came out after Warbreaker but in my mind Warbreaker is a prequel to The Way of Kings, where I was telling Vasher's backstory.
Oh really, so the Warbreaker we know takes place after The Way of Kings?
No, it takes place before, it's a prequel meaning I wrote The Way of Kings and then I went back in time and told Vasher's backstory but Warbreaker ended up coming out first because The Way of Kings wasn't ready yet.
I know, and the Warbreaker fans really get on my case about that. Well, I wrote Words of Radiance, and I got Vasher into it, so that would kindle interest, and make sure that you at least got to see your characters again. But did you hear the story about that? So, I wrote The Way of Kings in 2002, the first version, and in that version Kaladin trained with a swordmaster, and that swordmaster, a guy named Vasher, had a mysterious past. After I finished that book, later on I wrote Warbreaker as a prequel to The Way of Kings, to show Vasher's backstory. But then Warbreaker came out before The Way of Kings, which was a really kind of interesting thing. So in my head, Warbreaker is the prequel, but to everyone else...
Yes, it is a totally different world, different planets, people get around...
So how much of Vasher's backstory do we actually have?
Well, a huge chunk of it! If you were reading The Way of Kings, you would know nothing, and then you'd read Warbreaker and you'd be like, "Oh, here's a whole past that he had!" That doesn't mean it's all of his past.