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Old 07-13-2013, 08:30 PM
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Default Brandon and Harriet at Microsoft Research, 13 February 2013

Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal Q&A at Microsoft Research
Redmond, WA
February 13, 2013


Note: A transcript of the audio/video was provided by Microsoft at the link above; however, there were many many transcription errors ('Wheel of Tame', anyone?), which I have corrected.


======

Brian Hill
My name is Brian Hill, and it is my pleasure to welcome our guest and welcome all of you. I am a developer in the Office Division, so this is not my normal thing of organizing these events. I got an email from somebody at Tor last week saying, can you host this author in March? And I had to say I'm sorry, no. But for Brandon, I'm happen to go to the extra trouble.

I would like to thank a few people. I would like to thank Amy Draves and the Microsoft Research Visiting Speakers Series for providing this venue. They are filming this for broadcast into the overflow room if you have trouble finding a seat, and also if people are tuning in from around the company.

If you would like to learn more about the Visiting Speaker Series and come to see other authors and dignitaries, please join one of the speaker aliases: speaker two, speaker three, four, five and six, and they wrote that up on the board, and then you'll get notifications of other events.

I'd also like to thank Tor. Tor has sent us some goodies that we'll be raffling off at the end. We've got some backpacks and some paperbacks of The Way of Kings.

Brandon Sanderson
Yeah, so those of you watching, run on down here. You might be able to win something.

Brian Hill

Yeah, you heard him. We also have some more bookmarks. We've got Rithmatist bookmarks, especially for anybody with young readers. Brandon will talk a little bit more about his upcoming books when I let him speak.

[laughter]

Brian Hill
Also, I would like to thank Dwayne and the University Bookstore. They have been long time supporters of Brandon Sanderson, and they make it possible each year for Brandon to come to Seattle, which makes it possible for him to come and join us. I've known Brandon for five or six years. I met him during one of the Mistborn book tours, and this is a second time that he's come to Microsoft. I’m grateful to him for doing that.

He brought with him a special guest which many of you recognize–the wife of Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal, will be speaking a little bit as well. She has a long career in editing. She was the editor for all of the Wheel of Time books, as well as other books that you may have read. So since you really have come to hear them, I will turn the time over to Brandon and Harriet.

Brandon Sanderson
Thank you.

[applause]

So, way back in 1990, I wandered into my local bookstore. It's called Cosmic Comics. It's a little tiny shop. I actually usually rode my bike there even though I was approaching 16. I couldn't legally drive . . . but I'll just say I rode my bike there. And every week I would go in, and I would see what new books were on the shelf.

To the right of me, right as I'd walk in, they had this little shelf–they sold science fiction and fantasy books, and comic books–I wasn't as interested in the comics books. I was there for the fantasy novels, and they had this thing where you'd buy ten and you get one free, which had me sold, right. Free book, right? So I would always plan and I would buy ten cheap ones and then find the really expensive thick one, which was like a dollar more, and get that one free. I thought–I'm the son of an accountant, so I thought I was getting away with something. And there on the shelf was a big book. A big book.

Now I always say, length of the book doesn't actually indicate its quality, but I had learned very early on as a fantasy reader that you wanted the big books because if you liked the book, you had that much more to love. If you got a short book and you fell in love with it, it was over before you knew it. And if you got a big book, you would say, well, by the time you fell in love with it you had this big book to read. And there was a big book.

I'm not your typical writer. I guess there are no typical writers. But a lot of writers I know–you'd ask them when they first started writing, they're like, 'oh yeah, I was six months old, started my first story. It was a war epic'. And you talk to writers and you know . . . all this stuff. I was what we call a reluctant reader. That's a literacy person term. I didn't it know back then–all I know is I didn't like books. All through the latter part of my grade school days and my first two years of middle school–seventh and eighth grade–I did not like books. In fact, I was convinced that books were boring. And people kept trying to get me to read books, and they would give me these books. And every one of these books would have like this boy who goes off and lives in the forest, and he has like this pet dog and his dog dies, and everyone's sad. And I read like three of these, and I'm like books are dumb, why is there . . . I don't like dogs. I'm a cat person. So I'm actually happy when the dogs die. I'm just joking–dogs are wonderful. My wife’s a dog person, so . . . But no, I just thought books were not for me.

Last part of my eighth grade year, I had a teacher–her name was Ms. Reeder, by coincidence. She was my English teacher, and she insisted that I read a book on her shelf. This is because I'd gotten really good at faking my way through book reports, and I was a clever little boy that realized you could find out what was in a book without reading it, and then write a very convincing book report.

And my teacher made me pick a book that she had read recently. There's a little stack of them–you know, like in these schools they have these racks of ratty paperbacks that like a hundred students have read, and there’s like–yesterday's spaghetti is stained on one. But you know, every teacher has these things, and I had to pick one of these books. And so–she wouldn't let me get away with it this time, so dragging my feet went to the back of the classroom and browsed through these ratty books and came across this book with a dragon on the cover. Now, I had not tried a fantasy book since Lord of the Rings, which, if you give Lord of the Rings to a boy who's not really that good at reading, despite it being a brilliant novel, all it does is convince you that Lord of the Rings is a lot like Isaiah, right? You're like oh, I'm sure this is wonderful, but I'll let someone else tell me why.

And I had not finished Lord of the Rings. But I saw this and there was this dragon, and it also had a very attractive young woman on the cover, which I will admit helped quite a bit also. It was a Michael Whelan painting–he's a fantastic illustrator–it was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly, if any of you have read this. I highly recommend, it's a wonderful book. I picked this up even though it was a bit thicker than I perhaps had wanted. You know, I did the normal middle schooler thing looking for the shortest ones first. And I took this book home and read it, and it changed my life. This sounds stupid when I say it, I realize. It's a dopey little fantasy novel, right?

But it changed my life. There was something in there. The imagination, the realism of the characters mixed with this wonderful scenario. Dragonsbane is about a middle aged woman who tries to convince her husband not to go slay a dragon. He did it when he was young and now there's another dragon, but now they're middle aged and you know they're probably like in their early 40s, but to me they were like ancient when I was reading this. And like, why should a 14 year old boy connect, right, with this book about a middle aged woman having a midlife crisis, which is what the book's about, but I loved it. It was amazing.

And I ran back to my teacher and I said, people write books about dragons? This is wonderful. She's like, yeah there's lots of them. There's this thing called the card catalog–you should go investigate this. And so I did. Now these . . . For the younger people in the audience, card catalogs were these things . . .

[laughter]

They were chiseled out of stone, actually, and you had to lug them open. And inside in caveman script, it would write the authors alphabetically and the titles alphabetically. We had two of them in my school. So I went to the title card catalog and said well, Dragonsbane was good. What's the next card after it? It was a book called Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. And I'm like well, this one has a dragon on the cover, and that looks like an attractive young woman also, so I will read that book. Lo and behold, Dragonflight is one of the best fantasy books ever written–Hugo award winning novel by one of the greatest names in the genre, also with this wonderful Michael Whelan cover. And so I read through everything they had of that. And the next one in line actually was Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn. Also with an attractive young woman on the cover–by coincidence, I'm sure.

And I became a fantasy addict. I read every fantasy book I could get my hands on. And it's kind of a funny story. That summer someone gave me a David Eddings novel, which some of you may have read. I actually was skeptical because I'm like, I don't know if a guy can write fantasy. Because I was reading Barbara Hambly and Anne McCaffrey at that point. But I gave David Eddings a chance, and David Eddings further got fantasy's hooks in me. And so by that fall, I was super fantasy addict man. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, and was absolutely loving it.

And it I think it was–actually I've been telling this story wrong, because I think it was actually the following spring that Wheel of Time came out, because I think I would have been 14 there, turned 15. But whenever it was, I got Eye of the World. I remember when it came out in paperback, and I picked this book up, and it was a big book. And I had been searching for something. My friends had given me David Eddings. One of my friends was a huge Ray Feist fan. And everyone had their series that they followed that they were in love with. And everything I'd read–Thomas Covenant and Dragonriders and all these things–were series that were already established that people suggested to me, and I had not yet found my series to suggest to people.

And I was kind of searching for it, right? You know how that is. Fantasy had become my thing. I'm like, I want to be a fantasy hipster but I'm not, because everybody's giving me the books. Hipsters didn't exist back then, but that was the mindset. And I found this book and I’m like, all right, I'm going to give this one a try. And it was amazing. I loved this book, Eye of the World, and I remember distinctly getting done with it and thinking aha, I've found it. I’m going to be on the ground floor for this one. And then when this trilogy is done . . . [laughter] I'm going to be the one giving it to people and talking about how you should read this. But I remember when The Great Hunt came out–and my little bookstore did not get the hardcovers or trade paperbacks very often–but The Great Hunt came out in trade paperback. And I said aha, other people are figuring it out. Now the book is being released in trade paperback, it must be getting popular. And then The Dragon Reborn came out in hardcover. And I thought, I knew it–this is the series, it's taking off, and I was there first.

How many of you guys read the books in 1990, anyone here? That's a surprising number. Man, it's been a long road, hasn't it? You know, being a Wheel of Time fan is a really interesting experience. I don't know if any of you guys felt this, but it seems like everyone I talk to has like at least one period of extreme rage toward Robert Jordan.

Harriet McDougal
[laughter] Never!

Brandon Sanderson
It's weird isn't it? We love the series, we love him, and yet this is honest truth. My friend Micah and I, my roommate–he actually took my jacket photos, you can go look. It's Captain Demoux from the Mistborn books I named after him, Micah DeMoux. For years in the late 90s, early 2000s, any time someone said Robert Jordan's name–[to Harriet] I don't know if I told you this–we both raised our fists in the air and said, damn him! [laughter] In unison. He still does it. I can't do it anymore. But yeah, we did it in unison. It was like a thing for us because, you know, it's like this series is never ending. We love it, yet at the same time it's been ups and downs over the years, and the Wheel of Time has followed me through my career.

It's a really interesting thing. When I got to college, I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I started reading the books that I loved as a youth and studying them and trying to figure out how to do writing. Because . . . I love my professors, but writing teachers don't actually teach you how to write. I don't know if any of you guys have taken writing classes, but they're like well, let's explore your inner voice. And I'm like, you're telling me I have to hear voices? Well, I already do but they're not telling me how to write. How do I write? How do I make a character cool? And teachers aren't really big on teaching you how to make characters cool. They like to teach you how to develop your style.

And so I started reading books, and I was actually very very disappointed because some of authors that I read–I won't mention names–but some of authors I read as a youth did not hold up when I was an adult. And they were perfect for me at the age, but as I tried to inspect them as an adult writer trying to develop my style, I didn't find the depth that I wanted to dig into that I thought would teach me how to write. Robert Jordan still did. In fact, Robert Jordan was the one that I would dig into and find how much I'd missed. I constantly tell a story about as a 15 year old reading these books, you know, there's this character Moiraine who's just like always keeping the boys down and not letting them . . . She's always giving them orders, and I was always like, Moiraine, just leave them alone, they need to go off and do cool things! And then I read the books as an adult and I'm studying them and I'm like, you stupid kids, listen to Moiraine!

[laughter]

There's this depth to Wheel of Time books that the various characters are all expressed on very different levels. And Moiraine has an entire story going on behind the scenes that you don't see because you don't see through her viewpoints. And there's a little subtlety and detail. I mean, maybe I'm dense, but I didn't get the whole thing with it being our world, and there . . . and who was it? Not Buzz Aldrin, um–

Harriet McDougal
John Glenn.

Brandon Sanderson
John Glenn being in the book referenced, and America and Russia and the Cold War being referenced in legend. I didn't get that stuff till I was in college, and I'm like how did it miss that? You know, it's like a smack to the face, right, the first time you realize that Egwene is Egwene al'Vere, which is Guinevere. And you know, I didn't get this as a kid, and building these things out and understanding them and seeing the depth of writing that he was capable of–the really wonderful sentences that evoke so much feeling, emotion, and description.

I started studying the Wheel of Time to learn how to write. It became my primary model, just on a prose level, of how to do this thing that no one could teach me how to do. I spent the next . . . I decided I wanted to be a writer–actually, I was serving mission for the LDS church in Korea. The reason is I . . . I really wanted to be a writer before then, but my mother convinced me that writers don't get scholarships, and that I should be a doctor instead. And so I actually applied to BYU–I grew up in Nebraska–to go be a chemistry major, because that got scholarships. And then I got into college and realized what they do to all those people who just said they want to be chemistry majors to get a scholarship, is they put them in a really hard chemistry class that other people don't have to take their freshman year to show you what chemistry is like.

And I then went to Korea and was so happy to be on a different continent from chemistry. I did not enjoy that freshman year, but I did spend a lot of that time writing. And I decided I missed writing so much, but I didn't miss chemistry, that I had made the wrong choice, and I decided to start writing a book on my days off during my missionary work, and I just started writing in a notebook. And I completely fell in love with the process. I'd known since a kid this is what I wanted to do, but that's the first time that it clicked for me, that what I loved to do should be my job, right? That I could spend eight hours working on a story and come out of it feeling awesome and have not missed that time at all. I get the same thing from a lot of my friends who are code monkeys. It kind of scratches the same itch–that you get into it, and you're creating something, and it's working, and it's clicking. And yes, it can be hard but you love it at the same time. That's what I wanted to do.

Over the course of the next eight years I wrote 13 novels, trying to break in. And I eventually sold Elantris, my sixth book. And I sold it to Tor books. And when I got an offer from Tor . . . It was funny, I called up my agent. He said, well, I want to take this and I want to shop it, because usually you can get a better offer if you have one offer from somebody. This is basic business philosophy, right? And you go to everyone else and say, well, we got this offer from this company, will you beat it? And I said no, you can't do that. And he's like, but we can get more money. And I said, Tor is Robert Jordan's publisher. [laughter] We're not going anywhere else. When you have an offer from the top you just take it, and I did. And he, to this . . . not to this day, because things have kind of changed in my career, but there were many years where he would say to me, you know, I still wish you'd let me taken that, I bet we could have, you know, got a bigger launch, and yada yada yada. And when I did start working on the Wheel of Time, I actually called him and I said, so do you still wish? And he's like ah, you know, ah . . .

Harriet McDougal
[laughter]

Brandon Sanderson
But in 2007, Robert Jordan passed away. And I had never met him. I had been able to see him once at a convention, but I had never met him. All this time I viewed him as a mentor, but I didn't know him. We had sent him my first book. He got all sorts of ARCs, though. Harriet later found it. Everyone sends their book to Robert Jordan, right? And you know, when you get your first book . . . I just sent him a book because, you know, of course you're going to send your idol a book. But I never expected him to read it, and it was perfectly all right. But we did send him a book, we did dig it out later.

And I was terrified for what would happen to the series, as everyone was. But I trusted Tor. I trusted Robert Jordan, and I assumed that the series was in good hands, even though I had read many interviews where he said if he passed away the series would not be finished, and that he would have his notes bulldozed. And in 2007, about a month or so maybe–maybe less than that–after he passed away, I got a phone call. And I'm actually going to let Harriet tell her story now of where that all came from.

Harriet McDougal
The week after my husband's funeral, a friend was staying with me. She'd come down for the service, and she, as so many people are, was both a fan of fantasy and heavily into the net. And she put a printout in front of me–the basic sort of semi Luddite–and said, you need to read this. And it was the eulogy that Brandon had written and posted on his website. And I read it and thought, gosh, that's just beautiful. And it's also the feeling for my husband's work that I would love to see in whoever takes over to finish the series, because in his last weeks and months, my husband had made it very clear to me that he did want the series finished. I draw a distinction–he had a horror of sharecropping, the endless work of other writers in a world that someone has created. He really had a horror of that, so that's not going to happen. But he really did want the series finished.

He began one Saturday night. His cousin–a cousin named Wilson Grooms, who was as close to him as a brother–was visiting. And I had a friend there, thank God, who’d once been a court reporter. And I was scrabbling round in the kitchen making food or something, and Jim . . . who’s read the book? Who's not read the book?

Brandon Sanderson
The last one? Who hasn't finished the last one?

Harriet McDougal
Well, okay.

Brandon Sanderson
No spoilers, then.

Harriet McDougal
Well, okay. My husband, called Jim, began to talk and he said, there's a blank in the blank that nobody knows about, not even Harriet. And he was off and running. And the court reporter was there, fortunately, because I was trying to take notes, and instead I was just staring at him in rapture, kind of. And Wilson went out at midnight and bought a tape recorder, and that was the start of a real outpouring of what he wanted in the rest of the series. That's how I knew he wanted it finished. Otherwise, he'd have kept his mouth shut. Which was not very much in his nature.

[laughter]

So anyway, I read this wonderful eulogy and thought, yow. And I’d worked with Tom Doherty, the publisher of Tor, for 40 years. In fact, I was the original editorial director of Tor. And I called him and said, yo Tom, tell me about Sanderson. And he's a publisher, so he said, well, his numbers on Elantris . . . [laughter] I'm an editor. I don't want numbers. He said, I'll send you Mistborn. Elantris is his first novel, and as I'm sure you know, in the industry, we think of first novels as–that's the bike with training wheels. If you really want to see what a writer can do, look at the second. So, I began reading it, and I got to page 47 and I fell asleep, which was not his fault. [laughter] I've got to tell you, if the story that I'm reading is in trouble, I cannot go to sleep until I've either figured out how to fix it or thrown it across the room and said, so much for that one. It's a peculiarity of the editorial personality.

So I woke up, and his world was clear, his characters were clear, even what they ate, the conflict. And I said, yeah, this guy can do it. He really can. I can feel it and see it. So I called Tom and told him what I thought, and he said, Harriet–because he knows me 40 years worth–he said, have you read the whole book? And I said no. [laughter] And he said don't you think you should? This is a very important decision. And I said, it would be a very important decision if I were hiring Brandon to write a Sanderson novel, but I'm not. I'm hiring him to write a Robert Jordan novel, and he can do it. And unspoken was: because I'll make him.

[laughter]

So anyway, that was the beginning, and I really was quite sure. But I do have remnants of common sense, and I called the British publisher and said, do you have any suggestions? And I called an editor in New York whose opinion I trust and said, do you have any suggestions? Anybody better out there? And that went on for a number of weeks while I stewed on this decision a bit.

And then I called Brandon Sanderson. And I didn't do the professional thing and say, hey Tor, give me his number. I thought Provo, Utah, that's got to be . . . that big. I called information, and I got a woman who answered the phone. I said, is this Brandon Sanderson's house? She said, yes it is. And I said well, my name's Harriet McDougal, and I'm the widow of Robert Jordan, and I'd like to talk to him about finishing the series that my husband wrote. And she said, I have no idea what you're talking about. [laughter] It was the other Brandon Sanderson.

Brandon Sanderson
He's a wrestler. [laughter] That's all I know about him. Google mixed us up. Bing mixed us up. [laughter]

Harriet McDougal
So anyway, then I called New York, got the right number, and called Brandon.

Brandon Sanderson
And so I got up in the morning . . . Now, I keep an artist's schedule. That's a nice way of saying that I sleep in till noon. I work from about . . . I do a lot of my writing from about ten until four a.m., and then I sleep until about noon, and then I get up. And then I work from about noon until five, doing mostly during that time email and things like that. But anyway, so I get up, and every day when I get up, the first thing that I do is I check my voicemail. I used to–now I let people call my assistant. Voicemail annoys me. I'll answer it if it's Harriet.

But I listened to my voicemail, and there was a voicemail that said, 'Hello Brandon, this is Harriet McDougal. I would like you to call me back. There's something I'd like to talk to you about.' And she said . . . oh, 'Robert Jordan's widow', but I already knew who Harriet McDougal was. And so, I just got this voicemail, I'm like, what . . . what? Now, you’ve got to remember, it's not like I applied for this or anything.

Harriet McDougal
No.

Brandon Sanderson
I did not. And it's not like I had any clue. I honestly assumed that it was taken care of, and it was just a fan wanting to read what came out, just like everyone else. And so I called Harriet back, and she didn't answer. She was out having a massage.

Harriet McDougal
Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson
So I called my editor, and he didn't answer. But he never answers, so it's okay. But then I called my agent, who always answers, and he didn't answer. And so I wandered upstairs to my wife and I–this is one of those distinct memories that get kind of burned in your brain–and I walked into the bedroom, and she was folding clothes or something, and I said, Robert Jordan's widow just called me. And my wife is like, what?

Because, when we got married, we exchanged books. She had to read the Wheel of Time, and I had to read Robin McKinley–Robin McKinley's book is like that. But she was well versed in the Wheel of Time. She'd actually read Eye of the World before we got married, so that was a point in her favor early in the dating process. She hadn't read the whole series, which she has done now. And she said, so what did Robert Jordan's widow want? And I said, I don't know, I can't get a hold of her!

And so my wife . . . she said she's never seen me that nervous. And she really hasn't. I'm not the nervous type. I'm very comfortable with lots of different situations. I'm just kind of a go with the flow sort of guy. If you get my wife up here, she says that on that day, I was more nervous than on my wedding day–she says that jealously.

[laughter]

But I had months to get ready for the wedding. This was out of nowhere, right? It just came out of nowhere. And I finally got smart, and I called up Tor. And I got a hold of Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who is one of the editors there. And I said, Patrick, Robert Jordan's widow just called me. And Patrick said–I remember this distinctly, too–oh yeah, that's probably what you think it is. [laughter] I'll have her call you back. And I'm like, what do I think it is, Patrick? He wouldn't say a word. He would not say a word. He knew Harriet very well and knew that he did not want to be breaking any news. And so, Harriet called me back, and she said, well, I was just wondering if you would be interested . . . we're compiling a short list.

Harriet McDougal
Yes, a short list. [laughter] But, that's not what I said. We're compiling a short list.

Brandon Sanderson
A short list of people we're considering, and I'm wondering if you would be interested in finishing the Wheel of Time. And I said, aaahhhhhhh. [laughter] I always say this, and everyone laughs, but really it's true. I don't know if Harriet remembers it, but I could not speak. I had to write her an email the next day in which I said, I promise I can form coherent sentences. I was completely unable to reply to her. I did get out a ‘yes’.

Harriet McDougal

Yes.

Brandon Sanderson
But that was about it. I was just stuttering and things. And then that night, it hit me. That night I couldn't sleep, as one might imagine, and I came to the realization–a couple of realizations. The first one being, holy cow, if I screw this up . . . [laughter] It's going to be the worst disaster of my life. Both personally, because I love these books, and because I know there's like ten million fans who will all find out where I live and then they will . . .

Harriet McDougal
And they'll write things that begin, Sanderson who . . .

Brandon Sanderson
Yes. And I thought if I screw this up, and it kind of went further than that with me thinking, how can I not screw this up? Because the only person who could write this the right way is Robert Jordan, and anyone who tries to write the book is going to screw it up to an extent, because it won't be one hundred percent his vision, the way it was supposed to be.

And I still believe that. I think we got really close. I think we made fantastic books. I think we did a wonderful job. I'm very proud of my work, but at the same time I acknowledge it's not quite what he would have done. There's no way for me to do what he would have done.

And so I debated calling and saying no, because I thought, nobody can do this. It is impossible to do this work. And something stopped me. Kind of the third realization of the night, which was: What would happen if I said no, and they went and they hired somebody who didn't love the series? What would happen? And there are a lot of writers out there who are better than I am. I will be up front with that. I know many a writer who were much better writers than I, but none of them had read the Wheel of Time. Maya Angelou hasn't read the Wheel of Time, you know. And . . . what would happen if one of them took over the Wheel of Time, and then wrote it beautifully, but didn't get the characters right? And didn't do the book the right way? It would be my fault. Because I said no, and I could have done it.

And I came to the realization that if Robert Jordan couldn't write the books, as a writer myself, yes I wanted to do it, because I really felt that I would screw it up the least. I felt–maybe some of you have felt something like this–like, I'm going to do it myself. And I had these moments of, yes I will do this, and I will do this myself. And I will make sure that everyone who's out there like me, terrified of what's going to happen, that they get the book, and it's the right book–that it's still the Wheel of Time.

And so, that's when I wrote that email to Harriet the next day and I said, yes I want to do this. And I was very straightforward that time–no hemming and hawing this time–I really want to do this. I think I can do it, not as well as Robert Jordan, but better than anyone else out there. Because, if you take Wheel of Time fandom–and there are bigger Wheel of Time fans than me–but if you take all of Wheel of Time fandom, and you take pretty good fantasy writers, and you make a Venn diagram, I'm right there in the middle.

And so I said yes. And then Harriet said, well I need a little more time to consider, which is justified. And I went on book tour, completely nervous for an entire month, not able to tell people that I had been offered the chance to work on the Wheel of Time . . . maybe.

After this nerve wracking book tour, which–yeah, one of those tours. I was very early in my career–that was one of those tours where I would go to bookstores, and sometimes nobody would be there. And they would have not have ordered in the books, because they’re like, who are you again? And things like this. I got back, and Harriet called me and said, yes I would like you to do this.

In a few weeks, we had all contract negotiations done. Contract negotiations went like this. My agent–who I do love by the way–even though I . . . His job is to offer me the business side, right? Because I'm an artist. My agent said, okay we'll do some negotiations, and this is our bargaining ground, and this . . . And I’m like, no, no, no, no. We just say yes. [laughter] And he's like, well we could try to push for this, and I'm like no, no, no, no. We say yes. And so he had to call back right after the offer and say, we say yes. The shortest negotiation of my entire life. I had contracts in hand like lightning speed. When we got the offer on my first book, offer came in April. We had contracts in November. Offer on this came on Monday, and I think we had contracts on Thursday, or something like that. And within a week, I was flying to Charleston.

And I . . . I tell this story a lot, but it's a fun story. I flew in. Harriet herself picked me up at the airport. I had been really nervous to meet Harriet–like, you know, really nervous. I knew Harriet . . . like, she was one of the big editors in the field, and authors have this kind of–even, you know, published authors–are sometimes kind of scared of editors, right? And Harriet . . . I don't know if you guys know . . . I mean, she edited Ender's Game, okay? She edited–and discovered–Robert Jordan, and she’s behind the two biggest books in fantasy and science fiction of the last 30 years–Ender's Game and Eye of the World. So I was really nervous.

And so I'm like . . . and then I meet her, and as you can tell, she's like this wonderful, just so nice, awesome person. It was such a relief. I’m like, oh good. I actually called Emily that night and I'm like, ahh, I didn't need to be worried. Like, take your favorite grandmother and mix her with a southern gentlewoman and you have Harriet.

Harriet McDougal
I've hidden the whips.

[laughter]

Brandon Sanderson
And she drove me to the house there in Charleston, which is this wonderful house, built in the 1700s, right?

Harriet McDougal
Barely. 1798.

Brandon Sanderson
And we walk in the door, and Harriet had been cooking dinner, and it was a bean soup. I still remember all these things where she said, well I put some soup on, and I can warm it up, and would you like to have some food? And I said, I would like the ending, please.

[laughter] [applause]

Because I didn't know . . . You know, I just signed the contracts without knowing. You know, you guys work for Microsoft, NDA stuff, you got to say yes first, and then you get the NDA, and then you get to be a part of it.

And so, I knew that there was an ending, because Robert Jordan had talked about writing the ending. I knew, and Harriet had confirmed, the ending had been written. And so I walked in, and it was like ten o'clock at night. But I got that ending, and I sat down in the front room–sitting room–and I read what you now have as primarily the epilogue of A Memory of Light. Almost all the epilogue was in there.

Also contained in there were several big important scenes from the prologue, which we split among the three prologues. There were a couple of the really cool scenes in there. There was the Tower of Ghenjei. There was a place where Egwene gets a special visitor, and–I think it's called A Cup of Tea–that scene, but really it was the ending that I wanted to read.

Harriet McDougal
And there's the blank in the blank.

Brandon Sanderson
There's the blank in the blank, yes, which is in the prologue of A Memory of Light–one of the prologue sequences. And I read all of this and read his ending, which you now have in your hands.

And Harriet afterwards–she said, well what do you think? And I said, it was satisfying. That was my word for it. It was the right ending. I felt a huge sense of relief. In a lot of ways, there wasn't a lot there. There were 200 pages, and so it wasn't huge. But at the same time, it was a huge relief to me, because the ending had been done, and it had been done right. And my job, then, was not so impossible, because all I had to do was get from well written book to well written ending without screwing it up too much.

And having that ending in hand is really what has made this possible, and made me able to work on these books in a way that I really feel conformed to Robert Jordan's vision for them, because I knew where he was going. And I tend to work from an ending–that's how I write my books, is I always have the ending in mind first. And so, that is the story of how you came to get A Memory of Light. And it has been an awesome and daunting and horrifying and extremely hard and wonderful experience all in one.

People like to ask, how does it feel to be done? It feels like–I can only imagine–finishing a marathon. My wife has done one, and she's talked about how finishing one feels. It's like that. It's been a marathon of five years for me, and for a lot of us, a marathon of 23 years. And setting down that weight has been a relief, but again, it's something I couldn't set down until I was sure it was right. And I feel really good about what's happened. I'm very proud of my place in this, and very honored by my opportunity to work on it.

And that's what I wanted to share with you guys. That's my presentation, so to speak. But we are going to do some questions. We have about 20 minutes left for questions. And so I'm going to go–there are three hands that went up really fast, and I'm going to go through these questions. Go ahead.

Question
Yes. Many authors tend the write themselves into their books. I was just wondering if Robert Jordan had done that, and in particular, if he had written himself in as Rand's ter'angreal.

Brandon Sanderson
Had he written himself into the book? Robert Jordan did write himself in, but it's not–I think you're thinking of Rand's angreal. It's actually something else. It's the ter'angreal that they find in the Ebou Dar cache, which is a man–a jolly man statue that is full of stories. And that was Robert Jordan's cameo that he wrote himself in.

Question
Okay.

Brandon Sanderson
Okay, will you come up and use the mic? Because then the people who are listening can hear what you have to say. They're sitting at their cubicles furiously producing new Microsoft Word products for me to write books with, so . . .

Question
It's a short question. Did you ever finish the book?

Harriet McDougal
No. [laughs] But I've read . . .

Question
It was a tease. That's why I thought it was. Because you didn't say you did or did not. But you read 47 pages, but you didn't finish it, right?

Harriet McDougal
No.

Question
And still have not?

Harriet McDougal
But how many pages of Brandon Sanderson have I read now? [laughs]

Brandon Sanderson
It was very interesting working with Harriet during that first year. She's talked about this a little, but she considered getting somebody working on the book to be like a dying request of Robert Jordan's. And once she found me and gave me the stuff, she basically disappeared for a year. And if any of you have lost someone dear to you, you might understand why that was.

I worked for a year basically in seclusion, getting all the notes ready and working on the outline and things, and it wasn't until after that year that Harriet came on board. And you know, she's an editor, and she needs something to work on, done, before . . . So she left me with it for that year, and grieved. And then, that next year is when we worked on Gathering Storm, after I had worked on some prose and things.

Question
So, at the end of The Eye of the World, the all caps voice? Will we ever find out who it was, or what they were looking for?

Brandon Sanderson
The all caps voice at the end of Eye of the World makes an appearance in A Memory of Light.

Question
What about what wasn't there?

Brandon Sanderson
What's that?

Question
What about what wasn't there?

Brandon Sanderson
What do you mean, what wasn't there?

Harriet McDougal
[laughter]

Brandon Sanderson
Maybe it'll be in the encyclopedia. I can still RAFO things, Harriet is working on an encyclopedia of The Wheel of Time, which is coming out maybe in two years or so.

Harriet McDougal
Yeah.

Question
So, I've heard you answer or explain in other interviews, and Mrs. McDougal, you expressed your late husband's fear, or not being comfortable with others writing in his universe. But I'm still curious, did he leave notes, or other bits of information about the outrigger novels that he has alluded to so many times?

Harriet McDougal
About the outrigger novels, he left . . . it's either one sentence, or two sentences.

Question
Okay.

Harriet McDougal
And that's a major reason why they won't exist. There was not enough. Of course, there are all the notes on this series and all. I can't tell you what he said, because for the people in the room who haven't finished, oddly enough, there's a spoiler in there. But it just couldn't be. It wouldn't be in any way his outriggers. And I'm sorry.

Question
No, I understand that. But I appreciate the answer.

Harriet McDougal
But they sounded wonderful.

Question
Thank you.

Harriet McDougal
You're welcome.

Question
Hi. Thanks very much for coming and doing this, I appreciate it. I've been looking at some of your . . . You've done the webcasts where you record yourself writing, and something I've noticed–maybe it's just because of the thought process going on in your head–but you seem to type fairly slowly for somebody who's written multiple thousand page novels. Is that intentional, and it sort of goes along as you're thinking, or is it something that you wish that you could speed up? Have you ever actually formally trained on how to type quickly?

Brandon Sanderson
I can type very quickly. I can get up to, I think, 87 or something like that. I work by the process. The creative process is slower than the fingers. I'm not actually a very fast writer. I'm not a slow writer. I'm about middle of the pack. People talk about how quickly I write. I don't write quickly. I write a lot.

I do this compulsively. I love to tell stories, and one quirk of mine is that in order to take a break from telling stories, I just tell a story I'm not supposed to be telling. Which is where a lot of the interesting books–I'll talk about a few of them in a few minutes, because Dwayne has them for sale–that's where a lot of those things come from. And so, yeah, I do not wish I could speed up.

In fact, I don't even want to be able to read faster. I actually started taking a speed reading class in school, and the first thing they said is: you need to stop hearing the words as you read them, in order to read faster. And I said, I don't want to stop hearing the words. That's part of the beauty. And I actually dropped that class like that because I realized that’s not what I want. Speed reading is not what I want. I don't want to go faster through the Wheel of Time–that doesn't make any sense. And it's the same thing with the creative process.

Question
I hope you don't mind if I have a second question since . . .

Brandon Sanderson
Uh, it's the guys behind you that you gotta . . . they look like they're nice fellows.

Question
Thank you. Jordan didn't plan 14 books certainly. As you said, you know, this trilogy will be good. And it's no secret that as an author . . . no author seems to be in complete control of their creation. It evolves. And he kept saying, no more than three more books, for like five books from the end. I think it appears like George R. R. Martin seems to be in a similar place, where, you know, there's this . . . [laughter, applause] Do you think that the experience of writing the end of Wheel of Time has given you a different perspective that will help you with Stormlight Archive? Or do you think that would never have been . . . Or do you think that your style, you know, did you always have it plotted out that it would never expand in that way?

Brandon Sanderson
It certainly could expand. It does happen to all authors, but authors do tend to fall into two general categories. George Martin has great terms for these, so I steal his. He calls them gardeners and architects.

Gardeners, which Robert Jordan was and George Martin is, they explore their story and more discover it as they go. Robert Jordan was actually a little bit like halfway between architect and gardener, because he would always have waypoints that he was writing toward, and he knew the ending and things like that. Stephen King is a complete gardener. He says he doesn't know where he's going. He just puts characters in interesting situations, and starts writing. And George R. R. Martin has said that he's a gardener.

I'm an architect. And an architect is someone who plots out things beforehand, and then writes them. But even being an architect the creative process is such that if while you're working on it, something better comes along, you have to be willing to knock down the blueprints that you have done, and build them up again.

That said, things have not expanded on me in the same way. People point to the last book being split into three, but I point to my very first blog post I made about it, where I said I was planning to write a single 800,000 word book. And instead I wrote one–it's about a million words. So I'm within a fairly close hit on what I initially . . . [laughter] Eh, 200,000 words, 20 percent, whatever. But yeah, I'm more like a 20 percent than expanse–does that make sense? And Stormlight is written out as ten books . . . and I honestly think that it will hit that: two five book arcs, for those who are wondering. I think it will hit that, but we'll see. I have never done something this long before on my own, so . . .

Question
Two questions. Short question first. I was looking through the leaflet. Why is Romanda wanted in Far Madding?

Brandon Sanderson
Harriet?

Harriet McDougal
I haven't a clue.

[laughter]

Question
Good answer. All right, and second question. Without being too terribly spoilerific, what's the one thing you wanted to find out, and didn't?

Brandon Sanderson
There is an event in the epilogue, that one of the characters performed something that seems impossible by our understanding, and Robert Jordan did not explain how or why.

Question
That's fair. All right. I’ve got my own fan theories, and they'll just stay there. Thanks.

Brandon Sanderson
Uh huh.

Question
I actually do have a spoiler question, and I don't know . . .

Brandon Sanderson
Okay, why don't you save that till afterward and come ask us.

Question
Okay. But I do want to say that your answer to his question there makes a whole lot more sense now–that you didn't know that . . .

Brandon Sanderson
I do not know either.

Question
Okay.

[laughter]

Brandon Sanderson
Nope, sorry. When I say he wrote the epilogue, he wrote the epilogue. And he left notes on a lot of things, but he didn't leave notes on the things he'd already finished, because we didn't need to know how to write those.

Question
So, this is a question expanding on the whole gardener versus architect thing.

Brandon Sanderson
Uh huh.

Question
You say that you're an architect.

Brandon Sanderson
Yes.

Question
Now that–not a Wheel of Time question, actually–but your non Wheel of Time works have this whole meta world connecting them, the shard worlds and the sixteen shards and stuff. Where do you think you're going to go with that now that you . . . ?

Brandon Sanderson
Oh, I can tell you where I'm going to go with that. I'm not sure how much I can say. For those who don't know, my epics are all connected. There are continuing characters through Elantris into Mistborn into Warbreaker into Way of Kings. It's a behind the scenes sort of thing–it's not something . . . you don't need to read them in order. It's not something you need to know in order to read one of the books. But there are continuing characters.

And I have a grand arc for what is going on. It has to do with my original pitch to my editor on the Mistborn trilogy, which was actually a trilogy of trilogies. Way back in 2005 when I told him about it, I wanted to do three trilogies: one past, one present, one future. And I wanted to do an epic fantasy trilogy, which really explored kind of mythology and magic. And then a modern day trilogy, in which the epic fantasy had become the foundations of myth and religion for a trilogy set in about a 1980s level technology. And then I wanted to do a far future science fiction, in which the magic which had gone through all of the other books became the means by which space exploration became possible and the foundation of technology, particularly faster than light technology. And so that is a core spine of the greater story that I'm telling.

Question
I love Wheel of Time, but please do that, too. That sounds amazing.

[laughter]

Question
Hi. So, you mentioned earlier that you have a tendency to write books you're not supposed to write, so you could kind of take a break.

Brandon Sanderson
Yes, uh huh.

Question
I assume a couple of those are like Alloy of Law and Legion.

Brandon Sanderson
Yes. Legion was one, yep.

Question
So, I really liked those books, but it seems kind of mean of you to leave so many unresolved plot threads. [laughter] Any chance we'll get anything there?

Brandon Sanderson
Yeah, Legion I actually wrote as a television show pitch, was the idea for it . . . pitch a series. And I immediately sold it to Lionsgate. And so, we'll see. It's always hard to say what will happen in Hollywood because there's so much moving there, and to get the pieces in place to make a show or a movie just takes so much work. But I'm hopeful that you will see more there. I am doing more with Alloy of Law. I'll explain that in a minute. Okay?

Question
Thank you.

Brandon Sanderson
Yep.

Question
So, you already spoke to how daunting taking over the Wheel of Time is, and what an extensive series it is. One of the most impressive and interesting things to me in it is there's more than, I believe, 1700 named characters.

Brandon Sanderson
There’s 2500.

Question
2500. That's even more than I thought.

Brandon Sanderson
It's crazy.

Question
What is a fantasy author–since you can't just look in the phone book or something to grab a name–how do you find your inspiration for names for characters?

Brandon Sanderson
It really depends on the book I'm writing. For some of my books, I use interesting linguistic quirks that interest me. I've taken a number of linguistics classes, and so for instance, for Warbreaker I used just something simple like repeating consonant sounds, so we ended up with Vivenna and Susebron, to give a theme to some of the name. In Way of Kings, symmetry is holy, and so I use palindromes or one-letter-off palindromes as names, and that's where a lot of names came from in there.

For Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan actually did look in the phonebook. The reason for this being is he wanted to harken to our world with the Wheel of Time, implying the Wheel of Time is perhaps our world in the future or in the past. And so he wanted names that felt like names of people you knew, but changed a little bit. And this is where things like “Thom” came from, spelled with an "H", or Mat, with you know, and all of this stuff.

And so he would go through the phonebook looking for common names and tweak them. And so for Wheel of Time naming, I got lists of names. I just had fans' names, and I just used these names and tweaked them, in order to try and get the same style and feel of naming.

One trick–if you're having trouble with this–that a lot of writers use, is they will pick a geographic area in our world, and they will base the names off of those geographic names. Like they'll say . . . I've used actually ancient Persian. I'm like, ancient Persian names, sure. And then I'll go and look at those and I will change them to fit my characters. But that way, everyone from the same region has a similar naming paradigm. So, there's all sorts of things that you can do.

Question
Thank you. That was the most informative explanation of naming I've heard.

Brandon Sanderson
Yeah.

Question
Hi. Brandon, I know that you're a pretty big cheerleader of e-books.
Brandon Sanderson
Yes.

Question
And you two have had some discussions over the years about e-books. Could you just take a minute to talk about how specifically the e-books for these three novels kind of . . . evolved.

Brandon Sanderson
Yeah. Harriet has been in publishing a very long time, and understands publishing for a very long time. And e-books have kind of blindsided all of us. As she said earlier and has talked about, I swim in the net.

Harriet McDougal
Yes.

Brandon Sanderson
And Harriet does not.

Harriet McDougal
He has gills.

Brandon Sanderson
Uh-huh.

Harriet McDougal
He's very much at home in the e-world.

Brandon Sanderson
Harriet, early on with the books, was under the impression that e-books were like the paperback: that you release the hardcover and then a year later, you release the e-book and the paperback. And she was under the impression that was how it would work, and it's come as a surprise to many in the publishing industry that it doesn't work that way.

Harriet McDougal
And let us talk about the elephant in the middle of the room, which is the window for A Memory of Light. The e-book won't be out until the beginning of April, a three month window. And that was my doing.

And I did it for the bookstores. I love bookstores. Bookstores are a vanishing breed. They're just going. Even, I understand, Barnes and Noble is talking about closing half their stores. This, to a freak like me, who just really has a thing for paper and bindings, is very ominous and sad. And I wanted to give the bookstores a break. Bookstores have been very good to Robert Jordan, all his career. And that's why there's a window.

Brandon Sanderson
I have been trying very hard to find ways that we can blend this. Because I really like books, too. In fact, I'm a big fan of a lot of the independent booksellers. You'll notice I went to them on tour. Dwayne's bookstore–U books–is one of my favorites.

Harriet McDougal
Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson
Borderlands in San Francisco, and Mysterious Galaxy down in San Diego. These bookstores–these are places that supported me when I was brand new–these bookstores that have a focus on genre. You know, you would call some big bookstores and they'd be like, who are you? We're not interested. These bookstores are like, hey, a new author, we want to meet you. Come, and we will bring in our readers, and we will let you talk to them, and things like this. And it's a completely different experience.

And for a small genre like science fiction and fantasy, these stores mean a lot to us. Because, you know, the person at Costco is not going to read our books and sell our books. But Dwayne does. And you can go to Dwayne and you can say, hey what have you read lately? Or, what are people excited about? And he'll say, I read this, it's good. Or, this guy came and he was really nice, and here's what his book is about, and things like that.

And that is something in the small genres that I feel–we're going to be clobbered by the vanishing of bookstores, when people like John Grisham are not going to have to worry about it as much. And so one of the things I've been trying to do is work out a 'you buy the hard copy–either the paperback or hardcover, the print copy–and you get the e book for free'. That's one of the things that I'm trying to do. And so my latest two . . . [applause] Oh, thank you. My latest two smaller releases last year, Legion and Emperor's Soul, I actually will mail you the e-book of those two. If you buy the hard copy, and you send me an email, we will respond with a DRM free version in multiple formats that you can just read on any e reader that you want.

And so that's just something I'm trying, and I'm trying to use this as data points to convince Tor to let me do this for my larger books, for which they own the e book rights. The small books I was able to retain them on, but that's not something viable for a big release like a Stormlight Archive book or something like that. And so it's something I'm hoping we can convince them to let me start doing with my other books.

So, we'll do these two last questions, and then I'll talk a little bit more about books that we have for sale, and then we will bid you farewell.

Question
Okay. I'll be quick. Just first, thanks both of you all again. This has been an amazing adventure. The other question is: So, is there any chance, or is the door open for the Wheel of Time story to be told in other forms of media, so like movie or television some time in the future?

Harriet McDougal
The motion picture rights have been sold to Universal, and they are working on development of The Eye of the World as a first movie. I am told that they're working on a second draft of the script. I haven't seen word one.

Question
Awesome. Thank you.

Question
Actually, similar question, though slightly broader scope. So Robert Jordan . . . well, I should say the Wheel of Time computer game came out mid 90s. I personally wasn't too fond of it, but I'm hoping that other computer games and things like that based on that world will come out. Any plans for that, is signed publishing . . .

Harriet McDougal
The game rights . . . Well, forgive me, I think they're doing business as Manetheren. They were Red Eagle. It's the same people. It's just a change of the moniker. And they're working on it.

Question
You know that . . . we haven't heard any press about it. Are there any details available on the net?

Harriet McDougal
I don't know.

Brandon Sanderson
Not that we know. No major movement right now.

Question
And last, when's your Mistborn computer game scheduled to come out?

Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn we pushed back until 2014 because we worried that we don't have specifics about the potential new console releases in 2013, and we figured we would rather be . . . A lot of you are like, hmm, I can't say anything. [laughter] We figured we would rather be a newer title on the new consoles than a title that got lost in the shuffle of all the hype about a potential 720 or things like that.

Question
Sound reasonable. Thank you.

Brandon Sanderson
All right. So, by way of farewell to everyone, there's just a few things I want to say. First off, if anyone's watching or anyone here, my website is brandonsanderson.com. And if you actually go on there and click on the Warbreaker–I need a new website, by the way. I'm sorry, my website's antiquated. But you click on the little gem that says Warbreaker, you can download Warbreaker, one of my novels, for free. And again, DRM free. It's a free sample. It's a complete epic fantasy. I released it in 2009, I think. So, it's a standalone, and I would recommend that to you. And I thank you guys all for listening.

The other things I want to promote–we'll have Dwayne hold them up over there, if you would. We have copies of both Legion and The Emperor's Soul, or are we sold out?

Dwayne
We're out of Legion.

Brandon Sanderson
Okay, well we have copies of The Emperor's Soul. The Emperor's Soul is one of the breather novels I did between books last year. It is a novella. It's about 200 pages. It's set in the same world as Elantris, but it stands on its own. It uses different characters. If you've never tried anything of mine, it's actually a really good place to start because it is so short. But it does all the things that I love to do–really interesting magic system, kind of approaches fantasy from my . . . I think you'll really like it.

I think it's the strongest piece of short fiction I've ever done. It's about a woman who is hired to create a forgery of the soul of the emperor. He's been wounded in the head, left as a vegetable, and his people want her to create a duplicate soul to stick in there so they can pretend he's still around.

Okay, and you have Legion back of the store. Legion is another one. What else do you have back there, Dwayne? Do you have . . . We don't have any Wheel of Time back stock, but we have Alloy of Law? They're gone, okay. [laughter]

Dwayne
All I have left here right now is two and three of Mistborn.

Brandon Sanderson
Two and three of Mistborn, okay. [laughter] And Emperor's Soul. Really, if you haven't tried that one, give that a try. I will be hanging around for a little bit longer signing books. Harriet will as well. So thank you guys for welcoming us in.

[applause]
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Old 07-17-2013, 02:47 PM
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Thank you!! There were things in this piece I had not seen/heard before...in particular this about Brandon's work which TOTALLY makes sense now:

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And I have a grand arc for what is going on. It has to do with my original pitch to my editor on the Mistborn trilogy, which was actually a trilogy of trilogies. Way back in 2005 when I told him about it, I wanted to do three trilogies: one past, one present, one future. And I wanted to do an epic fantasy trilogy, which really explored kind of mythology and magic. And then a modern day trilogy, in which the epic fantasy had become the foundations of myth and religion for a trilogy set in about a 1980s level technology. And then I wanted to do a far future science fiction, in which the magic which had gone through all of the other books became the means by which space exploration became possible and the foundation of technology, particularly faster than light technology. And so that is a core spine of the greater story that I'm telling.
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Old 07-18-2013, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by SauceyBlueConfetti View Post
Thank you!! There were things in this piece I had not seen/heard before...in particular this about Brandon's work which TOTALLY makes sense now:
He's talked about it before, but not necessarily at more WoT-centric venues. He elaborated a bit on his plans around the time Alloy of Law came out, for example. (Alloy of Law is set in-between the first and second trilogies, in case that isn't clear.)

Here's another tidbit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by BS
Neth Space Interview: Brandon Sanderson
November 7, 2011


Neth
The Alloy of Law seems to have literally sprung up from nowhere. So, where did it come from? How has The Alloy of Law impacted your overall plans for events on Scadrial [the planet where the events of Mistborn occur]? Is it part of the original set of trilogies you had mapped out?

Brandon Sanderson
This may be new information to some readers, but I've mentioned several places before that the Mistborn series was pitched to my editor as a sequence of three trilogies. Past, present, and future—epic fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction; all with the running thread of the magic system.

Since I just started coming out with the Stormlight Archive, I want to commit myself to that and don't want to dig into the second Mistborn trilogy for quite a while. Yet I want to prep people for the idea that Mistborn is going to be around for a while, and they are going to be seeing more books. I didn't want it to just come out of nowhere at them in ten years or whenever I get to it. So I decided to do some interim stories.

One of the things I'd been playing with was the idea of what happened between the epic fantasy and the urban fantasy trilogies. We have some very interesting things happening in the world, where you've got a cradle of mankind created (by design) to be very lush, very easy to live in, so a great big city could grow up there relatively quickly; civilization could build itself back up over the course of just a couple of generations. Yet there would be very little motivation to leave that area at first, which I felt would mean that you'd end up with this really great frontier boundary. The dichotomy between the two—the frontier and the quite advanced (all things considered) city in the cradle of humanity—was very interesting to me. So I started playing around with where things would lead.

To worldbuild the urban fantasy trilogy coming up, I need to know everything that happened in the intervening centuries. Some stories popped up in there that I knew would happen, that would be referenced in the second trilogy. So I thought, why don't I tell some of these stories, to cement them in my mind and to keep the series going.

I started writing The Alloy of Law not really knowing how long it would be—knowing the history and everything that happened, but not knowing how much of it I wanted to do in prose form. Things just clicked as they sometimes do, and I ended up turning it into a novel.
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