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Default Lytherus Interview, 29 September 2013

Lytherus interview: Brandon Sanderson dives into the world of Steelheart

September 29, 2013

Transcript of interview:

Lytherus: Tell us about Steelheart in your own words.

Brandon Sanderson: Hi, I'm Brandon Sanderson, author of various and sundry novels. And, SteelheartSteelheart's my newest novel, coming out on Tuesday, the 24th of September. I am super excited about it. It is a story about what happens when people start gaining superpowers, but only evil people get them. And so it's kind of a post-apocalyptic action-adventure thriller filled with evil supervillains.

Lytherus: Why are the Epics, the people with the power, all evil?

Brandon: So the idea for this story came when I was driving along on the freeway and someone cut me off in traffic, and my immediate instinct was, "You're lucky I don't have any superpowers because I'd blow your car up right now." This is what happens when you're a fantasy writer, right? You have weird instinctual reactions like that. I was very frightened, though, because I'm like, "Wow, I can't believe that's inside of me." It's probably a good thing that I don't have superpowers because I don't know that I could be trusted not to blow people off of the road when they cut in front of me. And that led me down the natural progression to what would happen if people really have superpowers. Would people be good with them, or would they not? And if my first instinct is to use them in this sort of awful way, what happens if everyone starts abusing these powers?

And that led me down the road to the story of, the idea of, there being no heroes–there being a story about a common man with no powers, trying to assassinate a very powerful superpowered individual. It's weird talking about this in the terms of superheroes, though, because as I was writing the book, my focus was on sort of an action-adventure feel–definitely using some of the superhero tropes, and the comic book tropes. But I have found that in the fiction I've read, it's better to do kind of a strong adaptation–kind of like movies do. I like how movies have adapted comic books and kind of made them their own, and turned them into their own action-adventure genre. And that was what I was kind of using as a model for this. And so yeah, I wanted to tell the story of this kid–I say kid, he's eighteen–this young man, who wants to bring down the emperor of Chicago, and doesn't have any powers himself, but thinks he might know what Steelheart–that character's–the emperor's weakness is.

Lytherus: [Tell us about] coming up with the names for the Epics.

Brandon Sanderson: It was really all right. I wouldn't say proud with regard to 'Steelheart', more ecstatic because I came up with the name very early on. And I'm like, "Oh, I hope no one has used this. I hope no one has used this." And then I went and looked and there were no major superheroes with that name listed on the various lists that I found. So I figure I'm pretty safe. But from going on there, finding names was really difficult. I wanted to do things that hadn't been used by any major Marvel or DC characters. And they have lots and lots and lots of characters–lots of them! And so, my instinct was if there's a Wikipedia article dedicated to this character, they're probably too big a character for me to use that name. And so, I spent most of the time either there, or there are resources on various fan sites that just list all the characters that I could search, just by names. And I would have a list of twelve names for a superhero or supervillain, and spend all this time trying to figure in, and all twelve would have been used, and I would have to go back to the drawing board and come up with twelve more, or something like that.

Lytherus: You're known as an epic fantasy guy. Why the change-up?

Brandon Sanderson: I like to do different things. It's what keeps me productive–switching projects. And usually after I've finished something big, I want to do something very different. And so I like to try different genres. Granted, the speculative aspect, the science fiction/fantasy aspect of things, is what really interests me. I basically have never written a book without some at least hint of the science fiction or fantasy element because that's what I love, so that'll show up in everything. But I also do like thrillers. And writing this book–it's been called dystopian now–I viewed it as action-adventure. Dystopian in the same way that some of the darker superhero films are dystopian.

Is it my first YA? I have another YA called The Rithmatist. This I wrote as an older middle grade novel, which is a very fine distinction that really only matters to literacy professionals, and to authors, and things like that. Middle grade ended up getting published as a young YA novel instead–the line there blurs very much. So, yes and no. I mean, Mistborn, which I'm best known for, stars a sixteen-year-old girl. That's shelved in 'adult' because there are adult characters as well, but the story's about her. So is it my first YA, is it not? I'm really honestly not sure. That's sort of a distinction I'll let the librarians and the booksellers argue over.

Lytherus: Talk about your writing routine–you're very prolific!

Brandon Sanderson: I, like I said, need to be jumping projects. It's just something about me. When I finish something, I feel the need to do something else very different from what I just finished. And given the chance to do so, I will jump and do something bizarre, for me. Bizarre, in a different line. And so, I'm often doing this. How do I juggle them? Well, it's more a matter of I would have more trouble not juggling them because then I would be locked into one thing, and I think it would be a lot harder for me to do my writing the way I do it. It's just my natural inclination.

Lytherus: Any good reads you recommend for the book fans?

Brandon Sanderson: I have recently read Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. I guess it's been a few months now. I really like that. The other most recent book I read is an unpublished novel that I'm hoping will be published because I thought it was fantastic, by a friend of mine. It's called A Thousand Faces–I don't know if she'll end up changing that title. But, Promise of Blood, very good, highly recommended. And if you're looking for something great, and you haven't tried Terry Pratchett, he's one of my go-to recommendations. I love Pratchett's work. Don't start with the first one. Start with Guards! Guards!, or The Truth.

Lytherus: Thanks, Brandon! Steelheart on shelves now!
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