Brandon Sanderson has quickly become a juggernaut in the Fantasy genre with not only the successful Mistborn series behind him and carrying the torch for The Wheel of Time, but with his last two solo novels both making it to the New York Times list. The Way of Kings has just hit its second week on the Times list as well.
This was a co-interview effort between myself and fellow blogger Patrick from Stomping on Yeti. All in all Brandon laid out plenty of tasty morsels I was happy to learn about. Check out the first part of the interview over at the Yeti Homestead. The Way of Kings left me wanting more and Brandon has shed some light on what he has planned and why he did things a certain way. We talk about everything from influences on the world, Magic: The Gathering, and why The Gathering Storm wasn't the right title for him.
MAD HATTER: Weather is a major force in The Way of Kings since that is where they derive their magic powers from. Also, the mythology of the series most people believe they are descended from others who lived in another world similar to heaven, but were thrown out of because of the voidbringers. Reincarnation seems to be a theme as well. All these ideas follow along with Norse mythology to a degree. Was that intentional or just a byproduct of the evolution to this world?
SANDERSON: Half and half. I am steeped in mythology, and I enjoy reading about it. I’m absolutely in love with the idea of Valhalla and Ragnarok. But this was not me saying I’m going to copy Norse mythology. Whatever I’ve read can pop into my head. You’ll probably see a bunch of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism too if you look for it. But it was me drawing on various sources, and also just trying to make my own thing. Yes, there’s certainly a Norse aspect to a lot of the weather magic and things like that, but it’s more that I wanted to tell a story about a world that got hit by these magical hurricanes every few days. Weather being such a force is going to therefore be an aspect of the religion, the belief systems, and the day-to-day workings of the people who live in that world. So it was partially natural outgrowth and partially my love and fondness for things that I’ve read.
MAD HATTER. If you can tell us, what's the tentative title for Book 2? And estimated release date? I know you've plenty left to tackle with WoT 14 so we'll take anything you say with that in mind.
SANDERSON: Good. The tentative title was originally Highprince of War. I’m not decided on that yet, because it might be Shallan’s book, not Dalinar’s book. It depends on whose flashbacks I decide to tell, and which ones will complement the events of the next book. Though I have an expansive outline for the series, I really have to sit down and get a more detailed outline for the second book before I decide which title I want. If it’s Dalinar’s book, it will be Highprince of War. If it’s Shallan’s book it will not be. Tentative release date? I’m going to start on A Memory of Light January first, and it will be published probably about three months after I finish it. (Knowing how Tor’s publishing my books these days.) It will just depend on how long that takes to write. Then I will start on The Stormlight Archive 2 after that. I don’t anticipate that book being as hard to write as A Memory of Light, which is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work. Best case is that I finish A Memory of Light in August of next year, it gets published in November, and I write the sequel to The Way of Kings starting immediately after that and finish it in the middle of the next year so it can be published November 2012. That’s the best-case scenario. But it’s what I hope to be able to do; we’ll see.
MAD HATTER: Will we ever get to visit The Origin of Storms? And has the ending for the series already come to you?
SANDERSON: I know exactly what the ending of the series is. I’ve been tempted to write it down a few times. Things Robert Jordan has said make me not want to write it down yet because he felt that writing the ending down before he got there was the wrong move, and I think he might be right. But I do have it worked out. In fact, I’m going to have a big powwow with Peter, Isaac, and Emily where I sit down and explain all these things so that they can point out holes before I start the second book, which is going to be a very interesting thing--we’ll probably record that and then twenty years from now post it on the internet. But yes, I do know the ending. I will not say whether we’ll go to the Origin of Storms.
YETISTOMPER. All of your fantasy worlds exist in the same universe and share linked magic systems and at least one character. Can you speak to the overall vision of this shared Hoidverse? Why not create separate worlds?
SANDERSON: I started doing this early in my career before I got published, when I felt that writing sequels was not a good use of my time. Just look at the hypothetical; if I’m trying to get published and I write three books in the same, if an editor rejects book one, he or she is not going to want to see book two. But if an editor rejects book one but is optimistic about my writing, I can send them a book from another series and they can look at that.
During my unpublished days I wrote thirteen books, only one of which was a sequel. So I had twelve new worlds, or at least twelve new books--some of them were reexaminations of worlds. But I wanted to be writing big epics. This is what I always wanted to do; something like the Wheel of Time. So I began plotting a large, massive series where all these books were connected, so I could kind of “stealth” have a large series without the editors knowing I was sending them books from the same series. It was mostly just a thing for me, to help me do the writing I wanted to be doing. And then when publication came I continued to do that, and told the story behind the story.
Why not do separate worlds? Because it was more interesting for me this way. This is the story I want to tell. The big, overarching story that I’ve planned out. I’ve been talking recently about how my inspiration for this is the idea that in science people have for a long time been looking for a unified theory of physics, some theory that will explain all interactions of physics in a concise way. I wanted to tell about a universe where there was a unified theory of magic, where magic worked according to a unifying principle. Despite the magic systems looking very different and doing lots of different and interesting things, hopefully original for each book, there is an underlying rationale that is keeping them all together. I write what I find interesting, and that was interesting to me.
MAD HATTER: Besides "Firstborn" have you tried your hand at Sci-Fi any other time? By the same token will you ever dive back into short fiction?
SANDERSON: I did write two science fiction novels during the era that I was unpublished. Neither are particularly good, but they were experiments, with me trying to figure out where my talents and interests lie. I was just experimenting a lot during those days, so I did write two science fiction novels--I believe they were my second and fifth novels. I will go back to short fiction. I’ve said before that I don’t feel I’m as good at it as I am at the longer form, but I like doing new things and trying new things. You will see more short fiction from me, but we’ll have to see when it happens. I’m thinking of writing a short story to post on my website, during my break between Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. And there’s also “Defending Elysium,” another science fiction story, which appeared in Asimov’s and is already on my website.
MAD HATTER: Glad to hear you'll be back in the short game. Can you take us through a normal writing day? Do you have a word count goal?
SANDERSON: Yes. It depends on the day and the book, but generally 2,000 words is my goal. 3,000 to 4,000, probably around 3,500 is a really solid day for me. A basic writing day: I get up at noon or 1:00, depending on when I went to bed. I play with my son for about an hour, giving my wife a break. Then I go downstairs for four or five hours, check my email, write for a while, go up and have dinner, play with my son some more, then go back down and go back to work until I’m done for the night. The last couple of years have been pretty much a lot of me with my laptop on my couch or in my beanbag chair writing books.
MAD HATTER: Terry Brooks recently said he'll be doing more Shannara books and that he wishes he didn't use the title The Elfstones of Shannara already since his new arc is basically all about the Elfstones. Did your reticence to titling The Gathering Storm as such have anything to do with The Stormlight Archive? The Gathering Storm certainly seems like a perfect title for a book in the series.
SANDERSON: Yeah. I didn’t choose The Gathering Storm. If you know the story, it all happened while I was asleep, and they said this was the title they were going to use. There were a couple of reasons. Number one, I knew I was releasing a book soon afterward that was in a series called The Stormlight Archive. Perhaps I pay a little too much attention to making sure that I don’t feel like I’m repeating myself. Kaladin in The Way of Kings was originally named Merin, and one reason I changed his name was because it sounded too much like Perrin. He had been Merin for eight years or so, but when I was just a Wheel of Time fan, it was okay to have a name that sounded a little like a Wheel of Time character’s. But now I may be a little hypersensitive to that.
Honestly, the greatest reason I might have preferred The Gathering Storm to have a different title is that I felt it was just a little bit generic, more so than recent titles in the series have been. Recent Wheel of Time titles have been beautiful; I love The Crossroads of Twilight as a title, for example. But The Gathering Storm is a good title for a lot of other reasons, and it works very well for the first of that sequence. So I was satisfied with it even though it wasn’t the title I would have chosen.
MAD HATTER: Was there any physical inspiration behind the Shattered Plains, which features so prominently in The Way of Kings? Too many visits to the Grand Canyon?
SANDERSON: I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once, but I do live in Utah, which has beautiful red rock formations and this wonderful, windblown stone formations scattered all across southern Utah. I’ve hiked there and spent a decent amount of time there. I would say that Roshar is partially inspired by that.
MAD HATTER: You're an avowed Magic: The Gathering lover. What is your color combo deck of choice? Also, preferred edition? I've always leaned towards Revised/Fourth as later editions focused on counters too much for my liking.
SANDERSON: I would say Black/Blue/White is what you find me playing most often, and usually Blue/White. Favorite editions? I’m going to disagree about the focus on counters. They’ve actually taken counterspells down a notch or two in recent years, which is nice. Besides, I play casual games, where I don’t run into a lot of counterspell decks, land destruction decks, or card discard decks--you know, the “un-fun” decks. My favorites recently--I really like Eldrazi, the set they released this year, which I’ve had a blast with. Other than that, probably Ravnica and Time Spiral were my favorite of the recent sets.
MAD HATTER: I haven't bought any new decks in a few years so I just may have to check out Eldrazi. You’ve obviously been indisposed the last few months with Towers of Midnight so I’m curious about what is on your nightstand to be read next?
SANDERSON: There’s a big stack. Peter Orullian’s book, which Tor is releasing next year is one I’ve wanted to read for a while. Spellwright, which a lot of people really loved and I got to read. There are a couple of Pratchetts I still haven’t read. I’ve been slowly working my way through Jim Butcher’s books, which I think are fantastic. I’ve also started reading through Brent Weeks’ works. So there are a lot of things to read. I still want to finish The Hunger Games. There’s so much to read, but fortunately during my two-week tour there will be a plane ride every day. Hooray.
MAD HATTER: To go along with my other obsession what is your favorite type of hat?
SANDERSON: I do have a fedora that I’m somewhat attached to, but I haven’t worn it in years. When I was a high school kid, I would wear my fedora around until I discovered that wearing a fedora was already cliché for a nerdy kid like myself, which I found annoying since I’d been doing it because I thought it was original. I still have that fedora, which sits in my closet, and someday perhaps I will wear it. But the problem is that Dan Wells, my friend who writes in my writing group and in my basement, already wears a hat around. So I would feel like I was just copying Dan. Maybe I need to get a fez or something.
MAD HATTER: Is there anything you’d like to add as we close this out?
SANDERSON: Thank you guys for the interview, and I hope everyone enjoys The Way of Kings. This was fun.
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