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Brandon Sanderson Stormlight Interview

words-of-radiance-uk-coverA couple of weeks back our good friends at Gollancz got in contact and asked if we’d like to interview one of our favourite authors, Brandon Sanderson. Of course, we said ‘YES!’, but because Brandon is busy we knew we’d only have a very limited amount of questions we’d be able to ask, so we wanted to invite the community to help us choose them. The only rules were that we wanted questions to revolve around The Stormlight Archieve and, I have to say, you guys from our Forums and Reddit.com (where I asked for help coming up with questions) came through and then some: so, thank you so, so much 🙂

The following answers from Brandon have been transcribed, enjoy! 

FANTASY FACTION’S FAN QUESTIONS


Question 1:
 The Way of Kings has been referred to as one of the finest Fantasy books released in the past decade (many would suggest much longer than that). Can you give readers a sense of how the story progresses in Words of Radiance and how you feel it compares to the first in terms of the reading experience it offers?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, big question. Living up to a really successful book is always hard. As writers, you get in this mindset where you read through something that you’ve done, and you think, how did that even happen? How did it come together? You’re always surprised, and there’s always a sense of, “Well, I can never do that again.” Right? But that happens consistently as you work on things. I’ve had that same sense for Words of Radiance. It turned out wonderfully. So where does it go? It expands the world and the characters. It shows off a new magic. It has Wit being himself. It involves more depth into the understanding of romantic theory and the Cosmere. It lets several of the characters really come into their own. It moves at a fast pace, and things where you may have been thinking, “Oh, it’s not going to go there at least for a few more books,” happen immediately instead of taking forever. This is all part of my desire and goal for the series. I wrote a really big essay for Tor.com about how I envisioned these books going, where I look at each one as being more than book, where I’m playing with the idea of what it means to be an epic. Words of Radiance went very well in that regard. I plotted it like a trilogy, and wrote it as this one book made of three books. Anyway, I’m just super excited about how it turned out. I’m trying to talk around giving any spoilers, but it’s also very humbling that people have enjoyed the series so much.


Question 2:
 Every one over at Fantasy-Faction appreciates the amount of writing you are able to put out each year. At this point of your career, does writing feel like work or play to you?

Alarm Clock by GrahamWickham

It’s always been both. But once you become a professional, the less fun aspects of it are the revision, particularly revising on a deadline. The writing of the actual books is still as fun as it ever was. But in the old days, if I didn’t want to revise something at a certain moment, I just didn’t have to. Even when I was not as popular as I am now, I didn’t have to revise right away because there was so much time between when I turned in a book and when it came out. Nowadays, when editorial comments come in, I’ve basically got to drop everything and do revisions. I’ve never liked revising very much. So I would say that part of it feels more like work, while the rest of it feels about the same.

Is there a big difference in this for The Stormlight Archive versus projects like Steelheart?

Yes, in that the more streamlined the story, the easier the revisions tend to be. Because the more complicated the story, the higher number of viewpoints, the more you have to worry about continuity and about the characters, how what they do influences the timeline of other characters. In something like The Stormlight Archive, there is a lot more continuity involved, and that makes the revisions a lot harder.

I’m curious as to whether committing to a 10 book series ever feels daunting.

Good question. I would say no, it doesn’t. The reason being that The Stormlight Archive, as I’ve said many times before, is this series that I have been planning for years and years and years and years and years. Twenty-plus years I’ve been wanting to do this book series. Having that, and having that desire to do this, means that the book series is this awesome thing in my head. Books get into my head, and they have to come out eventually. They bug my brain until they do. This one’s been bugging my brain the longest. I don’t think it’s daunting, because it’s not like I don’t know what to do for ten books. I know what to do for ten books. These books have been screaming at me for decades to get written. It’s more a relief that I can finally get them on the page, that I finally have the skill in order to accomplish it. It’s a relief to finally be doing the ten-book series like this that I’ve wanted to do for so long. That said, at dinner tonight I was chatting with my assistants, and they said, so we’re going to be working on this series until we’re past age fifty, aren’t we, Brandon? And I said yes, we are.


Question 3:
 Someone from Earth is about to be sent off to the Cosmere. They’ve read your first Stormlight book, but they’ve never really taken time to really dig deep and find out about how it sits in the overall ‘Cosmere’, so they’re totally unprepared. What basic concepts regarding shards, magic systems and world hopping do you think are most important?

SandersonBooks

The first, most important thing to say to the person who’s being sent there is to enjoy the story you’re in. All of the Cosmere stuff, the interconnection between my books and all these wonderful little things, are right now mostly Easter eggs. Which means that if you spend the whole book only worried about that, you’re going to miss the beauty and fun that is the book that you’re part of. I often say to people, don’t worry if you read them “out of order,” because it’s all Easter eggs right now. Don’t worry and stress if you miss something about the Cosmere, because while someday that might be important, you first need to enjoy the book that you’re part of. But the primer I’d give to this person is that the worlds are connected. If you show up on a planet and there’s a guy named Hoid around, then be very afraid, because you’re someplace very dangerous.

Question 4: Way of Kings was around 1000 pages. Words of Radiance is almost 1100. I’ve done the calculations and using extrapolation book 10 will be 280,000 pages long (assuming geometric growth). Of course, that is only really a problem for the printers (who have to find a way to bind them), but do you think there are any limits as to how long a book should be?

Well, in some ways The Wheel of Time is a single novel, and can be read that way, and is actually eligible for some awards this year as a single completed novel. If there is an upper limit, it’s longer than The Wheel of Time was. I don’t think I’m likely to hit it with The Stormlight Archive. On a more serious note, when creating a book of this length, what I have to ask myself is, what is the purpose of the length? Why am I doing what I’m doing? I like to be conscious as a writer. In this case, as I mentioned earlier, I do view each book in The Stormlight Archive as multiple books unto itself. You can pick up The Way of Kings and read it with break points at certain places to make it into a trilogy of books. In Words of Radiance, they’re even more distinct. It’s like you’re picking up a collection, an omnibus that is called Words of Radiance, that is really three books, plus a short story collection, plus an art book. For me, length is a way that I can tell you these smaller stories are all connected in a larger story, which is in turn connected in a larger story. It allows me to create a type of art that I can’t create in the shorter form. Yes, I’m sure there is a boundary. I would personally think it’s far beyond what I’m capable of achieving in my lifetime.

And, if the convention of printing books disappeared tomorrow and every one began reading ebooks only do you think the way you write books would change (i.e. being able to disregard wordcounts or even being able to consider serialising a book)?

Kindle Fire HD

What if Printed books disappeared?

I think that would offer some very interesting opportunities. I think I would be unwise not to try to take advantage of them, if such a thing did happen. In fact, it’s possible to try right now. I’ve got thoughts in my head about how I would do this. Because the form of the story is a very important thing to me, if you can’t tell from the way I was talking about everything before. The form of the book, looking at the book and saying, what am I doing with this actual thing? What is the shape of it? Elantris had a specific shape, with the chapter triads that were happening at the same time as one another. These things are interesting to me, and I want to do things like this with e-books also. But there are other things we would lose. Just like if you go and you can compare, a great example of this is the US cover of Words of Radiance, which was hand painted in oil by Michael Whelan. It has a certain feel to it.

In fact, you can see the oil. You can see the brush strokes if you look very closely at the painting. You look at the gorgeous digital painting that Stephan Martiniere did for the US edition of Elantris. But if you look at these different covers, one is digital only, and has this interesting use of digital light, and the other has texture and feel. Those are two different forms for creating art, and they both have awesome things to them. I think if we lost the book as a form, we might lose some of that idea—the book as a texture, and what it feels like to hold it goes away. I’d be sad to lose that. But I can’t tell right now if that would be the sadness of someone watching an antiquated technology that no longer really matters in life go away, or if it would be losing something that will very much negatively impact society. We will just have to see. Time will tell.

Bonus Question: Finally, and most importantly, if all your protagonists had an epic all out brawl, who would win?

Some of them are immortal, but that would kind of be cheating. If you let people who are immortal participate, it’s going to very much favor someone like Hoid, who is really, really, really hard to kill. Of course, he would not be very good at offing anyone either, because of certain things in his past. It would be really futile when it got down to the last two. But if we take that out.

You’d have to set ground rules. Do they get access to their magic? Where is it taking place? If we take away all magic and we just say people are beating up on each other, who’s going to win? It’s probably Kelsior because he’ll fight dirty. Vasher fights really dirty, too. If Kelsior and Vasher gang up on the rest, and then it depends who’s still not in pieces at the end. It’d be Kelsior or Vasher probably.

RISKY / SPOILER QUESTIONS

In The Way of Kings, when Shallan zones out and draws a picture of a dead noble at a dinner table, was she drawing her own father after she killed him with her shardblade?

Ooh, good question! You will want to read Words of Radiance, where her flashbacks may indeed involve this scene that she drew.

Is Hoid drawn to novel-worthy plots? Or does he ever just show up in a completely “normal” time/place, with no ramifications on the cosmere, shards, etc.?

He is drawn to places specifically because of what’s happening in those worlds. He is there and he is meddling.

Could any type of spren bond with a person (even if the results wouldn’t be a Knight radiant)? Or only the ones associated with a branch of the Knights? 

Ooh, that’s an excellent question. This is something theoretically possible for a lesser spren to achieve.

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5 Comments

  1. Davieboy says:

    Thanks, enjoyable! Currently 35% into WoR…..

  2. Arcanist says:

    Some comments regarding typos:

    – Question 1: Realmatic theory instead of romantic theory. http://coppermind.net/wiki/Realmatic_Theory

    – Bonus Question: Kelsier instead of Kelsior

    Forgetting the above..Great interview, thanks 🙂

    I think about the length of novel writing, what Brandon mentioned in Question 2 quiet often. He will be over 50 when he will finish Stormlight Archive (SA). One book in every two years (and one smaller in every other two of course) means: 5th SA book in 2020, than a big gap (White Sand trilogy or Second Mistborn trilogy) that perhaps 2025 6th SA book, 2035 10th SA book. Can he manage it?

    • Overlord says:

      Thanks for this! Firstly, and luckily, I didn’t write the questions – I copied and pasted them so can claim innocence (although I should have checked!). Secondly, you made a typo too (quiet instead of quite)! 😛 😀 😉 Can we be even now? 😀

      I think he can manage it – the man loves to write!

      • Arcanist says:

        Sorry for the typo…but I have an excuse: i am not a native speaker 😛

        I also thinks he can manage…I can only hope that the quality (and my interest in epic fantasy) will not change 🙂

  3. Christopher Keene says:

    I would have asked him what of his books he thinks would best translate to screen in a film or television series.

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