Hello! Most of you probably know the name Brandon Sanderson, a New York Times Bestselling Author, author of over a dozen stories, as well as the man chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga. I had a chance to interview Brandon right before the release of his latest novel, Steelheart. I hope you all enjoy what he has to say!
The following is a transcription from audio Mr. Sanderson recorded specifically for this post.
– – –
- Welcome Brandon Sanderson! I’m very excited for this chance to send along some interview questions and can’t wait to hear what you have to say. So, diving right into it, what is the biggest factor in your output of writing and how do you manage to keep track of so many works as well as the bits of inspiration that don’t have a home in a particular series yet?
I use a personal wiki and my own bizarre mental methodology. Here’s something else about the way I work: new projects excite me. In fact, I’m often dangling the new project in front of myself as incentive to finish my current project. It’s part of what I like about my job, always being able to do something new. It keeps me productive as a writer.
- You’ve had a large amount of success for your novels, so much so that a lot of your work has had the option of being produced in other mediums. A potential Mistborn movie, an option for a television series based on Legion (both of which are up in the air still I believe?) and the Mistborn: Birthright video game developed by Little Orbit. How do you think these other mediums could help and/or hurt the overall narrative flow of these worlds you’ve crafted?
That’s a good question I’ve also wondered about. The larger your continuity gets, the more difficult these things are. At the same time, I think it’s worth it because there are certain types of stories you can explore in these other mediums that you can’t explore as well in a novel. It’s something I definitely want to dabble in, but I worry about the continuity becoming unwieldy.
- Speaking of the Mistborn video game, you agreed to the deal on the condition that you would be able to write the script for the game. How has that process differed from your work on your novels and has it sparked any interest in writing for other mediums, such as video games, television, etc., more often?
We’ve been working with the developer, and they haven’t gotten to the point where it’s time for me to write the script yet. The process might be different. It might not be. I’ve noticed a lot of writers will script the video game and then immediately write the novel. I want to tell this story within the medium of video games, so my goal will not be to write the video game and then write the novelization of the video game. We’ll see if that happens or not, though.
- Having a part in completing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series must have propelled your craft considerably given the complexity of the series and the importance of getting it right. Not to mention the attention from fans everywhere that have been waiting for the conclusion of this series since it debuted in 1990. Now that The Wheel of Time is finished do you feel caught in Robert Jordan’s, and the entire series, shadow?
I mention this a little bit in a video I recorded for Google Play. But no, I haven’t felt caught in his shadow so far, though I don’t really mind if I am. Even if I’d never been involved with finishing The Wheel of Time, I’d still be caught in Robert Jordan’s shadow because he was the dominant writer in the field during the era when I was learning and growing as a writer and becoming the novelist I am today. It’s less a matter of being caught and more a matter of standing on his shoulders, especially now that I was able to work on his project.
I wrote in my eulogy of Robert Jordan how in my writing I’ve sometimes chosen to react against The Wheel of Time just because I felt that The Wheel of Time had done what it did so well. I’ll probably continue to do that, but it’s not a matter of escaping his shadow. I just want to tell stories. It’s not an ego thing for me. I get to write the stories. People read them and seem to like them. That’s awesome! I don’t really worry about the rest.
- Your writing includes the big cosmere-related novels as well as shorter pieces of work to break it up during the year. The Emperor’s Soul was one such project, which recently won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. These shorter pieces are a great way to break things up and as you’ve said recharge your creative batteries. Other than Steelheart which is releasing soon, what is the next shorter piece you’re working on?
The next shorter piece I’m working on is a short novelette or novella called Sixth of the Dusk, which is a writing exercise I’m doing with the Writing Excuses team for my podcast. We all brainstormed with one another on-air last year, and then I wrote a story based on that. Then we workshopped it on-air, and that episode should go up fairly soon. Then I’ll do a last revision of it and put it up for people to buy, though I’m not sure yet when that will happen. I screen-captured myself writing the story, so I’ll probably post that video for free. That’s a fun sort of experiment to let aspiring writers see the process of brainstorming, the first draft, and the last draft.
The next thing that’s being released is my novella in George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s Dangerous Women anthology. I’m very proud of this story, called Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell. Getting invited to one of George and Gardner’s anthologies is a huge honor. They pick dream teams for every one of their anthologies, so getting asked was awesome. As for novels, the next major project of mine is Words of Radiance, coming out in March.
- Your work in the cosmere as well as the introduction of a big multi-volume epic, the Stormlight Archive, is a tremendous undertaking of time and effort. Have you ever been worried that you may have bitten off more than you can chew, that is either in its structure and length or for health and personal reasons, such as Robert Jordan who unfortunately passed away before the conclusion of The Wheel of Time?
No, I don’t really. I say that with a smile because I’m an epic fantasy writer. I dream big! Sure, every runner before they start their first marathon probably wonders, “Am I actually going to be able to finish this thing?” But at the same time, this is what I’ve dreamed of doing for my entire career, so I don’t think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I hope the fans will stick around with me for it, but Steven Erikson proved that you could do a ten-book series in a reasonable amount of time. He’s kind of a model and example for the rest of us in getting his large Malazan series finished, and he did a great job of it. So, he proves it can be done. I just have to step up and get to work.
- The majority of your body of work rests in the fantasy genre and has given you an appropriate amount of success based on the incredible work you’ve done so far. You have dabbled in the realm of science fiction, including your short story “Firstborn”, and you have plans to extend the Mistborn universe into science fiction with a third trilogy, after a trilogy set in modern times. Do you have any plans, even in the distant future, for a standalone or series set entirely in the realm of science fiction, a space opera or something similar?
Yes, I’m definitely going to do some science fiction and space opera. I’m holding off on doing any longer works right now because the longer books I want to write are actually in worlds connected to my fantasy series. There are several of those I want to do. I will eventually get to them, but it’s going to take a little bit of time before I’m in the right place to do these stories. There are some great space operas in the cosmere that I want to tell.
- The “Sanderson Laws” have become rather popular amongst the fantasy community. Have you given any consideration into expanding and crafting more “laws” to help aspiring genre writers design their settings?
Yes. I’ve actually got three or four that I’m working on. Keep in mind, I call them “Sanderson’s Laws” because these are my laws to myself. They are the ways I approach writing magic systems. They are not rules you need to follow, but reading them might help you understand at least how one person approaches magic systems. Sanderson’s Third Law should go up sometime this week.
- Steelheart is your latest published work. It’s a young adult novel that features a hero that is normal, without any extraordinary powers. Joel, the protagonist of The Rithmatist was also unable to use the magic of that world. What are the benefits of writing a story from the viewpoint of someone removed from such an important part of the setting and why did you choose to do this?
Basically this is me reacting against myself. The biggest benefit for me is that I get to try something different. Whenever I notice a theme—something I feel like I’m doing a little too often—I will say, “How can I approach this from a different perspective and try a different type of story?” I did this for two very different reasons in those two books.
In The Rithmatist it helps cement Joel as an outsider. It helps that feeling of distance. He desperately wants to be in, but through a quirk of birth, he is not in, and that’s part of the story. For David in Steelheart, it’s less about being an outsider and more about the story being more interesting for me because it’s about a normal person fighting back against basically a supervillain, and what you do when you don’t have the power to bring someone like that down. That makes an interesting conflict for me. So I’m approaching it from two different directions, but it is me trying to explore something that I haven’t done as much.
- Thank you for giving me this chance to interview you and before we go is there anything else you might like to say or add?
Thank you very much for the interview. I hope people look into Steelheart. I’ve been posting a lot of cool stuff about it, specifically about the tour. So if you don’t mind throwing in a link to the Steelhunt to let people know what I’m doing, I would appreciate it.
– – –