Highlight text to annotate itX
TOM MERRITT: Coming up--
what sort of man starts an epic fantasy world, then
agrees to help finish Robert Jordan's too?
VERONICA BELMONT: Find out in our guide to
author, Brandon Sanderson.
It's the Sword and Laser.
VERONICA BELMONT: Hello everyone.
Welcome to the Sword and Laser.
I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: And I'm Tom Merritt.
VERONICA BELMONT: And this is the author guide episode.
It's when we bring an author up to the Space Castle, ask
them your questions, ask them some of our questions, have a
nice little chat.
TOM MERRITT: Yep.
This week we're very excited because it's our guide to
VERONICA BELMONT: Raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, Brandon
Sanderson admits he avoided reading at all costs until the
eighth grade, when is his aptly named teacher, Mrs.
Reader, gave him Barbara Hambly's "Dragon's Bane." He
quickly became an ardent fan of epic fantasy, citing the
likes of McCaffrey, Eddings, and Jordan as influencers on
his early attempts at writing in the genre.
TOM MERRITT: During two years as a missionary in Seoul,
Korea, Sanderson realized that he didn't miss biochemistry,
his major at BYU, but did miss writing and thus changed his
major to English upon his return.
Between returning from Seoul and graduating in 1999, he
finished seven novels and sent all out for consideration by
They all got rejected every time until 2005.
VERONICA BELMONT: Tor Books took a chance on "Elantris,"
which centers on the political intrigue of a city turned
urban prison due to the ravages of a mysterious His
standalone debut was followed by the first of the "Mistborn"
series, an epic heist story set in the world where the
good guys lost, and 1,000 years later, a gang of thieves
take it upon themselves to become heroes.
TOM MERRITT: Following the birth of his first child in
2007, Sanderson began his "Alcatraz" series, young adult
books starring a boy with a talent for breaking things who
is locked in conflict with a cult of evil librarians.
From 2006 to 2009, Sanderson shared his writing process for
his standalone "Warbreaker" novel online.
He posted every draft of every chapter on his website for the
public to read, free of charge.
VERONICA BELMONT: But the progress on Warbreaker slowed
during the September 2000 passing of "The Wheel of Time"
author, Robert Jordan.
As Jordan's widow, Harriet McDougal announced that she
wanted Sanderson to complete her husband's series.
McDougal had been impressed with Sanderson's storytelling
in "Mistborn: The Final Empire," as well as the eulogy
for Jordan that Sanderson posted.
McDougal stated she felt Sanderson, "knows what the
series is all about."
TOM MERRITT: Working from Jordan's notes, Sanderson
expanded the planned final novel into three parts, citing
that Jordan's plan for the series' end was too vast for a
single volume. "A Memory of Light," the final installment
in the series, was released on January 8th.
VERONICA BELMONT: And while being personally asked to
complete Robert Jordan's epic series may seem like enough
work for one person, Sanderson continued writing and
publishing his own works while finishing the series.
He began "The Stormlight Archive" series with "The Way
of Kings" in 2010, published "The Alloy of Law," the fourth
installment of the "Mistborn" series in 2011, and had his
2012 novella, "Legion," optioned for a film adaptation
before it was even published.
TOM MERRITT: [INAUDIBLE]
Dragon is getting Mr. Sanderson on the horn.
While he does that, you can take a gander at this day in
VERONICA BELMONT: Brandon Sanderson, it's great to have
you on Sword and Laser today.
Thank you so much for joining us.
BRANDON SANDERSON: It's my pleasure.
VERONICA BELMONT: Now, we've got a ton of questions from
So we'll get right to it.
But Nicole wanted to know, how has working on "Wheel of Time"
changed your own writing style and voice, if at all?
BRANDON SANDERSON: Oh, it certainly has.
I'd never worked on a project this big before.
The only thing I'd done on my own was a trilogy.
And so working on "The Wheel of Time" with what, 11, 12
books of continuity was like heavy lifting.
It's like going into the gym and having to lift far more
weight than I ever had before.
And it was either going to break me or make me better.
VERONICA BELMONT: That analogy does not read with me.
BRANDON SANDERSON: What I think I learned the most was
how to handle a very large cast of characters.
In fact, in 2002, I tried writing a book-- this is just
before I got published--
where I tried to stuff a ton of characters in, because I
was a fan of "The Wheel of Time" and all these massive
epic fantasy series.
And I fell right on my face.
The book turned out horribly.
And it's because I just didn't have any practice of doing
And I didn't have a choice this time.
I had to do it.
And I had to do without falling on my face.
And so I worked on it.
And I think it made me better at being able to manage that
large cast of characters, which was certainly the most
challenging part of doing "The Wheel of Time" I think.
TOM MERRITT: Well, congratulations.
You're getting rave reviews.
And you deserve it.
It was a lot of hard work.
BRANDON SANDERSON: Well, thank you.
TOM MERRITT: Jim wants to know, was there really an
ending, or did Jordan's notes just say,
and then stuff happens?
BRANDON SANDERSON: He wrote the ending.
He wrote everything that's in the epilogue right now.
He wrote basically all of that.
And we were able to put it in relatively unchanged.
Though a lot of people are asking questions about the
ending, I don't want to give any spoilers right now.
But he didn't leave a lot of notes about what happened
there, meaning he just wrote it and he left it.
This is because the notes were really focused on two things.
They were either notes to himself about what he needed
to do for the future of the series.
And that was the bulk of the notes.
They were written to himself.
And then in his final months, he did some dictations and
Q&As with his assistants for whoever would end up
finishing the book.
He didn't know who Harriet, his wife, would end up
choosing, but he did all these sorts of things and left that.
And so those were instructions to me.
And since the ending was already done, since he'd
written that last sequence of scenes, he didn't need notes
to himself on how to do it, or notes to me on how to do it.
And so that section is actually blank.
I don't know anything more than anyone else does.
I just tried to write toward that ending
as best as I could.
And then I put it in for everyone to experience as I
did when I first read it in 2007.
TOM MERRITT: That's fascinating.
VERONICA BELMONT: That is absolutely fascinating, yeah.
So moving on to some of your own breadth of work, Sleep
wants to know, you're juggling quite a few series.
I was wondering if you have any plans on expanding
"Legion" into a full book, or possibly several?
BRANDON SANDERSON: "Legion," for those who don't know, is a
novella I wrote earlier in the year.
It's a thriller, actually, with some small science
It's kind of a Michael
Crichton-esque techno thriller.
It's a novella.
We released it in hardback form.
But mostly, I wrote it to be a television show pitch.
I wanted to try and develop it as a series.
And so as we did that, we actually sold the rights to
And they have a show in development.
And so I will probably write a few more novellas, which could
kind of be showing different places that the series could
go, potential episodes, though they aren't likely to do my
exact novellas as episodes.
It's kind of just proof of concept, so to speak.
So yes, there will be more.
But it isn't terribly high on my priority list right now,
just because I have so many things that a lot of fans have
been waiting for for a long time.
TOM MERRITT: Sure, yeah.
You've been busy recently.
BRANDON SANDERSON: I have been.
I like to keep busy.
I write kind of compulsively.
My wife likes to joke like this.
See, what I do is I write for my job.
And then my hobby is also writing.
It's just writing things I'm not supposed to be doing.
Hiding off somewhere during my free time and working on some
side project like "Legion," or something like that.
And that's where all these little things come from.
TOM MERRITT: Ah, man, that's great.
It means you're doing what you love.
BRANDON SANDERSON: It is.
I really do enjoy this.
TOM MERRITT: Dirk wants to know about "Legion." He said,
I recently read the "Legion" novella and enjoyed it a lot.
What inspired the character of Stephen
Leeds and his condition?
BRANDON SANDERSON: It was actually a conversation with a
writer friend of mine who was writing about a schizophrenic.
And we were discussing.
And this idea of someone who had all sorts of
hallucinations, but each of them was an expert in a
different field, so he could turn into this one-man, sort
of army of experts--
that popped in my head.
And I started saying, hey, you could do this.
You could do this.
And he's like, no, I couldn't do that.
That doesn't actually work.
That's not actually schizophrenia.
It's something different.
And I said, well, then I can do it.
And it isn't schizophrenia.
It's its own little bizarre thing.
But I've always loved the kind of small team, super team,
sort of mechanic.
One of my favorite films of all time is "Sneakers." It's
just a delightful film.
I love the "Heist." I love the sort of "Mission Impossible"
feel of things.
And being able to develop one person who had a ton of
hallucinations he could draw upon as experts in different
fields really appealed to me for that kind of story.
So it has-- like a lot of my storytelling--
one foot in reality, but then extrapolating off into
something completely bizarre and my own sort of thing.
VERONICA BELMONT: And then Aaron wanted to know-- and a
lot of people were asking this in the forums as well--
in "The Emperor's Soul," I don't remember Hoid ever being
called by name.
Since the novella is part of the cosmere on the same planet
as Elantris, did Hoid make a cameo appearance under a
different name or title, and if so, can Brandon
tell us who he was?
BRANDON SANDERSON: Wow.
This is a very deep sort of theory question on my world.
So for those who don't know, all of my epic fantasy books
I started doing this because as a young writer wanting to
break into the field, I realized I didn't want to
write something that was intimidating for readers or
for editors to pick up.
But I also loved the idea of the big epic.
And so I started writing kind of a hidden epic.
I wrote these standalone epic fantasy novels like
"Elantris," which had embedded in them some characters who
were jumping between different stories that were kind of
behind the scenes.
And the premier one of these is a character named Hoid.
And a lot of my books taking place in this universe all
involve some sort of mysterious workings that Hoid
has in the background.
It's interesting. "The Emperor's Soul," the other
novella I released last year-- and it is epic fantasy
standalone, but it is in the Elantris world.
You can read it without having read "Elantris." And it was
inspired-- the first thing I started writing on it was a
discussion between this thief and the imperial fool, who was
Hoid in disguise.
And they had this delightful conversation about the world
and about the magic.
It's one of these free writes that authors sometimes do.
And I spun that conversation, took it and wrote this entire
story based on it.
And then when I got done, I gave it to some writer
friends, one of whom being Mary Robinette Kowal, who has
a really good eye for this sort of thing.
She wrote back to me and said Brandon,
this story is wonderful.
It's one of the best of yours I've ever read.
But the prologue at the beginning with the imperial
fool feels completely out of place for the story.
And indeed it did.
Looking back at it, that thing that had inspired me to write
the story was actually out of place narratively with the
rest of the story.
It was a very insider conversation between this
character who's been in all of my works.
It was a very bad introduction to what turned out to be very
And so I cut the prologue and wrote a different
one that was in world.
You hear authors and filmmakers and people talking
about killing your darlings.
This is exactly what we're talking about.
Sometimes the very inspiration for a story at the end of the
day is the weakest part of the story.
It spins you off to something wonderful, but
it itself is a crutch.
And so I did cut that.
I will eventually be posting it so people could read it,
though it's no longer quite with continuity with the rest
of the story since I've revised and worked on it, and
built it and things like this.
And so I consider it still cannon for the story, but it's
just not actually part of the story any longer.
TOM MERRITT: People really love your characters.
David Sven wants to know if we're going to see more of Wax
and Wayne from "Alloy of Law," and if so, when?
BRANDON SANDERSON: Yeah.
I've actually been able to--
one of those free time writings where I snuck away--
write about a half to a third, a third to half of a sequel to
"Alloy of Law." But once again, it's not one of my
Right now, I need to be working on the sequel to "The
Way of Kings," "The Stormlight Archive." And so while I will
eventually finish that sequel, it's probably not going to
come out until 2014, would be my guess.
But I will do more.
VERONICA BELMONT: All right.
Well, speaking of "The Way of Kings," we have a question
from Slade, who says, how do you go about making each
series unique and memorable?
What are the challenges of creating a brand new magic
system in the different novels.
I really enjoyed "The Way of Kings" and am looking forward
to reading the second book in the series.
BRANDON SANDERSON: Oh, well, thank you very much.
in fact, one of the biggest challenges for me as a writer,
the longer my career goes, is not repeating myself.
And this is kind of scary to me as a writer.
I want to be doing new and interesting things.
And yet, the more series you do, the more standalones you
do, the more danger you have of repeating yourself.
If it's a long series, you can work with the same themes over
and over, and take different approaches at them.
And it fits cohesively into that series.
But if you start doing that in standalones, it really starts
to get stale.
I feel it gets stale a lot more quickly.
And so what I try to do is I, number one, I to try to read
what other authors are doing, and keep an eye on how the
genre is evolving.
And read really good writers who are doing awesome stuff in
the genre so that maybe I can be inspired by
what they're doing.
And then I try to just challenge myself and say, is
this something I've done before?
Is this magic too similar to what I've done before?
How can I do it differently?
And I'm always asking myself questions like that.
And a lot these side projects, things like "Legion" and "The
Emperor's Soul," are attempts at forcing myself to stretch.
In "Legion" in doing something more contemporary.
In "The Emperor's Soul," it was focused on trying to do
with-- the narrative takes place all
in one room, basically.
And trying to do a bit more of a narrative that's got a
stronger thematic and literary component to it.
And these are ways that I'm trying to force myself to
stretch as a writer.
And I think I can then take those smaller works and apply
them to larger works as I do them.
TOM MERRITT: Casey says, thank you for "The Way of Kings." It
is beautiful and wondrous.
And Casey's question is, assuming all aspiring authors
both read and write every day, what are three other things
they should be doing to become better writers?
BRANDON SANDERSON: Ooh, other than reading and writing--
that's a really interesting question.
I would say one of those is practice revision.
It took me a long time to figure out how to revise.
And the trick with revision is, like most writing things,
it's very, very personal to you as a writer.
And the way I revise may not work for you as a reviser.
For instance, some people, they revise too much.
They revise all the life out of their work.
They go over a chapter over and over and over again,
rather than moving on to the next one.
Authors like myself tend to finish something, want to put
it away in a box and be done with it, and
never want to revise.
And somewhere between those two extremes are probably
going to be most people.
I had a revelation a few years ago that the best writers I
knew were actually better revisers
than they were writers.
And this came to knowing their own style of revision, and
learning how to take something good and make it excellent.
And that's really tough.
And so the first one would be to practice revision.
The other one would be to practice both forms of basic
writing styles, meaning outlining
versus discovery writing.
What George R. R. Martin calls writing as an architect or
writing as a gardener.
And you can google those phrases and see what George
wrote on it.
He's said some very interesting things.
But basically, practice writing without an outline.
Practice writing with an outline.
See what different tools of those two
methods work for you.
And try to find your own blend and hybrid that works for the
specific project you're working on.
And then the last thing would be to read something different
than you've been reading before.
And try and pick up something you would
never have picked up.
Read it and see what you can learn from it, whether it be a
work in a different genre, or an area of non-fiction that
you just haven't ever read before.
Oftentimes, if you're stagnating as a writer, doing
that will fill your head with all kinds of new ideas.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's fantastic.
Excellent, excellent advice.
I'm sure people will really appreciate that.
So what are you working on this year?
BRANDON SANDERSON: I am working right now on the
sequel to "The Stormlight Archive," to "The Way of
Kings," the second of "The Stormlight Archive".
And I'm working very *** that, hoping for it to come
out fairly soon.
It's been a three-year wait since the last book came out,
so I'm working very *** it.
But it's a big thick project.
In the meantime, I have two things coming out this year to
tide people over.
One is called "The Rithmatist." It's a novel for
younger teens, 13-ish, 14-ish, maybe 15-ish, about a boy who
gets to go to a magic school, except he has no magical
He's actually the son of the cleaning lady.
So he just gets free tuition.
And so it's a very fun book with this sort of
And the other is a thriller.
It's targeted at older teens or anyone.
It's called "Steelheart." And it's about a world where
people start gaining superpowers.
But only evil people get them.
And so it causes basically this massive apocalypse where
these people can do whatever they want to.
The United States basically collapses, and they all carve
out little pieces for themselves.
And it's about people who fight back against them,
having no powers of their own, by figuring out what the
individual's weakness is, setting a trap for them, and
So it's kind of like normal people versus the evil
super-villains sort of thing in this dystopian
It's out in early fall, August or September, I believe.
And it's utterly awesome.
So I hope people will enjoy it.
TOM MERRITT: Those both sound great.
Do you think you'll be doing anymore work in Robert
BRANDON SANDERSON: It is very, very, very unlikely.
Robert Jordan was quite uncomfortable with the idea of
people writing in his world.
And we've known that for years.
He did change his mind about the ending of the series
before he passed away.
But as a fan of the series, I know how little he wanted
people working in his world.
And so I feel like it's best to stop when you're ahead.
Harriet, his wife, also feels the same way.
He did not leave very many notes for anything else.
He planned a sequel trilogy, to write one.
But he didn't leave very much notes on it.
And at this point, going on any further would transition
from fulfilling one of my heroes dying wishes to
exploiting in his name.
And that's not a step I want to take.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah.
No, that's very understandable.
Brandon, thank you so much for chatting with us today.
BRANDON SANDERSON: It has been my pleasure.
Thank you guys very much for having me.
TOM MERRITT: Definitely.
And of course, "A Memory of Light," the epic conclusion to
Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series with Brandon
Sanderson's assistance is available now.
And look for Brandon's own "The
Rithmatist" coming May 14th.
VERONICA BELMONT: So let's finish up with a white board
video from Aaron explaining the real
magic of Brandon Sanderson.
AARON: 2013 brought closure to one of the greatest fantasy
epics of all time.
This is not that story.
AARON: OK, kids.
2,600 miles to Grandma's.
What do we have on tap for audio books?
-"Alcatraz Versus the Evil
Librarians," by Brandon Sanderson.
AARON: Oh, I know him.
Brandon Sanderson is the guy they brought in to finish
Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series.
He's a busy guy with the "Mistborn" and
He was even tapped to write the tie-in novel for the
"Infinity Blade" app.
His standalone novella "Legion" is--
-Dad, you're lecturing again.
Audio book ahoy.
wow, that was excellent.
Let's get the next book.
Here we are guys--
Can we have one more chapter?
AARON: So for the drive back should we--
AARON: As you wish.
One car, three kids, four books, 2,600 miles with not
Brandon Sanderson, author and wizard.
TOM MERRITT: I think Brandon Sanderson
saved Aaron's family.
VERONICA BELMONT: Brandon Sanderson, tamer of children.
TOM MERRITT: Seriously.
VERONICA BELMONT: I like it.
TOM MERRITT: That's a great story.
VERONICA BELMONT: [LAUGHS]
Hey, if you want to help put together our guides to author,
send us your thoughts on our next guest, and we'll send you
a package of prizes, including books and stickers.
Just upload your message to your favorite video hosting
provider, like YouTube for example, and email the link to
us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TOM MERRITT: That's it, folks.
If you're looking for more great things to read, be sure
to watch our book club episode, where we read a book
a month and give you great ideas for lots of
books, old and new.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel at
And of course, visit us on Goodreads-- goodreads.com
We'll see you later.
VERONICA BELMONT: Bye.
See you next time.