Jul 17 2012 11:30am

Other Tidbits From Brandon Sanderson’s SDCC Spotlight

Other Tidbits From Brandon Sanderson’s SDCC SpotlightYou’ve possibly/maybe/sort of heard that Brandon Sanderson read a portion of the first chapter from A Memory of Light during his 2012 San Diego Comic Con spotlight. (And if you didn’t until now, well, good news! You can read it here.)

That’s not the only thing that Brandon let slip, though. Below we’ve listed further highlights from his spotlight, including an update on The Wheel of Time and his plans for his next five book releases.


About The Wheel of Time:

Brandon delivered a little preamble/update on the progress of the book before reading the portion of Chapter One. “We are on time. Well, okay, we’re late but we’re on time enough that we’re going to hit the January 8th [release date].”

He went on to explain, “We know you were hoping we could push it up to a November release, but we need the extra time to make sure we get this right. [Unlike The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight] we don’t get another chance at this. This is the last book.”

Further, Brandon mentioned that he had been up until 5 AM revising the novel, but added that he kind of likes to do that impulsively anyhow.


About the Mistborn movie:

Brandon conveyed that six drafts of the movie script have been done and that the latest draft, which he really likes, focuses more on the relationship between Vin and her brother Reen as a counterpart to Vin’s relationship with Kelsier. Brandon and the independent producers are still shopping the script around to movie studios, however.


About the upcoming video game Mistborn: Birthright:

He conveyed that he’s still writing the script for Mistborn: Birthright (although, considering the production timeline of video games, you’re never really done writing the script until the game is on the shelves). It will be a cross-platform action RPG in the style of Infamous and Demon Souls, although he doubts they’ll be able to have as open-ended a world as is featured in Infamous. Brandon went on to reiterate that the game is set 250 years before the first Mistborn book and stars a character who is “part of the history of the world.” You can read more information about the character and the setting here.


On the origins of the Mistborn series and his writing process:

 “I’m always searching for ideas that I can connect into a larger story. I feel that a book is more than just one idea. A good book is a collection of ideas, a good idea for each character, something that forms the core of their conflict. Some ideas come from the setting, or something that’s going to drive the economy, something that’s going to, for me, drive the magic [system].”

Brandon continued to explain his process by demonstrating how the Mistborn series came together. “I was watching the Harry Potter movies and I was thinking about The Lord of the Rings and while I like the idea of the hero’s journey, I began thinking about how the dark lord in these stories gets the raw end of the deal. So I wanted to write a book where the dark lord winds. Although that’s kind of a downer.”

Brandon explained that he shelved that idea until he could figure out how to make a story where the villain wins not be so bleak. “It took me a little while to figure out what to with that idea. Then I was watching one of my favorite movies, Sneakers, and started thinking about how I hadn’t seen an amazing heist story in fantasy ever. Little did I know Scott Lynch was going to release a great one only a year later!”

The two ideas combined, Brandon continued, “like atoms that combine to create a molecule that’s something different.” The magic system in Mistborn was the same way, according to the author. Allomancy and Feruchemy were magic that had been designed for different worlds but worked really well together with the story of Mistborn.

So Brandon set to work, filling out the gaps in the story by brainstorming along the way.

One audience member noted that Brandon has a pattern of having his characters working towards a goal only to have that goal turn out to be the incorrect one, which prompted the author to discuss how he thinks of plot twists. “To figure out a good plot twist you want the reader or viewer to be surprised that it happened and then, as it’s happening, realize they should have seen it coming. You can’t always pull that off but when you can they’re really great and that’s what I’m shooting for.

I don’t twist my plot just to twist it. My hope is that the more that is revealed, the more that you experience a hidden depth to the characters and their journeys. It’s like life. Everyone you meet you make a snap judgment but then the more you get to know them the more depth they reveal. I want readers to experience that with my books. Part of why I like writing epic fantasies is because the story gives you the room to develop and explore that depth. Everything is about more than one thing.”


Brandon’s book release plan for the next five years:

After A Memory of Light is finished, Brandon’s next focus is finishing the next Stormlight Archive book “as soon as possible, hopefully by this time next year.” The next book is already intricately plotted out, which is about the halfway point for Brandon, and the rest of the writing “could take as little as 6 to 8 months.”

There are two books that Brandon finished before starting on the final Wheel of Time book but which won’t come out until after A Memory of Light, as Brandon wanted to properly support their release, which just isn’t possible while finishing The Wheel of Time.

The first is The Rithmatist, a middle grade coming out from Tor Books next year about Joel, a non-magic kid enrolled in a magic school (his mom’s the cleaning lady there) who starts investigating a murder that happens at the school. The magic system is “chalkboard magic,” which Brandon likened to playing Starcraft. The kids draw a chalk circle around themselves on the floor then scribble in things that try and chew through the other kids’ own chalk circles. Fans of his Alcatraz series will find the same appeal from The Rithmatist, according to the author.

Next is Steelheart, a post-apocalyptic superhero book where people in our world can only obtain super powers if they’re evil. The inspiration for the story occured to Brandon when he got cut off by another driver one day. “I thought, if I was a supervillain this guy would just be… BOOM.” Which got him thinking about a world where people could actually do that.

In the world of Steelheart, these people are considered “forces of nature” and eventually the most powerful form little fiefdoms. The protagonist is an 18 year old boy who’s father was killed by Steelheart, one of the most powerful superpowered villains, who joins an assassination guild in hopes of taking Steelheart down.

After Stormlight 2, Brandon will probably go straight into the third Stormlight book, although he might take a short break and write the follow-up to The Alloy of Law. And after that? Brandon really wants to write
a follow-up to Elantris, as 2015 marks the ten-year anniversary of the publication of the first book.


Which authors does Brandon currently love to read?

“I read a lot of Terry Pratchett. He’s a legitimate genius and the books are different enough that I don’t have to worry about any unconscious influence on my own writing. Guy Gavriel Kay is the best writer of fantasy today. I frequently read Robin Hobb novels. I love Vernor Vinge.”


When asked if all his books occur in one universe:

While he was selling his initial works to publishers, Brandon was encouraged to write books set in different worlds as opposed to huge epic fantasy series. That way if a publisher didn’t like one book he could pitch them a different one, which you can’t do with a huge fantasy series. But as a way of still having a huge fantasy series, Brandon made all of these independent stories a “hidden epic.” That is, he seeded continuing characters and elements into all of these different worlds, now dubbed the “cosmere.”

Elantris, the first book he sold, was one of the novels embedded with these elements so Brandon just kept putting them in subsequent novels. So far there is one character who appears in all of the worlds that he has created (i.e. not The Wheel of Time), sometimes by his name, Hoid, and sometimes only by appearance. He is connected to the grander story going on involving this cosmere.

Right now Brandon wants this to remain a fun easter egg so no one feels obligated to read his books in the order they were published. He will eventually tell the story of the cosmere, though, and you will be able to see what this character is doing.

Stubby the Rocket is the mascot of Tor.com and the often random voice of its staff.

1. Zas678
He also read an excerpt of The Emperor's Soul, a novel he has coming out in November, and we've got an excerpt over at 17th Shard.
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
Thanks for the update. As always, I am impressed by the amount of work Brandon Sanderson does. the magic system in the Rithmatist sounds really fun. Leave it to Brandon to come up with another interesting system, although I am surprised that it doesnt also involve collectable trading cards LOL.

I assumed the mistborn movie would be a magic+heist type film for obvious reasons but now the comments about focusing more on Vin and Reen... I have trouble picturing that. hope they find a studio.
3. WhimsyDearest
Hmm, that interesting. Would that make Hoid a passing Time Lord?
I now have to try and identify him across the books--sort of like a Where's Waldo.
4. Alcatraz
So no Alcatraz conclusion for at least 5-6 years? I have got to stop starting series that have not forseeable end date. Of course I won't, because I know I can't hold back from starting Stormlight for very much longer.
5. drizzt1016
I remeber reading a few early chapters of The Rithmatist-then called The Scribbler- on brandon's website a few years ago. I always wanted to know more about the magic system, and if memory serves there were wild chalk monsters that had to be fought. It will be interesting to see how he changed it and added things.
6. starfish42
The Alcatraz conclusion isn't coming out because the publisher (Scholastic) didn't renew the contract, and no one else really wants to publish the conclusion to a story where they don't own the rights to the first four books. I think Brandon has said that he will try to get it out somehow, but it's not too surprising that with all the work he already has to do, he's not focusing on something where he's uncertain about how he'll earn any money from it.
7. Reddic
Sanderson is a legend, I know Stormlight 1 was criticised for its slow pace but I devoured that book and cant wait for the next
8. Joeh42
I think Brandon loves Alcatraz too much not to finish the book eventually and I imagine it will happen in a similar fashion to The Alloy of Law i.e. Brandon will want to take a bit of a break from his current epic novel and to "freshen up the palate" will write the conclusion to Alcatraz and then figure out a way to publish it.
Worst case scenario on that in my opinion, he publishes it for free on his website or something. Legality will cause problems but I think where there's a will, and an accomplished author, there's a way to get a book written.
9. Geckomayhem
He's got a full plate and then some! Citing other authors as geniuses and amazing writers is just modesty. I agree that Pratchett is a genius; and I hope that he still has at least a few more novels in him before he succumbs to his illness. But I also believe that Sanderson is a genius -- and a crazy one at that. The amount of ideas that he tosses up and is able to turn into a workable... work, is just insane; and great for fantasy readers. :)

It's an encouragement to any aspiring authors who are struggling to turn their ideas into something more than just that. It sure must take a lot of energy to keep churning stuff out. Definitely looking forward to the release of AMoL next January.
10. Xiao Zhuang
Here's me cheering for Stormlight 2. I'm really looking forward to that book.

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