Exclusive Interview with New York Times bestselling scifi/fantasy author Brandon Sanderson

I’m a BIG Brandon Sanderson fan.  In fact, I’ve been hooked on his books since I stumbled upon The Final Empire, the first book in his Mistborn Trilogy, as early as 2012. If you like fantasy and science fiction novels and aren’t familiar with his writing, I highly recommend giving one of Brand Sanderson’s books a try.

A few weeks back I was able to meet Brandon at World Con 76. I caught him at a panel where he read an excerpt from his upcoming Young Adult book Skyward. The read was fantastic, and I have to say the audience was very much engaged and everyone enjoyed it! He’s simply a natural and is very charismatic at his book readings.

After his talk I was able to speak with Brandon briefly. You see, Brandon and his work has inspired me to put up this blog and explore my creative interests. In the past I even created origami creations inspired by his books. I had actually made a point of giving him some of my origami creations as tokens of my appreciation for his work during his visits to the Bay Area. To my surprise, Brandon recognized me when I stepped up to him and wished me well with my new endeavor, this blog. I asked if he’d answer a few questions for the Planet Skkaw and I was very grateful that he accepted!

See below as Brandon Sanderson takes a short break from his busy writing schedule to answer a few questions for the Planet Skkaw.  To get us started, I’ll allow Brandon himself to recommend which of one his books to start with..

Question: At World Con 76 you recommended your Hugo award winning novella The Emperor’s Soul to readers unfamiliar with your work. Can you talk a little about this book and why you chose to recommend this book, among your many others, to new readers?

Brandon: Some of my works can be very intimidating, partially because of the length and the worldbuilding involved. Particularly the Stormlight Archive can just look overwhelmingly large. Beyond that, many of my works are part of unfinished series in various places. Like Stormlight, we only have three of the books out, and so recommending that someone jump in and read something that they may not get an ending for many years—that’s always a little uncomfortable for me to do, because they don’t know if they can trust me yet to deliver. So I like to recommend something that is self-contained, but yet does all the things that I like to do in a smaller package.

The Emperor’s Soul still does all of my favorite things in storytelling. It deals with an interesting magic system, an interesting situation, and what I hope is an interesting take on a fantasy story. It’s about a woman who has the ability to alter the souls of objects, and she uses this ability as a thief. She gets captured doing this and is told by the people in charge that they need her to make a copy of the emperor’s soul, because the emperor has suffered a dire affliction and is basically brain dead—their healers can heal his physical brain, but there’s no soul in there that they can find. So they want her to create a duplicate of his soul and insert it in his body so that they can continue to have an emperor. It’s a very different sort of story in that regard, but it also deals with all the things that I think are strengths to my writing, and it does it in a novella-sized package. That’s why I recommend it.

I do think the Stormlight Archive beginning with The Way of Kings is probably my best series. But like I said, you have to dive into the deep end not knowing what’s underneath the water in that case, so I usually pitch The Emperor’s Soul instead.

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Brandon Sanderson reading from Skyward at Worldcon76

Question:  A significant number of your fantasy novels have an underlying universe, called the Cosmere, connecting different worlds together. With DMG optioning the rights to your Cosmere universe, what are you most excited to see, and/or what challenges do you expect to encounter when your novels are interpreted on-screen?

Brandon: Well, it’s a tough job, right? Interpreting fantasy novels. There have been some very well-meaning people who got everything right on paper. The Golden Compass is a great example of this. Very well cast, very well done visuals, very true to the author’s story—and yet the movie turned out to be kind of boring, which is baffling because on paper that all should have worked. There’s nothing wrong with that story other than it just didn’t adapt well in that way. Looking at my books, I could see that pitfall being in front of us.

The Stormlight Archive, in particular, is going to be very hard to adapt. They’re very long. There’s a lot going on. Even with something shorter like the Mistborn books, which we are trying to make into a film, you have to decide what to cut and what to leave in. You have to do worldbuilding for a fantasy world that doesn’t involve people standing around talking about the worldbuilding. That can get really tough. It’s a big challenge. I certainly want to see it done, and we are trying to get it done. It is a challenge, but so is writing a book in the first place. I hope that we are up to the challenge. I guess time will tell.

P1070068Taken at Worldcon76, form left: Marie Brennan (The Memoirs of Lady Trent, A Natural History of Dragons) Seanan McGuire (Ghost-Spider, Marvel Comics), L.E. Modesitt Jr. (Saga of Recluce, Imager Portfolio), PC Hodgell (God Stalk, Demons Possessed) and Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Stormlight Archive series)

Question: This next question is in two parts. If you could go back in time and meet yourself right before your career started to take off, what advice would you give yourself?

Brandon: Well, I’ve read this type of science fiction story, and that never works out well. You end up erasing yourself from existence by accident, or something like that. So no, I would not go back in time. But I understand that that’s not what you’re asking. If I were going to give advice to a new author who had many of the same writing styles and habits as I had, it would probably be to learn how to revise. That’s what took me the longest to figure out, during my unpublished years. Instead of putting aside a book and writing something new when things stopped working, forcing myself to go back and ask what wasn’t working and fix it is what was the hardest for me to learn. But as I said, friends don’t let friends mess with the time stream.

Question: In the same manner, for aspiring writers, artists, and anyone starting a career in general, what advice would you give them at this time?

Brandon: Look at yourself as the product of your writing time, not the story. Focus on: what is your writing time and your practice time doing to you? How is it helping you improve? Look at the book itself as a nice side effect of having spent this time training yourself to be a better writer. If you look at it that way, the practice time that you put into writing feels more concrete and like it’s doing something, because it really is. That is the goal. You don’t want to be a person who once wrote a science fiction or fantasy novel. You want to be a person who can write great science fiction and fantasy novels.

There you have it folks! Big thanks to Brandon Sanderson and his assistant Adam Horne for taking the time to answer the Planet Skkaw’s questions.  I personally can’t wait for the release of the next Stormlight archive books, among Brandon’s other works.

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Brandon Sanderson and Skkaw at the release tour of Oathbringer at Borderland Books in 2017.  I’m holding a pop-up card I created based on the cover of Oathbringer.

For more exclusive interviews, coverage on Geek Culture and Technology keep following here at the Planet Skkaw!

*Also, banner photo (on top of this article) is of Brandon Sanderson and Skkaw at WorldCon 76.

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