In the second part of our exclusive interview with fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, we get some clues about his new books, plus updates on a future Cosmere TV show and more. Sanderson, best known as the writer of the shared Cosmere universe of fantasy novels, smashed Kickstarter records earlier this month when he launched a Kickstarter for four "surprise novels" that he wrote over the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, we posted the first part of a lengthy interview with Sanderson about the Kickstarter. In our second half, we dig a little deeper into the new books, plus get an update on expanding the Cosmere into other media and his future travel schedule.
ComicBook.com: Let's talk a little bit about the books from your Kickstarter and how they kind of fit into your bibliography. Three of these books are set in the Cosmere, and I'm curious how these projects fit within the metanarrative that you've been building. Did they shift plans? Do they fill any sort of gaps in your narrative? How does this fit in with your grand scheme of things?
Brandon Sanderson: One of the books fifills a gap. One of these is a story I've been actually wanting to tell and planning to tell. The two others that are in the Cosmere are what I consider side-stories that add variety and flavor to the Cosmere and things like that, but are not part of the main metanarrative.
Secret Project One (Tress of the Emerald Sea) and 3 (Yumi and the Nightmare Painter) are just really interesting side stories but they don't need to be part of the whole, big Cosmere storyline. Imagine, if you look at Marvel, you have your big comics series or movies that are tied to the Avengers and are setting up the next Avengers storyline. They don't do this a lot in film, but in comic books, you'll occasionally get But in comic books, you'll occasionally get series about a really interesting character whose got a really interesting story, but they're not going to be an Avenger.
Most of my mainline Cosmere books are more along the lines of setting up those big crossovers. The Stormlight Archive, for instance is a big war epic of 10 books. In some ways, these are easier for people to get into because it's not setting anything up like that. They are standalone books. There's some crossover characters that readers of the Cosmere will recognize, but this is more to explore the Cosmere. We'll see interesting worlds, interesting planets, interesting characters, and readers can just enjoy the story. Now, Secret Project Four is keyed into much more so the larger events near narrative. It's still more of a side story, but it's pretty relevant.
When I first became an author, one of the things I wanted to be doing was releasing consistent standalone stories so that people could try me out without having to get into something big. And I think that one of the reasons The Stormlight Archive is as big as it is, is because people were able to try me out on something like Warbreaker or Elantris or even the original Mistborn trilogy that was finished, right? You could read those books and think "Wow, that was a good ending. He's able to tell a complete story. Now I'll jump into the thing that is 10 books long, knowing that the journey is going to be worth it because it's not going to fall apart at the end. I can trust that Sanderson can tell a complete story." And I wanted to be doing that all through my career.
So, I know that you're revealing more details about the books via your Kickstarter. But could you tease any potential crossover characters that are going to appear in these books? Obviously, Hoid (a character who has appeared in all of Sanderson's Cosmere novels to date) is at the center of Secret Project One.
Sanderson: So, Secret Project Four features a character from one of my books who has never had their own book, who is not Hoid, that readers will recognize. This has been a character who has had viewpoints, but no book.
It's not a main character, but it is somebody who's had some viewpoints and is very related to a main character. So, that's Secret Project Four. And Secret Project One has at least one more character who has been mentioned in a book before, but who has never appeared on screen, right? Stuff like that.
As a personal aside, how do you keep track of all of the viewpoints and details? I know George R. Martin used his Wiki, do you have something similar? Do you use Coppermind (a wiki page dedicated to the Cosmere)?
Sanderson: I don't have to rely on Coppermind very often. Once in a while, I'll go to it for a quick reference. But I have an internal continuity team who uses a Wiki actually built for me. I used to maintain it and then turned over to my continuity editor.
I'm pretty good with this, but I am not flawless at it. I'm going to forget a lot of things. So, that's why I have this Wiki. I'm pretty good at the large scale. The smaller scale is where I will get a character's eye color wrong and my team fortunately will catch that. And I'll swap things that I was planning to do and get them mixed up.
I don't do this anymore, but for years I used the wrong metals for people's powers in Mistborn because the first draft had a certain set of metals. And then I changed it in revision to be something that worked better. But my fingers didn't ever remember the revised metals and my editor would have to go in and say, "Change all of these. Brandon, you're doing it again." So I have a good team. I have an excellent team who keeps me straight on these things.
I only have a couple more minutes, so I'm going to run down a couple of quick questions. I know that you are a tabletop RPG person or at least used to be. There's a Mistborn TTRPG but are there any plans for additional games based on your work?
Sanderson: Yes.The Mistborn Adventure Game is still in print and we are investigating options to do a Stormlight one. Someday, I'm sure it will happen. But as a bit of an RPG nerd, there are certain companies I would like to work with that we want to keep approaching and seeing if they're interested.
I also have multiple homebrews I've built during my years as a DM that maybe someday I could actually turn over to someone who actually knows what they're doing, who could take my homebrew and make it into a real system. One thing you will learn by doing a homebrew is that after playing it for a while, you learn how bad you actually are at making game mechanics and how much work it takes to make ones that are intuitive and flow well.
So something else that I know that you're probably not going to be able to answer...what about a Cosmere TV show? You have experience in TV because you worked on Wheel of Time as a consultant, so when's the Cosmere TV show coming?
Inevitable, someday, but no promises when.
So my last question for you involves your schedule. You said that these books came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic when you had to cut back on your very gracious travel schedule. I don't know anybody who does as much as you who still manages to do so much traveling. It's amazing. I swear I keep expecting a second Brandon to walk behind you. That's the twist, there's actually two of you.
Sanderson: It's like The Prestige. We were a clone all along!
But these books, you were able to produce four more books over the course of two years because you weren't traveling. Does this change like how you approach travel? Obviously the fan interactions are important. That's a big reason why you've been able to build up your brand because of your fan base. But at the same time, you were able to do a $30 million Kickstarter because you didn't travel.
Sanderson: I am probably never going to go back to touring as exhaustively as I did. I will probably step it up from where I've been the last couple of years, but I don't see myself returning to that schedule. I think digital outreach via YouTube has proven to be much better. It's easier on my health. More people can tune into one of my live streams if you count the VODs than will get to me on an entire tour. And that's just one weekly video. And so, yes, I can't hand sign, but we were getting to the point where I can't hand sign people's books on tours either.0comments
I would have to do a presentation and then sign 100 books. Once you get to a certain point... I did signings that 5,000 people showed up for and I can sign a maximum, if I'm personalizing people's books, of 200 books an hour. So, we're talking 25 to 50 hours for one book signing. And that's really flattering, that's awesome. That's incredible. But I just can't do that anymore. And so, the tours were going to have to move to being less personal anyway. So why not just make them all on YouTube?
You can check out Sanderson's Kickstarter here. The Kickstarter will remain open until the end of the month.