Last year I fell, headfirst, into Brandon Sanderson's cosmere. It started by my stumbling upon his Mistborn trilogy and getting sucked in. A few months, and several books later, I was moping about, waiting for the next installment after Words of Radiance. Why you do this to me, Brandon?!
I think these books resonated with me more last year because it was a rather bleak year. Other worlds were a good escape and reading about deeds of heroism in the face of great obstacles always rings truer when you're facing some pretty big ones yourself, right?
When I saw that he'd be at Murder by the Book, in Houston, a few weeks ago, I knew I had to go with as many of my fellow junkies as I could gather. That ended up being my husband and sister, toting a book for my daughter, who couldn't make it. It was a good excuse to see my brother too. So we had a good time talking at lunch before we even got to the book store.
I knew this event would be fun because I love his podcast, Writing Excuses. It's so interesting, whether you are into creative writing or just love to read. Brandon did not disappoint. He began the evening with a talk about whatever he felt like: that night it was society's prejudice against creativity for the sake of creativity. This struck a chord with me because, as I have previously ranted, I hate that creativity is only seen as legitimate with commercial success. It's just not so, people. If you are creating, and being true to yourself, you are successful.
Anyway, he went on to toss a deck of geeky looking character cards to an audience member. When she was done shuffling them, he held them up as an example of something completely new created with pre-existing ideas, ordered in a new way. His point was that the process of creating a story doesn't have to involve completely new worlds and abilities and personality types created entirely by the author. Sometimes you just take things you see around you and use them in a new way. His example was that of driving down the highway and being cut off by another car. You envision the offending car being blown to bits then think, "Huh. What if everyone with superpowers used them for evil?" It was just an example, but I do think it has something to do with the storyline of the Reckoners series, which he was there to promote. When he comes up with an idea like this, it's often just a snippet and he builds the whole story around it, using his own "laws" for writing. The most memorable quote of the evening was the newest of his laws: In story writing, always err on the side of awesome.
He, then, launched into a really fun Q&A, fueled by the promise of a reward being tossed to you if you asked a question. The reward was a character card, the closest thing to action figures he said he could get, with a link to a free excerpt of his newest story pre-publishing. I wondered if he'd have any creative control or an advisory position on the set of the movie adaptation of Mistborn, now that it's been optioned. He said... nah. He is an exec. producer, which he admitted means little, but he will be allowed on set and felt like the producer wanted to stay true to the novels. This is important to me. I won't have this story mucked with.
Elantris, which I am reading at the moment. He said at one time he was taking a class in computer code and it totally hi-jacked his mental ability to write. It was interesting to hear how code writing and fantasy writing accessed the same reservoir of brain power.
At that time he was a student and working a part-time job as a hotel clerk, which he left when he got his first novel advance of a whopping $5000. He was all in at that point. Apart from writing, he teaches a course in creative writing at BYU. (You can find his creative writing courses online, apparently.) He got a really big break when he was asked to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. He said it was the ultimate fan fiction novel. This series will probably figure heavily into my 2015 reading list, as it's such a classic. Also, I'd never heard of it before last year.
Besides an informative podcast (one of the few non-crafting podcasts I listen to), Brandon has an active blog with links to commentary on his books, chapter by chapter, at times; links free ebooks; and links to pre-edited chapters from his books. I don't spend too much time there because I don't like spoilers.
Aside from all of the traveling, teaching, and podcasting, Brandon is a freaking writing machine. There are his novels, future graphic novels, writing retreats, and novels based on video games (Infinity Blade). He seems to release multiple things a year and have multiple series going at all times. This is why I'm lamenting reaching the end of the Stormlight series thus far. The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance are two of my favorite stories now. Like any good addict, I. Need. More.
Though I mourn for the next installment, he's always churning out something new to divert my attention. Before the book signing began, he read an excerpt from a yet-to-be published novel. Within moments he'd created an environment unlike any I'd ever read, with intriguing characters plunked down mid-storyline, to be understood slowly as the story unfolds. One thing I understand after finishing Words of Radiance is that I can trust that he will make everything clear eventually, and that he is good at the slowly unfolding thing.
Then we got our new copy of Firefight (his newest young adult novel), The Way of Kings (from my favorites series), Mistborn (which my daughter just finished), and The Rithmatist (for my son) signed. We are total nerds.
I think these Q&A events, like seeing the Firefly and Star Trek: Next Generation panels at Comic Con, are my version of attending the theatre. I find them thoroughly entertaining and always leave inspired. Unless it's the Nightmare on Elm Street panel. That was just plain silly.