Monday, August 4, 2008

An Evening with Brandon Sanderson

I wish I were cool enough to say that I know authors on a personal basis, but really, I don't. I do have very cool friends who have friends who are married to authors. Well, one friend with one other friend with one husband who is an author. That author is Brandon Sanderson, writer of Elantris, which I can't say enough nice things about, and the chosen vessel to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time epic series of fantasy novels. When my friend, Libby, informed me that she had invited the Sandersons over for dinner when they were in town for a convention, I hopped on one foot, bit my knuckles, bugged my eyes out like a crazy person and, feigning disinterest, said, "Oh really, that's nice or whatever." She then invited me over too, probably to quit witnessing me act like a ninny.

Don't worry, I played it cool. I had a mental list of questions for him, but in the end, I forgot most of them because my children were running around like hooligans. My husband, a bigger Robert Jordan fan than I could ever aspire to be, had to miss it because of a wedding out of state and was terrified that I would go on an anti-Jordan rant like I am wont to do. I explained to Brandon that I tended to have a love/hate relationship with the books, but overall, I had great respect and admiration for Jordan's writings. I didn't embarrass you, honey!

If I were a real journalist, I would have taken short-hand (no idea how) or recorded our conversation (that would have been weird), but as it is, I'm just going to share with you the interesting facts I learned about Brandon Sanderson. Some of these you probably could learn from his website, but I'm lazy and haven't read it all through yet.
  • He wore a fedora in college. And was in the marching band. That makes him an incurable nerd, but only increases his credentials. You wouldn't want a jock writing fantasy novels, right?
  • I loved his advice to aspiring writers. Write constantly and continuously. Write tons of garbage. Don't start your first book with your best ideas. Start with simpler, stupider stuff to refine your writing.
  • I had told him how much my hubby and I love the fact that his books were not the typical fantasy novel where something happens to some guy that forces him to go on a journey to recover a magical object and reaches his destination. He said he writes his novels exactly the opposite of that typical story line because he felt it was a tired concept.
  • Elantris was the 8th book he wrote and Mistborn was the 14th. They were also his first and second books published, so he takes his own advice to heart on writing.
  • Harriet Rigney, the widow of Robert Jordan, chose Sanderson to finish the final Wheel of Time book because of a beautiful eulogy Sanderson wrote upon Jordan's death. She read a book by Sanderson, then called him up on the phone and offered him the monumental task. Sanderson's wife said that was the most flustered she has ever seen him. Gee, I wonder why?
  • Sanderson loves proactive characters. Sarene, the princess in Elantris, is a go-getter who makes things happen. You see that in Mistborn too with the character Kelsier. He likes his characters to go out there and be leaders and decision-makers.
  • The government in Elantris is based on Sanderson's pondering of "what if a government was run like multi-level marketing?"
  • Despite my intial feeling that the warrior religion in Elantris was based on Islam, he says it's more of "Vikings meet Catholicism" and the more peaceful religion as "Buddha meets Christianity."
  • He likes Harry Potter and loves the 3rd and 4th books best. We talked about Harry quite a bit and for that, I'm now an ardent admirer.
  • I just barely finished Mistborn and now I'm on to the next book, The Well of Ascension. The third book comes out in October, but in fact, all three books were written all in a row several years ago. Makes me wonder what else is sitting on his hard drive, waiting to be spaced out over the upcoming years.
  • He sold the rights to Dreamworks Pictures for his children's book, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Keep an eye out.
  • My fellow biblioblogger, Caren, and I are going to do a co-review of Mistborn in September and Brandon is going to answer questions we'll pose to him. That makes him even cooler to let a couple of mommies who read an awful lot pester him with questions.
It was a fun night and even though I tend to talk too much when I get excited about books, I hope he felt like I was interested in what he had to say. Thanks to Libby and family for hosting the evening! Everybody else, go buy some Brandon Sanderson books!


  1. Wow. Wow. That sounds like a fascinating evening -- and I'm really impressed that you kept your cool. I think in a situation like that, it would be really hard. I'm looking forward to future posts about this -- and I guess I'm going to do some homework so that I'm ready. Darn! :)

  2. What an awesome experience! Oh to be the right place, at the right time. Good for you keeping your cool in check and your wits about you and remembering so well. Can't wait to read the review!

  3. I'm happy for you that you had the chance to meet an author you admire. I'm impressed that you remembered all the stuff he told you without using shorthand or a tape recorder. I think I would have gone completely blank afterwards and only remembered dumb things I said. So good job. And I'm still waiting for my turn to get Elantris from the library. Any day now...

  4. Hi Red,

    Wow, it sounds like a fun night! Let me just put this on the record: You are cool enough to meet anyone, anywhere. A fun post. Now, I just have to get to the library and get Elantris and Mistborn and get busy.

  5. Ratz!
    If Sailor comments before me, my comment just says:

    "yeah, what Sailor said"

    so original


    ps, your hubby seemed to keep his cool about missing this special night, but why is it that happens so often, choosing between two really amazing great events?

  6. As a witness to the evening, I could ... no, I'll be nice.

    I'll just relate one more piece of advice that Brandon gave: to ensure characters surprise the readers, the author should discard the first 2 ideas one has for each event.

  7. I knew I would forget something! Thanks for filling in my memory gaps, J.

  8. What a remarkable experience! I'm impressed that you could get so much out of the evening, especially with small children around. I'm always fascinated to hear what techniques authors use and where they derive some of their inspiration. And I love that he's willing to answer some of our questions about Mistborn for September's review. You gotta love an author who respects his readers!

  9. If you don't read Alcatraz soon, I'm taking away your library card!

    Seriously, L and I each read it over our vacation (much to L's chagrin as she planned for us to read it together [while one of us drove]. But we stopped about 100 pages in with no driving time for 4 days: what do you expect?) and enjoyed it. Read the back cover and - whatever you do - don't read the last page of the story.