Afternoon Tea with Brandon Sanderson
Hey everyone, so I was down in Melbourne for SupaNova, during which Brandon was in attendance, dressed in a ta’veren tee and sporting a hat that kind of reminded me of Mat’s, which, as everyone knows, is an angreal.
Heh, in any case he took some time to answer some questions, first in the green room on the Saturday where we sat down and had a good chat—not just about the questions, but in general, which was fun—and then he allowed me to hang around awkwardly on the Sunday and get through the last few that we hadn’t managed to touch on yet.
Quick provision though, Brandon was very clear with me that he writes with the notes beside him, mainly because he can’t keep it all in his head (four million words people. Four million). As such the answers he gave are honest, and out of his impressions from the notes, but he retains the right to correct against them later, if he’s misremembered something.
By the same note, these are drawn out from my short-hand notations during the interview, and if I’ve mistakenly misquoted something, Brandon has the right to say, ‘James, dude, I didn’t say it like that. Fix it’, and all blame shall be with me.
I may also add to this after the signing and Q&A on Wednesday in Sydney, so check back.
Luckers: What happened to Moiraine’s original angreal? The one she had in the Two Rivers?
Brandon: Oh, you mean the fat man with… no, wait that was Rand….
Luckers: Yeah, Moiraine’s one was an ivory woman.
Brandon: Yeah, yeah. You know, that’s a good question, because it’s odd, the notes specifically said she got the angreal as one of her wishes…
Luckers: Ah, so it’s definitely not the angreal Lanfear had? People have asked, I think because both were bracelets.
Brandon: No, it’s definitely a different angreal. But yes, if she had another angreal, why would she ask for one?
Luckers: Maybe the Finns took her original one. I mean she was naked when they found her, so they took…
Brandon: Yeah, maybe *looks dubious*.
Luckers: Or maybe it’s still in Cairhien with the rest of her stuff.
Brandon: Yeah, but it would still be odd, that she’d ask, if she had another. Yeah, so, I don’t know, sorry.
Luckers: Did Verin kill Barthanes?
Brandon: *Goes to answer, pauses and looks thoughtful for a long moment, then said…* MAFO
Luckers: Verin infers that Tomas had to die within an hour of their betrayal of the Dark One, which is odd because he didn’t have that requirement, and she could have released him from the bond, so I was wondering, was Verin playing here?
Brandon: What you have to understand is Tomas was tired of this world. Without Verin, he didn’t really want to be around….
Luckers: So Tomas is dead?
Brandon: Yes. Tomas is dead. She could have released him, yes, but he didn’t want that.
Luckers: Do the Seanchan know of angreal? Can a damane use one?
Brandon: They know of angreal. That’s in the notes. And yes, as far as I know a damane should be able to use one. I mean damane are essentially in links, and women in links can still use angreal, but this is a good question, because, it’s odd then that we haven’t seen them use them.
Luckers: Maybe they were thought too valuable to risk in an invasion—though that’s odd, because that would be sort of where they are needed most.
Brandon: Yeah, I’m not sure… that is strange. But they definitely know of angreal.
Luckers: Was the Shiny Dragon… was she manipulating Masema before Perrin met him?
Brandon: Umm, when did Perrin meet Masema? Was it in the scene where Alliandre is kneeling and giving her jewellery to him?
Luckers: No, that was…
Brandon: Nynaeve, yeah. Right.
Luckers: Perrin met him at the same time Faile was getting kidnapped.
Brandon: Right. Then in that case, yes, the Shiny Dragon was manipulating him before.
Luckers: What does ‘amahn’rukane’ mean?
Brandon: *stares at me blankly for a long moment* What… um… what has been said on it before?
Luckers: Just that it’s a sword sticking out of the earth. Cadsuane names it…
Brandon: Oh right, umm. I don’t know. *he laughs* You can probably tell something about it from that.
Luckers: That it’s not important.
Brandon: *laughs again*.
Luckers: So, there are two different types of Darkhounds. Ones that can be killed with a sword, and ones that take balefire, and I was wondering if the difference was that the ones who can be killed with a sword are the ones that are turned by a Darkhound bite, whilst the balefire ones are those changed using the original method to make Darkhounds.
Brandon: That is an awesome theory. No. But I am very glad you came up with it—it fits very neatly with how Sanderson would have done it. But still, no.
Luckers: Can you tell me the actual cause for the difference?
Brandon: Haha, no. RAFO.
Luckers: Can you tell me what the CoT superpack are hunting?
Brandon: Ummm. No, I still might… it still might be in the books. So RAFO. But if it’s not in the books then it’s open for you all to ask again after aMoL. But for now, RAFO.
Luckers: Are the ripples in Knife of Dreams balescreams?
Brandon: *grins* RAFO. And say that’s a RAFO with a grin.
Luckers: Are the major characters all at their full strength now?
Luckers: I just ask because, like Nynaeve has been channelling longer, and Egwene was forced. And Rand likely was too, and as a man gains strength more swiftly…
Brandon: Yeah, Elayne might not… I think she is, but she may not quite be there.
Luckers: Who was behind the attack on Demira Sedai?
Luckers: What happened to Merillile and Talaan?
Luckers: I have this theory that they were killed by Careane to try and get the Windfinders to leave the palace.
Brandon: *poker face*
Luckers: What happened to Liandrin after Suroth was arrested.
Brandon: *immediate, no hesitation* RAFO. I’m going to RAFO everything about… *he cuts himself off*. RAFO.
Luckers: Do the Forsaken know the weaves Elza used to break the warding Cadsuane placed on the Domination Band?
Luckers: So, why didn’t they use it on wardings Rand placed on Callandor, and the other things they’ve wanted that were warded earlier in the series?
Brandon: *stares at me for a long moment, thoughtfully* They may not have know them then. The thing is… we don’t see a lot of the Shadow innovating with the Power, unlike with the Light, but they have been. As much as the Light. But they know, now. The notes definitely say this.
Luckers: Were the sisters at the Silver Swan sent by Cadsuane?
Luckers: Are Toveine and Gabrelle and the rest of the forcibly bonded sister still plotting to bring down the Black Tower?
Brandon: RAFO. I will say this though, this does get touched on in aMoL. There are a few scenes where we see this.
Luckers: Did Verin have any other reasons for going to the Two Rivers, other than recruiting girls?
Brandon: RAFO *he grins at me*. You know I’m going to RAFO Verin stuff. We’ve given a lot there.
Luckers: Can someone who is leashed by an a’dam touch Tel’aran’rhiod?
Brandon: *blinks at me* Umm. That’s a really good question.
Luckers: I ask, because it’s odd that Moghedien never tried to use the dream to escape, or to capture someone in Salidar and compel her to free Moghedien in the waking world, or anything like that.
Brandon: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’d guess no, but you can MAFO that.
Luckers: Are the TAR precepts enforced, and did breaking them expose Birgitte to what Moghedien did?
Brandon: No, not as far as I know, and I’m pretty solid on… I went through the notes on TAR heavily in the course of my work on the Wheel, so yeah.
Luckers: In tGH Ishamael has no knowledge that Mat sounded the Horn, and thinks Rand did. Later on though, a Fade refers to Mat as the Hornsounder. How did he know?
*we talked about this for a while, and I didn’t take any notes on that part of the conversation (so it was nothing big) we dropped back into interesting stuff a bit later and I resumed note taking*
Brandon: I will say that, in the course of writing a Memory of Light, I learnt some very interesting things that went against some strong preconceptions I had about the Horn. Some of the ideas I had, about how it worked, turned out to be incorrect.
Luckers: How did Moiraine identify Sammael and Be’lal in the Dragon Reborn?
Brandon: I have no idea.
Luckers: Okay, so, there have been three incidences where characters have ignored the Choedan Kal in favour of Callandor—or well, not even that. Just ignored the Choedan Kal. Shaidar Haren in tGS when Elza took the Domination Band, Solinda during Rand’s flashbacks was the one who gave the ter’angreal to the Aiel, but made no efforts to secure the CK like Callandor, and the Aes Sedai who was looking to fight Ishamael during the breaking who took sa’angreal from the Aiel, but left the CK. So I guess the question is…
Brandon: Why are they choosing Callandor over the Choedan Kal?
Luckers: Well, not even that, really, because two of those have nothing to do with the Callandor. I guess it’s more, was there something dodgy… did they know something about the Choedan Kal… why did they leave it?
Brandon: There is a reason. It has to do with Callandor being key to the ending, and the Choedan Kal not.
Luckers: Okay, so the warding on the Great Holding in Tear… it’s just, Moiraine, Mat, Rand, the Wonder Girls, all come and go with ease, yet Mesaana speaks of there being a nasty warding that stopped her getting in, and there is no sign that Be’lal… I mean, why wouldn’t Be’lal have taken the fat man angreal?
Brandon: *nodding before I finished* MAFO. That was something I was going to look into myself, because it stumped me during my last re-read. I never got round to it… you haven’t seen the size of the pile of notes, they are huge, and most of my time… I have to give over to things that are involved in what I’m working on. Sometimes though, I do just go into them purely for fan interest.
Luckers: I would love to have an afternoon alone with the notes. *another fan nods fervently*
Luckers: Are the negative effects of the Oath Rod accumulative. Like the diminished life…
Brandon: As far as I know, no.
Luckers: Sammael claims to have a truce with Rand, even though we see Rand turn him down. Was Sammael lying, or did…
Brandon: I’m fairly sure he was lying. As in, I’ve seen something in the notes at one point, and I’m pretty sure it was… but my memory being what it is, I will say you can MAFO that. But I’m pretty sure he was lying.
Luckers: Why did Aran’gar not kill Chesa?
Luckers: Egwene’s maid. Aran’gar killed the others, but not Chesa.
Brandon: Right. RAFO, and I… when I RAFO, I do it with things that might have significance.
Luckers: I was being a bit sneaky. There was this theory that Chesa might be a darkfriend—brought in by Sheriam, left along by Aran’gar.
Brandon: *poker face* RAFO.
Luckers: Faolain refers to something she is working on that is as good as anything the Wondergirls have made. Do you know what it is, and can you tell me?
Brandon: Yes I know, and no I can’t.
Luckers: What was the stylized raven that Min viewed around Carlinya?
Brandon: I thought that had already been answered. Did Jim not answer this?
Luckers: No. Everyone thought it referred to Carlinya being da’covale to the Empress. But no, it hasn’t been answered.
Brandon: Oh. Oh, okay. Well, I will RAFO/MAFO it. You can email Maria and me about it, but I may have to RAFO it.
Luckers: How much time does aMoL cover?
Brandon: It depends on which part of the world you are in. You will understand that when you read A Memory of Light.
Luckers: Is Michael Whelan planning on using the same concept as… I can’t remember his name right now. Isn’t that horrible?
Brandon: No, no it’s fine. His name was Darrell Sweet, and no. Look it was a hard decision, but we talked about using the original sketching and—
Luckers: Oh, no, I meant like… the concept. Like will he be drawing the same scene?
Brandon: Oh, right. No. No, I originally sent the suggestion of three different scenes, and Michael and Tor’s art co-ordinator, Irene…
Luckers: Irene Gallo?
Brandon: Yeah. Michael and Irene chose a different one between them than Darrell and Irene had.
A Few Odd Bits and Pieces
These are bits and pieces that we discussed or I overheard during the course of the weekend, but which I didn’t keep shorthand notes on, and therefore cannot reliably reconstruct our conversations, and there is the greatest chance here, I think, for me to have misquoted something, so take all this with a grain of salt.
When we were discussing Moiraine’s various angreal, Brandon said he was of the impression that even with it, Moiraine’s was still very close, but just shy of her original strength. I checked that night and Moiraine does say in TofM that with it she is ‘very strong, stronger than I was before’. I checked with Brandon and he nodded and said that that was a scene that RJ wrote, and it went in almost without any changes. I started to ask whether he was still under the impression that Moiraine was close to her old strength, albeit on the upwards side (after all to an Aes Sedai Moiraine’s old strength was ‘very strong’, and therefore Moiraine might only be marginally stronger, and she might very well phrase it precisely as she did). A fan approached at that moment, and I’m not sure how much of the question Brandon heard, and we never got a chance to raise it again, so it might be worth clarifying.
When we were in the Green Room Brandon broached a subject of his own, in Asmodean, stating he wanted to explain how that happened. Basically, Jim left a note saying ‘fit it in’, and when they were initially discussing how to do it Brandon threw out as more of a joke than anything else ‘just put it in the glossary’. Harriet apparently loved that idea, and when it came time for Brandon to write, he did lay it out in a Graendal POV [note: I can’t remember if he said it was in an outline for a POV, or whether he actually wrote it] Harriet wrote back in her notes ‘no, no, we’re going to put that in the glossary.’ Brandon himself definitely seemed to have wanted the information laid out in scene, and said there were actually a couple of scenes he thought he could have done it in.
Luckers: They still argue about it anyway, you know.
Brandon: *laughs* Yeah, well, you know Jim himself never wrote it out. There was just that email a fan had sent him, you know the…
Luckers: the Sherlock Holmes one?
Brandon: Yeah, just that with a note saying ‘this is it’. Everything else…
Luckers: Hah. Yeah, I never really cared about Asmodean.
Brandon: Me either, really. Until I went on the boards, and everyone was discussing it.
Luckers: Yeah, now they have the debate about whether Tam and Cadsuane are going to get married.
Brandon: *shudders* Yeah, I’ve… ah… heard that one.
Hardest Character to Write
Brandon again spoke of Aviendha and the Aiel, due to the way they think, mentioning how he went through several drafts and back and forth’s with Harriet, whilst doing multiple re-reads of Aviendha’s POV’s.
Then he spoke of Mat, saying that Mat is such a complicated character, though you might not think he is at first glance. He is an unreliable narrator, with vast differences between how he thinks and how he acts, and that Jim’s Mat POV’s are some of the best in the series. He then spoke of his own writing and that because of these elements it’s easy to miss things with Mat, and that that is why his early scenes in tGS are not as good as his scenes in TofM, where Brandon began to ‘get him’. Brandon finished by saying he’s best in aMoL.
Most Hated Character
Brandon: Luckers is going to roll his eyes at me, but back before I started writing—before writing her POV’s showed me how awesome she is—it was definitely Cadsuane.
I rolled my eyes at him. Heh.
Brandon spoke of how sometimes the characters he liked did get more air time, and that this was a side of having a fan write the books. He spoke of his love of Perrin, and how he wanted TofM to be a ‘big, awesome, Perrin book’, and that that is what he hoped he delivered.
Prose, Plot and Foreshadowing
Brandon was talking about the differences between his writing and Jim’s, and choosing not to try and match styles because it couldn’t be done. He describe it as ‘I do serviceable prose, where Jim wrote beautiful prose’, and that there have been scenes he’s come to where he’s simply had to say ‘I just have to do this my way, there’s nothing for it’.
He spoke then of Jim’s ability to layer subtle foreshadowing, which is something he’s never had to do outside of his story behind the story [he’s referring to the greater cosmos of his own works, the whole, Shards of Adonalsium and Hoid storylines that go on in the background]. He said it has been a real challenge to catch all the balls that Jordan left in the air, and that sometimes you can see that. ‘Some he caught smoothly, others he snatched from the air and slammed on the table. Some he even just said ‘this happened’’.
Finally he spoke of plotting, and how sometimes Jordan’s notes have said two contradictory things ‘maybe I’ll do this, or maybe I’ll do this other completely opposite thing’. Brandon said he then often had to choose between them, or sometimes choose a third thing entirely.
Some Stuff for fans of Brandon’s Other Works
Firstly he read from his novella, Legion, which is out in November [I think??]. It’s about a genius whose genius manifests in the form of hallucinations. Basically whenever this guy studies anything, he creates a hallucinatory expert that retains the full extent of all this knowledge like a repository, and it is with his ‘legion’ of hallucinatory experts that his full genius and ability comes from.
On the second day he read from a new novel set in the Elantris world (though in a whole different part of the world, with completely new characters (barring, of course, Hoid)). I didn’t write it down, but the title was something like ‘Soul of the Dragon Emperor’. The magic system involves Forgers, people who can through study and understanding something’s past, forge a soulseal which can change that past so long as it is touching the thing itself. So a Forger could look at an old and battered table, and by studying it—understanding where the wood came from, where the polish came from, so forth—they could then create a soulseal that says the table has been lovingly and carefully cared for, and so long as that seal is laid into the table, the table will no longer be battered and old, but perfectly polished. This is the gist of the plot as well, that something has happened to the Emperor and a talents Forger who works as a thief is supposed to Forge the Emperor’s soul so that it appears as if nothing has happened.
Other than that the only other thing I have in my notes is that Shallan is to be the Stormlight 2 Flashback character.