Page 1 of 4
By Patrick (2006-02-23)
Patrick has talked with Brandon Sanderson about Elantris and his upcoming book called Mistborn.
Let me begin by thanking you for being gracious enough to take some time off your undoubtedly busy schedule to answer a few questions.
For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is Elantris.
Brandon Sanderson: All right. ELANTRIS is the story of a city, once considered the city of the gods, that has fallen.
In the kingdom of Arelon there was a force that would randomly choose members of the population and grant them divine powers. These people would move to Elantris and there become the rulers of the kingdom. However, ten years ago, this magical force inexplicably stopped blessing people, and instead started cursing them. The Elantrians lost their magical powers, and they also gained this terrible curse, which made them into something akin to lepers.
The kingdom just about collapsed. The normal people of the kingdom were terrified of the disease, and locked all of the cursed Elantrians inside of their massive city of Elantris. Elantris became a prison city for everyone who caught this disease. Yet, it's not really communicable--it comes randomly upon people, given by the same magical force that once blessed the population.
In chapter one, Raoden--a prince of the new kingdom that has risen up--catches this disease and gets thrown into the lawless city filled with bitter ex-deities. His half of the story centers around Raoden trying to discover what happened ten years ago to make the city fall, while at the same time trying to help those who live inside Elantris to recapture some of the humanity they have abandoned.
Meanwhile, Raoden's fiancée shows up on the docks to his city, expecting to get married. As a princess from another kingdom, she had entered into a political treaty/marriage with Raoden sight-unseen. Since the king of Arelon doesn't want anyone to know that his son caught the terrible curse, he told the kingdom that Raoden had died--and that left Sarene without a man to marry. However, since it was a political marriage, the treaty states that the wedding is in force even if one of the parties dies before the actual ceremony takes place. So, Sarene's story centers around her trying to figure out the mystery behind Raoden's disappearance, while also trying to protect her new homeland from political turmoil from hostile forces.
What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
Brandon: I have a couple things that I seem to be particularly good at. The first is really less of a skill and more of tendency. I've read so much in fantasy that I've grown tired of a lot of the standard plots and contrivances. I enjoyed reading the standard 'epic' quest fantasies when I was younger, but I'm really not looking to read--or write--books that simply mimic what has come before.
I'm not the only one doing this, thank goodness, but those who read my books will not find elves and dwarves. Neither will they often find young peasant boys who go on quests to defeat dark lords. I don't really like travelogues or stories that focus around collecting magical relics. My general inclination is that if I've seen it done--especially in fantasy--I'll want to avoid doing it myself. Yet, I do want to write fantasy that FEELS like fantasy, and has the resonance of magic, wonder, and grand scope that made me fall in love with the genre. It's a fine line to walk!
Getting more specifically to the question, there are several things I think I do very well. I like to do a very intensively deep third person viewpoint, which really lets me get inside my character's heads. So, I've been told that I can draw some very sympathetic characters. Hrathen--the antagonist from ELANTRIS--is an example of this. I also like to develop plots that build slowly, with lots of twisting pieces, that come to dramatic (hopefully surprising!) conclusions. People who know me have affectionately called this the 'Brandon Avalanche', referring to the section of my books where everything starts to fall apart and comes together at the same time.
(Of course, both of these 'strengths' can be weaknesses too, if you look at them the right way. For instance, some people find that my method of plotting too slow at the beginning and too rushed at the ending--there tends to be a lull in my books at about page 200. As for the characters, I've sometimes had complaints from readers that one character speaks so well to them that they become disinterested in the other viewpoints by comparison!)