Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why I Like Brandon Sanderson

Those of you unfamiliar with the fantasy genre (or books in general) probably have never heard of Brandon Sanderson.  Those who are probably have heard of him the same way I have: He's the guy who's finishing the Wheel of Time series. 

For many of you that may not mean much, but I can say this: I enjoy reading his books.  His books are thoroughly engaging, manage to stand on their own even when part of a series, and for the size of the books (general fantasy fare, roundabout a thousand pages) I don't usually feel like I'm reading a huge epic.  He manages to keep things interesting, and I've found that the way he writes manages to be very comfortable and transparent.

But enough about that, what I want to talk about today is a planned 10-book series of which the first is due out in August.  The Way of Kings.

 But I don't really want to talk about the book itself (yet,) what I want to talk about is everything surrounding it.

The book industry is having a heyday with this.  As you can see on the cover, #1 New York Times Best Selling Author is advertised, the name Brandon Sanderson takes up a good fourth of the cover, the Industry is hyping this thing up to be the next Wheel of Time, the next Lord of the Rings.

The author, however, has a different view:
My editor, bless his heart, compared THE WAY OF KINGS to DUNE and LORD OF THE RINGS in the catalogue copy that he wrote. He’s a wonderful man, but I cringe when any new book is compared to masterworks like those. DUNE and LotR have proven themselves over decades, passing the test of time. They had monumental influences on their respective genres.

No new novel has the right to claim such a comparison out of the gate. If you go into KINGS expecting the next LORD OF THE RINGS or DUNE, you will be disappointed. I am not Tolkien or Herbert. I am what I am—a largely unproven writer still in the early days of his career.

Early in my drafting process for this book, I fell into some traps by putting too much weight upon the future of this novel. I began to think that KINGS would be the book that would define my solo career, and I began to worry (with all of the recent eyes that have been watching me) that this book needed to be something incredibly jaw-dropping and earth-shattering, otherwise it would be a failure.

That’s a bad way to be thinking as you write a book, and probably an even worse way to be thinking as you start reading a book. The Wheel of Time didn’t start to really make its mark until book three or four; it was the same for Harry Potter. Series like this take time to build. Beyond that, you can’t go into a series with the mind-set that it needs to be a huge blockbuster to be successful.

I’m not sure what I want people to think about this book. I want them to read it, enjoy it, and say nice things about it. I want them to anticipate it and talk about it on blogs, waiting for the day it is released. But in the end, it’s just a book. Let’s not hype this thing to death.

This is the sort of thing that gains my respect.  Mr. Sanderson isn't full of himself as many 'artists' are. He sees himself as an author just starting to make his mark.  He sees his books as just that: Books. 

When he was selected to finish off the Wheel of Time series he acted in a similarly humble manner.  He didn't take what is quite frankly the opportunity of a lifetime for himself, for money or his own vainglory, but for the fans.

Brandon Sanderson writes for the love of the craft, he writes so that people can have fun reading his books.  He writes for all the right reasons.

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