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Storm Leader Report: Lexington, KY

Guest Jason


This is the twelth of our Storm Leader reports we'll be posting throughout the U.S. book tour for The Gathering Storm, Warbreaker, readandfindout.com. I met Bradley first, of Elizabethtown and Theoryland. Then Mark from Tennessee and Dragonmount. Finally, Ben and Shannan from Cincinnati and 33a8c0a398a0f6c3dac41210.L.png

We proceeded as a group (Brian Delambre, Storm Leaders, Brandon and Harriet) up to the bistro attached to the bookstore for our six o’clock dinner. A group photo was taken at the dinner table which I do not have yet to share, as it was not my camera. I don’t know about the other Storm Leaders, but I had so many questions I wanted to ask and it was always tough to find a break in conversation for them. Above all, you didn’t want to be rude and interrupt, plus you wanted to make sure everyone had equal time to freely converse. I’ll address what questions I successfully managed to ask at the end of the report, along with those asked by others at the Q&A and signing. When Brandon’s upcoming novel The Way of Kings came up, I managed to interject how it was wotmaniac David Wood who had submitted the false cover for his long-listed but never available book, and that we had all enjoyed submitting fake reviews for it (given that it has yet to ever be released or read).


For those who aren’t aware, Brandon Sanderson is challenging Dragonmount’s Jason Denzel to a Magic: the Gathering Game. Fans have been supplying Brandon with packs of Magic cards to help him out in his card battle. Storm Leader Bradley presented Brandon with a couple packs to help him out. Later a fan in the signing line also gives Brandon a pack. The big surprise though was when Brian Delambre, who used to be a dealer, pulled out a totebag full of binders and boxes of massive amounts of Magic cards. Brandon is going to have a hell of a lot of cards to build his deck with. The stakes are rumored to be a Trolloc appearing in one of the last two books named after Jason. It would be the first named Trolloc since Eye of the World’s Narg.


After dinner, we all went down to the signing area, a large columned room with seating in an arc around a fountain with a stage at its center. I was immediately struck by the sheer amount of people waiting as we descended the escalator. Yes, I had helped set up the chairs, but to actually see all those chairs filled with people, as well as the many standing, was quite a sight to behold. We estimated attendance numbers to be north of two-hundred.


I’m sure many of you are familiar with Robert Jordan’s traditional opener for his signing appearances. He would always open by reciting the proper pronunciations for all the many names, places and unique items in the Wheel of Time. Brandon’s opening ten minutes of this tour feature him relating to everyone how he came to be standing there today, as the author chosen to complete Jordan’s Wheel of Time. He began at the very beginning with how he got into the genre to begin with. Because of the often massive tomes in Fantasy, he referred to the genre as having more pages for your money than any other. Each book had real weight. “It’s great when you’ve found something you love, and there’s a lot of it,†he said. The book that first grabbed him was Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane, which is currently out of print, but sure to be found at most second hand bookstores. Brandon first read Eye of the World in 1990, and a scattering of hands went up from those who had also been fans since the beginning. When Brandon was selling his book and got the offer from Tor, it was suggested he wait and see if he got a higher offer from another publisher. But for Brandon, Tor was Robert Jordan’s publisher, and when Tor wants you, “you don’t say no.â€


As most people know, Brandon’s Mistborn book and his eulogy of Robert Jordan on his website were a large part of Harriet selecting him as the author to bring WoT to its conclusion. He awoke at noon one day ~ “I keep a writer’s schedule,†he says ~ and there was a voicemail from Harriet asking to talk with him. He claimed that she’d read only 40pgs of Mistborn before deciding on him. Brandon spoke with such humility when he discussed how he “cannot be as good†as Robert Jordan was and he only took the job because, as a fan and a writer who really loves the WoT characters, he believed “I would screw it up the least.â€


After Brandon’s introduction, Harriet McDougal read from the prologue to The Gathering Storm. She began at page 44 and read the segment featuring Masema and Faile’s interaction that follows the rescue at Malden. It may have simply been my own perspective, but there seemed an unintended extra weight to Faile’s line, “Sometimes, a wife must do what her husband cannot,†when read by Harriet, Jordan’s widow. For some reason, when Harriet speaks those words, it feels as if she too is doing what she must, because Jim no longer can.


Following Harriet’s reading, Brandon took questions from the audience. He was asked, as he often is, how much material Jordan supplied before passing. How much of the book was his. Brandon indicated that it is very difficult to pick apart. He insisted it is a true collaboration that is 100% Jordan with “some of me, too.†Jordan’s notes are not a neat little outline, he explained. The computer files of notes consist of some four million words. Brandon took another moment to be humble and self-deprecating before continuing; although he did indicate it was possible once the series was complete there might be some annotation indicating which moments were the brainchild of whom.


Concerning the prequels, it was stated that Jordan had signed contracts for two additional prequels (other than New Spring), that would feature Tam’s story and possibly Lan and Moiraine’s journey to the Two Rivers. Regarding the often rumored Outrigger novels, they are still undecided. Harriet expressed horror at the thought of “Wheel of Time†becoming like a Star Wars-like thing with an expanded universe of excessive amounts of novels. She felt Jordan would come back to get her if she allowed that to happen. She quoted Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler†and said that “You’ve got to know when to hold `em and know when to fold `em.†And it’s hard to know when that moment is. For those wondering, Harriet holds the copyright to the “Wheel of Time†series and Tor cannot make novels without her say-so. It was also mentioned that a new Encyclopedia is under contract and should be seen a year or so after the last book in the series.


When asked which Brandon’s favorite characters to write were, he revealed it be Egwene. He also mentioned that Rand was often a pain to write rather than a pleasure given his mood now, although that might change as those of you who’ve read the book know. For Brandon’s third choice, he picked Aviendha. However, he also considered her the most difficult character to write. He largely laid that blame on her being Aiel and Aiel being “weirdâ€. He said that she’s not just Aiel, but seems to be actively trying to be Aiel, while surrounded by these wetlanders whose ways she finds so alien. Most Aiel simply are Aiel, but Aviendha seems to be making an effort to become what she should naturally be. He also said that he wrote at least two chapters of Aviendha that were thrown away until he got her right, one of which even Harriet had never read.


For those who were unable to ask about spoilers or refrained from likely RAFO answers, simple comments included those with an inability to tell the differences between what Jordan might have written and what Brandon might have written. Brandon was very flattered by this. He mentioned online comments that people had complained that Brandon’s chapter titles weren’t at all like Jordan’s chapter titles. Little did they know, he explained, that almost every chapter title in the series has been named by Harriet.


Finally, the Q&A deviated from WoT when a gentleman asked about Sanderson’s new novel Warbreaker. He thanked the man for pimping his book and told him “your check is the mail.†The tour is actually a combined book tour for Brandon, promoting both The Gathering Storm and Warbreaker. The latter is a standalone novel. He revealed that he wrote a book that featured a magic system based on colors because someone suggested he write a more “colorful†book.


Back to the topic of WoT, Brandon and Harriet were both asked their favorite quotes or passages. Brandon’s favorite quote was “Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.†His favorite passages were the prologue to Eye of the World and Rand’s experiences in Rhuidean. Harriet’s favorite quote was “Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain.â€


After Q&A, we moved to the signing area. Brandon requested a water that was half-hot chocolate because it helped him retain his voice. Brandon’s rules were three personalizations or one personalization and just signatures on the rest of the stack (if there were many books). People were allowed to return to the end of the line if they needed more than three personalizations. Brandon admitted a love for independent bookstores, particularly those which could do signings as grand as ours. Harriet stated that Joseph-Beth was one of the world’s great bookstores. We Storm Leaders were stationed as book stuffers, picture takers, mailing list keepers, book prep (post-it with name and signing page marked), and note taking. Everyone got bookmarks and Brandon’s recs with their books and we tried to get promotional materials to people in line.


Before anyone came forward, I took a couple of pictures of just Brandon and Harriet. Harriet stole this opportunity to give herself moose ears. My slow camera caught it mostly in blur, but I appreciated it. She was very friendly, personable and sweet. The first oddity I noticed was the number of readers of Sanderson’s Alcatraz series of Young Adult Fantasy. The Alcatraz series is a humorous light-hearted action series about Evil Librarians, a cult who secretly rules the world. There were several children present, even as late as it was. There was also a pregnant couple whose child was years away from reading that wanted the Alcatraz books to be among the first their child would read. Several people mentioned they were buying them as Christmas presents. A few librarians came through the line to profess a love of the series. Brandon’s reaction to librarians is a lot like what some people display to those who have served in the armed forces. He lets them know what a fondness he has for those in the profession and thanks them for their service.


One fan seemed underwhelmed with the Seanchan raid against the White Tower and asked if it had originally been intended as a truly epic battle. Sanderson said that it was always intended to be a raid.


When asked about Rand’s new sword, Brandon acknowledged that most people assume it is Artur Hawkwing’s and that Rand had last seen it at Falme in The Great Hunt. Brandon did not outright declare this to be true, but he did agree that the logic makes sense.


Brandon, who is of the Latter Day Saints faith, was asked how he keeps his theology out of his books. He answers that a writer should not ram his ideology down the reader’s throats. A good writer, he says, should present multiple perspectives and beliefs through his characters writing all arguments with equal strength, lest they carry less weight. He then says that Robert Jordan was once quoted saying “I love when my books ask questions, I do not want to give answers.†Another visitor also comments on Brandon’s faith, praising that he’s one of the only LDS authors he’s read where you can’t tell his faith through his writing.


One interesting bit of trivia that came up during the signing was that Brandon and former Jeopardy! wiz Ken Jennings were college roommates. He said that he’s just like he seems on TV, a wryly witty guy.


A fan asked Brandon how he found time to sleep with all his writing and the fact that he also teaches (writing). Brandon admitted that he writes compulsively, but he actually only teaches a couple of months during the year, one night a week. Another fan who asked about the schedule prompted Brandon to offer that if the fan was ever in Provo in January to April, he could send him an email and sit in and listen to Brandon’s class on some Thursday night.


It was revealed during the Q&A that Harriet was the editor of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, as many fans know. There was at least one fan in the line that brought a copy of the book for Harriet to sign. A few others expressed regret at not bringing their copies.


It was great seeing so many people there for different books. Many were buying them for brothers, sisters, friends, children and other family members. One father and daughter stepped forward whose whole family read and loved the Mistborn trilogy. When he asked how his daughter could get a job just reading books for a living, Brandon suggested becoming a book reviewer or editor. Though he warned you might have to read a lot of really bad books.


Brandon took a moment during the signing to point out how excited his brother, whose name is Jordan, had been when he discovered that holding up the book with your hand half–obscuring the cover revealed “Jordan Sanderson†as the author. He also paused to explain his upcoming Way of Kings as the opposite of all those novels where magic is dying or leaving, in that it revolved around magic arriving/returning in a magical renaissance.


A fan that asked Harriet if she considered any other author to finish the “Wheel of Time†received the answer he expected in that she had, but would not name the other candidates. She went on to say that Brandon was an easy choice.


One visitor who came through the line for a signature had actually crafted a pen for Brandon as a gift. Harriet and Brandon were both amazed at the present. Another man had his adorable daughter in a “Daddy’s Little Amyrlin†t-shirt.


A girl in a Wando Warriors t-shirt surprised Harriet when Harriet recognized the high school from Mt Pleasant, SC. Brandon was very personable in saying people’s names in greeting as he signed them and prompting them for questions if they seemed quiet. Many seemed flustered as if the thought of what to ask had fled their head. Others didn’t want to know any more than they could read as it was published. A few held theirs back knowing they’d get a RAFO. It was charming watching the occasional “Thank you†/ “Thank you†battle between very grateful fans and the equally thankful Brandon and Harriet.






A nervous boy, who had his Alcatraz books signed, told Brandon that he’d written a book report in school about The Evil Librarians. Brandon seemed delighted by that. The boy also had a book signed for his friend. One woman wore an entertaining t-shirt which read “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons… for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.â€





When asked about writing tips from various aspiring authors, Brandon always made sure to suggest his podcast about advice for writers. He also confided that he had written 13-15 books himself before selling one. The address for his podcast is: http://www.brandonsanderson.com/blog/808/Annotations--Writing-Excuses


A question about Mat’s behavior in TGS prompted Brandon to reveal that Jordan’s notes had clearly stated “Mat insists he will not be husbandly†and Mat is struggling with trying to return to his old self while dealing with the new stresses of love and marriage.


One local author came to the signing with a writing sample for Harriet and asked what it would take to let him write the prequels. Harriet commented that they weren’t certain they were going to do them at all, but she graciously took his page. She also explained the issue with her name where she is Harriet McDougal professionally and Harriet Rigney privately (James Oliver Rigney is Robert Jordan’s real name, for those unaware).



A fan with a full collection of signed “Wheel of Time†hardcovers (including the Big White Book) came to have Harriet sign the whole stack. Brandon commented that he (Charles Saylor) now might be the only person he knows of that has the entire collection signed by both Robert Jordan and his widow Harriet.





A special treat for Brandon arrived when a young couple stepped up to the table wearing the necklaces of his Elantris characters Raoden and Sarene. They had exchanged them for Valentine’s Day. Brandon was thrilled and immediately asked for a picture of them. The necklaces can be purchased at this website.


I asked Brandon which WoT websites he peeked at. He said that he tries not to go to them for fear of being drawn into discussions. He said that if he goes anywhere, it’s usually Dragonmount. To Matt of Theorland who said to say “Hiâ€, Brandon says “RAFOâ€. When I asked him about my old home of wotmania, he said that he had been there and they seemed to like to argue a lot. I had to concede that.


At the end of it all, we (both fans and Storm Leaders alike) were all very grateful for Brandon’s visit and thankful for his work finishing the “Wheel of Timeâ€. We also felt especially privileged for our time with Harriet, as not all the signings were blessed with her presence and she really is wonderful. There were fans in attendance that had driven five hours or more from neighboring states, one military veteran taking time from his retirement in Puerto Rico and even a woman from Wisconsin who appeared to be the only one dressed as a character. There were brand new fans and fans who’d been reading WoT since 1990. We sold a great many books and had a fun time.


Below are some of the additional facts/snippets/details I picked up while taking notes throughout the evening.

  • This is perhaps old hat by now, but Brandon has coined new term MAFO referring to Maria, one of the fact handlers behind Wheel of Time. She sometimes wears a RAFO hat and tips it for Brandon when he can’t give someone an answer.
  • Brandon’s introduction to Fantasy came by way of three female authors: Barbara Hambly, Anne McCaffrey, and I missed the third (sorry).
  • Brandon said there would be a sequel trilogy to Mistborn and also a short story spin-off that would likely be posted online.
  • Harriet indicated that the Bloodwrasps mentioned in TGS is not a typo of Bloodwasps and is a new thing we haven’t seen yet.
  • Brandon says of the five Redarms that enter Hinderstap with Mat that the three that seem unaccounted for when everyone else escapes are not “forgotten†and their circumstances are RAFO. He also said that he appreciates the finding of continuity errors so that they can be corrected before books go to paperback, but they are an unavoidable part of the business. He doesn’t like when authors ignore continuity on purpose, but understands accidents.
  • pic19.jpg
    Brandon hinted at some severe limitations on Shaidar Haran to affect the physical world. He says that a lot of actions that people assume to be those of Shaidar Haran in the book in one particular scene were physically carried out by Elza. He further indicated that Shadar Haran would have been incapable of physically placing the collar himself.
  • Brandon admitted there would be overlapping chronology between The Gathering Storm and The Towers of Midnight and that Graendal’s name will be mentioned a few times.
  • Brandon said the progress of book completion is sometimes edited down and then up depending on the subtraction or addition of submitted content.
  • Jordan’s outline for WoT’s conclusion was about 2500 pages.
  • Brandon is a fan of Jerry Garcia ties.
  • Jordan was intentionally vague about the issue of Rand and Lews Therin’s one soul and what part madness played in the two identities.
  • Brandon’s pregnant wife is due in late Jan / early Feb.
  • When it comes to Asmodean’s death or possibility of rebirth or potential killers, Brandon seems oddly obsessed with balefire being the means of death when discussing talking points.

~Storm Leader Team~



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