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Bonus Storm Leader Report: Microsoft

Guest Jason


We're pleased to bring you an unexpected BONUS Storm Leader report from Seattle, Washington, the home of computer giant Microsoft. Brian T. Hill, a Microsoft employee and big fan of Brandon's, was kind enough to send us this report only hours after the event. Thanks, Brian! Consider yourself an honorary Storm Leader. We'll get you and your son a t-shirt.


Report by Brian T. Hill


I’m not really a Storm Leader, but I kind of played the part today. Sanderson said I should go ahead and send a report. You see, Brandon Sanderson made an extra stop today that wasn’t publically advertised on his Book Tour. It was my great pleasure to host Sanderson at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. As so many people have already mentioned, Sanderson is gracious and generous. He kindly accepted my invitation to add one more event to his already busy schedule and visit with us.


Sanderson came to Microsoft directly from the airport. Though we’ve had plenty of rain lately and the forecast shows nothing but rain all week, the sun came out and the day was beautiful. Sanderson said that in his dozen visits to the Seattle area, he has never seen it rain here. We then told him to come more often! Anyway, traffic cooperated and we had time for a quick lunch before his lecture. He and his media escort joined me, my wife, my son, and several coworkers at a restaurant here on Microsoft’s campus. Conversation was friendly and relaxed. Brandon told us he’s on week four of his tour. At the end of the week, he gets to go home and resume his regular schedule. I can tell he’s looking forward to it.


There has already been so much coverage of Sanderson’s book tour that I don’t want to repeat things that have been said many times. It was obvious that Brandon has heard the same questions over and over again. I thought I had come up with a new question when I asked what his Ward Calling (at Church) is. Nope, he’s been asked that before. It turns out that he and his wife co-teach the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class.


My son asked a question that Sanderson had heard before, but not yet on this tour. My son asked what was the “Mistborn bead†made of and what would happen if an Allomancer burned it. Sanderson said it was made of Larasium, the opposite of atium. If an Allomancer burned it, it would double the Allomancer’s power. Hmm… Larasium… So Preservation is Laras, right? Does that mean Preservation is the Mistress of the Kitchens? Aha, but no. Sanderson says it’s not spelled the same. So I guess I should make that Leras and Lerasium? I guess I should have asked what the correct spelling is.


I asked Sanderson if he ever found anything (of Jordan’s) that he didn’t agree with. He didn’t mention any specifics, but he did said that things don’t always go the way he would have done them. He indicated that although he has “complete creative license,†he is very careful to do things Jordan’s way because it is, after all, Jordan’s story. He will never change a thing just because of his personal preference, but he might have to change something if it would have a detrimental effect on the storytelling. Again, no specifics, but his respect and even reverence for Jordan was interesting to see.


After lunch, we headed to our Conference Center where we had a room reserved. We got there right on time (okay, maybe a minute late) and there were 100 people waiting for us. I had meant to record the session, but I got flustered trying to start right on time as soon as I walked in, that I forgot to start the recorder. Anyway, I gave a brief introduction, thanking the University Book Store in Seattle for bringing Brandon Sanderson to town. Then I turned it right over to our guest of honor.


I had asked Brandon to tell the same story he always tells, about discovering Jordan’s books, reading them while growing up, becoming a writer, learning of Jordan’s death, getting the call from Harriet, and stepping behind the curtain. Sure, I’ve read the blog and the Storm Leader reports, but not everybody has, so I wanted them to hear it. So, Sanderson launched into the story. I won’t repeat it here, but I will say that it was so much better hearing him tell it in person. I don’t think there was anything new for me, but he made it come alive in a way that I didn’t get from his blog or from other people’s reports. If you have a chance to hear him tell the story in person, take it!


Oh, there was one thing that I hadn’t heard him say before. He switched his college major to English, but he told our audience that if they were considering becoming writers, an English major was not a requirement. He described the irony of Creative Writing classes: that they don’t teach people how to write. He explained that people will write a segment and then the instructor will provide feedback. Or maybe a group of students will collectively give feedback. Then the author will revise and repeat. What Sanderson had always wanted them to do was teach the students how to develop a good plotline, how to write sympathetic characters, how to build believable settings, and so on.


Sanderson spoke for 35 or 40 minutes and then took a few questions. Somebody asked about his movies. Mistborn is in the hands of a producer. The producer is busy working on a screenplay, which he will then take and shop around Hollywood. Sanderson indicated that this is a bit of a long shot. Lots of movies never get past this stage. Meanwhile, Dreamworks Animation has the rights to Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians. Sanderson said that there was a lot of excitement and activity at the beginning, but he hasn’t heard anything for a while. The option runs out next year or so. Maybe something will happen before then and maybe not.


Somebody said they thought The Gathering Storm matched the previous books really well and asked about the similarities (and differences) in writing styles between Sanderson and Jordan. Sanderson explained that he had not tried to match Jordan’s prose. He thought that would end up sounding silly or mocking. If he tried, all the characters would end up standing around with their arms folded beneath their breasts, sniffing at one another and tugging on their braids. Instead, he concentrated on just making the characters true to their previous appearances. If he succeeded, it’s because he was so comfortable with them and he knew them so well, having read the series eight times and followed it since he was himself a teenager. He said there is a big difference in their writing styles when it comes to battle scenes. Sanderson likes to write large, cinematic scenes, while Jordan liked to write more gritty, chaotic perspectives. He said this speaks to Jordan’s experiences in Vietnam.


Somebody wanted to know whether the Asmodean mystery would be answered in Towers of Midnight or if we’d have to wait until Memory of Light. RAFO on that one.


Were there any big surprises for Sanderson? There were several, but he only mentioned one. He said he was very surprised by Egwene’s visitor in The Gathering Storm. I guess he was trying not to drop a spoiler, but one of the benefits of being near the end of the book tour is that I had time to finish reading the book, so I knew what he meant.


After a few questions, he stopped to sign books. Not everybody had brought one, but plenty of people did. He answered questions directly posed to him. I didn’t hear all of them, but I overheard him mention Jain Farstrider, so I threw in another question of my own: Was Noal Charin lying about being Jain Farstrider’s cousin? Sanderson looked thoughtful for moment, then said he couldn’t answer it. He then added that we’d have to RAFO.


He mentioned some stuff about an Elantris sequel, a second Mistborn trilogy, and the Way of Kings. He also mentioned his super-powers viruses idea. I think this has all been discussed elsewhere, so I won’t rehash it here. Except I didn’t realize he has an entire new trilogy to add onto Mistborn. I had only heard him talk about a single-book sequel before.


This visit by Brandon Sanderson didn’t add a lot of insight to the nagging mysteries, but it was great to hear him in person. I’ve read a lot of reports (like this one), but seeing his enthusiasm and magnetism in person is quite different. It was a great experience.


Brian T. Hill


PS: I’m attaching a photo of Brandon Sanderson posing with me and my son. We are standing in front of a section of the Berlin Wall, which was donated to Bill Gates and now sits in the Microsoft Conference Center.

[url="http://www.dragonmount.com/News/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/100_1728.jpg">Brandon visits Microsoft


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