As we reported earlier, Brandon Sanderson is on tour in Europe this month. One of our staff members, Thomas C., was able to attend the signing and give us this official report from Saturday's signing at Forbidden Planet bookstore in London. Brandon's next official stop is Paris, France.
Finally! After over seven years of being a member of Dragonmount, I finally got a perk! And that perk was being sat next to Brandon Sanderson at his recent book signing at the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London on Saturday 4th June 2011. And this I believe was his first book signing in the country – and hopefully it won’t be the last!
Arriving at the store about half an hour before the schedule 1pm start, my girlfriend (a member of the forums that goes by the username North Star) and I were taken backstage to meet the team involved with the book signing. There we saw Brandon Sanderson updating his Twitter status to say that he was finally in the UK! My girlfriend was cheeky and got one of her copies of the Mistborn books signed, as well as one for a friend.
It was at this point that we got an understanding of the plan for the day. Brandon Sanderson wanted to start the book signing with a reading that seemed to have caught the store’s staff off guard as they hadn’t planned for it! What was meant to be a reading of about 5 minutes was nearer to ten, but I am sure the fans wouldn’t complain, even if they had to stand! And I think the store were surprised at the number of fans who turned up – at the start, it was probably around the 75 mark, and was definitely a lot more by the end of the book signing.
Brandon Sanderson decided to read some unpublished material from his forthcoming book The Alloy of Law, a fourth book for the Mistborn trilogy. And before you jump up and down about a trilogy only having three books, this is a Mistborn novel, and is set 300 years after the end of the trilogy. Brandon Sanderson said that while the magic was the same, he wanted to take it into an industrial age. He did point out that it would not be steampunk, but would have that feel to it. At some stage in the future, he would like to do a sci-fi series based in the Mistborn world.
Spoilers for Mistborn: The Alloy of Law
Brandon Sanderson read from chapter 1 of the book, which focuses on the character Waxillium Ladrian. The passage focused on Waxillium getting an unexpected meeting from someone related to an incident that happened six months ago. He was back in the city, having put his guns down and focusing on trade. And that incident was a tragedy when chasing a psychopath in a Wild Wild West environment that affected Waxillium on the inside. It sounded intriguing, and I am sure Mistborn fans can’t wait!
End of spoilers.
After the reading, Sanderson went to the floor for an open question and answer session before the book signing session. The question and answer session covered both the Wheel of Time and Brandon Sanderson’s books, and had a total of 12 questions. From these questions, I will pick the highlights from this.
The second question focused on the release date of A Memory of Light, the final book in the series. Sanderson answered that it would in 2012, probably between March and November, but more likely to be towards the end of the year. The reason for this is because Harriet had requested more time to edit the book as she felt the previous books were rushed, hence the typos. During the book signing stage, Sanderson also revealed that his re-read of the Wheel of Time was another reason.
Questions also focused on Sanderson’s books, so I will have to put some of those in. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet, but I have heard nothing but good reviews. I will get their eventually! I made a start by buying the first two parts of the first book of the Mistborn trilogy! Fans wanted to know when the next book in the Way of Kings series would be out. Sanderson confirmed this would be after the last Wheel of Time book was published.
At this stage, I must point out that I am extremely impressed in the way that Sanderson juggles so many different series at the same time. And this leads nicely to the answer to question eight, which wanted to know how Sanderson kept track of all his series! He admitted he has a scatterbrain approach at times, which meant he constantly lost things, for example, keys. However, he never forgot stories, and has some stored in his brain from over a decade ago. He also pointed out that he works to the policy of having one book being revision, one being written and one at the planning stage.
The sixth question was a good one. The questioner wanted to know Sanderson’s view on working to deadlines and meeting publisher’s demands. Basically, the question looked at quality versus timing. Sanderson made it clear that he never comprised on the writing. If there were to be any shortcuts, it was more likely to be in the proofreading stage.
As pointed out earlier, I hadn’t read any of Sanderson’s work outside of the Wheel of Time. But question nine got me really interested. They wanted to know if there was a connection between all of Sanderson’s books (excluding the Wheel of Time). Sanderson confirmed there was a link between the different universes, and that there was a character that appeared in them all. So basically, he suggested his readers keep an eye out for this and more details will be revealed...
The twelfth and final question returned to the Wheel of Time and wanted to know if there were any plans for prequels and outriggers. From the point of view as a fan, Sanderson said “yes”, he would love there to be something like this. But from the point of view of the person in charge of Robert Jordan’s legacy, it was a “no”. It felt as if they would be capitalising on Jordan’s name. When the question was raised during the book signing, Sanderson rated it at about a 5% chance of happening. So probably very unlikely one then. From my own view, I think this is fair. The series needs to be completed before anything like this is considered – and this is an opinion that Sanderson expressed as well. But don’t rule it out – just look at Terry Goodkind. I am pretty certain Goodkind said he wouldn’t write in his Sword of Truth world once Confessor was finished. But a new book, The Omen Machine, is coming out shortly and is set in the world of Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell. Only time will tell...
It was time to move onto the book signing, and because of the numbers, which continued to swell, Sanderson said he was happy to stay until about 3:30pm to 4pm. It was at this point that Sanderson stated that he would personalise a couple of books (this definitely got ignored!). He also had a small dig at the likes of Amazon, which reduced the price of books, but didn’t allow for book signings – something that gives book stores an advantage.
The event then moved onto the book signing itself. I really wished I had kept a count of how many people turned up. Overall, I would say it was well over 100, if not nearer 150. It might have been many more! So, a great success. British fans came from all over the country, with Ipswich and Norwich to the East, York and Durham to the north, Wales to the west and of course London and the south. Europe was also represented, with fans coming from the Netherlands (where I gather there was an impromptu meet when Sanderson got delayed with his flights) and Sweden. I can’t see Sanderson dodging Scandinavia again, as I got the impression the Oslo signing was a huge success. Special mention must go to the American fans that turned up as well.
A whole range of books appeared to be signed, coming from Sanderson’s series and the books he has written in the Wheel of Time series. The most surprising book to appear was an advance reading copy (ARC) of The Way of Kings. Sanderson advised the owner of this book to look after it well, considering that some ARC can fetch a small fortune!
Sanderson invited those getting books signed to ask any questions they had. I made loads of notes relating to these, but I will focus more on some, and then summarise the rest. Otherwise, this report would be massive!
Sanderson has sold the film rights for the Mistborn trilogy. I believe this is common knowledge. What I believe is not common knowledge is that Sanderson has read the screenplay and is extremely pleased with it. All that is needed is a studio... Also, the series should appear as three films.
Question of the day went to the guy who asked Sanderson if he could be a soup, what kind of soup he would be! Sanderson confirmed he would be a potato chowder but without the clams! Sanderson said he now had an answer to the question that asked him what was the strangest question he had ever been asked! It was definitely a curveball of a question, and got everyone laughing!
Sanderson talked about his plans while in London. His wife was currently in London trying to find tickets for a show tonight and early next week. He had asked his fans via Twitter what he should see. On the Sunday, he planned to visit some of London’s free museums. I also got the impression he was off to Guildford for another book signing down there, and a few fans admitted they would see him again! To which Sanderson said he would find a new passage to read!
A few questions covered the Wheel of Time being turned into a movie. Universal have the rights to the turn the first book, The Eye of the World, into a film. One fan asked if Sanderson would like a cameo role in the film. Sanderson said he would love a role, even if he was getting eaten by a Trolloc. I hope Universal take note of this!
Sanderson confirmed that there would an update for the companion book, The World of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, lovingly known as the Big White Book. This would be in the form of an encyclopaedia, and contain much more information. A proposed date for this release would be about one year after A Memory of Light.
One fan asked what Sanderson felt was the main difference in the writing style between himself and Jordan. Sanderson felt Jordan was a better prose craftsman, which I agree with. The other difference was in the action scenes. Jordan had lived through battles as he was a Vietnam veteran, whereas Sanderson went more for a cinematic approach. I will look out for this on my next re-read!
Several fans wanted to know how Sanderson felt about picking up the baton and continuing the Wheel of Time series. He felt daunted to begin with, mainly over the fear of not doing a good enough job. He knows it isn’t perfect (like how Jordan would have written it), but he has loved the challenged – and I am sure us fans do like what he has done. He was initially surprised at the hardcore nature of Wheel of Time fans. He jokingly viewed himself as a stepfather to the fans! I got the impression that Sanderson was blown away by the level of detail and research Jordan undertook for the mythologies etc behind the books. He said there were shelves and shelves of textbooks on the mythology, and Harriet was able to pick the necessary books should he need to do some background or further reading.
Sanderson had an interesting discussion with one fan (I gathered he was a keen writer) over the merits of e-publishing. I didn’t even know such a concept existed! Sanderson felt this worked well for those who wrote quickly and also wrote shorter series. For those who wrote longer series, these people were better off with a publisher. Sanderson gave a good plan for someone who wanted to use e-publishing with regards to selling a short trilogy. He said that the first book should be about $0.99 with a good blog to get people interested. Then, the two remaining books should be sold for about $2.99. And if you could over 20,000 copies electronically, he felt a publisher would give you serious consideration.
One fan happened to have the same t-shirt on as Sanderson. It was a grey t-shirt, with dovie'andi se tovya sagain (“it's time to toss the dice”) and a red hand on it. As Social Group Leader of the Band of the Red Hand, I felt extremely jealous. I think I am now on the lookout for one! [Editor's note: Those shirts are for sale from Ta'veren Tees, an officially licensed t-shirt production company.]
After the sad and untimely death in 2006 of David Gemmell, a bestselling British fantasy author, a series of awards were set up in his name as a legacy in 2008 – the David Gemell Legend Awards. The top award for this is the Legend Award for the Best Fantasy novel. Brandon Sanderson is nominated in this award category twice – once for The Way of Kings, and secondly for the Towers of Midnight with Robert Jordan. The announcement of the winner is on 17th June 2011, and Brandon was disappointed not be in Europe at the time of the award. But I am sure we all wish him the best of luck in the category!
Now, after those lengthy detailed insight into questions, time now for some summaries of other key points raised...
- Bela survives!
- Sanderson admitted he was one of four people who knew the ending that Jordan had written for the Wheel of Time. And I think I can put money on who the other three are...
- One fan got Sanderson to do his signature on their iPad, which led to the representative from Forbidden Planet getting a picture of this! Sanderson was extremely impressed with how his signature turned out!
- Sanderson revealed some of his favourite scenes from the Wheel of Time – Rand at Rhuidean; Nynaeve and Lan when she overcame her block; and Perrin and the Siege of the Two Rivers
- Sanderson admitted that there were landscapes/settings that he moved around his universes until he was sure that they fitted properly.
- There were definitely a lot of questions relating to detailed parts of Sanderson’s non-Wheel of Time work. While I did make notes, my lack of knowledge of these works would mean I would probably make mistakes. So apologies for not covering that in greater detail.
Sadly, no-one dressed up. Sanderson did get a few gifts. A fan from Wales had brought along a Dalek keyring. One fan had written his name down on a piece of paper, gave it to his sister who gave it to Sanderson to hopefully use in a future book. One had written a letter to Sanderson, which he would read later.
Once all fans had been and gone, a few hung back. While getting his books signed, one fan, Matt, had bought his Magic: The Gathering cards along with him and mentioned this to Brandon Sanderson, who admitted that they might play at the end of the signing if time allowed. Matt returned, and both Sanderson and Matt played a quick game in the store. From what I gathered (as I don’t know much about the game), Matt seemed to make a good start, then Sanderson pulled out an ace card and Matt lost in three moves! Matt didn’t seem to mind – I think the experience of playing a game with Sanderson was far more important!
At the end of the signing, the staff from Forbidden Planet felt it had been one of their more successful book signings. Personally, I agree with that. I put that down to the fact that this was Sanderson’s first time in the UK, and I don’t there had ever been a Wheel of Time related event like this here either. I do hope those involved in the Wheel of Time series and Sanderson’s team take note of this – there is a huge fan base over here in Europe just waiting for you! The Towers of Midnight tour was a huge success in North America – there is no reason why something similar for A Memory of Light wouldn’t work in Europe!
And finally, I would like to thank Jennifer for giving myself and my girlfriend the chance to attend and for our special access. And I would also like to thank all the fans that took the time to come to the signing – without you, it wouldn’t have been a success!
There is a gallery of pictures relating to the day under the gallery section of the website. I apologise to Matt - I do have the picture of you playing Magic: The Gathering with Brandon Sanderson, but the picture is too big to upload. If you do drop by the site, drop me a message and I will send it over to you!