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Book review: Fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson has had quite a year

Published: Saturday, Aug. 28 2010 5:00 p.m. MDT

2010 has been a busy year for author Brandon Sanderson. With the completion of two fantasy novels and the birth of his second son, the BYU graduate, who now teaches creative writing at his alma mater, says it's been just about the hardest year of work he's ever had.

"Things have been crazy," Sanderson said in an interview with the Deseret News. "Getting in 'The Way of Kings' (Book 1 of the Stormlight Archive series) and 'Towers of Midnight' (Book 13 of the Wheel of Time series) has just about killed me. But I'm really pleased with both of the books."

For most of the year, Sanderson has been working 12- to 14-hour days, but because he writes from the basement of his American Fork home, those long hours haven't been too taxing since his schedule still allows for family time.

"Since I have no commute and things like that, it means that I can go up and spend two to three hours with my kids," the author said. "It means essentially I'm either working or playing with my son or hanging out with my wife."

Most writers have to push to get one book out in a year, but two, that takes a special drive. Sanderson says he was well aware of the pressure he'd be under, but when Tor publishing house offered to publish "The Way of Kings" between the release of the final Wheel of Time books, he couldn't say no.

Sanderson originally finished "The Way of Kings" in 2002, before he had become a published author. When he sold his first book, "Elantris," in 2003, Sanderson was asked if he had anything else. Tor thought "The Way of Kings" was too "ambitious" for a debut author and put it off.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and Sanderson is now a No.1 New York Times best-selling author.

"I knew it was going to be a lot of work," Sanderson said," but I thought this is just the perfect time to place this book, now that I have more of a name. The publisher is very pleased with what I'm doing, and that's allowed me to get away with a lot of things that maybe I wouldn't have been able to get away with at another time."

For Sanderson, getting away with things means writing a massive 1,007-page, 400,000-word novel, featuring color end pages, cover art by "the best artist in the business" Michael Whelan and 20 illustrations by Greg Call, Ben McSweeny and fellow BYU alumnus Isaac Stewart.

"The Way of Kings," which hits bookstores on Tuesday, has changed a lot since Sanderson's first go-round.

"When I finished (in 2002), I wasn't 100 percent pleased with it," the author said. "My skill wasn't up to doing a book of that scope. ... I wasn't ready for it yet. So I spent the next seven years thinking about it, continuing to work on the world, taking notes on what I wanted the plot to be.

"And when I wrote it last year, the second time, I actually started from scratch. I didn't take the old book and revise it. I just began again from Page 1 and took it to a different place. ... It's almost like a parallel novel in a lot of ways."

"The Way of Kings" is the first of 10 planned novels in the Stormlight Archive series. It's an epic undertaking that Sanderson is excited about. He's also acutely aware of the issues long series face.

"I want every (book) to have it's own arc and feel," he said. "And I'm doing some things that I think will approach that. Epic fantasy has an issue with having middle books drag in a long series, and I'm doing everything I can to consciously prevent it from happening."

Sanderson has a massive outline for all 10 books. He's been planning the series for more than 10 years and knows in very intricate detail what is going to happen to the characters and has all the climaxes built out.

Readers won't have to wait years between books, either. Sanderson will finish the final installment in the Wheel of Time series next year and release the second Stormlight Archive book in 2012. From there, he hopes to release two books in the series every three years.

"My whole heart and soul is in this book," Sanderson said. "A whole lot is riding on it, and not just in terms of sales. This is the book I've wanted to write and publish since the year 2000."

In addition to writing, Sanderson continues to teach at the Y., though not as frequently as in the past. His highly sought-after class is taught just once a year, one night a week during the winter semester. The class usually fills up in the first hour or two of registration, and it's usually filled up with people who are very dedicated to their writing or who are very interested in getting Sanderson's feedback on their work.

It seems like a heavy schedule, even compared to the one he just finished, but Sanderson loves what he does. The hardest thing about being a writer, he says, is the lack of time to write all the books that he wants to write.

"It's the best job in the world," Sanderson said. "I would happily work 14-hour days for the rest of my life if it meant I didn't have to get another job, which I would hate. I would rather work 14 hours a day at something I love than eight hours a day at something I hate."

If you go …

Who: Brandon Sanderson

What: "The Way of Kings" signing

When: Aug. 30, 11:59 p.m.-2 p.m.

Where: BYU Bookstore

Phone: 800-253-2578

Also …

When: Aug. 31, 7-9 p.m.

Where: Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Jordan Landing, 7157 Plaza Center Drive, West Jordan

Phone: 801-282-1324

Web: www.brandonsanderson.com/events

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com

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