Monday, February 25, 2013

Fangirling! Brandon Sanderson

Harriet McDougal and Brandon Sanderson sign books. I squee.

One of the two times I've been to Dragon*Con, I went as an Aes Sedai. If you've read the Wheel of Time series, you know what I'm talking about.

You also know Robert Jordan, the primary author, passed away before finishing the epic fantasy series. Fans were saddened by this news (understatement of the century). However, a new author was chosen to finish the series using Jordan's notes: Brandon Sanderson.

I actually picked up and read his Mistborn trilogy before I found out about that. It was fantastic. And I've liked every other book of his I've read (Warbreaker, Elantris, The Emperor's Soul, The Alloy of Time). I stopped reading the series after Jordan passed away, though, because I wanted the last books to come out before I finished (I knew I'd have to reread the whole thing anyway, so I figured rereading it all once was enough). A Memory of Light, the 14th book in the series and the long-awaited conclusion, is now out, courtesy of Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan('s in-depth notes).

So when I heard Sanderson was going to be in my state, I packed up and headed out to Quail Ridge Books to fangirl in person.

Also at the signing was Jordan's editor at Tor, and later his wife, Harriet McDougal. They spoke, and they're both good speakers.

We learned that much of the beginning and ending of the 14th book was Jordan, while the middle was mostly Sanderson. We learned Sanderson's technique for getting into the head of the characters was to read the last scenes Jordan had written from their points of view, and then show the product to McDougal, who having edited the first eleven books could advise if it was ready or needed work to be in character. We learned that McDougal could always tell whether her husband had been writing a villain or a hero just by how he walked into the room, and that Jordan had been particularly vehement against the idea of others writing in his universe--but that he'd been insistent that the series be finished. Sanderson disclosed to use which scenes in which books had been written by Jordan ahead of time and which were him (the Matt scenes in 12 were mostly Jordan but Sanderson in the next book; Perrin mostly Sanderson in 13, and so forth).
(Despite a disclaimer at the beginning in which Sanderson politely asked that no one reveal any spoilers, there was the inevitable moment when someone made a comment "But I wasn't upset when _____ died, because I didn't like the character in the first place." If you've never heard a hundred people groan in spoiler annoyance at once, it sounds like the agonized cries of marathon runners when they arrive after months of training to discover the race has been changed to a 100 meter dash. Sanderson strongly but politely reworded his request for no spoilers, which said guest, having arrived late and apparently lacking in common sense, had missed by coming in late.)
It was a fantastic talk, and could have gone on forever. However, then we would never had gotten any signed books. So we adjourned and the signing began.

While we waited for our books to be signed, the staff of the bookstore had created such amusements as a crossword puzzle, a trivia game, and a game in which the name of your character was sticky-noted onto your back, and you had to identify your character by asking those around you only yes or no questions. (I was Masema! >.>  <.<  >.> And no, I did not try to convince anyone to marry strangers.)

Quail Ridge Books does a fantastic job of signings. They're organized and have a great and efficient process in place to move fans through lines while still giving each person a chance to really talk to the authors. The store staff were great, willing to stay open late, and the volunteers (who'd entered a contest to be allowed to volunteer, and seemed to be having the time of their lives) were friendly and happy to be there.

And I was especially impressed that Sanderson took the time to point out that signers would have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat between signings (thanks to the store's system of signing and a limit of 3 books per run through the line), and he promised he wouldn't leave before 10:30. I was very impressed with how considerate he was towards his fans and also towards everyone who worked there, everyone whom he interacted with. Both he and McDougal seemed to be genuinely nice people, and so it was a pleasure to attend the signing, not just for the books but to meet them.

Also, after his talk, I think I know what inspired him to write The Emperor's Soul (which I devoured in the same day I purchased, nom-nom-nom!). I can't help but think that must be how he felt, digging through Jordan's notes, trying to recreate the work of a master. "I've learned so much," he said over and over again. "This experience has made me grow as a writer." Humble, considerate, and a great writer: it's a powerful combination.

The same goes for McDougal: funny, charismatic, and deeply devoted to her husband, I could hear her love for Jordan in her voice when she spoke, as much as the passion for the series she spent years editing. With her there, it was like Jordan was in the room as well.

I'm thrilled to gotten the chance to meet Sanderson and McDougal, and if you ever have the chance to hear either of them speak, do so. 

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