Monday, September 17, 2012

My Accidental Lunch with Brandon Sanderson

Mark Harris & Brandon Sanderson Park City Writer's Conv. 2012
Saturday, September 15th, I attended a Writer's Conference in Park City, Utah. It was my first time at a writer's conference and I was very excited to be there. The workshops were excellent! The speakers and professionals there were helpful and friendly. And the other people attending were great too. They were my kind of people.

My daughter, Genevieve, wanted to come with me, but I couldn't afford to bring her. If I had brought her with me I probably wouldn't have broken out of my shell and talked to others as much as I did.

Along with lunch they had a planned panel of agents and editors to answer questions for the crowd. Since I was alone, I found my way over to a table near the front with a couple, who at first I thought were married, but were actually mother and son. Bonnie and Mark were very nice and we discussed the conference, what we were interested in, projects we were working on, etc. I was really have a great time, and then, in walked Brandon Sanderson and asked to sit at our table. I confess I didn't recognize him until Bonnie said his name.

Brandon Sanderson
Now, for those who don't recognize the name Brandon Sanderson you probably don't follow Epic Fantasy Fiction. Let me tell you who he is. First of all he has his own extremely successful fantasy series called "Mistborn." He has other successful ventures as well, but Mistborn I believe his most popular. However, adding to his notoriety is the fact that he was the author tapped to finish an extremely popular epic fantasy series called "The Wheel of Time."
The author, Robert Jordan, wrote the first book of this series, "Eye of the World," in 1984, which was published in January 1990. From that time until now, the series has made history. What was supposed to be a 12 book series will eventually end in 14.

Robert Jordan
When I first read "Eye of the World," I loved it! The world, the characters, the magic and original concepts were so engaging it's hard to adequately explain it, short of telling you to read the series. As the books kept coming the world of the "Wheel of Time" got deeper and broader - unlike any series I've ever read before. The characters got more complex, more interesting and more fun as the series continued to unwind. After I got married I hooked my wife on the series; many of my close friends were already faithful fans as well. 

At some point around book 11, I remember mentioning to my wife, Shaundale, that I hoped this series would finish before Robert Jordan died. I said this more in jest than in actual concern; however, Robert Jordan actually passed away in 2007. Book 12 came out in 2009 co-authored by Brandon Sanderson.

So, there I am at the same table with man who knows how this incredible series is going to end. He was very friendly and willing to talk with me and others at the table. I mentioned to him that it was amazing to think that in this room was the one person who knew how the series would end up. (I probably should have prefaced that statement with "NERD ALERT." - but, hey, that's the kind of nerd I am.) He smiled and agreed. He told me the story of how he ended up with the task for completing the "Wheel of Time." Robert Jordan's widow was reviewing several names of authors she thought would be the best to complete her husband's work. Brandon, though a big fan of the series, didn't realize he was on her list of potential authors. However, after reading his work she found him the best successor to her husband's series. Brandon mentioned he discovered all this after hearing a voice mail message left on his home phone.

I know I should probably be gushing more about Brandon's own work than on that of another author he's taken over, but, I have to confess that the "Wheel of Time" goes way back in my personal life, and has had much more time to have an impact on me than Brandon's. I hope he forgives me for that.

Like I said, he was very friendly and outgoing. He answered all my questions and gave me suggestions regarding my own endevours. He even said that now was a good time for new authors (something I personally hadn't been feeling). He said with the ability of self-publishing, and ebooks, many more people could get their names out there and find success. He explained how there have been many well-known authors who have captured most of the attention and money in the writing field for some time, but that now it's shifting downward. The money and fame are spreading out more equitably than ever before. It was an interesting notion, and I suppose he's right. But still being one of those struggling authors it still feels like things are stacked against you, not necessarily turning in your favor. All I see is the competition and constant rejection.

At the end of the lunch and the panel discussion, I got my picture with Brandon, (as seen above) and then walked with him up to the class he was about to present. He continued to talk with me and was very kind and helpful, particularly in helping me get my own career off the ground.

I also have to mention now that his wife sat next to me at the table and I spoke with her for a while. She took a great interest in what I'm working on. She was very nice as well, and I'm sure a great support to Brandon and his career. Lucky guy!

I plan on a few more blogs based on what I learned or experienced at this writer's conference, so those who I invite(d) to read this blog you may be receiving some more invites in the not to distant future. If you find the subjects interesting, by all means come out and read; and if not....well, see you in the funny papers. :)

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