5 questions with Brandon Sanderson

01 May 2015


We were extremely excited to chat to internationally best selling author Brandon Sanderson about his fast-paced adventure for all ages, The Rithmatist. 

How did you find the process of writing a crossover/YA novel in comparison to writing for your usual audience?

This is a really tricky one, because as a point of importance, I really feel that writers should not write down to an audience. I remember well being a teenager and reading the most challenging of fantasy books. I think that if you write something down to teens, they’re going to notice, and it’s just not going to be a good book. So I felt I needed to have the complexity of worldbuilding and plotting that I have in an adult book.

What is the difference? That’s a good question, because you definitely do change what you're doing for teens. I would say that the main focus is on a different style of conflict. To me, one of the core ideas of a teen book is, this conflict is going to be a teenage conflict. In The Rithmatist, Joel is searching for what he’s going to do with his life. He’s having to decide during his schooling years, who am I? What am I searching for? What do I want to do? What can I do if I can’t do the thing that I think I should be doing? This sort of conflict really feels like it resonates with the audience. That’s one of my focuses.


Where did the inspiration behind the Chalklings in The Rithmatist come from?

Human beings play games. It’s what we do. We take everything and turn it into a game—even war, or whatever it is. It’s our nature. I realized I hadn’t been doing this well enough in my fiction, taking the magic and saying, how would people play games with it? That was one of the core ideas behind The Rithmatist. During the planning stages I built this sort of magical tower defense game that you play using chalk on the ground, and the chalklings were natural outgrowths of this—the units that you would send to attack the opposing player, made out of chalk.


Were there any films that inspired you in writing this book?

I don’t think that there are any specific films that inspired me here. My inspiration for The Rithmatist was primarily the steampunk movement. This book is gearpunk mixed with my creative drive to write a type of story I haven’t written before.


The book is wonderful for anyone who’s imagined what it would be like to have magical powers. Do you have a favourite magical power?

If I could choose anything, I would probably choose being able to fly. Now, this is not a good choice, because the smart choice would be something like indestructibility, right? But I've just always loved that idea, being able to swoop around. So that’s what I pick.


Do you know how the series will continue? Can you reveal anything to us?

I go into depth about this in my latest State of the Sanderson blog post.  It’s taking me some time to figure out the right time to write the sequel to The Rithmatist, but Joel and Melody will be visiting Central and South America—which in this world are blended into an island chain. The plot will deal with the relationship that the Aztecs, or the Mexica, had with the Chalklings, and will touch on the theme of colonialism and that sort of thing.

The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist

Here, in a school for the magically gifted, your talent could cost you your life...

Joel is fascinated by the magic of Rithmatics, but few have the gift and he is not one of them. Undaunted, he persuades Professor Fitch to teach him magical theory. Joel can't infuse his protective lines and circles with power, or bring his chalk-drawn creatures to life, but he's quick to master the underlying geometric principles. His unique skills will soon face an extraordinary test when top Rithmatist students are kidnapped from his Academy.

Since he's not a magic user, Joel appears to be safe - but he's desperate to investigate and prove himself. Then people start dying. However, can Joel really stop a killer alone? As even more students disappear, he realizes he'll need the help of Rithmatist apprentice Melody. Together, they must race to find clues before the killer notices them - and takes them out too.

Out now in Paperback and digital formats!

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