Each book released in The Stormlight Archive has become a bigger and bigger sensation. It goes beyond the New York Times Bestseller list and approaches Harry Potter territory. Rhythm of War, the latest volume in the epic fantasy series by Brandon Sanderson, was no exception even in the midst of a global pandemic.
With the cover reveal on TOR.com in August 2020, fan anticipation built to a fever pitch as theories spun around every detail of art. That frenzy of excitement among readers would carry right through the virtual book release in November.
Well, it’s now months into 2021 and I thought we should get to another installment of “Leftovers and Palette Gremlins” before any more time slips by.
No matter what larger projects I happen to be working on, I can’t seem to turn off my brain. I’ll be moving through the studio when a shape seen from the corner of my eye suddenly pops into my head and demands expression. Frequently what I “see” is an alien or a face and that gives rise to spaceships, landscapes, and other flights of imagination.
When this creative spark leads to a new and unplanned work, it feels like a gift.
The anticipation that builds up to the release of a new Sanderson novel is enough to give me the collywobbles if I pay much attention to it. Expectations run higher with each of these long awaited events.
Fortunately TOR and Brandon have bent over backwards to make my job as manageable as possible. I usually defer to their sense of what’s appropriate for the book, for example, in selecting potential scenes for the cover, which still leaves room for interpretation and expression while simplifying my work quite a bit.
For the cover of Oathbringer, we centered on a scene where Jasnah confronts the invading army. A giant has smashed a breach in the city wall, and Jasnah is called upon to restore it. After dispatching several invaders with her Shardblade, she covers the gap with a brassy wall of magical metal. It’s a visual scene in which I saw a lot of possibilities for good images.
When Irene Gallo proposed a second painting for Words of Radiance, I immediately knew it was Shallan we were talking about. Like many fans, I felt the story was becoming as much hers as Kaladin’s; she merited equal representation in the book’s design, as far as it was possible to do so.
At the time I started the cover painting, I did not have a scene available that would allow me to portray her and Kaladin faithfully, so I resigned myself to focus on her in another edition later in the series. I was glad to hear that TOR wanted to go the extra mile in order to give Shallan space in this book.
It has always been a deep-seated desire of mine to one day have a Whelan painting on one of my works. Without this man’s skill and vision, I might never have discovered the fantasy genre, and I might not be writing novels today.
I’ve been lucky to have some…incredible artists paint covers for my books. But I’ve rarely felt as much excitement, wonder, and awe as I did when I got to open an email and see the cover for The Way of Kings.
#1 New York Times Best Selling Author
As with any Brandon Sanderson book, there’s just too much content to distill such a complex tapestry into one image. Having such a rich world of possibilities is overwhelming: a well delineated but diverse cast of characters, strange yet compellingly natural flora and fauna, multiple story threads weaving from page to page…how does one choose what to present? It seems as if any choice will be wrong, for having to leave something else out that calls to be presented to a potential reader. Nonetheless, a choice must be made.
When I received the manuscript from TOR, I was somewhat dismayed that it was 1400 pages. Given the mood I was in, I felt that it would be tough sledding to work my way through a such massive fantasy epic.
As it turned out, I was soon hooked and lost in the world Mr. Sanderson so skillfully realized. It helped that the writing had a rich cinematic quality that brought images of scenes, characters and creatures to my mind as if I were watching a movie or immersed in a Myst-style virtual reality adventure.