If we flash back to January 2006, we find me having been dating Pemberly (her real name is Emily, but she goes by Pemberly online) for about two months. Our relationship was still quite new, and we weren’t exclusive yet. (Though I wanted to be. I was pretty sure I wanted to marry her by that point.)
Well, at one of our dates, Pemberly told me an amazing story. It seems that one of her eighth grade students—a girl named Matisse—had done a book report on Elantris. Now, Matisse didn’t know that her teacher was dating me. She didn’t even know that Pemberly knew me. It was just one of those bizarre coincidences that happens just to prove to us all that the world is a funny place.
Now, when I say book report, that doesn’t get across the scope of what Matisse did. Being a clever, creative girl, she went the extra mile. Instead of a simple write-up on the book, she did a Dragonology-style book on Elantris. This thing is amazing; it has sketches and bios of the characters, strips of Elantrian cloth stapled in as examples, little pouches filled with materials from the books, all of that. A total multisensory experience dedicated to the novel, all handmade. Pemberly showed it to me, and it was honestly just about the coolest, must humbling thing I’d ever seen. Matisse had obviously loved the book very much.
That set me thinking of something I could do as a thank-you surprise to Matisse, who still didn’t know that her teacher was dating one of her favorite authors. I’d had this idea itching in the back of my head.
I’d been itching to write another Elantris story. Because of the nature of publishing, I knew that I couldn’t do a sequel to the book at the time, as the Mistborn novels made so much more sense to publish.
Because Matisse had inspired me, I decided that I would name a character after her. I also felt that if I was taking the time to write a short story in the world, I wanted to introduce a new character rather than telling the story from Dashe’s viewpoint. (As would have been likely had this section ended up in the final novel.) Therefore, it was reasonable to write it from the viewpoint of the character I’d just named after Matisse.
The Matisse in the story doesn’t act like the real Matisse. I didn’t know the real Matisse; I’d never met her. (Though I did have Pemberly describe her so that I could make the character look like her. Matisse was one of my wife’s favorite students, as you might imagine from her doing fantastic projects like the Elantris book.)
After writing the story, I sent a copy with Pemberly to give to Matisse as a gift and a thank you. I can only imagine how surprised she was to turn in a project based on one of her favorite books, then get back a short story written by the author including her as one of the characters in the world. This is the kind of nifty little thing you can pull off once in a while as a novelist, and I just couldn’t pass by the opportunity.
(Of course, the fact that I’d just put one of Pemberly’s favorite students into a story for her, then let Pemberly give the gift, did not escape me. I can’t help but think it got me a few bonus points. After all, we did start dating exclusively just a short time after that. . . .)
Matisse gave us the original Elantrisology book she had made as a wedding gift. She still comes to a lot of my signings, and as far as I can tell is still one of the most awesome people alive. (Though I’m biased toward anyone who says nice things about my books.)