Believe it or not, Elantris was the sixth novel I wrote. I took a creative writing class at BYU from David Farland where he said that when you start writing, your first million words will be crap and not to worry about that. The experience and practice you get from writing a novel is the important part; your first novel doesn’t have to be any good. So with that in mind, I sat down to write a novel were I wasn’t worried about how good it was. And when that one was finished, I didn’t revise it—I just opened a new document and started writing a new novel. I ended up writing thirteen novels this way over a three-year period.
It’s so hard to determine why one thing becomes really popular when something that’s equally good does not. I know many authors who are writing fantastic things that don’t end up enjoying the same level of success as I have. So it’s really hard for me to determine the whys. In publishing, we would all be a lot happier if we could figure out the whys.
But why do people like my works? I would like to think that a lot of readers when Elantris came out were like myself, waiting for epic fantasy to pull in some new directions. When I was reading in the late ’90s and early 2000s I was disappointed that a lot of the books that were coming out seemed to be more of the same old story. When I got into writing, I didn’t intend to revolutionize the genre or anything like that, but I did have goals to try some new things. I hoped to create some fantasy that still felt like great fantasy, that had the same wonderful feel to it of the books that I had enjoyed reading when I was younger, but which also would try some new things. And I think Elantris does that.
In the end, I think writing comes down to great characters and an engaging story, and hopefully these are things that I’ve somewhat figured out how to achieve. I don’t know if anyone guessed that I would do as well as I have. I certainly owe a great deal of my success to the attention that working on the Wheel of Time brought to me. But other than that I can’t really say who could have predicted it or how we could have known that it would go as well as it has.