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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Aug 30th, 1999
North Sydney, NSW
The first work I wrote has never been published although it was bought and then rejected over a contract dispute by Dell within the space of two months. That was what convinced me I could write it. It was later sold to... Don Wollheim bought it as a fantasy novel. Later Jim Baen at Ace bought it as a science fiction novel unchanged from what it was before. And then Susan Allison came in and she didn't like it so I got it... got the rights reverted to me. It also resulted in me getting the Conan contracts and in me meeting my wife. So I decided this thing has major mojo going with it. Well it's also the fact that it glows in the dark. It'll never be published because I'm a better writer now than I was twenty odd years ago.
My first published novel, I had walked into a book store and I had been talking to the owner of the book store, the manager, the woman that managed it, about the fact that I wanted to write, that I was beginning to write. I talked to her about books and all sorts of things, just in the book shop, that was all. There was a kind of romance novel called a bodice-ripper by a woman named Mary Robbins, big displays up front. Bodice-ripper is a sort of softcore pornography for women set in historical settings. And the shop owner said, "Do you know she has made three million dollars on her first two books?" In those days three million dollars with two books was Stephen King territory. That was like the forty-five-million-dollar contracts you hear about today. This is the sort of thing made people go, "Oh God!" and made the front of Time magazine. And I said for that kind of money I'd write one of those things. Okay, throwaway line, rimshot, forget it. Except the next time I came into the store the woman said, "You know a woman came in here and she's come to Charleston to set up a major publishing house, set up a publishing house, and she only wants to publish lead titles." That's the big book that the publishing house puts out every month, the one they really push. And that's all she's going to publish. She'd run out of business cards, she didn't have any business cards but here, she wrote her name in pencil on this lined three by five index card. I thought, right, she's come to Charleston to set up a major publishing house? No, no, no, no. That's like going to Death Valley to set up a ski camp. And she's only going to publish leads, that's like saying you're only going to publish best sellers, as it seemed to me, as it seemed to me then. But she managed to do it and no business card. Three by five index card, lined, penciled in. Right. Okay. I stuck it in my pocket to be polite and I went away. A week or so later I found it in my office in the drawer where I kept my pipe and tobacco as I was loading my pipe. Shows how long ago it was. I thought all right, I've got ten minutes I'll give her a call. So I gave her a call and found out that she had been editor or director of Ace Books and had just celebrated being promoted to vice president by resigning. And suddenly with that bit of experience behind her I'd realized she didn't sound so much like a nut anymore. She said, "I understand you're writing a bodice-ripper," and not waiting to lose a thread I said, "Yeah, well it's already been shown." She said, "Well, okay. I understand that, I understand that. Well why don't you come over and read me it and talk to me about it. Show me something, talk to me."
So I made up an outline driving to her house. I talked to the woman in the bookstore about these books enough that I knew the basic format. Heroine loses her virginity in the first chapter. It is a circumstance that is not rape on technicality. That is, he, the guy has arranged for a tavern maid downstairs to come upstairs and snuggle into his bed. And Heroine for some phony boloney reason has decided to sneak into his room to try to steal something at the same time. And she tries to get him drunk so he... you know, it gets very complicated. Anyway on technicality he's not guilty but anyway, she then goes on to have a lot of sexual adventures in North Africa with Sheiks and Sultans, in China with the Mandarins, Bedouin raiders... the court of Napoleon and the court of Medici... And then at the end of it she's in great danger, she's rescued by this guy that turns out to be the guy who done her virginity in the first place and they get married. And everything is thus okay because she married the guy that took her virginity. All right, hooo, yeah. I tried writing this thing for a brief moment, I really did. And I couldn't hack it man. I got the plot right, I got the sex right but I read some of the books and they quivered. They were hysterical in the constant sense, that is every line quivered with emotion. And I couldn't quiver. I tried.
About a year after that she called me up. I quit my job as an engineer and she said, "I'd like to see anything you've written." And being a professional I tried to talk her out of it. Because I knew the things I had written were not what she wanted to publish. She said, "Anything you have written, I want to see it." I took it to her, the book... the first novel I had ever written and when I went to pick it up from her later I got into a discussion about history. The forty-five in England, the American Revolution, the roles of the Scots and the Irish in the American Revolution particularly in the south. The publisher heard this and after the other woman had gone away, she gave me back a manuscript, she said, "You write a book and we'll publish this, but you can write. And what I want you to do is give the outline of a historical saga, a generational saga." And I did. That became The Fallon Blood. And the woman's name was Harriet McDougal and we started dating while we were touring for this book after she published it. I mean we toured for the book and she would give me another contract because we weren't quite sure how it was going to sell. And, ahh, I started missing her. I started coming back, hanging around and asking her out and whatnot. And eventually I asked her to marry me. Then I got really nervous because I thought, 'Hang on...I just asked a woman to marry me, and she is my source of income!' So I very hurriedly sold the book somewhere else so she would not be my sole source of income. That's how my first novel got published and that's how I met my wife and that's only about ten minutes as much as you wanted to know.