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Home | Interview Database

Interviews: Fast Forward Interview

Summary:

Entries

14

Date

Mar, 2003

Type

Verbatim

Reporter

Tom Schaad

Links

Theoryland

  • 1

    Tom Schaad

    Weíre back, and weíre here with Robert Jordan, whoís tenth book in The Wheel of Time series, Crossroads of Twilight, is out in bookstores now. Welcome back to Fast Forward.

    Robert Jordan

    Thanks for having me.
  • 2

    Tom Schaad

    Itís been some time. The last time you were here was when the sixth book in the series, Lord of Chaos, had been out. And since then, weíve had four large steps toward that final scene in the story of The Wheel of Time. And this latest one, Crossroads of Twilight, last week was listed as number one best seller on the USA Today book list. Itíll be coming out on The New York Times as the number one best seller. Does that ever get old?

    Robert Jordan

    Oh no, good God! How could that ever get old? I hear that Iím going to be number one and I get out into the middle of the floor and do a little dance. No, that never gets old.
  • 3

    Tom Schaad

    Now, weíve talked before about what you go through to create one of these works: the amount of time that you put in; the discipline that you have to exercise in order to carry this story forward. And weíre talking about ten books here. Weíre talking aboutócounting the time that it took to build the world, to think the basic concept...to put the concept together before even the first book was publishedóweíre talking, what, over twenty years of your life has been spent creating this reality. Is anything different now then it was at the beginning, in terms of how you feel toward the work, or how you approach your work on a day-to-day basis?

    Robert Jordan

    No. My hair is a lot grayer. I work pretty much the same way I always have worked. And because of the way Iíve structured it, Iíve been able to keep it from becoming stale. You see, I sit down to begin a book in this series and I take some of the major events that I want to happen, and I think, ďIím going to put these events into this book.Ē Or course it turns out that I... Almost always it turns out that I canít. If I thought there were going to be six major events in this book, it turns out that I can really only put four in. But I have those major events. But how Iím going to get from one to the next, I donít decide until I get to that book. And it also depends on where I ended the last book...how I ended circumstances in the last book. So everything becomes, in effect, a new novel for me. Itís a new beginning.

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  • 4

    Tom Schaad

    One of the things that I like about these novels, that I really enjoyed, is the increasing complexity. It started off, not a simple book, but, you know, in a relatively isolated areaóEmondís Field, where basically you just had these young people who all of the sudden found themselves on this journeyóas the journey has progressed, more and more peopleóimportant people in their own right within the story-lineóhave become involved intimately into it, until now itís quite a complex tale. And has that made it a more of a challenge for you as an author to...well I guess the only way to say it is to weave all of these elements together into a whole plot of a book?

    Robert Jordan

    I suppose it is. I think Iíve managed to keep on without too much difficulty. Itís important to me... I wanted to start simply, but I knew the characters were going to become more complex themselves. Their knowledge of the world was going to become more complex, and thus the story was going to become more complex. You cannot have characters who are fully rounded and much more aware of the world then they were as children, really, without having a complex story, or otherwise the entire story becomes merely a backdrop.

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  • 5

    Tom Schaad

    Now, since the last book in the series came out, before Crossroads of Twilight, the world in America has changed quite a bit, as of September 11, 2001. Has that had any impact on the way you approach your work, or has it had an impact on the way people are looking at the work?

    Robert Jordan

    Well, for how I approach the work, I donít think it has had an impact. For how I am writing the work, it almost certainly has because you cannot live through something without it affecting what you do. I would have to be inhuman to be able to filter out what I have lived through from my work. I donít think itís possible. As for changing how people look at the books, I think it has, perhaps, changed or intensified that. In the real world we have a great deal of uncertainty, a great deal of danger, and very little certainty of where weíre going, how were going to get there, what the end result is going to be. In fantasy, you face a great deal of danger, a great deal of uncertainty, but you have one particular certainty when you get into fantasy: you know that Evil is not going to win the final victory. There will be victories by Evil along the way, people you liked, people you loved may die, but in the end Good will win out. And that, I believe, has become even more important to people in their reading; that they can have that much certainty at least.

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  • 6

    Tom Schaad

    Now you, along with several other prominent fantasy and science fiction authors, have a devoted fan following. Over a thousand websites are, one way or another, devoted to the world that you have created in the Wheel of Time books. And you, to a certain extent, actively communicate with some of these fans, through e-mailsóanswering e-mails, answering questions on boards when youíre available for answering questions from various people. On the Amazon.com board, for exampleó

    Robert Jordan

    Well, Iíve done interviews, online interviews. But I donít show up in chatrooms, or things of that sort. There are arranged interviews, and then we have a chatroom set up, you know, but not beyond that.

    Tom Schaad

    Do you get much direct e-mail asking questions of certain aspects ofó

    Robert Jordan

    No, because I donít let anyone have my e-mail address.

    Tom Schaad

    Ah-ha.

    Robert Jordan

    I donít have time. Even with the e-mail that I get with few people knowing my e-mail address, I quite often ignore e-mail for days, or even weeks on the assumption that if itís important theyíll get back to me. And if I look at it and realize the same person has written me five times in the last three weeks, alright maybe thereís something I should look at there. I cannot answer all of the fan-mail as fully as I would like. Iíve now gotten to the point where I quite often have to simply send a cardóa postcard saying, ďThank you for writing to me, and I do not have time to reply.Ē I hate that, but thereís no time.

    Tom Schaad

    Itís a reality, and quite honestly I think that most of the fans understand that, and would rather that you devoted your time to creating the next book that they can snatch off the shelves as quickly as possible so that they can get further along into the story. But now youíre on a tour.

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  • 7

    Tom Schaad

    Itís practically near the end of the promotional book that youíve been on for the Crossroads of Twilight. Whatís the experience been like this time?

    Robert Jordan

    Oh, wonderful. Itís always wonderful. I spend most of my life as a hermit, sitting at my desk reading and writing, and I donít get to speak to people very often. I talk to Harriet, my wife, and a few friends, but not to any great degree, any great number of people. But I come out on tour, and there are lots of people who want to talk to me, and itís lots of fun. Weíve had large crowds a number of places. Over six hundred people some times.

    Tom Schaad

    Good heavens.

    Robert Jordan

    And itís just been terrific.

    Tom Schaad

    So that... I would assume thatís... Now thatís got a be a validation of the work as a whole. To have that kind of a response when you make yourself available to the public to meet the author, the creator of something they feel very strongly about.

    Robert Jordan

    Yes, itís a validation. Yes.

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  • 8

    Tom Schaad

    And, of course, youíre getting more and more coverage in the general media. USA Today had you in the newspaper today, the day of this interview, talking about the success of the books and the impact that theyíve had. And the websites that have been created that are interested in this in every aspect of the world youíve created, everything from fan-art to chat forums to role-playing mailing lists to web-rings to resources that intensively analyze every aspect of every line of every book that youíve written. Itís just remarkable the level of interest.

    Robert Jordan

    It certainly amazes me.

    Tom Schaad

    Does it ever get to the point where it gets a little intrusive in terms of the kinds of things they want to find out about the chapters in the story?

    Robert Jordan

    No. No. I donít visit the websites, so that doesnít bother me. And when people ask me questions, whether itís for a website or not, I either give them an answer which I donít mind them taking out, or if I donít want to answer, I have a standard reply for that, one I got from the net: RAFO. R-A-F-O. Read and Find Out.

    Tom Schaad

    Exactly.

    Robert Jordan

    An acronym developed from a phrase that I used to use a great deal. Still do, sometimes.

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  • 9

    Tom Schaad

    Now, there was a little excitement before the release of Crossroads, when Locus Magazine, which is kind of a specialty magazine in science fiction and fantasy publishing, erroneously stated that this was going to be the final book in The Wheel of Time.

    Robert Jordan

    Oh yes, it set my blood pressure up a bit, actually.

    Tom Schaad

    And we know itís not. We know itís not because youíve stated quite categorically that this is going to be a measured pace, that thereís not going to be any quick wrap-up because youíre not going to treat something that youíve worked on so hard and so carefully that way.

    Robert Jordan

    No, at least two more books, Iím afraid.

    Tom Schaad

    And Iím sure there are a great number of people who are perfectly happy with at least two more books.

    Robert Jordan

    Iíve had some people say theyíd like five or ten, but I generally throw something at them.

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  • 10

    Tom Schaad

    I understand that there may be, before the next book in this particular story of Rand alíThor, there may be something else that youíll be... thatíll be published that you will have written.

    Robert Jordan

    Yes. I was asked by my publisher to expand the novella "New Spring". That came about because he heard me talking about the fact that in order to compress that story in a novella length I had cut out several story lines, and had compacted a number of other things just to fit the length. And I happened to remark that I what I had wanted to write would have come out at sixty or seventy thousand words, and he said, ďWell thatís a novel,Ē and, ďhow would you like to do it as a short novel?Ē And I said, ďWell, alright.Ē So that will be coming out before the next actual Wheel of Time book.

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  • 11

    Tom Schaad

    Now, one of the things that weíve talked about in one of our previous visits was the amount of research and the amount of work that you have in developing the story, the legends that are the basis for the story that youíre telling. And I go to this primarily because there have been people who have been comparing the scope and the length of this work to Tolkienís work in The Lord of the Rings. With all of that research and all that work that youíve done, letís say that we finish with the story of Rand alíThor and the turning of the Age, and weíve come to the end of that. It the possibility of a Silmarillion afterwards?

    Robert Jordan

    No. No. Thereís a possibility that I might do a sort of dictionary of The Wheel of Time, if you will. I keep a word list. When I say, ďI keep it,Ē Iím not...no longer the who actually compiles it. But there is a word list that runs to some nine hundred pages or so at the moment. And that is a list of every name that Iíve used in the books; every word Iíve coined. And it was pointed out to me that if I went through and added definitions and information, basic information, that it would be a useful reference to readers. So I might do that. I donít know. When itís all done.

    Tom Schaad

    When itís all done.

    Robert Jordan

    When itís all done.

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  • 12

    Tom Schaad

    And we have, of course, ten now. We have at least two more to wait for. Plus a small novel prior to those final two books. Is it at a point where you can occasionally think beyond the completion of this cycle to the next stage in your writing life?

    Robert Jordan

    Iíve been doing that for the last seven or eight years. I started a long time ago thinking, ďWell, what am I going to do when this is over?Ē I have to do something that is good. Hopefully something that is better then The Wheel of Time. And so Iíve been pushing that around in my head. I know to a large extent what I will do. So that I know I will first take a brief vacation. Iíll try to make it a long vacation, but I have a habit of slipping back to my computer, and starting to write again. And then, after the vacation, I will sit down and start writing the next thing, and I donít think thereíll be any significant lapse.

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  • 13

    Tom Schaad

    This is the tour for the tenth bookóyouíre almost finished with itóand youíve had large crowds. Has there been any one specially moment, or any one particular encounter that stands out from all the others?

    Robert Jordan

    Oh....walking into Barnes and Noble, Union Square; being told that there were over six hundred and fifty people there. And they gave me a standing ovation when I walked up to the podium. That really caught me. I had a man tell me that his son was reading the books; that they were easing his stay in the hospital. And when I said, as you do, ďWell I hope itís nothing serious,Ē he said, ďWell it is. Itís cancer.Ē And I said, ďI hope that he will get better.Ē And he said, ďNo. Heís dying. But he loves your books.Ē And thatís going to stick with me a long time.

    Tom Schaad

    I can imagine it would.

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  • 14

    Tom Schaad

    And we are almost out of time. And on that note, I have to say, Robert Jordan, thank you very much for stopping by. I know itís been a long several weeks for you. Itís a very cold day here in Washington, DC.

    Robert Jordan

    Very cold. Yes.

    Tom Schaad

    But it could be worse, because itís snowing back home.

    Robert Jordan

    Yes, but itís not sticking to the ground, I understand. So...

    Tom Schaad

    Oh? Good, good for it. Good for it. Robert Jordan, thank you very much. And we hope to see you again, perhaps when book twelve of The Wheel of Time is out.

    Robert Jordan

    Okay.

    Tom Schaad

    Okay. Well that about does it for this edition of Fast Forward. Hope you found something of interest. Hope youíll come see us again. Until then, this is Tom Schaad saying, ďTake care.Ē