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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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St. Petersburg, RU
Thank you! I'm also glad for the chance to visit your beautiful city. I’ve been to not a few places, but this is my first time in Russia. Many thanks to the organizers of the Wanderer Fantasy Convention who invited me to St. Petersburg. And my special thanks to them for the opportunity to visit Peterhof and admire its magnificent fountains. Fountains have fascinated me since childhood ...
What is the proper way to address you?—Mr. Robert Jordan? Or Mr. James Rigney ... Or in some other way?
Call me, as we do it in America, just James.
Or Robert? ...
Robert is fine too. I'm used to it. I’m often addressed exactly so in meetings with readers.
By the way, how many names does the multifaceted James Oliver Rigney, Jr. have?
Not very many, but also not a few. Under the pseudonym Reagan O'Neal the historical novels The Fallon Blood, The Fallon Legacy and The Fallon Pride were published. The events in them takes place during the American Revolution, around my hometown of Charleston. The name Jackson O'Reilly is on the cover of the western Cheyenne Raiders. My critical pieces on theater and dance I signed Chang Lung. And under the pseudonym Robert Jordan the novels of the Conan series and the The Wheel of Time series were published.
I was born in 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina, where I live now, in a house built in 1797. My home town is famous because of the shelling of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor during the Civil War between the North and South. My brother, older than me by twelve years, instilled in me an appreciation for books . And when our parents left him to the nanny, he read to me, not children’s books, but those that interested him—Mark Twain, HG Wells, Jules Verne. Along with Twain, my favorite writers became Louis Lamour, Charles Dickens, John W. McDonald. In the years 1968-1970, I served in the Army.
I flew in a helicopter as a gunner. Then I was a Sergeant and trained recruits.
On sorties, it most likely became necessary to shoot?
Yes ... But understand, on assignment you usually do not see people—you open fire as soon as you notice any movement, and do not think about it being a person. Otherwise, it is impossible—this is war, and the morals of a military person are other than those of a civilian: for a Commander the main thing is to perform his mission and save his soldiers. Reflection in the middle of a fight is dangerous—you will be killed before long.
Were you ever wounded?
Fortunately, no. A couple of times hurt ... Once, during a hard landing I knocked out teeth on the back of the pilot's seat in front of me. And another time a tiny splinter hit me in the eye. At first I didn’t notice anything and felt no pain, but then the blood flowed. Then the piece was drawn out with a magnet ...
Thus, the "Purple Heart" among your military decorations, right?
No—don’t even suggest such a thing! But there is a Distinguished Flying Cross for service, Bronze Star, and two Vietnamese Crosses for bravery.
Yeah, the bouquet* on a blazer really makes an impression ...
After military service I entered the Citadel—The Military College of South Carolina. Despite its name, it is, in fact, a university. At the Citadel I received a degree in physics and worked as a nuclear engineer for the Navy. Doesn’t it seem to you that that a fantasy author having an education in physics is somewhat out of the ordinary?
I would not say that. I know several Russian science fiction authors with an education in the natural sciences that have been successfully working in the fantasy genre ... By the way, we now come to how the writer emerged from the engineer.
Well, maybe there is more prosaic level—the abundance of free time. After an unfortunate accident I found myself in a hospital bed with a lot of time, and I read everything I wanted. And one day I thought that could well try to write myself. Having started writing in 1977, I’m determined to do so right up my dying day.
And why fantasy? Why not works about, say, the Vietnam War, which would seem more logical?
In my opinion, fantasy allows you to create new cultures, experiment with them, and apply a freedom to them that is impossible in the real world. Fantasy enables a brighter, clearer portrayal of the struggle between good and evil, allows you to speak more freely about what is right and what is not, and no one can say that your opinion doesn’t fit with what is generally accepted. And I think one of the cornerstones of fantasy is the belief that any obstacle can be overcome, and that if things did not work out today, they will tomorrow. Also in today's world fantasy concerns itself with myth, directing us to the deep layers of the human soul, and teaches people to believe in miracles ... The popularity of this literary genre is to a large extent determined by humankind’s aspirations for Justice...
As for books about war ... I have a desire to write about the Vietnam War, about my comrades, and I hope that God will give me this opportunity. And for myself, I decided that this book will be released under my real name—James Oliver Rigney, Jr. ...
Honestly, I don’t know. When I first started working about fifteen years ago, I assumed that there would be four or five books. Then, I understood that I could not fit my work within these limits.
On one internet site I came across information that the Wheel of Time will consist of ten volumes.
Well, it's not entirely true. I think the number will be greater. You see, every book is devoted to certain events that occur with Rand and the other heroes of the series. The plot, of course, is undergoing changes to the original plan, so sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice some things. Attentive readers may have noticed that Rand, after appearing at the beginning of the novels, only comes again to the forefront at the very end of the books ... I think, to complete the entire story I need to write three or four more volumes. In the summer of 2000, I completed and passed to the publishing house TOR a new, ninth book, which is called Winter's Heart, and it came out on November 7th. Let's hope there will soon be a Russian translation.
No, the reason is simple. Once I put on a hat and my wife noticed that the hat worked well for me. I have worn them ever since. I like it.
All of your nine Wheel of Time books have a dedication—they are dedicated to Harriet ...
Yes, to my wife, Harriet McDougal, the light of my life. Like me, she has a connection to the Navy—her father was an admiral, and as far as literature, fantasy—she worked about thirteen years as an editor at the publishing house TOR. Then she became my first and most faithful reader and the first editor of my books. I am very grateful to her for help and support. By the way, Sergei Berezhnoi told me that you Takhir, took part in the translation of the entire Wheel of Time in Russian! So you can be called in some way my co-author! I am truly glad! Let me shake your hand.
Thank you, James! We will wait for your new books.