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Interviews: Waldenbooks Hailing Frequency Interview

Summary:

Entries

4

Date

Aug, 1996

Type

Verbatim

Reporter

Jason Froebe

Links

alt.fan.robert-jordan

  • 1

    Jason Froebe

    This is from Waldenbooks Hailing Frequency (June/July/August 1996) on pages 4-7. This clears up some arguments running around...
  • 2

    Hailing Frequency

    The last time Hailing Frequency had the privilege of interviewing Robert Jordan, he had just released the fourth volume of his vast fantasy tale, "The Wheel of Time." At the time, we asked him to give a brief summary of the story thus far. He laughed—it had already grown so complex that no easy summary was possible. Now with the release of A Crown of Swords, "The Wheel of Time" has grown to seven volumes. Since each new volume has leaped to the top of the Waldenbooks bestseller lists almost on the day of its release, it would appear that a remarkable number of readers are already familiar with the story to date. So rather than ask the impossible once again, we decided to ask Jordan about the project as a whole—its origins and its overall shape, as the author sees it from somewhere in mid-course.

    Robert Jordan

    "The Wheel of Time" is in effect a recreation of the source of legends. I gathered together a lot of legends, fairy tales, and folk tales from around the world and stripped away the cultural references, so that just the bare story was left. The I reverse-engineered them.

    You might recall a game: I've heard it called "Whispers," I've heard it called "Telephone"—a child's game. If you remember, the last child in the row stood up and said aloud, and what actually happened is what's on the piece of paper. So I've reverse-engineered to try and get back to something like what the piece of paper says. King Arthur is there, but most people don't recognize him right off. And there are a lot of other myths and legends too, although King Arthur is the most easily recognizable. As a matter of fact, I was shocked that some people didn't realize that Arthur was in the books until they read the third volume.

    The story begins with The Eye of the World. That's the first book. And it begins in a very pastoral setting, with people who are very...well, innocent is the word. They are rural, they are themselves pastoral. And I tried to make the beginning almost Tolkienesque, as a homage, and as a way of saying, "This is the foundation that we're all jumping off from." But it begins to change, because I'm not trying to do a Tolkien pastiche in any way. And as we leave that pastoral setting, things begin to change. You begin to move away from the style of Tolkien. The characters begin to learn more about the world. They become more sophisticated, in the sense of having more knowledge, and thus they see the world in a more sophisticated way. They're not as innocent, as time goes on, as the books go on, as they were in the beginning. And so the tone of the books changes slightly with their worldview.

    As to where the books are going—I know that exactly. I've known it from the beginning. I've known from the beginning what the last scene of the last book was going to be. I know how I intend to tie up the major threads. I know who's going to be alive, who's going to be dead, who's going to be married to whom, all these things. I know the details. I could have sat down six or seven years ago, and written the final scene of the books. And there wouldn't be a great deal of difference in what I'd write when I actually do reach that point.

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  • 3

    Hailing Frequency

    How far do you attempt to make the individual volumes accessible to someone who's coming in fresh? Or is that a lost cause?

    Robert Jordan

    I think it's a lost cause. From the beginning, I've told people, "Start with The Eye of the World." If somebody tries to join at Book Six, there's a good chance they'll say, "Well, there's a lot of stuff here I didn't understand. I don't think I'll bother with this." While if they start with Book One, there's a very good chance they'll continue, and come back for more. I tell people, "Go buy The Eye of the World in paperback. You haven't invested a lot of money. If you don't like it you can quit. At least you're giving yourself a chance to enjoy it."

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  • 4

    Hailing Frequency

    The number of projected volumes has gradually grown as the story has progressed...

    Robert Jordan

    Well, in a way yes, in a way no. When I went to my publisher in the first place, I said, "This is at least three or four books. It could be five or six. I don't know." I knew it was going to be long, but I didn't know how long it was going to be. I'm always optimistic about how much story I can cram into a certain number of pages. So we did a six-book contract. At first people were saying this would be a trilogy, and I'd say "No, no, no." But people kept saying that. And by the time the fourth book came out, people admitted that it wasn't going to be a trilogy. It's going to be more than eight books. I'm a lot closer to the end than to the beginning; there's not anywhere near the same number of books to come. But I refuse to suggest even a number now.

    Hailing Frequency

    Working on a series of this length—it's more like a singe story broken into book-length segments.

    Robert Jordan

    Yes, and in each book, I do try to provide a climactic closure that is satisfying.

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