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Interviews: The Robert Jordan Story

Summary:

Entries

5

Date

Dec 7th, 2012

Type

Verbatim

Links

tor.com

YouTube

Theoryland

  • 1

    Tor.com

    What was the moment where Robert Jordan dedicated himself to writing? How did he meet Harriet and what movie did they see on their first date? What did Tor Books publisher Tom Doherty think upon first reading The Eye of the World, and how did Jordan’s life grow with the series?

    This new video by Tor Books and Rock Soup Productions 2012 presents a touching tribute to James Oliver Rigney, Jr., the man that Wheel of Time fans know as Robert Jordan. Watch it below.

    Watch the first video in this series, in which Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and more discuss their love of the series.

    Follow Tor.com’s coverage of A Memory of Light.

  • 2

    Narrator

    Before the tale of Rand al'Thor, the epic story of the Wheel of Time humbly begins with a man named Jim, known to the world as Robert Jordan, author of the best-selling Wheel of Time series. James Oliver Rigney, Jr. was born October 17, 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina.

    Harriet McDougal

    Growing up, he'd often told about lining up I think Jules Verne, Mark Twain and Jack London, and thinking, "I want to write books."

    Jason Denzel

    He joined the Army in 1968 and served two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner.

    Harriet McDougal

    He returned to begin college at The Citadel as a veteran student and took a job as a civilian nuclear engineer working for the United States Navy.

    Jason Denzel

    And it was during this time that he took a hard look at his life and decided to become a full-time writer.

    Harriet McDougal

    He was in the hospital with a blood clot when he did the famous—the thing so many people talk about doing—he threw a book across the room and said, "I can do better than that." He wrote something called Warriors of the Altaii. I read it, and...no, it wasn't what I was interested in. But it showed he could do it. So I gave him a contract for a book that became The Fallon Blood. We'd been seeing a lot of each other. He brought a tiger claw from Vietnam to show my son. Will came running upstairs to my office one day and said, "Mom, he'll take me to see the Star Trek movie." And I said, "Can I come too?" And he said yes. And I guess that was our first date.

    Tom Doherty

    She edited Jim, and they fell in love, and they got married, and we all became friends.

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  • 3

    Harriet McDougal

    I've edited every single one of his books except for his Cheyenne Raiders. An agent said to me once, "What if he gave you a real piece of [crap]?" And I said, "But he never would!" Tom Doherty called me; he had gotten the rights to do a Conan the Barbarian novel. And I said, "Well, Jim could do it." And he liked doing it so much, he ended up writing seven of them.

    Tom Doherty

    He was using a new name. As you know, Jim used pen names.

    Narrator

    Over the next decade, Rigney wrote under many pen names: Jackson O'Reilly, Reagan O'Neal, and of course, Robert Jordan.

    Harriet McDougal

    J.O.R.—That was his initials, and I guess the rest just grew because, the way his mind worked, he'd be working on current stuff, but on the back burner, things were cooking away.

    Tom Doherty

    Jim said that he had just dreamed to write a big fantasy.

    Harriet McDougal

    He said his first thought was just, how would it be to be told that you are going to be the savior of the world, but you're going to go mad and kill everyone you love in the process?

    Tom Doherty

    We bought the book in the mid-80s.

    Harriet McDougal

    It was four years of actual work, with words on paper, before he finished The Eye of the World.

    Tom Doherty

    God, I fell in love with it. I read it, you know, and I said, you know, boy, this is big. This is the first thing I thought could sell like Tolkien.

    Harriet McDougal

    The New York Times called Robert Jordan the American heir to Tolkien.

    Tom Doherty

    Pretty strong statement for the times.

    Jason Denzel

    In a matter of three books, Robert Jordan had developed an international following.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Robert Jordan was a genius. He kept so much in his head. He had so much depth and wealth of worldbuilding for this series, it's mind-boggling. We've got somewhere around three million plus words of text. The notes are just as big.

    Tom Doherty

    There are very few things to which people had been willing to give this enormous commitment.

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  • 4

    Narrator

    But in 2005, Jordan was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare blood disease, interrupting work on what he'd hoped was the final book in the series.

    Harriet McDougal

    He was not well on our final book tour, which was Knife of Dreams. He failed to receive a diagnosis until after the end of the tour. This is true of the disease amyloidosis in general. By that time his heart had received so much battering from the disease that it was simply failing. And it took about a year for that to happen.

    Tom Doherty

    It was so sad. I mean, he was a friend; I took it personally, and he was a brilliant, epic storyteller. There was nobody like him, and it was a terrible loss.

    Harriet McDougal

    He had spoken publicly before that, that he would destroy anybody who tried to work in his universe, and he would sweep his hard disk three times to make sure that nobody could ever get anything out of it, but in his last weeks, he was telling us what needed to happen.

    Tom Doherty

    He wrote these very detailed notes. He dictated passages in the beginning and the end of this last book, and Harriet knew he wanted this series finished.

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  • 5

    Narrator

    When fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was selected to finish the Wheel of Time, fans rejoiced. Over the next four years, Sanderson skillfully penned the final three volumes of the series, working from Jordan's notes and partial manuscript.

    Brandon Sanderson

    What I've pointed the entire sequence that I've worked on toward is this last scene that he finished. He always promised us that he had it in mind, and he did write it before he passed away.

    Harriet McDougal

    On January 8th, 2013, A Memory of Light will go on sale. If ever a book was long-awaited, it's this one.

    Jason Denzel

    Robert Jordan's legacy lives on. Just as Jordan wrote, there are no beginnings or endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. His masterpiece stands as one of the greatest achievements in modern literature.

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