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Interviews: Harriet McDougal, Tom Doherty, and Brandon Sanderson on Finishing the Series

Summary:

Entries

4

Date

Dec 19th, 2012

Type

Verbatim

Links

Tor.com

YouTube

Theoryland

  • 1

    Tor.com

    You've heard fantasy authors talk about The Wheel of Time and you've heard Harriet McDougal and Tom Doherty reflect on the man the world knew as Robert Jordan. Now, listen to Harriet, Tom, and Brandon Sanderson as they discuss making the decision to complete the series, taking Brandon on, and the difficulties in writing A Memory of Light, the final book in the Wheel of Time series.

  • 2

    Narrator

    In 2005, Wheel of Time author Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a fatal blood disease, disrupting his plans to finish the beloved series. With his fans in mind, Robert Jordan worked diligently through his final days, writing outlines, notes, and manuscripts so that his masterwork could one day see completion.

    Tom Doherty

    His fans—the people who had stuck with him all these years from 1991 on—deserved closure. And, he had created an outline which gave them closure, and he wasn't able to finish it himself. We wanted Jim's story to be told.

    Harriet McDougal

    A friend was staying with me in the week after Jim's funeral and put a print-out in front of me and said, "I think you need to read this." It was Brandon Sanderson's eulogy for Robert Jordan. And it was—it was beautiful. Such an expression of love for the books and for Robert Jordan's work. And it ended, "Mr. Jordan, you leave us silently, but you leave us trembling." And I thought, gosh, this is the attitude I would love to see. Brandon at this point was a published fantasy writer, so I called Tom and said, "I want one of his books to read." His world, his people, his conflicts were all clear in my mind. And I called Tom, and said, "Tom, I think this is the guy."

    Tom Doherty

    And she picked Brandon. And we're just delighted because we think nobody could have finished it as well.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I had no idea how to react to this. I could barely talk when I replied to Harriet. In fact, I sent her an email the next day. It said, "Dear Harriet, I promise I'm not an idiot." Because I couldn't get out words. Yes, I wanted to be involved in the Wheel of Time. No, I didn't think anybody else could write the Wheel of Time. What do you do when you're in that situation?

    Harriet McDougal

    We met in December, and I picked him up at the airport, brought him back, and said I've got some hot soup on the stove. He said, "I'd rather have the ending if I could, please." [Laughs]

    Brandon Sanderson

    Which I sat in his chair and read, well into the evening that night.

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  • 3

    Narrator

    Together, Brandon Sanderson and Team Jordan began building the strategy for finishing the last volume for the Wheel of Time.

    Harriet McDougal

    Well, he was working with everything Robert Jordan had ever written, including all the notes and speculations, as well as the outline that Jordan dictated in those last weeks.

    Brandon Sanderson

    He intended this book to be enormous. Getting the notes, I said, yup, it's here. I can do this, but it's going to be over 2000 pages long. At some point Tor and Harriet discussed how long it was going. And so that's when they came to me and said, "We want to split it."

    Tom Doherty

    This outline was too complex. There was too much that needed to be told, too much story.

    Brandon Sanderson

    We didn't add to it. This is the length that it was always going to be. But in splitting it—what it allowed us to do is take three books and focus them. The Gathering Storm has a focus on Rand and Egwene. They were able to shine in a much more spectacular way because of that. And the things happening with Mat and Perrin could have very easily been overshadowed by Rand and Egwene, who have monumentous things going on.

    Tom Doherty

    These last two books—number one best sellers. Number one international best sellers, number one up here on the Globe and Mail, as well, the national paper. People read and realized that, yes, it wasn't Robert Jordan, but by god it was being finished properly. And it was being finished from Robert Jordan's notes and his ideas, and Brandon's talent was that he could capture the dream.

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  • 4

    Narrator

    With Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight complete, Brandon Sanderson had to face his greatest challenge yet—writing the final battle in A Memory of Light.

    Brandon Sanderson

    A Memory of Light was a challenge for a number of reasons. There is a lot of warfare in this book—more so than all of the others—which needed to be realistic, and the tactics needed to be sound. And these were the sorts of things that Robert Jordan was extremely good at doing—he was a military historian. I don't have his background, so I had to rely a lot on the notes, and on Team Jordan. You want the story to be focused on the characters—it has to be a personal story. How to balance that, how to tell the story of these wars in a series which is primarily concerned with the characters was a real push back and forth with the text, trying to massage it and edit and work it to the point that it would convey their stories but still be true to the tactics that would make this all come together.

    Tom Doherty

    There's been huge enthusiasm. People have been waiting for this for a long time. If they once dipped into it, they wouldn't be able to put it down.

    Brandon Sanderson

    And in January, they will finally get the full story—the final volume of the Wheel of Time. The end of an Age has arrived. The Dark One is almost free. The Wheel of Time hangs in the balance, and prophecy must be fulfilled. The Last Battle begins January 8th.

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