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Interviews: Ekultúra: Interview with Robert Jordan

Summary:

Entries

21

Date

Apr, 2003

Type

Translated

Location

Budapest, HU

Reporter

Galgóczi Móni

Links

Ekultúra

  • 1

    Terez

    This interview was originally in English, but the original is lost, so we've had to retranslate it from Hungarian. A Hungarian friend (who refuses to be credited) did the translation, which I have edited for English and tone.
  • 2

    Galgóczi Móni

    Budapest received her guest from afar with billowing gray clouds wreathing the hills of Budapest instead of her friendly, sunny face. We sat down in the hall of the Novotel because of the weather bordering on rain. Robert Jordan (born in 1948), who transposed his military carrier to writing, has arrived to the X. Budapest International Book Festival at the invitation of the Beholder Kiadó, where his aim—among other things—is to commemorate the latest volume of his extremely popular fantasy series called Wheel of Time.

  • 3

    Galgóczi Móni

    My sources tell me that you are a passionate pipe-smoker. One of my friends thinks that pipe-smokers see the world totally differently. Is this true?

    Robert Jordan

    I don't think so, but the idea is very good. I will use it someday, somewhere.

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  • 4

    Galgóczi Móni

    Your brother read a lot of books aloud to you when you were a child. What was your favorite book, and which one had the greatest impact on you?

    Robert Jordan

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is my favorite one, and the one that has had the biggest influence on me. Aside from that, I like works by John D. McDonald, Louis L'Amour, Robert A. Heinlein, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.

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  • 5

    Galgóczi Móni

    Do you have a writer's creed?

    Robert Jordan

    I want to put my dreams onto paper, and I want to share them with people. I see myself as a late successor of the storytellers who lived in the Middle Ages. They traveled from village to village in the old times. When they arrived somewhere, they sat in the middle of the town or the edge of town, and put out their hats, and if they told good stories, they would have food, drink, and had a place to sleep. If the story was bad, then they had to go somewhere else.

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  • 6

    Galgóczi Móni

    The prophecies often shape the characters' lives in WoT. Do you believe that the stars influence human life and the future?

    Robert Jordan

    No.

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  • 7

    Galgóczi Móni

    Do you by chance believe in reincarnation?

    Robert Jordan

    No, I don't. Actually, in my dilettante way, I study the legends and myths and their similarities and their relationships to each other. With a long view, the definition of fantasy can be traced there because this genre uses supernatural things but treats them as if they were real. Many people write fantasy, deliberately or not—well, they don't admit it, and what is more, they deny it because it is not really considered high literature. For example, I think the art of magical realism belongs to the fantasy genre, but I'm sure if I were to say so to one of these authors, he or she would not be happy.

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  • 8

    Galgóczi Móni

    When you first began writing the WoT series, did you consider that it would become so voluminous?

    Robert Jordan

    When I started all of this, I knew what the last scene would be. At first, I thought it would be five or six volumes. Every time I sat down to actually write the book, I thought about all of the events that have to happen throughout the story and which of these things have to be included in the actual book. And then when I started writing, I realized that many of the original plans wouldn't fit into one book, so they were carried over. As a result, we have published ten books and have two or three more to go. Although really, I can only hope for that, because anything is possible.

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  • 9

    Galgóczi Móni

    It is clear from your words that you would like to write down your dreams. How do you feel about the time and energy invested in proportion to the success?

    Robert Jordan

    Since I have a strong ego like any other writer, I expected some success, but the actual extent of it surprised me. I will admit it is a very, very nice feeling.

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  • 10

    Galgóczi Móni

    What kind of relationship do you have with the fans?

    Robert Jordan

    It's not too close. Of course, it happens sometimes—when a new books is out, I interact with the readers, or I have dinner with fan clubs—but it is not something I am known for.

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  • 11

    Galgóczi Móni

    You had made a statement once somewhere that the best thing about being successful was that you could buy any book you wanted from the money you made. Can you tell me how many books you have in your home library?

    Robert Jordan

    At the moment, I have just over 13,000 hardcover books.

    Galgóczi Móni

    That is fantastic. Can you tell me how much and what type of books you've read, or read lately?

    Robert Jordan

    I get a lot of books from various places, and after reading them I pass them along to my friends. The reason for this is that I have a very good memory, and once I have read a book it remains in my mind, so I do not read the same books twice, because it is not as exciting, as I remember the whole story after reading the first few pages.

    What type of books do I read? There are many best-sellers, mostly theological, historical, and scientific and technical works. It is important to me that I am interested in the book, but I often choose books based on reviews which appear in various journals. I'm actually omnivorous.

    Galgóczi Móni

    Do you have any favorites?

    Robert Jordan

    From the specialized work: Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel; otherwise, Lord of the Rings from Tolkien. But if you were to tell me now that you are going to take me with you to a desert island, and I will only be allowed to take one book, we would never get anywhere, because I could not choose which one to take with me.

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  • 12

    Galgóczi Móni

    I have a question in reference to Tolkien. Do you use cards, like the ones that turned up from his desk and were published in thirteen volumes, or do you sit at your computer—I think you use a computer—with a carefully-crafted idea and just type your book?

    Robert Jordan

    I don't use outlines at all because every detail is in my head. By the way, yes, I work on a computer, which is not even the most recent model [Editor's note: this is followed by a comprehensive description about a somewhat outdated configuration]. My first novel was handwritten; the next three novels were written on a typewriter, but my typewriter broke down after the third novel. I took it to a mechanic who said that he couldn't fix it because I had beaten the machine to death. After that I was forced to buy my first computer, and since then I write my novels on my computer.

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  • 13

    Galgóczi Móni

    Let's assume that you are reading your first novel right now, for the first time. Would you be satisfied, or would you make changes?

    Robert Jordan

    The first book was published thirteen years ago. As far as the story is concerned, I am perfectly happy with it; it is likely the same story that I would write now. But I have problems with the prose now, because now I can write a lot better. Otherwise, if there were no deadlines, I would probably rewrite the same book over and over.

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  • 14

    Galgóczi Móni

    The female characters in WoT are very authoritative. Are they based on real-life personalities, or is this how you imagine that these women have to act in these situations?

    Robert Jordan

    All my life, I was always surrounded by strong women who "ate" the weak men, and so only the strong men survived in my family. My grandfather asked me a question: which is more fun: hunting rabbits or leopards? Otherwise, I always paid close attention to the women around me, and I observed how they "work". I always took care to portray them as accurately as possible, or at least that's how I think. This method was so successful—at least based on feedback—that some female readers believed that Robert Jordan was a pen name for a female author.

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  • 15

    Galgóczi Móni

    Into how many languages were these books translated?

    Robert Jordan

    I daresay it's into 22-23 languages. We most recently signed contracts with the Turkish, Taiwanese, and Korean publishers.

    Galgóczi Móni

    How satisfied are you with the translations and the covers of the books published in all the different countries?

    Robert Jordan

    Overall I am satisfied, though there are one or two countries where the appearance of the covers seems a bit odd to me.

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  • 16

    Galgóczi Móni

    I have read stories about bringing these books to the big screen. Do you write the script?

    Robert Jordan

    No, because it's not my thing. Though they bought the option for the books several years ago and we talked about films, TV and mini-series as well, so far nothing has come of it. Otherwise, the Dragonmount.com website has now started to produce an animated movie from the first volume of the series, The Eye of the World.

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  • 17

    Galgóczi Móni

    What do you think of the computer games and role playing games based on the series?

    Robert Jordan

    I haven't played any of them, but my family and friends who have tried them gave them good reviews. I rarely play games, truth to tell; I tend to play chess on my machine.

    Galgóczi Móni

    Have you had any experience with role playing games?

    Robert Jordan

    Back when my son was little [Editor's note: he is 34 now], we played with his friends and I was the storyteller.

    Galgóczi Móni

    How long did that last?

    Robert Jordan

    About three years.

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  • 18

    Galgóczi Móni

    You have been dealing with the series at least 8-9 years. How many hours a day do you spend writing?

    Robert Jordan

    I write eight to nine hours a day, seven days a week. Last year, I only took six days off. Actually, I rarely enjoy that. I admit I am addicted to writing.

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  • 19

    Galgóczi Móni

    When it comes to writing, whose opinion is the most valuable to you?

    Robert Jordan

    I care about Harriet's opinion only. She is the one who knows me, and she sees the finished materials first, so she is the one who is able to check and make sure that the story has everything that is needed for comprehension. After all, it may be that the story is complete in my head but I don't write everything down, so an outsider may not understand what I wanted to say. To make sure this doesn't happen, I listen to Harriet's advice.

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  • 20

    Galgóczi Móni

    How did you meet your wife?

    Robert Jordan

    She worked for the publisher that released my first book. We met, we got to know each other, and I realized over the course of the third book that I wanted to marry her. It was awkward, because I was going to marry my only source of income. I solved the problem like this: I transferred my books to another publisher, but Harriet still edits my books.

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  • 21

    Galgóczi Móni

    And—as if she arrived on cue, when we were talking about the ending series, Harriet appeared on the scene, and took her husband to a quieter part of the hotel from the rings of the prying people. Jordan seemed a little tired from the journalists' all-day-long questions. We said goodbye to each other and then I watched quite a while as his large figure (with his grey-haired head) towered above anybody else and he looked like as if his walking stick was only a decoration rather than a "life-saving" instrument.

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