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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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I have to be honest. I'm not Mr. Jordan. He's the master, and I'm just a journeyman. He's one of the greatest fantasy authors the genre has ever known. I can't hope to write with his skill and power at this stage in my career—and I think there are very, very few writers who could.
Fortunately, I don't have to do this on my own. I have seen the notes, as I mentioned above, and I find them very reassuring. Let me put forth a metaphor for you.
Pretend you have purchased an expensive violin from a master craftsman. It probably wouldn't surprise you to discover that one of the craftsman's apprentices helped create that violin. The master may have had the apprentice sand, or apply varnish, or perhaps shape some of the less important pieces of wood. In fact, if you looked at the violin before master craftsman handed it off to his apprentice, it might just look like a pile of wood to you, and not an instrument at all.
However, the master craftsman did the most important parts. He shaped the heart of the violin, crafting the pieces which would produce the beautiful sound. He came up with the design for the violin, as well as the procedures and processes used in creating his violins. It's not surprising that some other hands were involved in the busywork of following those procedures and designs, once the most important work was done. And so, even though the apprentice helped, the violin can proudly bear the master's signature and stamp.
It's the same with this book. What I've been given may not look like a novel to you, but it excites me because I can see the book Mr. Jordan was creating. All of the important chunks are there in such detail that I feel like I've read the completed novel, and not just an outline. Yes, there is still quite a bit of work to be done. Many of the less important scenes are there only as a framework of a few sentences. However, Mr. Jordan left behind the design of this book. I am convinced that between myself, his wife (who was his editor), and his assistants, we can complete this book to be very, very close to the way he would have done.
People ask me if working on this book is surreal. Before, I always said yes, but I don't think it really hit me HOW strange this is until these last few days.
Yesterday evening, I pulled out the electronic versions of the novels that Mr. Jordan's assistant sent with me when I left Charleston. I combined them all into a single word document to use in searching. (It clocks in at 9,300 pages and about 3 million words, if you're curious.) Using Microsoft Word's search features, I can call up all sorts of useful information from the entire series at the touch of a few keys. (By the way, thanks for sending those electronic files, Alan! You thought of this a full three months before I ended up needing them. I guess that's the sign of an excellent assistant.)
In compiling this document and setting a few bookmarks at important points (mostly the beginning of each book) I hesitated at the copyright statement of A Crown of Swords. He's a book I read over ten years ago, a book by an author I idolized. A distant and unapproachable figure, a hero himself, the one spearheading the epic fantasy movement of my era. And now I have a copy of the original file he typed and I'm working on finishing his last book.
That, my friends, seems to DEFINE the word surreal to me.
I was shocked the first time the people at Tor called this a collaboration. By publishing terms, I guess that's indeed what it is—a collaboration, where two authors work on a single novel. But to me, the term just felt strange. Collaborating with Robert Jordan seemed to set me too high in the process. I'm finishing the Master's work for him, since he is unable to. I kind of feel like Sam, carrying Frodo the last few paces up the mountain. Robert Jordan did all the work; for most of these twenty years, I've only been an observer. I'm just glad I could be here to help for the last stretch when I was needed.
For those of you who wondered, I HAVE read Knife of Dreams and New Spring, but I haven't yet posted blog reactions to them. I read faster than I could keep up on the blog. (I've often noted that I'm really not that great a blogger.) I'll post reactions to these books as I go. For now, I need to get back to Book Twelve.
As you might have noticed, things have been a tad dead here this week. That's because I've been out here in Charleston visiting Robert Jordan's house. Harriet, Alan, Maria, and I have been working on things for Book Twelve, and there was also a panel at The Citadel (where Mr. Jordan went to college) about Mr. Jordan and his effect on the fantasy genre. Harriet wanted me to be part of it, and I was very happy to do so. (David Drake also flew in to sit on the panel. I know it was video taped; I don't know if it will get posted anywhere. If it does, I'll try to get a link up here for you all.)
Regardless, it's been a busy few days. I flew out on Monday and have to be back on Thursday to teach my class. However, we've put our time to very good use, working out the outline for Book Twelve. (There were some holes in the plot and questions about characters we needed to work through.) Maria put it best with some of these holes: It's like we're putting together a jigsaw. We need to sift through Mr. Jordan's notes and figure out what he wanted to have happen, then figure out the best way to make it happen.
This, of course, is only for the sections that are more ambiguous. We're doing our best to make certain this book has as much of Mr. Jordan in it as possible.
Family, friends and fans of fantasy gathered at The Citadel on Tuesday 8 April 2008 to dedicate a permanent memorial to my brother/cousin, James Oliver Rigney, Jr. This was a celebration of Jim's life and his work. I would be lying were I to tell you I was looking forward to the event. We had assembled only a few weeks earlier at the Citadel to induct Jim into the South Carolina Author's Hall of Fame. That evening had propelled me back to the awful moments in September when we lost Jim. Both Harriet and I were in dread of the same happening yet again. It didn't. Rather the opposite.
Harriet had told us all, Onward, still she and I (and I'm sure the rest of the family) were mired in that part of grieving that causes us to hang on, denial. Only a day before, Harriet had rolled up her sleeves and dove headlong into the first chapter of A Memory of Light. She, Jim's loyal staff and Brandon were hard at work on the book. She called me to share that and her excitement was obvious. She sounded like a new woman. Harriet told me that she finally knew that Jim wasn't coming back. That doesn't mean that she doesn't still hurt. The hurt will never totally subside, but now it doesn't interfere with going "onward". Indeed it helps to maintain purpose and focus.
I teased you before with A Memory of Light. You all know the timing, and that hasn't changed. But as I listened in on the exchange between Harriet, Maria (a walking dictionary of the books), Alan and Brandon, I couldn't help but get even more excited. You all know that Jim told me in great detail, the bones of the book and very vividly described the last scene. Still, listening to the team working collectively on the minute details, hearing the excitement in their voices, feeling the electricity in the room made me want to stay till we were done. I lingered for a moment before leaving watching them sitting around the dining room table where we had shared so many meals, stories and good times. As with most families, our family members have assumed places at the table where we normally sit. I smiled when it struck me that sitting in Jim's place was the man tapped to finish Jim's work, Brandon. I'm sure Jim was smiling too. Onward!
4th of 3
Jim's memorial case was put on permanent display in The Citadel library on the 8th of this month. It's a beautiful piece of work, and is probably worth more than some of the houses in the neighborhood. On display are a variety of artifacts representing different periods of Jim's life, and include photographs, articles of clothing and accessories, weapons, everything one would expect to give insight into the personality and experiences of this complex and fascinating individual.
Jim's Harriet convened a panel to discuss his life and literary works before an audience that filled one large section of the library. The panel was comprised of [I'm doing this in order of position, from the left, in the photo shown above] David Drake, famous author of fantasy and military science fiction, and friend/admirer of Jim and Harriet's for many years; Brandon Sanderson, talented young fantasy writer who was selected to finish the last volume in the Wheel of Time series; Michael Livingston, Assistant Professor of English at The Citadel, specialist in medieval studies and author in his own right, who is dedicated to ensuring that Robert Jordan's work be recognized by scholars to be among the masterpieces of world mythology; and, standing, Harriet. The discussion lasted about a hour, and included questions and comments from the audience. All in all, it was a stimulating evening, a fitting tribute to Jim, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. It also gave Brandon the opportunity to say for the first time, "Read and Find Out."
I'm making progress on these A Memory of Light edits, slowly but surely. It's a lot more time-consuming than other books I've edited for several reasons. First off, I've got a lot of input coming in from Charleston. I receive feedback on every chapter not just from Harriet, but from Alan and Maria as well. It's all very good advice, but it's like juggling three editors on the same project, each with different specialties. The sheer organization of it all can be daunting sometimes.
Recently—today and yesterday—I spent producing some new material for the first time in a while. One of the issues with revisions like this is that sometimes, Harriet and the others point out holes in the story which require new scenes to patch properly. As such, I've been 'spot writing' so to speak, crafting new scenes. Some are holes I knew were there and intended to patch, others were holes I left thinking that they would be all right—that readers would make the leap from one scene to another without the bridge scene. In one case, it's a scene I hadn't realized everyone would want to see, but they really do, so I've started work on it. I expect this to continue for the next few days, so you might see the main "A Memory of Light" progress bar inch up a few points. It's at 110% right now. (Which means 440k of completed manuscript, not counting some scenes that Mr. Jordan worked on that haven't yet happened in the chronology.)
The basic estimate for the final length remains the same as it has since about last summer. 750k words. I'll let you know if I think that needs to be revised, but I really won't be able to guess until I've completed more of the manuscript. As I've warned, also, keep an eye on Dragonmount and Tor.com for official announcements related to the Wheel of Time. I'd guess that something will pop up in the next several weeks.
This weekend I'll be in Atlanta for JordanCon. I'm expecting to be so busy with the convention that I didn't set up any kind of external signing. I'm still thinking of heading to Atlanta for DragonCon this year, though, and if I do, I'll try to do an off-site signing for those who are interested. However, if you really want something signed—or want to hear about A Memory of Light (including, I believe, an advance reading from The Gathering Storm) come by JordanCon. I think it's going to be very fun.
The Gathering Storm goes very well; I'm still working through last-stage revisions from Harriet, Alan, and Maria. I finished Alan's today and sent them off to him for commentary. Harriet's are almost all inputted, and I'm about 3/4 the way through Maria's. I should have this all wrapped up by the time JordanCon rolls around.
Harriet is a world class editor–she really is great at what she does. I’ve had several opportunities to meet with her in person–she, and Mr. Jordan’s staff, are awesome. His two assistants, Maria and Alan, are continuity experts and went through my completed manuscript pages fact checking and giving feedback on general issues as well. I had worried that having three editors on this project would make it more difficult to work on, but so far it’s simply been a big help. There is so much going on in this book and this world that having the extra sets of eyes is very helpful.
I’ve really enjoyed the process. At the beginning, after I read all the notes and explained to the team my feelings on the various outlines for the different characters, Harriet pretty much let me call the shots when it came to the actual drafting of the novel. As an editor, she works best when I provide material to her, then she works her magic to turn it from good to excellent. When I turned manuscript pages in, and she came back to me with line edits—where she goes through and tweaks the language of the book—it quickly became obvious what a pro she is and how much she loves this series. It’s truly an honor to work with her.
I've got a good story for you. One time, I was trying to keep track of everyone who was with the character Perrin. You guys know Perrin. So Perrin's off doing this thing, and one of the biggest challenges of writing the Wheel of Time books was the sheer number of characters. Not the main characters—I know the main characters, they're my friends, I grew up with these people, I know them just like hanging out with my high school buddies—but keeping track of all the Aes Sedai, and the Wise Ones, and you know, the Asha'man, and all these various people that are all over the place and saying, "OK. Who is with Perrin and who is with Rand, and who is..."
Anyway. I sent an email off to Team Jordan. You know, Harriet and Maria and Alan who are the... They were two editorial assistants that worked directly with Robert Jordan. Maria and Alan. I think it was Alan I sent an email to, and I said, "Do you have just like a list of everybody? I can go compile one of my own, I'm planning to do it, but if you have one already that says, 'These are the people who are with Perrin.' If you've got something like that." And he said, "I found this thing in the notes buried several files in." And things like this. "Here. I found this. Maybe this is what you want." And he sent me this, and it was called "with Perrin." I thought, "OK. Perfect." I open up this file and it's actually not what I wanted. Instead it is dozens of names of people who haven't appeared in the books yet. These are all the names of all the Two Rivers folk who are with Perrin. Like there are two hundred or so. Just names. Listed off. That have never appeared in the books. Sometimes with their profession, and a little about them, and things like that. And it just blew my mind that there was all of this detail that Robert Jordan had put into this world that nobody sees—and he wasn't planning for them to see. He's not going to have a big list of names in the final book; he wasn't planning that. He just needed to know their names so that he knew that he had them. And this is the level of detail and world-building that Robert Jordan did. I got a big chuckle out of that. Just, list of names. Then I started stealing them like a thief so I had good names that he had come up with, that I could use in the books.
Are you using them for other characters or using them for people...
I'm mostly using them where he intended them to be. Because he had other lists of names for... As the book has progressed and I've discovered these little notes files... Because the notes, there are huge, massive amounts of notes. We say there are about two hundred manuscript pages of stuff done for Gathering...for A Memory of Light. The three books. But beyond that, there are hundreds of thousands of words worth of just background notes, of world-building notes, of things like that. When we say the notes for the book, we're talking about actual specifics to A Memory of Light. But there are hundreds of thousands of other notes; there's just too much for one person to even deal with. So I let the two assistants dig through that. And so once I found out that there were lists of names, I started getting those files so I could use his names in places where we had them. So that I would have to name fewer and fewer people. Because his naming conventions are very distinctive. And, you know, I don't think... I think if you were to read, you could probably tell which names are mine and which are his, because we name things differently. And I'm trying to use his wherever I can, just to give that right feel to the book.
Just to give you an idea of the depth of what's going on in these books, and the level of detail that Robert Jordan put into them: there was one point where I was working on a character, working on a scene. And I was just having trouble keeping track of all the characters that were involved in the scene, just all the different names and all the different personalities, and things like this.
So I emailed one of Robert Jordan's assistants, and I said, "Is there a file or something that explains everybody who's here that's going to be in the scene so that I can keep them all straight?" And a few minutes later I got back an email from Alan who said, "Well I found this, buried in some notes somewhere." And it said 'with. . . ', and then it listed the name of the character. And I’m like, oh good, it's a file called 'who's with this character'. That's exactly what I needed.
I opened it up, and what this file contained was a list of dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds, of names of people who hadn't yet appeared in the books, who were just members of this character's army, who were just there. Robert Jordan had named them all, and in many cases he'd listed their profession, a little bit about them, what they looked like. Now I had to keep track of all these other people who he hadn't even named yet. They hadn't even appeared in the book, fans didn't know about them, and I've got dozens of names of people to keep track of that he had spent the time to go through and say, all right, what are the names of all these people who might just walk by in the background.
So much detail, so much depth to these books, that really when you read these books you don't even know how much there was behind them, filling this out. Robert Jordan knew this world, he knew these people. He knew them so well that they were real to him.
On October 27, Book 12 of The Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm, goes on sale nationally. Completed by Brandon Sanderson from notes and partials left by Robert Jordan, it is very good. I was its editor, as I was editor on ALL the Wheel books, and Maria Simons, Jordan's right hand for over 12 years, and Alan Romanczuk, Jordan's left hand (just because you can't have two right hands unless you are ... Shiva, is it?) have worked very closely with Brandon as well. We three—Harriet, Maria, and Alan—have really worked as Team Jordan on this book, and will do so on the following two, which will complete the Wheel. Book 13 will be titled Towers of Midnight, and Book 14 will be A Memory of Light.
Even Jordan couldn't have written everything he left in one volume, although he thought he could. But you recall that he thought he could write the entire Wheel in six volumes.
Try The Gathering Storm. I think you'll like it a lot. I do.
Update: Some additional comments from Wilson:
I was a Jordan fan before he was Jordan. The Warrior God was my childhood idol, the big brother I didn't have. Love is too weak a word to describe my feelings for Jim. I would do anything for him and would defend him with my life. That includes defending his work. Saying that, I could not be more pleased with the work done by Team Jordan: Harriet, Brandon, Maria and Alan. The Gathering Storm masterfully continues Jim's story in a manner that would be pleasing to the creator himself. There are countless "oh my!" moments. The pace is staggering. I fear that there will be many WOT fans who will lose sleep on the 27th because they just won't be able to find a stopping point.
I said before on this blog, that I loved Jim for bringing Harriet into my life. A grander lady there is not. Still what she has done in orchestrating and beautifully completing Jim's work has raised her stock even more. Love you sis. The Warrior Angel is surely smiling.
Congratulations to Team Jordan. Can't wait till next year.
Brother/Cousin 4th of 3
My job has constantly evolved. First there was fanmail and filing. Then the audiobook project got underway, and someone had to go through and mark all of the changes in point of view so that Michael Kramer could read the male POVs and Kate Reading could read the female ones. Jim decided that I could do that, so, much to my delight, I was getting paid to read The Wheel of Time. I was in hog heaven, of course. At that time, Jim was finishing up A Crown of Swords, and when the proofs came in, Harriet suggested that I assist in going through them, but Jim said no, he didn't want to spoil me. I was crushed. Over the next year or so, though, my job broadened. He gave me the in-house glossary to tidy up, and some of his notes to consolidate. He also would give me lists of questions like "Has character A ever met Character B?" and "Give me three examples of character C's speech" and "Find me all of the information you can on what a baby feels as he's being born." By the time he had The Path of Daggers ready to give to Harriet for editing, I had convinced him that I could help with maintaining our house glossary going forward, and he decided that I would get the pages at the same time Harriet did. Harriet encouraged me to edit as well, and I would do that and pass the pages on to her. I don't know if any of my edits made it into the final book, but Harriet did begin recommending me for freelance editing.
I did other things as well. Jim had a massive personal library, and mentioned that he would love for it to be cataloged; I cobbled together a classification system, using WordPerfect mail merge. I also cataloged his music collection, and kept the existing catalog of movies updated. I did shopping for him, arranged appointments, worked on the Wizards of the Coast RPG and the New Spring comics. When the new cat went missing, I made and put up posters in the neighborhood (we found her hiding under the house, eventually); when cranes and herons started stealing goldfish, I was given fox urine to spread around the pond to discourage them (Jim did encourage me to delegate; I managed to pass that one on to someone else. It smelled so bad that that idea was soon abandoned and we covered the fish pond with a net. I still sometimes find huge birds staring hungrily at the fish when I walk out there). Eventually I took over the bookkeeping as well. He took to calling me his right arm. Over time, I picked up assistants, two of whom are still with me: Marcia Warnock, who took over the book catalog, spread the fox urine, keeps me in office supplies, handles all the annoying phone calls, and keeps me on schedule; and Alan Romanczuk, who took over the questions and research, became our IT specialist, and assists with the bookkeeping, among many other things.
Then, after the Knife of Dreams tour, Jim was diagnosed with amyloidosis. Our focus changed somewhat; we all worked to help him and Harriet as much as we could. After the night that Jim told the ending to Wilson and Harriet, I would sit and talk with him about the end of the series, with a tape recorder running. The last thing that we did together was select the winners of the calendar art contest. Note: I didn't select, I just gave him the art and took notes, and then emailed the winning names to Tor. That was two days before his death.
The significant thing that has changed about my job since then is that Jim isn't here. It's quieter—there is no big, booming voice calling "Maria!" or singing as he comes in the office. There's no one explaining military stuff to me and making it really clear and interesting. There's no one sitting at his desk wearing a silly hat. What I do at my job hasn't changed that much. Now I work directly for Harriet, who is as wonderful a boss as Jim was. When Brandon has questions about the books, I work on finding answers, as does Alan. When Brandon sends us a book, I go through it looking for continuity errors, just as I did with Jim, and suggesting other changes, just as before. I still do the bookkeeping with Alan's help, and other banal stuff. I know a lot more fans now, of course; I went to JordanCon, DragonCon, and the Charleston and New York booksignings for The Gathering Storm. I can hardly wait until JordanCon 2, which as I type is 11 weeks and 1 day away.
Heh. That's more or less it, but . . . let me tell you a story. One day, many years ago, I went into Jim's office. While there, I mentioned some problem that I was having (I have no idea what it was; it was that long ago). Jim immediately proceeded to give me chapter and verse on what to do. I answered that I was going to think about it more, and then went upstairs to my office. A few minutes passed, and then there was the booming "Maria!" from the bottom of the stairs. I went out, and he said that he was sorry for going all patriarchal on me, that I was a grown, capable woman and that I should do what I thought best. I hadn't even thought twice about it, but he was worried that he had overstepped his bounds. Therefore, I hesitate to call him a patriarch. He was our leader.
So we all worked together. It's a strange little group, sort of random, but not really. Harriet was at my wedding; she appears in some of the pictures taken. Jim may have been there (really, most of that day is a blur in my memory), but he was probably off writing. Marcia was once my husband's boss. She and I share the same birthday, and almost no one can tell us apart when we answer the phone. Alan's son went to the same school as my sons; I became friends with his wife before I ever met him, and he later coached my son's tennis team (It was at a tennis match that his wife suggested he might be interested in working with us). We're coworkers, yes, but we are friends too. We watch out for each other, and we've always joked that we're more like a family than a business. Dealing with Jim's illness brought us all even closer. We pulled together, and supported each other. And yes, it very much did help us when he died, and since.
So, I got Alan and Maria cornered and did a joint interview with them, which was fun. After that, I went to the "What an Editor Does" panel with Harriet and Paul Stevens. Funny thing, Harriet had a slide show she wanted to show, but there was no projector, nor did that have a computer that would easily display it (Alan had a MacBook, but it was a Powerpoint slide show and no one was willing to trust the reader he had). I ran to the front desk and got the projector on its way, and then went up and snagged my laptop. This seemed amazingly fitting, as you can tell from this picture of my laptop's lid. (Yes, that is an older picture of the laptop, but it looks the same now, so shush).
The panel was really interesting, by the by. Harriet and Paul really took us into the editor side of things, and not just on the "why do they pick this book or that" or the "how we line-edit" processes. No, we got to see the scary worksheets they have to fill out explaining to Tom Doherty and marketing why Tor should buy the book, samples of manuscripts at various stages of production, and even the cover art summary letter that was sent to Darrell Sweet for The Fires of Heaven with some of the subsequent back and forth correspondence (which we are assured is not really all that common nowadays). Some interesting things that were mentioned was how Tor actually expects to take a loss on a brand new author because they are in the business of building writers' careers, not just making a quick buck on a single book. To this end, Tor actually tends to sign even their new authors with multi-book contracts.
Day Three: Sunday
I wake up at Seven. Again, don't ask why. I get my things packed up and out to my car, then go and have breakfast with Alan and his wife. Much fun conversation and discussion. Oh, and I will stop being mean, no I did not learn any secrets that I cannot tell you during all my hobnobbing with Team Jordan. They are very tight-lipped, and even delighted in taunting us.
In 2001, I was hired on recommendation of Maria Simons, who had worked for Jim for years at that point. I had known Maria through our children going to the same school. Maria's work had gotten to the point where she couldn't keep doing the research for Jim—the continuity work, looking up obscure facts—because of all her other responsibilities. So, I was brought on to pretty much take on that aspect of what Maria had been doing.
I met Jim the day I came in. He was sitting at his desk and stood up, and we had a nice little chat about pipe smoking and fantasy, a little bit of this and that, and I then went upstairs to my little burrow in the back of the carriage house, where I've remained for many years.
The published books? Ah. I don't have a specifically favorite scene, but in the recent books that Jim had written, the one that comes to mind for me is when Perrin was at his wit's end trying to find his wife and get information on Faile, and he goes to interrogate the captured Shaido they have staked out on the ground. Against all expectations, he chops off the man's limb, and makes it very clear to him that he is not going to kill him, but makes sure he is crippled for the rest of his life and will have to depend on others for his well being.
What is striking about that is not only the surprise in what happened to Perrin's personality, but the fact that we see the depths of this man who had been operating at an almost emotionless state, or at least with a single, fixed purpose, which was saving his wife. We see him, the peace-loving blacksmith who, just through fate, is thrown into a position of leadership, suddenly do something that is completely out of character, or that we think is out of character, when in fact it is springing from his depths, something that needs to be done. So, in that scene, we see an inkling of Perrin becoming the person that he needs to be to take part in the Last Battle.
(long pause) Sorry, I'm flabbergasted by that response. That is a very different interpretation that I'd heard of that before. Going to have to say that yours is probably the canonical one, though.
So, what was it like working with Robert Jordan?
Working with Jim was a gas. We had the business relationship, where he'd throw a lot of questions at me and I'd throw a lot of answers back at him. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Jim viewed the world, from what I could see at least. He didn't do anything in small ways. Everything was in large bites, and everything on the table: not just the meat or just the starches. He ate it all, digested it, and it went into his databank. And everything came out of that.
So, it was just a lot of fun, even to the point of fixing his computer, because if one anti-virus program is good, then three or four running simultaneously is even better. (Note: he made a geek joke. That is why I really like this guy.)
So it was just a delight to see this mode of operation translated into writing the Wheel of Time as well. You take a single country, or a person from that country. They don't have the characteristics of a single country in our life, but rather he is drawing from half a dozen or more cultures that we are familiar with, combining them in new ways, shaping them to produce a new being which at the same time draws from so many different elements in our life. So that was great.
And you know, the chats at the end of the day were also wonderful. I would bring him the stock market report on a daily basis and we would either commiserate or celebrate what had happened on that day. There was not a lot of just chit-chat. I tried to respect the time that he put into the books, but at the same time, I was really surprised that he would give as much time as he did instead of writing. If it were me, I'd lock the door and not let anyone in while I was writing, but he was often interrupted while working.
It actually has not been that bad to date because Jim himself set up so many timelines as part of the series. It was fun going back in his files and finding literally dozens of timelines of what was going to happen. With his engineer's mind, it was important for him to grasp where every single character was at any given time in the series, know how they were meshing at any specific time in order to allow them to come together as part of the story later on and not be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So, it was really just a matter of seeing where he was going with things and how he had structured them and tapping into that and then just extending it. You know, the harder part now is that Jim is gone, and so we have to make sure that all these threads fit. You have to know how far a horse can travel in a day, and how far a cart can travel in a day, how far an army can travel in a day, and how many days they can keep that pace. "Oh, Mat has to be at such-and-such a place to be able to meet with this person who is coming in from a totally different area." So there is a lot of taking out the ruler and looking at the map and seeing how many kilometers or miles are between point A and point B.
Normally, I have a lot of alpha readers on my books. These are people that, once I finish a novel, I let them look at it and give me a reader response. In the case of the Wheel of Time books, most of those were not available to me. We have to keep it quite tightly under wraps and not show it to a lot of people. So, it is nice having multiple editors, both in the form of people who directly edit the book such as Harriet, Alan, and Maria, and also people like Tom Doherty, who has given me some good advice. My normal editor, Moshe Feder, did a read through on this book, and my agent did as well. All of them are giving advice.
I am immediately juggling Alan, Maria, and Harriet's comments. I'd send a chapter in and then be working on the next one, and that chapter would come back three times with three different sets of revisions on it. That got really challenging to juggle. There was one time when I was flying on a plane to an event for Tor, and I had three separate paper sets of a chapter printed out along with electronic commentary by them on the chapters. So, I was juggling four files and three sets of paper on the same pages, trying to get this all inputted and changed. It got . . . well, it was a juggling act.
Number one, let's talk about the blademaster issue. I'm not at liberty right now to say what's in the notes and what isn't, but I can tell you I'm drawing from the notes when I'm writing. I don't know why certain things weren't mentioned before in the series.
Maintaining the Wheel of Time continuity is an enormous task. There are so many questions like "What was Bryne's rank during the Aiel war?" where I ask Maria and Alan and just trust their instincts. There are other ones where they're not even sure.
Much of the time, when we run into issues like this, it's just me making a mistake. I do apologize for that. I promise you, I have read these books a number of times, but I don't have the type of mind that memorizes facts and repeats them back offhandedly. I have to do a lot of reading each time I write a chapter, and I often make mistakes. A lot of the time, these mistakes come because I HAVE been reading the series for so long. I've got these long-seated impressions of characters and events in my head that go back all the way to my teenage days. And they're not always right. (I didn't learn to pronounce some character names until I was well into my 20s.) Sometimes, I just assume I know something when I've been wrong about it all along. Those are the dangerous ones, since I don't think to look up items like that.
Anyway, with every printing of the books, Maria goes back in and fixes continuity. It happened when Robert Jordan was writing the books (though not nearly as often as it will when I'm writing them, I suspect). So what can I say about that? Well, Harriet is putting together a comprehensive encyclopedia that will become the definitive answer to these sorts of questions. Until then, I'm letting Team Jordan handle it.
By the last of the Wheel of Time books, my role was primarily that of wife: keeping him fed and cared for—because after 20 plus years I had taught him everything I knew about storytelling and prose, and he had really become the wonderful writer that he was.
Working with Brandon is wonderful, because he is a grand human being as well as a very good writer. My role has expanded a lot—Brandon was amused that I made a cut in The Eye of the World that was exactly the kind of cut I made in The Gathering Storm—and I know these characters very well. They are, after all, a lot like my grandchildren.
Maria Simons, who has worked with Jim and me for fifteen years, is absolutely indispensable in the creation of these last books. Her memory is much better than mine—and she can often say what chapter of what book includes a particular scene. I cannot. She also has a tremendous memory for the minutiae of how the Power works, and lots of other stuff. And with Maria, Alan Romanczuk is also indispensable. He is a military veteran, which helps a lot with military stuff Brandon is not as familiar with as Jim was, and in general with all the other stuff.
I am now a member of Team Jordan, as far as the editing goes.
How difficult has weaving Towers of Midnight around The Gathering Storm been? Is there a large amount of inter-connectivity? Do we cross back on any events in The Gathering Storm?
Yes, we do cross back on events in The Gathering Storm. The trickiest part was timeline. Robert Jordan had this innate ability to juggle timelines. This is not something he relied on Maria, Alan, or Harriet for; it was something he did on his own, just part of the genius of his brain. All of us are pretty new at this. I mean, I wrote Mistborn chronologically. There wasn’t any time juggling. There was time juggling to do in Elantris, but it was across the course of a single novel. It didn’t get as extensive. For the Wheel of Time, timeline things that Robert Jordan kept in his head are quite incredible, and I have to admit that I’m not as good at it as he was. Perhaps someday I will be able to get to that level, but for now I’m simply not. So working with the timeline has taken a lot of effort. I think we’ve got it so it all worked out. It took a lot of help. Maria, Alan, and others all worked together with me to get things arranged—some of our beta readers were extremely helpful in this—but there is a lot of juggling back and forth. You will see some events from different perspectives. It is not a complete jump back like book ten was. I would say that the book is mostly new material with a few glances at other things that are happening, but we’re moving forward; I’d say 60% of the book is taking place past what happened in The Gathering Storm. And then there’s one timeline in particular where we jump back and catch up—that’s Perrin’s timeline. But it was really challenging.
(Mumbled conversation ensues between Alan and Brandon and something about battles...)
One of the tricks of working with this is, I basically have five editors, with Harriet at the top, and then there's Maria and Alan right below. And then Moshe my editor is giving us reads...because we can't use my normal alpha readers for this, which are my writing group, because they'd all have to be part of the NDA and that's just too many people. And so instead we brought on Moshe to just give me an alpha read, a dry alpha read. And then my agent also gives me dry alpha reads, because they all are interested professionals and part of the NDA and things like that.
But basically, even looking only at Harriet, Maria, and Alan, what would happen is on The Gathering Storm, I would send in some scenes, and then I would start working on the next ones. And I would get deep into the next ones, and then some papers would come. I'm like, oh revisions. So I'd go back and start doing revision. And then another group of papers would come from another one of them that had revisions that were different. And then another group of papers would come that were a third group of revisions. And in some cases, they've all caught the same typo, but then I have to end up searching for it three times because I can't remember if I've changed that typo or not. And then I can't find it. I'm like, oh I guess that's one I caught, but really sometimes I didn't catch it, I'm just on the wrong page or something. Anyway, I have three sets of paper all from different people making different revisions, and sometimes they disagree with one another on what should be changed, and they're not seeing each other's revisions.
Meanwhile, I'm on tour trying to fly around and carry all of these. You should have seen me on the airplane one of these days where revisions were needed the next day, and I'm flying on a six-hour flight in coach. And I'm cuddled like this between two people in the middle seat, with six hundred pages around me, trying to find all three pages that are editing the same section, and realizing that one's in my suitcase. This was absolutely a nightmare to do.
And so this time, I'm like, let's go all digital, I'll have them all on my computer, it will be so much easier. But Harriet had never done digital revisions before. None of you had, I don't think. And so the idea was we would have one person do a revision, and then they would hand the file off, and that person could go through and a revision and add their comments, and then the next person would be able to do it. And that would have been wonderful in a perfect world. Unfortunately, we didn't have time for that because we were so crunched for time. And so what would happen is they all would be working on their own machine because they all needed to be reading at the same time, they couldn't wait for the other person. And so then they would all three send me documents digitally, which is easier to work with than trying to dig out all fifty pages of each. But at the same time, then I have four documents: my document, and three documents with revisions in it, from different versions of Word or Wordperfect or Open Office or whatever it is. I basically would just send them all to Peter (Peter Ahlstrom, Brandon's assistant) and say, "Peter, meld these somehow."
Peter deserves kudos.
I would like to say, at the beginning of the editing process on the last book, Brandon was 7 feet, 3 inches tall.
MAFO. Brandon replied that it may be due to all the problems caused by Ituralde's raids, and possibly the issue with Galad's desertion as well.
Their plan was to push east quickly through Illian and eventually sweep north into Andor and beyond. Ghealdan was not a military threat to them for the time being, and it would fall easily to them once they had consolidated control of the southeast. There are only so many fronts on which an army wishes, or should wish, to fight simultaneously, even an army of great strength. History is littered with the corpses of generals who made that mistake.
Are you going to write another WoT encyclopedia?
Harriet, Maria, and Alan are working on one. Harriet promised it to Tor a few years back, and I think it's been officially announced that she's working on it. There is no firm release date. After A Memory of Light is complete, I'd imagine.
WOT question: Did you go through ALL the notes from RJ on the Wheel of Time (if that is even humanly possible) or just those related to A Memory of Light?
Mr. Jordan left behind notes for the series which, word-length wise, is in EXCESS of the length of the written novels. That was just too much for me to handle. I've used Mr. Jordan's assistants for fetching information from these reserves, and have focused most of my efforts on the notes specifically left for A Memory of Light. The Guide has been very helpful. But mostly, if I need to know something from the notes, I send Maria and Alan searching while I work on the actual prose.
The evening began with the amusing sight of Brandon Sanderson piling various items of furniture on top of one another to create a home-made lectern for his laptop. Following a brief aside on the difference between a lectern and a podium (and how this plays into the editorial process), Brandon read from a novella he’s recently written. [Legion] Apparently, he started it on the flight back to the US the last time he came to the UK. He couldn’t work on the Wheel of Time since he was awaiting the outcome of some research on the notes. He went on to explain that Robert Jordan left a pile of notes roughly half Brandon’s height that his two researchers dip into when Brandon needs an answer to one of his questions. This is normally quick, but it can take several months to come up with a fully researched answer. The reading lasted about eight minutes and seemed to be from the beginning of the novella. I won’t spoil the concept, but it’s clever and deeply silly.
The evening then moved to a Q&A. Questions and answers are paraphrased from my notes and memory, so they won’t be absolutely word-for-word, but they shouldn’t be much different from the original conversation. I’ve included all the questions, not just the Wheel-related ones.
Okay...we don't really know. No one really knows. It's an ancient artifact, probably not a ter'angreal.
Excuse me, Maria, I have to interrupt for just a moment. I actually found some notes on this, in the bottom of Jim's desk.
I don't know if anyone's interested.
Just a little?
The Horn of Valere, as Maria said, it was created by mortals—we know that; Jim has said as much publicly—and the Horn was created in the Age before the Age of Legends, or at least one Age before; it was not known how far back. But I've discovered that the Horn actually was the original Horn played by Dizzy Gillespie. [laughter] It was manufactured by King—it was the silver flare model. And something happened after this Age...there was so much Bebop imbued in this instrument that it took on its own magical qualities, and when it was found during the Age of Legends, the bent bell was refashioned into a curve, and they put in the Old Tongue inscription inside the bell. [laughter]
That is awesome.
Wow. I never would have guessed that.
Well, it's really obscure. The power of Bebop is unlimited, and it just transformed through the last couple of Ages, to get into Rand's world, with its current...now, originally, when he blew it, musicians would appear.
AH. Backup band.
But because of the needs of the time, you know, it suddenly became, Heroes would emerge when it was played. So, that's all we can really say about it. Do you have anything else to add, Maria?
I can't wait until the Theorylanders get ahold of that.
Oh yeah. So now we know that the Wheel even weaves inanimate objects into the Pattern, and makes use of them as it wishes.
Now, that story I expect to see in the next Great White Book, version two. [laughter]
Will we ever find out whose voice it was at the end of The Eye of the World?
[pause] [in a sing-song voice] RAFO! (ray-foe)
Yeah, that's a RAFO. (raffo)
I figured, but I had to ask.
I wondered how long it would take.
Maria and I have spent some time trying to figure out different ways to say 'read and find out', so we're going to be trying out some of them today, and we'll see how it goes.
Oh, this will be fun. Let me see if I can get you another trial run here. Um...Asmodean? [laughter]
Yeah. Who's that guy?
He's toast, that's who he is.
No, Sammael's toast.
Yeah, I was going to say.
Well, I think he is too.
Um, if anybody sees the back of my car, they will see that I killed Asmodean. That's all I'm gonna say. [laughter]
I thought it was Bela!
I do like the 'Bela killed him' theory. That one is just insane enough to be true.
I like that Bela is the Neigh'blis. [laughter]
Terrible puns are always a good thing.
I love it.
And the master of the terrible pun is on this call.
In Jim's office.
Well feel free. [laugher]
I am, I am.
Pun away. Well, we've got two...you pronounce it 'raffo', right? Not 'rayfo'?
I say 'rayfo'. I don't know that there's a real pronunciation for that one.
She says 'raffo', I say 'rayfo', so let's call the whole thing off.
Yeah, well we got two right off the bat. I don't know what else we're going to....well, probably everything.
Well, 1) we haven't seen Elayne in a whole book; we don't really know what she's doing, and 2) she has problems channeling because of this pregnancy deal, and 3) everything's going to be in the Old Tongue and she's a little busy to sit down and translate documents.
But you don't understand the significance of that ter'angreal: Jim foreshadowed the creation of the Kindle. [laughter]
Mmhmm, he did. And actually, Elayne—right now as we speak—is in her bed reading fiction on that.
I bet they're dirty romance novels.
I was going to peg her for an urban fantasy fan.
No, no, no, no, no. She loves the Harlequins. Case closed.
Oh, the Harlequins. Yeah.
Either her or Aviendha, but one of those two is definitely into the Harlequin super-romance.
How can she get all excited about the cover art of Fabio when she's got Rand? [laughter]
Have you seen the cover of Lord of Chaos?
Yeah, I'm telling you! No comparison.
Yeah, that one was nicknamed at our house 'Passion of the Aes Sedai'. I actually had to take the dust jacket off of that one when I would take it to school, when I was in high school, because I was like, "I do not want people to think I'm reading some kind of filthy romance novel in class."
Well, I'm thinking more of, what was it? A Crown of Swords? Where he's got the, uh…all he needs is some baby oil and a little less clothes and he looks like he's posing…
We love fist-pumping, body-building Rand.
Don't make me get out the water bottle to squirt you ladies. Jeez… [laughter]
I have a big cardboard cut-out of fist-pumping, baby-oil Rand in my garage right now. I use it as a [decoration] at conventions. [Amusingly, it was stolen at JordanCon 2011, a few months after this interview.]
Is that cool, or is that creepy?
Well, it's a little insane I think.
Birgitte thinks he's been reborn into the world.
That's a nice answer.
Birgitte thinks he's been reborn?
She's mooning over all the ugly boy-children she can get her hands on, thinking "Ohh, maybe this is him!"
But keep in mind the only way she thinks that is because she hadn't seen him for a while in Tel'aran'rhiod before she was yanked out by Moghedien. So we don't even know if that's true, do we? (I just threw that out for what it's worth.)
But she did always say that he was usually born before her, but we don't know how long in real world time, so he could be more than a child, hopefully. Or he could still be lurking in Tel'aran'rhiod.
But there's no way he could be more than a child. Correct me if I'm wrong, Alan, but the entirety of the books we have isn't more than a couple of years, is it?
Yeah, it's been about twenty-four months for the main characters. Alan would know for sure.
Yes, I'm not saying this is true. Well, of course I know, but I can give you various possibilities: he could be born as a child right now; he could still be lurking in Tel'aran'rhiod; he could have been ripped out the same way Birgitte had been, in which case he would be an adult, right?
Unless he was dead. Because wouldn't it require someone to bond him after he gets ripped out? Wasn't that kind of the deal with Birgitte?
Well, maybe he's stronger than she was…maybe he's…
There are a lot of possibilities.
Unless somebody has a really ugly Warder they're not talking about… [laughter]
Not all Warders are beautiful. I mean…
Go check Myrelle's quarters. I know Myrelle has a real penchant for hiding extra Warders around… [laughter]
Yeah, but she likes hers pretty.
She got Lan.
Lan's impressive, but I don't know if anybody would call him pretty any more. [laughter]
Yes, yes. One thing you have to remember about Jim is he never did a single reference in any of his descriptions, whether it's a military uniform, a city, a character—everything seemed to draw from multiple sources. So yes, Cairhien was most likely in part based on London, but you look at the map of it, and you can see it's very different as well. It's laid out in a very rigid grid fashion. You could say in that case, well, maybe it's based on New York City in part as well, and it has a palace up on the highest hill within the bounds of the city. That's not true of London, but it's true of other places. And London wasn't the only city burned by attack; there were many others. But yeah, I mean Jim had a huge number of books in his reference library, and he traveled a lot as well, so he saw many of these places, and in typical Jim fashion...you know, I wouldn't be surprised if he had eight or ten or twelve influences in the creation of Cairhien.
That's great, because what actually caught my notice—because, even the Great Fire of 1666 probably would have passed me by in connection to the Wheel of Time world, except for the fact that, then I looked at the semi-Puritanical dress that the nobles in the city were taken to wearing, and then we were…I actually on the day I thought of this question was sitting there looking at a screen with the picture of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, and I was just like, "You know, that's like, almost what I kind of envisioned the Cairhienin nobility to kind of look like."
Well, one thing we've never seen in any of the Wheel of Time history that I can recall—and London, just talking about it brought it to mind—is, we've never seen a large-scale plague in history, like with the Great Plague of the year…I've forgotten now.
Well, of course, so many of the rats have been eliminated, but they're back now.
They're back! Maybe your plague is coming, like they need more trouble. [laughter]
The Last… (cross-talk)
No, go ahead…
The Last Battle is…
It's funny that you brought up London as an influence, because most people when they're talking about influences on Cairhien, they really pick up on the court of the Sun King and Marie Antoinette because the style is very, you know, 1700s, late-1700s and Marie Antoinette, and there's also a lot of Japanese influence, and that tends to be what people pick up on. So this is the first time I've had somebody say, "You know, I think there's a London in Cairhien," so that's kind of interesting.
I guess everybody brings something different to the books, and interprets them in their own way.
Oh yeah, definitely.
Yeah, another interesting point: anyone remember what the name Cairhien means in the Old Tongue?
Hill of the Golden Dawn.
Hill of the Golden Dawn. The Order of the Golden Dawn was an occult society in London back before the beginning of the 20th Century.
Yeah, that's right. I'd forgotten that.
Which I just bring out as, you know, yet another thing that Jim latched on to and threw into the mix.
Most people think 'the hill of the golden dawn' is like, 'Oh, the land of the rising sun!' which would be Japan, because there's a heavy Japanese influence in just the style of the buildings and things like that seem very Japanese.
Sure. And the Sun King of France.
Yeah. It's kind of like he just pulled everything that was related to the sun and just kind of melded it together to make Cairhien.
He liked mixing things up.
And it works really well. That's the surprising thing to me is that he was able to pull from so many different sources and make things seem very coherent and logical for the cultures.
Yeah, I like the fact that everything that you read as you're going along, all these things sort of tug at the back of your mind and you're thinking, 'Oh, this reminds me of this, and this reminds me of that', and it makes you really think that it adds a depth to the thing that you can come back later and explore it again.
Okay, I've got a game for you. Go to Wikipedia. Put in something like 'golden dawn', let's say…or just anything. Pull anything from the Wheel of Time books that's distinctive. Put it into Wikipedia until you find a hit. I almost guarantee, within that article, you're going to find yet another reference from the Wheel of Time. Track that. See how many hits you can go before you run out.
I'll have to try that.
I did that the other day, and I wound up spending an hour and a half of just going from one thing to another. It was really amazing.
Yeah, I can see myself losing an afternoon doing that.
Oh yeah, easily.
I've lost too many hours to Wiki-walking already.
I guess that's why it bothers me so much about that library ter'angreal…if I had that, I'd never be able to put it down, and I guess I just don't understand how somebody could…if they can't deal with it, then delegate, but this is me. It's the equivalent of having a computer hooked up to the internet; I could not walk away from it. It would be a Mindtrap for me. [laughter]
Oh, you're spot on. Spot on.
Jim actually spoke pretty extensively in public about the Old Tongue, and I even pulled up a letter that he had written about it in which he says, "The Old Tongue is based on, for example, the languages: Gaelic, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and some additions of my own—bridging material if you will. Grammar and syntax are a blending of English, German, and Chinese with some influence from a set of African languages read about long ago, and all but the oddities of structure long since forgotten." He has converted constructions…the thing about the Old Tongue, the way that it's constructed…it is a very loose language, like Latin I guess; it can be presented in almost any order and be intelligible to someone who knows it, and there are several conventions involved in it which could be explained for a longer podcast, but those are the basics. He really did pull them from a lot of different areas, and he started by constructing the language—as I recall there is a list of 850 or 880 common words that you need to know to be able to speak in English, and I don't know who created these, but he had that. We have file, and he modified that, kicking out some words like 'electricity' and so forth that wouldn't be useful in this, and adding some others, and putting definitions to them in Old Tongue. I never added it up, but he said we had a file of about a thousand words, and this dictionary will be published at a later time.
That is awesome.
And that will be part of the encyclopedia, actually.
That'll be great.
I can't wait. That sort of leads me into my next question which is something that, two years ago when Brandon was out on the Mistborn tour—the last Mistborn book tour—during an interview, I asked him if he could please come up with some way for us to say phrases having to do with the Light, such as 'Walk in the Light,' or 'May the Light illumine you' in the Old Tongue, and he said he would do his best, and I think he just forgot. But we do have the audio; he kind of sort of promised us. We're hoping that maybe you can bail him out on this one. [laughter]
Well, I think all will be revealed in the encyclopedia.
Aww, I can't wait that long!
Except what isn't revealed.
How far is the encyclopedia coming? People ask me about it occasionally, and I'm like, 'I dunno; they're working on it.'
Well, it's been back-burner recently because we're doing Towers of Midnight, but that's my next project to get back into, doing basically the skeleton for it, and after A Memory of Light we will go full bore on it.
Oh, excellent. I remember Harriet saying that it was due one year after the final book, whenever the final book is out.
And we're working on it in between when we get time, when we're not doing podcasts and so forth. [laughter]
Oh, now you're making us feel guilty. [laughter] But not very.
Egwene (egg-WAYNE), Taim (tah-EEM), Faile (fah-EEL), Egeanin (egg-ee-AH-nin), [???—Ethenielle? (eth-IN-ee-əl]…that's all I can think of off the top of my head. Well, Nynaeve (nigh-NEEVE) seems to be mispronounced a lot too.
I could not even read her name when I first saw it. I was just like, "I'm going to skip her; she seems like a minor character." And then I was like, "Aw, crap; she's actually in this story; I'm gonna have to figure out how to actually read her name."
I can't believe it; I've actually been saying them all pretty well. It's always a worry, especially when you're doing a podcast, because you know, when people are going to be listening, you don't want to start a trend if it's not going to be the right thing.
The worst is when we get the feedback that says, "You're not saying that right! Get your pronunciations correct; you're supposed to be experts. Then it's like, "No, we're not." We actually say a lot that we're nowhere near experts in the series.
We're just fans like the rest of you guys.
I still say some things wrong, but I've been saying them that way for a long time, so…people can get over it.
At the reading that we did at DragonCon, Brandon had to read the word "Aesdaishar" for the first time out loud, and he had to stop and be like, "I've never said this word before; make sure I get it right." That was funny.
Oh, and Elayne's brother is Galad (gə-LAHD), and Gawyn (GAH-win).
Yes! We've been getting those right too!
And see, I usually say GAL-id (like the word 'gal'). I know it's wrong, but that's what comes out of my mouth. But I have on my little piece of paper here it's gə-LAHD.
We'll just chalk it up to you being southern. Gallid is the southern way of saying it.
Well, we don't really know no one did. If they did, they didn't share it, sure. You know, not all channelers are Aes Sedai, and even Aes Sedai don't always share things.
Yeah, they keep a lot back.
The Blue Ajah, you know, has all its little secret weaves, and I'm sure all the other Ajahs do as well. And two, there's always the whole thing that, 'the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills', and sometimes the Wheel weaves out what it needs, and with the Last Battle coming, it needs all the help it can get…so the really talented people, the really ta'veren people, they come out again. That's for most of them. For Healing, maybe there's a different answer. Aes Sedai…they know how to Heal people, and that's the way they do it, and they don't need to know anything better! I mean, it's just Aes Sedai being Aes Sedai. They think they know what they're doing, so they don't look for a better way to do it.
And if they have discovered a better way to do it, they're probably not sharing it with other people, because every Aes Sedai is looking for an advantage over the others.
Oh, okay. So then that sort of partially answers the next half of my question, which is: How did some of these weaves get lost in the first place?
Oh, my favorite rant. All the Aes Sedai woke up one morning with amnesia. How did I Travel? I can't remember.
Well, part of it…I mean, I was reading, of all things, the Big White Book, and you know, the Breaking lasted a really long time, and things were really breaking. I mean, you might know how to Travel, but you didn't know if where you were trying to go was still there. You know, it might be in the middle of the ocean now, or on top of a mountain, so people probably weren't Traveling as much...and Aes Sedai were being killed right and left. There were all these crazy men, channelers wiping out entire cities, and the Aes Sedai women were trying to stop them, and sometimes they succeeded, and sometimes not…so, things really went to hell in a handbasket. Fast. And, you know, if a woman knew how to channel and she couldn't find anyone else who had the strength to channel, she couldn't really teach anybody to channel.
To Travel, is what I meant to say.
Yeah, there was a time of course when the White Tower wasn't there. You know, the White Tower was a recent innovation in the grand scheme of things, and so the Aes Sedai after the Breaking were everywhere, so there wasn't that institutional memory in all things at that point, and things were lost.
So the Hall of the Servants, then, basically was a much looser organization than the somewhat hierarchical White Tower…
…than we have now.
So we have a sort of central storing place for knowledge, or anything like that.
Yeah, think of what would happen to us if there was a horrible disaster that wiped out the internet. We would lose all of our knowledge except for, you know, the stuff that we still have in books. But you know, a good portion of our knowledge and communication that is electronic now would be gone.
But this podcast would remain in people's hearts. [laughter]
Well, you got me on that one, Maria, because if my computer was suddenly taken away and there were no others to replace it, I think I would probably have the equivalent of amnesia. It's my plastic brain, and I really need it. [laughter]
I've always thought that the lost talents were related to strength, because the modern Aes Sedai are weaker than the Age of Legends Aes Sedai, and a lot of these rediscovered weaves require a certain level of strength that just doesn't exist in those Aes Sedai.
Right, and also talent, because to do this Healing, you have to have a certain Talent for Healing. To make cuendillar...Janya couldn't make cuendillar worth a darn, and…she didn't have that Talent, so if somebody knew it, but there was nobody they could teach it to, it's gone!
Well, the thing is though…leading up to that comment: remember in—I believe it was Crossroads, but it might have been Knife of Dreams—when Sorilea (soar-ih-LAY-uh)—I have no idea if this is how it's pronounced...
She taught Cadsuane how to Travel, even though she couldn't make the weave work herself. So just because you don't have the strength to make the weave finish doesn't mean you can't form the weave anyway.
That's true, but...okay. We've got our nameless Aes Sedai after the Breaking, and she's found a little crew of people, and none of them are strong enough to Travel. Well, she's going to show them how to do it anyway and hopefully one day they'll find somebody strong enough but, you know, they never do. So we've got the same thing, and you know, sooner or later it's going to…if you can't actually use it for anything, you're going to put it aside and not pay any attention to it, and it will get lost.
Or, by the time that bunch of people finds someone who is [strong enough], it might have gone through several iterations and they might have the weave just a little bit wrong, so that it doesn't work either.
And—correct me if I'm wrong on this—but I don't think it's possible to write down how to do a weave. I think it's something that you have to learn through demonstration. You can't just write it down, and be like, 'Well, I'll put this on the shelf, and some day a hundred years from now someone will come along and pick it up and figure out how to weave...whatever from this. I feel like you have to be shown how to do a weave.
That is...I mean, that's how they do it. You know, the novices don't run around with heavy books; they run around being taught by actual people. It's my belief that writing might could give clues or something, but you have to be able to show it or work it out on your own.
Of course, I was going to say they could just check on YouTube and find out how, but then, would the One Power weaves even show up on video? [laughter] If they even had that...
Oh, that's a good question!
I actually was just wondering about that; I wonder if any these things—I'm sure that the effects would—but I presume that if most non-channelers can't see weaves that probably there's nothing there for a video to pick up, either...but it's an interesting question.
How to detect channeling: Whip out your camcorder! [laughter]
With a wi-fi finder.
Yeah, okay. I'm going to be good now. That would be too funny. It's a shame Jessi couldn't be with us. She really wanted to be, but she had to work, and couldn't get off. One of her favorite premises is, you know, how drastically the Wheel of Time story would all be changed if they had access to cell phones and texting and the internet and everything.
Oh yeah. There would be no story.
They do though! Elayne has the communication ter'angreal. They have cell phones...ish. They just don't use them! [laughter]
Give 'em time.
I sort of [?] a couple of the guys before one time when we were podcasting and I had to get up in the office; I was working and I had to turn a phone off, and I came back and I said "I just had to disable that callbox ter'angreal." And they said, "Oh, you are such a geek." [laughter]
A 'dork' is what actually they said.
No, you are a geek, because dorks have no social status whereas geeks are more knowledgeable in one or two given fields, and since we are all major WoT nerds—we qualify as nerds, not dorks.
Yeah, we got some cred there anyway.
How 'bout those Yankees? [laughter]
Alright, well there are...I believe there are four. Is that right, Maria?
Yeah, four. Uh-huh.
Four. Alright, so what else do you want to know?
Wow. When are we going to find out about the quadruplets? I mean, we presume that they're working on the generation of them at some point here, but they're running out of time before the Last Battle. I mean, are these going to be born post-Tarmon Gai'don, or pre-Tarmon Gai'don, or are we just going to have to read and find out?
They are running out of time.
And Aviendha's somewhere in the Waste, or on her way to the Waste.
Well now she is, but she was with Rand for quite a while, so...
[something about Min]
Yeah, but she didn't have her honor, remember?
I know, but that doesn't mean that she couldn't have hooked up, uh...you know, I don't know.
No, Aviendha [something]
[interrupts] That's what I'm wondering; that's what I'm wondering. Have they even started yet? If they're not started yet, I don't see how they could be born before Tarmon Gai'don, unless that's the odd thing, that she does a Star Trek sort of plot and has, you know, fully-grown...
[something about MTV?]
I'm just gonna say, read and find out.
*sigh* Well you know we will.
When you tell somebody that, does anyone ever just go, "Well that's it; I'm done. I've had it! Never reading the Wheel of Time again!" No, no…they all come back and read.
I tried that once. I put the book down for a sum total of about two days, and I'm like, "To hell with it; I gotta keep going!"
It is a very oddly addicting series.
Yeah, but apart from Birgitte, yeah. I've always had this sort of fantasy in my mind that Nynaeve might be the reincarnation of Eldrene, the last queen of Manetheren, or something like that. And Mat, you know…gosh, he seems like...before he even left the Two Rivers, the Old Blood was coming out really strongly in him; it makes me wonder if he's not the actual rebirth of some extraordinary battle hero from Mathetheren. [silence]
Interesting speculation. [laughter]
Which is going to go nowhere!
We're not putting answers into their mouths! We're supposed to be getting answers from them, not giving them answers to give back to us! [laughter]
Oh, was that a question?
Well, sort of!
No, you're doing well; keep going. [laughter]
He's going to do what he always does; he's going to sit back and listen to all the answers until he finds one that he likes, and he says, "You know what? That was it!" [laughter]
Well, I guess this is something that we're just gonna have to hopefully read and find out...
…or I hope some of these questions are not going to be Brandon has said that Robert Jordan just said that 'this does not get resolved', you know...
That would be a shame. [laughter]
I'm not sure where that will leave us. Endlessly speculating till the Wheel stops turning…
There's no beginning or ending to the Wheel of Time.
Virginia will be reborn again once she passes and she will still be even more into WoT than she was now. [laughter] I can see it.
I can see it.
You'll learn your letters so you can read Robert Jordan in the cradle. [laughter]
I think you'll have a huge advantage, cause all the books will be out by then and you'll just be able to read 'em one after the other.
That's right, although I was going to say that I think I have the advantage, I was probably reading Robert Jordan when a couple of you guys were in the cradle.
Well, not in the cradle, but I was itty bitty when the first book came out.
I think I was still in the cradle.
Wow. I feel old.
Yeah, that's cause he…that's cause you're just…
I am twenty. I'm not even twenty yet, so...
Oh my gosh!
You weren't even born when the first book came out, buddy.
There you go.
Yeah, but they still put up with me, and I think I'm older than Cad-swayne. Is that right? Cad-swayne? Cad-swanee?
Oh, yay! Whew. So far I'm...
Except that we know that Cadsuane is a couple hundred years old, which, you know, is older than the country.
Okay, so I'm not quite older than Cadsuane...
You come close.
Yeah, I feel like it. Anyway, enough of that...
You're as old as Re-anne. Or is it Re-annie?
That's on that list.
Yeah, I've been saying that one wrong the whole time.
In general, are ending Es pronounced in the Wheel of Time names, like Reanne?
It varies. He wasn't really…I mean, sometimes yes, and sometimes…I mean, I was thinking about this, because if Cadsuane's final e was pronounced, she would be Cad-soo-ae-nah, like Macarena, and you could do a whole dance. But… [laughter] There doesn't really seem to be a rule. It's just how he felt that day I think, or how it sounded to him.
Some are, and some aren't, you know. It is kind of confusing, but we don't know for sure, if we're even right when we guess that, so you be the arbiter on this one. Unless, as Brandon said in our interview to him, unless Robert Jordan comes down to us in a beam of white light and sets us straight, some of these things may not ever be known for sure, so you have to tell us as best you can. Speaking of names that end in E , two that almost kind of strike me are, um…I started out saying muh-RELL, and then I kind of went to muh-RELL-uh, because of the presumption that the final Es were pronounced, so I don't know for sure which one is right on that; I go back and forth between that.
That's interesting. I say my-RELL. I'm not absolutely sure that's the way Jim said it.
Okay, what about lee-AHN, or is it lee-AHN-uh?
lee-AHN-uh is correct. That one is Leanne. And Reanne.
I believe that Myrelle…it's my-RELL.
You pronounce the Y?
Mm-hmm. Like 'my'.
It was pretty close. She did a good job.
That is interesting, because I'm still speculating that there may be other Black Ajah working around that haven't been discovered, and actually I have a whole load of questions I'd love to ask, but I just know they're all gonna be…you know, "Read and Find Out" answers. It always amazes me that Egwene spent so much time under Halima's thumb, in a way, that I can't believe that the only weaves that she laid on her were producing migraines. It makes you wonder if there isn't some hidden Compulsion weave going on there, that we'll find out later that maybe some of the Black Ajah in the White Tower could take advantage of. You know, there are so many things like that that I just know…
Yeah, I don't wanna go there.
I don't think that there's any Black Ajah left in the White Tower currently.
I wouldn't wanna bet my life on that. I don't think there are many.
Other than Mesaana who's hiding somewhere because she can defeat the Oath Rod, or so thinks Egwene herself in the end of The Gathering Storm.
Well, you still have the Black Ajah that escaped, too.
Yeah, there was a lot of those that got out.
And we have Maria and Alan just sitting there going, "Yep, yep; you do." [laughter]
No, I was just thinking that she was minimizing headaches. What a horrible thing for migraine-sufferers.
Oh, listen…I get migraines. I have complete and total sympathy for anybody that gets migraines, but it seems to me like that probably wasn't the most…probably wasn't the only thing that she was doing to poor Egwene.
Well, the consensus that we…that was in the WoTFAQ when I was editing that article this summer was that Halima doing something to suppress Egwene's Dreaming talent so that she was not getting messages about the future any more, from whatever causes this to happen, and so the headache is the side-effect of that. I don't know if this is true or not; this is just the fan speculation from the WoTFAQ, but it is very telling that as soon as she gets away from Halima and is in the White Tower, her Dreaming ability comes back, because she had been having nightmares that she couldn't remember before about being chased by something, or something like that, and then when she gets into the White Tower, she stops having those nightmares, and she starts having the prophetic dreams again.
And she stops having headaches as well.
Yeah, and the headaches go away. And she does not make the connection in Knife of Dreams when she first sees this happen. I don't remember if she makes the connection in The Gathering Storm when she finds out about Halima's infiltration of the Salidar Aes Sedai. I have to go back and reread The Gathering Storm in the next couple of weeks, because I'm a little fuzzy on the details there.
Mm-hmm. Well, it certainly seems plausible. [laughter]
I'm not surprised that you guys have got this down to an art.
You guys give the perfect Aes Sedai answers.
I love it when I ask Maria and Alan things that relate to FAQ, and they'll just kind of smile and nod at me and go, 'That's a good guess!'
I was going to say another Aes Sedai answer, but then...I wonder if we’re going to get the Asha’man known for convoluted answers, but then they don’t have the oath rod to get around. They can say whatever they want to at all times.
They'll just blow you up and have done with it.
Yeah. They are refreshingly direct about their methods.
Hmm. There's a book coming out on November 2nd? [laughter]
We're surprised you haven't asked about that, and we were fully prepared to, but I'm sorry, we've run out of time. [laughter]
Okay. Well…I guess we'll just go into the pronunciations.
Well, our next little bit needs a little bit of a lead-in for our listeners who don't have access to our huge list of questions like we do. As part of our interview questions, we have a list of words, and we asked, "How do you pronounce each of these words?" And there are about 43 of them. There are probably some on here that don't need to be on here, and I know that there aren't some on here that should be, but these are the 43 that we came up with.
Yeah, Spencer got mad at me because I went and annotated the list, like…I gotta be exact, and he's like "No…"
I didn't get mad at you! I just took 'em off; I'm like, "Oh yeah, you're right; take that one off." Anyway. And so Maria, Alan…would you please go through the list and tell us how to pronounce these names and places?
Okay, here we go. And I may, you know, be wrong on some. But others, I'm pretty sure of.
And feel free to add some in if something occurs to you as you're going.
O-kay. We have add-uh-LAY-us. (Adeleas) el-FINN. (Aelfinn) eyes-DEYE-shar. (Aesdaishar) (RJ used EYE to rhyme with the word 'eye') ahm-uh-DEE-see-uh. (Amadicia) [glossary: ah-mah-DEE-see-ah] (ah=ahhh sound, uh=schwa) ERR-id doe-MAHN. (Arad Doman) [glossary: AH-rad do-MAHN] arr-uh-FELL. (Arafel) [glossary: AH-rah-fehl] brr-GEE-tuh. (Birgitte) (hard G) [glossary: ber-GEET-teh] Brenn. (Bryne) [glossary: BRIHN, GAH-rehth] KEYE-ree-enn. (Cairhien) [glossary: KEYE-ree-EHN] CHA fah-EEL. (Cha Faile) (mid ch) drag-car. (Draghkar) [glossary: DRAGH-kahr] EEL-finn. (Eelfinn) guh-LAHD. (Galad) [glossary: gah-LAHD] GAH-win. (Gawyn) [glossary: GAH-wihn] GALE-donn. (Ghealdan) [glossary: GHEL-dahn] I'm not sure if it's huh-REEN or huh-REEN-uh. (Harine) din toe-GAHR-uh Two Winds. ILL-ee-in. (Illian) [glossary: IHL-lee-ahn] ill-ee-AY-nuh. (? - AY is long A) CAN-door. (Kandor) (door like the word) lee-AH-nuh. (Leane) [glossary: lee-AHN-eh shah-REEF] mall-KEER. (Malkier) [glossary: mahl-KEER] my-EEN. (Mayene) [glossary: may-EHN] myur-an-DEE. (Murandy) [glossary: MEW-ran-dee] MEER-drahl. (Myrddraal) [glossary: MUHRD-draal] NEIGH-bliss. Sorry. NAY-bliss. [laughter] (Nae'blis) NEFF. (Naeff?) nee-AHM Passes (Niamh Passes) nigh-NEEV. (Nynaeve) [glossary: NIGH-neev al-MEER-ah] Plains of mah-REE-doh. (Plains of Maredo) ree-AH-nuh. (Reanne) seye-DAR. (saidar). [glossary: sah-ih-DAHR] seye-DEEN. (saidin) [glossary: sah-ih-DEEN] sall-DAY-uh. (Saldaea) [glossary: sahl-DAY-ee-ya] see-AEN. (Seaine?) Alan…
SHE-nar. (Shienar) [glossary: shy-NAHR] Swan. (Siuan) [glossary: SWAHN SAHN-chay] sor-uh-LEE-uh. (Sorilea) [glossary: soh-rih-LEE-ah] terra-BONN. (Tarabon) [glossary: TAH-rah-BON] TAR-win's Gap. (Tarwin's Gap) tell-uh-RON-ree-odd. (Tel'aran'rhiod) [glossary: tel-AYE-rahn-rhee-ODD] Tower of genn-JEYE. (Ghenjei) (hard G) truh-MALL-king. (Tremalking) [glossary: treh-MAL-king] too-AH-thuh-AHN. (Tuatha'an) [glossary: too-AH-thah-AHN]
Do you want to go over the saidar/saidin thing we talked about?
In the glossaries of the books, Jim has it sah-ih-DEEN and sah-ih-DAHR, but I swear, I don't think he pronounced it that way; I mean you kind of give a little hint of the i but not much: sah-ee-DEEN, sah-ee-DAHR.
Yeah, he always seemed to be saying seye-DEEN and seye-DAHR.
I'm surprised at how many of those I thought I knew, but I didn't.
Yeah. That's like, "Waait a second, that's not…but oh, I guess it is."
How do you pronounce the Traveling people again?
There's something else with the double A there…
ah-tha-AHN mee-AIR. (Atha'an Miere)
Okay, great. Any others you can think of that are commonly mangled, that would have driven Jim crazy?
I think I've mentioned tah-EEM before, and egg-ee-AH-nin…
dee-MAN-dred? dee-MAHN-dred? DEE-man-dred?
Ehh...dee-MAHN-dred, I think…but I wouldn't swear dee-MAHN-dred. [glossary: DEE-man-drehd]
How about all of the Forsaken? A lot of them often get mangled, or a few. GRIN-doll?
Grindle, is how I say it. [glossary: GREHN-dahl] And it's interesting, just looking at a thing, and I pronounce CADD-in-soar (cadin'sor) wrong. [glossary: KAH-dihn-sohr]
Yeah, because it's supposed to be cah-DIN-soar. [It's not, according to the glossary.]
Okay, because I say it the way you say it.
Yeah, I think… [inaudible] so that makes sense.
Oh! ish-AH-may-el, and SAM-may-el. [glossary: ih-SHAH-may-EHL, SAHM-may-EHL] [When RJ said it, the 'may' part was more like the German 'Mai'.]
Yes. Those are really common mistakes; I hear that a lot.
Ben [?] was right; we had that famous tagline from the original podcast, and we had this thing…I think, "Sammael was pretty buff!" [laughter] We used that a lot, and it sort of went away when he did, I guess.
Another one that I have lots of problems with—and I can't believe I didn't get it on the list—but is the GOLL-um (gholam), or the…I can't even pronounce it right now.
Yeah, the GO-lem, that's chasing Mat.
Oh, it's Gollum! [crosstalk]
I am not absolutely sure, but that's how I say it, so…
What about some of the other Seanchan beasts that made me think of, the grolm, then there were two of the others that…
ROCK-in (raken), and TOE-rock-in. (to'raken)
Yeah, and then there was another one, the um…
Torm…the book is right in front of me…
Oh, maybe it was the name of that…oh, Suroth's pet!
Oh yes, that thing. I can't remember… [crosstalk]
The LOW-par (lopar)?
Yeah, the lopar. Almandaragal was his name, or something like that?
Something like that. I would have to look it up.
It was a LOW-par (lopar), wasn't it?
Yeah, lopar. I think there was another one that I couldn't…maybe I'm just hallucinating. [laughs]
I'm sure there's a zillion others I'll think of after you're off the air here with us…
Oh, s'RED-dit (s'redit) is another one. Remember the elephant-like creature?
Corlm, C-O-R-L-M (I like that word). Torm…that's all I can find.
What about Tuon's new name as Empress?
Fortuona, okay. I'm not sure how else you could pronounce that, but I've been wrong before, so...
That, I'm assuming is right; I'm pretty sure I heard Jim pronounce it that way, because that was his choice of name.
There must be something else; there seems like a million things, and that I didn't add enough to the list.
Oh! What about—speaking of historical figures—LAH-tra…poe-SAI? Or poe-SAY? deh-KYU-meh? (Latra Posae Decume)
Oh yeah, LA-tra (LA rhymes with laugh)…
I got the Latra, but I'm not sure about the second and third names.
It's P-O-S-A-E, and then D-E-C-U-M-E.
deh-COO-may, okay. [crosstalk]
That's totally off the top of my head. I see it (?) and think it, anyway. po-SAY-uh deh-COO-may, yeah.
I did! [laughter]
Robert Jordan killed him, actually.
The third, yes.
Oh! I had forgotten that myself. That's scary.
Yeah. So, first off I think we should probably take a real quick moment of silence, and then after that, Maria and Alan, if you two would like to say something, anything to commemorate it for the podcast, we will get this out shortly so it won't be outdated. So, just a couple of seconds, and then if you two would like to say something.
"He came like the wind, like the wind touched everything, and like the wind was gone." And I miss him still.
I think we all do.
Very much missed.
As do we all.
Well, there will never be another like him. That's all I can say.
And I should say, that's the first time I've ever heard anyone purposely have silence on the radio.
Well, it'll be a first, I suppose. I think I've heard it done before, but...
We've done it before.
Like when we first found out about his passing, we had a quick—like very, very fast…
We had a quick recorded moment of silence.
…and we had a quick moment of silence, exactly.
What has been the most enjoyable part of working on the Wheel of Time?
Damn near all of it? Um…[laughter]…seriously.
You can tell us 'read and find out' on that one. [laughs]
You know, I came in and I started this job—it's been almost fifteen years now—and I came in and I was not helping with the books at all; I was doing fan mail and filing, and about that time they decided to do the audiobooks, and they were doing them, you know, male and female, and Jim looked at me one day and said, "They're doing male and female; I need somebody to read the books and mark when it changes from male to female point of view. Can you do that?" And I'm like, "Uh-huh, uh-huh! Get paid to read the Wheel of Time?" I mean, I was a big fan before I started the job, you gotta understand…so it's like, this is, you know, a dream come true. I'm getting paid to read the Wheel of Time. It's just so great. And Jim…he was just so much fun. He would come in in the morning, singing, and forget I was here and set the alarm so I would step out of my office and set it off, and the police would come. [laughter] He knew everything. I mean, he just knew so much, talking with him was, was…wonderful. And Harriet is just an amazing lady, and Brandon is way cool. I mean, this job is a dream. I love it. And I get to talk to great people like you guys, and go to cons.
Can I tell you how extremely jealous I am of you right now?
Jealous enough to turn to the Dark One! [laughter]
Perfect servant! Perfect servant.
What about you, Alan?
Well, I've been here, I guess, a little over nine years at this point, and just to back up what Maria said, you know, just being able to hang out with Jim and work with him on a daily basis was such a great kick. We're here surrounded by a physical representation of Jim's mind, in a way; there are 15,000 volumes in our offices, many of which are reference books, and it's just so wonderful to be able to, you know, tap that side of your mind. And Jim would ask the most obscure questions to be dug out in various places, and that's just such a great amount of fun for me, just digging out useless information of any possible sort. He would…you know, there are things that go into the books that are important to know about, and as you know, Jim was very, very fastidious and rigorous in his background of what he was writing about. If he wrote about blacksmithing it was going to be absolutely correct in all ways, as best as he could make it, and so Maria and I both became part of that process, just digging up a lot of things for him. So it's, you know…what we've got here is essentially a job where she and I come in 8, 9 hours a day, live in a total fantasy world. 8 hours, 7 or 8 hours are spent asleep. Much of that is very vivid dreams, so it's another fantasy world. That only leaves about 8 hours of reality that we have to deal with. And you know, we've found ways of making that kind of disappear also. So, it's great. I mean, I figure I'm living about 85% total fantasy at this point [laughter] so that's…it's a wonderful place to be. I'd recommend it to everyone out there.
Unfortunately, there's something of a limit to the number of Robert Jordans that there are in the world, although that leads me right into my next question...
Now that…obviously no one can fill the hole that Jim Rigney did. I mean, no one can take his place. But we have Brandon now, and you're working with Brandon, but now it's a long-distance relationship. How is that working out? And he's such a maniac for work; I cannot imagine how any human being gets the amount of writing that he does done, and all the other things that he does.
I'm convinced he's a robot. [crosstalk]
He's an android, yeah; he's an android; I'm sure of it. He's a big cuddly android, but I think, you know…really suspect!
He's pretty amazing, I mean…but the work ethic he has is just incredible. I mean…The Way of Kings and Towers of Midnight, the same year. It's amazing.
I know! And Alcatraz too, I think…and a tour! Two tours!
Oh yeah! Two tours, and a couple of cons—or more, actually, than a couple. But the long-distance thing…you know, living in the future makes it easy, and we actually, here, all of us, um…older farts in Charleston made the jump to digital editing for Towers of Midnight which made it a lot easier than The Gathering Storm when we were still doing everything on paper.
Oh, wow! I didn't realize you guys did that all on paper!
Oh yeah…oh yeah.
I can't even imagine how complicated it would be to do it on paper.
It was pretty, uh…it worked. We got it done, but we made [?], and it was still kinda complicated because I had no idea how to do some things, and I have to email, and Peter—Brandon's assistant—would tell me how to do it. Peter's great; Peter is fabulous, and…
I know; I heart Peter.
I wish I could have been at DragonCon, just so I could have met him.
Oh, me too.
But, um…you know, it's…it works. You know, we've got email, we email back and forth; occasionally we do the phone call; occasionally we actually get together, and it's...
Yeah, probably the most difficult thing is the time difference, and…not only is he, what, three hours behind us, but Brandon does so much of his work, ah, in the evening, and in the early hours, and consequently doesn't get up at five in the morning…
That's usually when he goes to bed.
…and so, if he has to ask us something quickly in the middle of work, or if we have to ask him something quickly, you know, we might have to wait for one or the other to wake up and get to the office.
He might as well be in New Zealand, as far as the time overlap.
Yeah. But, you know, we made it work.
Cool. Well, I think Peter's probably got Dream Job #2.
Oh, I dunno, how do you keep up with somebody who's like that? He's just…I mean, just talking to him in person—and I'm sure that probably Robert Jordan was the same way—I think it's a little overwhelming. There's so much creativity going on, and you can see that the mind is working so fast, it's almost like two or three different things going on at one time. And you know it's not, but it just almost seems that way, and you can almost get a little overwhelmed just trying to keep up with the flow of ideas, you know.
And that's very true, with Jim, and especially Jim and Harriet talking together sometimes. [Alan laughs] You know, it would be like, "Wow. What…what? Wow." Because they're just so incredibly bright, and it was just…very cool.
Peter first spoke in general terms about Brandon's writing routine. He said that Brandon typically gets up around noon, writes from about 1-4pm, spends time with family and stuff, then goes back to writing from about 8pm-4am, and finally sleeps from about 4am to noon. Rinse, cycle, repeat. Peter also said that Brandon has a treadmill desk, and he frequently works at that when he's home or by one of the fireplaces he has in his house. Harriet then noted that she loves fireplaces and wanted to know whether Brandon's were wood-burning or gas. Peter said they're gas fireplaces.
Then Harriet described the editing process for A Memory of Light. She said that Brandon has completed the first draft (as was previously reported). Team Jordan is currently working on reviewing the first draft and making suggestions for corrections and edits. They have divided the manuscript into 9 sections plus the epilogue for editing purposes; Team Jordan has sent the edits for parts 1-6 to Brandon and are currently working on edits for the later sections. [Brandon recently tweeted that he is about halfway done with the second draft, and it is going well so far.]
With regard to the editing duties, Harriet primarily oversees the characterizations and prose, Maria deals with continuity issues, and Alan deals with military stuff, geography, and the timeline. Harriet also said that she and Brandon have had some "animated" conversations about whether or not to cut some specific scenes.
After all the suggested edits for the first draft are sent to Brandon and he has made the revisions, then presumably Team Jordan will review the second draft and provide another round of suggestions for revisions. The beta reader phase has to be fit in there somewhere, too. Ultimately, Harriet said that the goal for getting a final draft to Tor is June 15, 2012. That should give Tor plenty of time to get the book out by January 2013.
Melissa Craib, this year's JordanCon master of ceremonies, asked the Team Jordan members which parts of the story they had been surprised about.
Harriet told about an incident she has described before from when she was writing the blurb for the dust jacket of The Dragon Reborn and finally realized that RJ intended Callandor to be an analog of the sword in the stone. She yelled down to RJ, "You son of a ****, you've done it to me again!"
Maria said that she was surprised... well, actually I've forgotten what Maria was surprised about. Maybe somebody else remembers...was it from Knife of Dreams when Semirhage blows Rand's hand off? That's what comes to mind, but I don't remember any details about why that surprised her, really, so maybe that's not it. :s
Alan at first said that he wasn't surprised by anything; he had figured it all out, of course. Then he owned up to being a little surprised about the scene in Crossroads of Twilight in which Perrin chops off the hand of one of the captured Shaido, because it showed the depths to which a person could go when pushed to the brink.
Peter said he was surprised when it was revealed that Demandred was... (yeah, he was messing with us).
Nalesean at Theoryland pointed out that Maria said that she was surprised by the death of Rolan during the battle of Malden.
I'm sorry I don't have more specific WoT posts for you—I know that Harriet prefers me to be more closed-mouthed. However...
Maria from Team Jordan has finished her revision notes for the entire book, as has Harriet herself. So we're only waiting on Alan's notes.
As he's playing "Great Captain" for me on A Memory of Light, his notes are vital—and he needs to be detailed. When I get them, I can finish revising.
Sooooo...there might be a sooner release date than the current for January?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely.
Darn, I need to haste to be ready for A Memory of Light once it releases. Is there gonna be a ebook version along with the physical book?
(Winces.) Harriet has a distrust of ebooks; she prefers to delay the release. It is her call. (Ebook is a few months later.)
Do we have chapter names yet? Or do you know how many chapters there will be? Or is that a secret?
No chapter names yet, as it won't be until this draft is finished that I settle on the number of chapters. Some are being combined.
I'm truly hoping this book is 1/3 battles/fights.
More than 1/3, I'd say...
Forgive me for not understanding, but what does this mean? Release date's not going to change, is it?
Probably not. It's just a progress update, so people know things are still moving behind-the-scenes.
How's The Stormlight Archive coming? I need more.
A Memory of Light comes first. I will get to the next Stormlight book soon, but not until A Memory of Light is done to my satisfaction.
So this means we will be reading the final volume sooner than first announced?
It is possible, but I don't know how likely. I still need to do two drafts, I feel. Then there are beta reads, then proofreads, then we need at least two months to get the books printed and shipped.
What does it take to be one of the beta readers?
Be one of the major members of fandom for years, and personally know Harriet. (Sorry.)
Team Jordan update: We’ve been getting a lot of questions about Brandon’s note that Harriet and I are finished with A Memory of Light, and Alan is almost finished. “Finished” here refers only to the first draft. The same day that I finished A Memory of Light, I started A Memory of Light (the second draft, or at least the portion of the second draft that Brandon has sent us). Harriet has already completed that section, and is ready to move on when we receive more. Alan should finish the first draft this week, and he will immediately begin again too. We’re not by any means truly finished with the book—we’re all working very hard, and we trust that Brandon is too. We want to get every detail right, and that takes time. Don't worry; it's worth waiting for.
He was given complete freedom to write, but that he was in constant contact with Maria and Alan about details. He compared it to a broken vase, much of it could be glued together but there were places where there were holes that needed to be filled in.
Maria interjected with the fact that there are well over 1200 files that are at least several sentences long and many many more that are shorter than that.
There was some back and forth with Harriet and Brandon about the writing/editing process. Harriet said a good editor never tells an author how to write. Brandon said that he actually writes the book for Harriet and it’s Harriet’s job to perfect it.
Yeah, the battle scenes were the toughest part of A Memory of Light, definitely. At least the toughest for me, because it's not necessarily something I naturally excel at. I think I'm okay at it. I've read a lot of books...but I've read a lot of books. I haven't done it. Fortunately, Alan Romanczuk has done it. He was a soldier and Jim was a soldier, so I'm really relying a lot on him for getting it to feel right. You know, my book learning only gets me so far in the way that tactics are done and the way a battlefield plays out. So, that's been one of the big slow-downs for this. The other big slow-down for this has been just making sure we get everything in there. There are a lot of things that need to go in the book and there are some things that aren't going to make it. Jim said that certain things don't get resolved, and there are certain things we just didn't have time for and we said, "Okay, this just doesn't get resolved." And I'm sorry about that. He warned you, I will warn you: there are some non-resolutions.
I don't know how other people would feel about that, but I kind of enjoy that. To me, that's where a fandom would go. We can continue to speculate and wonder and think about.
Yeah, it gives us something to talk about. We can ride that or like ten years at least. (laughter)
JordanCon will be good for a while. We'll have a lot of talking panels on that one.
I will try to keep them quiet. There are two deleted scenes from the book that actually covered very interesting things. And after the books are out I will give you guys some hints and then you can spend the next ten years deciding what was in them.
Yeah, we'll ask you some really weird questions over the next ten years. We used to do that to Robert Jordan. We'd ask him very oblique questions, hinting at the thing we really wanted to know, because we were like doing process of elimination, and logic trees and...yeah, he caught on.
Since you've had this other career—which has helped, I'm sure, in a lot of ways—what impact has this been on your original writing career, I mean I know you had to have slowed down your progress and your series, but you've still been writing those. What are the biggest impacts you've seen on your writing career because of taking on the Wheel of Time?
It's definitely done some...it's made me have to put down projects. In fact, next year, I have coming out the projects I was working on in 2007 when this came my way; The Rithmatist and Steelheart are both books that I did way back then that I didn't feel that I was able to release in the middle of the Wheel of Time books, even though I had them done, because I wouldn't have been able to do the revisions on them, and because I wouldn't be able to support them; I wouldn't be able to do sequels and things like that. They're both YA books. And that's, you know...when I accepted this, I said "Okay, I'm shelving these things." I did get to do a couple of books, I got to do The Way of Kings, which, granted, I already had a draft of that done. So really, the only book in these last years, the last five years that I've been doing this, that I've written from scratch and released was Alloy of Law. And so it's going to...it did kind of slow me down. The only reason it didn't slow me down as much as it could have was because I had all of this stuff done already. I had a great big backlog of books, because I enjoy writing, and I've been writing for years, and back then I wasn't as popular as I am now, so Tor would put things in slots later on, like...while I've been working on these, Warbreaker and Mistborn 3 came out, both of which were done years before I was offered the Wheel of Time. And so...yeah, all of this stuff that I had been working on long ago got delayed, and that was just fine—I went into this eyes open—but it is going to be nice to be able to go back to these things and give them some of the support that I've wanted all along.
You know, this project took more time than all of us expected it to. I had to say yes sight unseen to knowing how big it was. I knew what Jim had said, but I didn't know how much of it was done. I didn't know that we had two hundred pages out of two thousand. There was no way for me to know how much would need to be done. So yeah, it's been a big long deviation, but not a distraction, because I think my writing has grown by leaps and bounds. It's kind of like I had to go pump iron, because writing in the Wheel of Time has been much harder than writing on anything else I've done, and I have been forced to grow, and you can see my being forced to grow between the books in the Wheel of Time books. I think my writing is way better in Towers of Midnight than it was in The Gathering Storm, particularly in some of the ways that that Jim was strong. And so, I think that's helped me. It's certainly not an experience that I would trade for anything. I got to read the ending in 2007, so there's that. (laughter) But yeah, it's been a wonderful experience, but boy, it's been a big, big, big deviation. It's not where I thought my career would go at all.
Was it daunting seeing just that small amount of work that was taken care of before you stepped on?
Well, it's daunting in two ways: First, I got that. It was really nice to have the ending. Like, having the prologue and the ending basically done—those were the two things that he did the most work on—meant that I had the bookends, which is how I build an outline anyway. I know where I start, I know my ending, and I build an outline out of that. But at the same time, there's three million words of notes about the series, which is daunting in another way. Yes, there's two hundred pages of work done on the book, and then there's this stack over here of all these other notes that include all of these things that are just mind-boggling, the stuff that's in there. We released a few of them last year for you guys. Was it last year that we released the notes?
Yeah, we got the page on Cadsuane and...
Yeah, the page on Cadsuane and stuff like that. You just see all of weird things that he had in his notes. I have all the same sort of weird stuff in my notes about like Stormlight and stuff, but it's just fun to see. You go pore through these notes...he has the most random stuff. Lists of trees, lists of people, lists of this, and just millions and millions and words of this stuff, more than I can keep track of at all. It requires Maria and Alan to keep track of all this stuff. So it was also daunting in that, yes there are two hundred pages written, which actually nice, because as I've said before, if the book had been 80% of the way done, they wouldn't have needed to hire me, they wouldn't have needed to bring me in. When a book is 80% of the way done, that's when you get a ghostwriter, or Harriet just does it herself. She really could have done it in-house herself and finished that and said "Look, here we're going to do a few patches and stuff, but the book is mostly done."
And so, getting there and saying "Hey, I actually get to do something with this, I have an opportunity to add the scenes that I've been wanting as a fan for years and years, so I get a chance to actually write these characters, rather than coming in and just patching some holes," was very thrilling for me at the same time. You know, I worried that I would get there and it would just be patching holes—"Write these five scenes," or something like that—and that would have meant I wouldn't have really had a part in it. Granted, that would have been better, because it would have meant there was more Jim in it, and it would have made a better book, but at the same time, when I got to see those two hundred pages, I was saddened but excited at the same time.
Harriet wins. Harriet always wins. Usually what happens is that there'll be...if Harriet says something, we just do it. The only time when there's questioning is when I disagree with Maria or Alan, and we both kind of make our arguments. We do these in-line edits with track changes in Microsoft Word; we'll have whole conversations there, where I'll say "This is why I think this character would do what they're doing," and Maria would come in and say, "This is why I think you're wrong and they wouldn't do this," and we'll have big discussions, and Harriet'll make the call, and then I'll do it as Harriet says, 'cause Harriet knows the characters better than anyone.
And so there are times when I've been overruled—it happens on every book—and there are times where Harriet said, "No, I think Brandon's right," and Maria and Alan—her superfans—disagree, but the way that fandom works, we all disagree on things. You'll find this, and I disagree with some people on how character interpretations will happen, and things like that. Some people, for instance, don't think my Talmanes is true to Jim's Talmanes. Things like that. That's the sort of thing we're arguing over. It's very rarely over main characters, but it's like, "Is Talmanes acting like Talmanes would?" And I read the character one way, and some people read the character another way, and I just have to go with my interpretation, and if Harriet says, "No, this isn't right," I revise it. If Harriet says, "No, this feels right to me," then we just go with it.
Was there ever a case where you and Maria and Alan had a difference of opinion and Harriet had a completely different take?
That all four of us had a different take? Yeah, that's happened; that's very rare but it has happened. We're trying to piece together something that's...there's always this consideration of "What would Jim do?" But there's also a consideration of Brandon as author, not knowing what Jim would do, what does Brandon think needs to happen narratively? And there are some things where I, reading the books as an author, say "This is where he was going." "No, he didn't say it in the notes." "No, it's nowhere in there; he doesn't make mention of it." "This is where he was going; my understanding of story structure, plotting and things, and I can say, you know, as sure as I can say anything, that this is what he was going to do." And, you know, sometimes Maria and Alan, they look at the notes and say, "No, that's not at all what he was going to do; look what the notes say." And I say, "No, that's not what they're saying," and we have arguments about that too.
There's lots of discussing going on. We're all very passionate about the Wheel of Time. It'd be like getting Jenn and Jason from Dragonmount and Matt from Theoryland together and hashing out what they think about where Demandred is, or something like that. There are gonna be lots of passionate discussions. I think, at the end of the day, that makes the book better, and the fact that we have kind of...Harriet tends to just...if she has a feeling, she lets us argue about it, and then she says, like...you know, 'cause she's the one that would sit at dinner and discuss the characters with Jim. None of us did that, and she did that for twenty years, so...yeah.
Actually, we are getting close to the end of The Eye of the World, and it's going well. We haven't talked at all about The Great Hunt, but I'm hoping that we'll start. We've got one more script to go for The Eye of the World, and then hopefully we will be moving on, and the next graphic novel will be out in the fall, part two of The Eye of the World, and it's a lot of fun doing that, and I hope you'll all check it out.
It's put us in awe, also, of the amount of work that goes into creating a graphic novel. A great deal on our part, looking stuff over for approval, but what's happening in the graphic shop, and it's not unusual at all to get emails at 10pm Friday night, or midnight Saturday night, you know, "Here's the latest stuff from us." You know, when do you guys sleep? Any of you who are graphic artists out there, I guess you know what it's like. It's total geekdom. You don't think about eating, sleeping...you just do it. And the amount of change that has to go on in every single panel is pretty awesome.
I've generally written most of the flap copies on all the books. The flap copy is what's on the inner side of the cover of the hardcover, on the dust jacket, the stuff that says "So-and-so..." I remember one of my favorite ones was when I went and..."Siuan Sanche is suspected of barn-burning, in her tattered straw hat." But I was writing the flap copy for The Dragon Reborn, and at the end of the flap copy, I said he is pulling the sword from the Stone... "You son of a gun, you've done it again!" (laughter) But I honestly hadn't figured out it was the sword in the stone. And it really did surprise me, even though I'd been all the way through it, and had edited it, and was writing that flap copy.
Do you have one Maria?
Yeah. It's not a huge one, but we were working on Knife of Dreams—I almost said Knife of Daggers, and I was like, "I know that's wrong." (laughter)—and I got to the part at the end, where Perrin whacks Rolan, and I went running downstairs..."Oh my god! You killed Rolan! I can't believe you killed Rolan!" And Robert Jordan says, "What? He was toast from the start!" (laughter)
Do you have one Alan?
No, I've pretty much nailed it all along. (laughter)
We all tell the truth, all the time.
One of the scenes I keep coming back to that very much impressed me was when Perrin cut off the limb of the captured Shaido, which was a scene...it was surprising, because this was a fellow who had been resisting his lower urges, if you will, all along, but his love for his wife was so great that we saw the degree to which he would push himself to save her, and it's the first inkling we had of what kind of stuff Perrin was made of, up to that point, I think.
Peter, do you have one?
When Demandred was revealed to be... (laughter) (applause)
That's not nice!
Um...sorry, I got nothing.
There are a couple of things that Robert Jordan did, like...there are many things he did better than I do, but there are two things that he did amazingly better than I do that have been really hard to try and approach. The first one is his mastery of description. I...prose is not....you know, I do serviceable prose. I don't do beautiful prose in most cases. I occasionally can turn a phrase, but he could do beautiful prose in every paragraph, and that's just not one of my strengths. Pat Rothfuss is another one who can do that, if you're read Name of the Wind; it's just beautiful, every line. Robert Jordan I felt was like that, just absolute beauty.
The other thing that he was really good at was subtle foreshadowing across lots and lots of books. And it's not something I'd ever had to do before, unless you count my hidden epic, and I had never had to try and approach that level of subtlety, and it was a real challenge to try and catch all of those balls that he'd tossed in the air and he'd been keeping juggling. In fact, I would say, one of the most challenging parts, if not the most challenging part of this, was to keep track of all those subplots and make sure that I was not dropping too many of those balls. And you'll be able to see when you read the books which of those subplots were really important to me as a fan and which ones I was not as interested in, because some of those, I catch less deftly than others, and some of them I just snatch from the air and slam into this awesome sequence, and some of them I say, "Yeah, that's there."
And that's the danger of having a fan that does this. There were so many of those things. Fortunately, he left some good notes on a lot of them, and in some of them I was able to just slide in his scenes, and in others I had to decide how to catch that, and what to best do with it. But there's just so much. So much undercurrent going on through the whole books, through all of them, and so many little details in the notes that it's easy to get overwhelmed by it. Fortunately I have Team Jordan, Maria and Alan, to catch a lot of those things that I miss, but even with them there are things he was doing, that we don't even know what he was planning to do, that we just have to leave as is, and let it lie rather than trying to wrap it up poorly, because we don't know how he was doing to do it.
It was very interesting to read this while trying to figure out what scenes she was referring to...
I know you're incredibly busy on Stormlight 2, but if you have a few minutes, I would love to hear how you approached the notes that RJ left behind. I've heard the story about the ending and who killed Asmodean when you first visited Harriet's house, but where did you go from there? I assume you didn't just read all of the notes straight through...
Well, okay, this is going to be kind of long.
To understand my next step, you have to understand what we mean by "Notes." There are really three groups of these.
1) Robert Jordan's Worldbuilding Notes. These were in a series of dozens, maybe hundreds of files embedded chaotically inside of files inside of files, using his own system of notation. The notes reach all the way back to early books he was working on, as he was working on them. They aren't intended to be read by anyone other than him, and are sometimes very difficult to figure out. This is the group that Harriet has said, in her estimation, include a total wordcount equal to or greater to that of the published series.
2) The notes for the last book, gathered by his assistants Maria and Alan, with Harriet's help. These are far more focused on the last book, notes that RJ wrote specifically focusing on the last book. This is a much more manageable amount, maybe fifty or a hundred pages. It includes interviews that Alan and Maria did with RJ before he died, asking him what was to happen to certain characters.
3) Scenes for the last book, either in written form or dictated during his last months. This includes some completed scenes. (The last sequence in the book, for example. Also a lot of prologue material, including the scene with the farmer in The Gathering Storm, the Borderlander Tower scene in Towers of Midnight, and the Isam prologue scene from A Memory of Light.) A lot of these are fragments of scenes, a paragraph here and there, or a page of material that he expected to be expanded to a full chapter. This is different from #2 to me in that these are direct scene constructions, rather than "notes" explaining what was to happen.
Together, #2 and #3 are about 200 pages. That is what I read the night I visited Harriet, and that is what I used to construct my outline.
I took all of the items, but particularly the things in 2&3, and then I re-read the series start to finish, taking notes on character motivations, plots that had not been resolved, and foreshadowing. I used this to create a skeleton, using character touchstones from the notes (like Egwene's climactic moments in The Gathering Storm) to construct plot cycles.
Where there were big holes, I used my instincts as a writer and my re-read to develop what the story needed. From there, I started writing in viewpoint clusters. I would take character who were in the same area, and write their story for a chunk of time straight through. Then I would go back and do the same for another group of characters.
How do you keep track of all those characters?
Lots of use of online resources. Also, Maria and Alan are invaluable assets for that. Brandon told a funny story about trying to figure out who was with Perrin, and Maria pulled out some notes from Robert Jordan that had a list of every single person from the Two Rivers that came with Perrin! Brandon also said he thinks there are more than 2800 named characters throughout the entire series.
How does it feel now that you are done with the series?
Bittersweet. Has been reading the series longer than he has had some friends!
It was truly done well.
Bittersweet. And wow!
There are, what? What are we up to, like 2800 named characters in the Wheel of Time? [laughter] It's more than two thousand; it was more than two thousand when I started, and it was like 2400 or something like that when I started, and I've added a few. So, how can we keep track of all of these characters? That actually is when people ask me, what the hardest part about this was, I often say that that was the hardest part. It's not just keeping track of them, because actually keeping track of them is somewhat easy; there's lots of fan resources, which I use. The Encyclopaedia-WoT is my favorite, though tarvalon.net runs a very nice Wiki which goes more in-depth and things. And keeping track—that's the easy part. The harder part is, Robert Jordan gave them all voices, right? Everybody talked in their own way, and was their own person, and when, you know, Perrin is traveling with like three random Wise Ones, they're all individual personalities, and so before I could write a scene, I had to go back and remind myself, how each of these three people...what their attitudes were, and how they spoke, that sort of thing. It was very difficult.
I don't know if you—I mean, I tell this story; I don't know if you guys have heard this before—but the level of detail Robert Jordan went into in the worldbuilding...there was one point where I was working on Towers of Midnight, and I sent an email to Maria saying, "I can't keep track of who is with Perrin. Do you have just a list somewhere?" And I was really just meaning the Wise Ones, right? And, you know, named characters. Maria comes back and says, "Well I just dug this out of the notes; I hadn't seen it before. Maybe this will help. It's a file called 'With Perrin'". I went, "Oh, good." And I opened it up...no, that's not what it is; it is the names of all the Two Rivers folk who haven't been named in the books yet. [laughter] ...who are traveling with Perrin, and often a little bit about each of them, and a list of several dozen names of people who haven't been named yet. That's the level of detail we're talking about with this, and it was a challenge; it was a challenge on all of us.
Fortunately, we did have Maria and Alan, who we should mention—Alan Romanczuk, who is also one of the assistants and very good at this sort of thing, and I would focus my writing, particularly in first draft, on just getting the emotional content of a scene down, right? Get the narrative flow down, make sure it's working, and I would try to get all the voices of the characters right, but I wouldn't worry as much about continuity. I would then send it to Maria, and she would send back this thing with all of these notes saying, "Oh Brandon. Oh Brandon, you can't do this." "Oh Brandon, you killed her." "Oh Brandon..." You know, stuff like that. You see her shaking her head over each of these things. And then we would try and fix all of the problems caused by that, and that's kind of how it went.
I feel very satisfied that it’s complete; very sad that it is another occasion for me to say ‘goodbye’ to Robert Jordan. The last five years have been one goodbye after another, and none of them are easy. But I knew that he wanted the series finished, and it's done, and that's very satisfying, and also very sad. So it's sad, happy, bitter, sweet—a whole mix. It goes in and out of these things.
There is still an Encyclopedia for me to do with Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk; Maria worked with my husband, and now with me, for seventeen years, and Alan has been around for twelve, so they know the material very well and have been...I started the material that will be the Encyclopedia back with The Eye of the World, writing down proper nouns. Then it got to be The Great Hunt, and I said, "Oh Lord." [laughter] You get pages of the Aiel: who are in which sept, who are in which warrior society, who is married to whom—the whole thing. I think y'all will like it, and we will be turning it in perhaps some time next year...I mean this year. We're in '13 already. By its nature it couldn't be done until the series was complete. It may amuse you to know that in the contract it says it will be delivered in 2008. [laughter]
The Memory of Light tactics were the things I was most worried about getting right. RJ was more a military historian than me and he was a soldier, so we went looking for help. Harriet knows a man named Bernard Cornwell who writes a lot of military fiction, so he helped us, and Alan Romanczuk is a war historian, who was able to help us a lot. He built the battle plan for the entire war, as far as troop movements and the tactical portion of the Last Battle. Connecting them and making it meld into the story with the characters was my job. We went rounds about "this is tactically sound" or "no it's not", so Alan was a big help making it believable. I did research, but my feeling is that I can get to 70–80% of knowledge on a subject pretty quickly through a month or two of research, but getting that last 20% is something that takes 10 years of work. My goal is to get to 70–80, and then give it to someone who knows their stuff and have them help me from there.
The names of the people Brandon referenced here were probably butchered. I was just trying to keep up with him so I could record the main parts of his response instead of focusing on the names of his references. [Fixed—Terez]
Who was the most challenging WoT character to write?
Mat was the most challenging, the second most was Aviendha. He explains that it is hard to write about someone so different than yourself and the Aiel culture seemed the most unique in the series. Of Rand's three women, Aviendha is Brandon's favorite. He recalls that after writing his first Aviendha scene, Harriet read it and then told him that it was a "picture perfect Elayne." Brandon went on to discuss how he has to write his way into his characters. Vin, in Mistborn, was originally a boy. Lots of his early work on The Gathering Storm was scrapped by Harriet because Brandon wasn't "there yet" with the characters.
He then goes on to discuss the volume of notes left by Robert Jordan. There are about 200 pages for A Memory of Light and then there is roughly 32,000 pages of other notes for the series, three times as large as the entire series put together. Brandon tells of how he tried to open it once and it crashed his computer because the file was so large. He also wants to commend the enormous efforts of Alan and Maria for their help in managing all of the details of the series.
Also of interest to WoT fans and aspiring writers, both: one fan asked, given the lack of majorly epic-scale battles in Brandon's other work, how he approached the near endless warfare that makes up the bulk of A Memory of Light.
The answer: research, research, research, and lots of help from experts. Brandon asserts (and I can believe) that he can get himself to about 80% expert on just about any topic in the course of writing prep, but his lack of personal experience with warfare (reminding us of Mr. Jordan's service in Vietnam) put him at a disadvantage in accurately conveying what needed to be conveyed in the last battle. Military buffs and armchair historians came to the rescue (including Team Jordan member Alan Romanczuk), outlining a series of strategies and tactics based on real-world battles that Brandon used as a guide. However, Tarmon Gai'don being on a somewhat different scale than we're used to in our Age, both metrically and dramatically, there was a lot of back-and-forth between Brandon and the battle guys about amping up the drama without sacrificing realism—inserting twists and character moments to make us cheer or weep.
The second time through I made sure I was last in line. There was one guy who tried to be last until I convinced him I had more questions than he did. He was asking stuff on behalf of his friend David who was ill and couldn't be there. He video-recorded it and asked Brandon to address David personally because it would 'make his world'.
Robert Jordan...did he lay out all the war tactics for you, because he is a war historian, or was...
Actually, David, no he didn't; he didn't have an opportunity to do that. He indicated that it was supposed to be a big, long battle for the last book—basically all battle—but he didn't give us much of the tactics. There are a few things that he put in there, that he told us to do. But what we did is, we went to several experts that Harriet knows, and asked them for suggestions, and then we relied on Alan Romanczuk, who is part of Team Jordan, and we had him outline the battle tactics, which I then used to tell the story.
Okay, good. Thank you. And another question:
When you got his notes, were they digitized or was it a big stack of papers?
It was both. I got them in digital form—the bulk of it was in digital form—but they had printed off about 200 pages of them for me, which were ones that were relevant specifically to the last book, which turned into three.
Okay, and the final question is:
Are there any—and I'm sure you get this question a lot—are there any plans for any aspect of the Wheel of Time universe to keep going, maybe in another story?
No, we are not doing any more books. Robert Jordan specifically didn't want more books being written, so we feel it's best to both respect his wishes and stop while we're ahead. That doesn't preclude video games from being made, and so we perhaps may see films or video games or sort of things like that that will tell some of these other stories, but as for fiction, it is done. So, thank you for the questions, David, and thank you for reading.
A movie would be irritating, because it would just ruin it. They could never capture it.
The name...how do you pronounce it? Is it no-tay, or no-tie?
Oh, it's...you pronounce the K.
Oh, you pronounce the K!
....according to Alan, who is the Old Tongue expert, who corrected me on it even though I named him.
So say it!
k'no-tie. But Alan can correct me, because Alan is the expert.
Does it have any mythological basis that you know of?
No, it does not that I know of, because that one, as most of the names—not all of them, but most of them that I named, because I named him—came from me writing something in English, and saying, "Alan, give me the Old Tongue."
And so, there are times where he'll find something, and I'll be like, "Oh, that sounds like this! Let's use it. Oh, this sounds like this; let's use it." Most of the time, it's...he comes up with the direct translation.
Like, Shaisam, actually...
Yeah, I mean that's easy to figure out for us, right?
Yeah. And there are some where I say, "Let's find something that feels like this..." and then, you know, of course, Perrin's hammer, right?
That's one where you're like, you know, let's find an Old Tongue translation that works for what the mythological symbolism is.
And that works well. It's hard to pronounce though.
Yeah, it is a little hard to pronounce though.
Can you pronounce it?
MAH-HAHL-in-ear? Eh...ask Alan.
The last book had a lot of military action in it. Did you have to do a lot of research for that?
Yes we did. And I relied a lot on some experts that we know to give me a lot of help on that.
Did you have any Air Force consultation with the to'raken scenes at all?
That was in mind. We had a lot of military experts help us out with these books. I relied on them a lot.
How is Mat's new name pronounced?
According to Alan Romanczuk, you do pronounce the "k".
(As Harriet says, any way you say it is OK. Check the glossaries for some help.)
So there I was, sitting beside Robert Jordan's computer, looking at printouts of his notes, and feeling supremely overwhelmed. You might wonder what was in those notes. Well, in preparing to write this piece, I went to Harriet and (as I'd often promised fans) asked if it would be possible to release the notes, or to at least speak specifically about their contents. (I still someday want to do a series of blog posts where I take scenes from the notes, then compare them to scenes in the finished books, with a commentary on why I made the decisions to change them that I did.)
In response to my question, Harriet pointed out that work on the encyclopedia of the Wheel of Time is still in progress. She and Team Jordan haven't yet finished deciding what tidbits from the notes they want to include in the encyclopedia, and she thinks now is not the time to release them. (Or even for me to talk about specifics.)
Therefore, I can't talk about many specific scenes. Instead, then, I want to talk about the general process—which might be of more interest to many of you. You see, as I've explained before, the "notes" aren't what people assume. I was handed two hundred pages of material by Harriet, and this is what I read that first night. Those pages included:
Written sections by Robert Jordan: Robert Jordan was a "discovery"-type writer, meaning he tended to explore where he wanted his story to go by doing the actual writing. He didn't work from an outline. Harriet has explained that he had a few goalposts he was aiming for, big events he knew would happen somewhere in the story. He didn't know exactly how those would play out until he wrote them, but he knew what they were. Otherwise, he would write and explore, working his way toward his goalposts and discovering many parts of his story as he worked.
Robert Jordan was also not a linear writer. From what I can judge by the notes, he was one of the relatively more rare breed of writers who work on a scene as it interests them, no matter where it may be in the story. It seems like he'd often dig out a file and write a short time on it, then stick that file back into the notes. The next day, he'd work on a different place in the story. It's possible that as he started work on a book in earnest, however, he progressed in a more linear fashion. The largest chunk of actual writing he left behind was for the prologue of A Memory of Light, after all.
However, from what Harriet has told me, he did not show his notes to people, nor did he show them early drafts. Even Harriet often wouldn't get to see early drafts—she says what he gave her was often draft twelve or thirteen.
In the stack of notes I was given were all of the scenes he'd actually written for A Memory of Light. Together, these were about a hundred pages. I can't tell you everything that was in there, not yet. I can speak about the things I've said before, however. One thing in these notes was the ending. (This became the epilogue of A Memory of Light, though I did add a couple of scenes to it.) Another was his unfinished prologue. (I split this into three chunks to become the prologues for the three books, though I did add quite a few scenes to these prologues as well. Scenes he'd finished, mostly finished, or had a loose first draft of include: the farmer watching the clouds approach in The Gathering Storm, the scene with Rand seen through the eyes of a sul'dam from the prologue of The Gathering Storm, the scene with the Borderlanders on the top of the tower in Towers of Midnight, and the scene with Isam in the Blight at the start of A Memory of Light.)
Also included in this stack of scenes were a smattering of fragments, including the scene where Egwene gets a special visitor in The Gathering Storm. (Dress colors are discussed.) The scene in Towers of Midnight where two people get engaged. (The one that ends with a character finding a pot in the river—which is a piece I added.) And the scene at the Field of Merrilor inside the tent where someone unexpected arrives. (Much of that sequence was outlined in rough form.) I've tried to be vague as to not give spoilers.
Q&A sessions with Robert Jordan's assistants: Near the end, Mr. Jordan was too weak to work on the book directly—but he would do sessions with Maria, Alan, Harriet, or Wilson where he'd tell them about the book. They recorded some of these, and then transcribed them for me. Most of these focus on someone asking him, "What happens to so-and-so." He'd then talk about their place in the ending, and what happened to them after the last book. A lot of these focus on major plot structures. ("So tell me again what happens when Siuan sneaks into the White Tower to try to find Egwene.") Or, they focus on the climax of the final book. The bulk of this information gave me a general feeling for the ending itself, and a read on where people ended up after the books. A lot of the "How do they get from the end of Knife of Dreams to the climax of A Memory of Light?" wasn't discussed.
Selections from Robert Jordan's notes: As I've mentioned before, Robert Jordan's larger notes files are huge and have a haphazard organization. These are different from the notes I was given—the two hundred-page stack. My stack included the pages that Team Jordan thought most important to the writing of the book. They did also give me a CD, however, with everything on it—thousands and thousands of pages of materials.
Though you might be salivating over these, the bulk are not things many of you would find interesting. Each version of the glossaries is included, for example, so Mr. Jordan knew what they'd said about given characters in given books. (These are identical to the ones printed in the backs of the books.) There are notes for many of the books, things Mr. Jordan used while writing a given novel in the series, but much of this ended up in the books and would not offer any revelations to you. There is, however, a great deal of interesting worldbuilding, some of which ended up in the books—but there's also quite a bit here that will probably end up in the encyclopedia. There were also notes files on given characters, with the viewings/prophesies/etc. about them that needed to be fulfilled, along with notes on their attitude, things they needed to accomplish yet in the series, and sometimes background tidbits about their lives.
Maria and Alan had spent months meticulously combing through the notes and pulling out anything they thought I might need. This was the last chunk of my two hundred pages of notes, though I was free to spend time combing through the larger grouping of files—and I did this quite a bit.
To be continued.
At this point, I sat down with Team Jordan. In case you don't know the members of this group it includes:
Harriet: Robert Jordan's editor and widow. She discovered him as an aspiring writer in Charleston after moving there to raise her son from a previous marriage. (She didn't think NYC was the place to do it, and she had inherited the family home in Charleston.) She was encouraged by Robert Jordan's writing and started publishing his historical novels (she still worked for Tor, but telecommuted). Eventually they fell in love and were married. She edited all of the Wheel of Time books, as well as doing some other things. (For example, she is responsible for nearly all of the chapter titles in all of the books.)
Maria: Maria was hired on somewhere around book seven, I believe. At first, her work seemed to be more clerical—but over time, she impressed Robert Jordan and Harriet, and moved into a more editorial position. She'd maintain continuity for him, as well as work on his copyedits. These days, she is also in charge of making certain things like the Wheel of Time graphic novels are following the storyline and descriptions in the right way.
Alan: Alan came on later than Maria, but has still been there for years and years by this point. He helps with office work and is the resident timeline king. He also is a military history buff, and knows warfare quite well. He became my "Great Captain" for the last books. (Though he and I did butt heads quite a bit as I pushed for more drama and he pushed for more specific descriptions of tactics.)
Wilson: I don't know if he'd agree he was part of Team Jordan or not, but I view him as part. Wilson is Robert Jordan's cousin and close friend growing up—the cousin that was like a brother. Jovial and welcoming, he recently dressed up in a costume of me for a costume contest. He's been a cheerleader for Jim's work for years, and every time I felt daunted by this project, it seems I'd get a little note of encouragement or help from Wilson.
During this second Charleston visit, I sat down with Alan, Maria, and Harriet to outline my thoughts on where the last books should go. I asked for big sheets of butcher paper, and upon this I started writing down characters, plots, goals, and sequences as headings. Then, we brainstormed answers to holes. I often presented my (somewhat daring) plans for sequences Robert Jordan had not outlined. I think a lot of the things I suggested were surprising to Team Jordan—and made them worried.
My argument was this, however: Robert Jordan would not have kept the last book stale. He wouldn't have done everything as expected. He wouldn't have flatlined the character arcs, he wouldn't have stopped the worldbuilding. If we played this book safe, we'd end up with a bland climax to the series. Harriet agreed, and told me to proceed with some of these plans—but with the warning that as editor, she would read and see if I pulled off the sequences. If I did, they'd go in the books. If I didn't, we'd remove them.
This ended up working really well. It allowed me to exercise artistic freedom, driving the books in directions I felt they needed to go without limitations. Granted, I had a personal rule—I didn't contradict Robert Jordan's previous books, and if he had finished a scene in the notes, we were going to use it.
This might make it sound like I was trying to steer the books away from his vision. Nothing is further from the truth. In rereading his series, in getting close to his notes, I felt like I had a vision for the types of emotional beats Robert Jordan was striving for in the last book. These emotional beats required surprises, revelations, and transformations—I felt like I truly had the pulse of this series. My goal was to fulfill his vision. However, in order to do this, I needed to exercise my artistic muscles, as he would have exercised his own. I had to allow the creative writer in me to create, to tell stories.
It meant approaching these books as a writer, not a ghostwriter. Harriet understood this; she hired me rather than a ghostwriter because we had notes and fragments of scenes—not an almost-completed novel. However, she was also very right to tell me that she would act as a stabilizing force. Letting my creativity out of its proverbial Pandora's box meant walking a dangerous line, with things that were too "Brandon" potentially consuming the series. I didn't want to let this happen, and Harriet was the failsafe.
This is why some sequences, like the "River of Souls" sequence that became part of the Unfettered anthology, needed to be deleted from the books. It's not the only one. Others include a sequence where Perrin went into the Ways.
During the process of writing these books, all members of Team Jordan offered commentary on every aspect—but a certain specialization fell out naturally. Harriet did line edits and focused on character voice. (She famously told me, regarding one of my very early Aviendha scenes, "Brandon, you've written an almost perfect Elayne." It took me a few more tries to get that one right.) Maria would watch for continuity with other books. Alan would pin me down on timeline, troop movements, and tactics.
To be continued.
The Gathering Storm: What did I learn?
The obvious thing I learned has to do with juggling so many side plots. I'd attempted this level of complexity one time before in my life, the first draft of The Way of Kings. (Written in 2002–2003, this was very different from the version I published in 2010, which was rebuilt from the ground up and written from page one a second time.) The book had major problems, and I felt at the time they came from inexpert juggling of its multitude of viewpoints. I've since advised new writers that this is a potential trap—adding complexity by way of many viewpoints, when the book may not need it. Many great epics we love in the genre (The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire included) start with a small group of characters, many in the same location, before splitting into much larger experiences with expansive numbers of viewpoints.
I couldn't afford to be bad at this any longer. Fortunately, finishing the Mistborn trilogy had taught me a lot about juggling viewpoints. Approaching The Wheel of Time, I was better able to divide viewpoints, arrange them in a novel, and keep them in narrative rhythm with one another—so they complemented one another, rather than distracting or confusing the reader.
The other primary thing I feel I gained working on this book is a better understanding of my outlining process. Robert Jordan, as I said in previous installments, seems to have been more of a discovery writer than an outline writer—I'm the opposite. Working with The Gathering Storm forced me to take all of these notes and fragments of scenes and build a cohesive story from them. It worked surprisingly well. Somehow, my own process melded perfectly with the challenge of building a book from all of these parts. (That's not to say that the book itself was perfect—just that my process adapted very naturally to the challenge of outlining these novels.)
There are a lot of little things. Harriet's careful line edits taught me to be more specific in my word choice. The invaluable contributions of Alan and Maria taught me the importance of having assistants to help with projects this large, and showed me how to make the best use of that help. (It was something I started out bad at doing—my first few requests of Alan and Maria were to collect things I never ended up needing, for example.) I gained a new awe for the passion of Wheel of Time fandom, and feel I grew to understand them—particularly the very enthusiastic fans—a little better. This, in turn, has informed my interactions with my own readers.
I also learned that the way I do characters (which is the one part of the process I do more like a discovery writer) can betray me. As evidenced below.
So this is another one of those places where it required a lot of push and pull between us. This is something that Robert Jordan had more talent for than I have. He was a military tactician and military historian, and I am not. I am an action movie buff, and a Chinese Kung Fu movie buff. And I love vibrant, engaging visual action sequences. And large scale battle tactics are something I usually go to other people to use as resource on. And so on this one, we made Alan Romanczuk our Great Captain who was going to define our tactics....(indecipherable)...There was a lot of conflict between he and myself—good-natured, but sometimes heated—because I kept pushing toward more cinematic and more character focused. And he kept pushing toward more realism and more focus on the tactics. And that was a lot of push and pull between us. We did go to some people starting out to ask for advice on what we should use as patterns for this. And we got some great advice there on which real historical battles would make great models for us to follow. We felt that was one of the things that we should do is rather than try to come up with this from scratch, we really should use something which happened in our world as a patten because that would help us from making any big blunders. And then Alan would say, "This is what the tactics would be here." And I'm like, "That's not dramatic enough. This is what needs to happen to make the story go." He'd be like, "That violates these rules of tactics." And I'm like, "All right. What can we do in between these two that is still dramatic and still tactically sound?" And we went back and forth a lot on that.