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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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At one point, RJ raised his voice to scold his wife, "No! No hints! They can figure it out!" She was grinning, apparently not chagrined at all. But she did stop saying any more at that point. This leads me to believe that Mr. Jordan enjoys immensely weaving the puzzle, as much as writing the book.
He repeatedly reassured us that we have all the clues we need to figure out who killed Asmodean.
Since you said at an earlier signing that the Dark One couldn't have brought back Asmodean if he wanted, was that at the time of Asmodean's death, or after that?
The Dark One couldn't bring back Asmodean because of the combination of two factors: HOW HE DIED and WHERE HE DIED. Not one or the other, both factors.
The referred to earlier question was asked at the NYC Barnes & Noble signing on the Crossroads of Twilight tour.
(Jordan had also mentioned Asmodean, and the fact that Asmodean was a child prodigy who in adulthood could never equal or come to grips with what he did as a child. He always felt that if he could live just a little bit longer, he could surpass what musical feats he performed in the past.)
I am not sure if he said "later" or "latest", though.
He does indeed mean "intuitively obvious" in the sense that his math teachers would use when describing a proof, as speculated on rasfwr-j. "I always hated that."
Regarding this evening's signing at Tower Books in Richmond:
The crowd was not very large, perhaps 50-75 people.
I also asked him if Asmodean and Slayer had met each other before he was killed, and he said they hadn't met. But Slayer knows of all the Forsaken and they know he exist!
RJ also said (for fun) he suspected Nynaeve to have killed Asmodean and that Moridin is hiding as Nynaeve:) (Poor Lan)
Nynaeve also had a good childhood, but she already tried to bully people:)
He has told a lot more, but I will hopefully get later a full report of someone else who had taped every conversation.
I think so. It seemed to me so. It seemed to me that there was no need to go into any more detail. I thought that if I went into any more detail, I was being blatantly obvious, and you know...what do I need to do? Caper around with a sign saying, "Here! Here! There he is, see?"
I mean, I assumed that the people who read my books are intelligent to a certain degree, have a reasonable level of intelligence, and are able to deduce things that you know...I mean, I don't have to tell them water is wet. They know that. I don't have to tell them that if they fall off the roof, it's gonna hurt when they hit, you know, they know that.
So I...no, I...At this point, I must tell you: although I will continue to put clues into the books. Again. A bit here and there. If I see a spot where I can put a clue, for those who are slow of wits to catch up...I will not tell you. For the simple reason I am enjoying watching you all try far too much to deprive myself of the pleasure of that.
Yes...I particularly like, actually, Mick Jagger as answer to that.
Also, he mentioned that all the clues for Asmodean's (Az-moedee-in, not Az-moe-dee-in) death are there and he won't answer any questions about it. This wasn't the kind of crowd that would ask them anyway.
About that Asmodean thing...my impression is that during the last signing tour (not in a mailed letter), someone gave him a "correct" theory on who did it. He did not confirm it to the person then, nor will he now tell us what happened. Much spirited debate followed in the crowd.
Who killed Asmodean?
I'm still not going to tell you. [laughter] Someone has sent me a logical chain reaction working out correctly who killed Asmodean using only the evidence that is in the books. [The next part is inaudible on my recording, but I remember him making reference to two things. One, he did not tell the person who submitted the explanation that they were correct; and two, he just likes watching us squirm.]
Now, who killed Asmodean. (Laughter)
There is enough evidence in the books to put together to find out who killed Asmodean. Think! Think! Some of you are Harvard folk! Think! Someone has found out, actually, but I will not tell you. Now I'll answer some questions.
—Taimandred is bogus.
—Rand has only one soul, but has two personalities.
—Museam Replicas will be producing the Sword and Dragon pins as well as an approved version of the Great Serpent ring (which apparently goes around the finger twice before biting its own tail).
—Someone has correctly deduced who killed Asmodean, so no one should ever ask him that question again.
This should be confirmation that I do lurk upon occasion, on several sites. At the moment, working only half days on the new book—that will continue until the tour begins; after the tour, it is back to full days—I have time to do that more often than when I am writing all day. Then I can only drop by once in a while for a a few minutes to scan through the thread headers and see if anyone else has figured out who killed Asmodean—some of you have, but I won't say who—or whether some incredible rumor has begun growing like a fungus. But I am not a member at any site, so forget about the possibility that I make posts.
Take care, guys. And remember—no cancer.
For Desiree, part of yours, about continuing the blog, is answered above. The criteria for rising among the Forsaken boils down to a combination of effectiveness and ruthlessness. Asmodean may have held few field commands, but he was quite effective as a governor and administrator. Even the Shadow needs those.
About 40 people attended the Q&A and book signing at Chester County Books & Music in West Chester, PA. R.J. spoke for about 10 minutes and then answered some general questions from the audience for another 20 minutes. There was only one plot specific question during the open Q&A. Predictably, that question was about Asmodean's condition.
Everyone had a good laugh, and RJ responded, "Asmodean is dead, dead, dead." All other questions were about RJ's writing process, his daily schedule, what he likes to read, etc.
The next hour was for the book signing. Again, 90% of the questions were about RJ's interests away from the book; his hobbies, suggestions for how to start a career in writing, and things like that.
Second, if anyone asked him who killed Asmodean, he was going to punch them.
I considered asking this myself, just to be 'touched' by the hand of the light. Common sense reined in my desire to take home a 'souvenir' of the evening. A photo later would do instead. Besides, RJ looked as if he had been in a fight recently, having a nice black eye. Not sure if he got on Harriet's bad side (again), but I felt that honor was the better part of valor and did not pose that question when he was signing my book, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Question 2 From RJ: The next person in line is going to ask me who killed Asmodean.
Answer: I'm going to reach over the table and pop him in the face!!! Someone has figured it out and posted his theory onto the web. The theory is based on his deductions, not his guesses (slightly paraphrased).
RJ wound up with a fist like he was going to punch him, and the groan that had run through the store turned to laughter.
He reiterated why he isn't telling, and that he has tried to place a few clues in the latter books. He said that if occasion permits in the last book, and it seems appropriate, the character doing the deed will probably think to themselves about killing Asmodean. However he gave no guarantee. But he did say he will reveal Asmodean's killer if he doesn't in the book before the paperback of book 12 comes out.
He also went on to mention that there is one website that gets it right with a very complete listing of the suspects with motives and facts that gets it right. He wasn't going to tell us which one. He said they got the right 'why' as well, and they used only facts in prior to the murder. I later asked him if he could say when he found out about the website and he said he couldn't remember, but it was quite some time ago.
Mr. Jordan's books are particularly special in that they don't always tie up every loose end, but instead leave some things for the reader to imagine and decide for themselves. Originally, as I understand it, Mr. Jordan was not intending to ever reveal Asmodean's killer, as he believed that the books were explicit enough for one to figure it out on one's own.
However, as the years progressed, Mr. Jordan evidently grew to understand just how much this question was bothering his readers. Recently, he had promised that he would—indeed—find a way to explain Asmodean's death in A Memory of Light. He left behind notes regarding this mystery, and Harriet and I have determined a place in the book where we feel it would work to answer this question. So, yes, I will tell you who killed Asmodean.
Brandon says that when he arrived at the Rigney house in Charleston, the first two things he asked to see were how the book ended—and who killed Asmodean.
Of the 200 manuscript pages that Jim wrote, the largest part is the prologue, the next largest is the ending, and the rest of the pages are chunks from elsewhere in the book. Brandon estimated that if Jim had completed the manuscript it would have ended up at 2,000 manuscript pages [that’s 500,000 words using standard manuscript format].
This is a good one to answer now, since I HAVE read the outline (obviously.) Actually, there's a good story here. When I first went to visit Harriet, I recall walking in the door and—even before eating—asking if I could have two things. The ending Jim wrote (he finished the last part of the book himself) and the answer to who killed Asmodean.
I wish it were possible for me to express just how much I enjoyed reading those final written words that Mr. Jordan left behind. I was satisfied. I think that's the perfect word for it. Satisfied. It ends the way it should. Not, perhaps, the way I would have guessed—or even the way you have guessed. But it's the RIGHT ending. I was very pleased.
And it made me sleep a lot more easily once I got to see that the ending was there, and that I wouldn't have to do that part myself. I'm a 'goal driven' writer. I develop an outline for myself that generally focuses on my ending, and then my writing pushes me toward that goal. Already having the ending makes this book possible.
I guess the only other thing I'd like to note that I was feeling was this: Reverence. This is the last work of the master. It's like holding a play penned by Shakespeare himself—one that nobody else has read, and that you get to perform for the first time.
I am still deeply interested in ascertaining the solution to the quandry regarding the character of Asmodean, most specifically the mystery surrounding the circumstances of his demise. ;)
I also mentioned Moiraine's fate last year as being a big question I had. She's always been a favorite of mine, and each time I read through the series, I'm left wondering about her. (Well, not any more, since I've read the notes. But you know what I mean.)
I've been surprised to discover that a lot of readers take her survival for granted, but I've never done so. The letter gives some good clues that she might still be around, but it could also be some kind of trap by the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. The answers and gifts they give are truthful, yet there's often a twisted logic to them as well, it seems.
I can't say more here, I'm afraid, since I now know too much.
I had not heard of Brandon until. . . it was the week of my husband's death. A friend was visiting. She put in front of me a print-out, and it was the eulogy for Robert Jordan that Brandon had posted on his web site. Brandon's eulogy was really beautiful, and very loving. And I thought, gosh, this guy. . . he knows what the series is all about.
And I got on the phone, called Tom Doherty and said, "Send me one of Sanderson's books." And he's a bit darker than Robert Jordan, but the series, as everyone knows, is heading towards Tarmon Gai'don, which is the battle with the Dark One that will decide the fate of the world. Tom said, "Okay, I'll go for that. We'll go for Brandon."
You made it clear that you would love to do this. And that was wonderful. That's what I needed to hear.
The next thing was for me to fly to Charleston. Harriet drives me to her house. You know, I'm fanboying all of this. And you said, "Do you want some dinner?" And my response was, "No, I want the ending. I want the ending and I want to know who killed Asmodean."
And you're like, "Oh, all right. Well, here it is." And you handed me that, and kind of waved me into the den, I guess it is, or the sitting room. "Head over there, go ahead, go for it."
And so I was over there poring over the materials. And I flipped right to the ending and read because Robert Jordan had always said, "I have the ending in mind". And all the readers, all the fans had known this. And we’d listen to interviews and he'd been saying for years, "I know the ending. The last scene is in my head." And so I got to read that last scene before dinner.
Then I retreated to my cave, and crawled in.
OK, I know, but not because I figured it out. It's because I flat out asked. I did, I just went up, and I'm just like you guys. I said, "I just can't figure it out, let me know." He said, "You could, if you just read it closer." I said, "No time, Bubba, who killed him?" And he went, "[censored]". And I went, "Yeah, makes sense." And by the way, I asked Maria later on if that was correct, and Maria confirmed that it was correct and told me why.
I understand that it was one of those plotlines that he always wanted to have tied off, and if people couldn't figure it out, it would be figured out for them. Around the dining room table, when we were first discussing what has got to be done and what not, that was one of the ones he wanted done. So yes, it will be there; you'll get your answer.
The reason it hasn't been there up to this point is because somebody figured it out. At a book signing, a fan said to him quietly, "This is who did it, and this is why." And he was right. And it wasn't a question with an exclamation point on it, and he said, "You got it. Spot on." And he reasoned that if one person could get it from the text, then anybody could get it from the text. And one of the great things about Bubba is that he always wanted people to think. He liked to tell you stories and he might want to give some benefit of his experience in the reading, but he was very, very interested in what you thought and that you were thinking. So, he didn't want to give that away until the very end.
When you first started work on the Wheel of Time what was the first thing you looked up in the notes/material?
Asmodean's killer. After that, I read the ending.
Did the notes squash/support any of your theories/ideas of where the books were going? Are you able to tell us what or how?
Yes. It did both. Some things were supported, some things were squashed, and some things I just didn't have any personal theories on. I can't speak of many of them. I'm trying to remember which ones were in The Gathering Storm that I can talk about. I did think that there was a good chance—or at least I hoped and theorized—that Elaida would end up as a damane. And I was very happy to see that. I was taken completely by surprise by the Verin revelation. Most of the things that were squashed happen in the next two books, so I can't really talk about them. And it's very hard to look back and say, "What were my theories, and what did I think about things?" because it's been three years now since I first looked at the notes and I already have all of that in my head.
Oh, I can tell you one thing that was squashed. To be perfectly honest, I'd always secretly suspected that Asmodean was still around, and that was totally squashed. So there you go. Part of me always thought, “Oh, Robert Jordan isn't telling us because Asmodean is around; he's doing something," but no, he's just dead. He's totally dead. But you know, I think Robert Jordan had even confirmed that and I hadn't seen the interviews until after I started working on the series. I'm pretty sure that somewhere out there is a Robert Jordan confirmation, a "He's toast" comment.
A few early reviewers have noticed that there is a spoiler in the glossary. There are always little spoilers in the glossary, so that's nothing new. But in this case, it's really best not to read the glossary until you've finished the book.
Now. Asmodean. I require you answer this question fully and truthfully without any Aes Sedai skittering about. Did Vin kill him?
Ha ha ha ha! No, it was not Vin. Now Hoid on the other hand... (No, I’m just joking.)
The glossary, remember, was begun as a tradition before there were internet wiki sites, and it's limited by size in what it can contain. I don't do the glossary; that's all on Team Jordan. Maria handles it.
As for why the big secret was included in the glossary, I've said before that Harriet made the decision where it would go. I actually did suggest it, though I later changed my mind and thought I would put it in somewhere else, but she said, "No, I love this idea of the glossary." The reason I think that we like the glossary location so much is because the instruction I received from Robert Jordan was just a Post-It note that had written on it, "This is right," attached to a sheet of paper that was an explanation, one of the many, printed off from the internet, talking about who killed Asmodean. That Post-It note saying "This is right" was all there was—I didn't know the how, the why, the circumstances, any more than you know. So we felt that rather than extrapolate all of that ourselves, the best thing to do, as frustrating as it might be, was to give you the information much in the same way that we got it, as simply a "This is the person." That still allows a bit of theorizing on how this person was involved in the event, whether it was by her hand directly, or whether a servant was involved, or that sort of thing. That allows for theorizing.
The Dark One would spit him back out because he tastes bad.
In honor of Asmodean, I'll say that there is a mysterious death in The Way of Kings that could use some resources devoted to it. I did not put it in there simply because of Asmodean, but as I thought about it after writing it, I said, "Oh wow, I wonder if people will pick up on that." So there you go.
Brandon said that when he arrived at Harriet's and asked to see the ending and got the pile of Robert Jordan's notes including the ending, on top of that pile was a message from a fan in the form of a dialogue between a Sherlock Holmes character and a Watson character with a note from RJ saying "this is right". Emily asked if it was from Matt Hatch and Brandon didn't think it was. He said that he can probably give send me that message so we know exactly what RJ said "this is right" to.
Maria told me that she is the one who found the Sherlock Holmes thing and gave it to Brandon. Matt Hatch was one of the most anti-Graendal Asmodean-obsessed folk out there, so Emily's comment is funny (though I'm sure Matt is flattered that she thought of him).
This is apparently all of the information that is available from RJ himself about the actual method of Asmodean's murder. In Brandon's vision of the story, he imagines Graendal killed Asmodean (did the deed herself) with balefire, but apparently this is not in the notes. So its possible that it could have been done by another kind of weave and we are free to speculate on that.
I then asked about the RJ quote where he said that the place and the method of Asmodean's killer both mean that he couldn't come back.
Brandon said this was also a RAFO as he couldn't tell us why the place was important at this point without giving something away. He seemed to know something about this reason (there is probably information about why someone killed in the place Asmodean was couldn't be brought back by the Dark One). I asked if whether "where" referred to the city of Caemlyn or something else and this was also a RAFO.
He also said that RJ's answer to WSB "The Dark One couldn't bring back Asmodean because of the combination of two factors: HOW HE DIED and WHERE HE DIED. Not one or the other, both factors." might be interpreted as both factors (each alone) would have prevented the DO from bringing Asmodean back (and not just one or just the other) OR both factors (each alone) were not sufficient to prevent the Dark One from bringing Asmodean back and the combination of both was required. It seemed to me like his vision of it was more the first answer than the second (both factors each alone would have prevented it).
I am guessing that we will learn about that in either A Memory of Light or the encyclopedia, but probably A Memory of Light. My personal theory is that there is perhaps some kind of magic tied to the city of Caemlyn that makes the Dark One's power be lessened within that city itself and perhaps he cannot bring back anyone killed there. This is perhaps also a reason that he wants to make a strike at the city of Caemlyn with all of the Trollocs very soon.
Should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. [yeah, uh huh...] Ok, we know that. But he also said that we should know based on where everyone was, what they were thinking, what they were doing. Duh, right? But he made a point of mentioning where. For people thinking it was a Traveller, would 'where' be important? Dunno...
His list of candidates included the Aes Sedai, Nynaeve, Aviendha, Bela, and God knows who else.
And you know why he won't tell us? Because he likes to see us SQUIRM. He said it in a friendly voice, but you could tell he meant it.
Well, It was the second time this week I got to get my book signed and talk to the great RJ. The first time was in Leiden and I didn't prepare anything so I asked something lame about what he thought of the cover art. This time I forgot to think it over again so at the last minute I had to come up with something. It turned out quite funny:
Me: "Did Slayer take Asmodean to Tel'aran'rhiod before, or after he killed him?"
He and some other people started laughing, he thought a little and answered with a smile:
"What makes you think Asmodean is dead?"
I laughed and he continued:
"Yeah, you screw with my head, I screw with yours..." (that's actually what he said.)
So Incidentally I made Jordan laugh and swear, but not answer the question.
But hey, I didn't get a RAFO.
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.
His murderer. [laughter] [ba-dum-tish]
Everybody knew that was coming.
And who did you say that was, Maria? [mumbling]
Well, we knew that wasn't going to be answered so…
It was a good one, though. Good try.
Well, thanks. Probably not as good as some of the Theorylanders would come up with, but I'm not at that level yet.
Theorylanders are scary good at thinking up those tricky questions.
Yes. Very much so, yes.
Yeah. Any time I think I know a lot about what's going on in this series, I go read their boards, and I'm like, 'Nevermind! There's no way I know all this stuff!'
I know. It's kind of humbling.
[???] 'Are they even reading the same books I am?' [laughter]
I did! [laughter]
Robert Jordan killed him, actually.
He smiled as he signed her book and said, "You do?" And he left it at that.
For some reason I got the idea he was thinking, "Of course he did." But that was just my mind reading powers at work.
Okay, okay. You've got a right to know. I'll tell just you.
It was Bela.
Ok, if you won't tell us, will you tell us in A Memory of Light?
I certainly intend to! I hope he left notes on it.
So, ahh, Joar Addam Nesossin is just chillin' out in a shady spot by a cool stream, relaxing and, of course, reading Towers of Midnight to find out about Moiraine when a shadow falls over him.
He looks up and says, "You? No!"
Who, uhh...might've cast that shadow that interrupted poor Joar's reading session?
For the love of good things, tell me who kills Asmodean?
Real question: Mistborn surprised me with its intensity. I didn't think that it would have as big of an impact on me that it did, and for writing it, thank you.
How long do things cook in your mind before you put them on paper?
When you write something as beautiful as "I am hope." Does it give you the chills? Where does something like that come from? I am just so fucking amazed that, even though I knew of his past with his wife and the mines, that you could make me think he was just doing it for greed reasons... then you bust out with this and I was floored. It cemented the entire trilogy for me. With that one line, I will forever buy anything you write.
The Asmodean killer is revealed in Towers of Midnight. (Look in the glossary.)
How long things cook depends on the project. Some, like The Way of Kings, cook for decades. Mistborn was a period of about 2-3 years. Others, like my children's series, are exercises in free writing with very little 'incubation' time give.
As for the last question...sometimes, it's hard to pinpoint how things come together, even for a planner like myself. I often compare writing to playing music. Often, a musician gets to the point where they don't know why their fingers move as they do—through a great deal of training, they learn to just make it happen. Writers develop similar instincts, but for plot, character, and prose.
Silly Forsaken. You aren't supposed to be reborn. That's the Prince of the Morning's job.
Dang. And here I'd been telling everyone that he was dead for sure.
Better go edit the appendix for Book 13 for the next edition.
Dear god. Dear god. Holy shit, man. Holy shit. You are an inspiration to me, and I look forwards to reading your contributions to WoT.
Hopefully, we'll meet at a con somewhere someday and can have a game of Magic or two.
That would be incredible. I'm so psyched for A Memory of Light, obviously.
When we were in the Green Room Brandon broached a subject of his own, in Asmodean, stating he wanted to explain how that happened. Basically, Jim left a note saying ‘fit it in’, and when they were initially discussing how to do it Brandon threw out as more of a joke than anything else ‘just put it in the glossary’. Harriet apparently loved that idea, and when it came time for Brandon to write, he did lay it out in a Graendal POV [note: I can’t remember if he said it was in an outline for a POV, or whether he actually wrote it] Harriet wrote back in her notes ‘no, no, we’re going to put that in the glossary.’ Brandon himself definitely seemed to have wanted the information laid out in scene, and said there were actually a couple of scenes he thought he could have done it in.
They still argue about it anyway, you know.
*laughs* Yeah, well, you know Jim himself never wrote it out. There was just that email a fan had sent him, you know the...
The Sherlock Holmes one?
Yeah, just that with a note saying 'this is it'. Everything else...
Hah. Yeah, I never really cared about Asmodean.
Me either, really. Until I went on the boards, and everyone was discussing it.
Yeah, now they have the debate about whether Tam and Cadsuane are going to get married.
*shudders* Yeah, I’ve... ah... heard that one.
Oh, it already is. Have a look on Dragonmount or something.
I wish I'd had internet properly the night before. But I will hunt for this...
For some reason he always seems to have Asmodean on the brain, lol, so he asked whether or not the glossary of A Memory of Light would contain any important information. Harriet teased that now she would make it a point to include something important in the glossary of A Memory of Light!
What Jordan said, specifically, btw, was this:
Someone figured out who killed Asmodean. Thus, it is possible to do so with the clues provided, and he doesn't feel the need to provide more. Further, he refused to in any way indicate who the person with the correct answer is or how to get in touch with said person.
Second, he promised that he would either 1) reveal who killed Asmodean in the final book or 2) if he couldn't work it into the book, reveal who killed Asmodean online around the time the book 12 paperback comes out. So, at least the controversy will be settled some day.
Anyhow, I as I was getting my book signed I asked Mr. Jordan flat out (with a smile), "So are you going to reveal who killed him by the end? Or are you going to let us stew forever?"
He said that if the natural course of the story brings him there, he will answer that question. But if he doesn't include it, he promised that he will reveal the killer by the time the paperback of the last book comes out.
My name is Niels Oleson. Tai'shadar [sic] Manetheren, and Tai'shadar [sic] Pleasant Grove. [laughter] That's where I'm from! Go Vikings!
The one question I have is—this wouldn't be a panel without asking—who killed Asmodean? [laughter, cheers] And I know you can't answer it, but is it in the book?
For those who missed it, it's in the, um...the glossary of Towers of Midnight. [boooo] It's actually mentioned in there who killed Asmodean. [laughter] Towers of Midnight, last book; it came out last year. Two years ago. [laughter] So, you've got your answer; you just have to go find it in there.
And let me give a little explanation on that, so you guys who haven't heard this story—I know many of you have—when I first went to Charleston—this was 2007, in December—I had signed the contracts, not knowing how much was written of the book or what was even available, because you know, that's how it had to go; I had to sign all the NDAs and things before I could see, so I flew out there, and picked up the material, so to speak—the material we call the notes and everything—and I got in very late because it's—you know, flying to Charleston from Salt Lake is uh, and you gotta connect at Atlanta, and things—you know, I get in late, and we walk in; Harriet picks me up from the airport, brings me in, and she—(to Harriet) it was bean soup you had made, or something like that—and you're like, "Would you like some food; I know you've been flying a long time..." I said, "No, I'd like the ending, please, thank you." [laughter]
So she laughed and got me the materials, and handed them to me in a stack, and I went in to the room—the sitting room—and I sat down to read them, and on the very top was a post-it note, on top of a page of a fan...fan information, like it printed off from the internet—a fan theory—and all it said is, "This is right." And the fan theory was about who killed Asmodean, and that's all we had, was a "This is correct." Maybe they have more—maybe Maria has more—but all I knew was, "This is correct." I didn't know the how, the why, or anything that this person...why they did this.
And so when it came time to put it in the books, I kind of almost jokingly said, "We should put it in the glossary, because we don't know, so we'll just put it in for fans in the same way we got it, which is just a post-it note." [laughter] "...We'll stick it in the book like a post-it note, in the glossary," and that's because we don't have the full story. And so we went ahead and did that, and then when I was writing the book, I actually worked it into the text, and Harriet wrote back and said, "No, no. I like this glossary thing; it's going in the glossary." [laughter] So, we cut it out of the text and left it in the glossary, and the idea is, you get to feel like we felt because I didn't know anything more than "This is it," so I gave it to you as transparently as possible so that you could have the same feeling of confusion that I had.
And did you see where he got Moghedien from my basic character? [laughter]
Fun, but also annoying, since I couldn't tell anyone.
Did Graendal kill Asmodean? Huge fan of yours and WOT, first read The Eye of the World when I was 13, 15 years ago.
Yes, she did. And thanks!
Well, you've got so many things to tie up. And Robert Jordan, he knew that he was going to die. He knew that, and so he was writing as fast as he could. He got these notes. And you're working off of these notes, which is so great for the fan base, 'cause we get a feel for what Robert Jordan had in mind. I do have one question that everyone is asking me to ask you. [laughs] Are we going to find out who killed Asmodean?
Yes. He left notes about who killed Asmodean. To be included in the book. Harriet's decided where it goes. I can't tell you which of the three books it's going to appear in. But it is going to be in there and he did write the ending himself, of the entire thing.
Which is just wonderful. It makes this book possible because I know what the ending is. He left a lot of material through the middle too, as well. But he left that ending. He'd been promising us for years that he knew the ending of the series. And he did. And he wrote it down. And so I'm really working towards the goal of getting to that ending and working with it in mind and so, yeah, you don't need to worry that the ending won’t be Robert Jordan's ending, because he wrote that himself.
That is great to know. I didn't know that. Well, that is awesome.
Can I take the first question?
Yes, go for the first one.
The first question, simply illustrates the importance, as every sister of the Brown Ajah knows, of reading the glossaries.
I'm not going to give you a very good answer on the other one either. The reason being, we try to keep away from saying too much about what Robert Jordan did, and what I did. Particularly while there are people who haven't read the books yet. Maybe in a year or two we can start being more open about these things, but right now, I don't want people reading the books and focusing on "Was this Jim, was that Brandon?" and things like that. The only answer I can give to questions like that is every scene is 100% Robert Jordan, and 100% me.
I remembered some more stuff in the shower this morning.
Someone asked who killed Asmodean. Groan. The answer was, of course, in the appendix [glossary] of Towers of Midnight.
In the interim since showering, I forgot the other thing I remembered. But it was of similar consequence as the Asmodean question. If I knew that I'd be sharing answers then I surely would have taken notes.
I wish to stand up for librarians, writers of indexes, and in this case, writers of glossaries. Glossaries need to be read very carefully, particularly—which one is it? (laughter) Particularly the glossary of Towers of Midnight.
Somebody told me I was being a smartass. (laughter)
Oh, okay. All right.
Do Robert Jordan's notes state who killed Asmodean?
Brandon states that at the top of a large stack of Robert Jordan's notes that he received, there was a print-out of a fan's theory about the killer of Asmodean. Stuck to it was a post-it note from Jordan that read, "this is right."
Harriet commented about the importance of glossaries.
That was A Crown of Swords right?
It was in the epilogue of Lord of Chaos. They found out about it in A Crown of Swords. And it was the gholam. So it had to be—
Sammael, yeah. That was Sammael.
Do you know the reason?
Because he somehow learned that Fel was helping Rand and didn't want the information...?
A friend of mine has a theory; he believed that Herid Fel was Asmodean in disguise, because he didn't believe Asmodean was dead.
That's a good theory! I like that theory.
I like it too! Because it would explain a lot... (including why a gholam was sent to kill a non-channeler)
He acknowledged why Asmodean's killer was revealed the way it was. Apparently when he got the "Notes" from Harriet there was a sticky note on the top that just said "Graendal killed Asmodean" with no further explanation or notes. So they thought it'd be fun to provide the same type of blank answer to the rest of the community.
Who Killed Asmodean? (The single most repeated question. I heard it like 30 times just while standing in line.)
Will we find out who killed Asmodean in The Gathering Storm?
It is amazing to see sales take off when the price falls below some resistance point.
But $0.99 seems very low for a full-length novel. Such a novel probably takes a year to write, and I would have though it was similar in terms of creative effort to a complete album rather than just one song.
See, that's the magic of volume pricing. When it's priced to sell at $.99, an author (no doubt indie, because there is no possible way a publisher, with all their overhead, can price like that and still remain viable) gets two substantial effects: They get the "cash register candy" impulse buyer to pull the trigger without much thought; and, because there are alot more of those readers (as evinced by the explosion in sales of ereaders), they make up in volume what they sacrifice in price.
If you're #60 in the Kindle top 100, you're selling something like 500 copies a day. These ebooks stay for (afaict) an average of 8 weeks on the charts. So 500 x 56 days = 28000 sales. If you're pricing at, say $2.99, you'll get $2.10 a copy after Amazon's cut. 28000 x 2.10 = $58,800. In 2 months of being on the charts. Not saying everyone will do that, but let's put it this way: You have as much a chance as anyone with a novel of similar quality and luck. Now, if you wrote 3-4 breezy, genre novels of sellable quality, and you had even 1/4 of the sales, you can see how this volume pricing can provide you with a pretty comfortable living, even if Amazon takes 65% of the 99 cents.
Such a novel probably takes a year to write
That's the romanticized "Great American" notion of the Novel as singular artwork and the novelist as auteur. It aggrandizes people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Salinger to the level of genius (which, arguably, is well-deserved), but not every novelist is like that and writes those kinds of timeless classics.
The two darlings of the 99-cent authors, Amanda Hocking and John Locke (yeah yeah...) are absolutely brand-spanking new to fiction writing. She's written 6 novels, he has 7. Almost all their novels were written within the last year or two (Locke, I believe, never wrote any of his novels before last year, Hocking had one or two of the 6 novels done before hitting it big).
All of their novels are in the top 100 Kindle store, selling, on average, between 500-6000 ebooks a day. Last I heard, Hocking was selling something like 100,000 ebooks a month, priced between 99 cents and 2.99. And, there are hundreds of previously mid-list writers publishing their back catalogs this way and making more on 99-cent or 2.99 ebooks than they ever did as a published mid-lister, even with the modest advances.
There are things you aren't taking into account here. The biggest one is this: all books are not the same. The Gathering Storm took me eighteen months to write. That's not a romanticized "Great American" novel. That's me, writing commercial fiction. True, I hope there's some strong literary value to it. But at the end of the day, I'm a craftsman—and I'm writing every day, working full days. It just takes a lot of time to create a 1000 page novel.
Selling a book at .99 is one thing if it's a short book (which the ones selling for that price are) that is very episodic (which they are.) Write a book at 400k words instead of 70k words, and the difficulty of managing plot lines grows exponentially, not to mention the months it takes to worldbuild a realistic epic fantasy world.
Beyond that, Epic Fantasy—which I write—has a shorter 'amplitude' than something like Hocking is writing. The biggest bestselling epic fantasies—at any price—sell far fewer copies than the best selling romance or paranormal romance books do. There are fewer people who want to read them, and for those who do read them, time is less of a barrier (to many) than price. You can only read so many books of that length. (Well, you can only read so many of any length, but you get what I mean.)
Even accounting for collectors grabbing everything they can at low prices, if you drop epic fantasy books to $.99, the genre will probably no longer be able to support full time writers. That's not to say it won't happen, and maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised at how many new readers we can pick up. But I'm skeptical.
I find the $.99 ebook thing kind of baffling, honestly. We'll pay $10 to go to a movie, we'll pay $10 for an album, but we want a book to cost a fraction of that?
Wait wait. Are you saying you're Brandon Sanderson? I'm honored. I was a big fan of the WoT series but haven't caught up fully due to no time.
I don't know if it's been revealed in TGS, but who exactly killed Asmodean?
It's me. And the killer of Asmodean is revealed in Towers of Midnight. (Brows through the glossary if you want a 'quick fix' answer. It's in there, though the text of the book makes it pretty clear too.)
Oh! So, this is a great story; some of you have heard this one before. So, when I got there—this is the 2007 visit, so this is December 2007, right before [?] was announced and my inbox exploded, right before the interview with Jason went live that preempted the [?]—I got the notes, and stuck on a post-it note on top of the notes was the answer to who killed Asmodean, and it isn't the answer you think it is. I don't even know—[to Harriet] was this Robert Jordan's writing, or was this yours?—there was fan sheet that was printed out—there was a fan theory, and a post-it note that said "this is right". And I don't know who even wrote the "this is right".
I think it was Jordan.
You think it was Jim, yeah. Robert Jordan. And so, anyway, we had this thing with the "this is right", and the only thing I had really from him was the "this is right". And I kind of felt like the fandom, like "Well I've got my answer but there's no explanation; it's just "the fan theory is right", that it was this person, and so, as we were doing our brainstorming session months later, I said "You know what would be funny? Is if we made...we forced the fans to feel like we do," because we don't really know much about this answer, and we just...we put it in the appendix because then, they would have to, you know, they would found it like we found it. I got a post-it note; you got an appendix item, and Harriet loved this idea. She thought it was awesome. She has, you know, I think she, over the years, got infected by her husband and transitioned from nice editor to mean author [laughter], because we authors love to be mean to readers. Those provoking strong emotions in readers is one of the things that we love to do, and so sticking it back there, I actually when I was writing Towers of Midnight, I was...there was a sentence I wrote where I made it a little more clear in text, and Harriet was like, "No, this is going in the appendix; strike that sentence out." And I was like, "Alright! She's on board with this." So that's...and it is...you know, a lot of what we do in writing, at least in my vision, is to try to make sure you feel like the characters feel, like the Last Battle. Why is it 90,000 words, or whatever it is—that chapter. It's because the characters can't put down their weapons. They are back-to-the-wall, this is the End, and I don't want you to feel like you can put down the book. I want you to be like, "I'll read to the next chapter." [laughter] All they're thinking is, "Well, I'll try and make it to the next day." Well, that's how you have to feel too; this is using the form of the story to try and evoke the right emotion, and putting [?] in the back was to evoke for you the same emotion that we felt in finding just the post-it note answer.
Okay, so before you got the note, who did you think killed that appendix item?
Here's the story of appendix-item man: Like, when I...and I found since that this was actually pretty common. I didn't really care until I started reading fan theories, right? Like, this was not one of the questions I had. The questions I had were things like, "Oooh, what could you do with gateways? Ooh, what kinds of Talents exist out there and what could they do? Ooh," you know, "what kind of weaves exist in the Age of Legends and how did they develop into the contemporary weaves?" These are the things I was really interested in as a reader, and then, you know, you get Asmodean, and like, "Who cares about him?" I mean, yes, he was a fun character, but he's dead, probably one of the Forsaken. And then, you start reading the theories, and then you go through this thing where you're like, "Wow, this is actually really a mystery. Oh, I really want to know!" And then you transition into the, "I'm so tired of people talking about this." [laughter] "Can we talk about something else?" And so, by the time I was working on those, I knew all the theories, and I didn't...I had transitioned out of that caring too much. I'm like, "These are all good theories, and I have no idea which one is right." And so, I didn't have...you know, I was more interested in, you know, "Which of the women is Rand going to end up with?" That's a really...that's a question I wanted answered. "Will he survive the Last Battle?" "Who killed Asmodean?" was not a big deal to me at that point, though there is a fun story. Matt Hatch, who runs Theoryland, or founded Theoryland—I don't know if you run Theoryland any more—but Theoryland kind of runs on its own...
Theoryland has always run on its own.
Yeah, you're just the unfortunate person who started it and got trampled by the masses. So, um, he came to me—when was it? JordanCon? No, it couldn't be JordanCon. DragonCon?
It was JordanCon. Okay.
Yeah, something like that. The book wasn’t out yet—Towers of Midnight—but I had mentioned that you will eventually, in one of the books, get the reveal on who killed Asmodean. And he pulls me aside, and he says, “All right, I’m not going to ask you who it really is, but I just want to say, it’s not Graendal, right?” And I didn’t say . . . I didn’t say anything. But he’s like, "Okay, if it’s Graendal, just don’t tell everybody. Just make it remain a secret forever. I would rather it remained a secret forever than you actually reveal it. Just so you know, If you’re gonna throw me a bone, don’t reveal it if it’s Graendal.” Sorry, Matt. My duty to the entire Wheel of Time fandom was greater than my duty to you.
So my side of the story is, I said Brandon—I was watching his face—and I said, I did add in there, “I will kill myself if it’s Graendal,” because if you say crazy things to people, they get human for a moment for your health. And so I swear, and I told everyone this on Theoryland after I asked Brandon that question, I’m like, "It’s Graendal, and it’s pissing me off”. It’s his look of concern like, “Oh, I don’t want Matt to kill himself”. Just momentarily a blip across his face like, “Oh. Oh, okay.” After that point, I just, I knew it was coming.
On the Gathering Storm tour, we did dinners with fans before each signing, which was wonderful but exhausting because it just added an extra hour or an hour and a half to each signing. But at one of them, I wrote “Graendal” on the tablecloth because it was one of those paper tablecloth things at one of those Italian restaurants in Korean, and then scribbled it out. And then said, “Hey I just wrote down who killed Asmodean right here.” And they’re all like, “What?!?” And so someone actually cut that piece of paper out and took it with them. But I’d scribbled it so well they couldn’t figure it out, and I didn’t tell them it was in Korean. Somebody’s still got that thing, I’m sure. Did they scan that and post that online and stuff?
I was there, I don’t know . . .
Yeah, I was there, too. You scribbled both sides of the tablecloth, just to make sure. [. . .] He was panicked that someone would figure it out. He was terrified. He was like, “I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have done that."