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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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With regard to the covers, both my editor and I have fought long and hard to get them to be the way they should be. And obviously with a high futility quotient. Countless descriptions of Trollocs, pointing out that Rand is approximately 6'5"–6'6" tall, descriptions of the swords, of Perrin's axe, etc.
The "dwarf Moiraine on a pony" problem was only the first, along with Lan being in armor and the Robin Hood clothes. I do not assign blame. On those occasions when either my editor or I have been able to speak directly to Darryl Sweet, the problems in sketches have been solved handily for the most part. (You did not realize that there were discrepancies in the sketches which never made it onto the covers, did you?) Sometimes you just give up after awhile; with Rand's height, for instance. After five books showing him as maybe 6' tall, I've simply bagged trying for the extra 6". As for the changing hair colors, I fear you must look to the printing process for that blame. When we see the cover painting, all colors are as we wish them to be, but then we must hope that the colors are reproduced with some degree of faithfulness on the actual covers. The expense of printing covers and/or dust jackets is such that no publisher is going to throw away a set and reprint simply because the characters' hair has changed color.
Now for your questions.
RJ replied that they probably thought I was reading soft porn, and that some of those cheesy romance novels I was talking about are some of the best soft porn he knows of. Later someone asked to have his picture taken with RJ and he replied, "What kind of picture are we talking about? I'll only do it if I get to keep my clothes on." Oh, and RJ said that the woman on the cover of Lord of Chaos is an Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah, but he doesn't know which Aes Sedai because it was changed a number of times.
He is aware of us, and the Bela discussion. We had a rather long convoluted discussion about Bela and the Darkfriend social, which seemed to leave everyone else clueless, when I identified myself as a net.jordanite...
We complain about the Sweet covers. He complains about the German covers. (Well, not much. But one in particular had a naked woman wearing pearls holding back an army with a wave of her hand (The Great Hunt) and "I had no idea where they got that one.")
You don't want to hear about his British agent.
The covers aren't as bad as we thought they were. The 'extra' character in The Eye of the World really was in the book, but was cut out later, because he had too little to do. His parts were distributed out to the other characters, but they never got around to cutting him from the cover.
It will not be split. I'm pretty certain. 2012 for sure.
I think that's all that was said of any significance. The rest was personal info that I don't think is important here, and I'm not sure a lot of this was either. BTW, both Mr. and Mrs. RJ are very friendly, outgoing people and were fun to talk with.
Am I the only one that thinks he looks like an older Bayle Domon?
This could lead to some interesting speculations. From his web site picture, I'd say Novak might be related.
Someone asked how he chose the cover artist, and we got a nice long spiel with some previously unknown information. Jordan and his wife went through bookstores picking out books based on their (if they liked it) cover art and finding out who did the cover. It came down to two artists, Darrell K. Sweet and Michael Whelan. The deciding factor was that Whelan wants the manuscript to read for a year before he will deliver a cover, and they just couldn't wait that long.
They are apparently considering a later reissue of the entire series with different covers, perhaps by Whelan, once it is complete.
Some stores simply won't carry fantasy, so all the books have been issued without cover art to expand the market. This came up in response to the A Crown of Swords paperback being artless. Why we haven't seen any of these others without art, I don't know.
Sweet Criticism and General Commentary:
—Rand is NOT tall enough.
—The Path of Daggers details are mostly right, at least.
—Rand has a different face on each cover.
—DKS has never done the Trollocs right: "They are NOT hairy men with animal-like helmets."
—Detail problems with Sweet are due to communication difficulties; there is not much time or opportunity for input.
—The Path of Daggers: "The Elvis cover."
—A Crown of Swords: "The pugilist cover."
—Lord of Chaos: "Take my room key, please!"
Darrell explained the process by which the WoT covers are made and why they look the way they do. He explained that he thinks of the covers as being advertising posters for the books and are designed to catch attention. He tries to make sure that he can tell it's a "Wheel of Time" novel you're looking at; opposed to the covers he does for other series.
He also explained that Tor frequently asks him to make changes to the art to suit the needs of the cover layout. For example, he was asked to make the figure of Perrin on the cover of Knife of Dreams shorter. As you can see by looking at the cover, if Perrin was the proper height, the text would cover part of his head.
He also related an amusing story about the cover from The Dragon Reborn. The Jordans own the original, final painting that became the cover for this book. They have it hanging at the end of the hallway by the stairs. A few months after the painting was delivered, Darrell got a call from Harriet asking if he could "fix something" for her. Of course he could! What was it? Well, she could see the floating head of Ba'alzamon from the spine from her bed at night and it bothered her. Could he please remove it? So Darrell obliged and now the painting we all know as the cover for that book no longer exists.
Anyway, when he signed my books I just asked him what he thought of the Darrell K. Sweet covers, and he said they were okay, but that he has minimal input on them. Sometimes he suggests scenes, and when he gets to look at the paintings prior to publication he suggest changes, but in the end basically Tor does whatever they want with it.
A friend of mine ahead of me in line asked RJ if he would ever do any more Conan books and he said no, he only did them because he needed the money at the time. Obviously, he doesn’t need money anymore. ;^)
So that’s it. Nothing too exciting. At least I got to finally meet him after so long.
Cross posted from the EUOLogy section of my website:
My career, like many young fantasy authors, has been deeply influenced by Robert Jordan, and I find his passing a to be a tragedy for the entire community.
I still remember the first time I saw EYE OF THE WORLD on bookshelves. I was at my local comic store, which was the place where I bought my fantasy books. I went to buy the next book in the Guardians of the Flame series, and while browsing the new paperback shelf, I saw this HUGE fantasy novel there.
It was so big that it scared me, and I didn't buy it. (This is particularly ironic for me, who now regularly publishes books of 250,000 words or so.) Still, I can almost FEEL that moment, standing and holding the book in my hands, listening to someone play an antiquated upright of Cadash in the background.
EYE had such a beautiful Darryl Sweet cover. I'm often down on him as an artist, but with EYE OF THE WORLD, I remember why he became one of the powerhouses he is now. I think, even still, the cover of EYE is the best he's ever done—one of the best in fantasy. I remember opening the cover and seeing the second illustration on the inside flap, and wondering if it was a rejected cover design.
Either way, I loved the cover. The feel of the troop marching along, Lan and Moiraine proud and face forward. . . . The cover screamed epic.
I bought the book a few weeks later, and loved it. I was happy when, several years later, the next book came out in hardback. I couldn't afford it then, but I could afford DRAGON REBORN when it was in hardcover, and so I bought it. That has been my tradition ever since—I buy them, even if I haven't read the last two, as I wait for the series to finish.
I still think EYE is one of the greatest fantasy books ever written. It signifies an era, the culmination of the epic quest genre which had been brewing since Tolkien initiated it in the 60's. The Wheel of Time dominated my reading during the 90's, influencing heavily my first few attempts at my own fantasy novels. I think it did that to pretty much all of us; even many of the most literarily snobbish of fantasy readers were youths when I was, and read EYE OF THE WORLD when I did.
Eventually, I found myself reacting AGAINST Wheel of Time in my writing. Not because I disliked Jordan, but because I felt he'd captured the epic quest story so well that I wanted to explore new grounds. As his books chronicled sweeping scenes of motion set behind characters traveling all across his world, I started to set mine in single cities. As his stories focused on peasants who became kings, I began to tell stories about kings who became peasants. One of them those was ELANTRIS.
I only saw Robert Jordan one time. By then, I had begun attending the conventions. You could say I'd become a journeyman writer; I'd developed my style, and was now looking to learn about the business. At World Fantasy one year (I think it was Montreal), I saw a man in a hat and beard walk by in the hotel hallway outside a convention room. He was alone, yet distinguished, as he walked with his cane. I'd never seen him sit on panels, yet I felt that I should know who he was. I turned to the person beside me and asked.
"That?" they said as the figure hobbled around the corner. "That was James Oliver Rigney, Jr."
"Uh . . . okay."
"Robert Jordan," they said. "That was Robert Jordan."
Eventually, I got an offer on one of my books from an editor whom I'd met at that same World Fantasy convention. My agent suggested that we play the field, using that offer as bait to hook a larger deal at another publisher. But, this offer had come from Tor. Robert Jordan's publisher. Some fifteen years after I'd picked up that first printing copy of EYE OF THE WORLD, I still felt the influence of Jordan. Tor was his publisher. That MEANT fantasy to me. It's where I wanted to be.
I took the deal.
Now, he's gone. I'm sure many see this as an opportunity, not a tragedy. Who is the heir apparent? I wonder how many authors emailed their editors Monday, asking if someone was needed to finish the EYE OF THE WORLD series. Even if none of them are chosen for that task, there will be a feeling that Tor needs to push somebody to fill the hole in their line-up.
And yet, I sit here thinking that something has CHANGED. Something is missing. Some hated you, Mr. Jordan, claiming you represented all that is terrible about popular fantasy. Others revered you as the only one who got it RIGHT.
Personally, I simply feel indebted to you. You showed me what it was to have vision and scope in a fantasy series—you showed me what could be done. I still believe that without your success, many younger authors like myself would never have had a chance at publishing their dreams.
You go quietly, but leave us trembling.
A few hours back, people started sharing links regarding a few places outside the US who have begun posting news related to A Memory of Light. I'm getting some emails about this, so I thought I'd go ahead and post something. Likely, this will all get overwritten soon, as soon as Tor and the Jordan estate release official reactions and/or announcements.
I can't say much. Why? Well, it's not my right. I'm loving being part of the Wheel of Time, but it is Harriet's world, not mine. And so I feel it right to let her make any announcements at her pace. I don't even feel right linking some of the websites making news about this, though you can find a thread about it on Dragonmount if you look.
A very small cover image has been floating around, and people want me to say if it's a hoax or not. Well, to be honest, I haven't yet seen the cover art for the book. Things have been so busy for me these last few months editing that I've let Harriet handle all of that. So I don't know if the cover is the real one or not. It certainly looks like Mr. Sweet's work, and it could be a scene from the book. But it looks rough, perhaps not the finished art. It's too small to tell. And the lettering on it is suspect to me—it mentions this book being the sequel to Crossroads of Twilight, for instance, which is a flat-out error. I certainly didn't approve that on cover copy, and I doubt Harriet did either. Most likely, this is a mock-up done internally that is being used as a placeholder. That's just one of the several things that bothers me about this cover image.
A lot of people are wondering on the number of volumes this book will be. I'll be honest, this is a big, big project. I stand by one promise to you, no matter what else happens. I will NOT artificially inflate the size of this book. It doesn't matter to me how many volumes Tor decides to make it; the story is the same to me. One volume, as Robert Jordan planned it. Enormous.
If it is split into chunks, I will push Tor to release them as soon as is reasonably possible and I will push hard for an omnibus edition at the end.
I've had some emails from Harriet and company and can give you some more solid facts here.
First, an email Harriet said I could post:
Whatever the "art" is that was posted on Dragonmount, I have not seen it, and from what I hear I would certainly not approve it.
Rest assured, no art will go on the cover until I have seen it and approved it. Best, Harriet
This was before Harriet saw the link on Dragonmount itself, showing the thumbnail of the artwork. The fact that she hadn't yet seen the real cover art makes this all seem even more fishy to me. Looking closely, that posted art really lacks detail. After getting some internal emails from Tor, I'm really thinking that my conclusion last night was true. This is not the cover, but a rough mock-up done quickly by production to have something to show at meetings. It was never supposed to go outside of Tor, and is NOT the final cover, not even close to it. I'll bet this is just a sketch Mr. Sweet did showing potential cover ideas. It might not even be him doing the art—it's too small to tell.
Tor is planning a press release about A Memory of Light talking about the title, the number of volumes, and that sort of thing. We won't see it until early next week, however, because of issues of timing with the major news sources. They moved it up from late in the week to early in the week, but that's the best they could do. Until then, don't panic. There is truth to some of the rumors, but there is also a lot of bad information going around.
It's here, and I'm free to post it.
My thoughts? I like it a lot better than the sketch that was floating around. I like how he covered the stump of the arm with the cloth; I was wondering how that would be painted without looking very strange. It's also very odd to see my name beneath Mr. Jordan's in front of a Darrell Sweet cover. I wonder if that will ever NOT feel strange.
Dragonmount has this posted too; I assume there will be a lively discussion there, if you're looking to talk to other fans about it.
This year's World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) will be held in Melbourne, Australia from September 2nd through September 6th. Unfortunately, I won't be in attendance since I'll be going to Dragon*Con in Atlanta that same weekend. However, every year the members of Worldcon vote on and present the Hugo Awards, and I have three books that came out in 2009 that are eligible to be nominated in the Best Novel category: Warbreaker (which you can download for free here—feel free to pass the link on to any Worldcon members you know!), Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallica, and The Gathering Storm. My editors Moshe Feder and Harriet McDougal are eligible for nomination in the Best Editor, Long Form category, and artists Dan Dos Santos (for the Warbreaker cover—which a fairly random blogger has just named the best cover for a 2009 SF book by an LDS writer) and Darrell K. Sweet (for the The Gathering Storm cover) are eligible in the Best Professional Artist category. (Technically I believe my Mistborn 2 annotations are also eligible for a nomination in the Best Related Work category, since I finished with them back in April, but I haven't even considered that those might be worthy of recognition.) Any member of this year's or last year's Worldcon may nominate until March 13th, after which only members of the 2010 Worldcon will be able to vote on the final ballot.
Robert Jordan never won a Hugo Award. Not one of his books even garnered enough nominations to earn a spot on a final ballot. On one hand I think it's a shame that someone who was such a monolith in the field and who did so much for the mainstream success of fantasy publishing should never have been so recognized (as I said back in 2006 when I advocated his nomination for the World Fantasy Life Achievement award). On the other hand, his absence from the lists may simply illustrate that his fan base doesn't overlap much with the voting base for the awards. If few of Robert Jordan's fans attend Worldcon, it can hardly be a surprise that he was never nominated for a Hugo. Still, I think nominating one of Robert Jordan's final three books would be something Worldcon members could feel proud to do, though I don't know that this year will be the best opportunity for that. We'll have to see what happens.
If The Gathering Storm did get nominated, I'm torn about how that would make me feel. We don't often realize how much we miss something—or someone—until they're gone. So, in that regard, I think a nomination might be very respectful. However, to have a Wheel of Time book finally get nominated only after Robert Jordan has passed away would also feel somewhat odd, as I do feel this book would have been better if he'd been around to complete it. Still, the reader response to the book has been excellent. I guess I'll just leave it in your court, readers. If you decide to nominate the book, I suspect Robert Jordan would be honored. But I'm not going to push or lobby for nominations. (That's frowned upon anyway.)
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.
I generally like them. There are some that I'm less fond of; there are some that I like more. I haven't ever been terribly fond of the Alcatraz covers in the U.S. I actually think that the German covers of the Alcatraz books are much stronger. Those would probably be my least favorite of them all, but in general I really like what artists are doing and how they're working to interpret my worlds.
It's nice to see, as a writer, someone taking what you've written and envisioning it in a sometimes new and different way, making something cool and creative out of it. So I'm generally very pleased. It's very cool to see how different cultures and different publishers react to the same text and the different types of stories that they convey just through the pictures they put on the front.
For those who do not know, Darrell Sweet—illustrator of all of the Wheel of Time covers—has passed away. My thoughts.
If the cover is scrapped, will the book be delayed?
No. We have enough time for someone else to do one.
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.
For those who do not know, Darrell Sweet—illustrator of all of the Wheel of Time covers—has passed away.
The first of his covers I can remember seeing was his beautiful cover for The Eye of the World. I'm sure it wasn't actually the first, however. Mr. Sweet was one of the premier fantasy artists for many years in the business. I have a healthy appreciation of what he accomplished, and I'm not sure many new readers realize just how influential and important he was as an illustrator.
We've gone far more realistic these days in fantasy art than Darrell's style was complimentary toward. However, when I first got into fantasy books, the covers were not like what we had today. The genre was still in its infancy, and fantasy illustration was equally youthful. Publishers were still trying to figure out how to illustrate it. We usually either got conceptual covers like the sf ones you can find on this thread or, far worse, the dreaded woman in a chain mail bikini—a trope I consider downright stupid in a genre almost universally populated with strong female protagonists.
(Note that I don't intend this as a dismissal of Frazetta or Vallejo. Though I wouldn't consider myself a fan of that style, often their art was on the right books. A Conan cover SHOULD have art like that. However, this style (as seen in this link) was even prevalent on things like the Pern books, where it didn't belong.)
For more research, look through this whole archive of fantasy and sf covers, many from that era. That was the sort of thing we were dealing with. Grim, dour, oiled up, or silly was the norm. With that in mind, compare what Darrell brought to us.
Into these realms, Darrell's artwork was a breath of fresh air. He's beautiful with colors, his creatures are fantastic and fanciful, and he gets across a truly magical and wondrous feel to his art. When Mr. Sweet came along, that's when fantasy illustration started to change. Now, a lot of Wheel of Time fans like to gripe about inaccuracies in the Wheel of Time book covers. They have that luxury because we, as a genre, have seen huge strides in illustration over the last two decades. However, it would be unwise to dismiss the illustrators who—through their majestic use of imagery and color—lifted us up to this point.
Sir, I picked up The Eye of the World in large part because of your wonderful cover, which is a true masterpiece that I would put up beside any other piece of fantasy art. You gave us beauty, wonder, and magic. You will be missed. Rest in peace.
We know it's not your job to pick cover artists, of course, but do you have any idea if Michael Whelan will make additional Stormlight Archive covers, or will it be different artists each time?
Another good question. This one I don't quite know the answer to. The thing is, Whelan is so busy and does so few covers that it'll come down to whether he has the time and is willing to. We would certainly like him to do more, and I've heard news around Tor that they're optimistic for him doing the rest of the series. But, like I've said, I felt like it was incredibly fortunate that we got him to do one. You'll notice that he doesn't even do whole series for some of his favorite authors anymore. For example, Tad Williams's latest in the Shadowmarch series. He did the first cover in the series, and they had someone else do the other covers. I don't know the details of that but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Michael Whelan likes to do his fine art. As a favor to people he'll do the occasional brilliant, beautiful cover but then he wants to go back and I can't blame him for that. So we'll see what happens when the second book is ready for a cover.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve always wondered who “They” are, and if—by chance—they’ve never heard of Michael Whelan. Because my experience in life has been very different.
It’s been almost twenty years now since I first discovered Michael’s work. I was fourteen when it happened, and I was not a reader. I’d been handed a succession of novels about young boys living in the wilderness and taking care of their pet dogs. (Which would die by the end of the book.) I disliked reading with a passion. So, when my eighth-grade teacher assigned me to do a book report, I did everything I could to get out of it.
That failed. In fact, it failed so solidly that the teacher—unwilling to let me choose my own book to read, for fear I’d choose something not up my reading level—steered me to the back of the room, where she kept a group of ratty paperbacks to loan out to students. You probably know the type—ripped, stained by spaghetti sauce from cafeteria lunches, pages folded and worn. I was told I had to read one of these and had to do a book report on them—and she’d read them all, so she’d know if I tried to fake it.
Sullen and annoyed, I began to sift through the books. Most looked terrible. I resigned myself to another dead dog story, but then one of the books actually caught my eye. It had this vivid painting of a dragon standing in the mists, a woman held limply in its hand. Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. The painting was so beautiful, so realistic yet imaginative, that I snatched it up, actually a little eager to look through the pages. I ended up taking it home with me.
I read that book in one day. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever tried reading before. (I had never been introduced to fantasy novels.) Dragonsbane was amazing, challenging, imaginative, gripping, and beautiful all wrapped up in one. I remember a severe bout of disappointment upon finishing the book because I thought surely there couldn’t be anything else like it in the entire world.
Still, hopeful, I visited the school library the next day. I looked through the card catalog, and picked the next book—alphabetically by title—after Dragonsbane. It was called Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. I went and pulled it out, and was once again captivated by the cover. I took it home and read it.
My life changed. Now, we throw around sentences like that in writing, using them over and over again until they become as worn as the shoes of a traveling salesman—hardly capable of holding meaning any longer. But let me say it again. My life changed.
I devoured every Anne McCaffrey book in the school library. Suddenly, what I’d discovered in Dragonsbane wasn’t a single, freak event. There was a pattern. If two authors could do this, perhaps there were others. Hungry for more, I went to the bookstore and discovered there was an entire fantasy genre.
There were so many books. Which to choose? Dragons had treated me well so far, so I looked for some dragon books. And there, right on the shelf, was a beautiful book called Dragon Prince. I consumed it, and then everything else Melanie Rawn was writing.
What do these books all share? It wasn’t just the dragons; it was the covers. Each time, there was something dramatic and special about them. I now own prints of Dragonsbane and several of Melanie’s covers. All were painted by Michael Whelan.
By the time Tad Williams’ Dragonbone Chair came out, I could recognize Michael’s art on sight. And I also knew to trust it. It didn’t seem logical—you really shouldn’t be able to judge a book by its cover. But a Whelan cover became a seal of approval to me, a sign that the publisher trusted the book so much that they got the best person available to do the cover.
I can’t tell you all of the authors Whelan’s art led me to over the years: Patricia Mckillip, Joan D. Vinge, Stephen Donaldson, and even Asimov. (Yes, you read that right. I first picked up Asimov because Whelan had done the new Foundation covers.)
I remember when winter 1993 rolled around. My local bookseller noted to me that Whelan had a new art book coming out, one half dedicated to covers, one half dedicated to his fine art. It was the only thing I requested for Christmas, and my parents bought it for me despite the cost. I spent hours leafing through the wonderous, fantastic art. Those imagines sparked things in my mind. I was an author in embryo, absorbing, thinking, dreaming. One of the very first stories I ever wrote was a ‘fanfic’ based on Whelan’s Passage series of fine art prints.
The years have passed. There are other wonderful fantasy artists out there—and, in a way, the market has finally caught up to Whelan (much as the fantasy genre itself needed time to catch up to Tolkien.) I’ve been lucky to have some of those incredible artists paint covers for my books. But I’ve rarely felt as much excitement, wonder, and awe as I did the when I got to open an email and see the cover for The Way of Kings.
Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) asked me to provide a quote about how I feel having a Whelan cover on one of my books. My editor, Moshe, noted “Surely you’ll mention how it’s a dream come true for both you and your editor.” But 'Dream come true' is another one of those phrases we use so often it has lost its meaning.
How do I really feel? Well, when I was a senior in high school, I was forced to take a life-planning class. In that class, we had to write down ten 'life goals' we wanted to achieve some day. #1 on my list, which I still have somewhere, was “Publish a book someday that is good enough to deserve a Michael Whelan cover.”
It has always been a deep-seated desire of mine to one day have a Whelan painting on one of my works. Without this man’s skill and vision, I might never have discovered the fantasy genre, and I might not be writing novels today.
You might say I’m a little bit pleased.
...I gotta be honest, the cover for The Eye of the World was what got me into the books in the first place.
What really sucks is that I found out that the larger than normal paperback I have been rereading all this time was the first issue for The Eye of the World. I thought there was a hardcover version. So all this time I have been beating the crap out of a rare first edition. Boy do I feel special.... kinda like the time I found out my sister traded all my first run Uncanny X-Mens for my cousin's ... er "collection" of Archie comics.... kinda like the time... gah...
Been lurking since The Beginning. Although I haven't had the time or the mental capacity/creativity, most days, to contribute in any significant fashion. Although hopefully I can find some more time in the future to do more than Lurk....
However, to all the new posters, regulars and alumni—I'm appreciative of the hours and hours of entertainment you've provided; Kudos to all!
Just a heads up to Sub, that the first printing of the oversize paperback isn't overly valuable (50-150 $) pending condition, and they show up on ebay on a regular basis—but still something worth looking after carefully.
If I've managed this properly—my avatar will have a picture of what I believe is the first bound version of The Eye of the World that I rescued from ebay a couple of years ago (maybe tnh can/will comment). Read the red fine print, if/when you can ... it's really cool.
Edited: for coherency. Deleted a sentence as my avatar showed up as planned. And add—you can't see it well in the picture/avatar, but there is printing along the top of book that reads "Harriet's marked up copy"—no trolling. This book contains some hand written edits by Mrs. Jordan (and someone else whom I have yet to identify although there is a fairly obvious choice), and includes a 3-page letter to tnh from Mrs. Jordan. As I understand it, the advance reading copy was created from this version, as were the final hardcover (yes Sub there was a limited hardcover printing) and oversize softcover both originally printed in February 1990.
How the devil did that production copy wind up on eBay? With, for all love, my correspondence with Harriet still tucked inside? (Is that the letter where we were going back and forth about Nancy Weisenfeld's copyedit, and Jim Rigney's preferred style of ellipses? It's been a long time.)
Did the person who sold it say anything about it?
I'd love to see large high-resolution photos of all those materials, including samples of the interior markup, and all three pages of the letter. I can recognize the handwriting of most of the people that could have marked up the pages, so there's a good chance that I can either identify the person or rule out some possibilities.
I'd very much prefer that you mail me pictures of the letter, rather than posting them somewhere. My email address is on the front page of my weblog, Making Light.
What you have there isn't the first bound edition. It's either a bound galley or a bound manuscript copy—I should remember which, but I don't. Tom Doherty did so much fiddling with the marketing and format of that book that it spent close to a year in production, rather than the normal nine months, and at times drove our department to distraction.
If it's typeset, it's a bound galley. If it's reproduced from the manuscript pages, it's a bound manuscript. Both can be referred to as "advance copies."
Anyway, the advance copies with the plain light-blue cover were superseded by the massive printing of ARCs with the four-color Darryl Sweet cover. An ARC (Advance Reading Copy) is basically a bound galley with a four-color cover that's usually an early version of the cover that will appear on the book. The Tor booth at the ABA that year had so many copies of it that they could have built Vauban-style fortifications out of them. Printing such a large and lavish ARC in such quantities was a gamble for Tor, which back then was a smaller and poorer company.
Is the thing you're referring to as "the first printing of the oversize paperback" the ARC? Check and see whether it has a price printed anywhere on the cover. If not, it's an ARC. IIRC, the ARC also featured the interim state of the cover in which the author of one of the cover quotes was erroneously identified as "Gordon R. R. Dickson."
Thanks for the info, greatly appreciated!
I will email pictures in the next 24 hours along with what history I know or have deduced. I agree with you that the letter shouldn't be made public without necessary approvals. The "discussion" you mentioned sounds...interesting...but the contents of this letter are more mundane and simply include info on book formatting, layout and listing of the chapter icons (I've scanned a copy of it too).
While not clear in my avatar, the book looks grey in real life (although if there was a light blue one, that would be interesting as well). I acquired a second one, without markups, that is identical to that pictured, and it is grey as well.
I know the ARC well, as at one point I had five of the things from various bundled purchases I made (the exterior cover of the ARC is the same artwork that is now found on the inside flap, and the inside cover of the ARC is the same artwork that now appears on the current cover). I just picked up one of the ARCs and on the back has a quote attributed to George R Dickson—is that what you were referring to? (Been so long since I'd picked it up that I'd completely forgot that I had the matching bookmark, and postcard inside, a pleasant surprise). I've since donated one to Jason Denzel and one to Jennifer Liang, for helping make a waking nightmare of a trip to the Gathering Storm signing in Charleston end on an awesome note.
In referring to the "oversize paperback"—it is a softcover book with the dimensions of approximately 6" x 9" (matching the size of the arc as well as the other proofs/galleys/bound manuscripts that I have). On this version, the exterior artwork and inside flap match what is currently on shelves everywhere. There are prices (both Canadian and US, etc) and ISBN # listing.
From your perspective—is there a difference between a galley, bound manuscript, or proof? Just curious, as I have various versions of almost all those written by RJ (have never seen a proof/galley/manuscript for Crown of Swords despite hours and hours of searching).
Okay, this is funny. I've been able to confirm that what Kafmerchant has is a one-of-a-kind artifact from the production of the first edition of The Eye of the World. The line written in red ink at the top edge of the cover that says "Harriet's marked-up copy" is in my handwriting.
Wetlandernw from the Tor.com reread offered some insight into the cover DKS was working on, from her recollection of a conversation she had with Brandon at a signing.
In a conversation at a signing (14 September 2010) the subject of the cover art came up. My recording of the conversation got wiped out by a certain 9-year-old, so I can't give the exact wording, but he said something like this. Mr. Sweet needed something to work with, to get started on the Memory of Light cover art, so Harriet went to Brandon and asked if he had any suggestions. He immediately thought of a particular event or scene which hadn't yet been written, but of which he had a pretty good mental image. He wrote up a 3-4 page description of the scene for her; she liked it and passed it on to DKS. At the time of my conversation with him, he had seen (what I now realize was) the concept art, and he loved it. It was, in his opinion, the best in the series. With the awareness that Brandon has always liked the DKS art, it seemed like a pretty high recommendation. It also made me really want to see it—both the art itself, and the scene Brandon thought would be the perfect cover for the final book.
You hired four artists to contribute to this book…
…and had their artwork included in the book. Why did you decide to do this?
When I say four artists I am including Michael Whelan whom I didn't hire, the company commissioned, so we really have three interior artists and then Michael Whelan who did the beautiful cover. Again, I wanted to use the form of this novel to try and enhance what epic fantasy can do, and downplay the things that are tough about it. One of the tough things about epic fantasy is the learning curve. How much you have to learn a pay attention to, how many things there are to just know. I felt that occasional illustrations could really help with that. For instance, how Shallan's sketch book, or uses of multiples maps, could give us a visual component to the book. You know, pictures really are worth a thousand words. You can have on that page something that shows a creature much better than I can describe it. And so I felt that that would help deemphasize the problem of the learning curve, while at the same time helping to make this world real. Epic fantasy is about immersion, and I wanted to make this world real since that's one of the great things we can do with epic fantasy. We've got the space and the room to just build a completely real world, and I felt that the art would allow me to do that, which is why I decided to do "in world" art.
I didn't want to take this toward a graphic novel. I like graphic novels but it wasn't appropriate here to do illustrations of the scenes and characters from the books, because I don't want to tell you what they look like. I want that to be up to your own imagination. And so we wanted that "in world" ephemera feel to it, as though it were some piece of art that you found in the world and included.
I think it goes back to Tolkien. There's a map in The Hobbit, and that map isn't just a random map, which has become almost a cliché of fantasy books, and of epic fantasy. "Oh, of course there's a random map in the front!" Well [Tolkien] wanted you to think this map was the actual map the characters carried around and that's why he included it. He wrote his books as if he were the archivist putting them together and translating them and bringing them to you, this wonderful story from another world, and he included the map because the map was there with the notes. That's what I wanted the feel for this ephemera to be. As though whoever's been writing the Ars Arcanum for all of the books has collected this book together, done the translation and included pieces of art and maps and things that they found in the world that had been collected during these events, and that's what you're getting.
No, no it’s fine. His name was Darrell Sweet, and no. Look it was a hard decision, but we talked about using the original sketching and—
Oh, no, I meant like... the concept. Like will he be drawing the same scene?
Oh, right. No. No, I originally sent the suggestion of three different scenes, and Michael and Tor’s art coordinator, Irene...
Yeah. Michael and Irene chose a different one between them than Darrell and Irene had.
Harriet indicated that the Whelan cover art is actually done and originally was going to be revealed at JordanCon. (Whelan was tapped to do the cover of the ebook of A Memory of Light before Darrell K. Sweet passed away.) However, because Darrell K. Sweet, Jr., was kind enough to bring to JordanCon several of his father's original paintings for the cover art of the previous books, as well as the preliminary version of Sweet's A Memory of Light cover, it was decided to celebrate the work of Darrell K. Sweet at JordanCon and to wait for a while before the Whelan cover art is revealed.
It was also mentioned that Whelan initially sent a number of versions of the cover art to Team Jordan and Tor for review before he produced the final version for A Memory of Light. The scene depicted is a different one than that shown in Darrell K. Sweet's preliminary artwork. Also, at one point it was mentioned that Whelan sent out a query to someone asking, "What's a ter'angreal?"
The preliminary version of Darrell K. Sweet's cover for A Memory of Light may be see here, along with some of his other Wheel of Time covers.
There's a good chance that the book cover will be shown this weekend, Nynaeve will be TINY in the back flap.
During the A Memory of Light reading/panel this was sadly not confirmed—the cover is ready but not for viewing at this time. (see Marie's write-up of the A Memory of Light reading for more details).
The scene depicts Min, Aviendha, and Elayne gathered on a battlefield around what is presumably a funeral pyre for Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn. What we recognize as a yin/yang appears in the clouds, possibly signifying a unity that has evaded male and female channelers for over 3000 years.
We are very excited to reveal the cover to A Memory of Light, the final volume of Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time. The artwork for this final edition is by, arguably, one of today’s most beloved illustrators, Michael Whelan.
The task of jumping into a 14 volume series on its last installment must have been a daunting one but Michael rose to the occasion. Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s editor and widow remarked, "that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years” when she saw the image. And while the artwork clearly has all the earmarks of a Whelan painting, its theme and coloration make it a fitting heir to Darrell K. Sweet’s series of Wheel of Time covers.
In keeping with the series’ covers, the scene gathers elements from a key scene in the book. Here, Rand stands with Callandor on the rocks of Shayol Ghul, heading down into its depths to confront the Dark One even as the sun itself vanishes from the world. Two Aes Sedai follow the Dragon Reborn into the mouth of darkness, two women who have been with Rand since the very beginning.
As you know, there was a specific scene already chosen as the source idea for the cover image, so I was spared going through my usual process of reading the book, then trying to distill it into one image. I often lose a lot of time trying to pick which scene or cover idea to go with from the narrative. On the other hand, there was a lot of research required to familiarize myself with the particular attributes of the three characters I knew were going to be in the image. Not having read the Wheel of Time series yet, I had a lot of catching up to do! I knew a cave was going to be in the image, so the question then became “should we see the characters from the outside going in or from the inside as they are entering?” While I mulled the possibilities over in my mind I began to sketch out some poses and costuming ideas, trying to feel my way into the image.
Then I did several preliminary layouts in monochrome acrylics or digital media, sometimes going back and forth between the two.
After it was decided which concept to go with, I first played around with my acrylics experimenting with making stalactite shapes using paint and a squeegee. After that, I felt ready to start the background work. Usually I work from background to foreground, but this time I decided to work the middle area first, then do the figure of Rand and the background/sky area at the same time.
Here’s a few shots of the painting as it progressed. The background color of the panel was a light grey tone. The acetate in the center was left in place to mask out the sky area and keep it clean until I was ready to work on it.
I was fortunately well supplied with cave photos to use as reference because I had recently gone to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, where I took some pictures of some pretty strange stuff:
But I wasn’t happy with my visualizations of the figures, especially Rand. I tried using myself as a model, without much success.
I was also feeling frustrated about the coat I wanted to have Rand wearing in the picture. Sure, I could have faked it if the figure was small in the picture, but with Rand being so “up close and personal” as it were, I thought I should take the time to get it right.
I mentioned all this in a conversation with Dan Dos Santos, and he graciously took the time to help me find a model and find the kind of coat I was looking for. He introduced me to famed illustrator Edward Vebell, which was a humbling experience, I can tell you. Ed’s had a stellar career and is a real pro’s pro—and there were stacks of his paintings all over the place, amazing stuff from the 1940’s onward.
But the thing is, Ed also happens to own an amazing costume collection which he rents out to other artists, photographers, theatre productions, etc. Dan and I almost got lost in his attic looking through the hundreds of coats and military uniforms. We found a couple of likely candidates, and the next day the model came to my studio and Dan shared his photo and lighting setup with me so I could try out his equipment setup.
It was great; almost too good, actually. I felt a little like a guy wearing several watches and never knowing what the real time is. There were so many good reference photos to work with it was hard to cull out one or two to work from and leave the rest. The main thing I look for in posing a model is to check the reality against my visualization of a pose, and correct any errors. Once I had the information I was looking for, things proceeded at a steady pace until the painting was complete.
Not sure why there's still confusion. It's Nynaeve and Moiraine on the back cover. The yellow and blue dresses should make that apparent. Nynaeve's hair is obviously shorter than it used to be.
I spoke to Michael about the cover as he was finishing it. Since he didn't have the opportunity to read all fourteen books for the assignment, I was one of the people he leaned on to fact check his work.
Michael mentioned there are details the readers (like me) wouldn't be privy to yet. For example, Nynaeve takes the bulk of her jewelry off before this scene.
Callandor is a sword that isn't a sword, right? He's not holding it for defense. It's a source of power as well as his source of light (there's a clue about that in the lighting on his face). He's shielding his eyes as he stares in to the pit. Apparently, the deeper he goes into Shayol Ghul, the brighter it shines.
A little background that some might not know... Michael has studied martial arts, including Filipino Kali and Arnis. The forearm slash position actually has some utility in fights with bladed weapons.
Compositionally, the line of the sword is another element that draws you into the intensity of Rand's stare. Further, the opening of the cave is the shape of an eye; the eclipse suggests an iris. It's as if the gaze of the Dark One is falling on Rand. We see his strength and determination in response. How many illustrators can convey that kind of depth in a scene?
Say what you will, but I think Michael brought a lot to the plate on what was a very difficult cover assignment. He put his stamp on Rand while producing a cover that fits well with the first thirteen that DKS painted.
Thanks for confirming that. However, Nynaeve's hair is still the wrong color and, while it's shorter after the Aes Sedai testing in Towers of Midnight, it should still be in a shoulder-length braid. She never gave up her signature braid. That's why many people don't think it looks like Nynaeve—the braid is the main thing that would identify her as Nynaeve to the readers.
The loose light hair makes the woman on the cover look more like Alivia, who many fans believe is the woman in yellow. So I'm still of the opinion that Whelan did not do a good job with Nynaeve if longtime fans don't even recognize her. I think it's a beautiful cover, but as a reader, the main thing I care about is seeing the characters—who we have been reading about for twenty years—done right, not so much whether the cave looks realistic or happens to symbolize the Dark One spying on Rand. So it's disappointing that Nynaeve ended up virtually unrecognizable. She doesn't even wear yellow dresses in the books, despite being Yellow Ajah (she makes a point of wearing green or blue since that's what Lan likes), so that's not something that makes the woman's identity apparent either.
If you don't mind me asking (not trying to be rude here, it just strikes me as a bit strange), why did Whelan rely on fans to check his work instead of Team Jordan? I'm assuming you work for Tor, but you refer to yourself as a reader who hasn't read the book. To what extent were Brandon Sanderson and Team Jordan involved with the creative process behind this cover?
I was just one of the people helping with the details. Obviously Michael had Irene Gallo's art direction and was in contact with editors including Harriet.
Michael's wife Audrey usually serves as his sounding board, but she hadn't read the books. (For the record, I'm not affiliated with TOR. I've worked with Michael since the mid 90s, primarily on his website.) I'm a WoT fan and that's the kind of feedback Michael was looking for... someone he knew who had read the previous thirteen books.
Michael and I did discuss Nynaeve's dress color. I mentioned that she catered to Lan's color preference of green and blue. The yellow of her Ajah usually came in slashes of color, accents if I recall correctly.
Like I said, I haven't read the manuscript for A Memory of Light and Michael couldn't talk about it. But I distinctly recall Nynaeve taking pride in being a true Aes Sedai finally. Going into the Last Battle, I don't think it's a stretch that she would choose yellow. I suppose we'll have to RAFO on that.
In the background information I provided, I described Nynaeve's hair color as darker brown and referenced previous covers (among them the Melanie Delon's cover for A Crown of Swords that drew criticism for being too red).
I'd have to ask him why he chose lighter highlights. Just my speculation here, but Callandor is a light source. There's also illumination from the eclipse filtering in from the mouth of the cave to consider.
Michael got the length of Nynaeve's hair right, and this isn't simply opinion. Hopefully Brandon or Harriet will confirm at some point that her shoulder length hair was too short to braid.
Interestingly, Michael and I spoke about the challenge of pulling character descriptions from the text. If you're familiar with his illustration, he's known as a stickler for details. But it isn't always easy to translate text literally, especially when Jordan and Sanderson contradict in their description.
In correspondence, Michael wrote,
"Major characters are described as diminutive in size, yet 'commanding' in presence. Faces are youthful, yet ageless. Or young but having eyes full of wisdom of the ages. Rand is tall and manly, yet has an almost "feminine" beauty in his eyes or mouth. It's a bit confusing how one is supposed to render such conflicting elements."
Honestly, I don't mind the nitpicking. Criticism comes with the territory. My point in responding is to state that Michael was mindful of details here. There's evidence of it in the painting. I can tell you that he had Moiraine's kesiera and Nynaeve's ki'sain accounted for before I even spoke to him.
On a personal note, I had the privilege of meeting Robert Jordan before a signing on the Knife of Dreams tour. One of the things we talked about was the cover art for the series. I think Mr. Jordan would be pleased with this one. Obviously Harriet was when she said, "that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years."
Firstly, thank you very much for the thorough answer. It answered many of my questions, and it was also interesting to hear more about the creative process behind the cover.
[Nynaeve's hair] got singed off "a handspan below her shoulders" (Towers of Midnight ch 20), and she wore a shoulder-length braid in every scene she was in after the Aes Sedai testing. That's why it seemed odd for her signature braid to be missing on the cover. I don't really care about the dress or even much about the hair color, but Nynaeve isn't Nynaeve without her braid—it's part of who she is. It's like Mat showing up without his hat and ashandarei. And the ki'sain is too small to be visible, so it doesn't do anything to make the woman on the cover look more like Nynaeve.
I also wish Nynaeve and Moiraine hadn't been delegated to the background/back cover—since they're going to be linked with him, they deserve to stand at his side. But that's not an error, just something I wish were different.
However, while the cover isn't what I hoped for, I understand and deeply appreciate that you and Whelan both worked incredibly hard on it, and Whelan remains one of my favorite illustrators. I think he did a wonderful job with Rand.
I appreciate the sentiment but Michael did the actual work. He pushed his calendar aside this spring to make the cover happen. I was just support. But I will admit it took a lot of restraint on my part not to inundate him with questions that I knew he couldn't answer, so there is that.
As readers, we all have so much invested in this series that I completely understand what you're saying. I love Brandon's work, but I felt Towers of Midnight was a bit of a letdown, especially the resolution with Moiraine.
Moiraine has always been a favorite of mine. I would have liked to see her on the front cover as well. Thankfully Dan Dos Santos gave us that in his brilliant cover for The Fires of Heaven.
I think MRJackson & Mr. Whelan made a very good point, in that we have not yet read this book. By the time this scene happens, we may see several other events that make sense of the seeming discrepancies. Specifically, there are only two scenes after Nynaeve's testing which mention her braid, and in both cases it is specifically noted that it is too short and she finds it quite annoying. Quite possibly she'll meet up with Lan and find out that he likes it loose, or she'll simply decide that it's too irritating to fuss with a too-short braid, and we'll see her with loose hair in several scenes before this.
Someone was bothered earlier by the missing jewelry—but now we know that she specifically and deliberately removed the jewelry before this scene, probably so that someone else could use them. (That's what happened during the Cleansing; why not here as well?) Seems to me that we should make the assumption that the same kind of thing might happen with The Braid, instead of insisting that she should look like she did in the previous book, and claiming any discrepancies as mistakes. Such claims are not only rude, they are unfounded. Once the book is out and we've read the whole thing, we might have grounds for nitpicking; until then, not so much.
MRJackson—Thank you for your contributions, both to this thread and to Mr. Whelan.
Glad to be of help. Maybe someday we'll find closure in the great braid debate...
Seriously though, Michael painted Nynaeve's hair at that length (without a braid) for a reason. I wasn't trying to sidestep debate. I was expressing certainty. Michael was aware that the braid was an identifying feature of her character. The painting turned out the way it did through a long process that involved editorial input. I'll leave it at that.
I look at it this way (and this is my opinion)... Nynaeve has grown enormously through the books. She was always uniquely powerful, but it took time for her to grow into that power. More so, it took a dozen books to accept herself and decide who she wanted to be.
Nynaeve worked through enormous difficulty to channel reliably. Remember how she used to tug on that braid? It really was a symbol of who she used to be. Kind of fitting that the symbol is gone.
Old habits die hard, of course, but she isn't that girl tugging on her braid any more. She's a woman who fought to gain acceptance as an Aes Sedai, and she's going to stand at Rand side to face the Dark One. It's impressive how far she's come as a character.
The Fires of Heaven ebook cover was definitely one of the best, though there were a few things the artist got wrong (Moiraine does not have blue eyes). The New Spring cover was great too, especially Lan. It's mostly Nynaeve who has suffered bad luck with the ebook covers. There's A Crown of Swords where she got red hair and Lan looked like an underwater zombie, Winter's Heart where she didn't appear at all despite being linked with Rand for the Cleansing, The Path of Daggers where she got a Saldaean nose and Elayne looked suspiciously like Jean Grey...
I think much of my disappointment with the A Memory of Light cover stems from the fact that there's already an earlier cover (Winter's Heart) where Rand claimed the stage and his female linking partner was left out. "Hero poses manfully brandishing some kind of phallic object" is a pretty tired concept, especially on WoT covers. Rand does the same on Sweet's The Dragon Reborn and The Path of Daggers, the ebook covers for The Dragon Reborn, Winter's Heart, Knife of Dreams... Winter's Heart is probably the worst offender, if you look at the placement of the Choedan Kal. ;)
Sweet's A Memory of Light cover was a welcome break from that—I'm not usually a fan of Sweet's covers, but I liked that he gave Elayne, Min, and Aviendha a prominent role and added some emotion to the cover. So I really would have liked to see something different on the final cover, like Rand having the two women from the Callandor circle at his side. Here, Nynaeve and Moiraine are present, but only in the background, and not at all on the ebook cover.
The only female lead who held the cover spotlight on par with the men was Moiraine, and that is a shame.
There was definitely opportunity to feature Nynaeve linked with Rand on Winter's Heart. Despite the hair, I liked Nynaeve on the cover of A Crown of Swords. Lan not so much. The Path of Daggers was another miss, mostly because the colors were a distraction. I thought I was looking at an X-Men cover. Even if that was intentional, it didn't work for me.
I can only assume Rand was intended to stand at center stage alone on the last cover, but I think what you suggest would have been great too. Moiraine and Nynaeve definitely earned their place at Rand's side on the front.
That was a beautiful description of why Nynaeve is one of the most compelling characters in the series. She and Moiraine kept me invested during some dark years of almost giving up on WOT. I always hoped they would be the other Callandor channelers, as I could not imagine Rand putting himself in such a vulnerable position with anyone else. Aviendha, Min and Elayne included, though I do love Aviendha! So thank you for shedding light on why some things are portrayed as they are on this excellent new cover. Just don't think that it will put a dent in the debate. ;)
Thanks. I feel much the same way about those characters, and I'm sure the debate will keep going on well after the publication of A Memory of Light.
Mr. Jackson (your name isn't Michael is it? because that would be unfortunate),
Thanks for the reassurances. Do you happen to know if specs were given for the eclipse? We're wondering if we can assume it's accurately portrayed from the perspective of an astronomer (we have one of those at Theoryland, and a hobbyist as well). That's not to say we can figure anything out about it right now, or even that we'll be able to figure it out when the book comes out judging on recent portrayal of chronology. Just curious. No worries if no particular care was taken to portray it accurately; I understand it's complicated, but it could have been made simple if RJ left notes about it. Also curious as to why it didn't show up until the final draft.
We didn't talk about it, but I can ask him. Michael has more than a passing interest in astronomy so it's possible.
And M and R are my initials...
The few pages of manuscript I was given to work from didn't have any mention of an eclipse. The subject didn't come up until I had done several conceptual renderings. After sending some of them to TOR I got an email from Irene telling me that if I showed the sky through the mouth of the cave I might want to work an eclipse into the scene.
For reference I looked at a lot of photos of eclipses and liked the idea (for symbolic reasons) of indicating an imminent annular eclipse, the kind where the moon doesn't entirely cover the sun but leaves a thin ring of light in the sky.
Originally, I had the steps leading up to Elantris from the outside be a construction put there by the people of Kae. I knew I wanted a large number of scenes on the wall—it is such a dominant visual feature of the book that I thought it would make a good stage for scenes. However, I quickly realized that it would be the people of Kae—not the Elantrians—who controlled the wall. The Elantris City Guard grew from this idea, as did the set of steps constructed on the outside, leading up.
As I worked more and more on the book, however, I came to realize that the pre-Reod Elantrians wouldn't have needed a city wall for protection.
Obviously, to those who've read more, there is a good Aon-based reason for the wall. However, there is more to it than that, as well.
The wall of the city is a symbol—it's part of the city's majesty. As such, it made more and more sense that there would be plenty of ways to get up on top of it.
When we got the cover art back from Stephen, we were amazed by its beauty. A few things, however, didn't quite mesh with the text. One of these was the set of steps—they were so ornate, so beautiful, that it didn't fit that they would have been designed by the people of Kae. At that point, things kind of fell together, and I realized that there was no reason why the Elantrians themselves wouldn't have put a large staircase outside the city leading up to the wall.
And so, in the final rewrite of the book (the ninth draft) I changed the staircase, and the general feel of the wall, to give the proper sense to the reader. The staircase was placed by the Elantrians as a means of getting up on top the wall. The wall itself became less a fortification, and more a wonder—like the Eiffel Tower. It is there to be climbed and experienced.
The final artwork has been delivered by Michael Whelan. And it was gonna be shown to you ravening characters, except that Mr. Sweet has very kindly brought his father's magnificent art, and we decided not to, because we want you to eyeball and enjoy all the beautiful Darrell Sweet which is hanging in the art show, and it's just bursting with life if you haven't seen it yet. It's wonderful. But it should be possible to look at the Whelan...I dunno...Paul, when are you going online? Do you know?
I don't know...we were discussing that. [something about a couple of weeks]
Paul's cover copy [?] [something about "I answered you this week..."] "Paul, give me a break! This is JordanCon. Next week?" But it's a beautiful cover. I guess that's an oxymoron...I mean a redundancy; it's Michael Whelan. It really is beautiful, but he is also—I don't know if we spoke about this—but I think he has taken pains to make it a compliment to all of Darrell's work on the series, so it's at one and the same time unmistakably Whelan, but it is also complimentary when it's put up with all the covers racked out. You'll see what I mean when you get a look at it.
Excellent. We only have three more minutes, so I have a question here, and then I'll go to Matt.
My question was about Michael's cover. Did y'all have any particular scene that you wanted him to illustrate, or did y'all give him a couple of scenes, and he goes, "Oh..." and [?]
No, in this case, Brandon worked with him at first, and I wasn't really privy with that. It was great; it started out that Michael Whelan was going to do a cover for the ebook of A Memory of Light, and Brandon and Michael were playing together happily. (to Peter) Any comment on that? It was the same scene always, wasn't it?
Actually, Michael was curious about one of the scenes that might get deleted, but Brandon said that wouldn't be good for the cover anyway, so...(mic feedback) (laughter) (switches mic) Um...hello? (laughter) It mostly goes through Irene also, so Michael did one main sketch that had the full wrap-around cover, and then he did four alternate front covers, and then Brandon gave his feedback to Irene, and Tom Doherty gave his feedback, and...
So did we.
Yeah, and Harriet gave her feedback, and then...so they picked which one they liked the best, and the finished version, I also agree, looks fantastic.
And then of course, when we found that Darrell will very sadly not be here, the decision was whether to use it on the hardcover as well...and it's grand. It really is.
And there was a section where Michael Whelan sent a bunch of questions to make sure he had everything right, and Brandon had to answer some, and I had to answer some, and so...
And Sam? Is Sam Weber here? Well, Sam told me yesterday that Michael had called him and said, "What's a ter'angreal? (laughter) So thanks to Sam Weber too.
I was a little disappointed with the final version of many of the character pieces, but I guess it should be no surprise that the characters as they appeared in my head look different from Todd's vision of them. I think most people have their own vision of how the characters look. I know that R.J. had approval over the initial sketches, but I was disappointed that the finished pieces were not tighter. I can say I would have done them differently—but not necessarily any better. Todd has received a lot of criticism for his pieces in the book. I know Todd was under a lot of stress and pressure, and I suspect it affected the final product more than he would have liked.
The inserts with the Darrel Sweet covers however, are wonderfully reproduced—even though R.J. says Mr. Sweet's covers are not necessarily accurate. Darrell Sweet did the cover of the anthology for my first story, so I have a particular fondness for his work. Elisa Mitchell did a great job with the cover art—though I will never understand why they shrank her piece down and surrounded it with gobs of white space. I guess it was some kind of marketing choice. I was also happy with most of the spot illustrations, ornaments, and maps that she and John Ford and Thomas Canty contributed.
Next fall. If I'm on the ball. That's not supposed to rhyme, but it did. Tor said they'd put it out next fall if I turn it in on time.
When is turn in time?
April. They said if I get it to them in April, we'll be fine. The trick is, for Michael Whelan to do the cover, I need to give him a cover scene like next month. Because Michael takes his time, because he's the best artist in the business, so you need to turn stuff in early. So I need to decide "What's the cover going to be", and come up with a fantastic cover scene for it.
So is it finished? Is the book finished?
You can follow on my website, I'm at 7% right now. I have to turn it in in April, so if I can get to 100% by April (or 110% knowing Brandon) we'll be all right. If we can't than it gets a little more sketchy.
Is that turning in the first draft?
Yeah, we should be able to do it if I turn in the first draft in April.
I'll try to sum up a few other things I remember:
We talked about if he laughed when fans were guessing who wrote what and getting it way wrong. He said the story he could tell about that was someone looking at the chapter titles to tGS and saying they could tell that Brandon wrote those when of course Harriet has named all the chapters since the start.
He was disappointed that DKS couldn't finished the last cover even though he really thinks Whelan is the best fantasy artist around. He likened it to the same as it being too bad that he had to finish the series instead of RJ.
He talked some more about how he felt Mat was the hardest character to get write because he's pretty complicated. His thoughts don't always match up with his actions and it was hard to strike the right tone.
He knows that his action sequences don't sound like RJ's. He said he just doesn't have the real world experience that RJ did as a combat soldier so he just writes them as the best action scenes that he can.
He said Perrin was his favorite character so one of his goals was to redeem the character a bit and make him awesome again.
I asked about his Alcatraz books and he said there will be one more but it's not high on the priority list and will be several years. He also said the Scholastic distribution wasn't great and he's working on buying back the rights and bringing the series to TOR for wider distribution and ebook release.
Stuff like that. Nothing that hasn't been covered before.
Here are two more cool pieces of fan art. The second one is a painting that the artist Megan brought to show me at my signing in Idaho Falls. Thanks!
Finally, the blog The Ranting Dragon is having a "cover battle" that I thought was pretty cool. You can vote for which cover art/design you like best, and the top vote-getters will face off against each other for . . . supreme domination or something. The competition is quite stiff, but the ebook cover for The Emperor's Soul (art by Alexander Nanitchkov, design by Isaac Stewart) is in the first round. I love this art and the design, so I'm happy to see it nominated! You can vote for whichever cover you like, and you can also write in other options. For an explanation of the different rounds see here.
Also, Tor.com put up the prologue and first chapter of my YA fantasy The Rithmatist that's coming out in May. Read them here. (Illustrations by Ben McSweeney, who also did the Shallan's Sketchbook illustrations in The Way of Kings.)
I'm sitting here on a plane, flying to Minneapolis after signing 1280(!) books last night at the midnight release of A Memory of Light. That marks it as my largest signing ever, though a whole lot of readers (understandably) grabbed their pre-signed books and ran off to read them, rather than waiting for a personalization.
Harriet did a reading, which my good friend Earl filmed (along with the Q&A). I'm sure he plans to post that as soon as the editing is done, and we'll get you a link. I'll be doing many more signings and readings in the coming weeks. (Of special note is the signing in Lexington, where the bookseller wanted me to let you know that he has been able to get Michael Whelan to send prints of the cover of A Memory of Light. See below this post for details.)
You said something about cover art prints of A Memory of Light?
Yes! Brian from Joseph-Beth is one of those booksellers mentioned above. From the start of my career, he's been in my corner, rooting for my books to do well. (And he has probably hand-sold more copies of my books than any person other than myself.) He tends to do awesome things for booksignings. This time, he called up Michael Whelan and asked if he could somehow get prints of the cover to sell.
The result is that we're going to be selling them at that signing, and ONLY that signing. In fact, so far as I know, this is the only place to get prints of the cover painting right now. Mr. Whelan has already signed each one, and I'll be signing them when in Lexington. [Assistant Peter's note: Michael Whelan will also sell them on his own website—we'll put up a link later—at the same price ($95), but getting it from Joseph-Beth will be faster. If you're not going to the signing you can order it here. There may also be a few prints of the The Way of Kings cover painting available at the signing itself.]
When did you first start reading The Wheel of Time, and what were your initial impressions of the stories and the writing?
I still remember the first time I saw The Eye of the World on bookshelves, at age 15. I can almost feel that moment, standing and holding the book in my hands. I think the cover of Eye is the best [longtime series cover artist] Darryl Sweet has ever done—one of the best in fantasy. I loved the cover. The feel of the troop marching along, Lan and Moiraine proud and face forward. The cover screamed epic. I bought the book and loved it.
I still think Eye is one of the greatest fantasy books ever written. It signifies an era, the culmination of the epic quest genre which had been brewing since Tolkien initiated it in the '60s. The Wheel of Time dominated my reading during the '90s, influencing heavily my first few attempts at my own fantasy novels. I think it did that to pretty much all of us; even many of the most literarily snobbish of fantasy readers were youths when I was, and read The Eye of the World when I did.
So what was your role? I know you picked the chapter titles, but describe for our listeners your role in sort of the creation and editing of the series.
Well, in The Eye of the World in particular, in the beginning there were four boys leaving the village, but one of them didn't have anything to do. And my husband said, "Well, I had plans for him for the fourth book." And I said, “If you bore people, then there never will be a fourth book. Cut that boring kid out.” So he did.
Yes, that's right. The original cover art—the kind of brownish cover art that was on the inside cover—does show four, which is rather ghostly.
And another thing . . . Nynaeve . . . I helped him develop her by saying, "Why on earth is she always riding up there to talk to Moiraine? She doesn't seem to have anything to talk about." And I said, "Maybe she's trying to show her that she knows her way around herbal remedies." So a major piece of Nynaeve's character slid into place with that.
Oh, that she was the Healer and the Wisdom.
Yes, the village Wisdom—for people who haven't read the books, we're getting into some detail—but you might be interested that the village the main characters come from has a mayor and a Council, who are all men. But the village Wisdom (laughs) is the wise woman of the village, and generally represents the power of women. It's a very egalitarian world as far as gender is concerned.
I did notice that, yeah.
On your website, the completion status for the next book in the Stormlight series has been stuck on 0% for too long in my opinion. When do plan to get it written? And is there any hopes that Michael Whelan will do the cover?
I plan to jump right into the next book in the Stormlight Archive series as soon as I finish up with The Wheel of Time. I feel extremely honored that Michael Whelan came out of semi-retirement to do the first cover so I can't rightly expect him to paint the next one but we'll just have to see what happens. It was a dream come true to have him do the cover of one of my books.
Cover art is another area that is very important to you and one of the highlights of your books has been the uniquely breathtaking artwork. That trend continues in The Well of Ascension as artist Jon Foster (Mistborn: The Final Empire) outdoes himself in what I think is the best cover yet. So, just wondering what your thoughts are on how the artwork for The Well of Ascension turned out, how it stacks up to the other books’ covers, and any other thoughts you may have on the topic?
I really liked Jon Foster's art. I think he captures movement and action well, which was excellent on the Mistborn covers. Foster's covers almost look like stained glass pieces themselves, and with the sort of gothic cathedrals I had in mind for some of the scenes of The Well of Ascension, this was perfect. As far as my personal opinion, I like the cover of Well better than that of Final Empire, but not quite as much as the cover for Elantris. I have to say, though, that the image they've chosen for Mistborn 3 may make it my favorite cover yet.
Let me start by saying that if they hadn't been happy, it wouldn't be in the book. But anything where you work with an editorial team, you'd show them a scene, and they may say that's great, or they may say that it doesn't feel right or wouldn't be a good fit for the story. And sometimes you'll say "I'll change it" or "let me finish this draft, and we'll see what it looks like at the end". As far as the gateways, I felt it wouldn't be realistic otherwise. I've wanted to do with gateways since I was a kid, doing things like I showed in the book. If I had them, what would I do with them? I asked this when I was a kid, so there was a lot that I wanted to do with gateways that were in my own notes that I wanted to do that I couldn't do in my own books, so I stayed away from things that the Wheel of Time had done. So when I got to write WoT I broke out those files. The gloves were off; it was time to do things that I wanted to do but didn't want to rip off the Wheel of Time. At the end of the day, I convinced them to do it. They kept saying "they're all over the place!" so I said "if you could use them, you'd use them a lot". I didn't intend it to be a shout out of any kind, it's things I've wanted to do with gateways for like 15 years. It wasn't a shout out to the fandom. It's been an interesting experience. A lot of people think that I just wrote what the fans thought, but it's things that I felt the characters and the world would do, and if the fans happened to have talked about it, it's because it's what I thought would happen. In fact, as I wrote the books, I read very little of the fandom in order to prevent those exact thoughts from taking root.
During and after the signing, we had the discussion with Brandon about Dannil Lewin. Originally, Dannil had actually gone with Rand, Perrin, and Mat from the Two Rivers on their journey, and played a major role in events of book 3 or 4. In the end, Harriet convinced RJ that it may be better without Dannil, so some of Dannil's comments in A Memory of Light are a shout out to that of sorts. Just a fun story I thought you all might find interesting.
I daresay it's into 22-23 languages. We most recently signed contracts with the Turkish, Taiwanese, and Korean publishers.
How satisfied are you with the translations and the covers of the books published in all the different countries?
Overall I am satisfied, though there are one or two countries where the appearance of the covers seems a bit odd to me.
Michael Whelan has put up an awesome post on his process for painting the cover of A Memory of Light. Very, very cool. If you're at all interested in art or illustration you should check it out. You can also buy signed prints in his store.
I spoke to Harriet about the covers in the series, remarking how she indicated when she saw Whelan's cover for A Memory of Light she said "that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years". Harriet then said how Whelan's art, though his own style, she felt, was able to mesh with the sensibilities Sweet had always brought to his covers, in particular the landscapes. I asked her what her favorites of the covers were she immediately said The Eye of the World as a classic, she thought another moment and said she liked The Shadow Rising.
I get a lot of questions about Dannil, the character who was cut out of The Eye of the World. Dannil sort of figures in that cover painting. [Referring to a painting of an Eye of the World poster in Tom Doherty's office.] There's an extra character in there. He has a ghostly life.
Darrell Sweet was doing many of the biggest fantasies in the 1990's.
Yes, using his work was a big expense for a little company. It was one of the ways in which you did such a superb job of publishing. Also, what's so nice about the gorgeous Michael Whelan cover for the last book is that it's obviously a Michael Whelan, but he very tactfully made it so that when you rack them all out, they look like family. That was a lovely thing he did.
It is. He did a good job. The palette and compostion really works with the other covers. I didn't envy him the job and he turned it into a nice tribute as well as a conclusion.
And Sam Weber is so nice. I keep trying to call him Sam Weller because of Dickens. He said Whelan called him once and asked: "What's a ter'angreal?"
Looking at The Way of Kings, I had an extraordinary coincidence. A friend of mine's former wife is a curator at the Phillips Collection in Washington. She's a descendent of John Martin, an English painter also known as Mad Martin. He was the highest paid artist in Great Britain in the 1840's, and then he sank into total obscurity until a couple of war refugees rediscovered and resurrected his works after World War II. One of his paintings is the cover of The Way of Kings, except that there's a big pantheon where the guy is in the distance.
I'm going to look that up.
His skies are very much like Michael Whelan's. He was doing all that stuff way back then. I don't know if Whelan's ever looked at him, but it looks as if he has. Those fabulous skies of Whelan's.
How much control does he have over the Words of Radiance cover?
Some, by dint of being fairly well-known in the industry, but he's really fond of Whelan's work and more likely to pick a direction from concept sketches than push Whelan somewhere entirely new.
(I asked if he could, for instance, hold firm for epicanthic folds on Rosharan characters; he said probably yes, but most of Whelan's cover work has been figures in the distance for now so that isn't likely to be an issue. I didn't feel comfortable asking the same question over again re: skin color.)
Michael Whelan has signed prints of the A Memory of Light cover painting, that Harriet and I also signed at JordanCon. They look great!
I got back from JordanCon a few days ago. Often times at cons and signings, my readers bring me small gifts. I'm deeply grateful for the time and thought put into these, and I try to post pictures of some of them from time to time. JordanCon was no exception. Here are some of the cool things you all gave me.
A highlight of the con for me was going to lunch with one of my idols, Michael Whelan. (For more on how much I love his work, see here.) He gave me one of the signed limited editions of The Art of Michael Whelan, which includes a beautiful original illustration (below). The book and the illustration are absolutely gorgeous. I can't wait to see what Michael comes up with for the cover of Words of Radiance.
I am a big fan and, being a wife to an aspiring author, I sometimes think about what your schedule must be like for your family. Sometimes you talk about twelve hour work days and I'm wondering do you get to spend a decent amount of time with your wife and children?
Also, I am currently reading Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians and this book is sheer wit. Sadly, the cover has made me uninterested for years. I actually first saw the book at the 7th Harry Potter midnight opening party at the Border's in Provo. We've all heard not to judge a book by its cover but, seriously, do you have any say in the cover art or is it one of those things you just have to sign over?
Balancing this can be hard, but it's not so bad now that I'm published. I work long hours some days, but I always steal the extra time from leisure, not family. I finish work at 5:30 most days, hang with family until nine or ten, then go back to work. The lack of a commute makes it so that long hours don't really steal time from the family, which is very important.
I would say that it's harder for an aspiring author. I'd suggest that your husband make specific writing goals, and section off time—and everyone agree to leave that time alone. (Whether it be four hours on a Saturday each week, or an hour at night when everyone else is watching TV.) It can be done in a way that doesn't leave the family lonely, but it requires careful management.
As for the cover of Alcatraz...no, I'm not fond of it. I never have been. This was very early in my career, however, when I didn't have much influence over such things. We did complain as the covers to the series got worse and worse, but our complaints fell on deaf ears.
Fantasy novel cover art
Thought I'd just put this out here, I've noticed that the American cover art and British cover art tend to be very different, the British ones tend to be more minimalistic with a little overdose of "Hooded-ninja-wizard" whereas the American ones seem to have more in them, like they're displaying a scene from the book.
Just wondering, which does everyone prefer and why? I kinda prefer the British ones (although I might be biased there, I'm too used to them) as the American ones seem a bit cheesey and off-putting a lot of the time.
Examples (including some hooded-ninja-wizards):
Feel free to bring up other countries covers as well. I just picked those two as they're the ones I see most often.
My editions from Spain tend to look like daytime soap operas.
The Japanese, unsurprisingly, is manga-like.
What are your thoughts on the cover for Words of Radiance? I know there has been some criticism, but I think it's great. The Way of Kings is one of my favorite covers in recent memory, as well.
Also, does it look like there will be extra copies of Firstborn/Defending Elysium that will end up on sale eventually?
I love the cover, but I'm a self-professed Whelan fanboy. It's hard for me to be objective about his work.
I'm pretty sure we'll have leftovers. Peter (my assistant) was adamant about ordering enough copies that everyone on-line can get a copy if they really want one. So we'll have enough to sell through the holidays, I'm pretty sure. As this is my last con of the season, they'll probably go up soon.