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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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Speaking of the Net, Jordan did say (as noted before) that he'd read the FAQ, and was both impressed and amused by it. We got a lot of stuff right, and a lot of stuff wrong. We also have based a lot of discussion on "facts" we deduced that were actually wrong.
He DID say that he had done some things in response to net.speculations. First, if we seemed to be getting too close to something he had intended to stay hidden for a while longer, he would tone it done in later books. And if we seemed to be going off on an incredible tangent (the "How could they think THAT?" sort of thing) he would correct it. In both cases, however, he only did this if it could be fitted unobtrusively into the book.
Naturally, he refused to provide specifics. I asked if the linking discussion on the Net had led to the glossary entry in Lord of Chaos (which discussed linking in some depth). He said no, the info about linking has been in his notes all along, but he had to cut it out of previous glossaries in order to save space.
[Anyone got a hint as to where those references are??]
[One of the other people at the signing mentioned the 'bonds' that Moiraine tied to Rand, Perrin, and Mat early in The Eye of the World. Those were directional, and I speculated that maybe they were related, in a very small way, to the Warder bond.]
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.
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.
I might publish some of them. I have thought about publishing some sort of concordance, or single volume dictionary/encyclopedia, a very straightforward thing, not with any pretenses to be part of the Wheel of Time. From the beginning my editor has kept a list of words—created words—every plant that I mentioned, animal that I mentioned, every person’s name that was sitting in a town, or a village or an inn, every song. And it’s all there in that long, long list, and just the bare list right now I think is probably over a thousand pages. Which would present some difficulties, but the thing is I think I might take that list and give the basics, give definitions, put in definitions, put in references, who this person is, where this person’s seen.
Sort of like a massive glossary..?
In a way, yes. I don’t know, I think, perhaps, there might be some interest in that. I certainly wouldn’t do it until this is all over, because I, uhm, if and when I do it, I would like it to be complete, just nothing left out.
There is a large request from the fans that you do not let it to be edited, and that you publish them in their ‘raw diamond form’.
Oh, ah, okay.
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.
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!
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]
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.
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."