Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
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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"There's also a commercial consideration having to do with what publishers will accept. If I'd write a horror novel under the name Robert Jordan, publishers will accept. But if I went with a Robert Jordan mystery—that far out of genre—there would probably be a big fight over it, the kind of distraction I would just as soon avoid. Not that I haven't had my share of disagreements with editors and publishers.
"Beyond all that, I also enjoy the multiple identities."
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.
Robert Jordan began writing after a pretty severe (the description grossed Erica out) knee injury kept him idle. He was in the government service at the time, and after using the time to write his first book, his boss thought he was faking the injury simply to write. Jordan was upset because his boss's boss believed that, and put in a resignation with two weeks notice. Upset that he was leaving, his boss asked him to stay, mentioning that he was needed on current projects. Jordan had cleaned up his desk and finished those however. The boss mentioned that he was needed on future projects. Jordan mentioned that he had submitted his resignation. The boss mentioned that if he quit Jordan would never be able to work in the government again. Jordan asked if he could have that in writing.
He says his wife disbelieves this ever happened, but Jordan swears it's true!
Red Ajah: not all lesbians—just manhaters. RJ knows non-manhating lesbians. Not based at all on Agnes Scott girls. Based on some girls he knew as a child.
All women in Randland—based on his wife. "Does she tug her hair?" "No. Mine."
David's wife took a picture of David, John, me, and RJ. I suppose he'll upload it sometime.
John, Scot May, me, and my minions went for pizza afterwards.
Mrs. Robert Jordan liked my T-shirt.
Pam "not dead yet" Korda
At one point, RJ raised his voice to scold his wife, "No! No hints! They can figure it out!" She was grinning, apparently not chagrined at all. But she did stop saying any more at that point. This leads me to believe that Mr. Jordan enjoys immensely weaving the puzzle, as much as writing the book.
He repeatedly reassured us that we have all the clues we need to figure out who killed Asmodean.
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.
Nynaeve can be very irrational at times, and I don't think it's a matter of distorted perception. A perfect example from her own point of view, in Lord of Chaos: 'Fire and Spirit' (one of Harriet's lovely double-meanings):
Unable to look at Elayne, she started walking again. "You had every right to laugh. I... " She swallowed hard. "I made a complete fool of myself." She had. A few sips, Theodrin said; a cup. And she emptied the pitcher. If you were going to fail, better to have some other reason than that you just could not do it. "You should have sent for that bucket and dunked my head until I could recite The Great Hunt of the Horn without a mistake." She risked a glance from the corner of her eye. Small spots of color rested in Elayne’s cheeks. So there had been mention of a bucket.
"It could happen to anyone," the other woman said simply.
Nynaeve felt her own cheeks heating. When it had happened to Elayne, she had dunked the girl to wash away the wine. "You should have done whatever you needed to... to sober me."
It was quite the oddest argument Nynaeve could remember, with her insisting she had been a total fool and deserved whatever came of it, while Elayne made excuse after excuse for her. Nynaeve did not understand why it felt so refreshing, taking all the blame on herself that way. She could not recall ever doing that before, not without hedging as far as she was able. She very nearly got angry with Elayne for not agreeing that she had been a childish buffoon. It lasted until they reached the small thatched house on the edge of the village where Logain was kept.
"If you don’t stop this," Elayne said finally, "I vow I’ll send for a bucket of water right this instant."
Nynaeve opened her mouth, then closed it again. Even in this newfound euphoria of admitting she had been wrong, that was going too far. Feeling this good, she could not face Logain. Feeling this good, it would be useless anyway, without Moghedien and the bracelet she definitely felt too fine to put on.
And of course, all that was to justify the rough treatment she gave Elayne in Tanchico.
Indeed, RJ looked like he was ready for the whole thing to be over with, but he still maintained a friendly demeanor. I also really liked his hat.
My wife, my mother, and I arrived at Flights of Fantasy in Santa Monica about 5 minutes after six last night (October 28). We were given numbers 23 and 24. Robert Jordan hadn't arrived so everyone just milled around inside the store which became quite warm. I was wearing my Bela '96 button (ftp://netcom.com/pub/morgno/wot/bela.gif), but nobody commented on it. I heard no indication that any other rasfwrj readers were present, but then, I didn't ask. Someone had two children there, but they seemed ordinary children, not wide eyed and clinging, and I had no reason to suspect that Moghedien was among the crowd.
About 6:20, they started lining us up, announced a three book limit and requested that we write our names down so he would know how to sign it. I would guess there were maybe fifteen people behind us before the line went out the door.
A brief moment later, he entered the back of the store wearing, as foreshadowed in the previous signing reports, the hat and carrying the Trolloc-horn cane. The hat and cane were more impressive than I had expected. His wife (I presume—no announcement or introductions were made) has a streak of white in her hair, so I immediately wondered if she were one of the Black Ajah, but she has far too much presence and charisma for that.
From reading reports from the other signings, I knew there wasn't much point in asking any substantive questions. Since the books usually do answer the questions eventually, there's no need to ask what's going to happen; in fact, such are really spoilers anyway. One young man was brandishing three printed pages of questions. The young man stationed himself off Jordan's left shoulder and sort of shouted out questions whenever there was a pause in the action. I don't expect he got much, but perhaps if the young man is one of us, he'll post his results here.
Physics/Math background and how it affected his writing:
—only marginally useful
—Schrödinger's Cat and other Quantum Physics stuff helps with conceptualization of fantasy structure.
—His editor (also his wife) said that the physics and math was more important than he gave it credit for. ;)
6. I'll give 10,000 Maniacs a try, if I can find a CD or tape in my copious free time, and also Ms. Merchant solo. As for Scott, I'll bet he doesn't!
7. There are answers/replies or partial answers/replies to most of your questions in what is already published, through Lord of Chaos. For the rest.... You know the answer. All together, now...
Yes, my wife was the one who had heart surgery. Not a heart attack, though. She is perfectly recovered.
With best wishes,
Yes, there were a couple signings (well one, anyway) with 30 or 40 fans, and I am ashamed to say it was a blessing. I can remember when 30-40 fans made me grin with pleasure, but after signings with 200-300 people, each with 3 or 4 books, and a tight schedule to get to the next signing, 30 or 40 seemed like a rest.
New York decides where I go on tour, as I think I've told you. Sometimes they make odd choices; they once planned to send me to Phoenix so I could visit my brother, only he lives in Tucson, he couldn't dump the classes he teaches to come to Phoenix, and we had just seen each other on a fishing trip a few weeks before anyway. It is possible for fans to get places added. (Within reason, anyway; I was told if I had gone to all the stores that wanted me on the last tour, I'd have been out for six months!) Anyway, both Washington, D.C. and Toronto were added to the last tour because of fan complaints about being excluded. They made enough noise, apparently, that Tor decided I should go.
I think I got the December and February Chronicles. I think I did. My wife sometimes wonders how I can keep the plots straight when I can't remember which day to put out the garbage. I tell her it's an acquired skill, but I don't say which bit is the skill.
He can be reached either by either email or snail mail through Tor in about the same amount of time. Tor prints out his emails and sends him the hard copies about every fortnight. They also send his snail mail biweekly. He does respond to them, but he gets backlogged at the end of writing a book.
Here is the rough time schedule for book eight. The manuscript should be turned in sometime in fall of 1997. Expect it to go on sale in spring of 1998. He worked 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 20 months, except for a couple days for each Thanksgiving and Christmas and a few single vacation days, to write A Crown of Swords. PNH, his wife, and everyone he knows told him he needs to slow down so he doesn't kill himself. Thus, PNH gave him 18 months to do the manuscript.His wife said he is the only author she allows to submit partial manuscripts for editing. She also does Morgan Llewelyn, the Bears and David Drake among others. She said she was starting to reduce the number of authors she edits since she is overloaded. She edited one of RJ's books before they ever dated, so their professional relationship was already established before they married. She feels that mutual respect for the other's work is what keeps the two relationships from interfering with each other.
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.
The descriptions come from years of reading history, sociology, cultural anthropology, almost anything I can put my hands on in any and every subject that caught my eye. Including religion and mythology, of course, necessities for a fantasy writer, though I went at them first simply because I wanted to. It all tumbles together in my head, and out comes what I write. I don't try to copy cultures or times, only to make cultures that are believable. I can't explain it any better than that.
I don't base characters on real people. With one exception, at least. Every major female character and some of the minor have at least a touch of my wife, Harriet. I won't tell her which bits in which women, though. After all, what if she didn't like it? She knows where I sleep.
A little of this, a little of that. Some general stuff about the signing, self-indulgent personal impressions and Q/A. For those of you just interested in facts, RJ's answers are at the bottom.
NOTE: I've only read about half the book, so please use Spoiler Protection in any replies. Only one of my questions pertained particularly to new information in The Path of Daggers, and it may be a non-issue by the end of the book, so sorry if it's already been talked about.
As a member of the "great lurker hordes," per Aaron Bergman's NY Signing Report, I'm here to assert our existence. I kept trying to ferret out members of the 'froup by asking pointed questions like, "So... how did you find out about this signing?" and throwing out random bits of 'froupness such as information about the NY Signing. But no one one around us bit. I kept looking for Tony Z., Julie Kangas or Hohn Cho (sorry if I mangled the spelling), but either my memory's going and I didn't recognize them after 2-1/2 years (post-A Crown of Swords Darkfriends Social) or I didn't see them. The line went up the block to the corner, but I'd guess that it was a considerably smaller crowd than in NYC.
At any rate, after getting stuck at Sta. Monica Blvd. and the 405 Fwy and wishing desperately for a gateway we could drive through, we (my husband, Kevin, and I) arrived at Flights of Fantasy at 4:30 and there were a couple dozen people in line ahead of us. As it was my first Jordan signing and I was too manic to stand still, I ended up in the store spending money. As I signed my life away to the credit company for a copy of Legends, RJ arrived at the back of the store. I found it extremely gratifying to find out that even store owners get nervous about such things as RJ arriving at their back door while they're finishing up a sale.
Back outside, in line, the store personnel announced that RJ would be signing only WOT books, and no personalizations, please. Legends, for the purposes of the signing, was considered WOT. We were not, however, obliged to buy The Path of Daggers there, or to include it as one of the two books signed.
There seemed to be a number of people there who weren't actual fans, serving as ambulatory book holders for friends or family. So perhaps that made RJ a little more tolerant about answering questions from the people who are reading the books. But he seemed genuinely interested in talking about them, and was very warm and responsive.
Harriet was with him, and I was really pleased to meet her, as well. She's a lovely, elegant lady. But she sat up suddenly with a startled look several times during our chat, and the whole effect was somehow birdlike. I couldn't help but think of Verin in her "pay no attention to the little brown sister in the corner" mode.
I'm hoping that Hawk will report on the wonderful time The Usual Gang of Lunatics had last Saturday in Palo Alto, CA and thereabouts, starting with RJ's signing at Future Fantasy bookstore. So, I'll leave that to her.
There's rather less to report about Sunday's signing at the Barnes and Noble barn (er, store) in San Jose: I foolishly hadn't checked for scheduling updates, and found out at 2pm that it'd been shifted to 3:30—but there were already about 100 people in line, zig-zagging around the store's rope barriers from the signing area in Children's Books. By 3:30, there were maybe 600, lined up out the front door and down the block.
As usual, there was a two-book limit, one of which needed to be Path of Daggers. No personal inscriptions this time, just signature, and paperbacks were allowed (both in contrast to the Saturday signing). Harriet (Jordan's wife & editor, and a very winning person) wandered off to other parts of the store.
I'd missed most of Jordan's comments during the signing at Future Fantasy: arrived late for early remarks, too long in line for others. This time, I parked myself strategically within earshot, so I could catch everything in my Palm Pilot.
Guess what? 600 people over a two-hour period, and hardly anyone asked Jordan questions! Arrgh.
The signing was held at Hawley-Cooke Booksellers (a locally-owned store, very nice), and lasted about two hours. The official plan was to head on to Cincinnati immediately afterward in preparation for the next day's signing. As noted before, Jordan's wife was not present (she had to leave earlier on the tour for unspecified reasons). There was at least one person from Tor (a publicist IIRC) and perhaps two, both women. Jordan travels in a stretch limo, with what looked like a chase car, but that could be coincidence.
The first work I wrote has never been published although it was bought and then rejected over a contract dispute by Dell within the space of two months. That was what convinced me I could write it. It was later sold to... Don Wollheim bought it as a fantasy novel. Later Jim Baen at Ace bought it as a science fiction novel unchanged from what it was before. And then Susan Allison came in and she didn't like it so I got it... got the rights reverted to me. It also resulted in me getting the Conan contracts and in me meeting my wife. So I decided this thing has major mojo going with it. Well it's also the fact that it glows in the dark. It'll never be published because I'm a better writer now than I was twenty odd years ago.
My first published novel, I had walked into a book store and I had been talking to the owner of the book store, the manager, the woman that managed it, about the fact that I wanted to write, that I was beginning to write. I talked to her about books and all sorts of things, just in the book shop, that was all. There was a kind of romance novel called a bodice-ripper by a woman named Mary Robbins, big displays up front. Bodice-ripper is a sort of softcore pornography for women set in historical settings. And the shop owner said, "Do you know she has made three million dollars on her first two books?" In those days three million dollars with two books was Stephen King territory. That was like the forty-five-million-dollar contracts you hear about today. This is the sort of thing made people go, "Oh God!" and made the front of Time magazine. And I said for that kind of money I'd write one of those things. Okay, throwaway line, rimshot, forget it. Except the next time I came into the store the woman said, "You know a woman came in here and she's come to Charleston to set up a major publishing house, set up a publishing house, and she only wants to publish lead titles." That's the big book that the publishing house puts out every month, the one they really push. And that's all she's going to publish. She'd run out of business cards, she didn't have any business cards but here, she wrote her name in pencil on this lined three by five index card. I thought, right, she's come to Charleston to set up a major publishing house? No, no, no, no. That's like going to Death Valley to set up a ski camp. And she's only going to publish leads, that's like saying you're only going to publish best sellers, as it seemed to me, as it seemed to me then. But she managed to do it and no business card. Three by five index card, lined, penciled in. Right. Okay. I stuck it in my pocket to be polite and I went away. A week or so later I found it in my office in the drawer where I kept my pipe and tobacco as I was loading my pipe. Shows how long ago it was. I thought all right, I've got ten minutes I'll give her a call. So I gave her a call and found out that she had been editor or director of Ace Books and had just celebrated being promoted to vice president by resigning. And suddenly with that bit of experience behind her I'd realized she didn't sound so much like a nut anymore. She said, "I understand you're writing a bodice-ripper," and not waiting to lose a thread I said, "Yeah, well it's already been shown." She said, "Well, okay. I understand that, I understand that. Well why don't you come over and read me it and talk to me about it. Show me something, talk to me."
So I made up an outline driving to her house. I talked to the woman in the bookstore about these books enough that I knew the basic format. Heroine loses her virginity in the first chapter. It is a circumstance that is not rape on technicality. That is, he, the guy has arranged for a tavern maid downstairs to come upstairs and snuggle into his bed. And Heroine for some phony boloney reason has decided to sneak into his room to try to steal something at the same time. And she tries to get him drunk so he... you know, it gets very complicated. Anyway on technicality he's not guilty but anyway, she then goes on to have a lot of sexual adventures in North Africa with Sheiks and Sultans, in China with the Mandarins, Bedouin raiders... the court of Napoleon and the court of Medici... And then at the end of it she's in great danger, she's rescued by this guy that turns out to be the guy who done her virginity in the first place and they get married. And everything is thus okay because she married the guy that took her virginity. All right, hooo, yeah. I tried writing this thing for a brief moment, I really did. And I couldn't hack it man. I got the plot right, I got the sex right but I read some of the books and they quivered. They were hysterical in the constant sense, that is every line quivered with emotion. And I couldn't quiver. I tried.
About a year after that she called me up. I quit my job as an engineer and she said, "I'd like to see anything you've written." And being a professional I tried to talk her out of it. Because I knew the things I had written were not what she wanted to publish. She said, "Anything you have written, I want to see it." I took it to her, the book... the first novel I had ever written and when I went to pick it up from her later I got into a discussion about history. The forty-five in England, the American Revolution, the roles of the Scots and the Irish in the American Revolution particularly in the south. The publisher heard this and after the other woman had gone away, she gave me back a manuscript, she said, "You write a book and we'll publish this, but you can write. And what I want you to do is give the outline of a historical saga, a generational saga." And I did. That became The Fallon Blood. And the woman's name was Harriet McDougal and we started dating while we were touring for this book after she published it. I mean we toured for the book and she would give me another contract because we weren't quite sure how it was going to sell. And, ahh, I started missing her. I started coming back, hanging around and asking her out and whatnot. And eventually I asked her to marry me. Then I got really nervous because I thought, 'Hang on...I just asked a woman to marry me, and she is my source of income!' So I very hurriedly sold the book somewhere else so she would not be my sole source of income. That's how my first novel got published and that's how I met my wife and that's only about ten minutes as much as you wanted to know.
After the questions, the rep presented some gifts to RJ. One was an Australian Military history (because of RJ's own passion for such matters) and the other was a Two Rivers wine, from the Two Rivers, in Hunter Valley, NSW.
I left the theatre before it ended, so I could be first in line for the signing. Being there early, only another rep and Harriet, RJ's wife, were present. I spent a few minutes chatting with her, before the rest of the crowd and RJ appeared. I did learn something interesting from her; she remembered my insistence on the Rand-Elayne issue, and told me that to her and RJ second cousins were considered close family. Also, she and the rep got into a small argument over personalising the signings, with the rep saying there were too many people to personalise it, while Harriet argued on our behalf, that we had paid $20 to come, and we should. Eventually, she won out, at least for the first 20 people. I don't know what happened after that. I got three books signed, and left soon after.
One thing I asked Harriet while RJ was signing was about their stay in Sydney. I'm strongly tempted to go to the places they plan on visiting, but I suppose that is on the verge of stalking. Basically, they're staying here until the 4th, when they go to New Zealand. After that, they're going to Brisbane, but she was not sure about the exact date. So you Brisbanites will have to ring up Penguin Books and find out for yourself. And for those who did not want to pay the $20, you should know that they stopped checking at the door during the signing, so anybody could have gone in and gotten their books signed.
That's it, seeya.
I had my 1990 Tor hardback version of The Eye of the World signed, but I was chagrined to realise that other people were getting two or three books signed. Oh well.
Finally, I would like to say that RJ seemed like a very polite and patient man, who was generous with his time. We probably annoyed the hell out of him asking him questions after the talk, and even though half the answers were RAFO, he made an attempt to answer each sensible one.
Harriet sat next to him during the signing, and seemed to me to be a very polite and forthcoming person. I can believe she is the model for the better qualities in RJ's female characters, but I had no inkling of the darker ones, but it was clear that in many matters RJ defers to her and respects her judgement.
RJ and Harriet had just returned from New Zealand (RJ had been fishing) and their schedule seemed pretty hectic. Next stop for them was Lizard Island, and I assured Harriet that they would have the time of their lives there.
Apart from the drunk idiot sitting a couple of seats down from Joel and I during RJ's talk, everything went very well and I think everyone had a very good evening.
ROBERT JORDAN: The Name Behind the Wheel (excerpted from Locus Magazine, March 2000)
James Oliver Rigney, Jr. was born October 17, 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina. He served in the military, seeing action in Vietnam, from 1968 to 1970, and attended the military school The Citadel in South Carolina, graduating with a degree in physics in the mid-'70s.
His early novels, written as by Reagan O'Neal, were historical family sagas beginning with The Fallon Blood (1980). A western Cheyenne Raiders, under pseudonym Jackson O'Reilly, came out in 1982. Under the name Robert Jordan, he did the 1982 novelization of the Conan movie, followed by six more "Conan" books. His first independent fantasy novel, The Eye of the World (1990), also written as by Robert Jordan, is the beginning of the ongoing "Wheel of Time" series. It was followed by The Great Hunt (1990), The Dragon Reborn (1991), The Shadow Rising (1992), The Fires of Heaven (1993), Lord of Chaos (1994), A Crown of Swords (1996), and The Path of Daggers (1998). The ninth volume, Winter's Heart, is scheduled for later this year.
He is married to Tor executive editor Harriet McDougal. They live in Charleston, South Carolina.
He went on about other things but all in all, he was a nice guy who was down to earth. Actually made a joke about Anne Rice too. The owner of the book store thanked him and then thanked those that had come to the signing. Jordan said: "Well I usually don't get the type that want the books signed in their own blood. Or even come to the signing in a coffin... wait, that was Anne Rice herself."
His wife was seen wandering around the store but never came to the table.
I can't pick three characters who are my favorites because my favorite is always whoever I am writing at the moment; that is, whoever is the point of view character for any given scene, I like that person and I like that person more than anyone else. I think that's a very basic human emotion. We like ourselves. And the reason that sacrificing yourself for someone else is such a big thing is because we do like ourselves very strongly. Now, if I don't like that character that I'm writing more than I like any of the others, then the character doesn't come out as being real.
There's something tainted in the writing. Something false.
Because I'm trying to get inside that character's skin, inside their head while I'm doing it. My wife will surprise the devil out of me. I'll come into the house with the day's writing, and before I've even said a word, she'll say to me, "Oh, you've been writing Padan Fain today, haven't you?"
And what's really frightening about it is one, I haven't said a word, and two, that even if it wasn't Padan Fain, it was somebody else that you really don't want to be alone with.
(And then the first half of my tape was gone, and I decided to save most of the rest for the audience questions.)
Jordan mentioned all the different cultures and myths he used in WoT. That he'd mined everything from Europe and Asia and Africa etc...
[first sentence paraphrased...only started taping again halfway through this] I don't know how it is in other places, but the best known legend for the American audience, that I had in mind ... when I wrote this for ... that legend is King Arthur. I would imagine that more people know the complete story of King Arthur and Guenever and the round table and the whole nine yards than know any other myth or legend, or perhaps more than know all the other myths put together. Now there are Arthurian elements in these books, but I had to try to bury them, for that reason, make them not so readily apparent. And while I had a particular part of the Arthurian legend mentioned from the first book, it was not until the third book that people began to realize what it was. In fact my editor, who is my wife, and who is a very very sharp woman, uhm, had edited the book and was writing the first version of the flap copy for the book, when she suddenly shouted down the stairs to me (if you're young, forgive me):
[loud] You son of a bitch, you've done it it to me again! [laughter]
Because she had suddenly spotted, not until reaching this... not until reaching the cover flap, she suddenly spotted by a... chance connection of words, this one particular Arthurian thing. [Jordan never mentioned what this was, but the logical option is of course Callandor.] And that you see, to me it's very obvious that the Arthur legend and all of the others are in there. If you spend time on the net, you find sites where they discuss these legends. [People sitting around me knowingly chuckle] I have to tell you that if you visit any of these FAQs... I haven't seen one in a couple of years, but the last time I was sent copies, I've read the printout of the FAQ, and when I was through it. And about a third of the answers in there were correct.
He also mentioned some things about the variation in his readers. This group of Hell's Angels a couple of years ago who came to him when there was some question about his health, telling him that they'd desecrate his grave if he died before finishing the story.
Around the same time something was asked about him knowing the final scene (or maybe that was even earlier), because Rowling [the Harry Potter author; at least, I think it was her that was mentioned here] had already written the final sentence of her work. Jordan came with the usual story about him knowing the scene since before starting the series. He doesn't have it written down anywhere. Harriet already knows the final scene, she's very good at getting things out of him (at least, that's what I think I recall), but no one else... And then later he said absolutely nobody knew it besides him.
Before they saw me, they had assumed that Robert Jordan was the penname of a woman, because, they said, no man could write women that well.
Although I seem to remember an interesting bit here about you not wanting to meet him after he'd just written somebody like Hannibal Lector. Sometimes he'd come down for dinner and Harriet, without him having said a word, would say, "You've been writing Padan Fain again, haven't you?" And although it would not always be Padan Fain, it would be one of the non-pleasant characters.
His wife, who is his editor, came along and is a very nice lady. You just had to be there! I hope I managed to jot down the most important questions and answers to keep you Wheel of Time readers happy, at least ... for a while.
Some people (customers) came to thank us... Well, thank you for showing up and making this such a nice event!
By far the most common question asked: What are your feelings on a movie version of your books? You've said that, to you, only the books really matter. Do you feel that a movie would do them justice though? Or do you think it might be too complex for the screen and even hurt their reputation? What about making a movie that focuses on a different time from the story you've told?
My feelings about the possibility of a movie are ambivalent. It would be very nice if a movie or movies, or a series on HBO or whatever were made, but that really would be something extra. I write books. If a movie is made, good. If not, I won't cry.
I don't think that a bad movie would do the books any damage, but with any movie, the writer of the book has to give up control to someone else and trust that other person to interpret the writer's vision. (God, that sounds pompous!) I used to think that it might be impossible for a movie to really encompass any of the books, but since seeing The Lord of the Rings, I've changed my mind. In any case, Harriet says (and Plato agrees with her) that the only thing to do when you sell a book to Hollywood is to take the money, walk away very fast before they can take it back, and never, ever go to see the movie. Of course, any movie depends on someone making an offer for an option and then following through to exercise the option, and so far, that hasn't happened. The option bit did, true, but not the rest. We are now waiting, as they say. But not very anxiously.
If a gateway opened in front of you leading to your world in the books, would you and Harriet step through knowing that you could return to our "real" world? What if you couldn't come back? (If you do go, please finish the series first!)
Harriet might. She's the adventurous one, and sometimes (nobody will tell her I said this, right?) sometimes she has more courage than sense. The ONLY reason that I'd go through would be to get her back. She can get into some hairy situations without me there. She LIKES getting into hairy situations. The world I write about is fun to write about, and I suppose fun to read about, but there are many places I find interesting to read about that I'd never want to go near. A man could get killed in a place like that! In fact, I think I'll go smoke a pipe and look at the goldfish until I can stop thinking about it.
It seems that some of your readers don't think of your novels as fantasy so much as a really fine-grained history of a world that might have existed or might yet exist. Do you perceive your world as real?
I think that I have to. Any writer has to try and think of his world as real, because if he thinks of it as a construct, that's going to come across to the readers. It's very much like the question I'm often asked: who is my favorite character. It's whoever I'm writing at the moment. Even someone like Padan Fain or Semirhage. Most people like themselves, and if I don't like the character I'm writing, then it's going to come across to the reader that this character doesn't like himself or herself. My wife says she can tell when I've been writing Padan Fain or somebody like that when I come into the kitchen in the evening. I make myself see this as a real place when I'm working on it. That way it comes through, I hope, that I see more than I write.
Are there any characters in the books that are based on historical figures?
No. The groups are sometimes in ways based on historical organizations. The Whitecloaks have a lot of, say, Teutonic Knights. The Aes Sedai organization comes from the way convents were organized between A.D. 1000 and 1800, a time when there was real political power behind convents.
There is one real-life individual who has contributed a lot. My wife has given me, involuntarily, at least one major character trait for all of the major female characters in the books. I'm very mean to her, I won't tell her which character traits I have taken.
No. And if I had she would lie to me. A woman is as likely to tell the truth about that as men are to tell them, and if you think about how many of that you would tell anyone on god's green earth about that. And if you come upon that teaspoon of liquified truth you would tell, know that that is five times the truth that she would tell you.
No, what I do is, I eavesdrop. [laughter] One time when he was younger and eavesdropping on women, he received Veritas. He knew everything there was to know about women. And it turned his hair completely white, and beyond, so that most of it is dark again, except for that piece in his beard there, plus it also erased all knowledge he had gained straight from his head.
Even though they said he wouldn't do it because there were about 300+ people there and the fact that he talked for 15 minutes (Q&A), when I got up there, made a comment about the book, he smiled, asked what I was doing talking to his wife, told him getting the book signed, he flipped the page, laughed and said "Not that I am supposed to, but do you want your name in it like the way my wife wrote it?" I said, "No, you could put tsorovan'm'hael down?" He smiled, nodded, and did it, all in lower case to boot! I think he knows me from message boards, how scary is that!
That was me, front row. Anyway, that question about Moiraine was stupid, you had to know that was a RAFO. He did personalize mine, laughed at me about flirting with his wife, who was sitting next to me. He did remember me from The Path of Daggers book signing, so he quickly personalized this copy of Crossroads of Twilight for me. :D :lol Lucky me.
As to his daily writing habits, a long while ago he used to write for 25 or 30 hours straight, until absolutely exhausted (regardless of the time of day). Then he would sleep for 7 or 8 hours and return to the 25 or 30 hour cycle. However, he remarked that this schedule is not suitable for making his wife happy, so he switched to his current schedule, which goes something like: wake up, read the newspaper over breakfast, and begin writing at his computer (which he later told a person in line that it was a custom built, with a 17" flat screen monitor). He then writes for 8 to 10 hours, sometimes but not usually stopping for lunch. Then in the evening he would quit, help his wife prepare dinner, and start the whole process over again—7 days a week. His change to this 8 to 10 hour day was in part motivated by his decision "that keeping his wife was far more important" than keeping the "optimum" writing schedule.
An older gentlemen asked him how he met Tom Doherty at Tor. With a relatively lengthy reply, Jordan stated that he published his first book, "a historical novel called The Fallon Blood," with Popham Press. The "Popham" comes from his chief publisher at the time, Harriet Popham McDougal. Soon, he was dating Harriet, and was eventually married. Harriet through some fashion sold her publishing business to Tom Doherty, bringing along her new author husband who had sold some half-million copies in the mass market with The Fallon Blood. Jordan further commented that just about everything he wanted to write had appealed to Tom, and thus Tor has since bought most of Jordan's novels for publication.
He then retired to his signing table and began autographing away. I took up a position about 15 feet away so I could listen to some of his discourse with the audience. When signing the first book his ink ran out. At this point he seemed to panic somewhat. His host scrambled to find a solution, but Jordan stated repeatedly that he needed "his case", a black attaché-style pouch that apparently had ink replacements. Several fans quickly offered their own pens, but Jordan replied that he greatly preferred the "Census" pen as it had a cushioned section that made it much easier to hold the pen for hours at a time. Apparently growing somewhat uncomfortable, Mr. Jordan summoned his wife loudly by bellowing "Harriet!" into the crowd—disquieting some of the fans. Soon she appeared to soothe him and search for the case. Apparently they had brought the wrong style of replacements. The issue was soon resolved and signing resumed.
Signing was limited to two hard-covers per person, though they were permitted to return to the end of the line for more signatures as time permitted. Personalizations were discouraged. Mr. Jordan allowed photos, though he called out that he had one rule: "Men must keep their clothes on."
One fan brought a British edition of Crossroads of Twilight to the signing table. Jordan happily signed, but became agitated as he described to the immediate audience that the British publishers had lied to him. "They told me that under no circumstance would they release the book before the American release date." Despite this pledge, however, his novel was released in late December rather than in January. He further commented "you only get one chance to lie to me." I suppose we will have to wait and see the ramifications of this British publishing error at the time of the next book's release. Jordan commented that "perhaps I will not even send them my manuscript until after the American audience already has their novels in print."
Later, I was sitting elsewhere in the bookstore further perusing, and noticed that Harriet, his wife, was seated reading through a book from the shelves. Several fans stopped by to obtain her signature next to Mr. Jordan's, to which she pleasantly assented. One individual asked her what she thought of the importance of book signings—did it really sell that many more books? She responded that book signing tours were really only profitable when you hit the really big leagues. Unless you are very popular author, you would often find only five or so people at the signing, which was very humbling to a writer.
In the case of this tour, the publisher was gunning for the number one spot on the New York Times list. To generate such a rating, it helped to have a big book signing tour. In nearly every location so far, a reporter had been present, which bolsters the appearance of popularity of the novel in the media's eyes. Additionally, the book signings give the author some human connection to his readers. Mrs. Rigney stated that writing is "one of the loneliest occupations, in which you stare at a white screen and make black things appear" all day long. Harriet further commented that BN.com had sold over 70,000 copies of Crossroads of Twilight on the first day of release.
My impressions of the experience were that Mr. and Mrs. Rigney were quite normal people (imagine that!), perhaps bordering slightly on the eccentric. Harriet seemed to have a slight British or New England accent, and you certainly could not tell that the couple must be remarkably wealthy. In addition to his wife, Jordan had a tall blond-haired woman traveling with him, who took photos for the fans, prepared the novels for signing, and was quick to assist Mr. Jordan with any need. [Editor's Note: Her name was Dolores and she was very helpful and kind with everyone in line. She is not from Tor Books but I believe is one of RJ's assistants] All in all, I had a great time speaking with other fans and listening to our revered author speak. Upon departure, I realized that not once that evening was the ubiquitous "RAFO" mentioned by Robert Jordan.
On a separate note—great thanks to Jason Denzel and the staff at Dragonmount.com for the long hours and excellent website. Keep up the good work!
Questions: He again as in the other signing took around 25 minutes for questions after giving a brief expose on the correct pronunciation of various names and places. A note to female fans: He specifically stopped taking questions for a minute to encourage them to participate in the forum. When asked the age-old question about how long until the next book he quipped that it would be released very shortly after he had finished writing it, and that he could not help it if we were greedy. Another question he was about which character he was most like, and he answered that while his wife thinks he is Loial "in toto" he said that Lan is the character who has the traits he aspires for, and Perrin is the most like him, although he at times acted a lot like Mat as a young man. Other questions were much the same as the other signings and did not shed a great deal of light on anything new.
Who do you base your female characters on?
I take some of the characteristics from my wife, and I distribute them through all of the female characters. I am, however, being very mean and I won't tell her which characteristics those are.
(when he signed my book): Who is you favorite character, if you have one?
Well, my favorite character is whoever I am writing about for the moment, but I will tell you which characters I relate to. When I was growing up, I tried to be like Lan. Physically, and partly behavior, I was like Perrin, and behavior wise, I was like Mat. If he had a Harley, I'm sure he would ride one too (chuckles). My wife thinks that I'm "Loial to the life", but I don't see were she gets that.
(I also heard him talk about speeding in Maine.)
For Jordan, Fantasy Remains Fertile Field
[Released on Jan. 7, Robert Jordan's Crossroads of Twilight immediately hit No. 1 on USA TODAY's best-selling books list.]
The "brag shelf" at Robert Jordan's Charleston, S.C., home has expanded to a huge bookcase, groaning with foreign-language editions. That's an occupational hazard when your fantasy best sellers have been translated into 24 languages. Jordan has 15 million books in print in North America alone. Book 10 of The Wheel of Time series hit stores Jan. 7: Crossroads of Twilight (Tor, $29.95) immediately hit No. 1 on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list last week. Set in a mythic land, the series explores the battle of good vs. evil and the looming threat of "the Dark One."
Jordan, 54, confesses he has thought about putting some foreign editions away. His wife, Harriet, will not hear of it. Jordan listens; she has been editing his work for longer than their 22-year marriage.
The South Carolina native dropped out of Clemson University after one year. ("I didn't know how to study.") He served two tours in Vietnam. Afterward, he attended The Citadel, becoming a nuclear engineer. A fall from a sub at the Charleston Naval Shipyard left him hospitalized for a month. His knee was rebuilt, and he suffered a near-fatal blood clot.
The avid reader decided it was time to try writing. "Life was too short," he says. He decided to quit his job after a bookstore manager pal told him that a famous bodice-ripper romance writer made $3 million on two books. Jordan decided to pump purple prose. But there was a problem. "I couldn't quiver," he says.
He met Harriet, a Manhattan editor who had moved home to Charleston. She told him he could write but to bag the bodice-rippers, suggesting instead he write historical novels. He published several under the name Reagan O'Neal.
Not quite a couple, only nine days, and it more than makes up for it. It's fun. I've had a couple of crowds of over 600, and several from 500 to 300, so believe me, I get a lot of company on the road.
At that point I was reading anything I could get my hands on. You see I was reading what I found on my parents bookshelves. Later, when I got a library card, I was disgusted to find I was supposed to go to something called the "children's section".
The only books I found there that I enjoyed were the "Freddy the Pig" books, and some juvenile Heinlein. Those books fascinated me and I loved them. For the rest, there was nothing in the children's section that I wanted to pay attention to, and I wanted to get books like I'd been reading at home. So, I'd go into the adult's section of the library and snag books off the adult shelves. I'd take them to a reading room and I'd put the books that I wanted to keep on a shelf where they didn't seem to be bothered, and I'd leave the ones that I didn't find interesting on the table where they would get put back.
Thus I went through life never reading any children's books, until I was married. The first time my wife got sick she wanted me to read her children's books...so I did.
Oh yes. She was the founding editorial director of Tom Doherty associates, which publishes TOR books. Before that she had been promoted to Vice President, and celebrated that by resigning to set up her own imprint which was distributed by Grosset and Dunlap. My first novel to be published was published by her imprint.
When that book was done I began to miss her...so we began dating.
Then I asked her to marry me...but I very got Neanderthal and got cold feet. She was my publisher and my editor and how could I marry her? So I hurriedly sold some things elsewhere and then it was all right. She's still my editor. She's cut back now, and I'm the only author she edits. We used to spend a week a month in New York so she could do editorial work, and she decided she didn't want to do that anymore but she still edited people. Then a couple of years ago she cut that because of the tours for my books, and I want her to come with me, 'cause I'd go stone crazy spending a month on the road alone in hotels every night.
Yes. they have to be able to do express laundry and have 24-hour room service because I often don't get to eat until I get back to the hotel at one in the morning and I wanted to be able to get my favorite comfort food, Spaghetti Bolognese, which is really just spaghetti with a very simple tomato meat sauce.
Anyway, she gave up her last writers, she was editing Father Andrew Greeley and Mike and Cathy Greer, and I'd started to sell books in translation and my European publishers started asking me to come to do tours in Sweden and Norway and Holland and Russia and Great Britain. So she decided it wouldn't be fair to the authors to go incommunicado on them for a month at a time.
Yes, Regan O'Neal is my name for Historical Fiction. The first thing I ever wrote was Fantasy, at least I thought it was. It will never be published now because I'm a better writer now. I wrote this thing and I sent it to DAW books because I heard that DAW published first novels. So I sent it to DAW and got back a letter from Donald Wolheim that was exceedingly laudatory, and obviously he had written it at home and typed it himself because he had scratched out words and made changes in pen and his signature was cramped...and he made me an offer.
And I asked for some changes in the contract. Nothing very big. I asked for some changes in subsidiary rights that I never expected to be exercised because I wanted to establish that I wasn't going to accept just anything that was offered. But I didn't know enough about the industry to know if I was being offered a minuscule advance or a fairly good advance.
Yes. And I found out that he didn't like beginning writers to ask for changes. He thought that beginning writers should accept what was offered. So the result of my asking for the changes was that I got a letter back saying, "Dear Sir, in view of your contract demands we are withdrawing our offer. Sincerely, Donald A. Wolheim."
I looked at the two letters and I didn't know why I'd gotten the second, as I hadn't demanded anything. It was actually a very diffident letter, and I had ended by saying, "If any of these requests seem out of line, please let me know." Thus throwing away everything, but I knew that I had no real knowledge of publishing.
So, I decided to ignore the second letter because the first letter said; you can write.
That novel that I thought of as a Fantasy was later bought by Jim Baen while he was at Ace as a Science Fiction novel. You may know that Jim doesn't think very highly of fantasy, so he bought it as SF while DAW had bought it as Fantasy. Then Susan Allison came in to replace him when he went to TOR and she didn't like it, so I got the rights back and it's sat on the shelf all this time.
Its title was Warriors of the Altaii, and you will never see it, or know anything about it. I have not destroyed the manuscript, because it has powerful juju...but in my will I have provisions to have that manuscript burned. But until then I'm afraid to get rid of the juju that resides in it.
In a way that novel led to me meeting my wife, and it led to me getting my first novel published. Because she knew about that manuscript, when Tom Doherty got the rights to do the Conan novels, he needed the first one very fast so that it would come out the same time the movie came out. And he knew that I had once written a 98,000 word novel in 13 days.
So he thought I could write something fast, and he was right, and I liked it. It was fun writing something completely over the top, full of purple prose, and in a weak moment I agreed to do five more and the novelization of the second Conan movie.
I've decided that those things were very good discipline for me. I had to work with a character and a world that had already been created and yet find a way to say something new about the character and the world. That was a very good exercise.
I then spoke to Harriet (who was more than willing to speak with me). I just wanted to thank them for adding Toronto to the list (as we Canadians often get left out).
Great job on the site!
Thanks for the Happy Birthday greeting. There won't be any fishing today—we're a little betwixt and between here on things biting; October is too late in the year for some, too early for others—but it's been a great birthday so far. Lots of neat presents from various people. And I'll only work half a day, since Harriet is taking me to see Mystic River and then out to supper at my favorite Thai restaurant. All in all, a lazy but enjoyable day.
Have fun, RJ!
What got me involved in the project was a lot of bullying by my wife and my publisher, my wife being my editor. And at that time, she was also the senior vice president and editorial director of TOR Books.
I agreed to do one Conan novel—very reluctantly. I had a lot of fun doing it. I searched around to find some time in his life that hadn't been written about and settled on writing about him between the ages of 18 and 22. It is an age range where most young people think they have everything figured out. You know how the world works now and you are ready to take it on, and you are absolutely wrong—you don't know how anything works.
I had such fun doing that book, in a weak moment I agreed to do five more and a novelization of the second Conan movie [Conan the Destroyer]. By the end, I was glad to get out, to go back to writing my own stuff.
No, the women in my books are not obnoxious. The women in my books are strong. I grew up in a family where all of the men were strong, and the reason is the women in my family killed and ate the weak ones.
When I was a boy, just old enough to be starting to date in a fumbling way, I complained something about girls. And my father said to me, "Would you rather hunt leopards or would you rather hunt rabbits? Which is going to be more fun?" And I decided I'd rather hunt leopards.
"I learned to read early—I was reading Jules Verne and Mark Twain at five—and my Uncles went into their attics and gave me not only their old "boys' books," things like Jack Armstrong: All-American Boy and The Flying Midshipmen, but also old comics they had from the '30s and '40s. For a while, I had a fairly valuable collection, though I didn't know it then. None of the really rare items, but some that would have fetched nice prices. Though I have to admit that after all these years, I can't recall the issue numbers. I bought, too, choosing carefully because my allowance only stretched so far. My own purchases were pretty far ranging. For example, I liked Batman and Scrooge McDuck about equally. In any case, that ended when I went away to college.
"I came home for the first time to find out that my mother had given all of the comics and boys' books to various children because 'surely I didn't want those old things any more.' There's no way you can go to a ten-year old and tell him you want him to give back the comics he was just given. I mean, they weren't that valuable. But I still followed comics, and later graphic novels, which didn't exist when I was in college. It was really intermittent—'Howard the Duck,' Chaykin's 'American Flagg,' a few others that I still have—until Frank Miller got his hands on Batman. That brought me back on board, and I've been there ever since. I'm pretty choosy, partly as a matter of time—most of my reading is print—but when I see something that's new and interesting, I leap on it. And I buy compilations of older works that I recall fondly, too, for myself and as gifts. My wife doesn't know it, but she was a fan of Plastic Man as a girl, and she's getting six hardcover volumes of 'Plastic Man' compilations as soon they're delivered."
After a few pronunciations, RJ described some of the original details about his contract with Tor.
(At this point, let me say that I'm reconstructing RJ's comments to the best of my ability. I did take a few pages of written notes during the session, and the content should be accurate, but I'm forced to paraphrase the information since I don't know shorthand and didn't actually record his exact words.)
RJ had his first contract with Tor in 1984. He expected to write about one book per year, and would need five or six books to complete the story. In fact, it took him four years to write The Eye of the World, and 16 months to write The Great Hunt, and about 15-16 months to write each subsequent book until A Crown of Swords. Up to Lord of Chaos, Tor was trying to publish the books every 12 months. RJ turned in Lord of Chaos in August of 1994 and the book was published in November of that year.
During this period of trying to maintain Tor's once a year publishing schedule, RJ said that Harriet was doing what he called "drive-by editing." That is, RJ would give Harriet chunks of chapters as he finished with them, and she would basically edit them on the fly. Once a book was finished, they would slap it together and send it to Tor for a barebones editing process and publication.
After Lord of Chaos was published, RJ informed Tor that there was no way he would be able to provide them with the next book in time for a November 1995 publication, and Tor told him that he could take two years for the publication if he needed it. About a year after that, his Tor contact (Sorry, I didn't write down that name) came back to RJ and said something to the effect of, "We agreed you'd be done in 16 months, right?" RJ remained adamant about the two years for A Crown of Swords, however.
RJ then talked a little bit about Knife of Dreams, saying that he was done writing at the beginning of April, which apparently means the end of April in author-speak. Which also apparently means in the middle of May in author-speak. That bit was fairly confusing, but I got the impression that he was basically finished in April, but Tor didn't really get the book to begin their editing process until May. Once Tor had the book in hand, they tried to push up the publication date to August, but RJ refused and insisted on the full editorial review and publication in October. RJ then said the result of that fully editorial was to add a single sentence to the book (This was actually quite funny and drew some considerable laughter from us in the audience.)
Wrapping up his initial comments, RJ reiterated that the twelfth book would be the final book. I did write down the following quote: "If I have to make it a 1500 page publication it will be the final book." He then warned us that we might need to wheel this final tome around in a cart.
For elementfwwe, what keeps me going is that I enjoy what am doing. Think about it. I can make a living doing what I enjoy more than anything except sex.
I don't pattern characters after real people, but I do sometimes lift part of a real person for a character. I will say that a character in Knife of Dreams, Charlz Guybon, is named after a man whose wife won an auction for naming rights after I agreed to be part of a fund raiser for an English charity that works with victims of torture. She sent me his description, which I used. As I've often said, each of my major female characters has at least one element drawn from Harriet. And I won't tell her which parts of which characters came from her. That despite the fact that, as she likes to point out, she knows where I sleep. She did figure out that she is Semirhage when the garbage doesn't get to the curb on time, though.
As for my idol, that is my father, now deceased. He was a wonderful man, with a rich life. I'll try to paint a small picture. He got his first car, a Model A, at the age of thirteen because he had the habit of hitching rides with bootleggers in the Tennessee mountains, and after he was in a wreck where the driver ran off and my father told the police who had been chasing them that he had been driving, his father decided to put an end to the hitching. He was a noted middleweight boxer in the 1930s, rising in the rankings, but stopped after he badly injured another man in the ring. He was a veteran of WWII who spent a lot of time behind the Japanese lines, a quiet, gentle man who taught me to rebuild automobile engines, to hunt and fish. He told stories over the campfire when we were out hunting or fishing, thus starting me on the road to storytelling myself. He never said a word about me stealing shotgun shells from his stock so a known bootlegger and poacher would take me into the woods with him. Well, I didn't know about the poaching until later. But Junior knew more about the woods than anybody else I've ever met. My father was a poker shark with a photographic memory who allowed me to sit in for three hands whenever the weekly game was at our house, even when I was young enough to need to sit on three encyclopedias to be able to get my arms on the table. He staked me, he ate the losses, and we split any winnings I had. I did win one of those hands while sitting on stacked up Encyclopedia Americanas. He told my brothers and me that he had few requirements of us. Be honest. Keep your word always. Try to do better with your life than he had done with his. And whatever you decided to be, whether it was a college professor or an auto mechanic, be the best at it that you could manage to be. Yes, he was, and is, my idol.
Um, when I was much younger, before I met Harriet, I had two girlfriends simultaneously, who arranged my dating schedule between them, who was going to date me on which night. They chipped in together to buy me birthday presents and Christmas presents. You know, they just sort of shared me between them, you know. And they had been friends before, and I am not quite sure whether or not they made the decision they were both going to date me or not, on their own, before they first met me, it just came about. But I figured if I could manage two, surely Rand could manage three. Besides there are mythological reasons to have these three women involved with him.
As far as my view on this, with Harriet, I have many more than three women, there are so many facets to her personality she quite often makes me dizzy, I am quite satisfied there. About how she feels about this, I suspect you want her answer, I seem to remember her saying to me, you do remember this is fantasy right? And I think it was an accident she was holding a carving knife to my throat, just coincidence, but I am not sure.
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.
Sunday began quietly with a book discussion group and the fan art panel. The art panel had low turn out due to being scheduled against Robert Jordan's final signing.
However, things picked up again when we hosted a Q&A session with Robert Jordan and his wife. If you don’t know already, Harriet is the editor of the series. She is probably the only person who knows as much about the series, including background details, as he does. They are also very much in love with each other, even after all the years of living and working together. They pick on each other constantly.
For the poster at Dragonmount who thinks I'm "whipped," boy do you have the wrong end of the stick. The smelly end, in fact. I might in truth be described as a top in occasional remission, following on Marigan's theme. I do tend to let the women in my life have their own way most of the time. After all, how often does it really matter? In any enduring relationship, you have to choose the hills on which you are ready to die. At least if you expect it to endure. Besides, it has advantages. (I don't mind making this public, since Harriet has heard it before and doesn't believe it. Read on and see why she doesn't believe.) The women I have let have their own way have always done their best to make my life pleasant, which is very nice indeed. And just at the point where contempt might start creeping in because I seemingly am such a pushover, something inevitably comes up to which I say, not yes, but no. The result of this sudden shock is that all of her dendrites uncurl simultaneously, resulting in short-term physical paralysis and amnesia. (Yes, it also works with Harriet, AKA Wonder Woman.) By the time she remembers how to walk again, by the time she remembers her own name, everything has been adjusted as I wish, and all she is left with is the vague realization that something happened and matters are not quite as she would wish, but she can't see how to recover the situation. Additionally, she is left with the impression that I was somehow involved in this, which puts shadows of darkness and danger around me all over again, thus dispelling any chances of contempt forming, and we are back happily to me saying yes and her making my life pleasant. Plus being darkly dangerous adds to your level of being interesting, you see. Just because you don't ride a Harley any more doesn't mean your soul can't fire up the Fat Boy now and again. Even women who deny it find a certain fascination there. If you don't believe, just watch her eyes dilate the next time a Harley rumbles past.
Take care, guys.
For Cloverleaf, my next set of books after The Wheel of Time will also be fantasy, entitled Infinity of Heaven. The writing style will remain the same, though I will keep trying, as I always have, to get better. There are no plans to publish a collection of my raw notes, but Harriet, with my incidental help, will be doing an Encyclopedia of WoT which will have a lot of stuff out of the notes.
For Crowl Rife, the last movie I saw in a theater was Junebug. It has some truly sad parts, but Harriet and I laughed through most of it. Then she took a couple of her friends to see it, and they thought it was the most depressing thing they had ever seen. Go figure.
For kcf, again, we have never met anyone who has the Talent of emulating the effects of a ta'veren over a small area.
I give my input on the design of the chapter icons whenever a new one seems needed, but Harriet actually decides where to place them, and I am happy to leave the job to her.
Yes, Ingtar was seen at the Darkfriend Social.
The Wheel creates ta'veren at need, making someone who is already alive one. You aren't born ta'veren. Can you imagine being around a ta'veren who is teething?
It would be possible for a Darkfriend or Forsaken to be made ta'veren, but it seems unlikely. Ta'veren are part of the Wheel's self-correcting mechanism. When the Pattern seems to be drifting too quickly, and especially if it is in the wrong direction, one or more ta'veren are created. I can't really see how making a Darkfriend or Forsaken ta'veren would help with correcting the drift of the Pattern.
Ta'veren can oppose one another, when their conflict is what the Wheel "sees" as the necessary corrective. And, no, ta'veren is not Old Tongue for Deus ex machina. It came out of musings on luck, charismatic leaders, and the theory of the indispensable man.
Katerine escaped with the help of Darkfriends. Galina, who is much more closely watched by Wise Ones than Katerine was, would have little opportunity to use their help for an escape even if she wanted to, and she doesn't, not until she can get her hands on that rod. She'll put up with anything to get that.
Anyone who can channel, however weakly, can see the glow of saidar and feel someone channel. For sul'dam who have been sul'dam for a time, some begin to be able to see what might be called a ghostly image of the flows. Others convince themselves that this is, of course, only imagination and manage to give themselves a block.
Wow, you have a lot of questions. One more, and then I'm off to the next person.
Someone who sees ta'veren sees them as glowing. The more strongly ta'veren, the brighter the glow. This is a Talent, and is something that only someone who can channel can do. While she was stilled, Siuan could not see ta'veren, nor could she have if she had been burned out.
For Mark A, there are plenty of reasons for men and women to have a certain degree of distrust, though the fact that many Aes Sedai have Warders and good relationships with them shows that it isn't all mistrust. How much trust do most men and women have for the opposite gender here and now? I trust Harriet with my life, but look at how most people are. Look at most women's views of men, and most men's views of women. There is a lot of distrust right there. As for the Forsaken, they don't trust anybody. Gender doesn't enter into it.
For Anonymous—Carter, you won't take over too much of my time. As I have said before, once I return from the tour, it is back to full days writing, which means maybe an hour a week of lurking, and I will be doing no more than one post to the blog a week. Almost certainly not as long as this one, I'm afraid, but I think you'd rather have the book in a reasonable length of time. I hope that will be enough to keep you all satisfied after I've gone on this recent splurge. As to how I find time for everything including daily life, there is Harriet, and a housekeeper who does the shopping and dry cleaner runs and the like, Harriet's assistant Stuart who helps keep her head above water, and my assistant Maria who does the same for me. And then there is Kelly, the handyman, for heavy lifting. All together, they leave most of my time free for writing. I'm ashamed to admit that I go to the grocery store so seldom now that about every second visit I have to ask where to find items.
For MJJ Sedai, Harriet is not a Valkyrie. Oh, no. When she isn't being Copper Calhoun, the Dragon Lady or Wonder Woman, she is the mysterious, dark-clad woman who steps out of the shadows to put a hand on Wonder Woman's shoulder and say, "I don't think so. Now run home to that silly island, girl." And Wonder Woman runs. It would still be a suicide mission, though.
He answered NO and then proceeded to say that he tries very hard to get into the character he's writing about. He mentioned that sometimes when he's helping Harriet prepare dinner she'll go, "Have you been writing about Padan Fain today?" He said she's usually spot on, though it might not be Padan Fain but Semirhage, or Graendal or someone of that ilk.
He then told a story about how when he was a little boy (I didn't catch the age but I would guess 5 or younger) a neighbor woman went to pick him up. He mentioned that he had noticed the way the dress shifted with her movements and how unlike it was with his mother and how the perfume this woman was wearing was different than his mothers, and when this woman went to pick him up she slipped a bit and his "face got buried in her busom" and he felt a bit light headed. (big laugh) The woman laughed and called him precocious. He then said that ever since that day he's paid special attention to women. He said that he's paid so much attention to women that he now has an insight into how they react. This is why he has tried to create a gender equal environment in WoT.
RJ's answer, "No" but he then said that there is at least one character trait of Harriet's in each of the main female characters. He gave the joke of Harriet is Semirhage when the garbage doesn't get taken out to the curb.
He then went on to talk about the male characters and himself. When he was growing up he most wanted to be someone like Lan. Rand exhibits many of the feelings he felt growing up. He was big for his age like Perrin, and learned to be careful around others as he might accidentally hurt someone. Most of his fights were with three or more kids.
He said that Harriet insists he's Loial "down to his toenails". He said he had no idea why, he doesn't even have tufted ears. (big laugh) Someone then shouted out "Mat?" "Mat is me as a teenager and into my early twenties". (bigger laugh)
I have only been to one other WOT book signing, about five years ago, and I thought that RJ seemed much more at ease and more talkative about himself and Harriet at this event. Maybe it was because the audience wasn't hammering away with RAFO questions. We heard several funny anecdotes about Harriet and got several tidbits of advice about life and marriage.
RJ was willing to sign anything he had written or to which he had contributed—even the illustrated guide. He signed old books brought from home as well as the new one from the store (for which they charged $31.50—what a ripoff!). By the end of the hour or so, all books had been signed (including two complete sets for two different fans) and RJ left for his birthday dinner in Philadelphia.
Yes, we did sing Happy Birthday.
I showed up about 8 or 8:15, and the place had cleared out, there was no line so I walked right up to him at the table where he was signing.
I arrived the same time as his wife/editor Harriet (I assume it was her, black hair with a shock of white hair in the front; RJ asked her if she'd found an Indian place for dinner, so I leaped to the Harriet conclusion).
Anyway, I gave him the book, told him I was liking it so far, and asked him how he keeps track of all the random Aes Sedai? I was just kinda making polite chit-chat, and hadn't planned a question.
So he launched into what sounded like a stock response about keeping a computer file of all the "initiates of the White Tower" with detailed descriptions, etc, and he finished with saying that it's a really big file, 2.5 megs. Without really thinking about it, I said "Wow, so how am I supposed to keep track of all that without that file?"
The store manager standing behind RJ gave a little nervous laugh, and Harriet, jumps in and said "you're just supposed to be dazzled."
"OK," I respond, and gave a kinda questioning look to RJ.
"Read, read" he answers.
"Sure. Thanks for signing your book."
She was so friendly and said she was happy to see me. I told her I'd really been looking forward to the signing, and had brought my parents to meet them both and have their books signed. Then she said, "Jim is in the back, would you like to come say hello?" I started to say that I didn't want to bother him, but then realized I was crazy and said, "Well, I'm not going to turn that down."
Eventually I found her looking at some of the cards, and asked her if she would mind taking a photo with myself and my family. She was very nice and said that she would. We wandered around a bit more, with my mother joining us, before they called our numbers, and Harriet showed us some of the books she'd been looking at. She said she really liked Books & Co. and said that she thought it was one of the nicer stops on the tour.
They called our number and we met up with my father at the stage, and I introduced him and Harriet. We talked for a few minutes while we were waiting, about her getting to see her godson on their New York/New Jersey stop, and that I'd heard they were going to get to go to Alaska for a tour stop in 2006. She said that they had tried to combine the Alaska stop into the tour this year, but there was no way to do it without significantly modifying the tour that was already set up. So, RJ asked the tour manager "when are the salmon running?" and that decided when they would make it up to Anchorage.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was when a question pointed him at who he felt he most resembled and someone in the audience suggested Loial because "he was a big teddy-bear" (yes, you may surmise this was posed by a woman...). He laughed at that and said that an old girlfriend used to call him a "teddy-bear but knew that he wasn't because she had seen the shadow of the man walking next to her and it more resembled a grizzly-bear..." He enjoyed the memory...
Never said who he felt closest to but did say, again, that it depended on who he was writing that day... He said he hated it when he came into her room and his wife would say, "You've been writing Padan Fain today!" Needless to say, he implied he wasn't popular on those days!
I was also pleased to hear him say that Lan had been modeled after his father. If only we could all be that type of father!
We got all four of our books signed then left. All in all it was a very satisfying and enjoyable experience, BUT, it's not over yet!
We decided since we were in the lovely city of Santa Cruz to walk around their downtown area and take in the sights. Katie and I were giddy, chatting about the signing when out of nowhere Katie says, "You're Harriet!" and stops dead. I look and sure enough Robert Jordan's wife Harriet is standing there looking surprised.
(for kcf) On the large scale, the gender relationships in the Wheel grew from the very beginnings of the books, really. I recall seeing a paperback book back in the 70s, a fantasy novel about a young woman who wasn't allowed to become a magician of whatever sort it was because she was a woman. The notion struck me as interesting, since it was the first fantasy novel with that theme that I had ever seen, but what really stuck with me was this. That novel was a simple reflection of the then-current mundane world, but what about if it were men who were not allowed to become whatever it was? Now that would be an interesting twist, and unexpected. Why would that be, and how could it be enforced? As Harriet has often pointed out, many of the world's gender inequalities stem from superior male upper body strength. (To which I usually say, "Oh, dear! Isn't that awful and unfair!" While pulling off my shirt and flexing my biceps, to be sure.) From that genesis grew the division of the One Power into a male and a female half with the male half tainted, giving a reason why men not only would not be allowed to become Aes Sedai, as they were not then called, but must not be allowed even to channel, again as it was not then called. From that, and from the history that I was even then beginning to put together for this world, though I didn't realize it then, came the result of 3000+ plus years when men who can wield the ultimate power, the One Power, are to be feared and hated above all things, when the only safety from such men comes from the one stable center of political, and other, power for those 3000+ years, a female center of power. The view I then had was a world with a sort of gender equality. Not the matriarchy that some envision—Far Madding is the only true matriarchy in the lot—but gender equality as it might work out given various things that seem to be hard-wired into male and female brains. The result is what you see.
Well, guys, the letter in Locus is indeed from me. I had hoped to be a little more focused with this and get a post up here before anything came out in Locus, or anywhere else public, so you would get it first, but I flat forgot that Charles has his on-line version of Locus now, too. Sorry about that.
Don't get too upset, guys. Worse comes to worst, I will finish A Memory of Light, so the main story arc, at least, will be completed. And frankly, as I said, I intend to beat this thing. Anything can be beaten with the right attitude, and my attitude is, I have too many books to write yet for me to just lie down. Don't have time for it. Besides, I promised Harriet I'd be around for our 50th, and that means another 25 years from this month right there. Can't break a promise to Harriet, now can I?
I had intended to go on with a few answers to questions when I made this post (I see some interesting ones), but that will have to wait, I'm afraid. I have a few other things to get done first. Maybe I'll be able to get that up this afternoon or tomorrow. No promises, though. Before I go to Mayo, though, I promise. And updates from the Mayo as I can manage.
Oh, yes. When the hair goes, with the chemo—as it is very likely to do—I'll post some before and after shots, just so people showing up in Seattle and Anchorage won't think we've run in a ringer. Yes, I plan to keeping those signings in late June. The chemo and recuperation should be finished by mid-to-late May, so I can make it. Hey, there will be big salmon running in Alaska at that time, and I never passed up a chance at big fish in my life.
Again, sorry that you got the news in such a raggedy fashion. I really did mean to handle things more smoothly.
Take care, guys. Until the next time.
All my best,
I just got some mail from Brad Condray and "all the Maniacs at wotmania," pages and pages of get well messages. And never a troll in the lot of them. Thanks, guys. I can't tell you what it means. Thanks a lot.
PS Had my first chemo this morning, and though they say the side effects won't kick in for a few days, I have to say, so far, so good.
PPS I decided not to wait on my hair falling out in patches. First visit after leaving chemo was a barber shop where I told the man to take it all off except for the beard. Harriet came in shortly after he was done. And she didn't recognize me! Okay, it was from the back, but you don't think I'm going to let her forget it, do you? I'll get some pics out as soon as I can.
PPPS I was thinking, if I get a total shave and a wax job, plus a tattoo up the back of my neck (not a dragon. I'm thinking a salamander), this could be a whole new look for me.
For Egwene, yes, I read Ray and Janny's Empire Trilogy and enjoyed it. Harriet has been the editor from the beginning with these books, but she has never been a co-writer is any sense or I would have credited it. My women come from observation of women in the world around me ranging back to my family. You see, I started early. When I was no more than three or four my mother gave a garden party, and a friend of hers picked me up. It didn't feel like being picked up by mother or by a baby sitter. I remember feeling her soft summer dress slide against her skin. I recall the soft, floral scent of her perfume. My mother might have worn that perfume, but this woman did not smell as all like mother.
She bent to set me down, and her grip on me slipped. Now her dress was one of those summer dresses that buttoned up the front, and as her grip slipped, I slid down, burying my face in her cleavage. My head seemed about to burst with the scent of her. Then she had me upright again, and she laughed, and ruffled my hair, and called me precocious. Which I recall because I ran off to learn what it meant.
After that, I looked around at the boys and girls my age. When we were dressed differently, we were very different, but if we were all dressed alike, in khakis or cut-offs for crabbing or to help with the shrimping, there wasn't much difference at all in how we looked or acted. The thing was, I could see me growing into my father, but I could not see any of the girls growing into that woman who had picked me up. So I began studying these strange creatures. I'll say nothing of methodologies. I have spent more than one night being harried across the rooftops by a mob of women carrying torches and pitchforks. We say nothing of sickles, of whatever size. We will not speak of those.
In any event, along the way I came to some small understanding of a small part of what makes women tick, and this has allowed me to write women that women find to be real.
First of all, Major thanks from both of us to Dustin Micheletti, Greg Pearson, Michael Kemp, William Walker, Carols Franco, Jenna Medaris, and John Knam, for your very kind gifts to the Hematologic Malignancies Program—amyloidosis research. Thank you for joining this fight!
Now I must add my own personal and heartfelt thanks to Brad Condray, Proxy Candy Striper for all of wotmania, and all of you dear Wotmaniacs, for your lavish, heartfelt, and delightful Care package. Your card of good wishes moved me to tears. And the box contained so many smiles, good tastes, and fun pastimes that I was overwhelmed.
Thank you very much, all of you.
I don't think I've ever broken a promise to you guys before, but I must this time. I won't be in Seattle or Anchorage as promised. Harriet finally allowed as how she was just too tired to make the trip, and I guess that freed me up to take a long look at myself. I can see where I am right now, and for all the brave talk, the chances of me actually making it to Anchorage were somewhere between small and nill. Especially if I expected to walk away at the end instead of being carried. So we aren't going to be there.
My apologies. Mia culpa, mia culpa, mia maxima culpa. Sometimes you just can't deliver. Still, I can't help thinking that getting more back on my feet by the end of June is a better plan.
I am likely to curb my blog posts a bit, too, so don't go worrying over that. They'll be shorter, likely further between for a time, but I'm just trying to get a little rest, that's all. Don't sweat it.
All my best,
I thought I'd send a few words just to keep any rumors at bay, and any worries over the length of time since my last post.
First off my thanks to Mrs. Sandy Allen and to Dr. Mark H. McKinney of The Citadel Electrical & Engineering Department for their contributions in my name to the Mayo Clinic Hematologic Malignancies Program—Amyloidosis Research. Your gifts are very much appreciated.
Thanks also, once again, to all of you who have posted your well wishes for me. It means a lot. More than I can say.
As for me, I am still doing a little better each day. The work on the elevator is done, so I can sleep in my own bed again, which is terrific. I still do poorly with stairs and with walking very far. My current goal is to make it around the block without stopping to catch my breath even once. And to do so at a decent pace. I truly hate the creeping sort of walk I've been reduced to lately. I know that, too, is getting better, but it is still irritating.
I've begun working out again, but on doctor's orders, with very light weights. 10-lb and 20-lb dumb-bells, with 40 lbs for pull-downs. It still surprises me how much I feel a session with such light weights, but then, I am almost forty pounds lighter than I was on tour, for those who saw me then. Harriet says I am skin and bone, and in some ways she has the truth of it. I haven't been this light since I was a sophomore in high school. I am finding sessions on the stationary bicycle exhausting.
I am persevering, however. And trying to get back into the work, I'm sure you'll be happy to hear, though at nowhere near a full schedule yet. Besides, I have asked my brothers and cousins to come to Charleston in August to fish, plus I promised Harriet to take her to a spa hotel for her birthday that month, so I need to build up my strength as quickly as I can.
I can't recall whether I mentioned this earlier, but we got to the bottom of me sleeping 20 hours a day. One of my medications, for nausea, also had drowsiness as a side-effect. And, boy, did it make me drowsy. Getting rid of that—no problem since I never did have any problems with nausea—got rid of the desire for so much sleep.
Now it is just a matter of waiting until July so the Mayo can tell me whether those tests were right. And more importantly, what they really mean. Whatever the report, though, you should know that I'm still here kicking. And writing when I can.
Talk to you later, guys.
As usual, let me start by thanking those who recently have donated to the Mayo Clinic Hematologic Malignancies Program—Amyloidosis Research in my name. The latest are Ms Brandie Minchew and Mr. Liam Hemmings. Thanks a million, guys.
This will be short, just to keep the worriers a little less worried about any untoward events.
A note to those sending me fan mail. A return address really helps if you'd like any sort of answer, though I've been reduced to postcards of late because of sheer volume. This holds especially true for people writing from Japan.
My cousin Wilson and his wife Janet came down to spend last weekend with us, and that was great. Wilson and I took a little walk, and I made it almost halfway around the block before I had to stop. A small thing, but a new best, post-chemo. I've also pushed, with my trainer's guidance, the weight lifting to 35-lb dumbbells for the bench press and 75-lbs for lat pull-downs. Not great weights, to be sure, but a lot more than I was able to handle only two weeks ago. I get a little better every day, it seems, and those little bits add up over time. I'm still about 30 pounds lighter than I was on tour last year, but I've started putting weight back on. In muscle, I hope, not fat. But several people have commented that the shoulders, biceps and forearms are noticeably larger than they were three weeks ago, so maybe I'm doing it right. And I'm getting a little work done on AMOL, which is good. Not that any of you care about that.
Tomorrow Harriet and I take off for the Mayo Clinic, where we hope to get confirmation of that "good news, maybe." (See the earlier posting for a fuller explanation.) If they come through for me, I'll be popping the bubbly as soon as we get home. And letting you know, of course. Our return home won't be until next Thursday, possibly later if I get a Corporate Angels flight back, so don't get antsy if I don't post until a week Friday. Until then, wish me luck and keep those prayers coming.
And just to toss in a few answers.
Well, guys, it turns out that the possible good news was only a chimera after all. The chemo did not work. I am still producing amyloids. Oh, well. I knew going in that I had only a 60% chance of a good result. I guess sometimes even my luck doesn't stretch far enough. The silver lining in that is that the disease is stable. There has been no further damage to my heart from three months ago. There is that.
On the good news front, I snagged the last of 38 slots in a study to see whether a drug recently (last month!) approved for treatment of multiple myeloma will work on amyloidosis. Treatments that work with multiple myeloma usually work well with primary amyloidosis, and Dr. Hayman has high hopes for this. It is in the same family as thalidomide, but much less toxic and with far less severe side effects. I'll take a pill a day for 21 days, lay off for 7 days, then go up to Rochester for a day, where they will do tests and give me my next month's supply. We don't expect to see any result in the first three months, but after 3 months of this regime, I will transfer to visiting the Mayo for a day every 3 months, adding a steroid at some point. I've been on this particular steroid before, short term. I had someone remove all the firearms from my house and study before I got home the first time I was put on this stuff, but the only side effect was a touch of euphoria. Harriet says I was very, very happy while taking it. So I guess I'll be grinning a lot. God, I hate people who smile all the time! Now it looks as if I might become one. Jeez Marie!
It's funny. If I hadn't been stubborn, I might not have made it into this study. You see, the time for 100-day checkup was supposed to be the beginning of August, but I said I couldn't do it then. (They aren't used to hearing that at the Mayo.) That is when I'm taking Harriet to that spa hotel for her birthday, and I wouldn't miss it. So by the time we had gotten around working back and around Dr. Hayman's vacation, it turned into an 80-day checkup and I was there for that last spot. Had I waited to go until August, that spot almost certainly would have been taken by someone else. You see? It pays to be good to your wife.
Getting into the study was good in another way, too. Since the drug hasn't been approved for amyloidosis, even if I could have gotten Dr. Hayman to write a prescription for me, my insurance wouldn't have paid a penny on it. And it costs $18,000. A month. In the study, I get it for free. If it gets approved, then I'll have to pay, but my insurance should pick up part of it. Though I have heard of $4,000 and $5,000 co-pays with this same drug. Oh, well. What you gains on the swings, you loses on the roundabouts.
Okay; enough of that.
For a fan of rolan_dcs, no characters in my books are based on any real people, living or dead. With the possible exception of myself, anyway. And the bits I took from Harriet for various female characters.
By the by, I've seen a lot of comment, apparently from men, that my female characters are unrealistic. That's because women are, for the most part, consummate actresses who allow men to see exactly what they intend men to see. Get behind the veil sometimes, boys, and your hair will turn white. I've been there, and mine went white and didn't stop there; a great deal of it actually turned dark again, the shock to my system was so great. Believe me, I mild it down so as not to scare any males into mental breakdowns.
The dynamic duo has returned from the Mayo with mostly good, but certainly mixed results. Amyloidal deposits are measured as monoclonal free light chain fragments. There are "good and bad" light chains. The good news is that the ratio of good to bad has definitely improved. The mixed news is that both numbers were up. We are ecstatic that the news is positive, but would have liked the offending Lambda light chains to have stayed level or decreased in number. Overall though guys, this is very good news.
The computer has been relocated from the office to the house and RJ was working, some. Not right now though guys. In preparation for the trip, the docs pulled him off of Lasix, a diuretic, which resulted in a gain of almost 12 pounds in three days. At the Mayo, he went back on the Lasix and dropped 5 pounds in 2 days. Then the Lasix was stopped for the trip back home and a gain of 7 pounds was achieved. Through it all, RJ figures he has about 20 to 25 pounds of excess water on him at the moment. The extra weight was causing the difficulty in sleeping he described to you before. Result: the docs have him back on the Lasix to get rid of the water weight and have enforced strict rest. Sorry, no writing, not even on the blog at the moment. He is reading your posts however.
He hit me with something on the phone today that I never knew about. Like many soldiers, he had a nickname while serving in Vietnam. RJ overheard a group discussing something and one said they should ask Ganesh what to do. He walked into the discussion and asked who this Ganesh was. "You.", they told him. You see, RJ was considered a good luck charm by those he served with. He and the crews he served with always made it back. It got to where pilots would ask for him by name for their crew. Ganesh is the Hindu Lord of Good Fortune. RJ referred to Ganesh as the Remover of Obstacles. To this day, he has no idea who gave him the name. I still consider him my good luck charm. Heck, he brought Harriet into my life. A man can't get any luckier than that. Truth be known, both of us married above our station. Bitter truth guys, we all do.
To Sue fighting the same menace, prayers go both ways. Stay the course.
To Johannes in Sweden, when RJ recovers and revisits your beautiful country, hopefully you'll get the chance to chat with him about both his worlds.
To Jennifer Sedai, Harriet is all you said and more. Elegant, intelligent, a worker not a watcher, interesting and interested, a friend to all, a hell of a cook, a gardener extraordinaire, unpretentious, the defender and provider of those in need, tough, tender and above all, REAL. My life is better for having her in it. Know I'm not speaking out of turn, RJ's is too.
To all of you who've asked me to pass on your love to them both, done and will continue. Please don't stop. Long live the Dragon and his Queen!
Brother-Cousin, 4th of 3
RJ has dropped a ton of water weight, over 30 pounds. He's feeling much better as a result. Earlier this week he and Harriet made one of their many trips to his doctors and were pleased that he was able to negotiate all of the walking without rest or assistance. You'll recall his description of his first attempt to mosey around the block with me a while back. We made it more than half way, and may have gone further save the sun getting to us both. Harriet reports that his appetite is also improving.
Their sense of humor never dims. We were chatting on Wednesday about both our hair growth. Harriet announced that RJ had hair "all over his head". He corrected that it was only growing down to his eyebrows. We laughed about having to learn the wolf man dance. RJ said that he was spending time lurking in the bushes in front of the house lunging at unsuspecting tourists. So should you be sight seeing in Charleston, you've been warned.
To SJP, Elseby, Ray and Damien: Thanks for your service guys. Be safe.
To Kristen: Lost it, but you kept on fishing, atta girl! Ask RJ about the day we spent fishing with my cousin, his then 9 year old nephew and were both skunked. As I recall the score was Jim III three pretty good sized sharks, RJ and Wilson zero.
I know there is trifling little news in this update. But find comfort in the fact that things are still very positive. Your continued support is very important. RJ and Harriet are weary from the fight and have much more ahead. Your words of encouragement, advice, humor and well wishing help lighten their load. Thank you all.
Brother-Cousin, 4th of 3
Hi, guys. I apologize for it being so long since my last post, but I had a few little rough patches to deal with, and they kept getting in the way. You know how it is. Somehow, and you never quite do know how, you find yourself juggling three eggs when the doorbell rings. You want to put the eggs back in the basket so you can answer the door, but sure as anything, that's just when somebody with shoot another egg in on you, or even two, and you're juggling faster than ever. Well, we have all that under control now. Wilson has very kindly been keeping you abreast of events, so I won't bore you by going into details. Suffice it to say that I am recovering lost ground every day now. Tonight, Harriet and I are being taken out to a nice French restaurant by a young cousin, Mary Pinckney, who is more like a daughter to us. Next weekend, Wilson and Janet will come down, and we'll have some BBQ chicken. Though I can see the argument shaping up now. Harriet will want me to try making the BBQ sauce as nearly salt free as never no mind, while I think that cutting loose once in a while is my safety valve that allows me to eat restricted salt the rest of the time. I'll just have to triple the Tabasco in the sauce. That has a good bite and a good flavor. Sure, there are hotter sauces, but either they have a poor flavor or else the heat is so great they have no flavor at all. I'll stick with my Tabasco.
I see where Wilson posted the wolfman stuff. But he makes it sound like a joke. I actually find it quite restful lying in the flowerbed at the front of the house and leaping up when tourists walk by. The way they jump and squeal and set off running, well, I just lie there and laugh. Hwoooooooooooooo!
It is a couple of weeks yet before I go back to the Mayo for my second set of tests with respect to this study I'm in. I still don't expect any good news yet, not for another few months. Then we'll see. You can stand back and watch me dance.
For Alessandra, amyloidosis of my sort means a heart transplant is really out of the question. The amyloids would just start depositing in the new heart and eventually wreck it, too. I don't think I could even get approved for a transplant for that very reason. Anyway, I intend to beat this thing, not just dodge it.
For a number of people who have pointed out the advances made lately, especially in Australia with fighting the amyloids related to Alzheimer's, those amyloids are quite different in type and location from mine. Some of the work crosses over, and some does not. As to whether these discoveries will have any effect for me long-term, we'll just have to wait and see.
Mario Plateau asks how can we deal with death, and Anne asks whether I am afraid of death. You deal with death the way you deal with breathing, or with air. Death is a natural and inevitable end. We all come to it eventually. I'm not eager for death, certainly, and I intend to fight it, but neither am I afraid of death. I made my accommodations with death a long ago, when I was a young man. Face to face with it, however, I have discovered a fear that never occurred to me all those years ago. When I die, Harriet will be left to deal with the aftermath. God, I'd give anything to spare her that. If I needed a reason to fight, that would be reason enough by itself.
Take care, guys. More soon.
I spent the weekend with a man walking a tight rope holding a small parasol in one hand for balance while tipping his hat to the crowd far below with the other. I'm stealing the metaphor from Harriet for that was her description of the circus act RJ is performing trying to keep the medications in balance, do some work and keep you (fans) and we (family) informed.
Over the past two weeks the balance has been difficult to attain. Reining it in slowly, but surely however.
RJ, Harriet, Janet and I spent time on Saturday afternoon thumbing through your posts. All touched us, some to tears. Thank you for sharing your stories. You provide more inspiration than you'll ever know. Were I to possess but an ounce of the strength of Ben N, Don Webb, Julia or Lynn I could move mountains. RJ singled out several individual posts for a personal answer.
The four of us made it out on the town for dinner on Saturday night. Charleston is replete with fantastic places to dine. RJ knows that being land bound I prefer food from the sea on our visits. Picked a grand one he did, Coast. Highly recommended.
The BBQ chicken we had planned for Sunday evening had to be postponed. Too bleeping hot outside to stand by an open grill, and other things to do anyway. We'll try your many home recipes for sauce and rubs at a later date.
RJ and Harriet will be making their monthly trip to the Mayo next week.
He's working. Good therapy it is. Also gives him and his editor-in-chief, love of his life, first and only wife, Harriet something to talk about rather than the 800 pound medical gorilla sitting in the middle of the room. You'll hear from him soon.
Brother-Cousin, 4th of 3
Well, I'm back from my monthly (at present) visit to the Mayo, and I have some new results that I thought I'd share with you. That is the reason for this short entry. Just to get the news out. I'll do the usual a's to your q's in a post in a few days.
First off, a little explanation. The markers for amyloids are things called Lambda Light Chains. The normal range for Lambda Light Chains (you have them, too) is between 0.50 and 2.63. If the number gets above that, it is bad, and the higher, the worse. Two months ago, my number was 75. Not good. One month ago, it was 95. Definitely not good. There were some mitigating factors that made it maybe not quite as bad as it might have been, but the disease was definitely progressing. On Thursday, I was given the most recent test result. My number is now 13.
This is not a cure. I repeat: This is NOT a cure. There is no cure for amyloidosis any more than there is for cancer. The best you hope for is remission, and this isn't even remission. I will need to keep taking this medicine for a long time in order to keep the good result going. But it is the first time in such a long time that I have had any good news. I haven't lied to you in this blog, not ever, but I haven't always told you everything. I told you in the beginning that I wasn't going to. There was no need as I saw it to burden you with descriptions of every bout of nausea or the like. Wilson has spoken of rough patches. A fair number of those were hospital stays, for dehydration, for congestive heart failure (again), for whatever, once three of them in three weeks. Up to now, going back to the boxing metaphor, the best I've been able to manage for any round was a bare, skin-of-my-teeth draw, then drop on the stool in my corner, get the blood out of my eyes, and stay on the stool right up until the bell rang because the legs badly needed those few added seconds of rest if they were going to carry me through the next round. Some rounds weren't a draw, not even close, but I've got a good corner crew in Harriet and others, and they always helped me get ready to answer the bell one more time. This time, however....
For the first time, I've scored a round over Liston clearly and cleanly. There's still blood to clean out of the eyes, but not so much, and this time, I'll be already on my feet and waiting when the bell rings. As Harriet said to me, for the first time, we can be sure the light we see at the end of the tunnel is not a train. And that is such a relief, for me as well as for her, because for so long, as it seems to us, we have been sure that the light really was a train, but there was nothing to do except keep running toward it as hard as we could.
To all of those of who have posted that you are praying for me, thank you. For all of those who say you don't believe, but you send good wishes, thank you, too. You think good wishes; God hears prayers. To all of you who post at all, thank you.
We're still here, and we're still fighting. And I finally took a round from Liston! HOT DAMN!!!!
Back to you real soon, guys.
Hi, guys. I was going to put up a regular post here today, but that is going to have to wait a few days. You see, Mike Ford died last night. To you, he was John M. Ford, two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, including for "Winter Solstice Camelot Station", the only poem ever to win the short fiction award. Or maybe you're a Star Trek Fan and remember his Star Trek novels, such as How Much for the Just Planet? (the only flat-out comedy among all the Trek novels, I think) or The Final Reflection, the only (to that time, anyway) Trek novel done from a Klingon point of view. What he was, frankly, was one of the best poets working in the English language and THE best writer working in the United States bar none. That ain't hyperbole, Jack, That was pure fact. And I only limit it to the States because I figure I'd better give the rest of the world the benefit of the doubt. They might have slipped in somebody as good. I don't follow their stuff closely enough to be sure. Somebody as good, maybe. But nobody better.
More importantly to me, though, he was my brother. He shared not even so much blood with me as Wilson, but Mike was still my brother. I don't say things like that lightly. Maybe not blood of my blood, but bone of my bone, and a son and brother of this house. For thirty years he came to Charleston to spend Christmas with Harriet and me, and sometimes Thanksgiving and maybe Easter. He was coming home for Christmas again. We'd made plans.
Christ, I miss him.
Sorry, Mike. I know you'd have preferred some clever repartee and a quip or three, but my quipper seems to be busted.
Dear all: Most sincere thanks from Robert Jordan (via Harriet) go out to
Michael J. Fredericks, Jean Verney-Carron, Evan Harmon, Lisa Kirwood, Ryan Salsamendi, Emma de Laat (hello, Emma!), David Freeman, Helena Taylor and Janet Taylor
for gifts to the Mao Hematologic Malignancies Program—amyloidosis research. Thank you one and all.
Jim is taking it easy today, since we go up to the Mayo tomorrow for a routine workup -- but as a consolation prize, here is a poem of mine:
Bard: n., a full set of equine armor.
Your head seethes with essential magic,
its glittering chanfron deep and wise,
high-buffed, strong in dream and reason.
and your escutcheon shining pure.
The crinet of your glistening neck,
glides swiftly to the brazen peytral
of your great roomy chest.
On it emblazoned script in gothic flame:
Live in today, live for tomorrow.
Your flanchards bearing you in strength,
shine bright below your gleaming crupper.
And for your groin: festooned galloons,
fine textiles in a nest, and heavy gold.
All worlds flare in your burning eyes,
as soul and words bring fat new flames
to the pale page, and to my greedy heart.
Hope you enjoy it. You have all been a wonderful support for both of us.... I guess this is a little thank-you token. Best, Harriet
Well, I've been offline for a while, but I thought you had the news pretty well from Wilson, plus I needed to rest up, frankly, having had a stretch of in the hospital, then out of the hospital, in and then out, in again, and this time out on a Saturday so I could get on a plane on Sunday, have my tests done at the Mayo on Monday, talk with the doctors on Tuesday, then drive to Minneapolis to speak at Mike Ford's Memorial service. Frankly, I got home in some ways stronger than when I left, but in others, well, I was ready to lie down and sleep as long as I could get by without having an ice cube slid down my back. I really needed some rest, in my own bed not a hospital or hotel bed. And every time I've thought about posting here the last week or so, I just couldn't find the energy to do more the most cursory sort of entry, likely dull-witted with weariness at that, and I thought you deserved more than that.
You might find a small interest that I codified a list of things to be done once I have regained (1) over-all strength, (2) hand-eye coordination, and (3) some degree of balance. I am convinced that I will recover these things—the strength seems the easiest—and have even agreed, after some urging from Harriet, to submit my hands and feet to acupuncture! Go figure. Me, the Great Skeptic! Well, she's a cousin of sorts, through marriage—it can get complicated in Charleston—and she is fully qualified and all of that.
Anyway, the list.
1) Purchase Harley. I already have this picked out, as I think I've told you, and though Harriet SAYS she won't mind riding postillion, I'm figuring a sidecar is my future, too. That's okay. But not quite as soon as I hoped. It won't be under the Christmas tree this year. Maybe next.
2) Sky diving qualification. I'm not talking buddy-jumping strapped to some guy's belly like a kangaroo trying to escape from it's mother's pouch. I mean to take the whole nine yards so that I can walk into any place where such a thing is possible, rent a chute, rent a plane to take me up, and go jump, no questions asked. Wilson says we are too old, and my knees are too bad, for this sort of thing, but the thing is that having achieved that qualification, I doubt that I will ever use it. I will have done it, however, and that will be enough. When I was young, before my first tour in the Nam, I volunteered to airborne. I got turned down on account of bad eyes, and that is something I have regretted ever since. That I've held on that regret so long indicated something to me, because I have always operated on Lan's rule, bury your dead and ride on. I don't hold onto regrets. This one remains, however. So I will try to lay it to rest once and for all. Besides, I WANT to jump out of the bloody plane!
3) Take up ball-room dancing lessons with Harriet. Funny, after saying that I don't hold onto regrets, that I should come to this one straight away. You see, before I began having nerve problems with my feet and loss of balance, I was a pretty good dancer. Good enough to have 20-something guys complimenting me on my moves and women of various ages cutting in on Harriet to dance with me. It was also neat to be addressed on the street, sometimes by women I could swear I never met in my life, with cries of "Hello, dancer!" Well, I want that back. And, since I am completely untrained—I grew up poor; there was no childhood dance class in my background—I want to take the lessons because I want some dances, the tango, the rumba, the cha-cha, that you just can't fake. And not that Dancing with the Stars baloney, either. That is strangely entertaining, one might say weirdly entertaining, much like a train wreck involving Borat and Rush Limbaugh in clown makeup, but in most cases, the dances they do have no resemblance whatsoever to the dances they claim to be. Let them take their so-called tango to Argentina. And see if they can get out of the country alive. Anyhow, #3, dance lessons.
And 4) Take up golf. This something I had just begun to get into when things when blooey in general. You need balance to make a good swing, and I found out I have a pretty good natural talent for the game. My drives are straight—in two rounds with Wilson and his son, Jonathon, both golf fiends—I lost fewer balls than either of them, and if the length of my drives has been somewhat erratic, I was beginning to get that straightened out. I figure if I can get the occasional but not uncommon 200 yard plus drive without golf shoes, which means no proper swing, I can match and top and that with the shoes and with practice. It only needs the balance back a little. And you know, it's fun reading the greens for puts. I got a few tips from a pro who was earning some extra money by caddying at a club where I'd won a round in charity auction, and he had some wonderful tips for that.
So there you have it. Oh, finishing A Memory of Light, of course, and getting started on Mat and Tuon, and some others, five to ten years after the Last Battle. Those go without saying. Not a bad plan for the coming year, eh? And fishing. I'd like to call Billy Glenn and run up to Cape Romain, where the beaches are so pristine you can walk for miles without seeing a footprint not your own, where the truly big redfish, 40-pound, 50-pound, 60-pound, are cruising down the coast in the surf, too big to keep, of course, but great fun to catch and release, using circle hooks for survival of fish, and if a little time goes by without a redfish, then a 6 or 7-foot blacktip shark is sure to grab hold, leaping like a bloody tarpon. It's a great day's fun, with the wind cutting in directly off the Atlantic and nothing but water between you and Portugal. But Thanksgiving is almost here, and Christmas is acoming in, Lud sing God damn, with lots of house guests for each and also in between. No time for fishing. Unless I sink to trying an ultralight fly rod in the goldfish pond. I don't think that would play well with Harriet. Besides, there's no real way to get a decent backcast. I know. I've checked, and believe me, I can find a backcast in a china closet if one is to be found.
The news from Mayo, for those of you who doubted Wilson: another drop in the Lambda Light Chains! There simply wasn't room for the truly spectacular drop that I had last time, but I still got roughly a 25% decrease. This leaves me in double digits, barely, but closing on the normal range of roughly between 1 and 3. This despite having been pulled off the Revlimid during the second hospital stay because my kidney numbers had gone wonkey. Life is one little adventure after another around here. I asked how the study was going in general, were others getting the same good response that I was; my answer was a shrug and a reply that the other numbers were all over the place. The Luck holds. The Iceman remains asleep -- thank God! -- but Ganesh has wakened, and he's stomping down that path through the paddies again. So, I got the kidney numbers back under control, I am back on the Revlimid, and I don't have to return to the Mayo until January, and at further three-month intervals thereafter. They will send me kits for monthly blood collections here which will then be sent to the May for their own testing, and I will also get my meds by mail. Hot damn! Another round to the Kid over Liston. One more lance passed unbroken in the list.
(These images may seem over-the-top to a lot of you, and I suppose they are, but I find they help me. Having a physical enemy to confront is easier to imagine that the ephemeral image of a disease. I think that is what Armstrong, from whom I first stole the idea, had in mind. And in many of them, I see myself exactly. If I am not exactly Bertran du Guesclin pledging a feat of arms this day as shall ring through the courts of chivalry in order to do honor to my Lady—though, God knows, I would that I were—I do see myself as that guy getting up off the stool and stalking out to meet Liston one more time. Keep the hands up. Swallow the blood; they're tight on stopping bouts for bleeding, these days. Ignore the legs; the legs don't matter. Just keep punching. No matter what, take what he gives and keep punching, because sooner or later, you'll crack his head or he'll crack yours. So keep punching, because you know who's going to be left standing when this is over. Just keep punching. And they make attitudes easier to explain, too. It becomes easier to say you'll fight to the last ditch when you can look around and realize that you are already in the last ditch with no line of retreat open, that there is nothing for it but to do a quick leopard crawl down to verify ranges, then back to the ditch to lock and load. And fix bayonets, because surrender isn't an option. Hold until relieved. The hardest order in the book to receive. But that is all there is. That makes it clear, if in a flamboyant way, and makes for a short explanation, if only because the listener is afraid of more floweriness if he enquires further. Which leaves me to ask some lovely who has just brought me yet another plate of goodies whether she really thinks I should leave my hair this length; isn't it a bit short? Much more fun. And it gets LOTS of grins from Harriet.)
Well. That's probably flamboyance enough for a novel or two from some guys. Mike could make three novels and half a volume of poetry, in various styles, on it. Not brief, though. I began my comments at Mike's memorial service by saying that I had worked hard to leave out incidents in the interest of brevity. "I can be brief, you know," I said, getting an unexpected laugh. And another for, "I once told Mike I was going to be brief about something or other, and he laughed so hard he snorted Bass Ale through his nose." Oh, well.
For Gary Bucey, hang in there, man. You can make it. I won't try to make it sound easy, because you sure as Hell know it is anything but. Just concentrate on breathing. You keep breathing and leave everything else, including worrying about everything else, to somebody else. You'll be surprised how much taking up some of that burden will help your wife, because she is undergoing her own kind of Hell right now. I know. No matter how she tried to hide it, I could see it in Harriet's eyes, in the days when we didn't know, in the days when it looked like I had no hope, just will power, and as much as she loves me, she wasn't sure my will power by itself was going to be enough. Will power really is a key. When you are sure there's nothing left, then you tell yourself, "I'm not giving up! I won't quit!" And if you have to crawl into the ring, then you by God crawl, man. You make the bell any way you can, and if you have to pull yourself to your feet by holding onto Liston's trunks, you damned well do it. I know the pain. You can beat that. You can. It is surprising how you can make friends with the pain when you have to. Somehow, it doesn't hurt so much then. It just is. But don't you give up. I expect to hear from you again. and again, for ten or twenty years to come at least. Don't disappoint me, man. Hang in, snake.
For Jerry J, you and your wife are in my payers. Once again, a post has manage to humble me. I can hardly image, with your wife undergoing multiple surgeries for malignancies, that you could spare time for a thought for me, much to make a post.
Okay. I've been going on long enough, I think. I haven't looked at my e-mail in about five or six days, so God only knows what it has piled up to. A thousand or so, I imagine, just at the main address, and I run six to keep things separate. I know you'd rather I spent the time answering more questions, or talking about what is going on here, but I really do need to answer the e-mail. And what is going on here is that Harriet is making soupe au pistou for dinner, and though it is about 3 hours till time to sit down, I am beginning to smell it. So I shall have to answer e-mail while drooling. That is what is going on here.
Good-bye until later, guys. I'll try to make it shorter interval this time. My apologies again to everyone for the delay. And my very great thanks to everyone who posts. Whether or not you offer prayers or well-wishes, whether or not you have some personal tragedy of your own to share, every post is a lift to me—yes; the tragedies, too, because I have a chance to reach out and offer what I can, which doesn't happen often under my present circumstances—and I thank you for them.
Jordan plans to live another 30 years—long enough, he says to finish all the books that are in his head right now. That will require a large dose of luck, and so far, his luck has been mixed. The new drug he's taking seems to be working well. Still, he can write for two hours a day at most, compared with eight or nine hours in healthier times. At this rate, he'll submit the final book in 2008 for publication in 2009, says Tom Doherty, president of Tor Books, Jordan's publisher.
If he gets better, he'll write faster. No one wants to talk about the alternative. If he dies, could someone else finish the series? Authors like V.C. Andrews and Mario Puzo have posthumously passed along their series to other writers. Still, some fans worry that another author, even Harriet, wouldn't be true to Jordan's voice. Jordan, however, is open to the idea.
"I'm getting out notes, so if the worst actually happens, someone could finish A Memory of Light and have it end the way I want it to end," he says. "But I hope to be around to actually finish it myself."
The decision, Jordan says, will be left to Harriet and Doherty, who has been a close friend and colleague for years. But Doherty isn't ready to address that possibility.
"I'm not prepared to concede that that's going to happen," Doherty says. "I'm working on the belief that he's going to beat this thing. Who else can tell this story?"
Dear Jason, something to post, to celebrate the season—and Jim's WONDERFUL news. Love to you all, Harriet
A Genuine Wham-O
Lists for cards, lists for cookies,
lists for books and scarves and games
and candles. Maybe
a bell would fit in there.
Maybe I'll give it up and be a witch.
My ersatz Frisbee—
cards and scarves—
are packed with love,
but never seem to hit the mark,
the tender lips, the gleaming fangs
of those I throw them to.
I'll borrow a young terrier bitch
and lob a real one for her.
Frisbees of love? We live in one:
the Milky Way. Or are you going
to fob me off with dusty physics,
lumps of coal and willow switches?
Please! The world sends me huge bright disks
of love and light.
Although it's hard to see them, hidden as they are
in books and scarves and games
and candles. And a bell.
—Harriet Popham Rigney
He reads your posts. I read them. All of them. You are all great for your caring and support. Thanks from the recesses of my soul. All of you WOT'ers are like extended family. But as family, I've got to ask that you allow RJ the time to heal. He's been extremely forthcoming with his status, and will continue to be regardless the news. But unless you've seen someone in a similar fight, you really have no idea how much of a struggle he's in. Thank God he's a stubborn ole cuss. Without that he could have easily said this is too difficult long ago and the game would have been lost.
Not that we shouldn't still be concerned about his health, because we should. But he's as fine as is possible. At the moment, he is very, very tired. Rehab is hard work. The medicines he is on can have dreadful side effects and have to monitored constantly. A slight imbalance causes all manner of issues. In his writing to you, he has glibbed over them as simply "rough patches". Rough? As fans of his writing, you'll not believe it, but he does have a talent for the understatement. Rough? I'd hate to see something Really Rough. Those who have been through something similar know what it does to you. It zaps all of your strength. That's where he is right now. His words, "I'm as weak as a kitten". The great news is that the LLC production is in check, not officially in remission, simply in check. But, his system still has to shed those that were deposited in his heart, which will take time, lots of it. Waiting is hard work too. Patience is not something that either he or I possess in great quantities. His doctors told him 6 months, maybe a year till he feels himself somewhat back to normal. We chat frequently and laugh through it as best we can. That's a big part of my job in this journey, making him smile. I found myself doing the same with our beloved Harriet this past week. She's one of the two strongest ladies I know, still the load gets heavy. Thank you for always including Harriet in your well wishes. (FYI: The other woman of strength is my other mother, aka mother in law, who is a real lady and a tiger. Wouldn't want her in the other guy's corner.) Janet and I will be with Harriet and my Brother/Cousin next weekend, and all involved can hardly wait. We haven't seen them since Labor Day, too long.
Physically he's a long way from being the man that many of you have met at events. But were you to speak to him via telephone, you'd not know that anything was going on. The voice on the phone is strong and resolute. Lord I love him for that, among many other things. But, he has to follow the advise of his doctors, do as Harriet says (we all answer to someone) and be patient, and careful to allow for his recovery to continue. Thus, we'll need you to be patient too. Hang in there gang. The Dragon is tired and may be dragging, but he is winning.
Wilson Brother/Cousin 4th of 3
The good news is that there has been no change since we last communicated guys. Harriet and RJ had to fight like hell to keep it there, but that goes with the territory these days.
He told you that he'd be visiting the Mayo on every 90 days and that last month's visit was the first of those. Things don't always go according to plan when you're in a fight, you have to shift and adapt to the situation. Their visit last month lasted longer than expected. The medication regimen had to be changed due to some pretty nasty side affects. Testing required that RJ come off his blood thinner, the steroid and the miracle drug, revlimid. After months on this experimental drug got him into a near "normal" range, he was being pulled off for at least 30 days. We held our breath. The grand news is that the Lambda Light Chain number that was 2.7 a month ago was tested at on 2.74. FREAKING AMAZING! The polyps and the "mass" he described before are also gone. We joked that when they denied him food for over a day in preparation for further testing that his body looked for nourishment and there sat the aforementioned mass looking, well, pretty damned appetizing. Gone. So, back on the Revlimid. Pray that the numbers continue downward, that his body continues the slow march of shedding the beta amyloid deposits and that he regains his strength.
RJ had me laughing to the point of pain yesterday. You'll recall his wish list included sky diving and that I promised you I wouldn't let him throw himself from a perfectly good airplane. Seems he had a DREAM the other night that I'd gotten my way and we were at Lake Tahoe skiing. As he was negotiating the ski slope he was hit by a hot dogging snow mobile driver and had his leg broken in the collision. As they were hauling him off to be fixed up, he was shouting at me "you wouldn't let me sky dive because it was too dangerous, brought me skiing instead and now look what happened." Maybe I'll rethink the parachuting, not.
Long road ahead of us gang. I've looked but can find no one of the yellow available. Recovery will take a lot of time. I've asked before, now I beg, patience please. NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS.
Peace be upon you all.
4th of 3
2:58 pm (1458 hours, hooah!), 23 July 2007
I'm stealing a line from a friend and big WOT fan, "leave the imagination to RJ."
He's fine! Having one of those "rough patch" days today, but fine. In fact, he had a hearty breakfast of Sauerkraut and a Hamburger. You read that right. Yuck! Not to my liking, but gives you an idea of the cast iron nature of his stomach. I guess eating cold C rations in the rain and mud of Vietnam will cause you to think anything is good. In fairness to his taste buds, he would season the Cs with a few dashes of hot sauce, a secret his father shared with him.
RJ and Harriet are off to the Mayo tomorrow for the 90-day check up. Her biggest concern is that their flight departs during the time frame that the President of the US is due to arrive in Charleston for the debates to be held at the Citadel tomorrow evening. They also have a family affair to attend during this trip. So, they are not due back in Charleston until the middle of next week.
He'll let you guys know the results of the trip after their return. Not exactly sure when, but after.
FYI: A woman that I adore whom shall remain nameless, but whose initials are... HARRIET, will be celebrating a birthday on 4 August. You might want to extend her a Happy Birthday message.
For Sadie: Jason at Dragonmount has my personal contact info. If you will email him a "ship to" address, I will personally get RJ to sign some bookplates "to Sadie"(about business card size, peel off stickers) to place in your books. Consider them my birthday gift to you, a survivor. Kudos girl. Figuratively of course, but keep the dresser in front of the door. Throw yourself headlong into your schoolwork. Thanks for your prayers for my brother/cousin. I will offer prayers for your continued success and that your Mother and Sister find their way back into the light.
I ask you to keep the prayers coming, they are still needed. Please toss in a few for our men and women in uniform.
Blessings on you all,
4th of 3
He has gone where pain and suffering are no more.
Whenever he was able to be at the computer, he checked the blog first thing. Your e-mails REALLY MATTERED to him. He loved them ... and I think in some sense he loved you all.
I never thanked you for all my birthday messages, but I do now. We had a nice party...about a dozen people, ranging in age from 4 months to 82 years, sitting around the dining room table which had been covered with lots of newspaper, picking our own lovely boiled local shrimp, eating corn on the cob and homemade biscuits , and later eating watermelon; a good deal of white wine went down our gullets, too. I should add, no cooking was done by me. My dearest first cousin, also named Harriet (we're both named for her mother), did it all, just about.
It was a happy time. Jim made it so.
He came like the wind, like the wind touched everything, and like the wind was gone.
These are words Jim said to me several books ago, in the weary but always thrilling hours of putting the manuscript to bed, ready to carry to New York in the morning—I remember grabbing a piece of discarded script and scrawling those words up the margin, because they were so beautiful. He was talking about Rand. I of course am not.
I know he touched all of you. Thanks for being there.
Here is his final interview, given to the local newspaper. Notice the date:
Robert Jordan aims to get back on feet
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Jim Rigney intends to "keep marching to the horizon." Stage One is getting back on his feet.
Known to millions of readers as Robert Jordan, the best-selling author of "The Wheel of Time" fantasy series continues to cross swords with the rare blood disease amyloidosis, a progressive disorder he was first diagnosed with in December 2005 at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Subsequently, the author has been undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Rigney reports that with the help of the Mayo Clinic, he is keeping things under control.
"My numbers are still good, in the normal range. We will be going back up to the Mayo in about a month and we'll see what the status is. Now I just have to get my foot healed up so I have a chance of getting out of this wheelchair. Strange to think that my foot, of all things, would be giving me the most trouble. It's getting better, but unfortunately the amyloidosis makes healing go very slowly.
"When I get the foot better then I can start on the process of walking again. I hope to do this in another two or three months."
While there has been no improvement in heart function and no change in his overall prognosis as of June, Rigney says improvement remains possible. And he's determined.
"I've got promises to keep."
And he did march, guys. He marched toward that horizon until he crossed it, where we cannot follow yet.
The word now, the only possible word, is Onward.
Go for it. With love.
Consider yourselves hugged.
Over a hundred people e-mailed condolences to the undertaker in Charleston. There is no way to respond on that site, and I just can't do individual responses. I hope that those who wrote there also read the blog—thank you all for your very kind messages. I've read them all, and so has Will, and I've sent them on to Reynolds and Wilson.
The word now is ONWARD.
With love, Harriet
Since posting the report on Robert Jordan's funeral, I've come across some more items I'd like to share with you. (With permission from RJ's family of course).
First off, Tom Doherty and Wilson were kind enough to share the words they spoke at RJ's funeral with us. Tom is the president of Tor Books (who published the Wheel of Time), and has been a friend of RJ's for 30 years or more. Here's what he said at the eulogy:
"He came like the wind. Like the wind touched everything and like the wind was gone."
Jim Rigney, Robert Jordan, friend, doer, dreamer, maker of dreams, one of the great storytellers of the 20th and I believe time will prove 21st century as well. His Wheel of Time is a towering epic of power and scope. After praising it extensively, The New York Times said of it:
"—the evil laced into forces of good, the dangers latent in any promised salvation, the scenes of unavoidable onslaught of unpredictable event—bear the marks of American national experience during the last three decades"
Truly Jim wrote for us all.
And Harriet, the love of his life, what a team, Harriet is the finest editor I've ever worked with. Working together they produced wonderful things. His first two books, Fallon Blood and Fallon Pride were published by her company, Popham Press as a joint venture with Ace where I was publisher and she had been Editorial Director. And then at Tor, another Fallon, Conan and the Wheel of Time. The Wheel, which has touched the lives of so many millions and down the generations will touch so many millions more.
Jim was a man of courage and heart and vision. He was my friend of 30 years. He's gone ahead of us now. Beyond that last horizon to a place we cannot yet see. But I think he can see us and he's glad we're together and he's already thinking of stories he's going to tell Harriet and then the rest of us when we get there.
We miss you Jim. Thanks for all you've left behind.
Thank you, Tom, for sharing that with all of us.
I have photos of family around me in my office. They are a gentle reminder that we work to have a life, not the other way around. In one of those photos, Jim and I are shoulder-to-shoulder, our heads leaning in and touching at the temples. A private moment captured by my Janet. At the end of a busy day in mid-October, I was heading towards the door, glanced at the photo and thought, "I haven't called him in days. I need to do it on the way home..." Then it hit me. I can't call him. He won't answer. The stages of grieving are something with which I am all too familiar. I knew what to expect: loss, denial, guilt, anger and finally acceptance. Even so, it is a trip we each must take every time we suffer a loss. And there I stood, staring at the photo, weeping for my loss and feeling guilty for forgetting, if just for a moment.
Thank you for your prayers, your well-wishing, your concerns about our family and especially for the mountains of praise you have heaped upon my Brother/Cousin. Thank you for every note. I have read all of them, all. They have offered more comfort than you could ever imagine. We are healing.
Here in this forum, I want to publicly thank Jason. He has been and continues to be a loyal fan and friend. Through his words and pictures you have been allowed a peek into the world that was my Brother/Cousin's. Jason told you he came to Charleston feeling a bit of anxiety. It didn't show. He blended into our family fabric as if he had always been there. Still he was there as your representative. The questions he asked were those you would have asked. The things he wanted to see were what you would have wanted to see. He touched, smelled and tasted life in the Two Rivers. With Jason's words and photos, I pray that you were able to gain a sense of closure.
Plans are well underway to erect a permanent memorial detailing the life and accomplishments of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., aka Robert Jordan. The site could not be more perfect, the library at the Citadel in Charleston. Items that you would easily recognize will be included in the exhibit: his ram's horn cane, his Citadel ring and one of his broad-brimmed black hats to name a few. The exhibit will be dedicated in the spring of 2008.
By now you are all aware of the grand news that Brandon Sanderson will be working closely with Harriet and Jim's staff to write A Memory of Light. Brandon has proven himself in the genre. Harriet, hand picked him for the task. I hope you are as pleased and excited as we that he accepted the challenge. As you will learn in Jason's interview, Brandon has long been a WOT fan. Now he has the privilege of donning the gleeman's cloak and telling us the ending of the tale. I am sure that he will do Jim's epic proud.
Remember my Brother/Cousin in the old familiar way. I miss you Bubba. Now, as Harriet has told us, Onward.
4th of 3
Brandon Sanderson came to see me for a couple of days this week, and he is as terrific as he sounds in the interview. I am really glad that things have worked out so that he can, and will, complete A Memory of Light. He will do a job that Jim would approve, I believe. And I'll be working with him throughout the writing. And so will Alan Romanczuk and Maria Simons, who have worked Jim through a number of books, and who are both now completely available for Brandon's support.
It is a great relief to have Brandon on board. This (choosing the writer to finish the series and getting the work launched) was the single thing I most wanted to do for my dear Jim. All the rest of the avalanche of stuff had to take a back seat—and there has been a lot that needs to be dealt with. So now I can deal with it—figuring out one colossal bad investment, dealing with the apparent collapse of the British literary agency (now apparently reconstituting itself), figuring out how to meet the payroll, all this mundane stuff. All will be OKAY, I hasten to tell you. It's just that it all needs to be dealt with, and that means TIME.
There is an e.e. cummings poem, I carry your heart, that you can google. [The poem is included below.] I did, and burst into tears. It tore my heart open and soothed it, too—because I do carry Jim's heart in my heart and I always will, until we meet again, which I hope and pray we will. When I said ONWARD I did not mean away from Jim. Not at all. I meant that we must always keep going, making, giving, loving, living, as best we can, through blizzard and desert. It is what we are called on to do. A friend wrote me at Jim's death, "the transition from love in the flesh to love remembered is endless and inconsolable" and oddly this was very comforting, because I believe it is true. It isn't the most important thing. The most important thing is to keep going, ONWARD, with his love, in his love. He loved you guys, too, you know, even if you never met him. How else could he have written these wonderful books?
So, hold him in your hearts and LIVE—it's what he wanted us all to do.
Greetings of the season to you all. And love. Harriet
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
e e cummings
On 8 March 2008, James Oliver Rigney, Jr. was inducted as the 47th member of the South Carolina Academy of Authors (SCAA) Hall of Fame. The setting was perfect, The Citadel, The Military College of S.C. The man most of you only knew by his nom de plume, Robert Jordan was a graduate of the Citadel and adored his alma mater. Jim would have loved the attention and been embarrassed by it. You see, he wrote not for acclaim. He wrote because that's what he loved to do. But every one of us likes a pat on the back and a "well done" from time to time. This ceremony was exactly that, a public affirmation of what we fans of Robert Jordan already know. Jim, aka Robert Jordan, has taken the world of fantasy to a level that was only a dream before. The long narrative is possible because of Jim. A writer in his genre was quoted recently for having said that we owe the likes of Harry Potter to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. Jim did not live to hear that line, he did however know that the SC Authors had named him to the Hall. He was informed of it at the beginning of September 2007. Jim's response, "I'll be there", for the ceremony. He lost his fight only two weeks later, but he left knowing that he'd had that pat on the back from his peers. For that, I am eternally grateful. Well done, bubba.
The evening was a celebration of Jim the man and RJ the writer. Mike Livingston, a Professor of English at the Citadel was asked to speak about Robert Jordan. He began with the first three lines from Beowulf. He detailed how fantasy has always been an important art, inspiring us all to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, to aspire for greatness and not settle for mediocrity. He wove a brilliant tapestry of fantasy through the ages landing upon our own Jim. R.J.'s impact on the genre will be felt for as long as man pens fantasy.
Marjory Wentworth, the Poet Laureate of South Carolina, was asked to speak of the man, Jim Rigney. She told of his mentoring of promising students. She recalled how he had seemed even more excited than she when she was named Poet Laureate. She talked at length of his generosity of education and his community. She remembered fondly his story telling, his singing and his most thunderous laughter. Marjory counted herself blessed for having had Jim as a friend.
The official words inducting Jim into the Hall were pronounced by D. Oliver Bowman, Chair of the 2008 SCAA Induction Committee. Our Harriet was radiant, a smile ever present. She worked her way through the crowd of over 150 making sure that she spoke with everyone. A special treat for her and all of us gathered were the "1st Graders", a group of 14 ladies with whom Harriet had begun school, that's right, in the 1st grade. There were 8 of them in attendance. They gather at least monthly to chat over lunch or tea. By way of acknowledging them, Harriet gave a Robert Jordanish, "Hoot Hoot", which brought laughter and an encore call. So, she did it again.
Linda Ferguson and Ellen Hyatt, SCAA board members, presented Harriet with a Memorial Gift, a clock. All felt it most appropriate for the Creator of the Wheel of Time.
The mood of the evening was light. Still as people talked of my Brother/Cousin, I was transported back to that horrible time in September. Perhaps the wound is like that in Rand's side, it may never heal. I do hope that it does, for I am sure that Jim would rather I remember the laughter, not the pain. That goes for all of us really. This night in Charleston, the Two Rivers made terra firma, the people gathered under the large oaks of Stedding Citadel, to sing the songs of praise to one of our own, James Oliver Rigney, Jr., who though passed will live in our hearts forever.
Brother/Cousin of the warrior god...
4th of 3
As you might have noticed, things have been a tad dead here this week. That's because I've been out here in Charleston visiting Robert Jordan's house. Harriet, Alan, Maria, and I have been working on things for Book Twelve, and there was also a panel at The Citadel (where Mr. Jordan went to college) about Mr. Jordan and his effect on the fantasy genre. Harriet wanted me to be part of it, and I was very happy to do so. (David Drake also flew in to sit on the panel. I know it was video taped; I don't know if it will get posted anywhere. If it does, I'll try to get a link up here for you all.)
Regardless, it's been a busy few days. I flew out on Monday and have to be back on Thursday to teach my class. However, we've put our time to very good use, working out the outline for Book Twelve. (There were some holes in the plot and questions about characters we needed to work through.) Maria put it best with some of these holes: It's like we're putting together a jigsaw. We need to sift through Mr. Jordan's notes and figure out what he wanted to have happen, then figure out the best way to make it happen.
This, of course, is only for the sections that are more ambiguous. We're doing our best to make certain this book has as much of Mr. Jordan in it as possible.
Family, friends and fans of fantasy gathered at The Citadel on Tuesday 8 April 2008 to dedicate a permanent memorial to my brother/cousin, James Oliver Rigney, Jr. This was a celebration of Jim's life and his work. I would be lying were I to tell you I was looking forward to the event. We had assembled only a few weeks earlier at the Citadel to induct Jim into the South Carolina Author's Hall of Fame. That evening had propelled me back to the awful moments in September when we lost Jim. Both Harriet and I were in dread of the same happening yet again. It didn't. Rather the opposite.
Harriet had told us all, Onward, still she and I (and I'm sure the rest of the family) were mired in that part of grieving that causes us to hang on, denial. Only a day before, Harriet had rolled up her sleeves and dove headlong into the first chapter of A Memory of Light. She, Jim's loyal staff and Brandon were hard at work on the book. She called me to share that and her excitement was obvious. She sounded like a new woman. Harriet told me that she finally knew that Jim wasn't coming back. That doesn't mean that she doesn't still hurt. The hurt will never totally subside, but now it doesn't interfere with going "onward". Indeed it helps to maintain purpose and focus.
I teased you before with A Memory of Light. You all know the timing, and that hasn't changed. But as I listened in on the exchange between Harriet, Maria (a walking dictionary of the books), Alan and Brandon, I couldn't help but get even more excited. You all know that Jim told me in great detail, the bones of the book and very vividly described the last scene. Still, listening to the team working collectively on the minute details, hearing the excitement in their voices, feeling the electricity in the room made me want to stay till we were done. I lingered for a moment before leaving watching them sitting around the dining room table where we had shared so many meals, stories and good times. As with most families, our family members have assumed places at the table where we normally sit. I smiled when it struck me that sitting in Jim's place was the man tapped to finish Jim's work, Brandon. I'm sure Jim was smiling too. Onward!
4th of 3
Jim's memorial case was put on permanent display in The Citadel library on the 8th of this month. It's a beautiful piece of work, and is probably worth more than some of the houses in the neighborhood. On display are a variety of artifacts representing different periods of Jim's life, and include photographs, articles of clothing and accessories, weapons, everything one would expect to give insight into the personality and experiences of this complex and fascinating individual.
Jim's Harriet convened a panel to discuss his life and literary works before an audience that filled one large section of the library. The panel was comprised of [I'm doing this in order of position, from the left, in the photo shown above] David Drake, famous author of fantasy and military science fiction, and friend/admirer of Jim and Harriet's for many years; Brandon Sanderson, talented young fantasy writer who was selected to finish the last volume in the Wheel of Time series; Michael Livingston, Assistant Professor of English at The Citadel, specialist in medieval studies and author in his own right, who is dedicated to ensuring that Robert Jordan's work be recognized by scholars to be among the masterpieces of world mythology; and, standing, Harriet. The discussion lasted about a hour, and included questions and comments from the audience. All in all, it was a stimulating evening, a fitting tribute to Jim, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. It also gave Brandon the opportunity to say for the first time, "Read and Find Out."
That's a great question, one I'd actually never been asked. So, here's my response:
Who would I have had write it? Well, I'm torn. There are a lot of great authors out there.
I think George R. R. Martin could have done it—he's probably the most skilled epic fantasy writer on the market right now. But I don't know that his style matches Mr. Jordan's very well. I'm sure he could adapt, but I think his fans would have been angry if he'd taken the project. After all, there's a long gap of time between his recent novels.
David Farland is an excellent writer of fantasy. I think he could have done it. The same goes for L.E. Modesitt Jr. Other possibilities would be Robin Hobb or Patrick Rothfuss. (Of course, those are just a list of some of my favorite fantasy authors, so maybe I'm answering the question in the wrong way.)
In the end, I'd probably have chosen Tad Williams. I think that he'd have been a great match for the series, and I'm a fan of his work.
I think I'll add this part for the blog post. It's not the same question, but some have asked similar ones, so I figured I'd get to it here.
Some think that Harriet should have just finished it herself, or perhaps published the notes as-is. I don't think either of these options would have been good ones. Harriet is one of the most well-respected editors in the business, but editing is a very different skill from writing. I think she'll have MORE of an influence on this book (making it feel like it should) by editing it, just as she edited the previous volumes.
And publishing the notes . . . well, as an author, I don't know if I can explain exactly how uncomfortable this would make me. It would be like displaying compromising pictures of a person against their will. I show my unfinished books to people, but only in controlled circumstances. To display Robert Jordan's unfinished work like that instead of the final book would, I think, have been very unfulfilling to fans and against the master's own will.
Perhaps once the finished product is out there, Harriet will decide to release the notes in some form. (Actually, I'm hoping that she will.) That will be different. People will already have been able to experience the end of the series, and Mr. Jordan's vision, in a complete way. Releasing them before—or instead of the book itself—would have been a very wrong move, I think.
Warbreaker 6.0 is done! I worked on it a good ten hours today, and managed to push through to the ending. I'm too tired right now to post it, but I'll get it up early next week. The revision took a little longer than I would have wanted—almost three weeks—but it feels very good to have it done and off the plate.
That leaves only a couple of impending time-stealers from A Memory of Light. I'll need to do draft work on Alcatraz Three sometime in September, though that should be VERY quick. (It's one fifth the size of Warbreaker, and there is a lot less to do on it.) I'll also need to do the copyedit for Warbreaker; that should come sometime in November, and should take me about a week. Other than that, there are two convention visits (Worldcon and Dragon*con) and the book tour in October that will be bumps in the road. However, I'm confident that I can get a good chunk more written before Worldcon even arrives.
Next on the plate is to do a couple solid drafts on the 25% of A Memory of Light which I've finished. I need to get it into a state that Harriet can look at and send it too her as soon as possible, as this chunk threatens to be the one that could need the most revisions. How well she thinks I did on these pages will be a very good barometer of how much draft work I'll have to do on the entire book once it's complete.
However, I do intend to divide my time between that revision and—occasionally—dipping into writing some new words. So the percentage bar should start moving again next week, if slowly at first while I spend a lot of time drafting.
Moshe starts off the panel asking Tom to talk about how The Wheel of Time got started. Tom says that the story begins with Harriet. Tom was publisher of the Tempo imprint for Grosset & Dunlap back in the ’70s, and Harriet was his top editor. They did so well with Tempo that Grosset & Dunlap went out and bought SF publisher Ace for them to run. Their success continued at Ace, and Tom brought in an editor named Jim Baen to work under Harriet. Sales volume doubled.
Soon after this, though, Harriet’s parents died and she inherited the family house in downtown Charleston—with a 500-square-foot walled garden, a gardener, a maid, and a cook who had been with the family for years. “Harriet is a Southern Princess,” Tom says. Harriet was divorced and wanted to go home to Charleston to raise her son. Tom didn’t want to lose her as an editor, so Popham Press was created. Harriet acquired and edited books down in Charleston, and production and marketing were done by Ace under a profit-sharing agreement. “It was telecommuting before the word was invented,” Tom says.
Harriet met Jim Rigney in a local bookstore there in Charleston. Jim was an engineer in atomic submarines who had been injured, and while he was recuperating, he was writing. The bookstore owner knew Harriet was an editor, and he thought the two of them should meet, so he introduced them.
Jim wrote a book called The Fallon Blood to romanticize a part of U.S. history he felt had been overlooked in popular culture—the Southern role in the Revolutionary War (Swamp Fox, etc.). He decided that he would publish his books under pseudonyms, and use a different one for each series. He used the name Reagan O’Neal for the Fallon books.
Then Grosset & Dunlap started having problems and they brought in a “financial guy” to run the company. He decided that they should only publish bestsellers. This is part of the reason Tom left to found Tor Books. The opportunity came up for Tor to publish some Conan novels, one of which would be a novelization of the Conan the Destroyer movie. Jim Rigney was interested in doing the book and some other Conan novels, and the pseudonym he picked for them was Robert Jordan. He also took over editing some sword & sorcery books for Tor.
The death of Robert Jordan wasn’t an opportunity. It was a tragedy.
Elise talks about how she saw Brandon’s blog post eulogizing Jim, and it immediately struck her that she needed to print it out. She gave it to Harriet, saying, “You have to read this.” Later that day she saw Harriet reading the post out loud to others of Jim’s friends. [I spoke with Elise right after the panel, and she added lots of fascinating details. I looked around to see if she’s shared her telling of this story anywhere online, but didn’t find anything. I hope that she will share it sometime, because it’s a great story from a fascinating woman.]
Brandon got a voicemail from Harriet that said, “Please call me back. I want to talk to you about something.” Brandon called back and couldn’t catch Harriet at home for several hours. He called Tor, and Moshe wasn’t in, but he got in touch with Patrick. Patrick said, “It’s what you probably think it is. I’ll make sure Harriet calls you back.”
Harriet did call back, and she told Brandon that she was considering several writers to finish the last book of the Wheel of Time and wanted to know if he was interested in being considered. Brandon’s first reaction was to think, “Only Robert Jordan can write this book.” His second thought was, “If somebody else is going to write it, I want it to be me.” Up until this point, Brandon had been worried about who was going to finish the series—as a lot of fans were worrying. Brandon knew that as a fan of the series, he would write it with the needs of the series in mind and not try to take it his own direction.
Tom [at the panel] says that the pick of who to finish the series was Harriet’s pick and no one but her should make it. But in this case he agrees with her choice of Brandon. Harriet told him that Brandon was her first choice for the job.
Fifthly, I've finished the revision of A Memory of Light Part One, which tops out at around 250,000 words. I then sent that chunk off to Harriet for review. A lot of you have emailed to ask me what she thought of what I'd written so far. Well, this is the first sizable chunk of writing she's seen on the book, so the honest truth is that I don't know yet! I'm nervous, as can be expected. It could be months before she gets back on those pages, though. 250k is a LOT of writing. In a lot of genres, that alone would be nearly three books worth of material. Here, it's just one portion of the novel.
Sixthly, that means it's time for me to zip on over and finish the two other edits I need to do this year. I warned you about these back in June. One is the Warbreaker Copyedit, the other is the Alcatraz Three final draft. I dove into Alcatraz last night, and the revision is going very quick and easy. I suspect that I'll be done with it by the end of the week, or early next week at the latest. The Warbreaker edit will take a tad longer, but I plan to be done with it by the time I leave on tour. That leaves me with two and a half months to finish the other 150k of A Memory of Light and meet my goal of 400k by December. It's doable, but will be close, with the book tour distracting me. Keep an eye on the website to watch and see if I make it!
People have already started emailing me about this.
My response is . . . huzzah! Congratulations Harriet! I know that things have been stalled for a long time on this front, and while she mentioned to me that something like this might be coming, I didn't think it would be so soon.
I'm afraid I'm not the one to ask about specifics, however. Even if I knew them, I wouldn't be comfortable sharing them. But I'm sure more will be coming in the future. All I will say is to remember that things like this tend to move very slowly. I hope that won't be the case here, but chances are good that it will be many years before we actually get to see the movie.
Now, back to work on Book Twelve. . . .
I've thought a lot about this over the last year. I've spoken to Harriet and considered. I've come to discover a little more about the process behind how I was chosen.
Why me? I think foremost, because Harriet liked my work. But she'd also read the thoughts I'd written on Mr. Jordan's passing. She knew I had been heavily influenced by the series that is The Wheel of Time. These aren't just books. There's something about them, something endearing and enduring. Something that draws people into fan communities and makes friends talk with friends about them. There are a lot of bestselling series out there, but there isn't a single one in my knowledge that has prompted the level of passion from the readers that these have.
The fans have been waiting for a long, long time to get this book. I've been waiting a long, long time. I was a fan from the get-go; I read The Eye of the World when it was first released. I think that in order to get this book done in a reasonable amount of time, they needed to pick someone who was already familiar with the series. Someone who knew their Aelfinn from their Eelfinn and who could explain Rand's family tree. (At least on a good day. It still makes my brain get in a knot when I think about who Slayer is and how he relates to the various characters. . . .)
This is a good one to answer now, since I HAVE read the outline (obviously.) Actually, there's a good story here. When I first went to visit Harriet, I recall walking in the door and—even before eating—asking if I could have two things. The ending Jim wrote (he finished the last part of the book himself) and the answer to who killed Asmodean.
I wish it were possible for me to express just how much I enjoyed reading those final written words that Mr. Jordan left behind. I was satisfied. I think that's the perfect word for it. Satisfied. It ends the way it should. Not, perhaps, the way I would have guessed—or even the way you have guessed. But it's the RIGHT ending. I was very pleased.
And it made me sleep a lot more easily once I got to see that the ending was there, and that I wouldn't have to do that part myself. I'm a 'goal driven' writer. I develop an outline for myself that generally focuses on my ending, and then my writing pushes me toward that goal. Already having the ending makes this book possible.
I guess the only other thing I'd like to note that I was feeling was this: Reverence. This is the last work of the master. It's like holding a play penned by Shakespeare himself—one that nobody else has read, and that you get to perform for the first time.
Also, many of you have asked if I'd gotten a response from Harriet on the pages I turned in. I have, but it's not that exciting to hear about. You see, I wanted to remained focused on finishing the book, and I know that if I start getting revision notes, it will draw my focus back to the parts I've already written. I can't afford that distraction unless the parts I've written are so terrible that we need to rethink how I'm approaching this book. So, I have asked to not get any revision notes until I've at least hit the 400k mark. All I wanted to know was "Should I keep going, or are there big troubles?" The response was an enthusiastic keep going.
This book is going to take a LOT of revision. I know ahead of time that there are going to be big swaths that will need to be rewritten. But as long as what I'm turning in is pleasing enough to be workable, it's important to keep moving forward. I'm like that in writing; I like to have a rough draft to work on, rather than turning my attention back to previous sections before finishing. I need to keep momentum up. So, honestly, you know as much as I do at this point. She's pleased, but undoubtedly has large revision requests.
Another one I can answer now that I couldn't before, as I hadn't seen the notes.
However, it's still a tough one to answer. How much do I have to make up? A lot in some places, very little in others. The interview mentioned an 'outline' above. That's a little bit of an understatement regarding what was left. The things mentioned in this question itself are more accurate.
My goal is to retain as much of his own writing as possible, and then fill in the blanks myself. As I've promised Harriet not to talk about these things until the book is out, I feel I can't give specifics right now. Know that there are large swaths of writing to do on my own, and yet even then I feel his hand on my shoulder. Every hole has an entry point and an exit point. I know where the characters are, and I know where they have to go. Sometimes it's my choice on how to get them there. Sometimes there are notes, sometimes there are actual chunks of writing. Sometimes there isn't anything but a quick notation in that character's file explaining their final state at the end of the book.
But this is Robert Jordan's book, not my own. I keep saying that, and I don't want the readers to think I'm approaching it any other way. It's his story, his writing, and his vision.
I honestly didn't know what to expect, so I have trouble answering this question, though many people ask it of me at signings. Let me tell you this: Writing this book is difficult. It's the good kind of difficult, the kind that makes you stretch and improve in leaps and bounds, but it is TOUGH. Keeping track of all of the side character and sub-plots is a real challenge, and trying to stay true to the soul of the Wheel of Time while adapting my own style to something appropriate for this book has been even more of one.
I'm loving working on it. There are many who think it might be easier to write this book than one of my own (since there is an outline and the worldbuilding is done.) However, I think that it's much, much more difficult. When it comes time to use a side character, I can't simply make up their personality and fit them into the plot—I have to research how they've thought, talked, and acted in the past, then incorporate that. I have to be careful what I add as I can't contradict the plotting from books past. And beyond that, there is a huge level of expectation and hope resting upon this novel. My own, that of Harriet, and that of all of you readers who have been waiting for almost twenty years to read.
This all makes the book tough to write. But, as I said, it's the good kind of tough. I started writing fantasy in the first place because I think it's one of the most challenging genres to write in, and the prospect of working on this book still excites me.
Sorry, but I really have no firm idea on this. I'm still hoping to get to 400k by December 31st. (Watch the website and see if I make it—it's going to be very close. I could make it still, but it will take some hard core writing through December.) At that point, I think it will be time to fly out and see Harriet again to go over the outline for the remaining portion of the book. (What we talked about during my last visit in April will bring us right up to about the point where I'll be ending in December.) At that point, we'll decide whether to press forward with the rough draft until the book is done or do some heavy revising on the first 400k to stabilize it before moving on. We'll have to talk this through, as I can't really decide which would be better. I'm of two minds on it.
If I press forward, I could have the book finished by March or April. If we revise, it will probably be until June or July. But even that is probably an optimistic guess, since I have no idea how much time the book will need to spend in revision.
I keep saying that I'd like to have the book out by November next year, and that's not outside reason. But we'll have to see. The last thing we want to do is release a book that feels rushed and thrown together. One thing I do know is that Tor is poised to get it through production at record speeds once we turn it in.
When bestselling author Robert Jordan died last year from a rare blood disease, fans of his popular series, "The Wheel of Time," braced themselves for the possibility that his 12-book fantasy world would end one volume shy of completion.
Before his death, Jordan, whose real name was James Rigney, Jr., signed over the book rights to his wife, Harriet, and requested that she find a capable author to finish the series for his fans. After his death, a eulogy posted on the website of Brandon Sanderson caught the attention of Harriet Rigney, and a successor was named. Rigney announced that Sanderson, a 32-year-old fantasy writer from Provo, Utah, would complete the final book, slated to be released in 2009.
It has become a tradition for me to auction off naming rights to one of the characters in each of my novels. In the past, I've done this locally, with a church group. People would 'bid' cans of food that they would donate to the local food bank, and the winner got to name a character in one of my books. The first appearance was Lord Penrod, named for a woman who's last name was—not surprisingly—Penrod. Lord Yomen in The Hero of Ages changed the tradition slightly in that I started describing the character to look like the person who won the auction. Warbreaker's Llarimar is another of these winners.
When I started working on the Wheel of Time novel, it was my assumption that I would forego the tradition for this particular book. I wasn't planning on doing anything. But then the awesome Pat Rothfuss (by the way, Pat, I'm going to answer your email soon. Sorry—I got distracted. Bad Brandon!) started up a charity drive this Christmas. This was a particularly bad year for charities, as a lot of people were tightening their belts and cutting their spending. I read several articles talking about how difficult a year it was going to be for a lot of people in underdeveloped areas of the world, where the economy doesn't just mean fewer trips to the movies—it means children starve because there isn't enough food to be had.
At that moment, I realized that we had something very special in the Wheel of Time book—an opportunity that shouldn't be passed up. I wrote an email to Harriet, telling her about the charity that Pat had been using for his drive. It's called Heifer International. Instead of just giving food to the poor, they go into developing countries, give them animals to care for, and teach them how to use the livestock to create a sustainable source of income and food. It's a fantastic idea, and a worthy charity. I asked Harriet if she'd mind me auctioning off a character in A Memory of Light. She was behind that 100%. As some of you may know, Robert Jordan did something like this once, giving a walk-on part to a fan in one of the books. There are a LOT of people who need to be named in this story, and so why not let a few of those names and descriptions go to real people?
Setting up the infrastructure for this took long enough that we couldn't just make it part of Pat's charity drive, but he was the inspiration, so he gets a bow and a tip of the hat. I talked with Melissa over at TarValon.net—which deals with the charitable work among Wheel of Time fandom—and we kicked around some ideas. Here's what we came up with.
You can appear in the Wheel of Time. There are two ways.
First, you can bid in the silent auction. This is just what it sounds like—you bid an amount, if you bid the most, you get a walk-on part in the Wheel of Time. I promise you a few lines of dialogue at least, and I'll let you pick your nationality and affiliation. We get veto rights over the spelling of your name—it has to fit the world and culture—but other than that, you've got a lot of control over what your character will look like and act like. The bidding ends early April; details are on TarValon's website.
However, Melissa and I realized that this auction would probably go high, probably into the thousands of dollars. We'd get one huge donation, but a lot of people would feel left out. And so we decided to create a SECOND way that you could appear in the Wheel of Time. During the Last Battle, there will be a lot of groups fighting the Shadow. Well, we're going to develop and include a special group to represent the Wheel of Time fans who donate in our charity drive. If you can't participate in the auction, you can still donate a few bucks to Heifer through Tar Valon's link, and you can consider yourself part of this group. We're letting the fans vote on what the group's nationality is, and from there we'll probably let the fans pick the banner for the group as well. This group will be written into the novel (there are several places where I'll need to be doing this and inserting various groups of people) as participating. Several of the officers of the group will be mentioned by name. Those officers names will be drawn randomly from everyone who donated at least $20 to the fund raiser through TarValon.net.
I hope that's not too confusing—there's another explanation on the official rules page, which I suggest you look over. In short, you can do one of two things (or both:)
1) Bid on the naming rights through the auction.2) Make a donation and join those fighting in the Last Battle. (With a $20 minimum donation getting you a shot at appearing in the book.)
This is the sort of opportunity that doesn't come around very often. Happy bidding, and thank you.
And a little reader mail item. WoT reader Colby wrote me and asked:
Just curious. When will you start releasing the names of some of the chapters of A Memory of Light?
Well, Colby, I'm honestly not sure. These could get tweaked and edited right up until the book release, and so letting them out too early would be a mistake. I'm forbidden by contract on this project from posting anything specific like that on my blog. Beyond that, Harriet will be doing most of the actual chapter naming. She mentioned she'd done this on a lot of the previous novels, and so I'm happy to let her do it on this book. It will help give the book the right feel.
If anyone were going to release chapter titles ahead of time, it would be through Tor's website, not my own. The same goes for the prologue. In the past, it has been released early, and that might happen with this one too. But if it does, look toward Tor.com for the appearance. Sorry to be so clandestine on these issues, but it really is for the best. Everyone's excited about this book, but there are a LOT of readers who don't want anything spoiled. We have to respect their wishes, and the wishes of the Jordan Estate, which would prefer most of this be kept under wraps until later this year.
My new computer is shaping up quite well. I'm sorry, Mac lovers, but I'm firmly gripped by Microsoft. I don't philosophically oppose your OS, but Windows is what I know, and I've never had cause to change. (My wife loves her Mac, though.) Beyond that, I've got a shiny new version of Office 2007 courtesy of a certain individual that I've been playing with lately.
Though if it sates any of you Mac folks, I DID work on a little of A Memory of Light on my wife's computer during some outages where my computer wasn't reliable. So you can content yourselves that a portion of the book was indeed written on your beloved OS.
Annotation coming soon. I've got a big deadline on these A Memory of Light revisions coming in April, and so I've been pulling some long hours working on revisions. I can't really talk about a release date or anything else right now. Harriet has asked me just to focus on the revisions. I think she'll be making a specific announcement about these things come April, perhaps at JordanCon.
I've been getting a lot of reader mail like the following lately:
Mr. Sanderson, I'm sorry if I am a little behind on the news, but I haven't heard anything about A Memory of Light and was wondering if it has already been finished and we're waiting for a release date or if it has already been released. Please let me know, I'm very eager to finish the series, thank you.
There's been a lot of buzz going around about the book lately, particularly since Tor released this widget which makes some implication about the release date of the book.
I asked Harriet if I should say anything about all of this, and her response to me was essentially "Keep on working. We'll worry about announcements."
So . . . well, I'm going to leave it to her and to Tor. Nothing official has been said yet, though I think that's probably because the best way to make WoT-related announcements is being discussed. JordanCon is coming up next month, and I think it's likely that Harriet and Tor would rather wait until then to make any big revelations.
Here's what I can say: I have not finished the complete manuscript. I've got about 450k words done of what I still plan to be an eventual 750k (or more) manuscript. I've spent most of January and all of February doing revisions. Harriet is pleased with what she has seen so far, but any manuscript needs a lot of work revising. Right now, we are focusing on making what we have done as good as it can be.
I will post here when official announcements are made. They'll probably appear first on Tor.com or Dragonmount. I wouldn't expect anything to appear until the first week in April at the earliest. (Third week, during JordanCon, being even more likely.)
I'm making progress on these A Memory of Light edits, slowly but surely. It's a lot more time-consuming than other books I've edited for several reasons. First off, I've got a lot of input coming in from Charleston. I receive feedback on every chapter not just from Harriet, but from Alan and Maria as well. It's all very good advice, but it's like juggling three editors on the same project, each with different specialties. The sheer organization of it all can be daunting sometimes.
Recently—today and yesterday—I spent producing some new material for the first time in a while. One of the issues with revisions like this is that sometimes, Harriet and the others point out holes in the story which require new scenes to patch properly. As such, I've been 'spot writing' so to speak, crafting new scenes. Some are holes I knew were there and intended to patch, others were holes I left thinking that they would be all right—that readers would make the leap from one scene to another without the bridge scene. In one case, it's a scene I hadn't realized everyone would want to see, but they really do, so I've started work on it. I expect this to continue for the next few days, so you might see the main "A Memory of Light" progress bar inch up a few points. It's at 110% right now. (Which means 440k of completed manuscript, not counting some scenes that Mr. Jordan worked on that haven't yet happened in the chronology.)
The basic estimate for the final length remains the same as it has since about last summer. 750k words. I'll let you know if I think that needs to be revised, but I really won't be able to guess until I've completed more of the manuscript. As I've warned, also, keep an eye on Dragonmount and Tor.com for official announcements related to the Wheel of Time. I'd guess that something will pop up in the next several weeks.
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.
All right, now that the press release is out, let's talk about some things. I like to be transparent with my readers, whenever possible, and I feel it's time to let you in more fully on what has been happening this last year.
Pull up a chair. Get some hot cocoa. This is going to take a while. I'm a fantasy author. We have trouble with the concept of brevity.
In order to explain to you how this book came to be split as it did, I want to step you through some events of the last sixteen months. That way, you can see what led us up to making the decisions we did. You might still disagree with those decisions (many of you will.) But at least you'll understand the rationale behind them.
Before we start, however, let me explain that I only saw one piece of what was going on. As I've stated before, Harriet and Tom are the ones making decisions when it comes to publication issues. I've deferred to them. My input has by no means been ignored, but often I was so focused on the book that I didn't have the time or energy to do more than say "Harriet, I trust your decision. Go with what you feel is best." Therefore, some of what I say may be distorted through my own lens. I don't have the whole story, but I think I've got most of it.
Let's hop back to November of 2007. That's the month where I'd discovered for certain that I'd be the one finishing THE WHEEL OF TIME. I was excited, nervous, and daunted all at the same time—but today's blog post isn't about that aspect of the experience. Perhaps I'll have a chance to write more about it later.
The first discussion of length came in late November, early December during the contract negotiations for A Memory of Light. I say negotiations, though those 'negotiations' were really nothing more than Harriet's agents saying "Here's what we offer." And me saying to my agent "Sounds good. Say yes." I wasn't about to let the chance to work on this book slip away.
The contract stipulated that I was to provide a completed work which (including Mr. Jordan's written sections) was to be at least 200,000 words long. This sort of length provision isn't uncommon in contracts; it's there to make certain neither author nor publisher are surprised by the other's expectations. It's generally a ballpark figure, very flexible. I hadn't seen any of the materials for A Memory of Light at that point, so I essentially signed blind, saying yes to produce something "At least 200,000 words" in length.
I'm not sure what Harriet was expecting at that point for length. She was still coping with Mr. Jordan's death, and was focused on finding someone to complete A Memory of Light so that she could rest easier, knowing that it was being worked on. Remember, this was just months after Mr. Jordan passed away. I honestly don't think she was thinking about length or—really—anything other than making certain the book was in the right hands. She left it to my decision how to proceed once I was given the materials.
Around January or February, I posted on my blog that I was shooting for a 200k minimum. This surprised a lot of people, as 200k would not only have made A Memory of Light the shortest Wheel of Time book other than the prequel, it seemed a very small space in which to tie up the huge number of loose ends in the book. I wasn't focused on that at the moment; I was just passing along my thoughts on a minimum length. I think that I, at the time, hoped that we could do the book in around 250k. That was naive of me, but I honestly didn't want to drag this on for years and years. I wanted to get the readers the book they'd been waiting for as soon as possible.
At that point, I started reading through the series again. I did this with the notes and materials for the final book at hand, taking notes myself of what plotlines needed to be closed, which viewpoints needed resolution. The read-through took me until March of 2008. As I progressed through the series, I began to grasp the daunting nature of this book. How much there was to do, how many plotlines needed to be brought back together, the WEIGHT of it all was enormous.
April 2008. I had to make a decision. I realized that the book would be impossible to do in 200k. I'd begun to say on my blog that it would be at least 400k, but even that seemed a stretch. I looked over the outlines, both mine and Mr. Jordan's. I stared at them for a long time, thinking about the book. And this is where the first decision came in. Did I try to cram it into 400k? Or did I let it burgeon larger?
To get this into one book, I'd need to railroad the story from climax to climax. I'd have to ignore a lot of the smaller characters—and even some aspects of the larger characters. I just couldn't justify that. It wouldn't do the story justice. I cringed to consider what I would have to cut or ignore.
Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps readers would have preferred a single, condensed volume so that they at least knew what happened. But I just couldn't do it. The Wheel of Time deserved better.
This was not an easy choice. I knew it would anger some readers. I knew it would take a lot of time, and I would end up dedicating a great deal more of my life (and my family's life) to the Wheel of Time than I'd initially anticipated. At the very least, I was contemplating writing a book three to four times the length of the initial contract—essentially, doing four times the work for the exact same pay.
But this had never been about the pay for me. I'd been put in charge of this project. I wanted to do what I felt Mr. Jordan would have done. I felt, and feel, a debt to him for what he did with this series. He had promised readers a big, big book—not big for big's sake, but big because there was so much to do, so much to tie up. I decided that I would do whatever the story demanded, no matter how many words it would require, no matter how mad it made people. I would not artificially inflate the book—but I would treat each character, even the minor characters, with care and consideration.
I flew to Charleston that month and outlined my feelings on the various outlines for the different characters. The Charleston camp was cautiously enthusiastic; I don't know if they realized just how much work this would all take. I'm not sure if I even told them how many words I was starting to feel it would be. At this point, Harriet was pretty much letting me call the shots when it came to the actual drafting of the novel. Harriet is an editor; she works best when I provide material to her, then she works her magic to turn it from good to excellent. That meant I was in charge of getting material to her as I saw fit, then she would tell me if I was on target or needed to try again.
I had already set the progress bar at 400k words on my website. I started writing in earnest, and also started warning people that the book was likely going to run longer than my initial estimate. Perhaps much longer. Soon, I was saying 750k.
By this point, I'd already warned Tom and Harriet that I saw the length being very large, but I hadn't told Tom the 700-800k number. When I'd mentioned 400k to him once, he'd been wary. He explained to me that he felt 400k was unprintably large in today's publishing market. Things have changed since the 90's, and booksellers are increasingly frustrated with the fantasy genre, which tends to take up a lot of shelf space with very few books. There is constant pressure from the big chain bookstores to keep things smaller and thinner. When I'd turned in Mistborn 2 (revised and already trimmed) at 250k, production and marketing had nearly had a fit, complaining that the book would cost more to print than it would make. Tom approved the publication of the book anyway. (And fortunately we managed to fit it into enough pages—and sell enough copies—that it was still profitable.)
Anyway, Tom implied that 400k was what he saw as a cut off for length. Anything 300-350 could be one book, anything over 350 should be cut. (That's me guessing on things he said; he never gave those hardfast numbers, and I know there was probably some flexibility.) Anyway, Tom—like Harriet—wanted to wait and see what I was able to produce first. At this point, it was too early to begin talk of cutting the book. I'd barely written any of it.
I wrote all summer, and the next point of interest comes at Worldcon. Tom and I were on a panel together, talking about A Memory of Light. I noted that (by that point) I had around 250k written. He said something like "Ah, so you're almost done!" I looked chagrined and said "Actually, I feel that I'm only about 1/3 of the way there, Tom." He blinked, shocked, and then laughed a full bellied laugh. "It's happening again!" he exclaimed. "Jim sold me one book that somehow became three, and now it's happening again!"
Well, that was the first hint I had that this might be three books instead of two. I started to lobby Harriet subtly, pointing out that previous Wheel of Time books had been 380k, and perhaps that would be a good length for each Volume of A Memory of Light, if it was cut. I also indicated that I felt it would be really nice to keep volumes of the book published close together if, indeed, the book had to be split.
What I didn't realize was just how taxing this process was going to be. There's only so much one person can write in a year. Before working on A Memory of Light, my average wordcount for a year was around 300k. One 200k epic fantasy, then 50-100k on other projects. During 2008 I wrote over 400k—fully a third more than usual, and that was done with three months of my working time spent re-reading and taking notes on the Wheel of Time series. (Yes, it was easier because of materials left by Mr. Jordan. However, that was offset by the need to become an expert on thousands of characters, places, themes, and worldbuilding elements. All in all, even with outlines, notes, and written materials Mr. Jordan left, I'd say this was the most difficult 400k I've ever written.)
By December, after my book tour, I was pushing hard to even get 400k done. I still had this phantom hope that somehow, I'd be able to spend January, February, and March writing harder than I'd ever written before and somehow get to 750k by the March deadline that Tom had said was about the latest he could put a book into production and still have it out for the holidays.
In January, Tom called Harriet and they talked. At this point, I'd hit my 400k goal, and I knew that I was only about halfway done. (If even that far along.) Very little of that 400k had been revised or drafted. Tom and Harriet chatted, and several things came up. One of the most dominating points was this: it had been four years since the fans had been given Knife of Dreams. Tom felt that we NEEDED to provide them a book in 2009. They couldn't wait until I finished the entire volume to publish something.
Harriet called me and I finally agreed that I needed to stop work on writing new material. It was time to begin revising. That was, essentially, the decision to split the book. And I wasn't certain that we could simply print the 400k that I had written. There were scenes all over the place, and if we printed that portion as-is, it would cut off right in the middle of several plot arcs. The book just wouldn't be any fun to read. Beyond that, editing 400k would take too much time to have it done by April.
This is the second big decision. Perhaps you would have chosen differently. But let me outline the options as I see them. Pretend you're Tom Doherty or Harriet in January 2009, making the call on how to publish the book.
1) You can decide not to print anything until the entire novel is finished. That means letting Brandon write until the end, then revising the entire thing at once, followed by printing the book (either as one enormous volume or several chunks, released in quick succession.) Last summer and fall, this was what I was hoping we'd be able to do.
If you make this choice, the readers don't get a book in 2009. You're not sure when they'll get a book. Brandon took a year to write 400k words, and feels that he's around halfway done.
So, if you choose this option, let's say Brandon writes all 2009, delivers you a rough draft of a full, 800k book in 2010. 800k words would take roughly eight months to edit and revise. Production would take another eight months or so. (Minimum.) You'd be looking at releasing the book somewhere in summer 2011. Perhaps one volume in June and another in August.
2) You could publish the 400k as they are done right now. If you do this, the readers do not get a book in 2009. 400k would take roughly four months to revise (and that's rushing it), and you'd have to put the novel into production with a January or February 2010 release date. That's not too far off the November 2009 date you'd promised people, so maybe they would be satisfied. But you'd leave them with a story that literally cut off right in the middle of several plotlines, and which did not have tied up resolutions.
In this scenario, Brandon writes all through 2009, turns in the second half sometime around April or May 2010. It takes roughly four months to edit and revise that portion, and you're looking at a summer 2011 release for the second half. Maybe spring 2011. (This way, you get the whole thing to the readers a little bit faster than the other option because you have the luxury of putting one half through production while Brandon is writing the second half.)
However, in this scenario, you end up releasing two fractured books, and the bookstores are mad at you for their size. (Which may translate to the bookstores ordering fewer copies, and fans being mad because they can't find copies as easily as they want—this is what happened with Mistborn Two, by the way.). Beyond that, you missed releasing a book in the holiday season, instead putting one in the dead months of early 2010.
3) You could do what Tom did. You go to Brandon (or, in this case, to Harriet who goes to Brandon) and you say "You have 400k words. Is there a division point in there somewhere that you can cut the book and give us a novel with a strong climax and a natural story arc?"
I spent a few days in January looking over the material, and came to Tom and Harriet with a proposal. I had what I felt would make the best book possible, divided in a certain way, which came out to be around 275,000 words. It had several strong character arcs, it told a very good story, and it closed several important plot threads. I felt it would be an excellent book.
Now, this was longer than they'd wanted. They'd hoped I'd find them a cutting point at the 225k mark. But I didn't feel good about any cuts earlier than 275. In fact, I later took that 275,000 word book and I added an extra 25k in scenes (one's I'd been planning to write anyway, but decided would work better here in this chunk) in order to fill it out and make of it the most solid novel possible. Right now, the book sits at about 301,000 words—though that will fluctuate as I trim out some excess language here and there. I suspect the final product will be right around 300,000k words.
Now, let's assume you made this decision, just as Tom did. This is the ONLY case in which you get to keep your promise to the Wheel of Time readers and deliver a book in 2009. (Though, it took a LOT of work to get it ready. I've been pulling 14-16 hour days six days a week for the last three months.) In this scenario, you get to deliver them a solid book, rather than a fractured one.
But you are also splitting a book that Robert Jordan intended to be one book. (Tom and Harriet both have said they don't think he could have done it, or would have done it, given the chance.) A bigger problem is that you're releasing a book without knowing when you'll be able to release the next section. You aren't certain what to tell people when they ask how large a gap there will be between the books; it will depend on how long the next chunk is and when Brandon can finish it. (Plus, Brandon keeps increasing the final estimate, which—now that I've added some material to this book—indicates that the final product will easily be over 800k.)
So . . . how big will the gap be? Well, the honest truth is that I don't know. Tom has been telling other publishers and retailers that November 2009, 2010, 2011 seems like a safe bet. But that's just an estimate, erring on the side of caution. I'm pretty certain that we have to divide the book in three parts because of where I chose to make the split. There will be another good split at around the 600k mark.
If I had the next 300k or so done already, it would take me 4 months to revise it at the shortest. I feel that the next chunk is going to need a lot more revision than this one did. Partially because I cut into the 450k completed portion with the hacksaw and pulled out 275k. What's left over is ragged and in need of a lot of work. I'd say five months of revisions is more likely. So, if it were all done, we'd have the second book coming out five months after the first.
But it's not all done. It's around halfway done. I've got a lot of writing left to do—four to six months worth, I'd guess. By these estimates, we'll have another book ready to go to press, then, in February next year. That means a fall 2010 release. And if things continue as they have, the third book (none of which is written right now) would come out summer 2011 at the earliest.
And I guess that's what I'm trying to show you with all of this: No matter how the book is split, cut, or divided, the last portion wouldn't come out until 2011. Why? It goes back to that first decision I made, the one to write the book the length I felt it needed to be. And so, it's not the greedy publisher, stringing you along that is keeping you from reading the ending. It's not the fault of production taking a long time. The blame rests on me.
I am writing this book long. I'm writing it VERY long. Most books in most genres are around 100k long. I'm shooting for eight times that length. And one person can only produce so much material, particularly on a project like this. Writing this book, keeping all of these plot threads and characters straight, is like juggling boulders. It's hard, hard work.
You're getting a book this year. You'll get one next year. You'll get one the year after that. I don't know which months in 2010 or 2011 the books will come out. You can keep hope they'll be sooner, but you might want to listen to Tom's November, November estimate, as I feel it's the absolute latest you'd see the books.
I know some of you will be mad that it is getting split; I feel for you, and I hope to be able to persuade Tor and Harriet to publish a special edition omnibus some day. But . . . well, they're both convinced that it will be too long for that. I'm not going to fight for it right now; I'll wait until the books come out.
I will continue to fight to get the books released as quickly as is reasonable. But I have to write them first. You've been able to watch my progress bar; you know that I'm working and the book is getting written. I'm not going on vacations and living it up. I'm working. Hard. Sixty, seventy, sometimes eighty hour weeks.
I won't make you wait an undue amount of time. But please understand that some of the things you want are mutually exclusive. You want a high quality book that is of an enormous length published quickly. Get me a time machine and I'll see what I can do.
George Martin and Patrick Rothfuss have both spoken on this topic already, and both did it quite eloquently. Books, as opposed to a lot of other forms of mass media, are unique in that they rest solely on the production capabilities of one single person. A good day of writing for a lot of authors is about 1,000 words. And you're lucky to get 200 days of writing in a year, with all of the other demands (edits, copyedits, book tours, publicity events, school visits, etc.) that come your way. I tend to scale higher than the average, partially (I think) because of all those years I spent unpublished getting into the habit of constantly writing new books.
But even I can only do so much. We'll get these books to you. At the slowest, they will be November, November, November—meaning that they all come out in the space of two years. Perhaps it will be faster. If we can do them more quickly, and keep the quality up, I will continue to advocate for that. But I honestly don't know if I can do another two years like these last sixteen months. I'm exhausted. I've pushed very, very hard to get you a book in 2009 because you've been waiting so long. But I can't promise that I'll be able to keep the same schedule. Plus, I do have other commitments, contracts signed to other publishers, fans of other writings of mine who cannot be ignored. I'll need to write another Alcatraz book this year sometime. And I will have to do revisions on The Way of Kings, which I've stayed pretty quiet about. I'm planning to do these things during down time on A Memory of Light, when waiting for revision notes or the like. But I also can't afford to get burned out on The Wheel of Time. You deserve better than that.
Now, some words about titles. Where did The Gathering Storm come from? Well, in January where it was decided to split the book, I continued to advocate for something that would indicate that this was ONE book, split into three parts. (I still see it that way.) And so, I suggested that they all be named A Memory of Light with subtitles. I love the title A Memory of Light; I think it's poetic and appropriate. Plus, it was Mr. Jordan's title for the book. That alone is good enough reason to keep it.
And so, I suggested smaller, shorter, more generic sub-titles for each of the parts. With a long, evocative title like A Memory of Light as the supertitle, the subtitles needed to be shorter and more basic, as to not draw attention. The first of these was named Gathering Clouds by Maria's suggestion. Book two would be Shifting Winds, book three Tarmon Gai'don, all with the supertitle of A Memory of Light.
We proceeded with that as our plan for several months. And then, suddenly, Tom got word from marketing that the titles needed to change. The bookstores didn't like them. (You'll find that the bookstores control a lot in publishing. You'd be surprised at how often the decisions are made because of what they want.) In this case, the bookstores worried that having three books titled A Memory of Light would be too confusing for the computer system and the people doing the reordering. They asked for the supertitle to be cut, leaving us with the title Gathering Clouds.
I shot off an email to Harriet, explaining that I never intended that title to be the one that carried the book. It was too generic, too basic. She went to Tom with some suggestions for alternates, and The Gathering Storm was what they decided. This all happened in a matter of hours, most of it occurring before I got up in the morning. (I sent her an email at night, then by the time I rose, they'd made the decision out on the east coast.) Some materials had already gone out as Gathering Clouds, and I wonder if The Gathering Storm was chosen because it was similar. I know it was the one out of those suggested by Harriet that Tom liked the most. It's somewhat standard, but also safe.
That title swap came at me rather fast. I plan to be ready for the next one, so hopefully we'll have the time to produce something a little more evocative. I don't mind The Gathering Storm, but I do realize that it is one of the more bland Wheel of Time titles. (My favorite title, by the way, is Crossroads of Twilight.)
I think that brings you all up to speed. The question many of you are probably wondering now is "What did you decide to put in this book, and what did you decide to hold off until the next one?" I can't answer that yet—perhaps when the time gets closer, I'll be able to hint at what was included and what was saved. But know that I believe strongly in the place where the cut was made, and I love how the final product has turned out.
I also want to mention that one of my main goals in division was to make certain that most (if not all) of the major characters had screen time. Some have more than others, but almost everyone has at least a couple of chapters. (In other words, it wasn't cut like A Feast for Crows/A Dance with Dragons with half the viewpoints in one and half in the other.) However, some of the important things you are waiting for had—by necessity—to be reserved for the second book.
I'm almost done with the revisions on the first part. I expect to start writing new material for part two sometime in April. The progress bar will inch forward again when that happens.
Anyway, that's the story of how this all came to be. I don't expect you all to be happy with the choices we've made, but I do want you to understand where we are coming from. I have to trust my instincts as a writer. They are what got me here, they are what made Harriet choose me to work on this book, and it would be a mistake for me to ignore them now.
Those instincts say that we've made the best choices, and I think The Gathering Storm will vindicate those choices. So, if possible, I ask you to hold back on some of your worry and/or anger until you at least read the book this November. As always, the work itself is the best argument for why I do what I do.
This weekend I'll be in Atlanta for JordanCon. I'm expecting to be so busy with the convention that I didn't set up any kind of external signing. I'm still thinking of heading to Atlanta for DragonCon this year, though, and if I do, I'll try to do an off-site signing for those who are interested. However, if you really want something signed—or want to hear about A Memory of Light (including, I believe, an advance reading from The Gathering Storm) come by JordanCon. I think it's going to be very fun.
The Gathering Storm goes very well; I'm still working through last-stage revisions from Harriet, Alan, and Maria. I finished Alan's today and sent them off to him for commentary. Harriet's are almost all inputted, and I'm about 3/4 the way through Maria's. I should have this all wrapped up by the time JordanCon rolls around.
Now, on to The Gathering Storm news. The last few weeks have consisted of entering final tweaks, as requested by Team Charleston as they read the final (but not really final) draft of the book. I got these all in (doing the last of them on the flight to Atlanta—note to self, next time get Business class, as writing on a full sized laptop in coach is killer. When I got to Atlanta, I found that Harriet had brought me line edits. This is where the editor goes line by line in the book and tweaks the language, fixing typos but also revising for clarity, detail, and general readability. Harriet is very good at this, but it meant another few solid days of revision for me, as I needed to enter the changes into the manuscript. It's better for me to do this myself, rather than just having a typist do it, as line edits are often meant to be suggestions or nudges, rather than always just straight revisions. In almost all cases, I just enter the line edits as marked—but there are places where a revision from Harriet sparks me to do a tweak in a different way that I think will help more, and I also can make arguments for certain changes not being made if I feel they change the meaning too much or do something I think Harriet might not have expected. (In some places of a manuscript, a certain phrase will be used intentionally in order to connect to a different phrase somewhere else, and you have to watch how you tweak these.)
Anyway, I finished these yesterday, then made a few spot changes and sent the book off to Charleston. So, in short, the final, final edit is in—though now it goes to copyedit. Copyedit is where a different editor reads through focusing specifically on continuity and looking for typos. Very little is actually changed editorially. I can still make changes when the copyedit comes back, but I'll have to do them on-paper rather than electronically. (Actually, Robert Jordan's editorial assistant Maria will probably handle the copyedit herself, so I'll send any last-minute changes I want to her for insertion.)
That's probably more detail than you needed to know. I guess the thing that it would be good for you to know is that the book is now officially 'In production.' That means we've hit our deadline, and the boulder—so long perched on the peak—has started rolling down the cliff. You no longer have to worry if some phantom problem is going to delay it. It is in, and it is coming.
All right. I've had a few weeks to rest after the marathon working of Feb, March, and early April. So, it's time to start thinking about the future. The Gathering Storm is turned in. (Quick answers on two questions: First, I don't know if there will be an electronic copy released. Tor doesn't own electronic rights, these belong to Harriet, and I don't know what she and her agent have decided yet. Second, there should be an audiobook released, very close to the initial release of the hardcover.) With The Gathering Storm done, it's time to look at the projects on my plate.
PROJECT ONE: A MEMORY OF LIGHT PART TWO (The working title is Shifting Winds, which WILL change.)
I've gone ahead and added a progress bar for this one. As I've said before, I've got a large chunk of it written—but that writing needs quite a bit of work. I pulled a lot of the cleanest, finished sections to use in The Gathering Storm. The progress bar says 49% completed, but I'd actually put that closer to 25%, if we look at work to be done and not just raw pagecount.
Obviously, Shifting Winds is the most important project for me to finish. It will be getting the largest share of my attention during the next year, and I'm going to do everything in my power to turn it in a little earlier than the previous book, perhaps even allowing for a release earlier next year than November. (I don't know if getting it in early will help that or not, but I'll try.) My self-imposed goal for finishing Winds is November 3rd, so I'll have the rough draft done and turned in before I leave on tour.
Harriet is a world class editor–she really is great at what she does. I’ve had several opportunities to meet with her in person–she, and Mr. Jordan’s staff, are awesome. His two assistants, Maria and Alan, are continuity experts and went through my completed manuscript pages fact checking and giving feedback on general issues as well. I had worried that having three editors on this project would make it more difficult to work on, but so far it’s simply been a big help. There is so much going on in this book and this world that having the extra sets of eyes is very helpful.
I’ve really enjoyed the process. At the beginning, after I read all the notes and explained to the team my feelings on the various outlines for the different characters, Harriet pretty much let me call the shots when it came to the actual drafting of the novel. As an editor, she works best when I provide material to her, then she works her magic to turn it from good to excellent. When I turned manuscript pages in, and she came back to me with line edits—where she goes through and tweaks the language of the book—it quickly became obvious what a pro she is and how much she loves this series. It’s truly an honor to work with her.
I think it's unlikely to see the rough drafts. Because I know that the team working on the Wheel of Time—Harriet and those—are somewhat more...skeptical is the wrong word. Robert Jordan didn't like to show his work to people until it was on the twelfth draft. Harriet didn't see it until it'd gone through twelve drafts. He was very...Didn't like to show unfinished work to people. That was just how he was. Different authors approach things different ways. With Warbreaker, my own book, I put the first draft on my web site. I do stuff like that. I work from a different kind of angle. I don't know what it is.
But I'm going to probably push to get her to let me publish the notes, or to publish a book talking that includes part of the notes along with a discussion of how I translated the notes to book. Something like that. I would like to do something like that. The call will be Harriet's. And I probably won't even talk about it with her until the book is done. 'Till, you know, we've got the Wheel of Time done. Then I might approach her and say, "Hey, would you mind if I did something like this? Would you be interested?" Because I think the fans would really like to see it.
I think it would be definitely an interesting idea.
You mentioned the three books. And, I mean...The Wheel of Time is huge. There's lots of different places we could go. They are not places that I think we're going to go. Because we don't want to see this turn into something...Not to say anything against the media properties, that's fine, but we don't want to see the Wheel of Time become that. Robert Jordan left notes on this book, which has become three, but it's become three that are collectively of the same length as the book he was going to write. That's the thing you have to remember with the split. He was writing an 800,000 word book, I'm writing an 800,000 word book—8 to 900,000 word book—Tor has decided to slice it up and release it in three segments. It's not like I've decided to write two extra books. I'm writing the one book and I'm allowing them to split it into three. I don't really have the call on it. But that's something different.
He did leave notes on a few other things. One was called the Outriggers, which he had talked about with his fans writing. He actually had a contract with Tor. I don't know what happened with those, but that was a trilogy that he had planned to write that he had notes for. And then he also had notes for two additional prequels. He had done... He had told Tor he wanted to do three of those; he wrote one of them called New Spring. There was going to be one that was focusing on Tam's story—that's Rand's father—and he was going to do one that was essentially the sequel to New Spring, with Moiraine, how she arrived at the—how she and Lan arrived in the Two Rivers. That sort of thing. And those were planned. There's a chance you'll see those. A chance. My suggestion to Harriet has been to, you know, to be very careful. We don't want to exploit the Wheel of Time to make it go on and on and on. And so, while you may see those books—I know Tom Doherty is pushing for them a lot—we're not going to go back and do the prequel about Lews Therin. We're not going to do a prequel about Artur Hawkwing. We're not going to... You're not going to see this—
—shared world sort of thing. And so, if Harriet asks me to do those, I probably will. Meaning the Outriggers or the prequels. Because I don't want anyone else to do them, if that makes any sense.
Since you've taken over, it's a little bit now your baby.
Yeah. But if we do those, there'll be years between. If that makes any sense.
I think there has to be, yeah.
I mean, I got into this because I want to write books. My own stories. And that's what I'm excited about, that's what I do, and I'm really having a blast doing that. And so...the Wheel of Time is an exception. It's a special thing, that I am really honored to be part of. But I don't want to make my career doing other people's books.
I've got a good story for you. One time, I was trying to keep track of everyone who was with the character Perrin. You guys know Perrin. So Perrin's off doing this thing, and one of the biggest challenges of writing the Wheel of Time books was the sheer number of characters. Not the main characters—I know the main characters, they're my friends, I grew up with these people, I know them just like hanging out with my high school buddies—but keeping track of all the Aes Sedai, and the Wise Ones, and you know, the Asha'man, and all these various people that are all over the place and saying, "OK. Who is with Perrin and who is with Rand, and who is..."
Anyway. I sent an email off to Team Jordan. You know, Harriet and Maria and Alan who are the... They were two editorial assistants that worked directly with Robert Jordan. Maria and Alan. I think it was Alan I sent an email to, and I said, "Do you have just like a list of everybody? I can go compile one of my own, I'm planning to do it, but if you have one already that says, 'These are the people who are with Perrin.' If you've got something like that." And he said, "I found this thing in the notes buried several files in." And things like this. "Here. I found this. Maybe this is what you want." And he sent me this, and it was called "with Perrin." I thought, "OK. Perfect." I open up this file and it's actually not what I wanted. Instead it is dozens of names of people who haven't appeared in the books yet. These are all the names of all the Two Rivers folk who are with Perrin. Like there are two hundred or so. Just names. Listed off. That have never appeared in the books. Sometimes with their profession, and a little about them, and things like that. And it just blew my mind that there was all of this detail that Robert Jordan had put into this world that nobody sees—and he wasn't planning for them to see. He's not going to have a big list of names in the final book; he wasn't planning that. He just needed to know their names so that he knew that he had them. And this is the level of detail and world-building that Robert Jordan did. I got a big chuckle out of that. Just, list of names. Then I started stealing them like a thief so I had good names that he had come up with, that I could use in the books.
Are you using them for other characters or using them for people...
I'm mostly using them where he intended them to be. Because he had other lists of names for... As the book has progressed and I've discovered these little notes files... Because the notes, there are huge, massive amounts of notes. We say there are about two hundred manuscript pages of stuff done for Gathering...for A Memory of Light. The three books. But beyond that, there are hundreds of thousands of words worth of just background notes, of world-building notes, of things like that. When we say the notes for the book, we're talking about actual specifics to A Memory of Light. But there are hundreds of thousands of other notes; there's just too much for one person to even deal with. So I let the two assistants dig through that. And so once I found out that there were lists of names, I started getting those files so I could use his names in places where we had them. So that I would have to name fewer and fewer people. Because his naming conventions are very distinctive. And, you know, I don't think... I think if you were to read, you could probably tell which names are mine and which are his, because we name things differently. And I'm trying to use his wherever I can, just to give that right feel to the book.
Yeah, I just picked up a couple of them myself. They look gorgeous.
Yeah, they did look really good. Is it more of a Harriet thing? I know we're also talking about the movie itself. Are you involved in that, have they been coming to you and asking you your opinion on things, or is that more of a Harriet...
That's been mostly Maria. Maria's been handling that. Maria is the continuity expert on staff. And so she's been handling that. I suspect they will come to me when they reach these books more. But I've been so busy, that really it's been her and Jason from Dragonmount that have been consulting on those. And I've just not wanted to stick my nose into it because I've got so much on my plate already with these books. So that's mostly Maria. So if you want to ask about those, interview Maria.
I think I've mentioned the possibility, Dave, but never given anything firm. Well, I've been doing some asking, and it seems that Harriet and Tor are all right with this. So, I'm about 95% sure that this is going to happen with the The Gathering Storm. We'll probably do signed/personalized/numbered editions from Sam Weller's by mail AND will do a release party at BYU Bookstore again. The release party will probably be a midnight release, followed by me flying to Charleston to do another event in the evening of the release day.
I can't say how many books we'll release to Sam Weller's to sell this way. The numbered editions I do at these release parties aren't to replace the leatherbound collector's editions that Tor does. (I think they're doing one for The Gathering Storm, though I don't know.) My numbered editions have no cap—I number as many, generally, as there are people. (Note that Sam Weller's still has some Warbreaker copies that I'm going to go in and personalize for people tomorrow, so if you want one, give them a call.) Mostly, the numbers are just to say "Hey, I got the book from one of the release events. Isn't that cool?" But I could see so many being requested from Sam Weller's that we have to cap it to save my hand (and my sanity.)
Anyway, that's a long way to say yes, Dave. Keep an eye on the blog. We'll try to get the announcements for these events up earlier than we did for Warbreaker.
I had not heard of Brandon until. . . it was the week of my husband's death. A friend was visiting. She put in front of me a print-out, and it was the eulogy for Robert Jordan that Brandon had posted on his web site. Brandon's eulogy was really beautiful, and very loving. And I thought, gosh, this guy. . . he knows what the series is all about.
And I got on the phone, called Tom Doherty and said, "Send me one of Sanderson's books." And he's a bit darker than Robert Jordan, but the series, as everyone knows, is heading towards Tarmon Gai'don, which is the battle with the Dark One that will decide the fate of the world. Tom said, "Okay, I'll go for that. We'll go for Brandon."
You made it clear that you would love to do this. And that was wonderful. That's what I needed to hear.
The next thing was for me to fly to Charleston. Harriet drives me to her house. You know, I'm fanboying all of this. And you said, "Do you want some dinner?" And my response was, "No, I want the ending. I want the ending and I want to know who killed Asmodean."
And you're like, "Oh, all right. Well, here it is." And you handed me that, and kind of waved me into the den, I guess it is, or the sitting room. "Head over there, go ahead, go for it."
And so I was over there poring over the materials. And I flipped right to the ending and read because Robert Jordan had always said, "I have the ending in mind". And all the readers, all the fans had known this. And we’d listen to interviews and he'd been saying for years, "I know the ending. The last scene is in my head." And so I got to read that last scene before dinner.
Then I retreated to my cave, and crawled in.
On October 27, Book 12 of The Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm, goes on sale nationally. Completed by Brandon Sanderson from notes and partials left by Robert Jordan, it is very good. I was its editor, as I was editor on ALL the Wheel books, and Maria Simons, Jordan's right hand for over 12 years, and Alan Romanczuk, Jordan's left hand (just because you can't have two right hands unless you are ... Shiva, is it?) have worked very closely with Brandon as well. We three—Harriet, Maria, and Alan—have really worked as Team Jordan on this book, and will do so on the following two, which will complete the Wheel. Book 13 will be titled Towers of Midnight, and Book 14 will be A Memory of Light.
Even Jordan couldn't have written everything he left in one volume, although he thought he could. But you recall that he thought he could write the entire Wheel in six volumes.
Try The Gathering Storm. I think you'll like it a lot. I do.
Update: Some additional comments from Wilson:
I was a Jordan fan before he was Jordan. The Warrior God was my childhood idol, the big brother I didn't have. Love is too weak a word to describe my feelings for Jim. I would do anything for him and would defend him with my life. That includes defending his work. Saying that, I could not be more pleased with the work done by Team Jordan: Harriet, Brandon, Maria and Alan. The Gathering Storm masterfully continues Jim's story in a manner that would be pleasing to the creator himself. There are countless "oh my!" moments. The pace is staggering. I fear that there will be many WOT fans who will lose sleep on the 27th because they just won't be able to find a stopping point.
I said before on this blog, that I loved Jim for bringing Harriet into my life. A grander lady there is not. Still what she has done in orchestrating and beautifully completing Jim's work has raised her stock even more. Love you sis. The Warrior Angel is surely smiling.
Congratulations to Team Jordan. Can't wait till next year.
Brother/Cousin 4th of 3
Brandon, you are noted for your fairly concise epic novels. But I am curious about how the final volume of The Wheel of Time, which was envisioned by Robert Jordan as a final and single book, got to be so long? Not just a little longer but incredibly longer (possibly over 900,000 words).
1. Did Robert Jordan totally miscalculate the size his final book? Or didn't he get too far writing it and had no idea of how long it would be?
2. Is it including every note Jordan had on the subject because no one is sure what he really wanted to use?
3. Is it being turned into a self-contained trilogy because a lot of people (like me) haven't read the entire 11 book series (or by now have forgotten the story), and it has to include some back-story?
I've wondered this myself, actually, in some form. As a long time reader of the series, when he began saying it would be one book, I was very curious how he'd pull it off. And then I saw the notes, and I was left scratching my head a little bit.
It's not option three—I was doing a little bit more of this, but Harriet requested that I scale it back. Her opinion (and it was Robert Jordan's opinion) is that the series is much too long to spend time recapping in every book. She was right, and I trimmed a lot of it.
#2 might have some influence here. Robert Jordan could have chosen to cut out characters and leave out scenes he had in the notes; it doesn't feel right for me to do that.
But I think, overall, it's something that you didn't mention at all. Robert Jordan knew this was going to be a BIG book. He began promising it would be the last, but also that it would be so big that readers would need a cart to get it out of the store. I think he was planning a single, massive book at 800k words or so.
But he DID want it to be one book—partially, I suspect, because he knew his time was short. He wanted to get it done. If he hadn't been sick, however, I don't think he would have started calling this the last book.
Harriet has told me on several occasions that she didn't think he would have done it in one book, if he'd been given the freedom to approach the writing how he wanted. In the end, there is SO much to do that it was going to end up like this no matter what. Unless I crammed it all in and forgot about a lot of the characters.
Would Robert Jordan have been able to do it in one book? Really? I don't know. I think that, if he'd lived, he might have worked some magic and gotten it done in one 400 or 500k volume. But I feel the need to be very careful and not ruin this series by strangulation. It's not going to go on forever, but it does need a little room to breathe.
Did you know that he wrote 13 books before getting one of them published? Elantris was number six in that list, but he never gave up on his dream of being a writer. We also heard about how Harriet read Brandon’s eulogy for RJ and subsequent read of Mistborn. After two chapters, she was hooked and knew that he was the man to finish her husband’s series.