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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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I have been a writer for seventeen years now, and have had a number of other books published (Westerns, international intrigue, historical fiction), as well as essays, dance review and theater criticism, but no other fantasy save the Conan novels. I've written only one piece of short fiction in my life, aside from school assignments, and it was never published. I will probably write in those other genres again from time to time; I enjoy them. I am working on something unconnected with The Wheel of Time, though I have not yet begun writing it. (Books percolate about in my head for a long time before anything goes onto paper.) It will be the next thing after The Wheel is complete. It will be fantasy, in a different universe than The Wheel.
My editor says it will be people's chance to see a society like the Seanchan Empire, but that is simply because most of the action will take place in a culture much like Seanchan. The main male character, who is shipwrecked there, comes from a place that might he considered a cross between Elizabethan England and the Italian city-states of the Renaissance with touches of the seventeenth century. I intend him to be a man in his thirties, a man of some experience and worldliness in his own culture (though this does him only occasional good where he finds himself), in contrast to Rand's innocence and naivete. The major female character is a noblewoman of the land where he is shipwrecked; by the law, whatever is cast up on the shores of her estates belongs to her: the ship, its cargo—its crew. Of course, a good many details will surely change between now and the commencement of writing (they always do), but that is the general form. No working title yet beyond Shipwreck. I expect to do the story in two or possibly three books.
Considering all the work you've been through already, you'll probably hate this question, but when can we expect the next book, and how many more do you expect?
Will you be writing any other books that are similar fantasy/fiction?
First, I expect to deliver the next book in the fall of next year, which means that it will probably be published in the spring of 1998.
I do not know how many more books there will be. There will be at least ten total, probably more...but the safest way to say that is to say "there will be a few more, not too many, and please god not as many as have already been written!"
Other books? Not until I finish the Wheel of Time. I am already working in my head on what I'll do after that. It is indeed a fantasy series. I have a long gestation period for my books. The Wheel of Time gestated for at least ten years before it appeared on paper, and Shipwreck seems to be doing at least that.
I believe—believe!—there will be three more books. I am trying to finish up as soon as possible, but I cannot see how to do it in fewer than three books. That isn't a guarantee, mind! In the beginning, I thought that there would be three or perhaps four books total, but it might go to five, or even six, though I really didn't believe it would take that long. It wasn't a matter of the story growing or expanding, but rather that I miscalculated—brother, did I!—how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I've known the last scene of the last book literally from the beginning. That was the first scene that occurred to me. Had I written it out 10 years ago, and then did so again today, the wording might be different, but not what happens. It has just taken me longer to get there than I thought.
I do have another series perking around in the back of my head already. Books generally have a long gestation period with me, so this is not at all too early. There isn't a word on paper, yet, of course. It will be different cultures, different rules, a different cosmology. Nobody likes to redo what he's already done.
If and when you start another series of books after the Wheel of Time series will you use some of the characters from that series?
No. Absolutely, positively, never under heaven! I have no plans ever to return to this universe once I reach the end. If I have such a compelling idea one day that I simply must go back, then I’ll shift the story so far in time that it might as will be a different universe. Anything else would be doing the same thing over again. For the next set of books, I will be in a completely different universe with different rules, different cultures, different people. I expect I will examine some of the same issues—the clash of cultures, the tide of change, the difficulty men and women alike have in figuring out the rules of the game—but I certainly don’t expect to chew my cud twice.
Uhm, no, there is no possibility that it will never end. I will wrap up all of the major storylines, I will wrap up some of the minor storylines. Other minor storylines will be left hanging, and I'm going to do worse than that. I am going to set a hook in the last scene of the last book, that will make some people who don't believe what I say, think that I am setting up a sequel. What I am doing, what I will be doing, is trying to leave you with a view of a world that is still alive. One hope that some fantasies have is that when you reach the end of the book, or you reach the end of the trilogy, all the characters' problems are solved. All of the things that they have been doing are neatly tied of in a bow, all of their world's problems have been solved. And there's no juice left, there's no life left. you think 'I ought to set this world on a shelf and put a bell-jar on top of it, to keep the dust off.
When I finish the Wheel of Time, I want to do it in such a way that you will think it's still out there somewhere, people still doing things. This story has been concluded, this set of stories has been concluded, but they're still alive.
No, but let me give you an example of why. When I first thought I might have what would become the Wheel of Time ready, the character of Rand, who is about 19 years old, and his father Tam, were one character. A man who had run away from home as a boy of thirteen or fourteen, and in that sort of world that you can get if you've grown up on a farm. He began to work with horses among soldiers and then he became a soldier, and having spent twenty years of his life as a soldier, he's tired, and decides he wants to go home.
So a man in his middle thirties returns home to his village, and discovers that the place he returns to is not the place he left, and that he is not the young man who ran away, and on top of that the world and phrophecy were hard on his heels. It would have been a very different story than the one I wound up writing. I decided that I wanted to split them because I wanted the major characters to be Candides. I wanted them to look at fresh eyes...I wanted everything to be new.
At some point I will do the two prequel novels that I talked about, the two other prequel novels, besides New Spring. But, primarily I will give Harriet a small hand on a project she has signed a contract for; she's gonna do an encyclopedia of the Wheel of Time which will have all of the characters, all of the terms, all of the invented words, and roughly and a roughly eight hundred fifty to nine hundred vocabulary in the Old Tongue.
What I will be starting with is a trilogy called Infinity of Heaven, which will be a different universe, different world, different set of rules, different cultures. One culture that you meet eventually will be as close to being inside the Seanchan empire as you can come, but this culture is even more stratified both vertically and horizontally than the Seanchan empire, much more like ancient Japan truly was, or really like medieval Japan truly was.
It's funny I talked about a book I'm gonna call Shipwrecked, some of you may have heard of that. Shipwrecked is actually the second volume of the Infinity of Heaven trilogy, because I realized I needed more of the setup and as I did more of the setup I realized I had another novel here. It could not be the first part of the novel to do that, it had to be this was a novel in itself. So in these things I had thought ten or twelve years ago, would be a trilogy, has become two trilogies, but I intend to try and hold it to that very tightly.
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 Margot, I'm sure that people will still want quasi-medieval fantasy, but other types are interesting, too. In Infinity of Heaven, one of the cultures involved will be at more of an early-to-mid Eighteenth Century level, complete with gunpowder weapons. I'd like to do some books set in a late Victorian or Edwardian world, and I have a stand-alone in mind that I might do eventually which is set partly in the present day and partly in various real historical periods. As you say, other writers are broadening the field, and that is good, to my mind.
He said that he plans to finish the two planned prequels "eventually" (he didn't expound on what that meant) and then he said something very surprising to me.
He said that he is considering TWO OR THREE SIDE NOVELS! Stories that suggested themselves to him. I was thinking, "WAY COOL"!
He then went on to talk about "Infinity of Heaven" a bit. Saying that the society portrayed there would be horizontally and vertically stratified, a la the Seanchan, but even stricter. His writing style will stay the same and he won't change the male vs. female viewpoint expressed in WoT.
He showed up about ten minutes late and went through his normal pronunciation spiel looking slightly perturbed. He then reiterated the answers for what have seemed to become the most oft-asked questions this time around: Book twelve will be done when he’s finished with it, it will be last one no matter what, Infinity of Heaven is the next thing he’s doing, the two WoT prequels will be done at some point in the future, and that he’s come up with an idea for a trilogy of “outrigger” novels in the WoT world, but that he has to let it stew for a few years before he decides on doing it.
Then, probably because he arrived late, he skipped the Q&A and went straight to signing. Somewhat disappointing, as the event was billed as a Q&A / Signing, and the Q&A was the main reason I went in the first place. I would have liked to just hear him talk for a little bit.
He confirmed that he's due to start working on "Infinity of Heaven" next. The next series will be set in a different universe, with different rules. He acknowledged that it would still have his main theme: "Men and women misunderstanding each other."
He also stated that he hopes to get better. One day he's sure to make it. To this proclamation a gent up front called out "you're great", to which he replied: "Thank you, thank you, yes, I thank you and my mother thanks you."
Will there be prequels or books about the Age of Legends?
Brandon stated he didn't want WOT to be like Star Wars with books telling scattered stories, but would like to do the prequels that RJ planned about Tam and Moiraine, and possibly the outriggers about Mat and Tuon as well (but not the other planned series, Infinity of Heaven).
He did mention the forthcoming WOT encyclopedia, and how extensive RJ's notes were—when he asked for a file on Perrin, he got notes that included 50 people from the Two Rivers who never even appeared in the books.
Well, let me change that. Stories, maybe. But when I finish the Wheel of Time I have no intention of doing novels that are prequels or sequels. I'm going to go to another fantasy universe, another world, another set of characters, another set of cultures, another set of rules. I won't say that I'll never do something like that, but I have no plans to.
Yes, but there’s no way I’ll tell you anything else about it.
Tell me something about the prequel, then, New Spring. I know it was originally a short novel you published in 1998.
Yes, but it’s not an expansion. The novel New Spring is what I wanted to write in the first place, but I realized that Robert Silverberg would get very angry if I’d sent him a 120,000 words to put in his anthology! So I did a lot of cutting and I made it fits into the anthology, but I still had that novel waiting to be written and I wanted to write it because there was a lot to be said that really fits into the rest of the series.
Even if the prequel has only two storylines while my normal books have four or five storylines there are things that you will not see anywhere else, such as the test for Aes Sedai. You actually see someone take the test for Aes Sedai and you learn how that is done: I have no intention to ever showing it anywhere else.
Also there are clues in New Spring not only as to why certain people hate each other in the main sequence books, but why certain people die in the main sequence books, and I’m not going to put the evidence anywhere else because I’ve already given it here.
That’s why you decided to publish the prequel before the end of the series?
Well, I decided to published New Spring before going on because my publisher asked me to do it, but in retrospect that was probably a mistake. I shouldn’t have. It won’t happen again, though, I’ll work on the next two prequels only after I’ve finished the main sequence books.
And then what will you do? Do you already have another series planned?
Yes, a much more compacted sequence of books. Set in a different universe, different world, different rules and different cultures. Nothing that will be reminiscent of The Eye of the World or The Wheel of Time at all.
For years Robert Jordan has commented on another series of books he's been planning. We finally have something concrete. From the April 2005 issue of Locus magazine we learned the following:
Robert Jordan sold the first three books in his new Infinity of Heaven series, "high fantasy with a touch of Shogun," to Tom Doherty at Tor.
Is this the "Shipwrecked" series you've been referring to for a while?
Yes, this is the "Shipwrecked" series, although what I originally thought of as the first volume actually turned out to be the second.
Will you write this before or after you finish the WoT prequels?
Infinity of Heaven almost certainly will be written before the prequels, though I might do them between the Infinity books.
You know, the reception of New Spring: the Novel surprised me. Some people were upset or even angry that I wasn't getting on with the main story. I even heard people say there was no reason to read the novel if you had read the novella. (That, by the way, is very wrong. There is stuff in that novel that won't ever be anywhere else, including the test for Aes Sedai and the reasons why certain people have the relationships they do in the books among other things.) Anyway, given the reactions of so many people, I decided to shelve the other two prequels for a while.
First (and most surprising to me—did I miss something) he mentioned that he is considering writing 2 or 3 "outrigger" novels in the Wheel of Time world in addition to the final book and the two other prequels. He said that he had always maintained that he wouldn't write any more in the WoT world unless he came up with a really good idea. Now he's afraid he has come up with such an idea, but he says he'll have to think about it for a couple years to really decide if it's good enough. So, it sounded like those novels wouldn't come out until after his "Infinity of Heaven" series, but he made it seem like they were a definite possibility and that they'd be about a side story or minor character from the main sequence books.
Hi, I'm Paul Williams, of [?]/BYU Idaho/[?] Idaho...[?] going back there this week looking for a new job. Anyways, I got two questions.
First one is definitely for Harriet. Can you share with us any details about the Infinity of Heaven series that Robert Jordan was planning?
Well, the Infinity of Heaven series was—well, having been an editor for so many years, I'm really bad at coming up with these little soundbites, but that's a way of saying I'm really good at it. [laughter] But it was a fantasy shōgun, that people are shipwrecked on the shore of a country they really had never heard of before, that's a lot like Japan. Or Seanchan, if you like, but not Seanchan. The big difference is, they come from something more like Belgium, as I always thought of it. (to Maria) What did you think? Anyway, kind of as if a northern European country. And the difference...the two cultures have diametrically opposed views of...magic, if you like—how it's used. In one, it's...war revolves around magic; it's the major weapon, like the nuclear bomb, and in the other....(to Maria) what? It's the other way around; the government uses magic, but it is never even considered as a weapon. (to Maria) Am I even remembering right?
I'm just drawing a blank. I know I've read it, but... [laughter]
Yeah, there's very little about it. There was enough for Tom Doherty to give him a big fat contract. [laughter] But that had to be rolled over into these last books; he never got beyond a very brief outline. So that's about as much as I can tell you except there's a...I think it's a young man who is shipwrecked, and he has been in much the position of the hero in Shōgun, having to learn a very stratified, foreign culture from the ground up.
After Knife of Dreams, there's going to be one more main-sequence Wheel of Time novel, working title A Memory of Light. It may be a 2,000-page hardcover that you'll need a luggage cart and a back brace to get out of the store. (I think I could get Tor to issue them with a shoulder strap embossed with the Tor logo, since I've already forced them to expand the edges of paperback technology to nearly a thousand pages!) Well, it probably won't be that long, but if I'm going to make it a coherent novel it's all got to be in one volume. The major storylines will all be tied up, along with some of the secondary, and even some of the tertiary, but others will be left hanging. I'm doing that deliberately, because I believe it will give the feel of a world that's still out there alive and kicking, with things still going on. I've always hated reaching the end of a trilogy and finding all of the characters', all the country's, all the world's, problems are solved. It's this neat resolution of everything, and that never happens in real life.
I originally thought I was signing up for a 10 or 15K run, and somewhere along the line I found out it was a marathon. So yes, I would like to cross the finish line on this thing and get on to what's next. I'm not that old, and I've got a lot of writing left. There are two more short prequel novels to be done at some point, but aside from that, I have said I would never write again in this universe unless I get a really great idea—which would have to be an idea that would support two or three of what I call "outrigger" novels, not part of the main storyline. Well, I may have had one! But I'll have to set it aside for a year or two because I've already signed contracts for an unrelated trilogy called Infinity of Heaven, which I'm very excited about. I've been poking that idea around in my head for 10 or 12 years.
I've also thought about doing a book set during the Vietnam War, but Jim Rigney will probably never write the Vietnam book. If I did, it would be history now, and I decided a long time ago that Rigney was going to be or contemporary fiction, and my name for historical novels is Reagan O'Neill. Maybe Jim Rigney will never become a writer!
There have been some computer games and comics, and a movie based on The Eye of the World is still in the works (with contracts that allow me a lot of involvement), but nobody else is ever going to write Wheel of Time books. For after I die, I've purchased an insurance policy with a couple of guys who have a kneecap concession in the southeastern United States, and they have rights to expand this concession should it be desired. For a very small fee, they have guaranteed that they will crack the kneecaps of anybody who writes in my universe, and nail them to the floor!
In addition to info on the world book, Harriet revealed some more details generally about the series:
The series is finished and done. Tor offered a lot of money and tried to persuade Harriet into doing more, but Harriet put her foot down and said no. The Wheel of Time ends with A Memory of Light and the companion volume.
There were several unfulfilled contracts when Robert Jordan passed away, including for the Seanchan trilogy. Apparently the money involved was massive, worth many times the value of Harriet's house. Tor worked with the estate to re-write the contracts to substitute the companion book instead.
Robert Jordan wrote one line about the planned Seanchan trilogy: Mat Cauthon playing dice in a grubby alleyway in Ebou Dar (not verbatim). That was it.