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."
Logged In (0):
Newest Members:johnroserking, petermorris, johnadanbvv, AndrewHB, jofwu, Salemcat1, Dhakatimesnews, amazingz, Sasooner, Hasib123,
"If you're lucky, people will be reading your books in 20 years after you're dead. If you're very lucky, they'll be reading them 50 years later, 100 years later if you're extraordinarily fortunate.
"The writer doesn't achieve immortality. Books do. And if people are reading and enjoying my books centuries from now, I couldn't be happier."
Well, more often they're trying to work out details of what I'm intending to do, and what I have meant by things that I've already written. I've been sent in some cases sheets of Frequently Asked Questions and the answers that have been deduced. The only thing is, they're right between 20 percent, and oh, 33 percent of the time. They're almost right maybe another 20 percent of the time, 25 percent. And the rest of the time, they've gotten off into an incredibly wild tangent that makes me wonder if I ought to re-read the books to figure out how they came up with this.
I do look at what they have said. And by that, I mean I look at it when somebody sends me a print-out. I'm not on the 'nets, normally. But sometimes people will send me a print-out of a couple of days of discussion, or a Frequently Asked Questions list, as I said. And I'll look at that, and it does give me some feedback.
There are things in the books that I have tried to bury very deeply. And if, from the discussion or from the questions, I can see that they're beginning to get close to something I want to keep buried, I know that I have to be more subtle from now on, that I haven't been subtle enough. Or, on the other hand, there are some times when I realize that they're spending a lot of time discussing something that I was certainly not trying to make obscure that I thought was perfectly obvious. Then it becomes plain to me that I've gone the opposite way. I didn't say enough about it for them to understand. So then I have to maybe reiterate a little bit.
But I certainly—I don't change the plots or anything like that. I'm certainly not going to alter the fates of major characters or anything of that sort, whether someone has figured out what that's going to be or not. I must say, they've not figured out very much of that accurately, but it's fun to see.
Did you expect the Wheel of Time to be as well received as it has been?
Good God, no! I’ve been told I have a healthy ego—a necessity for any writer—but I would have to be a stone cold egomaniac to have expected anything like what has happened.
The Wheel of Time has been called the best fantasy epic of all time, and you've been compared with legendary fantasist J.R.R. Tolkien. How do you deal with all this adulation?
I grin nervously a lot. It's very nice. But my high school football coach gave me one of the best pieces of advice that someone in my position can have. He said, "Saturday morning, you can read the newspaper and you can believe how good they say you are. Monday, when you come to practice, nobody knows your name, and you have one week to get ready for the only game you'll ever have to make a reputation." So it's very nice to look around and have people pat me on the back and say, "Oh, you're wonderful, you're great, you're tremendous," but I know the end of this. I go and sit in front of the computer, and nobody knows my name, and I have one book to try and make a reputation.
You've got an especially enthusiastic readership. How do you deal with people who take your books too seriously?
Depends on what they're writing to me about. I explain that no, there really isn't a One Power, there is no ability to channel, and I cannot teach you these things because they don't exist. And I'm not a guru, I'm not a spiritual leader, do not quit your job. I will not allow you to sit at my feet. Go on with your life. But I don't read a lot of fan comments. I don't go on the Web. I don't pay any attention to it.
"I have reacted (to it all) with continual surprise. I like it, of course. Who wouldn't? But I didn't expect it. Any writer hopes for success, and by success I mean acclaim, wonderful reviews and going up the best-seller lists. But only an idiot would expect it. There's another side to that, which I think some writers never get hold of. And that's the fact that one day it will go away. People like the books I am writing, and a lot of people have bought them. At some point I will write something that they don't like so well.
"But you hope you keep climbing or that you will have several peaks during your career. What I am most concerned with, frankly, is trying to make each book better than the books that have gone before. If I haven't learned at least a little bit in the last 18 years then I would be a very sorry writer. I would like to be as good as I can be."
The answer is, obviously, pretty long. I know for sure that he did not think it would turn into this. Could he see all of the storylines and plots and this and envision that it could? Yes. But it was like lightning struck, and people liked it, which allowed him to expand on the story that he already had rattling around in his head. Had it not been that successful, he could have probably done the storyline in . . . three? Which is what he was kind of thinking at the beginning. Certainly not more than six. And it would have then been off to the next thing, which of course he already had in his head and was pretty close to ready to put pen to paper on. But, it took off, and it allowed him to tell that story in a greater detail.
One of the greater things that I hear from people about what they like in the books is the detail. And yeah, OK, I've heard about the middle books dragging on, but I can tell you, even that, for him it was about making sure that people understood the detail well enough so that when other things come along down the line, they could go, "Aha! This is that!" Because, he could see it; he could see the tapestry and how it was sewn together. You can't describe the whole tapestry at one time. You've got to describe it thread by thread by thread until you back up and see it. And that is what he was doing.
But no, never in his wildest dreams did he think it would be this successful and that it would turn into that many books. As evidence of that, this is not what he was going to be putting his name on. He thought he'd be putting "James Oliver Rigney Jr." on a further work down the road and that this was a stepping stone towards that. Little did he know that the lightning would strike and this would become the great work.
But by putting the pen name, Robert Jordan, on these covers, it also afforded him some anonymity when the books started becoming a hit. As much as Jim loved the adoration and interaction with the fans, he's just Bubba. He's a private guy and was never more comfortable than when he was right there at home. The working office is just ten paces behind the back step of the house, and that was his world. He loved having people come to the home, but not so much going to them, because that is where he wanted to be. Writing with the pen name allowed him that anonymity to just be Jim Rigney at home, and some of the neighbors would say, "I think that he writes. I'm not sure, but I think he does."
A good bit of fan mail comes in. I don't have people showing up at my home. If they did it would stop me writing.
Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment) that stands out?
No. I've told them I am not going to write something because they want to see it, or not write something because they don't. It's going to be what I want to write.
I had a young woman call me a god. There was an 88 year old woman who wrote me a letter and asked me to "write fast".
Heaven knows Web sites devoted to the series have certainly covered the Internet.
Last year, Croatia native Sebastian Mileta found a virtual "Wheel of Time" game while surfing. He had never heard of the books, but thought the game compelling. The enthusiasm he saw in book forums convinced him to read a bit.
"In the next two weeks, I read the first seven books in the series available then," he said. "I added Path of Daggers this winter and Winter's Heart (November 8)."
Now a university student in Boston, Massachusetts, Mileta said his only complaint is that the series "is too addictive." Sometimes he doesn't "sleep or eat so I can read the book in one try."
Fans have developed role-playing personalities based on characters in the series, and virtual communities have sprung up, matured, died off and been reborn in cyberspace.
All this leaves Jordan astonished and somewhat bemused.
"I look at some of it occasionally, and I've been sent lists of addresses," the author said. "It's quite daunting."
Sense of community
Many fans say they enjoy the sense of community they find in online forums devoted to the series. And while they trade theories about what may happen to whom, or make suggestions of which actors and actresses they'd like to see in a movie, such forums are hardly restricted to book talk. They're often places to flirt and try on new personalities.
Ultimately, they're places to connect."Think of it as a sports bar," suggested Bill Garrett, a computer engineer in his late 20s who constructed a "Wheel of Time" Web site in the mid-1990s, which he has since archived and largely abandoned. "When the game's on TV, pretty much everybody watches it, but when the game fades they turn to talking with one another about their families, their jobs (and) the political scene."
Garrett met his girlfriend through fandom, and others have made lasting ties, meeting at events across the globe. Still others have crossed the line from enjoyment to obsession.
"There are people who want me to teach them how to channel," said Jordan. He also remembers a medical student from Malaysia who asked to become his "spiritual disciple"—an opportunity Jordan declined.
"I'm not a guru or a sage. I'm a storyteller. The only times I get disturbed is when I find people who seem to be taking this too seriously," he said.
"I just wanted to write books I wanted to write," continued Jordan. "There's no writer who has not had enough ego to hope something he or she wrote would be seized on by the public—that something they write will last beyond them. But hoping and expecting are two different things. Expecting would be beyond ego."