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Your search for the tag 'tolkien' yielded 78 results

  • 1

    Interview: Apr 20th, 2004

    Week 11 Question

    I just started The Great Hunt and I find the religious and political aspects very interesting. I notice the dedication for The Great Hunt says, "They came to my aid when God walked across the water, and the true Eye of the World passed over my house." Has your own religion in any way helped to shape the book?

    Robert Jordan

    Only in the sense that it helped to shape my moral and ethical beliefs. My work certainly is not religious in even the sense that J.R.R. Tolkien's was, much less the work of C.S. Lewis. That inscription, by the way, referred to Hurricane Hugo striking Charleston, where I live. The word hurricane comes from the name of a god of the Caribe Indians, who believed that the storm was that god walking across the water. Anyone who has ridden out a hurricane, and I have ridden out several, can well believe that it is. And if a hurricane isn't the Eye of the World, it's as close as we will come in this world.

    Tags

  • 2

    Interview: Oct 21st, 1994

    AOL Chat 1 (Verbatim)

    Batlar

    I have noticed some similarities to The Lord of the Rings. Was Tolkien an inspiration for for you?

    Robert Jordan

    I suppose to the degree that he inspires any fantasy writer in the English language, certainly.

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  • 3

    Interview: Jul, 2002

    Question

    Did you see the Lord of the Rings movie? What did you think of it? What is your favorite fantasy movie?

    Robert Jordan

    Oh, yes; Harriet and I only waited long enough for the crowds to thin out a little before we went. After all, we both read the books the first time back when they first became available in the United States, and I myself have re-read them perhaps a dozen times since. I thought the movie was most excellent! It is well-crafted and well-acted, it follows the books to a fair degree, and the changes, for the most part, were necessary to fit it into a reasonable length for a movie. Making Arwen more prominent was necessary, too, since she is barely there in the book, but at least they resisted the temptation to make her a sword-babe, though it appears that took quite an effort. At the moment, I would have to say that my favorite fantasy movies are Fellowship of the Ring and Excalibur, an old film about King Arthur. Rent it some time and take a look.

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  • 4

    Interview: Jul, 2002

    Question

    Are any of your characters or cultures designed to pay specific homage to any particular work or author?

    Robert Jordan

    No. In the first chapters of The Eye of the World, I tried for a Tolkienesque feel without trying to copy Tolkien’s style, but that was by way of saying to the reader, okay, this is familiar, this is something you recognize, now let’s go where you haven’t been before. I like taking a familiar theme, something people think they know and know where it must be heading, then standing it on its ear or giving it a twist that subverts what you thought you knew. I must admit that I occasionally drop in a reference—for example, there’s an inn called The Nine Rings, and Loial is seen reading a book entitled To Sail Beyond the Sunset—but it isn’t a regular thing by any means.

    Footnote

    To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a Heinlein reference, for those not familiar with his work. RJ is speaking here of references to contemporary culture; obviously the references to myth and legend are rather pervasive.

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  • 5

    Interview: Jan, 1991

    Starlog Interview (Verbatim)

    William B. Thompson

    Since the books meld elements of Celtic, Norse, Middle Eastern and American Indian myth in a largely Medieval setting, obligatory comparisons with J.R.R. Tolkien surfaced almost immediately. Jordan accepts them with resigned good humor.

    Robert Jordan

    "On the one hand, I'm flattered. On the other, I would have to say it's overplayed. On the third hand, Tolkien encompassed so much in The Lord of the Rings and other books that he did for fantasy what Beethoven did for music.

    "For a long time, it was believed that no one did anything that did not build on Beethoven. For his part, Tolkien did provide a foundation while himself building on an existing tradition. Although it's difficult now to forge a singular place in this foundation, people like Stephen R. Donaldson are doing it. I hope I am as well."

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  • 6

    Interview: Nov, 1993

    Trinity College Q&A (Paraphrased)

    Robert Jordan

    He raised the point that Rand's creeping insanity may manifest in much more subtle ways than the people of Randland expect...which leads one to wonder about Rand's increasing withdrawal and possible megalomania. I think he is aware of the net discussion: he expressed surprise at the amount of analysis and comparison with Tolkien, Dune etc. (I felt tempted to mention A. A. Milne) and somebody in the audience compared WoT to Atlas Shrugged, which really seemed to surprise him. His attitude is that once he has written one book (and publicized it) it is time to move on to the next...The only deliberate connection between WoT and any other modern fantasy was giving the first 100-odd pages of The Eye of the World a Lord of the Rings-esque flavor, to start people off in familiar territory.

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  • 7

    Interview: 2010

    Brandon Sanderson (30 March 2010)

    Calling WoT derivative of Tolkien is like calling Tolkien derivative of Beowulf. True, but missing the point entirely.

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  • 8

    Interview: 2011

    Twitter 2011 (WoT) (Verbatim)

    Brandon Sanderson (3 January 2011)

    The first wind is in the Mountains of Mist; I've always assumed this was a nod to Tolkien's Misty Mountains.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Look in The Way of Kings on the full map of Roshar for something similar.

    SHECKY X

    Well, his Charlestonian background makes the "Two Rivers" the Charleston area, so the "Mountains of Mist" may be...

    SHECKY X

    ... the Smoky Mountains, upstate from his home. (FYI: the Charleston area is defined by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.)

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Nice note. I'd never known that.

    LYNN OLIVER

    Listening to WoT on audiobook, first time through series. Book one seems heavily influenced by Tolkien so far.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Yes, book one is very Tolkien influenced. Very. Book two less so. It's almost gone by book three.

    Footnote

    The Way of Kings map doesn't have the Misted Mountains labeled, but they border Shinovar on the east.

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  • 9

    Interview: 2011

    Twitter 2011 (WoT) (Verbatim)

    Brandon Sanderson (4 January 2011)

    Yes, early WoT is very Tolkien influenced. But several original things really stood out to me when I was younger.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    1) The magic. 2) Strong female protagonists. 3) A woman 'wizard' figure who was far more human than others I'd seen. 4) Tam lives.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Though I like Gandalf, Dumbledore, Belgarath, & Allanon, I prefer Moiraine as a character. (Actually, Allanon always just annoyed me.)

    HARRISON ISRAEL

    I always liked Allanon :(

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    It's okay. I'm fond of him. But he still annoyed me.

    HAMLETISDEAD

    Can you share what it is about Allanon that annoyed you? I can list a few, but the main reason was his decision making...

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Mostly the air of mystery and withholding information. Often a problem with people in his role, but he seemed more-so.

    BRYCE NIELSEN

    What about Polgara? :P

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Polgara was awesome. Belgarath was pretty cool too, but Moiraine always feels slightly more real than either one to me.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    But that's modern Brandon. Teenage Brandon might have thought differently.

    CHRIS WOOD

    But which of those early wizards was your favorite? I liked Belgarath, but Eddings was one of my first series.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    As a youth, I often listed Eddings as my favorite author. It wasn't until I was older that WoT took over completely.

    CHRIS WOOD

    I agree, I still read Eddings and suggest him to people who are "new" into fantasy, but it has gone down my list too.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    There is a perfect age to read Eddings, where he resonates best. As you age, something about his characters and plots...stiffens.

    JENN HOGAN

    I am in agreement but I love Belgarath's humor and his devotion to family and his God and his brothers.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Belgarath was interesting also in being an amalgamation of a trickster figure and a wise mentor. By far one of Eddings' most round.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Both him and Polgara. They're both also more powerful than Moiraine. But there's just something about her. True wisdom.

    JOHN STOCKTON

    I was thrown by your "when I was younger" remark until I remembered this series started 20 years ago. Wow.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    I started when I was 14 or 15...

    YELLOW

    The WoT names always annoyed me because they're so close to real names. Any chance of dropping a Blixbop into A Memory of Light?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Mr. Jordan did this intentionally, to hint that the WoT world was our world in the future (and the past.)

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    It's part of the 'feel' of the world. They are close to real names because they ARE real names, just many years removed.

    TADBO

    The females in The Wheel of Time are among the most two-dimensional in the history of fantasy.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    I disagree. Case in point: Tolkien's female protagonists. (Which was the comparison I was making.)

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    But even beyond that, you have to remember, this is a society with some skewed gender relationships because of the way magic works.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    But Moiraine is hardly two-dimensional. Neither is Nynaeve. They can be annoying, yes, but that's not the same as two-dimensional.

    TADBO

    They scheme, they argue, they tug on their skirts and stamp their feet, or they fall at Rand's feet. Really?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Aviendha is very distinctive. Tuon is very distinctive. Min is very distinctive. Many of the Aes Sedai act as you say, but...

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    ...I see this as an intentional effect of the society they live in.

    ZEERAK WASEEM

    Don't you get annoyed with the females in WoT? The female lead I prefer is Aviendha, the rest are full of themselves.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Oh, I didn't say they didn't annoy me at times. I said they were strong, and I'll add that they are interesting.

    TADBO

    Final note. I would argue that Jordan's female protagonists are MAIN characters, whereas Tolkien's are mainly supporting.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    The Tolkien point is valid. However, remember what started this conversation. I was saying things about the WoT that impressed me.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    One was a large cast of female main characters, something a lot of fantasy by men I'd read was lacking.

    TEREZ

    WoT females are caricaturish, sometimes stereotypical, but not two-dimensional. (This from a female.)

    TADBO

    Yes, caricatures. A better description than two-dimensional.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Well, different people read things differently. If WoT's women didn't work for you, I understand why, though I don't feel the same.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    You're not the only one to feel that way.

    TEREZ

    The fact that I see them as caricatures helps me to enjoy them as characters more. It's RJ's own type of dry humor.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    I view them more of products of a society where social norms are different, and women have something 'machismo'-like.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    It makes them act similar in places, even though when you see into their souls, there is something deeper.

    TEREZ

    In my opinion this is also true, but the caricature part is an important aspect of accepting ALL WoT characters as they are.

    TEREZ

    They, like the story itself, are ubertropes. There is more to them than that, just as there is more to the story.

    FELIX PAX

    It's as if RJ's sense of humor was written for a theater company on stage. Bombastic, perhaps?

    TEREZ

    I think the word you are looking for is 'exaggerated'. But yes, stage-acting a very good comparison.

    TADBO

    I don't know if I ever saw it as 'dry humor'. The Aes Sedai scared the crap out of me in high school.

    TEREZ

    Well, maybe now that you're a big boy... ;) RJ said he'd rather hunt leopards...

    TADBO

    True enough. XD

    TEREZ

    I mean, have you SEEN the map of Tar Valon? It's supposed to be funny, people. And serious at the same time, of course.

    JAMES FURLONG

    Haha! Just clicked on, never noticed THAT before. Hoho!

    HBFFERREIRA

    LOL Never noticed it before either.

    KAREN BASKINS

    LOL! In nearly twenty years of reading WoT, I never took notice of the Tar Valon map. Thank you for the laugh. I needed that. :-)

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    I've wondered about the map for Tar Valon. That...well, that can't be an accident. I've never asked Team Jordan, though.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Needless to say, it wasn't something I noticed when I was a teen.

    TEREZ

    Someone asked RJ about it. Sort of. His answer was hilarious.

    RICHARD FIFE

    Ya know, for some odd reason, I never really saw the map of Tar Valon. Now I'll never unsee it...

    TEREZ

    Indeed, it cannot be unseen. :)

    MATT HATCH

    ...wow, this really changes how I view the siege, harbor, and the iron chain becoming cuendillar.

    TEREZ

    You are such a perv, boss.

    MATT HATCH

    Showed my wife the map. Her immediate reaction: "Oh, Jim Rigney." Big smile.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    You'd never seen that before?

    TEREZ

    He had. Was just inspired by the moment to show it to his wife. And he'd never seen the quote. :)

    MATT HATCH

    I'd seen it...it was a while back; I remember thinking "really???" This reminded me and the quote made it hilarious.

    TEREZ

    Could give a whole new meaning to 'Rand had daydreamed over Master al'Vere's old map...'

    TEREZ

    '...half the boys in Emond's Field had daydreamed over it.'

    NICHOLAS BROWN

    To the blind... what am I seeing? I see a fish or a submarine. Is there something else?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Hm. How to do this without going places I don't care to go... Maybe a link will suffice. http://bit.ly/gMSLt6

    Tags

  • 10

    Interview: Jun 16th, 1995

    Robert Jordan

    The Nine Rings Inn in The Great Hunt he readily confessed was a homage to our favorite professor—J.R.R. Tolkien.

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  • 11

    Interview: 2011

    Twitter 2011 (WoT) (Verbatim)

    Brandon Sanderson (15 July 2010)

    Really, New York Times? You couldn't review the book without insulting the rest of the genre? Again? nytimes.com...

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Also, not every good fantasy needs to be named "Better than Tolkien." That's like starting Broadway reviews with "Better than Shakespeare!"

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    It's been fifty years since Tolkien. GRRM's good; your reason he's better is like putting a Lexus over a classic Packard because the Lexus has GPS.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Okay, rant over. In better news, I'm on the plane. Only what...four hours late? Off to Toronto.

    KEVIN BERG

    Martin > Tolkien

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    I certainly don't mind if people enjoy Martin more than Tolkien. There are good arguments there.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    The thing is, it's not a fair comparison for a number of reasons.

    RYAN MAXWELL

    I love RJ, your own books and GRRM's, as well as many, MANY other fantasies. I hated Lord of the Rings, and I would never suggest them.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    I prefer WoT to Tolkien too—but the thing is, we all owe a lot to the early pioneers in the genre.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    The problem is the tone of the article, as if implying that Tolkien was a cheap hack and GRRM is the first REAL fantasy worth reading.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Just a quick reply to a lot of the tweets I'm getting about the GRRM/Tolkien posts I made earlier.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with preferring to read GRRM over Tolkien. I, personally, would generally rather read WOT than Lord of the Rings.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    But a comparison must take into account that we wouldn't have WoT or A Song of Ice and Fire without Tolkien. That's why the tone of the review was off to me.

    BRYCE NIELSEN

    What?!? I have lost all faith in you, preferring WOT over Lord of the Rings! :P

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Ha. Well, I recognize Tolkien's genius now, but couldn't get into it as a kid. Too tough for me, I think. Didn't read until college.

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  • 12

    Interview: 2012

    Brandon Sanderson (31 August 2011)

    Dang. I just pulled off something in A Memory of Light that is GRRM-esque. I'm not certain if I should apologize, feel awesome, or go take a shower.

    SARAH WALTERS

    Haven't read GRRM, should I? Also, I recommend feeling awesome and writing more of A Memory of Light, but I'm biased.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Depends on your threshold for content. His writing is genius, but he is very brutal. I could only stomach the first one.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    His short stories are awesome, by the way. I've liked every one of those I've read.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Also, the Minas Tirith theme is playing on Pandora. Perfect.

    TEREZ

    Gah, now you've got me thinking Boromir/Gawyn.

    FOOTNOTE—TEREZ

    I have no idea if Brandon saw that tweet, but his next one came after it, for what it's worth. Some more info was given on this in the reddit Q&A, and there might be another clue here.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Some good mythological underpinnings and references in this scene, as I believe RJ would have done.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    If I ever get to write the annotations for this book as I plan, this scene will be a nice one to talk about.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    One of the challenges in writing these books is to get mythology right. Not too overt, with careful references. RJ left help, fortunately.

    JOHANN THORSSON

    You mean like Rand having a wound in his side, a la Jesus on the cross?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    That's one of very, very many. But yes. And, you know, Rand being a sheepherder...

    SIMEN ISAK DITLEFSEN

    RJ used a lot of mythological inspiration. But I haven't seen a lot of Greek myths used. Have you?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    It's there. Look where Perrin gets wounded.

    SIMEN ISAK DITLEFSEN

    ahh... The Achilles arrow?

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Look up blacksmith gods. Hephaestus, Wayland. And, you know, Perun...

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    But I felt RJ thought Greek/Roman was overdone, so stayed away from using it as much as Norse/Celtic/Native American.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Okay, signing off for the night. I need to be up for my Q&A on reddit come noon my time. (I'll tweet a reminder.)

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Moved the A Memory of Light progress bar up to 48% complete to reflect work done so far this week. Been a good week.

    ELVAN

    I believe you are trying to kill us by triggering extreme amounts of anticipation and excitement. Some of us don't have the heart to take it you know. Seriously though, can't wait.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Ha. Just trying to keep everyone involved, if only in a small way. ;)

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  • 13

    Interview: Jun 21st, 1996

    Robert Jordan

    He intentionally started the series out kind of Tolkienesque, so that readers would feel like they already knew the land somewhat. Then he deliberately deviated from Tolkien so the readers would not know what to expect. He tried to avoid too much Arthurian and Celtic mythological references early on because they are so well known.

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  • 14

    Interview: Jun 27th, 1996

    AOL Chat 1 (Verbatim)

    Argive000

    Mr. Jordan, I want to inform you that a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame has just completed a thesis on the rebirth of philosophy in literature centered around your Wheel of Time series.

    Robert Jordan

    That's very nice to know. I've had several people send my copies of their master's theses and other undergraduate theses, comparing me to Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. It's enough to swell my head. Luckily, my wife takes care of that little problem. ;)

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  • 15

    Interview: Oct 18th, 1996

    AOL Chat (Verbatim)

    Question

    You are truly the master of fantasy Master Jordan. Tolkien is wonderful, but I'm afraid you eclipse him. Although, you do have fifty years of experience on him.

    Robert Jordan

    That sounds like the finest kind of butter to me and if you don't mind, I'll keep one hand on my wallet.

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  • 16

    Interview: Oct 18th, 1996

    AOL Chat (Verbatim)

    Question

    How much did Tolkien, or even Eddings' Belgariad chronicles influence the WOT series?

    Robert Jordan

    Eddings certainly not at all, and as for Tolkien, only to the degree that (1) he showed that it was possible to write a very large series of books, a very large story, and (2) the fact that I purposely did the first, oh, perhaps 80 pages of The Eye of the World as an homage to Tolkien in a way, that it was set in the same sort of pastoral country that Tolkien wrote about.

    Tags

  • 17

    Interview: Nov 11th, 1997

    Joar from Costa Mesa, CA

    You have mentioned that you intentionally tried to recreate some of the feel of Tolkien's Middle Earth, especially in the first book. Considering many of the similar elements between the stories and the fact that time in your world is cyclical, with heroes being reborn through the ages, did you intend to imply that Middle Earth could possibly be "an Age long past, an Age yet to come"?

    Robert Jordan

    Certainly not. In the first hundred pages of The Eye of the World I did try to invoke a Tolkienesque feel. But after that I have certainly not tried to reflect in any way Middle Earth. As a matter of fact, beginning back in that very early part of The Eye of the World, I deliberately took off in a very different direction from Tolkien and I've been running hard in that direction ever since.

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  • 18

    Interview: Oct 19th, 1998

    Lyle from Fostoria, Michigan

    Mr. Jordan, thank you for such wonderful reading! I look forward to reading the new novel. My question is will there be a book similar to The Silmarillion about the Wheel of Time universe?

    Robert Jordan

    It's quite possible, but we'll see what happens. It's still a few years in the future, after all.

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  • 19

    Interview: Oct, 1998

    Sense of Wonder

    In a field where J.R.R. Tolkien has been used as a yardstick that leaves most authors far behind, the notoriously discriminating New York Times says you have come to dominate the world Tolkien began to reveal. As your Wheel of Time series has grown, the richness and compelling nature of your creation has also been favorably compared with that of other great masters in creative fields, including the Brothers Grimm, Aldous Huxley, Stephen King, Michael Moorcock, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, and Beethoven! You are part of a distinguished heritage. What do you feel is most distinctive about your work?

    Robert Jordan

    Well, I believe I write with a distinctly American voice, and a distinctly Southern one to boot. There is a great story-telling tradition in the South. My grandfather, father, and uncles were all raconteurs, and I grew up listening to their stories, as well as those of other men. There's a touch of oral tradition in my writing. Maybe that's where Beethoven comes in. A spoken story must flow musically, in words and in structure. I believe that my fiction reads as if it were meant to be read aloud. It certainly goes well in the unabridged audiotape versions. In short, it is a matter of time and place and experience. I grew up in a different place and in a different way from any of those men, and lived a different life. I am none of those men, could not be, and don't want to be. I am myself.

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  • 20

    Interview: Nov 11th, 1998

    Slayer

    I noticed how there are many similarities between the WOT and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Is this on purpose, or do great minds just think alike?

    Robert Jordan

    Well, it's not on purpose, though I don't know about great minds. Lord of the Rings has more dissimilarities than similarities to my series. I have no elves, no unicorns, no dragons. Tolkien wrote from a distinctly English viewpoint and voice about myths and legends that came from England. I write in an American voice, in fact a distinctly southern voice, about myths and legends that come from every country represented by the population of the US. And then there's the role played by women...there are only two women in Lord of the Rings....women tell half the story in WOT! There are other differences, and I sometimes find it hard to see the similarities.

    Footnote

    RJ stated in other interviews that he wrote the first part of The Eye of the World to be somewhat reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, as a sort of homage to Tolkien.

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  • 21

    Interview: Nov 1st, 1998

    SciFi.com Chat (Verbatim)

    Strider71

    What do you think of the parallels drawn between you and Tolkien?

    Robert Jordan

    I assume the questioner means the parallels drawn by [Edward] Rothstein of The New York Times. I find them interesting...I was not aware there were quite so many.

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  • 22

    Interview: Nov 11th, 2000

    Jeff Zervos from Long Island, NY

    Mr. Jordan, The Wheel Of Time series is an incredible piece of work. It is truthfully beyond anything I have ever read, including the works of Tolkien. Is there any advise you could give to an aspiring writer who is having a terrible time getting started with his story? I'm also an amateur actor and I look forward to auditioning for the part of Padan Fain one day.

    Robert Jordan

    The only advice I can give is to keep writing! But if you want to audition for the part of Padan Fain, maybe you ought to seek psychiatric help!

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  • 23

    Interview: Jan, 2001

    SFBC

    I read somewhere that The Wheel of Time series has been described as Tolkien-esque ...was this intentional?

    Robert Jordan

    In the beginning, I wanted a little bit—at the beginning of The Eye of the World, I wanted a little bit of a Tolkien-esque feel. For perhaps the first 100 pages, I wanted to have that feel simply to establish that this is the foundation. Tolkien began so much of modern fantasy. Not all of it comes from him certainly, but The Lord of the Rings is this huge mountain casting a shadow over everything. Then, having said this is what you expect and this is the familiar ground, now, kiddies, we're going someplace else.

    SFBC

    You'd better believe it. I was expecting a certain thing in The Eye of the World, and then you started showing the way people use magic, something Tolkien never did. You blew our minds with even Rand destroying cities....Do you see these things in your head? Do you envision them?

    Robert Jordan

    I do. I assume everybody has a large visual component of their thoughts, where you visualize a scene or how things are working out. Our thoughts are not like reading a page. We don't see words in our heads to describe a scene. We see the scene and describe what we're seeing.

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  • 24

    Interview: Nov 6th, 1998

    Amazon

    Big Wheel: Our Interview with Robert Jordan (Amazon.com)

    Robert Jordan—Citadel graduate, decorated Vietnam veteran, and physicist by education—is only steps away from Tolkien as the most popular fantasy author in history. His bestselling Wheel of Time series tells the story of a world broken into a male-female duality. Women wield the One Power, safeguarding it against the darkness until the male Dragon Reborn appears as foretold by prophecy. Each of the eight (so far) books in the series is a complex, detailed history of a fully realized culture. Enthusiastic readers have filled our pages with their comments, and Web sites around the world extol the virtues of Jordan and his creations. Amazon.com's Therese Littleton spoke with Jordan about his fans, his books, and his inspirations.

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  • 25

    Interview: Nov 6th, 1998

    Therese Littleton

    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?

    Robert Jordan

    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.

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  • 26

    Interview: Dec 23rd, 2002

    Ben P. Indick

    Did you read fantasy as a boy?

    Robert Jordan

    Only prolifically. I loved Swift, reading Gulliver over and over again. My older brother introduced me to Huck Finn and the great writers. I read Tolkien only about a dozen times.

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  • 27

    Interview: 2003

    Orbit Interview (Verbatim)

    Orbit Books

    How do you feel about being considered Tolkien's equal by so many critics?

    Robert Jordan

    Both grateful and uneasy. It is like being compared to Mozart as a composer. A part of you feels gratified at the ego-stroking, but the rest of you worries that you might begin to believe it. In high school, my football coach used to tell me that I could read the newspapers the day after a game and believe what they said about me for that whole day, but when I came out to the next practice, I had to believe that nobody had ever heard my name and the next game coming up would be the only chance I would ever have to make a reputation. I've tried to transfer that into my writing. What's past is past, and I have to try to make the next book better than anything I've ever done before.

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  • 28

    Interview: Feb 9th, 2003

    Bill Thompson

    His is a vivid daydream, alive on paper. Not an alternate reality.

    For those who suspect Robert Jordan is so consumed by his books, so immersed in their universe that the fanciful has more substance than the tangible, be assured this is not the case.

    He still takes out the garbage. And no fictional creations attend him as he does so.

    The books of his "Wheel of Time" fantasy cycle may possess prodigious detail, and characters who seem to breathe on the page, but the author recognizes the warp and woof of the real quite well, thank you, and embraces the knowledge that, in time, the party will come to an end.

    The Charleston native is as grounded as one of the most successful writers in the world can be. Hyperbole? Do millions read your books with the same fervor accorded Tolkien? Do 500 people a day show up for your book signings, from Sacramento to Sydney? Are your novels translated into 20 languages? Are you the standard-bearer for a major publishing company? Are there thousands of Web sites devoted in whole or in part to discussing your work?

    We thought not.

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  • 29

    Interview: Dec 19th, 2003

    Question

    And what SFF movie would you all collapse in front of after the [Holiday] feast?

    Robert Jordan

    Not one, I fear. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, back to back, in the expanded versions. Pull an all-nighter over brandy and cigars. Mr. Heinlein would be fascinated by the special effects and how they were done, as well as by the story, of course. Mr. Tolkien could grumble about what the movies had done to his books. I've never known a writer who didn't enjoy grumbling, at least in private, about what the movies had done to his book. And Mike and I could just enjoy. Maybe we'd toss in Pirates of the Caribbean and make it a true all-nighter. I went to a charity Halloween ball as Captain Black Jack Sparrow (hair beads by Elise Mattheson), and I am told the resemblance between me and Johnny Depp was amazing. Especially around the eyes. The eyes took two women half an hour to get done!

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  • 30

    Interview: Mar 29th, 2004

    Sci Fi Weekly

    What is your favorite Lord of the Rings movie?

    Robert Jordan

    (Laughs.) If I have to pick a favorite, I will pick The Return of the King. We get the climax, the triumph of good and all of that.

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  • 31

    Interview: Jan 6th, 2004

    Philadelphia, PA

    Okay, let's talk turkey, lots of comparison to you and Tolkien as the legacy and the new master. How do you feel about all these suggestions flying about? You both are easily my two favorite authors of all time (with Douglas Adams edging in to a close second!)

    Robert Jordan

    I feel a little nervous about them and quite pleased. If you're talking the realm of high fantasy, being compared to Tolkien is like being a musician and being compared to Mozart. That's the good part. The bad part is, I'm not Tolkien I'm not trying to write like Tolkien. So one one hand I'm pleased, the other hand ambivalent.

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  • 32

    Interview: Jul 14th, 2005

    Question

    One person asked, rather impertinently I thought, if RJ had ripped off Tolkien's Middle-Earth map when he created his own.

    Robert Jordan

    Of course, RJ denied that, and said that after he had handed in The Eye of the World, he was asked to provide a map. "Why do you need a map?" RJ asked, and he was told, "Tom Doherty likes maps." So, RJ slapped a couple pieces of paper together and drew in the mountains, then scattered the countries around, added some cities rivers and other geographical features and sent it off to Tor. Tor revised it a number of times until Elise Mitchell produced the version that became part of The Eye of the World. RJ also stated that if you look at a map of southwestern Saudi Arabia you'll see two mountain ranges that intersect at right angles.

    When asked how aware of geography he was while writing, RJ said that he created the city maps whole, but only roughed out the larger ones. The bigger ones were then polished by the people at Tor before being printed in the books. I took it to mean that he wasn't all that concerned with larger geographic features, which might explain some of the geographic discrepencies in the story.

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  • 33

    Interview: Oct 2nd, 2005

    Robert Jordan

    For Cooner 1987, I don't think there is any similarity between Hobbits and the Two Rivers folk. The Two Rivers people are based on a lot of country people I have known, and among whom I did a lot of my growing up. I did try to make the first roughly 100 pages of Eye seem somewhat Tolkienesque. I wanted to say, "This is the place you know, guys. Now we're going somewhere else." And then the Trolloc kicked in the farmhouse door. But I didn't take it to the point of trying to make the Two Rivers folk seem like Hobbits. I mean, I love The Lord of the Rings and have read it at least a dozen times, but when you have too many Hobbits together, they can be so bloody cute that I need a stiff drink.

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  • 34

    Interview: Oct 4th, 2005

    Robert Jordan

    Also for Mr Mashadar, I think, my favorite fantasy novel is The Lord of the Rings, hands down. The largest effect that it had on my writing was a desire to be the flip side of the coin, to take the comfortable old tropes and put a different spin on them. Also, the creation of paradox is one source of balefire's danger. Remember that in the War of the Shadow, even the forces of the Shadow gave up using it because of the fear that reality itself might unravel.

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  • 35

    Interview: Jan 20th, 2003

    Rick Kleffel

    Now, how would you bring someone who has never read your books—and indeed might only have become aware of the high potential of the fantasy genre with the recent motion picture adaptations of The Lord of the Rings—to start the Wheel of Time? What would you tell them?

    Robert Jordan

    Well, if they liked The Lord of the Rings, I'd tell them The New York Times claims I'm the American heir to The Lord of the Rings—to Tolkien! The American heir to Tolkien; that's what Ed Rothstein said in The New York Times. But you would have to imagine Tolkien with no elves, no dwarves, no unicorns, no dragons, no hobbits—just people, written with an American sensibility instead of an English sensibility, and where Tolkien drew on the myths and legends of the English countryside and Norse myths and legends, I have drawn on the myths and legends of every country in the world based largely on the fact that we're a melting pot, and there are very few nations in the world that do not have people from the nation living here in the United States.

    Rick Kleffel

    That's great; the Wheel of Time is the melting pot fantasy!

    Robert Jordan

    Yes, you might put it that way.

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  • 36

    Interview: Dec 1st, 2006

    Hannah Clark

    There are readers, and then there are fans. Readers offer condolences when a favorite author falls ill. Fans offer bone marrow.

    Robert Jordan, author of the best-selling Wheel of Time series, has fans. And if you want to understand them, take a look at his blog. Since last spring, when he announced he had a rare blood disease called amyloidosis, Jordan, 58, has been chronicling his life-and-death struggle online. Whenever he's well enough to write, he thanks the fans who sent care packages, and those who donated to the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., where he is being treated. Then there's this:

    Robert Jordan

    "For Jaime Platt and her sister, your offer touches me deeply. They were able to harvest enough of my own bone marrow stem cells that I don't need marrow donation from elsewhere, but thank you very much. That was a kind and generous offer."

    Hannah Clark

    And you thought Harry Potter fans were enthusiastic?

    Jordan's readers are offering help because they've developed a close connection with him through his books. They're also desperately hoping he lives to finish the series. Wheel of Time is like Lord of the Rings on steroids. Since Jordan launched the series in 1990, he's added another ten books, and more than 14 million copies have sold. Fans are patiently waiting for book No. 12, A Memory of Light, which Jordan promises will be the last, even if it reaches 2,000 pages.

    Hannah Clark

    "I've told people you might need a forklift to get it out the door," says Jordan, speaking by phone from his home in South Carolina.

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  • 37

    Interview: Apr 23rd, 2008

    Wilson Grooms

    The memorial dedication was begun by a brief introduction of the event from Angie LeClercq, the Director of the Library. The introduction of the panel was made by our own Harriet. Sitting with her were Michael Livingston (Assistant Professor of Medieval Literature at The Citadel), Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Mistborn) and Dave Drake (Hammer Slammers series, Lord of the Isles series and at least 60 other books).

    Michael Livingston began by offering what he thought Jim had meant to literature. He compared the body of writers to that of waves on the ocean with peaks and troughs, with the last peak being JRR Tolkien. After him there was a long period in the trough of the wave, then came Jordan. Brandon then waded in with the impact Jordan had upon him as a 15 year old reading fantasy for the first time. He said that his parents were directing him towards Chemistry and Medical School. But Jordan's fantasy world hooked him so much that he too wanted to write. But every time he'd try something, he'd say to himself, "I can't. Jordan already did that." (For you writers of the future out there, Brandon wrote 12 books before getting one published. Never quit.)

    This prompted questions about Jordan's impact on other writers, "were there people following his style?" I think you all know the answer to that question, there are many. Dave Drake added the observation that there are those who write about something and there are those who write about something that they know because they've lived it. He used his own experience from Vietnam to illustrate his point. He said that when you read Jordan you are privy to Jordan's experiences. The question was asked about who might be the next wave peak. Brandon offered a wonderful bit of insight. It won't be someone who imitates another's work. Brandon said that the one(s) who get it right will look not at what Jordan did, but how he did it. If they are successful in applying the method to their own experience, then we may see the next great writer.

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  • 38

    Interview: Apr, 2001

    Gerhard Hormann

    Could this series have been written if The Lord of the Rings had not existed?

    Robert Jordan

    Hard to say. The Lord of the Rings is a milestone in the genre and in a sense laid the groundwork for what we currently call fantasy. The first 100 pages of The Eye of the World are quite similar to it. In it, you’ll find the idyllic, pristine world as in the world of Tolkien. But from that moment on, the story takes a completely different turn. My series doesn’t only touch back to British folklore, but to all religions of the world. Women don’t play a secondary role, but make up at least half the story. And it doesn’t include any elves, nor unicorns, dragons, dwarves or hobbits.

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  • 39

    Interview: Jul, 2009

    MarlonRand

    Is there any information about Way of Kings that you can give us at this time?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I've wanted to do a long epic for a while. I guess that's what comes from reading Jordan and the others while growing up. And so, way back in the late 90's—when I was experimenting with my style—I started working on ideas for a longer form series. I knew the real trick for me would be to do it in a way that it didn't feel stale after just a few books; there needed to be enough to the world, the magic, and the plot arcs that I (and hopefully readers) would keep interested in the series for such a long time.

    What it gives me (the thing that I want in doing a longer epic) is the chance to grow characters across a larger number of books. Dig into their pasts, explore what makes them think the way they do, in ways that even a trilogy cannot. In Kings, I don't want to do a longer 'saga' style series, with each book having a new set of characters. I want this to be one overarching story.

    One of the things that has itched at me for long time in my fantasy reading is the sense of loss that so many fantasy series have. I'm not complaining, mind you—I love these books. But it seems like a theme in a large number of fantasy books is the disappearance of magic and wonder from the world. In Tolkien, the Elves are leaving. In Jordan, technology is growing and perhaps beginning an age where it will overshadow magic. It's very present in Brooks, where the fantasy world is becoming our world. Even Eddings seemed to have it, with a sense that sorcerers are less common, and with things like the only Dragons dying, the gods leaving.

    I've wanted to do a series, then, where the magic isn't going away—it's coming back. Where the world is becoming a more wondrous place. Where new races aren't vanishing, they're being discovered.

    Obviously, I'm not the first to approach a fantasy this way. Maybe I'm reading too much into the other books, seeing something that isn't there. But the return of magic is one of the main concepts that is driving me.

    Well, that and enormous swords and magical power armor.

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  • 40

    Interview: Nov 7th, 2009

    Brandon Sanderson

    Brandon relates Tam to Bilbo and Rand to Frodo.

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  • 41

    Interview: Nov 13th, 2009

    Question

    I am struck by how alike this is to Tolkien. Have you ever talked to Chris Tolkien (since he took over for his father using his notes)?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, but I'd like to.

    We're in a little better shape. Jim actually finished scenes. We have a lot more to work with. He wrote the end himself! He left landmarks to follow from here to the end. Not specific details, just "strong stuff" to get us to the end.

    "There are no characters that we don't know how they end up."

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  • 42

    Interview: Apr 30th, 2010

    Richard Fife

    Stepping back, we have just passed the twentieth anniversary of the series and The Eye of the World. Some people have gone so far as to compare The Wheel of Time to Tolkien and his influence on fantasy. How do you feel it has affected fantasy in general?

    Harriet McDougal Rigney

    Yes, certainly The Times compared them. But, it's just damn good. That is really how it has affected it. A writer friend said he thought the thing that Jim did special was to take Tolkien at one end of the fantasy spectrum and Conan on the other end and combine them, which is interesting for its time.

    Richard Fife

    So, a middle-ground of low, pulp fantasy and high fantasy?

    Harriet McDougal Rigney

    Well, not low pulp, but barbarian fantasy. The muscular Cimmerian, and those books are really quite good. I am rereading them, and in Conan Chronicles number one, it is very obvious to me, looking back, that Jim was brooding about the events in Afghanistan at that time. He's got them right in there. That is not something you usually find in pulp fiction very often. Where the author is incorporating thoughts about current events into a fantasy world, and of course he has done that: Children of the Light, hello?

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  • 43

    Interview: Nov 8th, 2010

    Question

    Is Padan Fain going to turn out like Gollum?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, he is not going to be like that. I am aware of the comparisons, and I am trying to distance him from that. The scene in Towers of Midnight with Padan Fain was originally written differently, and when I submitted it to Harriet she said, "Oh no, he's much crazier than that!" So I changed it accordingly.

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  • 44

    Interview: Nov 8th, 2010

    Question

    (a takeoff on Leigh's review) I've seen this somewhere before: gollum gollum gollum.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Fain will not end up like Gollum. Though Harriet said he is even crazier than how he was shown in Prologue.

    Ted Herman

    EDIT to clarify and correct: Brandon rewrote his original submission of Fain's scene based on Harriet's comments that he wasn't portrayed as crazy enough.

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  • 45

    Interview: Nov 10th, 2010

    Question

    You seem to want to write your own Wheel of Time with The Way of Kings, first book of The Stormlight Archive—a series which should consist of ten books. Could you tell us more about it?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I can. You don't grow up reading Robert Jordan and Melanie Rawn and all of these people who've done large epic series without wanting to do one yourself. I started planning a large epic of my own many years ago, and finding a publisher and convincing them to take a chance on me is very difficult: the longer your book is, the more ambitious, the more hesitant they are—and rightly so, because that can fail. You know, the high opportunity for success also generally means great opportunity for failure. And so this was a book I actually sent to Tor, and they said: "This isn't the right time for this, it's not the right time in your career for this", which was okay. So it's been brewing for a long time; it's dealing with a lot of themes and concepts that I wanted to deal with for a long time.

    And again it comes back to me trying to look at where fantasy can go, not where it's been. A lot of fantasy seems to be very static: the technology doesn't change, the world doesn't change. It's been thousands of years in these fantasy worlds, and there's been no evolution of culture, or technology or anything like this: it's always been that way, and it will always remain that way—which bothers me a lot. It's not realistic, but it also does not give a lot of opportunity for conflict and change and the exploration of that sort of thing.

    The Way of Kings is many things: it's about the dawning of essentially an era of Renaissance, a magical Renaissance, exploration of what magic can do, and the conflicts of magic and technology. But that is actually kind of the background of the series, and in the first book it's much more personal. It's about a young man who was trained as a surgeon by his father, who gets recruited against his will, essentially, into a terrible war. And it's about the conflict between having been taught to heal and then being trained to kill. And what does that do to a person? How do you protect, who can you protect, and who can you heal, when your entire life is about fighting for your life or killing other people? And that really drives him. It's also a story about a young woman who is based a little bit on a mix between Darwin and Pliny the Elder, a natural historian who's kind of at the advent of this Renaissance, this beginning of a magical technology revolution, and her life and experience. It's both of those characters: it's about the characters.

    It's so hard to explain a book this large, because if I start talking about the large-scale concepts, those don't even appear in the first book; they're just hinted at.

    But one of the other things about The Way of Kings that I like to talk about is that I want to see, again, where the genre can go, and I've been pushing for a lot more art. Scott Westerfeld did a very interesting book that included a lot of art recently; it's kind of a half-graphic novel. I wanted, with Way of Kings, to do something like that. If you read Tolkien: Tolkien had a map, and this map had a purpose. If you looked in the book it was a map that the characters actually carried; it was part of the world. And the map has actually, for a fantasy novel, become something of a cliché: you open it up, there's a map, okay. But I don't like that because it's just there: where did this map come from, what does it represent? I want everything to be a piece of the story.

    So I wanted to include a lot of art that was pieces of the story: sketchbooks from one of the characters' notebooks, illuminated manuscript pages from a manuscript they're reading—these sorts of things, so when you read you can see their culture in the art. I've been very excited about it.

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  • 46

    Interview: Dec 25th, 2010

    Question

    The art featured in The Way of Kings is very striking and has been well-received by readers. Do you have any plans to include more art in your future books—other books as well as The Stormlight Archive? Or maybe as bonus content on your website?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There will be more art in future Stormlight Archive books. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and I think adding a visual aspect to novels helps create a more complete and immersive experience. You'll notice that art has been important to one extent or another in all of my books. Elantris had its map and the Aons; Mistborn had its maps and the Steel Alphabet. The Rithmatist, when it comes out in 2012, will have extensive magic system diagrams with every chapter.

    Including a map in a fantasy book has become a bit of a cliché ever since Tolkien did it. But if you go back and look at what Tolkien actually did, the map that was in the book was an in-world artifact—it was something the characters carried around with them and used. So I've approached the art in my books in a similar manner. Each piece represents something that is made and used by the people in the world of the books. I think that helps give a richer feel to the world I'm creating.

    One thing you probably won't see me doing in future novels is including character art. I want to leave exactly how characters look up to the imagination of the reader. But I'm a big fan of the sequential art storytelling form as well, so you'll likely see me do some completely graphic novels in the future.

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  • 47

    Interview: Feb 28th, 2011

    Blackrabite ()

    My friend and I read Mistborn when we first heard you were going to take over on The Wheel of Time. We've been hooked ever since and you are definitely one of our top authors now.

    The friend I spoke of grew up in a Mormon household, as did my wife, and both of them say that a lot of your work seems to borrow or at least use ideas from the Mormon idea of an afterlife as building blocks. Are those just similarities or is your world building influenced heavily by those ideas?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Most of what people are noticing isn't so much intentional as inevitable. Just like people see WWII influences in Tolkien (though he denied that there were such parallels) there are going to be LDS parallels in my books.

    I don't seek to expunge them; they are part of who I am. If I'm reaching into mythology and history for my foundations, I'm going to dip into LDS sources more often than others. So tell your friend and wife that they're seeing real things, most likely—though it's not intentional allegory.

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  • 48

    Interview: Dec 23rd, 2010

    Scott Wilson

    You have really broken the mold and steered away from the usual races of the fantasy genre, is there any major reason why you avoided the standard tropes, such as elves and orcs?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A couple of reasons. Those are really two questions. Why did I avoid the standard tropes? For a long time I've felt that epic fantasy has relied too much on Tolkien, who did a wonderful job, but I feel that rather than doing what he did by creating races and mythologies and worlds of our own we've in some ways allowed ourselves to be strongly influenced by him and relied on some of the work he did. In other cases those tropes have just been overplayed and overdone by people who were very good writers and knew what they were doing. I certainly don't want to point any fingers at people like Stephen Donaldson who wrote brilliant books making use of some of the familiar tropes from Tolkien, but one of the things to remember is that when he did that they weren't familiar tropes. They were still fresh and new. The same can be said for Terry Brooks. I'm sure if I were writing back then that's what I would have done too, because we were still exploring the genre and trying to decide where it was going to go and what epic fantasy was and meant. But I feel that I belong to the generation after that. There was the generation who relied a lot on Tolkien and the generation who grew up reading those authors' books, and a lot of us in my generation of writers seem like we are reacting against the previous generations by saying, "Okay, that's been done, and you did a good job. Where else can we take this?" I have no interest in writing about elves or dwarves or any of these things that have been explored for the last four decades in intricate detail. I want to go my own directions.

    But personally, why do I include the races that I include? I'm just looking for interesting things that complement the story that I'm telling. The races in The Way of Kings come directly into the story and the mystery of what's happened before. If you pay close attention to what the races are, it tells you something about what's going to happen in the future and what's happened in the past. It's very conscious. This is just me trying to explore.

    I feel that epic fantasy as a genre has not yet hit its golden age yet. If you look at science fiction as a genre, science fiction very quickly got into extrapolating very interesting and different sorts of things. Fantasy, particularly in the late '90s, feels like it hit a bit of a rut where the same old things were happening again and again. We saw the same stories being told, we saw the same races show up, we saw variations only in the names for those races. For me as a reader, it was a little bit frustrating because I read this and felt that fantasy should be the genre that should be able to do anything. It should be the most imaginative genre. It should not be the genre where you expect the same stories and the same creatures. If we want to approach the heights of great storytelling and take it a few more steps so that we don't just copy what Tolkien did, we do what Tolkien did, which is look to the lore ourselves and build our own extrapolations. This is playing into what I like as a reader and my own personal philosophies and hobby horses, but it really just comes down to what I think makes the best story.

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  • 49

    Interview: Aug 29th, 2011

    Reader's Question

    People like to measure any fantasy literature against The Lord of the Rings. Do you see this as motivation or pressure within the genre? Do you think it's still possible to write really good High Fantasy without it being called a bad rip-off or it being criticized for breaking with too many of the conventions?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh boy. This is something I have talked about quite a bit from time to time. I wrote a whole essay on it here: http://www.brandonsanderson.com/article/22/

    Recently, the New York Times had a review of Martin's A Dance with Dragons which declared that it was far better than the Lord of the Rings and that Tolkien was dead. Tolkien is the measuring stick that everyone uses. In some ways he shouldn't be, because the fantasy genre has so much potential beyond just being like what Tolkien did. And in other ways, fantasy as we know it today would not exist without Tolkien. He is a giant, and we all stand on his shoulders. In that respect, comparing everyone to Tolkien is not really fair.

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  • 50

    Interview: 2004

    Robert Jordan

    I began writing the Wheel of Time because a great many notions had been bouncing around inside my head and they started to coalesce. I wondered what it was really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you were born to be the savior of mankind. I didn't think it would be very much the way it is in so many books where someone pops up and says, "Hi, I was born to be the savior of mankind, and here's the prophecy," and everybody says, "Oh well, let's go then." I thought self interest would play a big part, on other peoples' parts.

    And I was also wondering about the source of legends and myths. They can't all be anthropomorphizations of natural events. Some of them have to be distortions of things that actually happened, distortions by being passed down over generations. And that led into the inevitable distortion of information over distance, whether that's temporal distance or spatial distance. The further you are in time or space from the actual event, the less likely you are to know what really happened.

    And then finally there was the thought about something that happens in Tolkien and a lot of other places. The wise old wizard, or whatever—the wise old fellow shows up in a small country village, and says, "You must follow me to save the world." And the villagers say, "Right then, guv, off we go!" And well, I did a lot of growing up in the country, and I've always thought that what those country folk would say is, "Oh, is that so? Look here, have another beer. Have two, on me. I'll be right back. I will, really." And then slip out the back door.

    There were a lot of things that came together, and even once I started, of course, a lot of things built in, and added in, and changed.

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  • 51

    Interview: 1997

    Laura Wilson

    Hi, This is Laura Wilson of Audio Renaissance, and I'm speaking with Robert Jordan. How did you decide to start writing the Wheel of Time series?

    Robert Jordan

    I began writing the Wheel of Time because a great many notions had been bouncing around inside my head and they started to coalesce. I wondered what it was really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you were born to be the savior of mankind. I didn't think it would be very much the way it is in so many books where someone pops up and says, "Hi, I was born to be the savior of mankind, and here's the prophecy," and everybody says, "Oh well, let's go then." I thought self interest would play a big part.

    And, I was also wondering about the source of legends and myths. They can't all be anthropomorphizations of natural events. Some of them have to be distortions of things that actually happened, distortions by being passed down over generations. And that led into the distortion of information over distance, whether that's temporal distance or spatial distance. The further you are in time or space from the actual event, the less likely you are to know what really happened.

    And then finally there was the thought about something that happens in Tolkien and a lot of other places. The wise old wizard shows up in a country village and says, "You must follow me to save the world." And the villagers say, "Right then, guv, off we go!" Well, I did a lot of growing up in the country, and I've always thought that what those country folk would say is, "Oh, is that so? Look here, have another beer. Have two, on me. I'll be right back. I will, really." And then slip out the back door.

    There were a lot of things that came together, and even once I started, of course, a lot of things built in, and added in, and changed.

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  • 52

    Interview: Nov 19th, 2011

    Question

    Has Brandon (and Team Jordan I think) done any research on the battles/armies etc.?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, a lot. Brandon didn't want to give me specific examples to avoid spoilers for those who can guess. They contacted one very well known author who helped them with this research. Anyone can guess? I'll give one easy clue: Boromir.

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  • 53

    Interview: Nov 8th, 2011

    Question

    I know that Tolkein hated allegory in his story. What is your belief?

    Brandon Sandrson

    Tolkein hated allegory. He thought that his stories should just be stories, and I actually feel similar to him. I do have themes in my books, but I let the theme come as an outgrowth of what the characters are passionate about. And certainly, there are certain things, you’ll read Way of Kings and Dalinar’s very interested, a very big theme spiritually in the book (I know, that sentence doesn’t make any sense). But, it’s not me going in and intentionally writing an allegory. I like the story to stand as a story, I like telling stories. I’m not big into writing metaphors.

    Certain people are very good at that. C.S. Lewis did a great job of that, it’s not what I try to do.

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  • 54

    Interview: Jul 2nd, 2011

    Marc Aplin

    I hope you've enjoyed the interview up to this point. Sadly, we're onto our final question. What we asked Brandon was, as a writer in the fantasy genre, but also a reader, how do you see it developing over the next twenty years?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So how do I see the fantasy market going? Boy. You know...I'm really excited over what's happening in the fantasy genre right now. It feels like we're entering something of a golden age, where we are exploring the genre in new ways. I always talk about it as it seems like the generation after Tolkien was responding to Tolkien. Which is appropriate, because Tolkien was so awesome. And Tolkien changed the face of fantasy. And there were a lot of responses and perfecting of this type of story which I feel personally culminates in the Wheel of Time, which is kind of the majestic, best version of this sort of heroic arc story that was popular in the '70s and '80s. And then 1990, Robert Jordan starts the grand sort of culmination of them all. And after that, it felt like fantasy didn't quite know where to go. Certainly we had one branch that went into George R. R. Martin, which is kind of the new grittiness, which is great. There's a lot of cool things happening there, and that genre, the heroic gritty is still going strong. David Gemmell was a precursor to that, to what George R. R. Martin did, and certainly Moorcock and some of these also were doing it in the past. But there's a new wave of this.

    But epic fantasy didn't seem to know what to do with itself, for a little while. And now we're recovering and we have new authors that seem to be approaching it in new ways and expanding. Epic fantasy can have wonderful, inventive worlds to the extent that no other genre can do. Science fiction can do great worlds, but we can add added levels of magic upon it, to give us this wholly original sort of thing. And hopefully we're seeing more people take more risks in their world-building and their narrative structure, like you see in Hundred Thousand Kingdoms or the Patrick Rothfuss books. The narratives are getting very interesting and the worlds are getting very interesting. I see in fifty years from now, people looking back and saying, "That's where fantasy hit the golden age." And I hope that's the case. I hope we continue to explore and to innovate and to just have fun with this.

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  • 55

    Interview: Mar 5th, 2010

    Brandon Sanderson

    They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve always wondered who “They” are, and if—by chance—they’ve never heard of Michael Whelan. Because my experience in life has been very different.

    It’s been almost twenty years now since I first discovered Michael’s work. I was fourteen when it happened, and I was not a reader. I’d been handed a succession of novels about young boys living in the wilderness and taking care of their pet dogs. (Which would die by the end of the book.) I disliked reading with a passion. So, when my eighth-grade teacher assigned me to do a book report, I did everything I could to get out of it.

    That failed. In fact, it failed so solidly that the teacher—unwilling to let me choose my own book to read, for fear I’d choose something not up my reading level—steered me to the back of the room, where she kept a group of ratty paperbacks to loan out to students. You probably know the type—ripped, stained by spaghetti sauce from cafeteria lunches, pages folded and worn. I was told I had to read one of these and had to do a book report on them—and she’d read them all, so she’d know if I tried to fake it.

    Sullen and annoyed, I began to sift through the books. Most looked terrible. I resigned myself to another dead dog story, but then one of the books actually caught my eye. It had this vivid painting of a dragon standing in the mists, a woman held limply in its hand. Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. The painting was so beautiful, so realistic yet imaginative, that I snatched it up, actually a little eager to look through the pages. I ended up taking it home with me.

    I read that book in one day. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever tried reading before. (I had never been introduced to fantasy novels.) Dragonsbane was amazing, challenging, imaginative, gripping, and beautiful all wrapped up in one. I remember a severe bout of disappointment upon finishing the book because I thought surely there couldn’t be anything else like it in the entire world.

    Still, hopeful, I visited the school library the next day. I looked through the card catalog, and picked the next book—alphabetically by title—after Dragonsbane. It was called Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. I went and pulled it out, and was once again captivated by the cover. I took it home and read it.

    My life changed. Now, we throw around sentences like that in writing, using them over and over again until they become as worn as the shoes of a traveling salesman—hardly capable of holding meaning any longer. But let me say it again. My life changed.

    I devoured every Anne McCaffrey book in the school library. Suddenly, what I’d discovered in Dragonsbane wasn’t a single, freak event. There was a pattern. If two authors could do this, perhaps there were others. Hungry for more, I went to the bookstore and discovered there was an entire fantasy genre.

    There were so many books. Which to choose? Dragons had treated me well so far, so I looked for some dragon books. And there, right on the shelf, was a beautiful book called Dragon Prince. I consumed it, and then everything else Melanie Rawn was writing.

    What do these books all share? It wasn’t just the dragons; it was the covers. Each time, there was something dramatic and special about them. I now own prints of Dragonsbane and several of Melanie’s covers. All were painted by Michael Whelan.

    By the time Tad Williams’ Dragonbone Chair came out, I could recognize Michael’s art on sight. And I also knew to trust it. It didn’t seem logical—you really shouldn’t be able to judge a book by its cover. But a Whelan cover became a seal of approval to me, a sign that the publisher trusted the book so much that they got the best person available to do the cover.

    I can’t tell you all of the authors Whelan’s art led me to over the years: Patricia Mckillip, Joan D. Vinge, Stephen Donaldson, and even Asimov. (Yes, you read that right. I first picked up Asimov because Whelan had done the new Foundation covers.)

    I remember when winter 1993 rolled around. My local bookseller noted to me that Whelan had a new art book coming out, one half dedicated to covers, one half dedicated to his fine art. It was the only thing I requested for Christmas, and my parents bought it for me despite the cost. I spent hours leafing through the wonderous, fantastic art. Those imagines sparked things in my mind. I was an author in embryo, absorbing, thinking, dreaming. One of the very first stories I ever wrote was a ‘fanfic’ based on Whelan’s Passage series of fine art prints.

    The years have passed. There are other wonderful fantasy artists out there—and, in a way, the market has finally caught up to Whelan (much as the fantasy genre itself needed time to catch up to Tolkien.) I’ve been lucky to have some of those incredible artists paint covers for my books. But I’ve rarely felt as much excitement, wonder, and awe as I did the when I got to open an email and see the cover for The Way of Kings.

    Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) asked me to provide a quote about how I feel having a Whelan cover on one of my books. My editor, Moshe, noted “Surely you’ll mention how it’s a dream come true for both you and your editor.” But 'Dream come true' is another one of those phrases we use so often it has lost its meaning.

    How do I really feel? Well, when I was a senior in high school, I was forced to take a life-planning class. In that class, we had to write down ten 'life goals' we wanted to achieve some day. #1 on my list, which I still have somewhere, was “Publish a book someday that is good enough to deserve a Michael Whelan cover.”

    It has always been a deep-seated desire of mine to one day have a Whelan painting on one of my works. Without this man’s skill and vision, I might never have discovered the fantasy genre, and I might not be writing novels today.

    You might say I’m a little bit pleased.

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  • 56

    Interview: Sep 7th, 2009

    Christian Lindke

    I'm going to have to sign out for the evening; I think this is a good place to wrap up. Next week we should have, as our guest, Professor Scott Nokes. He's our popular medievalist expert from Troy University. He's going to be talking about the most recent "Tolkien" endbook to come out, which is the book in which Tolkien's son published Professor Tolkien's two new Lays of the sagas of Sigurd and Gudrun, so they're kind of his version of "Nibelungenlied", written in a poetic format in the style of the old Norse Eddas but in a modern language. So it does have an interesting appeal, and we'll talk about what that means for popular medievalism, and things of that nature. I want to thank Brandon for joining us this evening. Thank you very much for being on our show, Brandon.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ah, no problem; thanks for having me!

    CHRISTIAN LINDKE

    And to let you know that if you ever do decide to release your home-brew rules for your RPG as a lulu, that I'll likely purchase them. (laughs)

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    I've actually considered it, so we'll see. We'll see if I ever have the time to write all of this up. It's pretty screwy.

    CHRISTIAN LINDKE

    Sure, yeah. It might be interesting to see. But thank you. This is Christian Lindke signing out. I'd also like to thank Bill and Eric for joining us this evening, and I will see you all next week. Have a great, geek-filled week.

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  • 57

    Interview: Oct, 2008

    AhoyMatey (15 October 2008)

    Brandon, I just wanted to confirm that you did have a couple of cameos as Slowswift? Or was that mean to be someone else?

    CHAOS

    I'm pretty sure Slowswift is Hoid. The Ars Arcanum says he "bears a striking resemblance to a storyteller", which I take to mean Hoid.

    Brandon Sanderson (16 October 2008)

    Slowswift is an homage to Grandpa Tolkien. A study of his personality will reveal why that name was chosen for him.

    BRANDON SANDERSON

    Hoid appears in that same chapter, but Vin doesn't meet him. Something he does spooks her. She's just too darn observant for her own good.

    Footnote

    This is actually the first time Brandon mentioned Hoid.

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  • 58

    Interview: May 15th, 2003

    Dario Olivero

    Many people think that you are the heir to Tolkien. How do you feel about that?

    Robert Jordan

    It's an honor. It is like a composer being compared to Mozart. But I'm me, I do not follow in his footsteps, I go my own way.

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  • 59

    Interview: May 15th, 2003

    Dario Olivero

    What is your view of the trilogy of films from the Lord of the Rings?

    Robert Jordan

    I like them, I have seen the first two episodes, I'll go see the third and I bought the DVD.

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  • 60

    Interview: Nov 3rd, 2009

    Louie Free

    I'm glad you say that, because again, you know, I'm an aging flower child, so that ought to tell you a lot. And you know, Tolkien—that was where it was at—Lord of the Rings. A now a lot of people—a new generation, after the movie came out—have gone back to read that. And you know, it was a different time, obviously. And I'm glad you brought up Tolkien because many talk about this as the new Tolkien—kind of like if you liked Tolkien, you're going to love Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. How do you feel about that?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You're going to love the Wheel of Time. I've read a lot of fantasy, a lot of fantasy. I've read a lot of things – I like to read widely now that I'm older. I think it's important to read widely and to be sampling lots of different stuff, particularly viewpoints you don't agree with so you can see what people are saying and listen to them. I think that's really what has to happen. But anyway, I love fantasy, I've read a lot of it. And no one got it right like Robert Jordan got it right. Meaning, Tolkien did something amazing. He blew our minds, is really what happened. There hadn't been anything like Tolkien. There'd been fantasy, but never epic fantasy, with the real world that just feels like it's got a history and a lore and everything together – never been anything like that before. And a lot of people tried to imitate Tolkien, and what they did is they copied him. They copied the tropes. They used the same types of races, the same type of story, and yet they didn't get the core of it right, in my opinion. Not until Robert Jordan, where he did the lore and the mythology, and it was all his own. He wasn't copying Tolkien, and yet he was using the process that Tolkien did.

    I mean, a part of the genius of these books, the Wheel of Time, is this idea of the circular nature of time. The idea is that the world of the Wheel of Time is actually our world in the future and in the deep past, because ages come and pass. And so, in the Wheel of Time books, you'll find references to things like a man who flew to the moon in the belly of an eagle, which is a reference to Buzz Aldrin, and things like this. Our history has become their mythology. And yet the things they're living through are the foundation for some of our mythology. There's a character who's—you can see, if you really research it—Robert Jordan is using Odin and Loki as mythology that this person is starting, as in when our time comes around again this person was the foundation of what became the Odin and Loki mythology. And so, it's fascinating how he's interweaving our world becoming their world, which is becoming our world—just wonderful sort of philosophical use of mythology. But of course, the real core is the characters. It's not about philosophy, it's about characters that you love and you care about as they live through all of this.

    Louie Free

    I'm talking with Brandon Sanderson. The new book, The Gathering Storm, available everywhere—everywhere—online. Brandon Sanderson's website is brandonsanderson.com, and there's an awful lot there and we've got links up at louiefreeshow.com, or go directly to brandonsanderson.com. We'll be back with much more on the Louie b. Free Radio Show, brain food from the heartland, right after this.

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  • 61

    Interview: Nov 9th, 2009

    Question

    What did you think would happen at the end before you read the ‘real ending’?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Brandon talked a long time about how the first place he ever went on the web was rec.arts.rj. He talked about how RJ stood on the shoulders of giants, mentioning JRR Tolkien by name and he also said that he was surprised that RJ’s genius hadn’t crushed the giants beneath him. When he finally read the ending that RJ wrote he felt the ending was right, perfect and satisfied the promise of the books. He went on to say that aspects of the ending surprised him but that they made perfect sense.

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  • 62

    Interview: Aug, 1996

    Hailing Frequency

    The last time Hailing Frequency had the privilege of interviewing Robert Jordan, he had just released the fourth volume of his vast fantasy tale, "The Wheel of Time." At the time, we asked him to give a brief summary of the story thus far. He laughed—it had already grown so complex that no easy summary was possible. Now with the release of A Crown of Swords, "The Wheel of Time" has grown to seven volumes. Since each new volume has leaped to the top of the Waldenbooks bestseller lists almost on the day of its release, it would appear that a remarkable number of readers are already familiar with the story to date. So rather than ask the impossible once again, we decided to ask Jordan about the project as a whole—its origins and its overall shape, as the author sees it from somewhere in mid-course.

    Robert Jordan

    "The Wheel of Time" is in effect a recreation of the source of legends. I gathered together a lot of legends, fairy tales, and folk tales from around the world and stripped away the cultural references, so that just the bare story was left. The I reverse-engineered them.

    You might recall a game: I've heard it called "Whispers," I've heard it called "Telephone"—a child's game. If you remember, the last child in the row stood up and said aloud, and what actually happened is what's on the piece of paper. So I've reverse-engineered to try and get back to something like what the piece of paper says. King Arthur is there, but most people don't recognize him right off. And there are a lot of other myths and legends too, although King Arthur is the most easily recognizable. As a matter of fact, I was shocked that some people didn't realize that Arthur was in the books until they read the third volume.

    The story begins with The Eye of the World. That's the first book. And it begins in a very pastoral setting, with people who are very...well, innocent is the word. They are rural, they are themselves pastoral. And I tried to make the beginning almost Tolkienesque, as a homage, and as a way of saying, "This is the foundation that we're all jumping off from." But it begins to change, because I'm not trying to do a Tolkien pastiche in any way. And as we leave that pastoral setting, things begin to change. You begin to move away from the style of Tolkien. The characters begin to learn more about the world. They become more sophisticated, in the sense of having more knowledge, and thus they see the world in a more sophisticated way. They're not as innocent, as time goes on, as the books go on, as they were in the beginning. And so the tone of the books changes slightly with their worldview.

    As to where the books are going—I know that exactly. I've known it from the beginning. I've known from the beginning what the last scene of the last book was going to be. I know how I intend to tie up the major threads. I know who's going to be alive, who's going to be dead, who's going to be married to whom, all these things. I know the details. I could have sat down six or seven years ago, and written the final scene of the books. And there wouldn't be a great deal of difference in what I'd write when I actually do reach that point.

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  • 63

    Interview: Mar 15th, 2003

    M. L. Van Valkenburgh

    Somewhat inevitably, perhaps, Jordan ended up being compared to fantasy's other master—J.R.R. Tolkein, of Lord of the Rings fame. And from a powerful source, too.

    "Jordan has come to dominate the world that Tolkien began to reveal..." crowed the New York Times. Perhaps it was his battle scenes, which portray a realism that only one who has experienced battle—Tolkien in the World Wars and Jordan in Vietnam—can truly contemplate, although Jordan says he reached further back for his sources.

    Robert Jordan

    "I was reading about 16th and 17th century battle scenes. You can't see it unless you're there, but basically, it's just mass chaos and confusion," he says.

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  • 64

    Interview: Mar 15th, 2003

    M. L. Van Valkenburgh

    But it was more likely something deeper. Tolkien had a great mastery over the world in which his characters lived. Indeed, that was why he wrote his stories at all. As a master linguist who was utterly fascinated by ancient British and Norse mythology, his goal was to create a separate world. He even created a language to go along with it—Elvish—which anyone with a great deal of time and inclination can learn.

    Jordan, too, has created a new world, but his world is a byproduct of his story.

    Robert Jordan

    "The beginnings of the story came first, then the world began to grow." he says.

    "I was rather shocked by the write-up in the New York Times comparing me to Tolkien. We have totally different backgrounds. He has an English voice and drew strongly from English and Norse traditions. I have a Southern voice. He had two women of note—Arwen and Eowyn. In my world's mythology, women tell half the story. I grew up around strong women. Women killed and ate the meek men in my world," he says.

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  • 65

    Interview: Mar 15th, 2003

    M. L. Van Valkenburgh

    Unlike Tolkien, it is difficult if not impossible to pin down particular mythic traditions in Jordan's work. Tolkien made no secret of his interest in ancient British and Norse mythology—indeed, Frodo is named for a Norse hero. But although there are some typical hero features to Rand al'Thor, Jordan's main character, who, interestingly, makes only brief appearances in this latest book, the other leading characters don't have perceivable mythological analogs.

    Robert Jordan

    When this is brought to his attention, Jordan chuckles. "Then I've done it correctly. I was terrified various bits of mythology would be too obvious. I wanted it to be bits and pieces. I certainly didn't want to do any simply lifting of myths or legends. There are hundreds of books on King Arthur. There doesn't need to be another one."

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  • 66

    Interview: Mar 15th, 2003

    M. L. Van Valkenburgh

    Another thing that sets Jordan apart from Tolkien is an ever-present sense of hope—something that has kept readers reading for 7,000 pages and will keep them reading 'til the end of the series, which Jordan says will take a minimum of two more books. No matter how bad the odds are against his characters, no matter that the world draws ever closer to its final battle with the Dark One, Jordan slips in enough events to stop readers from becoming fatalistic.

    Tolkien, on the other hand, was a profound fatalist himself. And, indeed, while his characters did, for the most part, achieve their ends, there is a sense of bittersweetness that pervades his works. His attitude is evident even in his relationships with the young children he left at home while off fighting World War II (and dreaming up his master work). Speaking metaphorically of the war with the Germans, he wrote his youngest son Christopher, saying, "We are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring. ... The War is not over (and the one that is or the part of it, has largely been lost.) But it is of course wrong to fall into such a mood, for Wars are always lost, and The War always goes on; and it is no good growing faint."

    It would be hard to picture Jordan announcing that wars are always lost to a young child; instead, he has a childlike sense of wonder and enjoyment of the world around him that his predecessor lacked.

    Robert Jordan

    "I like the Battery. The High Battery, particularly. (As a child) I liked its rickety nature. Now that they're fixing it up I'm not sure how I'll feel about it. But I loved the sense that at any moment the slates might drop you into the High Battery. My friends and I used to run through the streets and alleys, and things weren't as spruced up as they are now. Everything was overgrown with bamboo. It was wonderful," he recalls.

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  • 67

    Interview: Jun, 2009

    Brandon Sanderson (12 June 2009)

    The Fantasy Series

    I'm in the middle of an experiment. My newest book, Warbreaker, is a stand-alone epic fantasy, much as my first book Elantris was. Obviously, I'm not the only one to release stand-alones in this genre. There's a grand tradition of it, and some of my personal favorite books are stand-alones. I'm curious to see how readers react to me jumping away from a series and doing another stand-alone, as it's something I want to do fairly frequently.

    And yet, though I don't let the sales choose what I write or publish, I do let them worry me. Really, releasing this book should be like releasing any other. I'm excited about it, I put my soul into it, and I think it represents some of the best writing I've ever done. And yet, at the same time, I know there's going to be less excitement about it from the readership than there was for the final Mistborn book. Stand alones tend to get reviewed more and better, they tend to make fans happy, and yet they just don't tend to sell as well. (I don't know for certain—I won't see numbers on the release week until next Wednesday.)

    Ever since Tolkien had to split Lord of the Rings, there has been a strong tradition of the fantasy epic coming in installments. We fantasy readers like lots of worldbuiling, lots of depth of character, and lots of viewpoints. And yet, at the same time, it seems that we like to complain about the length of the series. We want them to be long—but we don't want them to be TOO long. The problem is, we all seem to have a different definition of what makes a series "too" long.

    If you look at the figures, the Wheel of Time didn't start hitting #1 on the New York Times list until its eighth or ninth book. It took Goodkind longer, with Sword of Truth. I believe the eleventh book was the first to hit #1. Even while people were complaining about these series, they were buying more and more copies of them. Perhaps that's what was making them complain—they really wanted an ending, and were willing to read until they got to it. They just wished they could get the ending sooner.

    Or maybe the ones complaining are just a vocal minority. Still, the genre's love of the huge series does worry me a little. The length of a story shouldn't be dependent upon what the market wants, but what the story itself demands. If I write a story that I feel takes one book, I want to (and will) release it as one book. If it takes three, I'll do three. If it takes ten, I'll do ten. I hope to have the flexibility to be doing a little from each of those piles during my career.

    Yet even as it worries me, there's a piece of me—that fantasy novel lover who grew up as a teenager reading Eddings, Williams, and Jordan—that pushes me to do something BIG. Something grand in scope, something massive, long, intricate, and...well, epic.

    So what are your thoughts? Short series? Stand alone? Big epics? Why do the long series sell so much better when people are vocally claiming they wish there were more stand alones and trilogies out there?

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  • 68

    Interview: Dec 7th, 2012

    Harriet McDougal

    I've edited every single one of his books except for his Cheyenne Raiders. An agent said to me once, "What if he gave you a real piece of [crap]?" And I said, "But he never would!" Tom Doherty called me; he had gotten the rights to do a Conan the Barbarian novel. And I said, "Well, Jim could do it." And he liked doing it so much, he ended up writing seven of them.

    Tom Doherty

    He was using a new name. As you know, Jim used pen names.

    Narrator

    Over the next decade, Rigney wrote under many pen names: Jackson O'Reilly, Reagan O'Neal, and of course, Robert Jordan.

    Harriet McDougal

    J.O.R.—That was his initials, and I guess the rest just grew because, the way his mind worked, he'd be working on current stuff, but on the back burner, things were cooking away.

    Tom Doherty

    Jim said that he had just dreamed to write a big fantasy.

    Harriet McDougal

    He said his first thought was just, how would it be to be told that you are going to be the savior of the world, but you're going to go mad and kill everyone you love in the process?

    Tom Doherty

    We bought the book in the mid-80s.

    Harriet McDougal

    It was four years of actual work, with words on paper, before he finished The Eye of the World.

    Tom Doherty

    God, I fell in love with it. I read it, you know, and I said, you know, boy, this is big. This is the first thing I thought could sell like Tolkien.

    Harriet McDougal

    The New York Times called Robert Jordan the American heir to Tolkien.

    Tom Doherty

    Pretty strong statement for the times.

    Jason Denzel

    In a matter of three books, Robert Jordan had developed an international following.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Robert Jordan was a genius. He kept so much in his head. He had so much depth and wealth of worldbuilding for this series, it's mind-boggling. We've got somewhere around three million plus words of text. The notes are just as big.

    Tom Doherty

    There are very few things to which people had been willing to give this enormous commitment.

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  • 69

    Interview: Jan 7th, 2013

    Ed Huyck

    When did you first start reading The Wheel of Time, and what were your initial impressions of the stories and the writing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I still remember the first time I saw The Eye of the World on bookshelves, at age 15. I can almost feel that moment, standing and holding the book in my hands. I think the cover of Eye is the best [longtime series cover artist] Darryl Sweet has ever done—one of the best in fantasy. I loved the cover. The feel of the troop marching along, Lan and Moiraine proud and face forward. The cover screamed epic. I bought the book and loved it.

    I still think Eye is one of the greatest fantasy books ever written. It signifies an era, the culmination of the epic quest genre which had been brewing since Tolkien initiated it in the '60s. The Wheel of Time dominated my reading during the '90s, influencing heavily my first few attempts at my own fantasy novels. I think it did that to pretty much all of us; even many of the most literarily snobbish of fantasy readers were youths when I was, and read The Eye of the World when I did.

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  • 70

    Interview: Jan 7th, 2013

    Ed Huyck

    The Wheel of Time has been a massive success over the past two decades. What kind of long standing influence do you see on the fantasy field from the series?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Robert Jordan was part of the generation of writers who grew up reading Tolkien and reacting to his books. I'm part of the next generation—the generation who grew up reading Robert Jordan and are reacting to his work. That generation is still growing—people today are still picking up The Eye of the World for the first time and getting engrossed in it. Then there are also beginning writers who are picking up my own work or the work of other writers from my generation such as Patrick Rothfuss and Brent Weeks, and reacting to what they read in our books, as we were reacting to Robert Jordan.

    Each generation stands on the shoulders of the giants of the generation that came before, so in that way Robert Jordan's books will continue to influence the genre for decades or even centuries to come.

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  • 71

    Interview: Jan 4th, 2013

    Petra Mayer

    Although I think you're right—we are getting into kind of details, but I do want to come back to the worldbuilding a little bit later in the conversation. But without giving too much away about the final book–there's a lot of fighting because, you know, it is the Last Battle, right?

    Harriet McDougal

    Yes.

    Petra Mayer

    And I know that your husband had a military background. Can you talk about that, and how it may have influenced his writing?

    Harriet McDougal

    Yes, he served two tours in Vietnam, in the Army. He was a helicopter door gunner.

    Petra Mayer

    And a Citadel graduate, right?

    Harriet McDougal

    Yes, he was. He went to The Citadel as a Veteran student, and loved that institution and the Army with–with all his heart, you might say. A friend of his said to me once, "Some people take off the uniform, and that's that. Other people, the uniform sinks right into their skin." And my dear husband was one of the latter.

    Petra Mayer

    And it really shows in the books. There's a lot of tactics, a lot of military strategy.

    Harriet McDougal

    Yes, it does. The New York Times said at one point that the books reflect the last 30 years of American experience, including war, in the way that Tolkien's book reflected the last 30 years of the English experience when he was writing during World War II, that Robert Jordan's battle scenes are pretty wonderful.

    Petra Mayer

    That's an interesting parallel to Tolkien actually.

    Footnote

    The New York Times' article on Tolkien and Jordan, published in 1996, can be read here.

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  • 72

    Interview: Aug 31st, 2012

    Daily Dragon

    Shallan's sketches in The Way of Kings are terrific additions that enhance the epic feel of the novel. What inspired you to push for these illustrations?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I wanted to use the form of this novel to try and enhance what epic fantasy can do, and downplay the things that are tough about it. One of the tough things about epic fantasy is the learning curve—how much you have to learn and pay attention to, how many things there are to just know. I felt that occasional illustrations could really help with that. For instance, how Shallan's sketchbook, or uses of multiple maps, could give us a visual component to the book. Pictures really are worth a thousand words. You can have on that page something that shows a creature much better than I can describe it. And so I felt that that would help deemphasize the problem of the learning curve, while at the same time helping to make this world real. Epic fantasy is about immersion, and I wanted to make this world real since that's one of the great things we can do with epic fantasy. We've got the space and the room to just build a completely real world, and I felt that the art would allow me to do that, which is why I decided to do "in world" art.

    I didn't want to take this toward a graphic novel. I like graphic novels, but it wasn't appropriate here to do illustrations of the scenes and characters from the books because I don't want to tell you what they look like. I want that to be up to your own imagination. And so we wanted that in-world ephemera feel to it, as though it were some piece of art that you found in the world and included.

    I think it goes back to Tolkien. There's a map in The Hobbit, and that map isn't just a random map, which has become almost a cliché of fantasy books and of epic fantasy. "Oh, of course there's a random map in the front!" Well, Tolkien wanted you to think this map was the actual map the characters carried around, and that's why he included it. He wrote his books as if he were the archivist putting them together and translating them and bringing them to you, this wonderful story from another world, and he included the map because the map was there with the notes. That's what I wanted the feel for this ephemera to be. As though whoever has put this book together—done the translation and included pieces of art and maps and things that they found in the world that had been collected during these events—that's what you're getting.

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  • 73

    Interview: Nov 5th, 2009

    Matthew Peterson

    And your Mistborn series, like you said, it is more serious. Tell us a little bit about the Mistborn series.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay. One of the things I felt that I wanted to do, when I finally did break in, was find some way that I could add to the genre, rather than re-treading the same ground. I felt that I wanted to try and look at the fantasy genre and do plots that hadn't been explored yet. And the Mistborn books are my attempt at doing that.

    A lot of epic fantasy has this same sort of concept. This young protagonist, raised in the rural area goes on a quest to defeat the dark lord. And it's a wonderful, powerful story; it's the story that Tolkien used to an extent; it's certainly the story that Robert Jordan used, and you see it coming up over and over again in fantasy and I worried it had come up too many times. And so the Mistborn series came from me saying, "Well, what if he failed? What if this kid, this plucky protagonist, you know, went to save the world and it went all wrong?"

    Matthew Peterson

    And it failed? Oh!

    Brandon Sanderson

    What if Frodo kept the ring? Or what if Sauron had killed him and taken the ring? What if Voldemort killed Harry Potter at the end of book seven? What happens? And the way that I approached this is saying, "Okay, that's happened. You've got your generic epic fantasy story that all happened, and the hero failed." Thousand years later, now what? And it focuses around a team of thieves who get together and decide, "Okay, the prophecies were lies, the hero didn't save us, the world is essentially enslaved. Let's try this our way." And their plot is to rob the dark lord silly, use the money they get to bribe his armies away from him, and over throw the empire. And that's Mistborn.

    Matthew Peterson

    You know, Brandon, as you were talking about the Mistborn [series], you brought up some memories of my childhood. I don't remember what this series was, but I read this series that exactly was kind of like that: you know, the character is a normal person, he's great, throughout the series, but the very end, it doesn't all turn out right. He becomes evil and the series ends! And it haunted me. My whole life. And I still don't remember what the series was. I wish I would have remembered it, but . . . yeah, that's a very interesting concept and it doesn't happen very often.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I was tempted to actually do that. I felt that would have been too much of a downer. Which is why I jumped forward a thousand years and then used kind of flash backs to tell the story of what happened a thousand years ago, because it's not as clear cut as I've made it sound.

    Matthew Peterson

    Well, that series I mentioned, I mean, that scarred me for life. [laughs] So I'm glad that you did a little different at the end there.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The other thing is I would have had to write it as a kind of more generic fantasy at the beginning and then take it other places, and I wasn't sure if I could do that because I don't know if my heart would have been in it, trying to write a fantasy that is more generic.

    The other big thing I like to do with my books that I hope does something new and interesting is try to approach having interesting different types of magic. And I think the best fantasy books do this, and I wanted each book that people read of mine to have a new magic system. I like to write magic that feels like it could be a science, that in this world there's another branch of science that we don't have in our world, that if you explore and apply the scientific method to it, you can figure out how it works. And I tend to write stories where we've got people figuring out the magic. They're working in sort of a magical renaissance. That's the theme for my next series, The Way of Kings, which is what's going to be coming out next year, is the idea that we're living in a world where people are discovering the magic and bringing it back to the world and trying to figure out how it works and actually applying reason and science to it to get some hard numbers on what it can do and what it can't do.

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  • 74

    Interview: Oct 27th, 2009

    Details

    Between churning out eight books of your own and completing the series, have you had the chance to read other fantasy authors?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Fantasy has had some problems with being too repetitive, in my opinion. I try to read what other people are doing—and say, How can I add to this rather than just recycle it? How can I stand on Tolkien's shoulders rather than stand tied to his kneecaps?

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  • 75

    Interview: Apr, 2003

    Galgóczi Móni

    I have a question in reference to Tolkien. Do you use cards, like the ones that turned up from his desk and were published in thirteen volumes, or do you sit at your computer—I think you use a computer—with a carefully-crafted idea and just type your book?

    Robert Jordan

    I don't use outlines at all because every detail is in my head. By the way, yes, I work on a computer, which is not even the most recent model [Editor's note: this is followed by a comprehensive description about a somewhat outdated configuration]. My first novel was handwritten; the next three novels were written on a typewriter, but my typewriter broke down after the third novel. I took it to a mechanic who said that he couldn't fix it because I had beaten the machine to death. After that I was forced to buy my first computer, and since then I write my novels on my computer.

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  • 76

    Interview: Jan 24th, 2013

    BYU Magazine

    Sanderson hit the New York Times best seller list six times in four years. With A Memory of Light, the 14th and final book in the Wheel of Time—delivered to a throng of die-hard fans at a BYU midnight release party in January 2013—Sanderson topped the list again.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Stories are about people; the stories aren't about the fantasy. When I read Tolkien, the story of Sam and Frodo and what they went through, and their determination, and Sam's loyalty—these are inspiring. This is what changes peoples' lives.

    That's my goal in writing this. You know, people—real people—and the struggles they go through. And hopefully, by reading them, and having a fun time because it's an adventure, but at the same time, what should stay with you is the choices they make. And hopefully that will help the people who have read them to lead better lives.

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  • 77

    Interview: 2013

    krackato (March 2013)

    I just saw the $2.99 Kindle deal for The Way of Kings and someone mentioned "it had a slow start."

    I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I'm trying to get more into it. It seems to me (and I could be wrong) that every seemingly uber-popular Fantasy series out there has "a slow start". (LotR, Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time, the Stormlight Archives, etc.)

    But who cares if I'm right or wrong.

    Are there any fantasy books or series out there that 'start REALLY FAST' and just don't slow down?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Writing a fantasy book that is fast in the way you say is not difficult—it's writing a fast-starting epic fantasy that is difficult. A good epic is often like a good piece of electronica music&mdsah;it's the slow build, the steady adding of complexity and worldbuilding that I find exciting about the genre.

    That's not the only way to do it, I'm certain, but it is the route I took. The Way of Kings does indeed start slow. The slowness isn't caused by what I think you may be assuming, however. It's caused by multiple viewpoints arranged in a puzzle for which the final picture is not yet clearly obvious. There are plenty of action scenes in the first ten chapters of KINGS. There is a lot of motion and conflict. However, we don't get a viewpoint from the main character until chapter three, and don't come back to him until chapter five. This gives a real sense of "What is this book even about?" which, mixed with some very steep worldbuilding, slows the book down.

    Contrast this to a traditionally fast book, like a thriller or mystery. You are presented with one character, and the conflict for that character is often clear in the first chapter. You know what the plot is going to be early on. There are some fantastic books written this way (Jim Butcher has been mentioned, and I think his Codex Alera books are a great example of someone doing a hybrid epic fantasy and thriller. They are some of the fastest epics I've read. But even they don't "Start really fast" like you say. I think you'll be hard pressed to find an epic that does. The examples will mostly be heroic or urban.)

    I find that the slow build allows for far more explosive endings as all of the pieces come together. It is something I avoided doing to the extent that KINGS does it, however, until I already had a reputation as a writer.

    pensummoner

    I feel like starting slow and creating buildup is sort of the "classic" way to write fantasy, as that's the way Tolkien wrote. Could that be another reason so many fantasies are written this way? Are writers are saying, "This was good enough for Tolkien and it worked and people liked it, so I'm going to emulate his method."?

    Edit: I should add that I usually like slow build-up and wasn't really critiquing them, but rather just wondering about them.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Tolkien certainly casts a long shadow. It's hard to separate anything we do in epic fantasy from his influences. Certainly, I'd say this is part of it.

    In the end, most writers create things like they loved to read. Hopefully, we're adding to the tradition, rather than just replicating what has gone before.

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