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Old 10-02-2011, 04:07 PM
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Sarevok Sarevok is offline
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Default Dromen en Demonen interview, april 2001

This is a translation of an interview presumably conducted in English and put on the internet in Dutch. Because of this, some phrasing may sound awkward.
The Dutch version can be found here: http://www.dromen-demonen.nl/auteur.lasso?n=173

Gerhard Hormann: When one starts a series like The Wheel of Time, one most likely doesn’t know that it would will take over nine book and 6000 pages to tell the complete story.
Robert Jordan: No. When I started this series, there were only two commonly used means of publishing: a single book or a trilogy. I, however, told my publisher: this won’t be a trilogy, but a series of at least four or five volumes, possibly even six. At that time I knew the overall content of the story, I knew what events I wanted to put in them and also had the final completely ready-made in my head. But I soon discovered that I could fit much less in the first book than I thought. That first book was actually supposed to hold the story of The Great Hunt and at least a part of The Dragon Reborn. At that point, I though: “Okay, it will probably be six or seven books.” Exactly the same thing happened to the second book. At this point, I no longer dare make predictions how long the series will eventually become. It will end sometime, I swear, but I don’t know when exactly that will be.

GH: So there will be some more volumes?
RJ: After Winter’s Heart, there will be about three volumes. At least, I hope that it won’t be much more.

GH: Why do you hope that? Because you’re starting to get enough of it, yourself?
RJ: Absolutely not! But because it feels like I’m still working on the same book. What people consider nine volumes of a series, is in fact one huge novel. And it feels like I am only at three quarters of the story. It won’t be finished before I have typed out that final scene. And I really want to finish it. So it’s really not a case of me not liking it anymore. Quite the opposite: I love doing it. When the series is finished, I might miss it more than I can imagine right now. For fifteen years, I have been working on the Wheel of Time series. And that’s a hell of a long time for one project.

GH: Most readers will be excited at the prospect of at least three more volumes!
RJ: People have told me that before, and every time I feel a great relief. They might just as well have gotten fed up with it. But that is not happening. People are, like you said, actually excited that it will keep going for a while. In fact: they’re already asking if there might be a sequel! But on that, I have to disappoint them…

GH: There must be an enormous pressure on you to continue. For many people, the series has become a part of their lives; something they’re very attached to.
RJ: People will miss it. And I do expect pressure from every side to continue, including from my publisher. It is very tempting to come up with more of the same after this, but I think I am strong enough to resist that.

GH: Your colleague Terry Brooks has succumbed to the temptation and has returned to Shannara with his latest series.
RJ: Correct. There are more writers that do that. But what I always tell my readers, is this: I don’t write for you, I write for my own enjoyment. I already have a clear picture of what I want to do after this, and I hope that by that time, my readers will be willing to follow me there.

GH: Are there ever moment where you don’t think of The Story?
RJ: Not really. In the evening, before going to bed, I need to read something totally different to get into a different frame of mind. Otherwise, I’ll be awakes all night, with the story going through my head.

GH: Do you have to work on it constantly to keep track of the storyline?
RJ: No, it’s more the case that I’m never quite satisfied with what I’ve written. I always think: this part could be a bit better of that part needs to change. When I continue with the rest of the story, I’m always busy rewriting previous chapters. The most extreme example of that, is the prologue of Heart of Winter. Eventually, I wrote 97(!) different versions of it. And I don’t mean changing a few small words. That was an extreme example. I normally write no more than eight to ten completely revised versions.

GH: Unintentionally, you may have written the most ambitious work of fantasy in human history.
RJ: Maybe I have. But it is indeed unintentional. I did not know that the series would become this large, nor that it would this incredibly successful. To expect that, one would need an ego even bigger than mine. Every writer has a big ego, don’t get me wrong, but to consciously have planned all this, you would have to be suffering from megalomania.

GH: Could this series have been written if The Lord of the Rings had not existed?
RJ: 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 is. 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 [the Dutch text says “elfjes”, which could translate to either “little elves”, “fairies”, “pixies” and probably some other that I can’t remember right now], nor unicorns, dragons, dwarves or hobbits.

GH: Can a newcomer to the series read any random book from the series, or does one have to start at book one.
RJ: You absolutely must start at the first book. Someone who simply starts with Winter’s Heart, has no idea what everything is about. I never give explain things again halfway through; you’re expected to know it already. So anyone who have become curious, should start with The Eye of the World. If you don’t like it, it’s still not a waste of money, because I think it’s quite readable as a stand-alone book. And history has shown that everyone who has read that book, starts looking for the next books.

GH: Are there people that save all the single volumes to be able to read all of them in a row?
RJ: Incidentally, I have indeed spoken to people that do that! I really can’t understand that. The there are also people who, whenever a new book comes out, first re-read all the previous volumes before starting the new book. Every time. There are people who have read the entire series eight or nine times. I always ask: don’t you have anything else to do? In that regard, the series has had a bigger impact than I could have ever guessed.

GH: That’s almost scary…
RJ: Scarier stuff happens. There is – or was – a website that compared my book to the Bible and the Koran. As if they are in any way comparable. It was madness. The Wheel of Time series is a story of fiction, not some kind of religious text[if anyone has a proper translation of “standaardwerk” let me know]. I am a storyteller, not a Messiah or guru.

GH: That last bit may be true, because you hardly honor Sunday as a day of rest! I read somewhere that you literally work on your books seven days a week.
RJ: I usually do, yes. In principle, I work eight hours a day. That does not include just the actually typing, but also the thinking I do while staring at the computer screen, or take a stroll for inspiration. The last six months I have imposed a murderous workload on myself, of fourteen hours a day for seven days a week. I had to, because of the deadline for Winter’s Heart. It took more effort than usual to determine exactly which events had to happen in this book and what I wanted to keep for later.

GH: Is writing a hobby for you, or is it an obsession?
RJ: I think you could call it a kind of obsession. I love to write, but it’s not as compulsory as breathing.

GH: Many people that like reading fantasy, are secretly aspiring writers. What is your advice to them?
RJ: To people that want to write, I always say: write. Start easy. Write something you would like to read yourself. Pick apart your favorite books and see how they are put together. Do the same with books that are praised by critics. Take a book you like, and rewrite it. Remove parts, change how it is built up, whatever. Not to get the results published – that would be plagiarism – but to get experience. Then proceed to write a summary of a book. Make a prologue for an imaginary book. That would, you get closer and closer to the real work. But seriously, don’t start with a series of over ten books. (laughs)

GH: A bad childhood doesn’t hurt either, I’m told…
RJ: Indeed. Not and then, parents approach me to ask: “My child is talented, how do I encourage him to write?” My advice is always: “Give them an unhappy childhood”. All writers I know personally, and also painters and other artists, have all had an unhappy childhood. Or at least a very insecure childhood. You really don’t need to hit your child for that: moving every six months is enough. I can’t guarantee that they will actually become writers – they might as well turn into psychopaths – but it is a condition. Also, it might well be possible that a psychopath writes perfect books. In that regard, I can’t vouch for the mental health of myself and my colleagues.

GH: Is writing therapeutical? Or is a bad childhood an inexhaustible sources of inspiration?
RJ: The latter. Children who experience what things in some way, often tend to seek refuge in the save, trusted world in their head. They become dreamers. And that budding creativity can later be turned into books or paintings.
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Last edited by Sarevok; 10-02-2011 at 04:30 PM.
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