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Default Eye on Books Interview with RJ, February 2003

Here's the transcript from the Eye on Books Interview with Robert Jordan, February 2003.

Bill Thompson: I'm Bill Thompson with Eye on Books. Robert Jordan is widely regarded as one of the great fantasy writers of our time, and his massive Wheel of Time series of books is hugely popular. The tenth installment of the series is just out. It's called Crossroads of Twilight.

Bill Thompson: Are there two books left? Three books, one book, four books?

Robert Jordan: There are at least two books left, at least two. Well, you know, I knew the last scene of the last book in 1984. I could have written it then. I know exactly where I'm heading. But . . . it's taken a little longer to get there than I thought it was going to. I thought I was sitting down to write five, or perhaps six, books when I started this thing. But I have never been able to get as much of the story into one volume as I thought I could when I sat down to begin writing that volume.

Bill Thompson: Do some people not understand that this is not just a series of books, but this is almost like one big book, and each volume that you're publishing every couple years is like another chapter in that book?

Robert Jordan: Another set of chapters. Some people don't realize that. But you must begin with The Eye of the World. If you have never read me before, and you pick up Crossroads of Twilight, you will if you are lucky last ten pages before you drop the book, not knowing who these people are, not understanding what they are doing, and without any comprehension of why they are doing it.

Bill Thompson: Do you not make any allowance for people joining you in mid-stream? Do people need to start from book one?

Robert Jordan: You do need to start from book one. I made minimal allowance for that in the beginning, and then decided that I cold not afford to. I was afraid that the earlier books would go out of print, which they have not. The Eye of the World has been in print in hardcover continuously for thirteen years this month. But I was afraid of that, and I did make some effort to make each book in the beginning a place that you could start at. But it was not really a good place to start, because you still miss a lot. There are things that have gone before that you really need to know.

Bill Thompson: You'd spend 400 pages just recapping, wouldn't you?

Robert Jordan: By this time, I would. By this time, I could spend the entire novel doing nothing but a recapitulation of what's gone before.

Bill Thompson: Now is it fair to say that in this volume there is more thinking, less action?

Robert Jordan: A little bit. Somewhat less action, yes. I'm not certain that you could say there is less action, let's say there is less "slam-bang" action. A lot of things happen, but none of it is very grandiose and noisy.

Bill Thompson: The reason I bring this up, I don't know if you read your reader reviews on Amazon?

Robert Jordan: I do not.

Bill Thompson: Many of your very most loyal readers seem disappointed with this book because there is a lot of things happening in the mind, or in characters' heads, and not so much on the battlefields any more.

Robert Jordan: Well there have been battlefields, and there will be battlefields. But I do not to set out to write a story that is a series of battles. There are many things that have to happen, and some of the things that have to happen are quieter, if no less deadly.

Bill Thompson: This comes back to what we were saying a moment ago: that there is an arc of a story to all of your books, and that each individual book may be very different in content from the books that came before it and the books that came after it.

Robert Jordan: Yes.

Bill Thompson: This is what you've got clearly in your mind, at least. I will say this: you've got many five-star reviews on Amazon. Some of your readers get that.

Robert Jordan: Well, good. I'm glad they do.

Bill Thompson: And others do not.

Robert Jordan: Well, I'm sorry to hear that. Look, I write this for me. I've had people ask me time and again to "do this", or "do that", or "not do this". And I tell them: I'm sorry. I'm glad that you like to read these books. I'm glad that you have come this far on the journey with me. But I'm writing these books for me. And I know what's going to happen. And what's going to happen is what I want to happen, not what you guys want to happen, necessarily.

Bill Thompson: At the pace you think is best.

Robert Jordan: Yes.

Bill Thompson: Does the story progress in a straight linear fashion? Or is there some falling back and kind of circling around?

Robert Jordan: Several of these books overlap to one extent or another, so it's not entirely linear. You may go to a book and find out that what's happening at the beginning of that book was actually in the middle, the time frame is actually in the middle of the preceding book. Each of the story lines proceeds in a linear fashion, but they are not always addressed in a way that makes the books linear.

Bill Thompson: These characters must seem like family to you by now.

Robert Jordan: Mmm, I suppose so.

Bill Thompson: Or at least visiting family that some day you'll have to say goodbye to and clean up the guest room after them, that kind of thing.

Robert Jordan: Well, I don't think it will be too traumatic. I've been thinking about what I would write once the Wheel of Time was finished for some time now. About seven or eight years I've been mulling it around in the back of my head. So when I do reach that final scene and send off the manuscript of the last book, I will take two or three months of vacation. That is, I'll take two or three months of vacation if I can actually make myself stay away from my desk for that long. And maybe go somewhere with my wife. And then I will sit down and start writing the next set of books, and I hope that I will be so interested in them that I won't miss the Wheel of Time at all.

Bill Thompson: Robert Jordanís book Crossroads of Twilight is published by Tor. With Eye on Books, I'm Bill Thompson.
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