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Default Audio Renaissance Interview with RJ

This is a transcript of an interview with RJ by Audio Renaissance. It has been included at the end of several of the audiobooks (books 1-5 and 11). It appears that the interview must have been recorded when the Wheel of Time was first released on audiobook, which was (as far as I can tell) around 1997.


Audio Renaissance 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.

Laura Wilson: What about this notion of time as a wheel? Is that your idea?

Robert Jordan: No. It's not mine. It is from Hindu mythology that time is a wheel. But actually, most eastern cultures believed that time was circular. The Greeks gave us the great gift of believing that time was linear. And that's a great gift because if time is circular, if everything repeats in cycles, then change is impossible. No matter what you do, it's always going to come back to what is here. But if time is linear, then change is possible. But I wanted the circularity because I wanted, again, to go into the changes by distance. So, the myths and legends and a few of the stories that these people tell, well, some of them are based on our own current events, on the present. What they are doing is based on our myths and legends. So they are the source of our myths and legends, and we are the source of theirs.

Laura Wilson: So what religions or mythological traditions are your stories based on?

Robert Jordan: Different religions, different mythologies. I felt that because America is a melting pot, I had at least some right to mine the mythologies of any nation that is represented in the United States, and also religion. So there are elements that come out of religious books, and there are elements that come out of mythologies, as well. Not done in a mythological way. I try to present these things so that you feel you are in a place that is quite real, and this could actually happen.

Laura Wilson: Tell me a bit about the idea of the One Power.

Robert Jordan: In these books there is the One Power, which comes from the True Source. And the One Power is what turns the Wheel of Time, the power that drives the universe. And the conceit is, is the One Power actually consists of two quite separate halves that work with each other and against one another to produce the driving force of the universe. Men can tap into one side, women can tap into the other. A man can't teach a woman how to use the male half, or how to use the female half for that matter, and she can't teach him.

Laura Wilson: Are you an audiobooks listener? And if so, what sorts of books do you listen to?

Robert Jordan: I'm afraid the audiobooks I listen to are my own. I don't read my own books, but when I get the new audio tape, I listen to it because I get a different view. It is different than reading it.

Laura Wilson: So are you listening for a different interpretation of your work?

Robert Jordan: It's not so much the different interpretation. I want to have that one-removed to see that I actually said what I think I said. You see, that's a problem that is very difficult for any writer. It's a problem that your editor helps you solve. You know what you intended to say. You know what you meant. And the fact that you perhaps didn't put it down clearly enough for someone who doesn't know what you meant to understand, that can be a problem. My wife Harriet is my editor, and she's very very good at being able to say, "You didn't convince me here." Or, "I don't understand what you mean here. You have to do better." Because that's the point where I know what I meant, and because I know what I meant, it read fine to me. But to someone who didn't know what I meant, it didn't read fine. Well, I can also spot some of that in listening to the audio. And because I can spot it in listening to the audio, I know that, ahh, I thought I had put a bit of foreshadowing for something of the future here, and it doesn't come across clearly, I must do something about that in the next book to make sure that I do have that foreshadowing.

Laura Wilson: Well thank you very much for talking with me.
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