View Full Version : Fast Forward interview, December 2005

09-29-2011, 04:35 PM
Part 1 video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXOIdUI4jck)
Part 2 video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN6snUw4LQs)

Tom Schaad: We're back, and we're here with Robert Jordan. Welcome back to Fast Forward!

RJ: Thank you for having me.

TS: You know, I have to say first of all, congratulations. I mean, we get many successful authors on this show, many of whom make the best-seller list, but very few of them debut at #1 on The New York Times' best-seller list when a book comes out. Very well done!

RJ: Thank you, thank you. It's very nice to happen.

TS: And I'm sure that Mr. Doherty of Tor is extremely happy that it happened, too, I'd say.

RJ: Oh yes, he was dancing in the middle of his office.

TS: Well, Knife of Dreams, number 11 in the series of the Wheel of Time, as we come closer to the end of the Age. And, it's really delightful; I had a marvelous time reading. You keep telling people to Read and Find Out, and if they read this book, boy, are they going to find out a lot! There's a lot of stuff packed into this story line. You've got a lot of pay-off for people who have been waiting for foreshadowings to come to fruition. How did it feel to be able to finally put all of that down after carrying it for so long?

RJ: Good. Very good.

TS: It's been, well, coming in on twenty years that you've been working on the world...

RJ: Well it has been twenty years.

TS: ...and it's going to be close to a quarter of a century by the time you finally finish this story. Did you think when you first built this that this much of your life was going to be taken up with this other world that you've created?

RJ: Oh no, no. I signed a contract for six books, and frankly thought it would take me six years to write them, and that that would be that, because I thought I could tell the story in six books.

TS: Well, it's quite a story, and it's not like there's not enough in there for us to read; it's not like it's been padded by any stretch of the imagination; there's just so much story to tell.

RJ: I've actually dropped out bits, things that I intended to put in, because I realized it was going to push it even further, make it even longer.

TS: Well you know, there will be mixed feelings from your readers on that—some that are glad that it just means they'll be getting to the end eventually and to finally find out that last scene that you've talked about for so many years, and others that will be rather sad that they won't have another book in this story line to look forward to another couple of years down the road.

RJ: Well, they will have some books in this world. There are still two short prequel novels to be written at some time in the future, and while I have always said that I would never write in this universe again, unless I came up with a really terrific idea, it's possible that I have come up with an idea for two or maybe three outrigger novels, you might call them. I have to poke at the idea for a year or two and see if it really stands up to that, though, because I don't want to just write something to be writing it. It's gotta be something that's good.

TS: Well, I understand that; that's perfectly reasonable. One of the things I wanted to talk about while we were here was something that I was thinking about as I was reading the last novel, and I think it just came more into focus for me; it's been there for a long time. You have a world that's teetering on the edge of destruction, possibly, and certainly on the edge of incredible change. And yet, so much of the story line is taken up with people who are aware that this is going to occur, know that it is coming closer and closer, and still their lives are dominated by petty squabbles and concerns about personal power to the detriment of people who are trying to deal with what is to come. Is this something you observe in human nature, and then you just incorporated it into this...

RJ: I believe it is part of human nature. I think people who have belly-buttons look to their own self-interest first. Politicians convince themselves that what is in their self-interest is good for the people, and it doesn't matter what political party—left, right, center—people say, "This is what I believe, this is what I want, and that means it's good for the people." People look at their own self interest first. If you want the self-sacrificing hero who is going to say, "This is what is truly in the best interest of the world, and I will put aside my own beliefs, my own wishes, my own desire," you have to find somebody without a belly button.

TS: And there aren't many of those around.

RJ: No, no.

TS: What I also found fascinating was...it struck me as I was reading this. The Aes Sedai are undergoing tremendous change for the first time in centuries, and I wondered as I was reading it if one of the problems with their ability to change and to recognize the world changing around them isn't the fact that their longevity allows them to kind of view the world one way, and the older they are, the longer it is that one unchanging way...the harder it is for them to adjust to the change that's occurring in the world.

RJ: It's not only that, their own longevity, it is more the longevity of the Tower which has existed as the one stable hall of political power and influence in the world for more than 3000 years. This tends to make people believe that the way they see things is correct, that they must know simply because they've been observing for so long.

TS: And one of the lovely things about this universe is you very, very carefully explore and explain a number of very different worldviews of different groups that we encounter along this adventure, and it leaves room for people to think about whether or not their worldview is the worldview or just a worldview. Do you ever examine your own, sometimes?

RJ: Sometimes, but I generally figure I'm right, because I have a belly-button.

TS: [laughs] Now, one of the interesting things that happened along the way to Knife of Dreams was that you took a small pause and wrote a rather short novel called New Spring.

RJ: Yes.

TS: And out of New Spring, which is essentially a prequel to story line that we have in the Wheel of Time novels, became a new project: a series of graphic novels of New Spring. How did that come about?

RJ: Well, the Dabel Brothers approached me, and other people who had written stories in Bob Silverberg's anthology, Legends, and asked whether we would allow them to do comic books of our novellas, the comic books to be collected into a graphic novel once they were all done, and I had begun the project already—or completed the project—of expanding my novella "New Spring" into the novel New Spring, and I said, "Well, no I don't want you to do the novella. Do the complete story. You can do New Spring."

TS: Now, you're listed of course as the writer because you created the storyline. Did you actually go over and develop the individual scripts for each of novels?

RJ: No, Chuck Dixon does the scripts; the scripts are then sent to me, then I go through them and make corrections and changes, and suggest sometimes a different view, a different scene. I don't mess with it a lot because Chuck Dixon knows what he's doing; on the other hand, I know the book, so sometimes I say, "Look, this is important; you really need to put this in; it's more important than that other thing."

TS: How have you found the work? Have you been enjoying seeing them coming out in a different form?

RJ: Oh yes, the artwork is fantastic, and I've worked very hard with them to get the characters as close as possible as the way I seem them—I say 'as close as possible'; it couldn't be absolutely the way I see them unless I could draw, which I cannot. And also Trollocs. For the first time, Trollocs are being drawn the way I envision Trollocs.

TS: Of course, that will be helpful to all the fans of the books, unless of course their own vision is the one they prefer. You're in the middle of a new tour; we're about one third of the way through your US tour to promote Knife of Dreams, and last time we talked, we talked a little about the reaction of the fans that came to the readings, and your moments. Anything different in the flavor and the texture of the appearances you've made so far this time out?

RJ: No, no difference. People are full of praise, sometimes to the extent that I wonder if it's somebody else they're talking about instead of me. It's a lot of fun. One stop right after my birthday, they're saying 'Happy Birthday' to me; they just...I'm not sure how they learned it was my birthday, but they did.

TS: And last time we talked, we went into a little bit of a discussion about how you didn't have time to look at the internet, and so going back and forth on the fan sites wasn't something that you did, but...you have a blog! You have a blog...Robert Jordan has a blog!

RJ: Yes I do, and as a matter of fact, I posted six or seven times in the ten days prior to going on tour.

TS: How has that experience been?

RJ: It's interesting. A lot of comments from the fans, and it all came about because I had time, having finished this book earlier than I normally do in the cycle, I had time to actually browse some of the sites, and I commented to Jason Denzel who runs Dragonmount about something I had seen, and he said, "Would you like a blog?" And I said, "Well, sure." And people have rushed in to give comments, and I make a post, and go back the next day, and there are already forty, fifty, sixty, seventy comments already up, and I don't know whether that's high for blogs, or low, or what, but it's astounding to me.

TS: What kind of...is it a dialogue? Are they observations?

RJ: It's a dialogue, really. It was going to be a very infrequent posting when I thought I had something to say to them, and right away I had to quash a rumor that I had cancer.

TS: What??

RJ: Yes, yes, yes; apparently there was this rumor that I had cancer, and sometimes it was in remission, and sometimes it wasn't, and that's why the books were taking so long.

TS: [laughs]

RJ: Come on guys, it takes a long time to write a 700-page book!

TS: There are 761 pages of text in here!

RJ: Yes. So, I had to go back almost immediately and put up another post saying, "No, I do not have cancer, and I never have had cancer," and there were a couple of questions that had been posted at the same time, and so I answered those questions, and it began a sort of dialogue which has ranged from philosophical questions about the things in the books down through "Do you wear boxers or briefs?" I told the lady that asked that that there was only one way for her to find out, and she would not like Harriet's reaction, and neither would I.

TS: I'm certain that's true. Again, I want to go back to the length of time that this story has taken to tell, and the sheer volume of the narrative. You've always said that you knew, you had that first scene in your head when you started—you had that last scene in your head—and you've always built your books around a series of things that had to happen along the way.

RJ: Yes.

TS: But now that we're getting very close to that final book in this story, I'd like to ask you, are there any surprises that came to you as you were writing about how you got from point Zedd to point 006?

RJ: There were points where I suddenly realized that I did not have to do it the way I had thought I had to do it, I could achieve the same effect more economically, and that might be hard to believe, but I am always looking for economy of words to try to tell this story in as few words as possible.

TS: And the other thing I wanted to ask is, you have a distinctive narrative style, and you have a very personal style when it comes to exploring the characters. One of the luxuries you have in a story this long, in a story this detailed, is that you can spend some time with the individuals. Have you found economies to describe that, or is that something that you like to spend some time on, so that we get to know the interiors of these people?

RJ: I like spending time in people's heads, yes.

TS: And of course, as we know, as you're writing a character, that's your favorite character...but it's coming to an end. Are you going to miss this band of adventurers?

RJ: No, because as far as I'm concerned, they'll still be out there kicking around somewhere.

TS: Good to hear, good to hear. And I have to ask this question too: it won't be for the next few years, but eventually, this series will come to an end, and although you've talked about possibilities, have you looked at doing anything else, or exploring any other types of stories or story lines?

RJ: Well, inside the Wheel of Time, I've always said I would never write in this universe again unless I had a really terrific idea. I may have an idea that would support two or maybe three of what I've taken to calling 'outrigger' novels—not part of the main arc. I will have to poke at that idea for a year or two to see whether it's really strong enough to stand up to that, really strong enough to support those books. Aside from that, I've signed the contracts for a trilogy, fantasy, to be titled Infinity of Heaven, which will be a different world, different cultures, different customs, different rules.

TS: Have you had time—because I know how much time it takes for you to create these novels—have you had time to do any preliminary research, or sketching out some basic ideas?

RJ: These books have been kicking around in the back my head for, oh, ten to twelve years, because it was that long ago that I started thinking about, "What am I going to do when I finish the Wheel of Time?" These ideas always kick around in my head for a long time before they come up as a story.

TS: Well, then we aren't going to have to worry about losing Robert Jordan, author, just because this series is gone.

RJ: No, oh no. I intend to keep writing.

TS: Good. Good, because we are a selfish people, and we like our occasional large chunk of fiction delivered to us so that we can devour it hungrily.

RJ: I doubt I will begin writing small, or slim.

TS: And we wouldn't want you to, because this is the Robert Jordan that we've enjoyed, and this is the Robert Jordan we look forward to.

RJ: Well, thank you.

TS: And we are out of time, and I want to thank you for coming by here; it was incredibly generous of you, considering this long, long traveling that you're doing to promote Knife of Dreams, number one best seller on The New York Times best-seller list. A wonderful accomplishment; congratulations again.

RJ: Thank you.

TS: And thank you for coming.

RJ: It's been a pleasure.

TS: Well, that's it for this edition of Fast Forward. We hope you found something of interest. We hope you'll come see us again. Until then, this is Tom Schaad saying, "Take care."